Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Snowden: A sensible policy suggestion for intelligence agencies

Snowden: A sensible policy suggestion for intelligence agencies

It comes from a long interview with Kevin Kelly, founder and former Executive Editor of tech bible Wired. It's an idea that needs some fleshing out, and would be quite radical, but what's the alternative?

Intelligence leaks are inevitable. The U.S. used to have a policy of Smokey the Bear—zero tolerance for fire. And so fire was bad. There were no good fires, and you were scolded into preventing forest fires. Well, what that did was it suppressed the wildfires and built up this huge bank of flammable material, so when a fire did come in, it just destroyed everything, and that's what the NSA and the other agencies are experiencing. They're trying to be secret, and you can't be secret if the Internet wants to copy stuff. They're running on the Internet, and it's going to be copied, and so rather than trying to suppress the leaks and then having this once-every-ten-year wildfire conflagration consume them, which is what they're having with Snowden, they should themselves allow and permit and manage these whistleblowing revelations in controlled burns. They should have a department of intentional leaks or something where they are working with agencies like Wikileaks, which they eventually will have to do. That's the curious thing.

In fact the agencies are now working with the newspapers to manage these. Why didn't they do that before instead of now where they're in a weaker position? They need to be active about this and understand that they have to work with these others to dispel and dispense these leaks so that they don't build up into this terrible, terrible fuel bank that's just going to blow up when it does, because it will. They will have leaks. You cannot run anything on the Internet and not have it being copied.

What you want to do is to manage your leaks and work with them and not consider these things as treason. You want to have a whistle-blowing program, of which Edward Snowden was a good example, and they should treat this in a responsible manner. People like him are actually helping them in a certain sense clear out this dead wood and remain legal and do things above board and have the support of the public behind them.

(H/t The Browser.)

Photo by Flickr user ROSS HONG KONG.

You may also be interested in