This past Wednesday, the CIA held its first ever Conference on National Security at Georgetown University. It included plenty of the usual talking heads spouting nonsense, but I wanted to focus in on one particular talking head spouting particularly ridiculous nonsense. It’s our old friend, Rep. Mike Rogers, who is retiring from Congress to try to become an even bigger blowhard on talk radio (as if that’s possible). Apparently, Rogers is using this conference to practice the classical blowhard strategy of making a variety of absolutely ridiculous claims that directly contradict each other.
So, for example, he kicked it off by attacking Silicon Valley tech companies for fighting back against NSA surveillance, and for arguing (accurately) that the NSA’s efforts have created a major business problem for them around the globe, as people outside the US no longer trust them. In Rogers’ mind, that means these companies are putting “European profits above national security.” This isn’t even close to true, but that’s what Rogers is claiming (at about 2 hours 10 minutes into the video, which is also embedded below):
While I’m on my soapbox, we should be really mad at Google and Facebook and Microsoft, because they’re doing a very interesting, and I think, very dangerous thing. They’ve decided to come out and say “we oppose this new FISA bill, because it doesn’t go far enough.” And when you peel that onion back a bit and say “Why are you doing this? This is a good bill, it’s safe, it’s bi-partisan, it’s rational. It meets all the requirements for 4th Amendment protections and privacy protection and allowing the system to work.”
And they say, “Well, we have to do this because we’re trying to make sure we don’t lose our European business.” I don’t know about the rest of you but that offends me from the words “European business.” Think about what they’re doing. They’re willing to, in their mind, justify the importance of their next quarter’s earnings in Europe versus the national security of the United States. Everybody on those boards should be embarrassed and their CEOs should be embarrassed and their stockholders should be embarrassed. That one quarter cannot be worth the national security of the United States for the next ten generations.”
This is wrong and ridiculous on so many levels, but let’s just jump to the biggest one and then circle back later to the rest. Less than 15 minutes later (at about 2 hours 25 minutes into the video), Rogers was arguing how important the internet is to our economy, and how a cyberattack might destroy it. He’s basically discussing his beloved CISPA and its “information sharing” components, which is really a backdoor way to “legalize” companies handing over all their data to the NSA without warrants.
One sixth of our economy now, is through the internet! One sixth! So this notion that we’re all going to say “well the government should do nothing and just completely keep away” — and I’m not for regulation, by the way, that’s not what I mean, but I mean in some way to… to help defend these private networks or allow them to defend themselves — if we don’t get it right, one-sixth of our economy is going to go away. Like that (*snaps*). If every time you turn it on, you lose money, how many times are you going to turn it on and use the internet for commerce? You’re not!
Right. Did you get that? If the NSA is violating all of your privacy, no big deal, and people will continue to use the internet and contributing to the economy — and if it hurts the economy, well that’s just the price we pay for national security. But, if those evil foreign governments violate your privacy, well, then all of you will stop using the internet and it will destroy our economy.
In short: if NSA hacking into Europeans eats into US companies’ profits: that’s patriotism. But if Europeans hack into US companies, then everyone will stop using the internet and it will destroy us all.
And then he goes even further:
If one financial institution — we have one particular financial institution that clears somewhere about $7 trillion in global financial transactions every single day. Imagine if tomorrow that place gets in there, and through an attack of which we know does exist — the potential does exist — where the information is destroyed and manipulated. Now you don’t know who owes what money. Some of that, they have lost transactions completely, forever. Imagine what that does to the economy? $7 trillion. Gone. Right? Gone! It’s that serious!
So, profits of Wall Street banks are patriotic. But profits of Silicon Valley companies… well, they can be sacrificed for national security.
Except, of course, the underlying assumption in all of this — which has been proven time and time again to be false, is that these efforts actually help with national security. Mike Rogers was one of the leading FUDspreaders, concerning the claim that the section 215 bulk phone records collection helped national security. Except that’s been proven to be false time and time again. Both judges and the President’s own task force have marvelled at the total lack of evidence that the bulk records provision was necessary.
The complaints from various tech companies (who Rogers himself admits makes up a huge part of our economy) is not about their “next quarter” of European profits, but about the very idea that he and his friends have more or less convinced the rest of the world that American internet companies are not trustworthy. That’s not about next quarter’s profits, it’s about violating the privacy of everyone around the globe — for no actual benefit.
So, in the end, we see what hypocritical views Rogers has. It’s shameful and unpatriotic for Silicon Valley to be concerned about the privacy rights of their users, because that might lead to an attack on national security, and that attack on national security might harm the profits of Silicon Valley and (more importantly) Wall Street, and any attack on profits is unpatriotic (except, apparently, the profits he wanted them to give up first). Confused? Don’t be. What Rogers is really saying is he doesn’t give a shit, so long as the NSA gets to violate everyone’s privacy, and he’ll make any ridiculous argument to keep that happening. And, of course, to keep it secret, because if you don’t know about it, he still thinks your privacy hasn’t been violated.