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Will NSA revelations chill intelligence gathering?

October 29th, 2013
04:49 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Revelations over American spying methods may have a chilling effect on the West’s ability to gather intelligence from terrorists Richard Barrett, the former director of global counter terrorism for British intelligence, suggested in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

On the one hand he said, terrorists – like ordinary people who send emails – know that their exchanges could probably be monitored but continue nonetheless to communicate.

“Obviously they’re much more careful than the average person,” he said. “But they will use communication methods, they’ll get careless occasionally – they’ll make slip-ups, they’ll reveal telephone numbers and things like that.”

It is something that Glenn Greenwald, the columnist who broke the NSA spying story, suggested to Amanpour on Monday.

“Every terrorist who’s capable of tying their own shoes has long known that the U.S. government and the UK government are trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can,” Greenwald said.

But Barrett suggested that that idea missed the point.

Terrorists will continue to communicate freely “until they’re reminded, ‘Look, this is dangerous, this affecting us directly, we’d better be more careful.’ And then they close up again.”

Whether terrorists will change their communication methods is unclear, he told Amanpour.

That is just the kind of chilling effect, however, that American officials have suggested the revelations over American spying methods might have.

Barrett also contended that outrage over American spying might be casting the issue too much as black and white.

“I think there are various continuums at work here,” he said from Islamabad, Pakistan. “All countries have friends, they have allies, they have rivals, they have enemies.”

“There’s absolutely no doubt that one of the roles of the State Department, for example, will be to report on what they understand to be the leadership intentions in Germany,” despite Germany being a “very close friend” of America, he told Amanpour.

Where a country lies on the spectrum of friend to foe, he suggested, will determine how the intelligence service will gather information: whether it uses overt of covert methods and how much risk it is willing to take on.

“It depends,” he said, “where your target country appears on that continuum.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. ThisIsNot4U2

    Congratulations Mr. President! According to the BAGGERS, not only did you INVENT spying...But you've PERFECTED the "art" of it as well...*smh*...

    October 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  2. ThisIsNot4U2

    Congratulations Mr. President! According to the teabaggers, not only did you INVENT spying...But you've PERFECTED the "art" of it as well...*smh*...

    October 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  3. tadpole

    So we all are treated as potential terrorists until this threat is gone?

    October 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  4. In the dog house

    why do we have MUSLIM reporters reporting about terrorism?

    October 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Reply
    • Dan Reed

      Christiane Amanpour is a Christian, raised in a Muslim country and married to a Jew... good enough qualifications for her to report on terrorism? Or do you have someone better religious/ethnicity in mind?

      October 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Reply
    • scrut

      why do we have AMERICAN reporters reporting about peace?

      October 30, 2013 at 6:06 am | Reply
  5. In the dog house

    Don't tell the muzzie anything! She wants to learn our ways!

    October 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Dan Reed

      Christiane Amanpour is a Christian, raised in a Muslim country and married to a Jew... good enough qualifications for her to report on terrorism? Or do you have someone with a better religious/ethnic background in mind?

      October 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Reply
      • Dubguy

        Dan, please refrain from feeding the trolls.

        October 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  6. Guy Montag

    This whole thing is a storm in a glass of water .

    We all know that our phone calls , emails and internet use have been monitored since the eighties – respectively .

    A terrorist definitely won't email openly that he wants to blow up the White House . Those who have the knowledge to hack well protected homepages definitely know better methods than this .

    October 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Richars

      Of course we know this..why do we have "cookies" on our web browsers? How do you think hackers get in? How do you think certain ads pop up? Using the Internet, phone taps etc have been around for decades. What NSA does has been done since the age of the telegraph, undersea cables have been taped, telegraph line,,microwave transmission. Most Americans seem to approve of terrorists and want NSA to stop trying to prevent terrorist acts. If they really want them to stop then these Americans should provide a list of people to keep an eye on. Failure to provide all the names would subject them to conspiracy to commit treason. Do you think there is a pocket digest published monthly listing all terrorists? How many newspapers ads are there that say "Terrorists, work cheap, pay for my family 's wellfare and I will die for you" and then they give an address and phone number and e-maill address.. Do people really think they do this? Since they don't who are they? How do you find them? Maybe some have come to the USA (or Germany, Spain, France...) lead a normal life waiting for the right moment..

      October 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Reply
  7. Aussie

    I can remember in 1972 the Munich Games ....When 11 Israelie men were Murdered by the PLO Arabs...Israel went after these Murder's they managed to kill 9 of these dogs..the most important leader of this group of killers was about to be brought down, until the CIA of America sabotage the hit.!!! they not only sabotage,they supported this Terrorist with money protection places to live,they went out of their way to give this killer more help than you Americans,the thing is he wasn't even a USA citizen........... WHY! WHY! WHY.....Did your goverment do this "DIRTY DEED"....Did they the CIA stoop that low to get information out of him?????.......

    October 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  8. ahsan

    How American that we only allow ONE of the thousands of families effected by drone strikes, to come to the US to speak about the illegality of drone strikes, yet we refuse to let their lawyer in. I would love to see this as progress in realizing the true nature of our drone strikes, but the reality of the situation is that this is just a PR stunt to secure seats in congress. If congress really cared about the devastating results of our drone program, they would do something about it. The way the call a single family to testify as if they are for the first time hearing of the dangers is sickening.

    In the US, our drone killings should be described as they really are, group lynchings using drones. Even if only those we target are killed, they are still lynchings and have nothing to do with legality. We hanged Germans for doing much less than our drone operators.
    The US has turned into the most repulsive country in the world. Adolf Obama and his band of killers have made themselves the judge jury and executioners. Not even innocent civilians matter to them as they test their new weapons on anyone who happens to be in their sights.

