Edward Snowden’s “George Zimmerman moment” on Russian TV

NSA leaker/whistleblower Edward Snowden appeared on Russian television yesterday with President Vladimir Putin.

Putin was hosting an annual “question and answer” TV program, where he purportedly “takes questions from the public.”  One of the questions was from Edward Snowden.

Snowden asked whether Russia spies on its citizens.  Putin, incredibly, answered “no.” (The video is below.)

There is so much wrong with this.

Snowden, you’ll recall, sought exile in Russia after being sought by the US for espionage.  And while one can appreciate that, if you’re on the run and Russia is one of the few countries on the planet that will take you, then Russia it is, Snowden crossed the line yesterday, as he has done before.

Wrong time to be giving Putin a bear hug

Snowden appears on Russian television to ask President Putin a softball question in the middle of the Ukrainian crisis.

Snowden appears on Russian television to ask President Putin a softball question in the middle of the Ukrainian crisis.

It’s one thing to be a whistleblower, wrapped in the flag. It’s another to aid our country’s adversaries.  And at the moment, Putin is the bad guy, and Snowden gave him a big bear hug on national TV in the middle of a growing international crisis.

The United States – and much of the world – is in the middle of a huge effort to isolate Putin in the hopes of saving what is left of the Ukrainian nation.  Putin has already invaded and annexed Ukrainian Crimea, and Russian agents are now sowing civil discord in eastern Ukraine, in the hopes, the thinking goes, of fomenting a civil war that would “necessitate” Russian intervention to “save the day,” and conveniently annex Ukraine’s industry-rich eastern province.

The last thing anyone who claims to care about human rights and civil liberties should be doing at this moment is giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin.  But that’s exactly what Snowden did.  He didn’t just “ask a question.”  He knew the stakes for Putin, for the US, for Europe, and most importantly, for Ukraine, and chose to buttress the Russian president while diminishing the American one.  It was incredibly poor timing by someone who, if “perhaps” politically tone-deaf himself, has ample advisers in America who know a thing or two about politics and PR.

Snowden must have known Putin would lie, and was lying

Not to mention, how could Snowden ask Putin such a ludicrous question that he knew Putin would lie about?  As Eli Lake at the Daily Beast documents, Russian domestic spying puts America’s to shame.  (And you’ll note in the article that even Snowden’s usual defenders are somewhat tepid in their support of his appearance on Putin-TV.)

“I think it was ridiculous,” says Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security services who is also a professor at New York University. Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist who has broken major stories on the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, and is a Daily Beast contributor, was only slightly more charitable. “Putin never directly lies, he just tells half truths and his answer was a half truth,” he said. “In terms of what is going on inside the country, he was not correct. We have all signs of mass surveillance. My view is Russian surveillance is much more intrusive than what you have in the United States.”

But the FSB has far more power to eavesdrop on Russian and foreign citizens than the FBI or the NSA. In practice, according to Soldatov, the FSB has a back door into every server belonging to Russia’s telecom companies and Internet service provider. Snowden himself exposed a program known as PRISM that provided these so-called back doors to the NSA in the United States. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence last year published court records that showed in some cases the collection of Internet traffic targeted at foreign nationals inadvertently collected the Internet traffic of U.S. citizens for whom the agency had no warrant.

But in Russia, there is no special court or even a parliamentary committee to check the FSB’s work in the first place. “The interception is conducted by the ISP internet provider and not the law enforcement agency in the United States,” Soldatov said. “In Russia interception is conducted by the FSB directly. They have remote access to all Internet service providers and all telecom companies and they don’t have to even ask permission to view any of this data. While the NSA has collected all call records to search themselves, the FSB can actually listen to the content of phone calls without a warrant. Nobody would ask for this warrant because the ISP has no security clearance to see the warrant.”

Snowden’s “whistleblower” defense no longer holds up

I had concerns about Snowden from the beginning.  The fact that he went in to the spy business and was shocked to find that actual spying takes place, struck me as more bizarre than naive.  It just didn’t sound credible that anyone qualified enough to work at the NSA didn’t realize that the NSA was involved in some pretty hairy stuff.

In response to Edward Snowden's question as to whether Russia spies on its citizens, Putin lies.

In response to Edward Snowden’s question as to whether Russia spies on its citizens, Putin lies.

But let’s take him at his word, maybe Snowden was shocked by all the spying he suddenly found at America’s #1 spy agency.  Then another shoe dropped, that blew Snowden’s “shock and awe” defense out of the water: Snowden leaked the details of US spying on Russia.  That disclosure had nothing to do with the civil liberties of Americans, which supposedly is the issue motivating Snowden, and it’s supposedly the reason Snowden isn’t releasing any documents about Russia’s spy program, or any other antagonist of the US – because his goal is protecting American citizens, not ratting on the Russians.  So how exactly did Edward Snowden protect American citizens when he divulged the details of how the US spied on Russia’s leaders?  And while it’s fine for some to allege that Snowden’s revelations were no surprise to the Russians, so no harm no foul, the why did he do it at all?  We’re to believe that Snowden stole highly-classified documents in order to expose  US spying on Russia that everyone already knew we were doing?  That’s not whistleblowing.  That doesn’t even make sense.

