There was talk, not that long ago, about a deal still being in the works for Edward Snowden (something I’ve never agreed with), assuming he would come back to the US and spill whatever information he might have for us. But as of this week, the NSA seems to be changing their tune. The more time goes by, the quicker such a deal seems to be approaching its Best Sold By date.
A top National Security Agency offficial says there’s less need now for the U.S. Government to cut a deal with leaker Edward Snowden than there was after his wave of surveillance disclosures began more than a year ago.
“As time goes on, the utility for us of having that conversation becomes less,” NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett said during an appearance Saturday at the Aspen Security Forum. “It’s been over a year since he had access to our networks and our information so the need for us to understand that greater level of detail is lesser and lesser.”…
Ledgett’s remarks signal that lawyers for Snowden might have a weaker bargaining position over time. However, the NSA official also suggested that the damage Snowden did to NSA operations will also diminish with time because terrorist groups and foreign militaries change their communication methods from time to time anyway.
This makes sense on a couple of levels. First, whatever damage Snowden did – and it was probably considerable – has already been done. In general, it’s pretty hard to close the barn door after the horse gets out to begin with, but even more so once the horse has been gone for a couple of seasons. Whoever got hold of the data and decided to act on it would need to do so while it was still fresh.
That leads to the second half of the equation, specifically that both sides have had time to adjust. As Ledgett points out later in the interview, once the enemy learns some of your tricks to keep tabs on them, they will change tactics to avoid detection. The flow of information in the opposite direction is likely subject to the same issues. The NSA may not know exactly what Snowden gave away, but they knew he dumped a bunch of information. They’ve had plenty of time to react by now, changing up operational strategies and shifting resources around wherever possible to cover ourselves.
If anything, this should provide even greater incentive to find a way to grab Snowden and bring him back. If he doesn’t want to talk… fine. We can at least put him on trial, toss him in a cell and throw away the key. The longer he’s running loose as the guest of our enemies, the more of a positive role model and incentive he provides for others to sell out their country.