Generation Wikileaks

Famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden almost had me convinced of his sincerity.  Until today, when he released damaging information about US spying on Russia’s former president, and offered up no explanation for how such revelations jibe with his earlier claims to be fighting for the American people.

You don’t go and help the Russians if your goal is fighting for the American people, unless you have a darn good reason, and Snowden has so far given none for today’s new leaks.

Now, some would ask, why discuss at all whether Snowden’s motives were genuine?  His justification has no bearing on the shocking nature of the information Snowden released, particularly about the NSA’s PRISM program, and about the NSA forcing Verizon to turn over call information about its 121 million customers.

And that’s true.  Those revelations stand on their own merits as to whether the NSA, and the Obama administration crossed a line.

Ed-SnowdenBut the issues that arise from the Snowden leak are not simply limited to whether the PRISM program was valid or not.  Snowden is a proud self-proclaimed member of what I’m calling “Generation Wikileaks.”  He’s representative of a younger, transparency-loving, globally-aware breed of citizen, among whom I count Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Snowden clearly sees himself as part of a larger movement, and thus we should – we must – discuss whether that movement is moving in the right direction or not.  And with Snowden, it now decidedly is not.  And here’s why…

The Guardian today published a number of new classified leaks that it got from Snowden.  They included the news that the US had intercepted then- Russian President Medvedev’s communications during the G20 Summit in London back in 2009.  That the British were intercepting communications from foreign delegates to that summit.  And that the British were planning to eavesdrop on members of their Commonwealth at an upcoming summit of those nations.

It’s not clear what any of those have to do with Snowden’s earlier justifications for his leaks.  They don’t have anything to do with the NSA director lying to Congress.  They don’t have anything to do with the President not closing down Gitmo.  And they have nothing to do with the dangers the surveillance state pose to the privacy of Americans.  They weren’t spying on Americans in today’s stories, they were spying on Russian leaders and diplomats, among others foreign officials.  So Snowden’s earlier justifications for the leaks don’t seem to apply.  Then why did he do it?

Edward-Snowden-2I suppose one could argue that all spying is wrong, and some have told me as much via Twitter.  But I’d consider that a non-starter for a serious policy discussion.  If you don’t think we have a need for America’s intelligence community then there’s little I can say to convince you otherwise.  We do have a little light shed today on why Snowden leaked these additional stories to the Guardian.  Snowden said the following during an online chat earlier today with the Guardian:

Second, let’s be clear: I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.

There’s a lot to untangle in that statement.  First off, “legitimate military targets.” I’m not even sure what that means.  Russia is not a legitimate target for US spy efforts?  It most certainly is.  As for Snowden’s concerns for spy agencies accessing civilian infrastructure, it’s not entirely clear whether any of that applies to the new claims as well.

Among other things, Snowden says the British intelligence set up Internet cafes with an email interception program.  Okay, and how does that violate civilian infrastructure?  Same question applies to Snowden’s other new revelations, including the fact that the Brits penetrated the security on the delegate’s Blackberrrys, that they targeted the Turkish finance minister, and that they eavesdropped on Medvedev’s hone calls as they passed through a satellite.

wikileaksWhich of those things shouldn’t our spies being doing?  Is Snowden alleging that the type of spying we did were rogue operations that were above the law?  It’s not clear.  But on its face, the suggestion that we shouldn’t be bugging the Russians’ phones seems a bit much to swallow.

And here’s where I really think Snowden lost me:

Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people…. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting?

So now Snowden thinks we should only spy on countries we’re at war with?  Who are we technically at war with?  North Korea?  Anyone else?  That makes for a pretty small list.  Even if what he really means is de facto wars like Afghanistan and Iraq, again, that’s a rather small list.  Can we spy on Iran?  How about Syria?  How about Cuba?  How about China?

It almost sounds as if Snowden objects to the entire notion of spying.  And if that’s the case, then why did he go to work at the CIA and the NSA in the first place if he’s morally repulsed by the notion of spying generally, and on Russia in particular?

And actually, there’s this too from Snowden today:

Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.

So he leaked information about our spying on the Russians because President Obama refused to prosecute Bush administration torture and push harder for closing Gitmo.  That’s a non sequitur, it’s not a rationale for exposing state secrets.

Josh Marshall wrote a great piece last week, looking at Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and the burgeoning culture of leaks. Here’s a snippet:

I’m a journalist. And back when I did national security reporting I tried to get leaks. So I don’t think leaks are always wrong. I think the government and journalists both have legitimate interests that point in very different directions. In fact, leaks are an absolutely critical safety valve against government wrongdoing and/or excessive secrecy. But when someone in government leaks classified information they’re breaking an oath and committing a crime. That’s a big deal. Sometimes though the importance of what’s leaked justifies the act morally if not legally. That is often the case. And that’s one reason that while I think the laws against disclosure should be in place I also think it’s imprudent for the government to try too hard to enforce them. I do not see how you can’t prosecute Snowden since he’s revealed himself publicly. And leaks should sometimes be investigated. But in most cases it’s not worth snooping on journalists to try to find the culprit. The costs outweigh the gains. Because of that, it’s really impossible to say leaks are good or bad in general. It’s also true that people can leak information for petty or even evil reasons but the leak still serves a positive public purpose. Leaks are complicated. I think we know that. And being morally right doesn’t necessarily get you off the hook for committing a crime….