Then, Snowden did it again.  This time leaking the details of US spying on China. Ditto to the fact that this disclosure did zero to help the civil liberties of Americans, and thus doesn’t explain why Snowden refused to leak the “crimes” of any country but America and its ally, the UK.  If Snowden truly cared about civil liberties – and his revelations about US spying on Russia and China suggest otherwise – he’d care about those liberties in Russia and China too.  And he doesn’t.

It’s also odd that Snowden thought it wise to leak the details of US spying on these two countries in particular.  China, and now Russia again, are two of America’s top competitors in the world, if not the top competitors – economically in the case of China, and strategically in the case of both. Though Russia is severely weakened as compared to its Soviet heyday, the Ukraine debacle proves that Russia can still cause serious damage when it wants to.  And if the Ukrainian crisis escalates, and Russia cuts off energy supplies to Europe, get ready for some rather fragile economies to plummet, and possibly take the rest of us along with them.  Shoring up the national security of Russia and China vis-a-vis the United States is not in the national interest of the United States, or of this country’s citizens.  So why did Snowden steal those documents from the NSA at all, if part of his overall intent wasn’t to simply harm the United States?

But some make the argument that Snowden didn’t just stumble upon the offending documents.  Rather, they say, Snowden took the job at the NSA with the explicit intent of finding noxious classified material to leak. And if that’s the case, then he might not be a whistleblower at all.

How can you be a whistleblower if you take a job with the intent of leaking classified documents that you don’t yet know exist, about a program you’ve not yet even heard of?

Per se Snowden didn’t know about the to-be-leaked programs before he got to the NSA, otherwise he wouldn’t have needed to join the NSA to get the documents about the programs in the first place. If Snowden already knew about the noxious programs while working at Booz-Allen, he could have gone public then and there. It sounds like Snowden joined the NSA, went in blind, had already chosen to become a whistleblower before finding any wrongdoing, and simply hadn’t yet found the appropriate whistle.

And that doesn’t make you a whistleblower, or a hero.  It simply makes you a guy looking for a fight.

UPDATE: Snowden has responded, via an op ed in the Guardian, to the criticism he’s been getting for the Putin appearance.

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184 Responses to “Edward Snowden’s “George Zimmerman moment” on Russian TV”

  1. Aladin says:

    The USA is the new USSR! The US will meet the same to consider that and
    the USSR. In the USA there is no freedom of speech and all are under the

  2. ronbo says:

    Am I your government representing you?

  3. ronbo says:

    When I quote THE actual question and answer, as above, it’s is not a personal attack.

    The rule of law and debate require that one not use false logic, red herrings, ad hominems, straw men, etc…

  4. Badgerite says:

    Okaaaaay! Miley Cyrus?
    I doubt Pussy Riot knows that I exist. Nor should they. I know that they exist.
    And I know that they are the real deal.

  5. Jim Puckett says:

    The Russians and Chinese are our enemies? How do you define enemy? I did not know we are at war with these two powers. And what exactly did he reveal that told the Chinese and Russians something they did not already know? And you do realize that he did not make the decisions about revealing anything — the journalists did.

  6. Jim Puckett says:

    John: You don’t think. Period. Nobody would have dreamed Snowden could do what he did. It is absolutely plausible that a Russian could leak information or that hackers could find out what they are doing. It is quite possible that Snowden already KNOWS what Russia was doing because of docs he got from NSA. You are so ready to jump on Snowden. You and all of the other messenger assasins.

  7. MG1 says:

    Actually, the referendum asked the people of Crimea whether they wanted to join Russia as a federal subject, or if they wanted to restore the 1992 Crimean constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine.

    The available choices did not include keeping the status quo of Crimea and Sevastopol as they were at the moment the referendum was held. The 1992 constitution accords greater powers to the Crimean parliament including full sovereign powers to establish relations with other states, therefore many Western and Ukrainian commentators rightly argued that both provided referendum choices would result in de facto separation from Ukraine. Crimea’s new leaders said that would use that as a basis to accept Russian rule later,

    The referendum, however, did not say join Russia now or join Russia later as you imply. In the end, the majority of Crimeans voted to be aligned with Russia now, for cultural and economic reasons. As you know, Russia is economically much better off than Ukraine.

