Good Question: Who Are Americans Spying On? Click here for link to WCCO website.
Three Americans detained in Iraq are accused of spying. They deny it, as does the U.S. government. But we know that Americans are in fact inside foreign countries doing undercover surveillance. So, who are we spying on and what are we looking for?
"We're spying on everybody," said Jack Rice, a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney, former WCCO radio talk show host and former C.I.A. case officer. "Believe it or not, we have interests, we don't have friendships. That was a saying at Langley."
"We're going after the Russians, like we always have. We're going after Iranians. We're going after Iraqis. We say we're not going after Europeans because they're our friends. But do we care what they're doing? Of course we do," added Rice.
While that means that we aren't doing extensive spying on our friends, Rice said that we certainly are keeping an eye on them. We're watching Israel, for example.
And while he said he has no reason to believe that Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are spies, it's certainly possible that they were not hiking along the Iran/Iraq border and they were undercover.
"A really good spy, honestly, shouldn't look the way you expect. So, do you expect to see a bunch of guys in trench coats and sunglasses there? No! You expect to see something else. Am I suggesting they're spies? I would never suggest that!" said Rice.
"What would happen if you had three Iranians hiking in an area that was of interest to us? Would we say 'He was just a hiker?' No, we'd say 'they don't have hikers -- he must be a spy!'" said Rice.
The nature of spying has changed over the years, with an increasing focus on electronic surveillance: listening to conversations via satellite, analyzing e-mail communications and bank accounts.
"You know why it went technical? There was no blowback. You're not going to be on the ground and have people find you," said Rice.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, there's been an effort to increase the number of spies undercover in various countries.
It's not just the C.I.A. spying, "it's all the acronyms," said Rice, including the Department of Defense, Energy, and State.
In his view, the U.S. doesn't have the patience that Russia and China have shown, leaving spies in country for decades until they find out information.
"We want answers by the end of this quarter. If we don't have it, we're pulling the plug. That's what we do in the intelligence world, too," Rice said.
"Sometimes, it takes 20 years where you know the country, you know the language, and you know where the tents are," he added.
So, what are we looking for?
"It's shifted. During the cold war, a lot of it had to do with weaponry. But it started to shift even at the end of that into economics," he said. "When we are out in the world now, we're trying to figure out who's paying whom, how it's being paid, who's actually taking the money, where they are actually spending it. If you follow the money, what you really follow is the influence and who has it."