The FT could not be more wrong about Brazil and the Internet.

The FT is worried about the Internet, and specifically what the Brazilians are up to with it as a result of the Snowden disclosures.

I am not. Details of Brazil’s very successful policy with regard to the development of the Internet are here, in a fine post on the Renesys blog. Basically, we’re seeing the conflation of two things here – the US’s genuine concern for the Internet, and its equally genuine concern for the interests of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the spooks.

What is the Internet? You can always start a good row on the NANOG list by asking for a definition. But I don’t think there is much real dispute that it’s fundamentally a set of interconnected autonomous networks. The key protocols overlay diverse media bearers and underlay diverse applications, while the routing system unites Autonomous System numbers, defined as networks having an independent routing policy. It differs from, say, the mobile carriers’ GRX and roaming hub infrastructure, or the older international voice interconnection systems, in that there is no central intermediary or necessary hierarchy. If AS X and AS Y want to interconnect directly, they can do so as long as they can physically reach each other.

As such, more local interconnection is always and everywhere a good thing for the Internet. Back in the 90s, although the rhetoric of radical networking was at its peak, the system was in fact heavily dependent on central intermediaries, the so-called Tier 1 operators. As a very rough generalisation, you could say that the Internet worked like it was meant to among US universities, government users, and research centres, and everyone else was eventually a customer. This had distinct geographical and political consequences – supposedly, the topological centre of the African Internet was the 111 8th Street carrier hotel in New York City, or the LINX in London, depending on who tells the tale. The convenience of this for the NSA should be more than obvious.

Those days are long gone. The Tier-1 operators no longer rule the earth like they once did, and anyway the club of Tier-1s has a very different membership now, with major players including Tata of India, Telecom Italia-Sparkle, and PCCW of Hong Kong where once it was a nearly total American monopoly. What changed? More competition, for a start, but also much more interconnection between customer networks. I mentioned the LINX, the London Internet Exchange. IXen are membership organisations that provide for peering between their members, and their spread has been a major factor in the quantitative growth and qualitative development of the Internet worldwide. Another important issue is the increasing tendency of eyeball networks – consumer ISPs – and content networks to peer directly.

To understand why this is a good thing, I recommend another Renesys post. Shorter paths equal lower latency, and more diverse paths equal greater resilience to disruption.

Latin America was rather late to this development. It exhibits the traits of the 1990s Internet to an extreme degree, with both nearly all its traffic to and from the wider world and enormous amounts of intra-regional traffic passing via Terremark’s NAP of the Americas in Miami. The politics of this, again, ought to be obvious, especially from a Latin point of view informed by their distinctive intellectual tradition. The economics and engineering of it are not good either. Locating hosting, applications, or content delivery infrastructure in a country that reaches its neighbours via a 5,000 mile submarine cable round trip is asking for trouble, and a structural barrier to scaling up an Internet company anywhere in the region.

Hence Brazil’s effort to create local IXen and ISPs and to build more regional fibre links, which has been a great success (check out the numbers in the post!). Not only do they want better connectivity, they also want participation in the Internet rather than just consumption of Google searches and lolcats. A good measure of this is AS numbers per capita. Theirs are rocketing.


(If you find this interesting, a more detailed technical report on it has just appeared here)

So, to summarise so far: there is nothing natural, open, or free about sending traffic from Sao Paulo to Rio via Miami. And the Internet founders did not intend and do not want this. It is bad economics and bad engineering, and the rest of the world left it behind years ago. Brazil is right to do everything possible to get rid of it, and its efforts are already bearing fruit. I think they are also right to identify it as a form of underdevelopment imposed on them by the rich. IETF and ISOC are very clear that peering and local interconnection are nothing but good.

We have an excellent counter-example to Brazil in the Renesys data set – Mexico, which had until very recently a private monopoly of telecoms, no regulator, and no IX. Mexico has far fewer AS numbers per capita and far less growth in this metric.