    If you find the final vote of 97% of those who voted unbelievable, a referendum on sovereignty was held in the Crimean Oblast of the Ukrainian SSR in January of 1991. Voters were asked whether they wanted to re-establish the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which had been abolished in 1945. The proposal was approved by 94% of voters. So, voting to join Russia has a history in Crimea. That they did so at gunpoint, against their will, as you suggest, is not reflected in the historical record.

  8. pappyvet says:

    Apparently. Appearing as such but not necessarily so; seeming

  9. ronbo says:

    Shrill. You are edging out there. Are you on new medications? Seriously dude, you need to think before you post. Next you’ll be accusing Tritan of assisting Putin because… you know… Putin drinks water.

  10. TracyMN says:

    You’re one of the coolest heads I know when it comes to difficult, mine-ridden topics. When something like this happens, I’m always hopeful you’ll write about it. I don’t often disagree with you, but I will admit to not *completely* agreeing with you on this one. I lean more toward Becca (and others) who would much rather focus on the spying that Snowden revealed, than whether or not he’s got a good personality or good PR instincts. I also think that Greenwald is too busy defending him and not paying enough attention to guiding him in this shitstorm he’s gotten himself into.

    All of that being said, I find the commenters here (even the angry, “lizard brains” ones) to be smart and reasonable. This site is enormously valuable to someone like me, who has no education in law, PR, journalism, etc.

  11. By appearing with Putin Snowden commited the act of a traitor. There is no twisting necessary. You don’t appear with dictators when we’re on the verge of a war and the dictator is using you to buttress his position in that war. PUtin is about to eat 46m people, and Snowden just helped him do that. That is abominable behavior. And I don’t care what good he did. That was simply abominable.

  12. Actually, the referendum was a choice between seceding and joining Russia later, or seceding and joining Russia now, so it was a joke of an election all around. And parliament passed these things with pro-russian gumen in attendance, so none of that counts either.

  13. Are you top or bottom? Do you make noises when you orgasm? Every had anal sex? What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done sexually, something that people would have less respect for you if they knew?

    I’m just interested in transparency.

    There’s no such thing as “being in favor of transparency” generically. That means you should be able to ask anyone about their orgasms. It means there should be no classified information, at all. That we should publish every internal memo, every internal conversation, about policy with Russia and China. It means you should publish every email you can find from your company’s email server, emails from you and emails from and to everyone.

    There’s no such thing as “being in favor transparency.” Leaking state secrets is a far more complicated game, legally and ethically, than simply “being in favor of transparency.” So I really can’t answer your question, as no, I don’t think I have the rish to ask you about your orgasms.

  14. Ron, we tolerate dissent on this site all the time. As you well know, we’ve even had a lot of conservative regulars who are welcome here so long as they don’t personally attack folks. You’ve been personally attacking me for days. You’re free to remain here and disagree on this or any other issues. But if you personally attack me again you’re going to be banned. It’s an inappropriate way to treat people on this forum. We aren’t Republicans, and we aren’t Russians or Chinese. We’re progressive Americans, and we’re permitted – no, expected – to disagree with each other. And we’re adult enough to do it politely. If you can’t abide by that simple rule, then we’re going to ask you to leave.

  15. FLL says:

    I have said before that in order for the referendum in Crimea to have been fair, the following conditions would have to have been met:

    (1) There would have been an actual choice on the ballot, including maintaining the status quo, not just a choice between “leaving Ukraine” or “joining Russia.”
    (2) There would have been no Russian troops in Crimea to intimidate the population.
    (3) There would have been international observers to spot obvious fraud like printing way more ballots than eligible voters and letting the pro-Russian authorities in Crimea play with those ballots.

    If these conditions had been met, I believe the pro-Russian side would have won with about 60%, which was about their majority in Crimea. Anyone who claims that the official result of 97% is valid is someone who lacks credibility and is just aping Kremlin propaganda.

  16. ronbo says:

    The same fair trial that Cheney got for exposing Valarie Plume as a CIA operative? The same fair trial as the man charged with a felony for an .88 refill of Dr. Pepper? The same fair trial that Banksters and Wallstreet had for loan violations?

    If you think we have fair system of justice, I’m going to direct you to the Supreme Court in Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board or even Bush v. Gore.

    We have a justice system based upon wealth and power – Snowden has neither.

  17. ronbo says:

    “Does Russia intercept, store or analyse, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?”

    “On a massive scale, on an uncontrolled scale we certainly do not allow this and I hope we will never allow it.”

    He lied in his answer and will lose credibility. Expect the NSA to start leaking details of their spying operations.

    John, you don’t have to eat your words (you’d choke). I’d rather you become more informed before you post.

  18. ronbo says:

    We have proof that the US Constitution is being violated on mass scale with spying and technology tracking EVERY American at their most private moments.

    But badgerite is still shocked… SHOCKED that Miley Cyrus is twerking. No, wait it’s about singers in jail… ohhhh, there’s something that hasn’t happened before. Oh yes, it’s even the same group! Polish up that Pulitzer speech, maybe they will snatch it from Snowden et al.