Snowden is doing more than triggering a debate. I think it’s clear he’s trying to upend, damage – choose your verb – the US intelligence apparatus and policieis he opposes. The fact that what he’s doing is against the law speaks for itself. I don’t think anyone doubts that narrow point. But he’s not just opening the thing up for debate. He’s taking it upon himself to make certain things no longer possible, or much harder to do. To me that’s a betrayal. I think it’s easy to exaggerate how much damage these disclosures cause. But I don’t buy that there are no consequences. And it goes to the point I was making in an earlier post. Who gets to decide? The totality of the officeholders who’ve been elected democratically – for better or worse – to make these decisions? Or Edward Snowden, some young guy I’ve never heard of before who espouses a political philosophy I don’t agree with and is now seeking refuge abroad for breaking the law?

I don’t have a lot of problem answering that question.

Individual conscience is always critical. But when it comes to taking a stand on conscience it’s not just the thought that counts. You put yourself to the judgment or the present and the future about whether you made the right judgment.

I just can’t accept the argument that it’s okay to leak classified information simply because the leaker thinks it’s justified, especially when he’s being set up as some kind of role model for future national security whistleblowers.  You’d better have a darn good reason if you’re going to leak national security secrets, and break some major laws, while running the risk of endangering our national security.

And at this point, with these new revelations, it’s no longer clear what is motivating Edward Snowden, other than animus.  And that’s not good enough to justify the actions of a man who’s starting to look less and less like Daniel Ellsberg with each new revelation.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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249 Responses to “Generation Wikileaks”

  1. Island In The Sky says:

    Honey, you couldn’t outrage me if you tried. I’m more disappointed in you on this matter than anything else – I still love ya, though ;)

    I cant help but wonder if your position here would be the same if this exact same incident occurred under the GWB administration…

  2. condew says:

    I think at least one of my doctors subscribes to a system where he dictates his “charts” to audio files which get sent to the Philippines at the end of the day and are transcribed overnight to magically appear in his files by morning. So some of my most sensitive information does indeed reside on a computer in some other country, and, in this case, no government is to blame.

  3. condew says:

    Sounds like Snowden wanted to keep his news story alive, or maybe he was afraid the U.S. would not try to extradite him. In any event, he’s crossed the line from whistleblower to traitor.

  4. MatthewSherrard says:

    Pseudonymy is not villainous. Sometimes it is vital.

  5. mirror says:

    Ok, I won’t participate anymore. Honestly though, ask yourself what about my stupid comments made you so uncomfortable that you wasted so much smoke responding? See you at the press cocktail party or next inauguration. We can take a picture together!

  6. mirror says:

    Ok, I won’t participate anymore. Honestly though, ask yourself what was it I said that made you so uncomfortable that you wrote quite so much smoke? See you at the press cocktail party. We can take a photo together!

  7. KayInMaine says:

    I would have blamed the Bush Regime for starting this program, but hey, Snowden and Greenwald are pissed at Obama for not being invited to the White House back in 2009 and because Obama didn’t fix every issue they wanted fixed within the first two weeks after Obama’s inauguration in 2009. See? Neither one of these two care about America. Neither one of them are living in America. The End.

  8. KayInMaine says:

    Have you? He hasn’t laid his life down for anyone! He stole classified documents and then fled the country only to help China. Whose he loyal to? Which country? Oh wait! He’s your hero! Nevermind.

  9. Ford Prefect says:

    Try pizza. Sally’s especially. But agree with your larger point. If you want lessons from David Brooks or a reconstituted Attila The Hun, Yale’s your place!

    If you want to become an economic hitman or spend lots of time rationalizing genocide against Palestinians, Harvard’s the place!

    The Ivy League seems most useful for those who wish to do terrible things to people not rich enough to attend Ivy League schools.

  10. Delonjo Barber says:

    I’m not backtracking, either. We’re all getting old in both respects. I’ve been a big fan of your blog and have been an every-day reader. Usually, you were the first site I’d read. Maybe I’ve changed but I don’t think I have. I’m still a firebrand liberal. Not “progressive”–never that. But lately your opinions have rubbed me the wrong way. So much tempering and “pragmatism” in my opinion. If I’m wrong, I am absolutely sorry for iring one of my idols. Pre-Obama you we’re different to me.

  11. karmanot says:

    I never imagined to live to the age where the America I once loved and now loath is synonymous with torture, tyranny, assassination, the death of Habeaus Corpus, indefinite incarceration and Stalinist-like show trials.

  12. Badgerite says:

    In China, you wouldn’t need a warrant.

  13. karmanot says:

    The only good thing about Yale is that wonderful, old Deco dinner across from the main gate. It’s a great place to major in burgers, fries and slaw.

  14. Badgerite says:

    I imagine what the NSA uses the metadata for is to establish a probable cause to listen into a phone call based on who is being called. They would still need to get a warrant to listen to the conversation itself. Yeah, that’s like the Stasi alright.

  15. karmanot says:

    Well yes—-Murdock led the way over there and now he is a major propaganda force in the USA.

  16. karmanot says:

    At our ages, we don’t become better persons, we already are and we tell the stories about how we got here.

  17. karmanot says:

    Well, Ms. glory and guts, did you do military service like Snowden? Have you laid your life on the line for your country? If not, then stfu and crawl back under your troll bridge.