The FT is confusing the entirely healthy development of the Internet as it was intended to work, and indeed does in Europe, with the Great Firewall of China or the lesser firewalls of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, or Iran. In doing so, it is letting the US get away with using the rhetoric of free speech to maintain an exorbitant commercial privilege, and of course to tap Dilma Rousseff’s phone whenever this seems expedient. This agenda permits freedom in a negative sense, but at a real economic price and at the cost of giving up participation and control.

And it serves, probably unintentionally, another agenda – the Chinese or Iranian approach, in which free speech on the Internet is a political threat that must be censored and an open door for US competitors that must be closed by censorship in its secondary function as a non-tariff barrier. This one can work economically – note the huge Chinese Web 2.0 companies like QQ and Sina Weibo, or the roaring growth in AS numbers within Iran – but it is deeply illiberal and anti-democratic.

There is an alternative to this unattractive pair of options. That is real Internet development, like the Brazilians are doing, like Kenya is doing, or like Europe did in the 2000s. It must not be demonised by conflation with Chinese opinion management.

Send the envoy

There could only be one song for this post*. I had “Iran follow-up post” on my to-do list, but I wasn’t expecting the follow-up to be basically “dealio!”. The US statement is here, which carefully emphasises that the sanctions infrastructure remains in place, and the document itself is here, via Fars News Agency.

As far as the nuclear content goes, it addresses the build-up of more centrifuges and requires the mixdown of the existing 20% enriched uranium or its conversion to reactor fuel. It freezes work on the Arak plutonium reactor, and importantly asserts that Iran will be able to enrich up to reactor levels in the future. It seems to be stronger than expected in terms of verification and monitoring, providing for a lot of new inspections and a joint commission on monitoring. I’ll wait for Arms Control Wonk, but Mark Hibbs seems to think it’s sound.

In the light of this now-classic post, it doesn’t get rid of the isotope program with the Tehran research reactor but it does provide guarantees that it’s not acting as a cover for work on a bomb. If the 20% HEU is converted into fuel for the reactor, and the IAEA inspectors verify that, it can’t also be further enriched for use in a bomb. That’s the key issue in their model and the deal addresses it.

It also provides for a year-long process towards winding up the whole issue and ending the UNSC involvement, as well as for future cooperation on getting Iran some proliferation-resistant nuclear power stations. The AFOE official view is nicely summed up by this tweet from Conor Friedersdorf:

and also this one from Chris Bryant MP:

As far back as 2009, we made the choice to stand out against the conventional wisdom on this particular point. Hey, the conventional wisdom was represented by a horrible bunch of kéké clowns, it wasn’t hard. Further, the main challenge then was getting the EEAS set up and functioning and she did actually come from setting up a substantial new institution in the UK. We came back on this one last year. Anyway, here’s the victory roll, in the Grauniad. Rod Liddle, your boys took a hell of a beating.

Catherine Ashton

*The Wikipedia page for Philip Habib is a strong case that whether Warren Zevon intended the song sincerely or satirically in 1982, he certainly meant it after 1987.

It can be done.

The P5+1 talks were, as we blogged, very close to an agreement between the US and Iran. Just not close enough, and we’ll meet again in the third week of November – in a week’s time, that is. It can be done, though.

The main obstacle, they say, is that France has an additional demand regarding the Iranian heavy-water reactor at Arak. This reactor is primarily intended to produce odd radio-isotopes for medical, scientific, and industrial uses. Don’t ask me, ask France24.

Perhaps Laurent Fabius has been reading Arms Control Wonk. ACW is one of the great achievements of Internet culture, up there with lolcats, /b/, the NANOG mailing list, and James Deen’s filmography, and for many of its readers, even less acceptable for use at work. Recently, they used a Bayesian decision tree approach to work out what options might minimise the chance of an Iranian bomb while being acceptable to the Iranians.

The answer is that the apparently dull question of the isotopes is crucial; because the Arak HWR would also create quite a lot of plutonium along with the isotopes, and wouldn’t make much of a fuss doing it, it would be the most likely way to get to the Bomb without anyone noticing in time to do anything about it. ACW concludes that the key Iranian demand, to own the nuclear fuel cycle, is acceptable with IAEA safeguards and without the Arak HWR. They also have some useful hints about monitoring and also about how the Arak HWR could be replaced, or operated under safeguards.