    Snowden will always be recognized; badgerite will be fondly remembered by Pussy Riot… oh, even they haven’t read your scathing snark of how they are the biggest story in history.

    Snowden fingering Putin live for spying, is another angle, that again, Badgerite has misread. You are becoming famous around here for your jealousy of Snowden. There you have it, Badgerite has accomplished something. Finally!

  19. Badgerite says:

    You do know that history has a way lot of stuff in it.
    He never fails to portray himself as a martyr. Those women in Pussy Riot actually went to prison. Gulag prison. There lives were threatened and in danger then and now. There are calls for people to throw acid on them.
    They never mention that with anything but a matter of fact attitude. And these are women. Snowden is a very manipulative person and he never fails to push the martyr button. Never. And he does this because he sees is as bolstering his credibility. Just as Putin was trying to do by giving him a forum to “call him out” about spying in Russia. This is a little too transparent for words.

  20. Badgerite says:

    What we agree is that I must have struck a nerve ( too close to the truth) or someone like you would not be coming after me so much. When I get these kind of responses, it tells me something. That the points I made are hard to refute.
    Because they are true.

  21. Badgerite says:

    Vladimir Putin is supported Bashir Assad in Syria while he dumped chemical weapons on his own people. Vladimir Putin caught in a lie! Stop the presses.
    If you want to know what has badly damaged Vladimir Putin and Russia in general it is their current violent and disgusting repression of gay and transgender people and political dissent in general, as well as what he is doing in Ukraine. And his recent public musings about his nostalgia for the Old Soviet Empire.
    Vladimir Putin’s ‘reputation’ is not based on his truthfulness. Any more than the former Soviet Union’s was. It is based on something quite different from that.

    I didn’t say that this particular little show put on by Snowden damaged US intelligence capabilities. That been happening for almost a year now.
    But it is a show. What I’m saying and I would seem you have a hard time refuting is that it was a show put on by Vladimir Putin. And Putin doesn’t allow such shows unless they can further his aims or bolster his power. In this case, he sees some benefit to his plans to undermine US alliances in the long run and damage America’s capabilities and alliances around the world as a necessary prerequisite to building up Russia’s. And Snowden has been very obliging in that regard.
    I’m not sharing my thoughts on whatever with you since it is clearly an attempt to distract from the real issue here which is Snowden’s participation as a prop in the Vladimir Putin show. And why Putin let him. For me, the answer is obvious and I have already stated what that is.

  22. Badgerite says:

    Like I said, no one gets to ask Putin a question at one of those forums unless Putin sees it as in her interest to allow it. Putin was letting his shiny propaganda mouthpiece burnish his creds against critics who note that he only seems to attack America in terms of spying and intelligence activities and that those activities by other countries such as China and Russia and even Brazil, with respect to foreign communications and the communications of their own citizens not only go on, but increase. If you think that little soft ball he lobbed at Vladimir was “calling out” , I have a bridge for you that is for sale in Brooklyn.

  23. Badgerite says:

    I believe your phrase was THE BIGGEST STORY IN HISTORY. And that is just a ridiculous statement. What’s more, there has been no evidence presented or uncovered of any political motivations or abuses of any kind at the NSA. Every panel and court that has looked at that has said the same thing. Their focus is terrorism and crime. And I think that is a pretty worthwhile focus.
    Citizens United (which of course was done by Bush appointees and one Reagan appointee to the Supreme Court) has more to do with establishment of an “oligarchy” in the US than the NSA could ever even dream of having and that is done right out in plain sight and with the blessings of the GOP and probably Snowden as well, since he is a Ron Paul supporter.

  24. BeccaM says:

    That’s because I still respect you even when we disagree on something. ;-)

  25. MG1 says:

    Actually, it was 97% of the 81% of Crimeans who voted. So it was not “97% of Crimeans.” Also, on March 11, 2014, the Crimean parliament and the Sevastopol City Council issued a letter of intent to unilaterally declare independence from Ukraine. The document specifically mentioned Kosovo as a precedent in the lead part.

    The declaration was done in an attempt to legitimise a referendum, held on March 15, 2014, on the status of Crimea where citizens were to vote on whether Crimea should apply to join Russia as a federal subject of the Russian Federation, or remain part of Ukraine.

    You can read a copy of the letter of intent on Wikipedia.

  26. ronbo says:

    It means that detracting others doesn’t improve your standing.

    Snowden may not be heroic in your eyes; but, this IS the story of the century. We now have proof that a small group have established a system of great power, profit and manipulation that is forbidden in the US Constitution. Twisting Snowden’s desire for governmental transparency into a “bear hug” and projecting Ahmadinejad and N. Korea is clumsy character assassination.