  18. karmanot says:

    Or if Obozo was a liberal?

  19. karmanot says:

    small point: Snowden wasn’t a hacker, neither was Bradley Manning. I would go a bit further than you in that I feel Hackers and whistle blowers can ultimately be the patriots of the Internet.

  20. karmanot says:

    And, a kitty with attitude!

  21. Your comment was rude. And you were benignly commenting on the natural aging process.

  22. karmanot says:


  23. karmanot says:

    You need to visit more often, John is often conservative and considered in his opinions, but defends them rigorously and is open to change. The only time I can imagine him on bended knee before power is trying to get Sasha to eat a blueberry.

  24. karmanot says:

    Badgerite loves the Stasi

  25. Delonjo Barber says:

    I’ve never been rude to you. We’re all getting old.

  26. Where did I say that you were “stupid” and “immature” for being an idealist?

    What I’ve written repeatedly, and all my comments are still here below, is that people shouldn’t resort to unprovoked personal attacks when they have an intellectual disagreement with someone, especially someone they know to be an ally. Similar to the attack you just launched on me in your comment. Rather than explain why you think I’m wrong about Edward Snowden, you thought it better to criticize my age, my soul, and throw out the window 20 years of progressive work that I’ve done. I think that’s intellectually lazy, in addition to politically dangerous.

    Your idealism isn’t your problem, your rudeness is.

    You disagree with me about one post, and rather than explaining to me why you think I’m wrong, you thought it would be better to call me “old” and suggeset that I’ve lost my soul. I wrote a post about people like you several weeks ago. You should read it and take it to heart. Because people like you are destroying the left in this country. And not because you’re an idealist. But because you’re intolerant, and don’t want to even think about why it is we believe what we believe. And when someone asks you to just think about it, you berate them.

    I didn’t create AMERICAblog to be a xerox machine for all the liberal group press releases. I created it to think through policy issues from the perspective of someone who has worked in national policy for nearly 25 years. And I challenge you to show me where I’ve changed, because I think you’re the one who’s changed. Your idealism is most welcome. Your attitude is not.

  27. Delonjo Barber says:

    You’ve changed, John. You’ve changed. A quote widely misattributed to Winston Churchill is goes something like this: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative by 35, you have no brain.” You’re getting old. You’re starting to sound like Booman, and not in a good way. Idealists are “stupid” and “immature” while you are the adults in the room. We get it… :-(

  28. And why wouldn’t we want your wisdom? All I ask is that people be civil. Wisdom and experience are welcome :)

  29. I don’t blame him for fleeing arrest. I wouldn’t want to be arrested – who would?

  30. jasonwhat says:

    The onus should be on our government to justify why we need to be a permanent spy state. I’ve been to plenty of these summits and I see no reason why we need to spy on G20 nations when we are meeting for negotiations. What exactly do we gain by way of strategic insight that is more valuable than face-to-face discussions with 20 countries setting the global agenda? We absolutely should NOT be spying on the Security Council in violation of international law .

    Of course, this makes me naive, right? Everybody spies! But shouldn’t the US hold ourselves to a higher standard of being honest brokers and followers of the rule of law? Shouldn’t we come from the moral high ground and say with authority that the UN and international summits are truly free and open spaces for nations to dialogue and solve our pressing challenges like climate change and…oh, I don’t know, terrorism? Some of us actually want the US to be a truly great nation and an actual beacon for freedom and democracy. I think Snowden is one of those citizens, but if he is just a self-aggrandizing jerk, I really don’t care. As Maddow said, we have become unmoored to the point where progressives are viciously defending spy programs that have never been proven to actually be needed or useful. We should be the Good Guys.

  31. masaccio68 says:

    I don’t think so in this case. Snowden gave his material to competent journalists. He is entitled to think that they wouldn’t put that information into the public discourse if in their opinion it would harm the national interest. We know that Greenwald and the Guardian, and possibly Bart Gellman and the WaPo didn’t release a lot of the slides about Prism. I infer that Snowden would accept their judgment on other important security issues.

  32. Mark_in_MN says:

    I’m not sure I can so readily distinguish the appropriateness of the program/action and the appropriateness of classification. It would seem to me that these things ought to be related to one another in inverse proportion. The more unjustified the activity the less justified classifying it or keeping to classified would be. Even apart from such a relationship and questions of constitutionality, I’m uncertain why a program like Prism should fall into something to be classified.

  33. iDonald says:

    Calling people names reveals your comment has no there there. Cute try. What would you have done in his position. But of course you’ve done nothing so gutsy as Snowden.

  34. Whitewitch says:

    I completely concur Mark. I am much more afraid of US intelligence community than of anything Snowden might really know and be able to pass along to our “enemies” or “allies” – hard to know which is which now.

  35. iDonald says:

    and a big thank you to all of them.

  36. And one more thing: Sounds like you need more, not fewer, puppies in your life :)

  37. Badgerite says:

    No, actually he is focusing on what the ‘whistleblower exposed’. And as Kevin Drum notes, even Snowden does not NOW claim that there is ‘direct access’ to servers. Rather there is access to an NSA database that has already been collected and the requires a warrant to collect. Not exactly as the story was initially billed or even reported on over the weekend. Quoting from Kevin Drum:

    “His reply to the warrant question is a little clearer, but doesn’t really say anything new. Section 702 warrants are indeed very broad, and once issued can cover communications from a lot of targets. When this stuff is swept up, some of it inevitably turns out to be domestic communications, which the NSA is required to either discard or segregate away from the view of analysts according to court mandated minimization procedures.
    Now does the NSA really do this? How do we know? Those are good questions, but Snowden sheds no light on that. He just keeps telling us that 702 warrants are very broad. Something we already knew.”