So, the take-home so far: the French aren’t being unreasonable, they’re reading the right blog, and a deal is possible.

What about the Iranian side? When Hassan Rouhani won the elections, he benefited from years of preparation working in a thinktank whose aim was to keep the option of peace open. Interestingly, he turned down the job of minister of intelligence to run it. The nuclear industry has been pulled closer to the elected government. Outriders have been allowed to go out and argue a radical case for peace. The new president wished the Iranian Jews a happy Rosh Hashanah. This will all have cost political capital, and will have run up risks for those involved if it doesn’t work out.

On the other hand, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control has basically stopped listing more Iranian shipping lines, airlines, banks, and other businesses. You only have to read the piece to the bottom to know that even that will have cost political capital, and will have run up risks for those involved if it doesn’t work out. But then. Here is Dexter Filkins’ superb profile of Iranian intelligence chief, Qassem Suleimani, who sounds just as frightening as one of our best and not much worse.

Specifically, here’s US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, later the civilian half of David Petraeus:

Before the bombing began, Crocker sensed that the Iranians were growing impatient with the Bush Administration, thinking that it was taking too long to attack the Taliban. At a meeting in early October, 2001, the lead Iranian negotiator stood up and slammed a sheaf of papers on the table. “If you guys don’t stop building these fairy-tale governments in the sky, and actually start doing some shooting on the ground, none of this is ever going to happen!” he shouted. “When you’re ready to talk about serious fighting, you know where to find me.” He stomped out of the room. “It was a great moment,” Crocker said.

The coöperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. “Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.”

Crocker hammers the point home in the NYT this week.

Perhaps the most important lesson here is that democracy eventually worked. It wasn’t war, not warmongering, that changed anything. It was an election. Iranians voted out Ahmedinejad and voted in Rouhani.

It may be imperfect democracy, heavily influenced by other powers. Those powers seem to believe in it more than one might expect – Khamenei wanted even those who didn’t believe in the Islamic Republic to come out and vote, presumably hoping the result would demonstrate how wrong they were, although he might not have voted the way we expect. (And, of course, whose democracy isn’t?)

Also, international action other than war worked. Economic sanctions helped a lot. The US and allied navies’ rather paradoxical policy, moving hordes of ships into the area and also being ostentatiously helpful around shipwrecks and incidents of piracy, seems to have helped, not least because there are other people involved. Reassuring the neighbours is important too.

And here’s something interesting. Iran added 136 Internet Autonomous System Numbers between 2011 and 2013, more than doubling their total, vastly outgrowing Turkey or Israel or Egypt or Lebanon.

There are some other people who deserve recognition. Wendy Sherman, US diplomat, is one. Another is EU diplomat Catherine Ashton, as this blog said. Even velociraptor tory Peter Oborne thinks so, these days.

The commitment on both sides deserves respect. And, as ACW makes clear, if the problem is the Arak HWR, it is both real, and can also be solved.

Q&A: The Catalan Way explained

Why are Catalans taking part in a human chain this Wednesday? The Catalan newspaper Ara has produced a series of questions and answers in English which should explain everything you want to know about why the human chain is taking place today.

What is the ‘Via Catalana’?

The ‘Via Catalana’ (The Catalan Way) is a political demonstration which will take place this September the 11th. Inspired by the Baltic Way — a human chain formed by up to two million people on August 23 1989 across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — its aim is to create a 400 km long chain which will cross Catalonia from north to south. 400.000 people have signed up to take part in the human chain, although organizers hope that the actual turnout will be at least twice that figure. People will be asked to join hands at exactly 17:14 (15:14 GMT). The chain, which runs along highways, roads and city streets, will come to an end at 18:00 (16:00 GMT). If successful, it will be one of Europe’s largest ever demonstrations, following in the footsteps of last year’s march in Barcelona, when up to 1,5 million people walked through the streets of the capital asking for independence, the country’s most massive rally ever. Continue reading

Security tactics

Regarding the headline here:

US and UK at odds over security tactics as row escalates

something comes to mind.