  27. John Duke says:

    hey gnothis when you say “Snowden is a big doo-doo head” Can you tell us first the meaning of this statement, with the facts no assumptions?

  28. ronbo says:

    Every poll shows similar results. If there was one valid exception, I’d have room for doubt. I don’t validate American polls or opinions as we have no consideration or legal capacity. While it is true that this is likely a massive mistake on their part… that is democracy.

    I’m conflicted as how I now wish Canada or Mexico or some other nation has stepped into the Florida 2000 election and demanded democracy – instead of allowing a Supreme Court selection. Apples and oranges, though.

  29. John Duke says:

    ronbo your statement Snowden getting Putin on on record “DENYING SPYING” you better listen again, you missed the train on that statement. Who knows maybe Snowden will run for to be President of Russia knowing they do not spy?

  30. AnthonyLook says:

    Traitor, defector, probable plant all along.

  31. ronbo says:

    Ad hominem attacks? Seriously? You know that doesn’t equate to logic. You’ve projected motivations onto Snowden and now me. Produce a single statement from Snowden supporting your theory. He has repeatedly said and demonstrated a desire for transparency in all governments – including Putins.

    Snowden has gotten Putin on the record denying spying. Yet somehow that is now twisted into a “bear hug”?

    What has Snowden EVER said that wasn’t pro-transparency? Back to my question, do you support transparency in government?

    We can disagree. But, I’m not the one putting words in Snowden’s mouth, assigning motivation and engaging in character assassination (“Bear Hug”, “George Zimmerman”, etc…)

  32. ronbo says:

    Now that Putin’s credibility is undermined; Russians will consciously or subconsciously know that his power is only smoke and mirrors. Just as Obama once had insurmountable public support and the power that goes with it, the moment it became apparent that his policy was right of center and his lofty progressive words were only empty rhetoric, Obama became a king without a country. He has the support of the oligarchy; but not the public.

    Make no mistake, when you measure public opinion on actual issues, moderates, independents and liberals are the 64% that once supported Obama. Once exposed as a spying deceiver, Putin will also see his support fall and power evaporate. The economic flourish in Putin’s first go-round has faded and the resulting support will fade as the oligarchy’s labor depression engulfs his base. He may get some lizard brain support; but, that too shall fade. War pumps it up and reality pulls it down; see GW Bush.

  33. ronbo says:

    Exposing a small group of politically motivated person who are tracking, spying and storing information which has enormous financial and political profit – against explicit demands in the US Constitution, seems to be a big story.

    I know that Miley’s twerking may seem a bigger story, Badgerite, but truly, it is not.

    We now have physical proof that democracy has been compromised and supplanted by an oligarchy. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

  34. ronbo says:

    You have not been following the ratcheting up of rhetoric on this site. Calling Putin out on spying is being twisted into pro-Putin rhetoric!?! Someone here called it lizard brain; which is similar to what we did in Iraq. Fear, Attack, Fail.

  35. ronbo says:

    Snowden put Putin on the record regarding spying. If you state that Putin spys (which you do), then Snowden has cornered Putin in a lie which will undermine Putin’s reputation.

    And how does that damage US intelligence capabilities? Are you advocating AGAINST truth and transparency in government? Are you choosing the NSA over our Constitution? Maybe we should address that question first. Your thoughts?

  36. ronbo says:

    Snowden has always been about transparency – not policy. Asking Putin about spying is clearly a set-up; if Putin is spying, his answer will come back to haunt his reputation and legacy. What I find objectionable is that this entire series is based upon ad hominem attacks on Snowden and character assassination based not upon fact; but projection of the 1%’s CW and the attacks on whistleblowers who threaten (and work to provide) transparency.

    The arguments provided demean those who seek transparency, as well as, those who put their lives at risk. This isn’t Game of Thrones; this is exposing tactics of Russian and US oligarchy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    Are you in favor of transparency? Maybe we should start there.

  37. And you are far classier than some of thos disagreeing with me ;-)

  38. Wait, you think that 97% of Crimeans actually voted in favor of seceding and joining Russia? That that was an actual real election result? We’re clearly not on the same page in terms of dealing with the same set of facts, which might explain the overall disagreement here.