    Alan Grayson complained that the Fourth Amendment required ‘particularity’. And that is true. But there are also exceptions. One of those exceptions is consent. Congressman Grayson characterizes the ruling in Smith v Maryland as applying only to that particular case. But that is not true. The Court actually held that information gathered by the phone company as to numbers of called ( the pen registry) are completely outside the protections of the Fourth Amendment. The Court ruled that there is no expectation of privacy in such information. This type of ruling is not something that applies to only one case, one time. This is a ruling which states the such metadata as the phone numbers called by any particular person are completely outside the protections of the Fourth Amendment. That is the ruling. And that is the law. So the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit collection of the numbers that Alan Grayson or anyone else calls. He is clearly in error on this point. The only question then, is whether there is a legal prohibition against the NSA collecting this data versus the local police. The domestic versus foreign distinction. But Grayson clearly states that the Fourth Amendment prohibits this. And on that point he is clearly wrong and the Agency is right. Read the case.

  38. In all seriousness, and I’ve written this before, but some people on our side need to learn some civility and maturity. If we can’t have an open discussion about these issue – especially about issues this important – then we don’t deserve to win. This “you’re the enemy if you disagree with me about anything” attitude is counterproductive and sets us back. I was accused of being a sexist last night in a mini twitter swarm because I’d never heard of a certain women’s issue blog. How that makes you sexist because you weren’t familiar with a blog is beyond me. But it’s part of the same larger “outrage” thing, and as I’ve written before, it’s growing, and it’s hurting us.

  39. Yes, I pray every day for the nerve to stand up to authority. Perhaps I’ll create an pseudyonymous Disqus profile and yell at people who are trying to have a rational, civil public debate on important issues. I hear that does a lot to change things :)

  40. Right, that’s a debate we’ve had for decades. I don’t recall if Gore’s Reinventing Govt work addressed some of this, I thought it did. Having said that, the stuff he released was clearly appropriately classified, whether or not it was appropriately done :)

  41. Now that was the kind of answer we deserve. A thoughtful one with arguments well spelled out. That’s all I was asking for :)

  42. I don’t really care what the Obama administration wants me to do, that has never changed my honestly intellectual analysis of an issue, and it never will.

  43. I’m not sure histrionics advance the discussion much. If you feel like having a mature, intelligent, rationale discussion about this topic, I’m happy to engage. But bashing people because you think you disagree with them is something Republicans do. I’d like to think that we’re better than that, and that’s why I created this site – so we could actually discuss issues, rather than parrot each other, Mao style.

  44. scottdedalus says:

    Funny how Ellsberg thinks he looks like Ellsberg, but John is too busy subjecting Snowden to the kind of criticism that he would rather not practice with his betters. It’s really bizarre how this NSA story has revealed the bended-knee approach to authority that many so-called progressives like John have.

  45. KayInMaine says:

    So bravery to you is hiding out in another country to avoid prosecution? I thought Snowden said America is worth dying for! Time to come back to America you skinny little pencil-necked spy for China & Russia & Brazil’s Glenn Greenwald!

  46. KayInMaine says:

    Is America’s ‘hero’ still running around the globe to avoid being prosecuted in America? He must be getting his money from either the Koch Brothers…..or China & Russia are paying him big $ for the information he stole?

  47. Badgerite says:

    So to fight against the ‘burgeoning police state’, he runs off to seek sanctuary in the long established police state of China. Hmmmm!

  48. Ty Morgan says:

    Snowden is nothing more to me than an idiot who turned on his country. The U.S. is spying on the Russians? No shit,Sherlock! Spilling the beans on that helps the American people HOW exactly? Recommended reading:

  49. DonQ says:

    “as to whether the NSA, and the Obama administration crossed a line.”

    If you don’t understand that the Obama administration has DEFINTIELY crossed the line, you don’t understand the meaning of tyranny or the very slippery slope to police state surveillance. Americablog has joined the main stream media in attacking the messenger. Let’s just post more puppy dog videos, then we can all feel better about ourselves.

  50. DonewithDems says:

    By this article I think you’re doing what the Obama administration wants everyone to do and what many American journalists are trying to do. Focus on the validity of the whistleblower rather than on what he exposed. By discrediting him, they can try to change the subject. You should re-run your article on what people really think of Obama now.

  51. Mark_in_MN says:

    “I get that what he is doing is scary for lots and lots of people.” That’s the thing I actually don’t get. What is scary about what Snowden is doing? I don’t see anything even concerning about it. On the other hand, if what he’s saying is accurate, what the U.S. intelligence community is doing is definitely scary.

  52. Mark_in_MN says:

    Do you really think they proceed as if they couldn’t be listened to? Putin is a former KGB officer. Come on.

  53. Mark_in_MN says:

    And why does confirming something they already knew matter? Even if it was only very strong suspicion, not beyond a shadow of a doubt kind of knowing, so what?