The signals intelligence alliance between the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is also an information security alliance. This may be the most important element of it. The countries involved, plus some other partners, maintain a big book of standards known as IRSIG (International Regulations on Signals Intelligence) which sets the standard operating procedures down.

First of all, this explains why the British (or, say, Canada) would care so much. There is no difference between the political decision to share intelligence, and the administrative one to classify it at a level that permits the recipient to see it. To do the latter implies the former, and vice versa. Therefore, most of the information in the system is as classified in the UK as in the US (or Canada).

Secondly, I wonder if there is a plan set out in IRSIG or a similar joint document on what to do in the event of leakers. This would explain a lot.

Their fibres are radioactive.

It’s been a bit All Snowden, All The Time on this blog. I think it makes sense to read the story as a European one, though. Here’s a little more. From Snowden Part One:

Snowden: As a general rule, so long as you have any choice at all, you should never route through or peer with the UK under any circumstances. Their fibers are radioactive, and even the Queen’s selfies to the pool boy get logged.

This got remarkably little attention in the UK but it ought to have done. The southern UK is an enormous centre of telecoms infrastructure, especially in terms of peering and interconnection. There is just so much hard infrastructure in the ground that it’s not practical for this stuff to leave for some time. But some time only goes for some time. Amsterdam, for example, is already home to AMS-IX, an Internet exchange as big as LINX. Paris doesn’t have a serious IX for some reason, although there is a lot of fibre and that could change.

The real keys to the Internet economy are peering points and data centres. We would be horrified if someone with a global platform was to suggest blacklisting aircraft or ships that call in the UK. We should be similarly concerned about the long term costs of all this interception, especially as it didn’t keep us out of Iraq or provide useful information about Helmand before the Army went in.

Spies for Europe.

We’ve suspected for some time that the French and German governments’ refusal to take part in the Iraq war had something to do with their access to independent overhead imagery satellites. Briefly, France and Germany did (with the HELIOS and SAR Lupe programs respectively), and didn’t take part at all. Spain and Italy had some access to French imagery and had advanced plans to get their own. They made a limited commitment. The UK, Australia, Denmark, and the ROK relied on the United States and were, in a phrase that should be better known outside Australia, all the way with LBJ. Turkey didn’t have its own, although it has since acquired a satellite from Italy and it did have liaison staff at the little-known EU Satellite Centre, but it probably had ample intelligence from human sources.

The original statement is in this Ken Silverstein piece (see this blog post of mine from 2006):

“They say everyone else was wrong,” said this former official, “but we conditioned them to be wrong. We spend [tens of billions of dollars per year] on signals intelligence and when we reach a conclusion, the people who spend less than that tend to believe us. They weren’t wrong, they chose to believe us. The British, Germans, and Italians don’t have all those overhead assets, so they rely on us. Historically they have been well-served, so they believe us when we tell them the earth is round. The French have their own assets—and guess what? They didn’t go with us.”

Guilhem Penent, of France’s IFRI and IRSEM thinktanks, writes in the Space Review as follows:

Regarding outer space, France’s main objective is to perpetuate its autonomy and national sovereignty. As sovereignty is the state of determining itself based on its own will without depending on other nations, satellites are, first and foremost, the guarantee of France’s autonomy in assessment and thereby in decision-making.

The decision not to follow the US in 2003 was thus taken by then President Jacques Chirac in accordance with intelligence based for the most part on Earth-imaging satellite HELIOS 1, whose findings were in contradiction which was being said at the UN Security Council. When the war in South Ossetia broke out in 2008 between Russia and Georgia, then President Nicolas Sarkozy, as chair of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), used images provided by HELIOS 1 and HELIOS 2 to deny Russia’s allegations about the withdrawal of its troops when those troops were actually progressing southward.

This is the first public confirmation, I believe, that the French did in fact stand out of the Iraq war because HELIOS imagery showed that the WMD claims were nonsense. IFRI, and even more so IRSEM, are organisations with the status of something like CSBA in the States or RUSI in the UK, so this should be taken seriously.

