Friday, November 08, 2013

Stupid Spy Versus Stupid Spy

Have you ever been making out with someone, stolen a quick glance to see what they're doing, only to realize they're also stealing a quick glance?

Of course you haven't! Who does that?

I'm, uh, only asking for a friend. His name is, uh, Johnny Macintosh.

Back in the 1980s, comedian Rich Hall wrote several books called Sniglets, and he called this situation "glantics."

You couldn't really point out that you knew the other person was looking, or that you knew that they knew that you knew, because it would completely ruin the moment.

Or so I've been told.

At the same time, you couldn't just let the look go unspoken, because you were thinking about it, wondering what the other person was thinking. And he or she was wondering what you were thinking. It would get in your head and that's all you can think about, which is saying something, considering what you were doing at the moment.

I was reminded of glantics when I heard the latest story about how Brazil got caught spying on several foreign diplomats, just a matter of weeks after they canceled a presidential trip to the United States after learning our National Security Agency was spying on them.

What do you call that, espiontics? Surveillantics? Staggering hypocrisy. . . antics?

According to a story from the BBC, it was revealed that operatives from Brazil's national intelligence agency, Abin, had been following and photographing American, Iranian, and Russian diplomats. The New York Times said that puts Brazil in an "uncomfortable position."

That's because Brazil had already expressed outrage after we were caught spying on Brazil (and many other countries) by reading companies' and government emails and listening to their phone calls. And now they were caught spying on diplomats working in their country.

In Brazil's case, the NSA had hacked into the computer network of their state-run oil company, Petrobras, so they could monitor emails and telephone calls. In their defense, the NSA originally thought they were hacking into a brassiere manufacturer.

After the news about the NSA broke, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff postponed a visit to the United States, which we knew several hours before he announced it.

Jose Eduardo Cardoso, Brazil's justice minister, told reporters that the NSA's spying activities were "an affront to Brazilian sovereignty."

But he said that Brazil's spying activities were "completely different." They weren't spying per se, said Cardoso. Rather Brazil was conducting "counter-intelligence" operations so they could "verify whether other countries" were spying on them.

In other words, "I was only hiding in your bushes to see if you would try to hide in my bushes. Your spying cancels out our spying, so that's, like, totes different."

I question the logic of Cardoso's defense, however. If the diplomats in question were easily followed and photographed, then they were either 1) very bad spies, or 2) not spies.

If he's correct though, then Brazil's spy network must consist of four Barney Fife-types and a point-and-shoot digital camera. And their agency didn't so much leak that they were spying on the diplomats, as someone had accidentally left behind a folder marked "Top Secret Spy Plans. Keep Out! This Means YOU!"

In what can only be called a major fit of global irony, reports about the Brazilian "counter intelligence," which Abin confirmed, were leaked to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. Abin later received a bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates with a note that read, "Dear Brazil, Now you know how it feels to get ratted out. Suck it, hypocrites. The United States."

Actually, the U.S. State Department was pretty okay with the whole "counter intelligence" thing. Maybe it's because they weren't in a position to actually point any fingers at anyone, maybe it's because they were secretly filling out mail-in cards for bedwetting cures and adult magazines.

"As we have indicated in the past, all nations gather foreign intelligence," said the U.S. State Department, without rolling its eyes. "So we're still good, right? I mean, you can't say what we did was bad and what you did was okay. That's totally hypocritical, bro."

I don't agree with the NSA spying on its own citizens in an attempt to keep us safe (we're still supposed to have our civil liberties) or other countries (they have their sovereignty). But I also don't believe Brazil's "counter intelligence" claim that they were only checking to see if they were being spied on.

Save the lame excuses for when your wife catches you "interrogating" her best friend.

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