  39. As I’ve stated before, let’s not pretend that politics, and especially foreign affairs and national security, are the only fields in America where the more years experience you have, the less effective you are at your job. I know it’s a thing that a lot of people on the left like to push, and it’s been done a LOT on the liberal blogs, including this one by other writers, but it’s something I’ve always found distasteful, anti-intellectual, and consistent with Republican logic, rather than progressive logic. People who study foreign affairs, get masters degrees in it, speak lots of languages, travel the world for work and to live there, work years in foreign policy jobs, generally speaking have more knowlege about foreign affairs and national security than people work as auto mechanics, accountants, lawyers, or doctors. It’s not an insult, it’s just a fact. My doctor knows a lot more about medicine than I do. And I know a lot more about foreign affairs than he does. That doesn’t mean I’m always correct in my assessment of foreign affairs. It does mean, however, that it would be inaccurate to suggest that because I went and got all that experience in foreign affairs, that per se means I know less about it than you. And I often get the sense that that is what the “inside the beltway” argument is really based on. The notion that, basically, you disagree with someone, can’t really prove that you’re right, so you take a potshot at the fact that they’re actually experts on the issue, in the hopes that by neutralizing their expertise, you can win with a sort of ad hominem attack. I just don’t accept the underlying argument, that expertise equals a lack of expertise, or the notion that you can win an argument by suggsting the other person is “stupid” or “has an agenda,” rather than simply proving them wrong. :)

  40. Your comments are awfully adamant, angry, and repetitive for someone claiming that someone else a “lizard brain” and an agenda. I’ve laid out in thousands of well-argued words why I think there’s a problem with Edward Snowden. You can choose to agree or disagree, but it’s clear on its face what my concerns about him are. You, on the other hand, seem rather upset that I simply disagree with you, and you keep searching for some hidden meaning in it all. Perhaps the hidden meaning is simply that I’m not a dumb guy, I have opinions, and on this issue, we simply disagree :)

  41. ronbo says:

    Then why do you push DC insider conventional wisdom? This is pure speculation – as if you can read minds and assign motive (which, if I need to remind you, you can’t). Snowden appears to be expanding his theme that ALL governments (oligarchs) are spying – and this is how the 1% manipulate the masses to maintain control.

    What makes you believe otherwise? There is a severe disconnect between a civil rights advocate (of which you are among the best) championing DC insider CW that benefits ONLY the oligarchs. Relentless ad hominem attacks and unsubstantiated negative speculation attacking Snowden is the PR MO of the 1%; it does nothing for those of use who seek government transparency. Snowden has been quite vocal that transparency is his goal for keeping government’s power in check.

  42. ronbo says:

    That sounds like something Cheney would say. Something specific and tangible is what our laws are based upon. I’m certain that a case could be made; but, you are also aware of the .88 refill that was turned into a felony?

    Be wary when you use the same arguments as Lord Vader. The situation is much more the 1% vs. the 99% than USA vs. Russia.

    Since Putin is now on record about spying, how difficult will it be to mine their data to prove him an international liar. I note with all your speculation, that you have not addressed that Snowden COULD be a double agent to expose Putin and destroy his MOJO. I don’t believe that; but, you COULD speculate both left and right, if you must speculate.

  43. ronbo says:

    So, we agree that ad hominem attacks are your only contribution? Keep roaring little mouse.

  44. ronbo says:

    Only a truly deluded person would consider our current situation or position “peace at all costs”. We need to control our lizard brains – Putin’s included. Snowden simply brings our attention to the fact that all governments spy and all governments lie and it’s not a little white lie. It enrichs the oligarchy.

    Why is John pushing back so very, very hard against the one person who exposed the oligarchy’s MO? It’s out of character for him to push their CW.

  45. ronbo says:

    You seem to reject the fact that they had a democratic vote. An overwhelming vote where more than 19 of every 20 voters chose to again be part of Russia. Yes some people chose not to vote. But, EVERY poll taken shows similar support.

    You can’t pick and choose your democracy. If people want to make bad decisions, it’s democracy.

    The good ole’ USA seems to have changed the status http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

  46. mirror says:


  47. Badgerite says:

    Well, you can say “wow”. But yes, he wanted to be stuck in Russia because Russia has never extradited anyone to the United States of America. If he got there, he was going to be able to stay there. He went to Russia for the same reason he went to China. No extradition. And while in China, he gave interviews to the press and whipped up enough public sentiment there that there were calls for the government of China to grant him asylum.
    And no, I don’t believe he was on his way to Ecuador. He had not even requested nor had they officially granted asylum, and he had already booked he flight.
    He had planned to get to Russia and seek asylum there if no other country would take him. Just as it turned out. I’m sure he would rather live in Brazil or Iceland and all. But his aim was to avoid extradition and that is why he is in Russia. He was not ‘stranded’. That’s ridiculous. He’s a fugitive from US laws. And he went to Russia to avoid the consequences of that decision because that was the one place on earth he could be sure he would not be extradited from, ever.

  48. Badgerite says:

    Which is why he went to China in the first place. No extradition treaty. And why was that important? Because he needed a safe haven from which to attack America’s intelligence capabilities and operations around the world ( with particular attention to damaging relations with China and Europe.) He chose to go to China for a reason and you stated that reason yourself, which is a chance that China would not extradite him. In fact, while there, he gave interviews to the press and whipped up enough anti American sentiment to get protests going and public support in China for him to be granted asylum. But the Chinese didn’t bite, so off he went to Russia.
    No, I don’t believe he was on the way to Ecuador. Russia was his best bet, after China turned him down. In fact, Russia was a sure bet. They have never extradited anyone to the US. And that is why he went there. I understand Assange had something to do with that. Ecuador hadn’t even granted him asylum. So he was scheduled to board a plane to travel to a country that had yet to even grant asylum. In fact, I don’t think at that point he had even requested asylum from them yet.