Chris Williams, who pointed me to the TSR piece, contrasts the British concern about sovereignty with regard to things like bananas, beef, and birth certificates, with the French equation of it with independent verification technology. He has a point. (So does Dan Hardie in comments there, who points out that perhaps the French could have benefited by worrying more about their influence over monetary policy, something no British Eurosceptic has ever omitted to worry about.) I’ve repeatedly argued this elsewhere.

There are a couple of points here. I feel a degree of contradiction between my suspicion of mass telecoms surveillance and my enthusiasm for overhead imagery. Perhaps that’s just the conviction that however much fuss I kick up, it’s unlikely anyone will burn limited delta-vee to get pictures of me, but you can’t say that about X-KEYSCORE. With more consideration, I think it’s the terms-of-trade in the relationships I described in this post that worry me most of all.

From a British point of view, the deal was fairly simple. The UK would concentrate on signals intelligence and would share everything with the US, and would stay out of the satellite business. In exchange, the US would share back their satellite product. We know that on at least one occasion, during the Falklands War, this didn’t happen. Later, the UK started a major project, known as ZIRCON, to build a signals intelligence satellite. This went overbudget badly, but got a surprising degree of support from Margaret Thatcher for reasons of sovereignty vis-a-vis the US, before being abandoned when the Americans instead offered a share of the targeting slots for their equivalent system in exchange for cash.

But the ZIRCON strand of the story doesn’t cover imagery. It seems that the national interest was very poorly served by this part of the deal – the implicit sigint-for-imagery trade – to say the least, both in Iraq and possibly later in Afghanistan.

Since the 1980s, the cost of satellites has fallen sharply, notably due to the work at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in Guildford. The UK had a very quiet test project between 2005 and 2009, and going ahead with an operational system on a similar basis to the Germans’ was being discussed openly by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills as late as early 2011. Since then, it’s all gone quiet over here…so what did happen to that project? And do we need more Europe here?

I think the answer to that is much more clearly Yes than it ever was with regard to the Euro. The main objection from the UK side (and from Atlanticist Europe more broadly) is that the Americans might not share as much stuff with us. But this makes less sense on close examination. In so far as it is a market-like, bargaining relationship, we would be in a stronger position. In so far as it is a relationship of integration among allies, the alliance would be better off as a whole and might be more allied. In so far as it is a feudal, tributary relationship, it would be less so. (You’ll notice that Penent alludes to this in the TSR article.)

And this doesn’t take any account of the quality of the information received. It seems that the information the US shared with its partners in the intelligence special relationship before Iraq was worse than useless – in fact, functionally defined, it was disinformation. Its recipients were less informed after receiving it than they were before. Even a small increase in independent capability might have the useful effect of keeping both parties more honest.


Oh well, here it is: yes, Virginia, the BND shared enormous amounts of surveillance material with the NSA, both from their military SIGINT group deployed with the German army in Afghanistan and from, well, Germany. Officially, this didn’t contain any information on German citizens. Also, the Germans offered the Americans the use of two software applications they developed, presumably as part of the deal for X-KEYSCORE.

Meanwhile, the Germans have given notice on an agreement from 1968 that permitted the western allies to request surveillance in cases that affected the security of their forces in West Germany. This document had apparently not been used since 1990 (they say). Oddly, the US and UK agreed immediately to terminate it by exchange of notes, but the Germans were still negotiating with France yesterday.

Edward Snowden and the Political West

Germany is the theatre in which the consequences of Edward Snowden’s disclosures are being played out. Why is this?

Obviously, privacy and data protection are especially sensitive in Germany. After the Stasi, the centrality of big databases to the West German state’s response to the left-wing terrorists of the 1970s, and the extensive Nazi use of telephone intercepts during the seizure of power, it couldn’t really be otherwise. Privacy and digital activism is older and better established in Germany than anywhere else – in the US, for example, I consider the founding text of the movement to be the FBI vs. Steve Jackson Games case from 1990 or thereabouts, while the key text in Germany is the court judgment on the national census from ten years earlier. But the UK has a (strong) data protection act and no-one seems anywhere near as exercised, although they probably should be.

