As the European Union (EU) considers proposals on how to respond to National Security Agency (NSA) spying, including pulling out of some programs with the United States, a U.S. Congressman made the case that the EU needs the NSA.
On Dec. 17, Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, defended the NSA’s programs and told the European Parliament that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are needed to fight Chinese espionage.
Rogers said joint operations between the EU and the United States are necessary in order to defend against Chinese economic espionage.
“We have no united front against industrial espionage from China,” he said, according to Intellectual Property Watch, a non-profit news service on intellectual property policies.
Just prior to the hearing, on Dec. 10, Rogers addressed the threat of foreign espionage with Fox News. In a discussion on the NSA, he said other countries have intelligence programs against the United States, and their purposes are malicious.
“The debate is how bad do we think the NSA really is. The Chinese are on our networks, the Russians are on our networks, the Iranians are on our networks,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he believes the Obama administration should explain the NSA’s programs to the public and explain the protections that are in place to prevent misuse.
“It’s not saying folks who work for the NSA and took an oath to the constitution are bad,” he said. “But I’ll guarantee you Russian intelligence, Chinese intelligence, and Iranian intelligence are bad.”
Rogers was among several people invited to give remarks before the EU. The European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is considering reforms to EU policies on cooperation with U.S. intelligence services, in light of NSA spying programs.
Proposals include ending several agreements with the United States, including the Safe Harbor Agreement that protects Internet intermediaries, and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program that grants the United States access to banking data.
On Dec. 19 the committee was given an oral summary of the proposed reforms to the NSA that were included in a report to the White House made public the day before, according to Intellectual Property Watch.
Among the report’s 46 recommendations is a reform of one of the NSA’s most controversial practices: the broad collection of metadata from all American phone calls. The report proposes keeping the data in the hands of private telecommunications companies or a consortium, and granting government access to specific records only through a court order.
The committee has invited former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to testify. Snowden leaked the classified NSA documents to the press, and is currently in Russia on asylum. Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who Snowden passed the documents to, has already testified.
Rogers highlighting the need to counter espionage in his testimony before the EU may be a sign that the intelligence departments are moving beyond defending U.S. intelligence operations solely on the grounds of preventing terrorism.
The close to $52.1 billion “black budget” of the NSA, CIA, National Reconnaissance Office, National Geospatial-Intelligence Program was among the documents stolen by Snowden and leaked.
The budget shows the departments have five core missions. Among them is fighting foreign espionage, which has a $3.8 billion budget. Another $4.3 billion is for cyber operations for defending against cyber intrusions and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, according to data from the Washington Post.
Historically, espionage is typically only used during times of war and the relevant departments are dismantled after the conflict. This changed, however, with the rise of Communism and its heavy use of spies for infiltration, theft of key technologies, and subversion.
The retired director of the CIA National Clandestine Service and chief of CIA counterintelligence, Michael J. Sulick, details the history of U.S. intelligence operations in his recent book, “American Spies.”
Sulick, as well as many other former intelligence agents, allege that foreign espionage against the United States—especially from China and Russia—remains a large and serious problem.
“By 2007, the then-national counterintelligence executive, Joel Brenner, claimed that ‘there are now 140 foreign intelligence services that try to penetrate the United States or U.S. organizations abroad, and for many of them, we are their number one target,'” Sulick states in his book.
Former CIA agent Henry Crumpton makes a similar claim in his book, The Art of Intelligence, stating “Both Russia and China probably have more clandestine intelligence operatives inside the United States now, in the second decade of the 21st century, than at the height of the Cold War.”