  49. Badgerite says:

    You just said it yourself. No extradition treaties. You can dance around it all you want. But Snowden went to Hong Kong because he could travel there without arousing any suspicion. He had taken a medical leave. He had traveled there before, I believe for his work. Hong Kong and Russia were his best bets to avoid extradition. And he needed to find countries that had no extradition treaties because of what he planned to do, which was attack all of America’s intelligence operations all over the world with particular emphasis on damaging relations with China and with Europe. If you plan to do that, which he did, you better be looking for a country that has no extradition treaty with the US. And that would be big enough to withstand the pressure that the US was sure to bring to apprehend him while he was doing all this damage. He made a play to stay in Hong Kong. He gave interviews to the press there and divulged details about NSA spying operations there. In response, there were anti US protests and calls to give him asylum in China. As far as I’m concerned, that was the point of his giving the interviews there in the first place. To whip up public support for his asylum there. Of course, Russia was going to let him stay. The FSB loves this guy.
    He’s a propaganda bonanza. I didn’t say he was “Ruskie-loving.” I’m sure, all things being equal, he would prefer to live in Brazil. Or Iceland. But all things are not equal and his aim was to find a haven beyond the reach of the US where he could attack the US intelligence capability around the world with impunity.
    China declined. Which leaves Russia. Doesn’t it?

  50. Badgerite says:

    And a mud elephant, wading through the sea, leaves no tracks. ???????

  51. Badgerite says:

    Yes, that’s right. It is the BIGGEST STORY IN HISTORY. And that statement speaks for itself as well.

  52. pappyvet says:

    I understand your point very well Sis and the times as well.
    I guess I may be a bit intolerant due to the fact that I have personal first hand knowledge of kids much younger than Snowden who made the ultimate sacrifice

    As well as others who came home and said “no more.” As a matter of fact , Daniel Ellsberg himself credits Randy Kehler a draft dodger who was going to prison for giving him the courage to copy the Pentagon Papers in the first place.

    As far as going to jail , Ellsberg like Kehler was ready to do so and thought that he may very well. He surrendered to the feds in Massachusetts.

    “I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.”
    And that as well as all the true heroes who died and the ones who stood up is why I do not think highly of Mr. Snowden and am suspicious of him. He started this thing but didn’t have the guts to see where it could go.
    I am very grateful with the knowledge but wary of the messenger.

  53. FLL says:

    Yes, I understand the “peace at all costs” point of view. I think that started during the Vietnam War, another infamous mistake. George W. Bush’s Iraq catastrophe made things even worse. I do think that leftists who oppose all war could at least be consistent and express some disapproval of Putin’s move to mass 50,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. There are people, like Quakers, who have opposed all war, including WWII. I’m just looking for a consistent argument, not a suspiciously inconsistent one.

  54. Bush didn’t help by screwing up Iraq and wasting a lot of money, and thus making people rather averse to another war, let alone averse to any reasonable defense of war (lest it be a lie). But I think we’re also witnessing one side of the left that has issues with the concept of war at all. And thus, saying anything that takes us away from “peace at all costs” is anathema, and must be shut down.

  55. FLL says:

    All right, let me take Snowden at his word when reading his op-ed in The Guardian and believe him when he says that he wanted to offer a criticism of Putin’s authoritarian methods of government. If that is true, then Snowden would be in agreement with the vast majority of Americablog bloggers and readers who also have criticized Putin’s dictatorial moves. A few commenters feel that anyone who offers criticisms of Putin—whether they be Snowden, Americablog bloggers or anyone else—has a “war hard-on.” May we put this silliness to rest? We may differ as to whether or not Snowden is sincere or smart or whatever. However, I think readers can criticize a dictator who invades a neighboring country, masses 50,000 troops on its border, throws critics (e.g., Pussy Riot) in prison, prosecutes people for suggesting that gay people have civil rights, and winks knowingly at the police authorities when neo-Nazi gangs kidnap and torture gay teenagers. And I think bloggers or readers (or Snowden, for that matter) can offer that criticism without being bizarrely accused of having a “war hard-on.” There is a point where resentment (whether based on religion or sex or anything else) becomes comedy.

  56. Don Rusho says:

    You have hit upon the point that has long annoyed me about these clowns: they sincerely believe that they and only they are in possession of aspect of The Truth and anyone who disagrees over any detail, however so small, must be a corrupted minion of all that is Evil.

    Screw that noise, I can tell shit from Shinola even if they can’t.