So here’s an important German word, which we could well import into English: Deutungshoheit. This translates literally as “interpretative superiority” and is analogous to “air superiority”. Deutungshoheit is what politicians and their spin doctors attempt to win by putting forward their interpretations and framings of the semirandom events that constitute the “news”. In this case, the key event was Snowden’s disclosure of the BOUNDLESS INFORMANT slides, which show that the NSA’s Internet surveillance operations collect large amounts of information from sources in Germany.

The slides don’t say anything about how, whether this was information on German customers handed over by US cloud companies under PRISM orders, tapped from cables elsewhere, somehow collected inside Germany, or perhaps shared with the NSA by German intelligence. This last option is by far the most controversial and the most illegal in Germany. The battle for Deutungshoheit, therefore, consisted in denying any German involvement and projecting the German government, like the people in question, as passive victims of US intrusion.

On the other hand, Snowden’s support-network in the Berlin digital activist world, centred around Jacob “ioerror” Applebaum, strove to imply that in fact German agencies had been active participants, and Snowden’s own choice of further disclosures seems to have been guided by an intent to influence German politicians. Der Spiegel, rather than the Guardian, has been getting documents first and their content is mostly about Germany.

In this second phase, the German political elite has shifted its feet; rather than trying to deny any involvement whatsoever, they have instead tried to interpret the possibility of something really outrageous as being necessary for your security, and part of fundamental alliance commitments which cannot be questioned within the limits of respectable discourse. The ur-text here is Die Zeit‘s interview with Angela Merkel, in which Merkel argues that she knew nothing, further that there was a balance to strike between freedom and security, that although some kinds of spying were unacceptable, the alliance came first. The effectiveness of this, at least in the context of the interview, can be measured by astonishingly uncritical questions like the one in which she was asked “what additional efforts were necessary from the Germans to maintain their competitiveness”.

So what’s going on? British intelligence historian Richard Aldrich’s history of the UK signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, is illuminating. He argues that since the 1980s, the (West-) German government has had a long-term policy of building up the BND intelligence agency’s SIGINT capability. This was explicitly encouraged by the NSA, specifically its then director William Odom, who wished to get less European intelligence from the British. Obviously, this implies German intelligence sharing with the NSA.

At the same time, the (West-) Germans wanted to get more of their own information on subjects that interested them, notably operational-level (corps and above) military intelligence on the Soviet forces. The British were also concerned about this, for different reasons. The intelligence alliance between the UK and US, and the so-called Tier 2 partners (Canada, New Zealand, and Australia), predates NATO and was often sceptical about the security of NATO and West German institutions. As a result, signals intelligence reaching NATO commanders in Germany was often marked CAN/US/UK EYES ONLY and therefore too secret to show the Bundeswehr, who were providing 500,000 soldiers in 12 armoured and mechanised divisions with 24 hours’ notice. The absurdity of this can be seen from the fact that NATO multinational HQs often had a German general as one of the three posts of commander, deputy commander, or chief of staff. The British were, for their part, concerned that the US system was not going to get usable reports forward into the field in time to be any use. Both the UK, with the Nimrod R1 program, and the Germans spent serious money to solve this.

Another factor in the 80s was that France was encouraging other European countries to contribute to its own intelligence collaboration. Joining this would only add a further degree of dependence, on France, if Germany didn’t bring something to the table. Building up the BND and sharing information therefore served several different motives.

There was a patron-client motive, in which the Germans sought greater independence from the US (and its allies). There was an alliance-integration motive, in which the Germans (and the UK, and the US) sought to strengthen the alliance’s (or alliances?) technical capability and to deepen the partners’ commitment to it (them?). And there was also a bargaining or marketlike motive, in which the Germans were seeking to have more intelligence on hand that could be traded for advantages, whether with the French, the US, or whoever. I think this is also true of the other participants in the intelligence alliances – the UK, for example, didn’t build its own satellite capability, partly because there was a feeling that the Americans would do it better, but also because participating more deeply in the US satellite program, by having part of the take from the satellites downlinked at Menwith Hill and analysed at GCHQ, created a stronger bargaining position with the Americans (and others) in terms of the final intelligence product.