  54. iDonald says:

    At 83 I have a certain amount of understanding that is probably not what is wanted here; but while I knew well that Mr Obama was duplicitous from the beginning, I voted for him as the less than McCain or Romney: however I cannot accept that he has been helpful to the American experiment. He has kept everything going in the same direction that the bipartisan establishment wants. It is in no way good for what is left of the American dream. If marginally better than his Republican counterparts is what professional Democrats want, that’s O.K., but there are limits to my tolerance for such tiny improvements. Some may be happy with him. I am not. The endless excuses for him only make me more pessimistic It is these excuses that cause the damage not Republican recalcitrance. He had his big opportunity in 2008 and he chose to not take advantage of it and now excuses are all that is left for his professional supporters to offer. He needed to be pushed. He wasn’t. If Big Brother from a “Democrat” is fine, so be it. I shall never accept it. I didn’t know I needed to be a ‘better person,’ I thought it was the government that needed to be better! So if this blog is trying to make me a better person rather than making the government better, it is not the blog I had imagined it to be. I’m fine. The government and Obama is not fine.

  55. Mark_in_MN says:

    I can’t help thinking that the question is actually backward. The justification shouldn’t be on the release of classified information, but on its classification. It should be hard to classify and classification a rare exception. Much that is classified simply should not be. And, yes, that includes much of the work of our intelligence agencies, except for results of that work for short periods (probably months rather than years, certainly not decades) when that information is new.

  56. Carlton Nettleton says:

    I believe the correct term is “hacker” rather than “generation wiki leaks”. There is a LONG tradition of people in the computer world taking secret information and sharing it with others.

    As long as there are computerized secrets, there will be hackers who consider it their duty to find the secrets and publish them. I see hackers as a force of “nature” that counteracts all the secrecy that often times shrouds computer systems.

  57. karmanot says:


  58. Yup, But aren’t some of our best “pains in the ass” :) [asses?]

  59. ooh ;-)

  60. That’s a third issue, the role of journalists and how they should handle leaks like this. There’s potentially a different standard for what someone should leak, and what a newspaper should print, I’d argue. Personally, I find I learn the least when I’m unchallenged intellectually, and the most when I am.

  61. karmanot says:

    The MSNBC lackeys are vall over this. Richard Wolf is just incredible. Like no other time these establishment phoney liberals are exposed for what they truly are—-corporate tools.

  62. Thanks CK. And Donald, a lot of us on the left actually enjoy thinking through why it is we believe what we do. We think it makes us better people, and gives us better positions and arguments in the end. You should never be afraid of listening to someone else’s position. You’d be surprised how often you might just learn something.

  63. karmanot says:

    I don’t get the “I don’t care about Snowden” meme. I care very much about Snowden!

  64. Whitewitch says:

    Ohhh that but…yeah that one I have heard!

  65. Indigo says:

    Of course it is, but . . . they’re doing it and we’re not stopping them. We’re learning the taste of a totalitarian system that’s already well in place.

  66. Indigo says:

    You don’t built a global empire by sharing the vote with all the citizens. And we are most definitely in Empire Mode.

  67. ckg1 says:

    If you spend even a little bit of time on this blog, you’ll know that John and the rest of those who blog here have had MANY disagreements with Obama’s policies.

  68. Indigo says:

    Yes, it’s become a larger, cultural event. Assange, Bradley, and now Snowden. That’s enough to shift a culture with Snowden as the new Abbey Hoffmann and the Chicago Eight. Okay, I guess. That’s cool guys, I’m up for a paradigm shift that big. I don’t agree with a lot of what’s being said in the hero-mode because I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s a cultural break from the certainties of the ruling Elite. The discussion’s been started, the genie is out of the bottle, and we’re going to the hukilau. It’ll be fun to watch the certainties of the past decade or two dissolve, PRISM with it. It’s the Wikileaks Generation’s turn. Let ‘er rip!

  69. Drew2u says:

    oh, my favorite has to be my failed chocolate French macaróns accidentally made with glutinous rice flour instead of almond flour ;)

  70. Drew2u says:

    only if the harassment is a promise~

  71. Ford Prefect says:

    You’d think the phrase “political prisoners” would come up in the discourse, right?

    I think it’s high time the government and its corporate clients try to explain how the US is better than any other tin-pot dictatorship.

  72. Older_Wiser2 says:

    Would we even be having this conversation if Snowden was a Black or Arab leaker? Think about it.
    What about Manning, or if Assange was a Mali native?

  73. Ford Prefect says:

    He’s not worthy! He didn’t go to Yale!

  74. iDonald says:

    I won’t even waste my time reading. You are wrong. If you ever have the guts to do what Snowden has done (losing your chances to appear on TV etc.), call me back. Its cute that you found a new angle but it won’t do. Mr Obama is doing what “his people” want, and you are one of his people. And you surely know that.

  75. masaccio68 says:

    That leak didn’t just appear, it came from Greenwald and the Guardian. I think they have to share whatever blame you want to hand out.

    That said, I don’t care about Snowden. The law will grind him up or not. For the rest of us, I’m just glad someone did something to bring the level of this data collection and surveillance into the public discourse for a few days. Mr. Bennett speaks for all Americans:

    “You must not be too severe upon yourself,” replied Elizabeth.

    “You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough.”

  76. Ninong says:

    He said he earns about $200k. His employer said his annual salary is $122k. The discrepancy could be that Snowden is adding in his expense account. Or it could be that he exaggerated. Probably some of both.

