Power, Knowledge, and the C.I.A.

March 13, 2017 at 4:29 am 1 comment


President George W Bush visits CIA Headquarters, March 20, 2001.

Credit: BBC

When news broke this past Tuesday that WikiLeaks had released thousands of pages of C.I.A. intelligence documents, government officials scurried anxiously to analyze what kind of danger these leaks would present. The New York Times outlined the contents of the leaked documents, which revealed that the CIA had developed extraordinarily advanced methods of spying on even state-of-the-art encrypted electronic communication:

Sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the agency [can] break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions…

In one revelation that may especially trouble the tech world if confirmed, WikiLeaks said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services have managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate smartphones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

The New York Times also noted that the C.I.A. had tools at its disposal to spy on “Skype; Wi-Fi networks; documents in PDF format; and even commercial antivirus programs of the kind used by millions of people to protect their computers.”  In other words, if a person is connected in some way to the Internet, the C.I.A. can see.

Of course, the C.I.A. maintains that it uses such tools not to spy on Americans, but to gather much needed information about communications between suspected terrorists.  C.I.A. spokesman Ryan Tripani explains that the intelligence agency:

…is legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and C.I.A. does not do so…C.I.A.’s job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad.

The ethics of intelligence gathering have always been complex.  On the one hand, the benefits of discovering terrorist plots before they are launched cannot be overstated.  Saving lives is always preferable to responding to carnage.  On the other hand, when imperfect people – even when they are in government and are constricted by the regulations of government – get a hold of great power, the possibility always exists for corruption.  These leaks have brought this tension, once again, to the forefront of our public conversation.

For all the power C.I.A. officials have to hack into people’s communications and for all the information they are able to garner from these communications, the C.I.A. is still limited in its power and in its knowledge.  It cannot do everything or know everything.  This is why Christians can be thankful that we serve a God who has not only great power, but all power.  He is omnipotent.  And He has not only much knowledge, but all knowledge.  He is omniscient.  But frankly, all this would be cold comfort if God was as we are.  If He was imperfect, the specter of what He could – and probably would – do with His total power and knowledge would only terrify us.  Thankfully, God has not only all power and all knowledge, but all goodness as well.  He is omnibenevolent.  Thus, His power and knowledge do not come with the same concerns the C.I.A.’s do, for His power and knowledge will never be misused or abused.

The moral ineptitude that would lead WikiLeaks to fecklessly release documents that would compromise our national security should be forcefully denounced.  We did not need these illegally obtained documents to know that there are ethical concerns and quandaries when it comes to intelligence gathering.  But at the same time these ethical concerns and quandaries endure, we can be thankful that we have a God who uses both His power and knowledge perfectly.  His wise knowledge is unmatched by any nation’s intelligence.  And His protective power is better than any nation’s security.  So why we might be thankful for the generally good work of the C.I.A., we can wholly trust in a God who knows exactly what He’s doing – for us and for our world.

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Entry filed under: Current Trends. Tags: , , , , , , .

An Honest Hypocrite Is Still a Hypocrite God and Country in Order

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. William D.  |  March 13, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Omnibenevolent. That’s my new favorite word!

    Reply

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