We now know, thanks to the latest Snowden event, that the BND and the federal version of the Verfassungschutz were offered the use of the X-KEYSCORE system, which seems to be an analytics tool for working with a wide variety of Internet surveillance data sets. Interestingly, the Verfassungsschutzer were offered training by BND officers, implying that they already had the system.

The US motive can also be analysed in the same terms as above. As an ally, they may have wished to strengthen German antiterrorist efforts (this happened shortly after the discovery of a terrorist plot in Germany). As a patron, they may have wished to reward their client, and also discourage them from developing their own technology or cooperating with some other party (like China!, following Britain’s lead). This was fairly common in the cold war era, according to Aldrich, when there was both a will to improve NATO communications security and a will to maintain some advantage over the other NATO partners. And as a bargaining actor, they may have acted because they were offered a good deal in return. So, what was the deal?

(If you want a clue, you might wonder what the large company operating in both the US and Germany mentioned in some of the PRISM documents is.)

In general, I think the BND is likely to have shifted from being closer to the “patron/client” model, towards “bargaining/market”, while still being very much “alliance/integration”. After all, the last sections of the NSA facility in Germany were handed back in May last year. It is very telling, though, that one of the first reactions to the Snowden disclosures from German politicians was outrage that Germany wasn’t considered even a “Tier-2″ partner – probably fake outrage from those in the know. (As we have seen, this term has a definition.) This isn’t the reaction of people who are horrified at the thought of spying, though, rather that of people shocked that their investment in spying is not paying off as well as they hoped.

So, to round off, the point of the battle for Deutungshoheit is to maintain the primacy of Atlanticism in German public debate on foreign policy. This is, in many ways, the mirror image of the primacy of ECB-ism in debate on economic policy. Those who accept the consensus are respectable, those who aren’t, aren’t. If you doubt, the same issue of Die Zeit would tell you that the EU-US trade agreement must be signed for the sake of the “political West”. Everything going on here is touching on German privacy fear, but also on profound questions of geopolitics, and just politics. It is therefore very interesting that Der Spiegel, usually very, very NATO-minded, is being so difficult and un-biddable.

It is also probable that Edward Snowden’s best chance to get out of Russia is to disrupt the politics of SIGINT in Europe as much as possible.

We still owe it to them, and blaming private companies will not do.

Back in 2007, the Danish army withdrew from Iraq. The government originally tried to avoid accepting Iraqis who had worked for the Danes as refugees, despite the fact that they were in grave danger of reprisals. Eventually, after a protest campaign and a protest by senior army officers, the Danish government gave in. In the UK, this example was followed – the government tried to wriggle out of it, this blog among many other people protested as part of Dan Hardie‘s campaign, and eventually some action was taken.

History is repeating itself, as Le Monde reports. The story is paywalled, but the essential point is that the NATO deployment to Afghanistan will only shrink from here to 2015, the Danes will be off very soon, and again the government is trying to wriggle out of its obligations to Afghans who they relied on in a variety of roles and who are now faced with Taliban vengeance.

This time, though, the cowardice and moral abasement has reached a new low. The official argument is apparently that the interpreters (and others) were employed by a private company, and therefore it is nothing to do with Denmark! This is repellent. It is not just that a moral obligation exists, or that a norm of common decency is involved. This attempt to hide behind privatisation is undignified, dishonest, dishonourable. Everyone involved ought to be deeply ashamed.

Now I strongly suspect that history will repeat itself in the UK as well, and no doubt in the other European contributors to ISAF. So it is important to get angry early, in order to make an example to the others. To lead off, I will ask a question.

The story above refers to a supposed private company, says that it is a British company, and then names it as LSU or Labour Support Unit. But there is no such company registered in Britain. “Labour Support Unit”, in general, is a British military organisation, a staff attached to a large formation or garrison that is responsible for employing civilians.

So either Le Monde is confused, perhaps because “company” can be a business, a social group, or a military unit in English, or else the Danish government is bullshitting to its own public that it’s all the problem of the private sector, while hoping that the British government sorts out the problem and spends the money. This is a sorry, sordid business.