    UK & France are not far behind!
    In the "land of the free home of the brave" some gutless cowardly moron sits there pressing buttons to murder more civilians.

    October 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  9. Scott B

    This has nothing to do with terrorists. That's only the boogeyman being used to scare people.

    October 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  10. nancy franklin

    CNN, please quit pushing your news personalities instead of accurate, informative reporting. Christiane Amanpour left CNN and now is back with a vengeance. ditto Richard Quest. Just report the news please and quit promoting these people as if they are celebrities. They report the news, nothing more. Less about them and more about the news, please.

    October 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  11. Julian Assange

    Terrorism is just a LAME EXCUSE Americans INVENTED to STEAL even from friends and allies with the purpose of advancing global domination and wealth!
    No one should trust American RODENTS!

    October 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Reply
  12. Suzanne

    Some people here dont understand some very basic facts– to fight terroism effectively sometimes governments have to resort to unsavory methods. Terrorism, especially the Islamic Jihadist brand- knows no moral boundaries or restrictions and kill without batting an eyelash. Diplomacy and talks will never stop them and therefore sometimes radical means must be taken. Better to be under surveillance and alive than completely free but ... dead.

    October 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply
    • idratherbemoshing

      You're an idiot for even saying that, Idiots like you don't deserve freedom.

      October 29, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
      • Booger T

        Agree with him, you are an idiot. You definitely don't understand the foundation of the USA.

        October 29, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
      • korgri

        but you'd rather be moshing... the perspective from the pit.

        October 30, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  13. Muhammad Anta Kusuma

    "Revelations over American spying methods may have a chilling effect on the West’s ability to gather intelligence from terrorists Richard Barrett, the former director of global counter terrorism for British intelligence, suggested in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday."
    Without DOT, I was thinking that RIchard Barrett is the terrorist. Yes, please put DOT.

    October 29, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  14. john Doughboy

    Bound to chill relationships and hinder intelligence gathering...If you spy on your neighbor, they may call it 'peeping Tom' or stalking !! I guess if you eavesdrop on phone conversations, they may call it 'Listening Tom' !! What, no privacy allowed anymore !!

    October 29, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Reply
  15. Mike Tolhurst

    Mr. Barret, like most public statements from the intelligence community, only serves to obfuscate the issue.

    He claims that we should not reveal this information to the public and that these measures are required, in the interests of fighting terrorist. Yet the scandal is, and continues to be, that those who fall under the surveillance by an overwhelming margin are NOT terrorists. The revelation of the US going to great lengths to spy on allies, for example, has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. As Greenwald in a previous piece by Ms. Amanpour noted this is about power, not terrorism. Angela Merkel is not an Al Qaida operative in disguise. The Brazilian president is not part of a jihadist sleeper cell.

    As an American citizen I would happily incur the increased risk of terrorist attacks, or even a higher annual level of *actual* terrorist attacks in return for a intelligence community that is scrutinized and accountable to democratic oversight. Because terrorism is 'showy' and gets a lot of media coverage, it is much more salient in our minds as a threat than the actual numbers suggests it merits.

    October 30, 2013 at 12:26 am | Reply
  16. JC

    No it won't. Now they'll just monitor all their employees closer and try to act like they have stopped their activities.

    October 30, 2013 at 2:41 am | Reply
  17. alex

    I am convinced that, in the course of the extremely broad surveillance, there must have been american politicians and/or their employees/familiy members who were tapped as well. I trust we will see such cases surface soon.

    October 30, 2013 at 3:53 am | Reply
  18. ashok

    Technology is one of the few things where it is clearly Advantage Government in this shadowy war. No reason at all why that advantage should be given up.

    October 30, 2013 at 7:16 am | Reply
  19. Dave

    In an ideal world, there are no bad people or people seeking to harm others. In the real world they exist. Killing or injuring people is bad. So logically we will not permit our policemen to be armed because they might harm someone, or not have police at all. But unfortunately the bad people, whomever they are, will not play by nice rules, so there are police and they are armed. Likewise between countries and between individuals/groups and countries. Now it would be extremely useful if everyone agreed who was the bad guy and who is the defender of the innocent. But again in a real world that is not the case. Every one in the world wants life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but there are also many who only want it for themselves and not for others. Such is the problem faced by all and if it is not possible to preserve these things for everyone, then it is the right of each group to try to at least preserve it for themselves. Perhaps one day people as a whole will realize that sharing such things amongst us all will eliminate the need for fighting to preserve it for ourselves.

    October 30, 2013 at 7:34 am | Reply
  20. Marco

    The Unit States are a poor student of history if you spie on your european alies you might find you turn them against you and provoking a european country or europe it self is a very dangerous situation espacialy i a time of economic unrest rising social problems the last time it cost over 40 miliion lives.If Europe realy wants to it can dismantle
    United States economy. Technoligical Europe is more advanced on political front it has more and better relations with other counties than the United States.
    Europe is not dependent of the united states The united states is dependent of Europe if it is military or political.
    Conclusion Do Not spie on or provoke Europe.

    October 30, 2013 at 8:48 am | Reply
  21. Pete

    As if terrorists did not know that email and celphones are being constantly monitored.
    I guess they learn it in BasicTerror 101.

    October 30, 2013 at 9:14 am | Reply
  22. romeno82

    so merkel. the un, and the eu headquarter is a terrorist suspect??? get real, this has nothing to do with tracking terrorists, it has all to do with economic and political power

    October 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  23. Julian Assange

    It will SURE help nations, people and businesses all over the WORLD to protect themselves against becoming VICTIMS of American robbery!

    October 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply

    It is called STATE TERRORISM.

    October 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Reply
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