  77. We all have an agenda :) But I think your point about questioning everything is valid. I’ve never been a fan of anyone who tells me how I must think in order to be a bona fide member of the cool kids’ club :) Unless they can tell me, in detail, without personal insults, why I’m wrong :.)

  78. karmanot says:

    Perhaps it’s the old: You’re guilty until proven innocent, BUT you can plea bargain.

  79. karmanot says:

    pppfffttt This is not a video game or rerun of ’24.’

  80. karmanot says:

    The American Stasi

  81. karmanot says:

    What Snowden has pointed out is a massive violation of the 4th Amendment by a government that is grabbing absolute power under the guise of perpetual war. Obama is worse than was Bushie in coalescing absolutest power in the executive Office.

  82. Betty Eyer says:

    He looked like a giant egotist to me and he seems quite controlled and deliberate in his actions and his words. He’s scripted either by himself or by someone else. . Also I find it nearly impossible that he is doing all of this without assistance. Seems obvious that he took the job with Booz deliberately, since he contacted the journalists before he started that job. He also said in the live chat that his highest paying job was $200K, but he took a lower paying job because it fit into his plan. It’s actually very hard to get a job with an $80K pay cut because people think that you will not stay on the job. So I think there is an unseen hand helping and financing him and I think he is not at all a naive person who had a change of heart but a very deliberate and controlled person acting for some reason. I am not at all sure the reason is the one he is giving.

  83. Ninong says:

    I was impressed by his initial televised interview with Glen Greenwald, but I thought I remembered something about him holding back stuff that he didn’t think appropriate for release. It was sort of one of those, see what I nice guy I am, I’m not releasing everything I know. Since then, however, I have turned more neutral on Mr. Snowden.

    I have always considered him to be naive but that sort of went with the territory. Who else was going to release what he released and then give the reasons he gave for his actions. He even looked naive but very sincere in that initial interview.

  84. Betty Eyer says:

    Everyone has been the enemy for quite some time. Cold war and all that.

  85. nicho says:

    Well, his comment was douchey and called for that response.

  86. Betty Eyer says:

    Yes. Thank you. Applying critical thinking to Snowden and Greenwald is not an apology for Obama (or Bush, or the next president) so much as a general outlook on the news. Why are we to question everything from some sources and question nothing from others? In the world of international intelligence, nothing is as it seems and I suspect that Mr. Snowden falls into that category as well. And Greenwald makes no bones about having an agenda.

  87. nicho says:

    No, that’s their job, but spying on all Americans is. The spying on Putin thing is a red herring.

  88. nicho says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake. Grow up.

  89. Betty Eyer says:

    Oh, agreed. However, the fact that they all know that does not mean that there is no cost to bringing that information into the public. I think there’s no question that it puts us on a bad footing in the diplomatic world because those leaders will be getting political pressure against us from home. If we were in some way more evil than they, there might be some value to that, but I don’t think that’s the case. And your points, although interesting and mostly true, don’t really answer the question as to whether or not it’s worthwhile to question his trustworthiness or his motives. So far, to me, he’s the one most damaging to his image.

  90. BeccaM says:

    Actually, from my reading of the international papers and websites, that’s been their reaction. The most common question, “Are the Americans spying on our citizens, too? Answer: It seems likely.”

    And our purported allies are not happy.

  91. Ninong says:

    Without expressing an opinion on the merits of or the motives behind what Snowden has done, I think we all are mature enough to realize that none of this so-called revelation that the Guardian revealed today is going to be news to any of the major players at the G8. It might be news to some of the third tier of the third world countries but all the major players already know that China, Russia, the UK, the US and probably a few others, have been monitoring each other communications for decades. The Internet has just opened up new avenues for mischief. We and the Chinese and the Russians have known for a very long time what the capabilities of the others were and joked about it in private.

    You surely don’t think that any of our security people who visit Russia, for instance, don’t know ahead of time that everything they take with them will be subjected to the most sophisticated electronic intrusion.

  92. mpeasee says:

    …exactly…I am a little stun about how these revelations are being dissimenated, how the media is going about this. Tomdispatch dot com has a great read on this.

  93. mpeasee says:

    The dialog on this has been; for the most part, sophomoric and very petty…could you imagine if Iran, China, Brazil, Australia, or Germany was doing this to us and “we” just found out that our phone, credit, email, all smart phone information was in the computer of some other country! This country would have flipped the freak out!!

  94. jasonwhat says:

    Yes, we can become a state who kidnaps, tortures, kills our own citizens without trial (and their children), makes up reasons to go to wars, and elected and appointed officials can lie under oath with no consequences …but God forbid a high school dropout holds up a mirror to give us a glimpse of what we have become! Burn him.

  95. And I’m writing this as someone who seems to have a similar background as you on this. I just find it odd that Snowden had this revelation about spy efforts, and that the revelation includes things one would think he’d have suspected. From the outside, I get why every one of these stories is shocking. But from the perspective of someone who chooses to go work at the NSA or CIA, I’m still having trouble understanding this young man, that’s all. And when things present a mystery, I want answers :)

  96. jasonwhat says:

    Exactly. He is not just a leaker, but an activists and using this information to jar a impotent public into action. The lead of the Guardian piece was NOT spying on Russia, it was that they spied on everybody at the G20 in 2009! Turkey was one operation, but they even setup fake internet cafes to capture passwords and other information. They hacked the blackberries and used Prism like technology to monitor all incoming and outgoing phone calls. We are becoming the police state bad guys spying on the world.

