12-07-2016  2:16 pm      •     

Edward Snowden's fate and the possible damage he has done to U.S. relations with close allies still commands attention of the Obama administration. The situation shows the degree to which "the United States and Europe define privacy in different ways," former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told CNN's Security Clearance.

That tension was apparent following revelations from Snowden, the admitted leaker of national security documents, that the United States had been using electronic intercepts to monitor various European government offices.

While the threat of international terrorism has decreased over the past decade because of "significant" cooperation between the United States and Europe, Crowley said he is "confident" the situation will eventually "work its way through the political situation on both sides of the Atlantic."

Crowley says he expects Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, to "have his hands full" with questions when he takes the stage at the upcoming Aspen Security Forum in Colorado to discuss cyber issues.

The Snowden revelations also highlight the role of the press in matters of national security, and Crowley is ready to analyze the issue as a panelist on a discussion about counterterrorism and the media at the forum.

Crowley said he is looking forward to a robust discussion about the role of government leaks to the press and First Amendment implications raised by them.

He points to the case of a Fox News reporter -- later identified as James Rosen -- who was initially declared by the Justice Department in a court affidavit as a possible co-conspirator in the case of documents allegedly leaked to him by a State Department contractor for a story on North Korea.

"To me, words matter and I wish the government had found another phrase," regardless if the government said it had no intention of focusing the legal system on journalists Crowley said.

"When you start throwing around terminology like that, it obviously raises concerns about First Amendment issues and rightfully so," he said.

And then there is the issue of both Russia and China, and the assertive role they play on the international stage, that figure to be raised on some of the panels at the forum.

For Crowley, the so-called reset of relations between the United States and Russia that began in 2009, was a mechanism by which the two countries would identify areas of cooperation, and manage areas of disagreement.

But despite the broad disagreement that exists over the approach to Syria, human rights, and other areas of mutual concern, Crowley says there are other reasons for the periodic frustrations felt by both sides.

"I think the so-called reset has been complicated simply by political changes in Russia," Crowley said. "The rest worked pretty well under (former president) Dimitry Medvedev. Obviously, he set a different tone internationally, but now that Vladimir Putin is back at the helm, he defines Russian power in different ways. You don't want to over-state or under-state the importance of the relationship."

On China, Christopher Hill, a former ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, and envoy to multi-lateral talks with North Korea, is scheduled to speak on the Obama administration's so-called "'pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region.

He is now the dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

For Hill, it is the three "unintended consequences" from the "pivot" strategy - impressions that the United States is withdrawing interest in the Middle East, that the United States does not care about Europe any longer, and a push to contain China's rise - that deserve the most attention in analyzing the policy.

"I think this whole idea of a pivot has proven to be far more complex than maybe the president meant when he first launched it at the APEC meeting in November 2011," he said.

But with the issue of cyber and commercial espionage at the top of the U.S.-China agenda, Hill says Beijing's recent severing of ties with a key North Korean bank, along with inviting the new president of South Korea before extending the courtesy to the new North Korean leader, show continued engagement may yield good results for Washington.

"I think there are signs that maybe China is serious about this effort to reposition itself with respect to North Korea," Hill said. "That argues for some really intense diplomacy with China."

Both panelists tell Security Clearance there are other areas of discussion they look forward to engaging in Aspen.

"I would very much like to understand where the U.S. is going in its Syria policy," Hill said. "We have on our hands in Syria many things including a sectarian knife fight, and I would like to know better what the U.S. is trying to do about it beside provide weapons."

For Crowley, the future of the administration's counter-terrorism policy is ripe for discussion.

"I think we have to do a better job of understanding the impact that drone operations have around the world, and find ways to address it," he said. "The drone program in Pakistan is not a secret to anyone and yet because we treat it as a secret war, if you will, we prevent ourselves from being able to explain to the Pakistani public why what we are doing is good for us and good for them."

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