    Snowden thinks this massive and permanent security state is wrong. This is open to debate, but the reality is we are only having it because of these leaks. More importantly, this deserves public discussion, not just oversight.

    Also, there is 0 evidence that these programs protected us, or that these leaks have damaged security. Trying to find a terrorist needle in a haystack by making the haystack bigger is an incompetent approach compared to good police work and human intelligence, which is how we have actually stopped plots.

  97. No, really I mean that lawyers tend to be trained to find nuance, and to find argument. So you’re going to a hear a lot “that’s great but” especially from lawyers. :)

  98. Good answer :)

  99. AnitaMann says:

    Who cares what else Snowden has to say or what his motives were? This is about the program, not the messenger. The entire media machine is making it about the leaker because they are too lazy/inept/bought off to explore exactly what he leaked and why it’s meaningful. There is still a lot we don’t know/understand about this program. Snowden was just one conduit to helping expose it. I haven’t yet heard a convincing bit of evidence that what he’s done damages national security. All I’ve heard is, “trust us.”

  100. okojo says:

    I have known about the capacity of NSA since I read the “Puzzle Palace” by James Bamford while I was in College. I don’t see this article critical of Edward Snowden as an apology or pro Obama Administration. It is about how Snowden is carrying on and the reason for his going public.

    The most important thing he and Glenn Greenwald are doing is showing how endemic and insidious the data mining by the Federal Gov’t is going on, besides the lack of oversight by the FISA courts.

    However, I don’t know how much Snowden really knows, given the compartmentalization of the NSA, and he was a contractor. He maybe way overblowing his importance.

    The spying of the US on China, Russia even NATO allies is hardly a secret, it looks as common since the technology has been created and implemented since the 1960s.

  101. Naja pallida says:

    The NSA was formed in 1952, because the earlier AFSA was ineffective… there may have been prior cryptanalytic groups, but the formal agency itself was set up specifically to allow the DOD to end-around the CIA.

  102. Ford Prefect says:

    Well said!

  103. mpeasee says:

    …when you use the word animus, are you saying Snowden has ill will to the U.S.?

  104. Ford Prefect says:

    Exactly. Slime & Defenders have to avoid that point, so they focus on the Russians being told something they probably already knew. How many real experts have now said Snowden’s leaks haven’t harmed US NatSec? Why on earth would anyone pay attention to that? It would get in the way of a good smear job!

    The real impact isn’t international. It’s domestic. What the apparat is really afraid of is the American polity learning just how fascistic, corrupt and illegitimate their regime is. Since their careers are tied to that regime, they’ll defend it to the last.

    We are the enemy in the eyes of official Washington and their various lickspittles in the media.

  105. mpeasee says:

    How do I feel about his moral authority for leaking? It is a big fat I don’t care!

    The core of these leaks is the relationship with surveillance corporations and the government…this relationship is the problem….I don’t think most folks would be so upset if the spying did not have such a corporate attachment. Who cares if he is a aggrandizing prick, what matter is that 1st and 4th amendments are being eroded away.
    Is it so wrong to have some leverage against one of the most powerful governments in history, the personal attacks on the fella is small in comparison.

    Who created this “wiki generation”? It comes on the heels of a secrecy regime that has gone to the edge and jumped into the abyss since 9/11. A “free” society can not thrive in a world that we have created since 9/11.

    The msm tow line is pretty intense, there are several other site spewing the same rhetoric, I have to say it sounds a bit schizophrenic, leaks good, leeks bad, Snowden is a good guy, Snowden is a bad guy.

    Yes, Russia is a bad beast, and is treating gays poorly, I am shocked and angry how gay people are treated in eastern europe in general, but, I do see that Snowden is seeking leverage against the U.S. government, “not the citizens” of the U.S. and there is a difference.

    Snowden has helped us glimpse into and try to understand the making of a corporate global security state with the backing of the U.S. government. This is a conversation that has been needed for the past 12 years, thanks for the platform John.

  106. Sweetie says:

    No. I never said I could. You’ll have to use Google. I used the site in a computer lab so it is not in my bookmarks.

  107. There you go again, Mary. I’m sorry, but is this Senator “Only elitists send their kids to college” Santorum I’m debating, or maybe Chairman “kill everyone with glasses” Mao? You launched a personal attack against me claiming that I have no qualifications to be writing about politics, and now you’re attacking me for having qualifications to write about politics. Which one is it? Have I no background, or so much a background that apparently it’s considered bragging to even mention?

    I’m sorry, but just can’t accuse people of not knowing having a background on the issues, and using that as “proof” that they’re wrong, and then when they explain that they actually have a lifetime of experience on the issue you accuse them of bragging, and then claim that’s not what we’re even discussing.

    You’re playing a ‘stop beating your wife game’ and I really wish you could just have a civil discussion with me and everyone else and express what it is you disagree with, without having to launch into ongoing personal attacks.

    As for why I’m increasingly distrusting of Snowden’s motivations, I just wrote 1,716 words on the subject. Feel free to disagree, feel free to suggest that I didn’t prove my case. But please don’t suggest that I haven’t attempted to explain why I’m growing uneasy with the man.

    Finally, your last paragraph smacks of McCarthyism, and it’s particularly offensive that you’d come here and try to bully people into not expressing their own opinion when the topic at hand is Big Brother posing a risk to the freedoms we hold dear as Americans. I’ll tolerate dissent on any topic. But you’re not welcome here if you’re going to try to bully people who don’t agree with you 100% on every single topic by suggesting they’re somehow not as American, not as patriotic, and don’t love their country as much as you.

    I’m not going to warn you again.

  108. Sweetie says:

    The Jonas Brothers are here. Sasha and Malia are big fans. But, boys… don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones.

  109. Stratplayer says:

    I agree. Glenn can be a huge pain in the ass but he scores a lot more hits than misses. He is a tremendously valuable resource.

  110. Whitewitch says:

    I guess his statement resonated with me. I hear what you are saying…sadly we won’t know if his judgment call about handling the information this way is a good or bad thing for probably a generation….perhaps he will be found to be a CIA stodge, or maybe just maybe he is a young man doing what is right – where so many others have not.

  111. DWD says:

    Step back. More. Just a little further. . .

    The two men are posting CONFIRMATION of our worst fears. Certainly the fact that we were spying on our “enemies” is hardly news. Spying on our friends is.

    The truth of the matter is that Snowden is trying to show the pervasive pattern of espionage that is directed toward everyone: friend and foe alike.

    If you consider this to be a good thing, then his methods are acceptable (because there really is not right way to do this) if you consider this to be an effrontery to the government of the USA, then you will condemn his actions.

    From my part, since there is no right way to do this, I believe he (And Greenwald) are doing it the best way that they can. Is it perfect? No. But is it important? YES.

  112. Stratplayer says:

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  113. I wonder if they’re Mormon pole dancers (we did a post on that a while back, with video!)

  114. MyrddinWilt says:

    Cute theory only the NSA existed long before the CIA. The NSA has its origins in the Black Chamber and the work on Purple with Bletchley Park during WWII.

    The CIA only got started after Pearl Harbor and was initially the OSS, a clandestine operation with a tendency for James Bond commando style operations. This is not so surprising when you know that the British Embassy attache who came over to help set it up was Ian Flemming (yes that Ian Flemming).

    SIGINT has always been the maypole around which US-UK intelligence has danced. The CIA and FBI got a lot of attention because Hoover and Dulles were puffed up blabbermouths.

  115. The problem is that the good and all love their country, usually – it’s more an excuse for their emphaticness, if that’s a word – it doesn’t really excuse their judgment be it good or bad.

  116. Whitewitch says:

    Perhaps you mean in conversation a lot of lawyers use but as a means of conversation. Never a good idea…and I have yet to see a contract with a But in it…and I have seen millions of pleadings, contracts and administrative filings…nary a but to be found.

  117. Stratplayer says:

    What points? Bulldog makes no points at all. All he does in this comment is vent his considerable spleen.

  118. Yes and no. As I’ve said, there are two different issues here. One is PRISM. The other is Generation Wikileaks. And I think it’s worthwhile for all of us to do a little more thinking about just how many secrets we want aired publicly, and who we want deciding, and whether it’s possible to ever cross the line in revealing classified information. It’s an important topic that shouldn’t get lost in the PRISM debate. There’s clearly something bigger going on here, and Snowden himself references it a few times. I think it’s important to think about in addition to the details of PRISM.

  119. Stratplayer says:

    How so? Do you have any facts or rational argument to back up your little fit of pique with John? Can you actually address his well-expressed points rather than just play the pissy firebagger?

  120. mirror says:

    I did not claim you had no expertise. But I confess to being snarky. In fact, I pointed out that you have expertise. This is not a secret. You want everyone to know about it and how well connected you are and how many countries you have been to and how many languages you speak and who wants to have their photos taken with you. Oh, and your security clearance, and what an awesome level it was/is. I could go on. You may assume that any regular reader is well aware of all these things.

    You are mistaken if you think these surface facts about you are why most of your regular readers respect you and your blog.

    Until you can give some proofs as to Snowden’s impure dishonest motives, your critique of his insincerity is merely your attempt to win a policy discussion by attacking his character. And unintentionally acting as a public relations proxy for the security state in the process. Isn’t that how it works? you attack the morals so you don’t have to get bogged down in the minutia of facts?

  121. Whitewitch says:

    Lots of good people love their country as well. I would be willing to wager most of the best political actors in history, be they democrat or republican, liberal or conservative loved their country. <|;o) The best of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers love their country and have even laid their life down for their fellow countrymen.

    Hell that is their justification for being an American.

  122. Nah I like Glenn. He’s been fairly consistent on this stuff. We need people who are strong advocates – even pissy advocates – on particular issues, the way some of us are on gay rights – that’s the way Glenn is on civil liberties. He didn’t create Snowden.

  123. FreedomFromTeaQueda says:

    The guy is one mixed up, immature dude.

  124. But not cats jumping off of balconies. Or bisexual puns. And don’t even get me started on bisexual cats (uh oh, just broke rule 2….)

  125. BeccaM says:

    And judging from Bradley Manning’s treatment, not just prison time for whistleblowers, but under conditions internationally judged to be psychological and physical torture.

  126. Um, thanks? ;)