  57. Don Rusho says:

    Let me just state the obvious fact the findings of Legality and Constitutionality are not decided by the hysterical shrieks of random dudebros on the internet. We have courts for that sort of thing, and our legal system is working very well thank you very much. The fact that it does not always hork up the result you would is no evidence to the contrary.

    Seriously, you guys are just as bad as the Republicans in the late nineties when they went after President Clinton – taking grandiose leaps from modest dissembling over an illicit blowjob to BILL IS A LYING PERJURER AND MUST BE HOUNDED FROM OFFICE FOR THE SAKE OF DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM!

  58. Don Rusho says:

    Nobody intercepted the plane of the President of Bolivia.

    And Snowden would certainly receive a fair trail if he were to return to this country, the problem being that he appears to be guilty as hell and would most likely be convicted of his crimes.

    Given your penchant for malicious exaggeration and transparent special pleading, I suggest that you would be more comfortable in a place like FireDogLake or the Daily Kos. Hysterical ninnies are welcomed there with open arms and heaping bowls of paranoid delusion.

  59. FLL says:

    “How can anyone who wants more transparency in American society be in
    favor of seeing its polar opposite take hold in Eastern Europe?”

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough when I wrote that, but I was not referring to Snowden in the sentence above. I think Snowden is consistent because he is seeking more transparency in American society, and I don’t think he supports Putin’s authoritarian methods of government. When I wrote the sentence that I quoted above, I was actually referring to you, Ronbo (among others). Snowden isn’t a relentless cheerleader for Putin, but you are. You attempt to exonerate Putin no matter what he does: invade Crimea; throw critics, like Pussy Riot, in prison; mass 50,000 troops on the border of Ukraine; give his police authorities a meaningful wink when neo-Nazis kidnap and torture gay teenagers; prosecute people for voicing opinions on the civil rights of gay people. It all seems to amuse you.

    So let me be crystal clear. I have not questioned Snowden’s motives in any of my comments, as you well know. I question your motives. Let’s read my sentence again with that in mind:

    “How can anyone who wants more transparency in American society be in
    favor of seeing its polar opposite take hold in Eastern Europe?”

    That refers to you, not Snowden. Get it? Are we clear now?

  60. Obviously the problem wasn’t “anyone” asking Putin a question. I think everyone understands that.

  61. Not at all. I think he’s a seriously messed up kid who has no idea what he’s doing, which is why none of his actions make sense at this point, and he keeps shooting himself and his cause in the foot.

  62. Ronbo, I had an SCI clearance, and am intimately familiar with what level of clearance entails. If you’re going to whistleblow at that leve, you’d better not screw up. This wasn’t just a “confidential” memo he leaked. So yeah, they were state secrets. The only debate is whether it was valid for him to leak all of them, and then go on tv and help a dictator in his time of need right before he’s about annex millions of people next door.

  63. I don’t disagree, but he’s harming American and European national security by going on Russian Tv and propping up Putin in the middle of an international crisis with a lot of people’s lives at stake in Ukraine and beyond. This has become far more than getting distracted by the messenger. He did a very bad and damaging thing yesterday, and he should be called out for it, lest he do it again. That’s why I didn’t write about him for months, because I don’t really care about the sideshow – but propping up Putin when he’s on the verge of annexing another chunk of Ukraine is abhorrent behavior.

  64. Hey, let him talk. Let him go to Iran and helps Ahmadinejad and then go to North Korea and does an appearance with their dictator too. And you can defend those appearances too. But it will destroy the cause you’re fighting for. I’m not here to trade personal insults. If you don’t agree that’s fine, but this isn’t Russia, we’re permitted to publicly agree. Or, after reading your comments, perhaps we’re not permitted to disagree in America after all :)

  65. I don’t understand what that comment means.

  66. Zimmerman is Hitler?

  67. I don’t write about politics hoping to raise my stock with one group versus the other. It’s also not the reason I’ve been a civil rights advocate for the last two decades. It’s not to suck up to the majority.

  68. I don’t think there’s any bait at all. How exactly do we plan to reel in that bait? Is there a Russian Edward Snowden? Doubtful, as they’d shoot his entire extended family in the head if a Russian spy tried what Snowden did. And is there a Russian Glenn Greenwald? Same problem – that bullet in the head thing. There is no accountability in a dictatorship. Feel free to explain how what Putin said yesterday is going to somehow end up holding Putin accountable, but in a non-democratic country, and one as un-democratic as Russia, it’s not clear how that’s going to occur.

  69. What “agenda” would that be? I happen to think before you divulge America’s mostly highly classified secrets to our enemies, you’d better have a damn good reason. And he did with PRISM, perhaps, he sure didn’t when he decided to tell the Russians and Chinese how we spy on them. My two articles have ample legal analysis regarding the whistleblower issues. I get that you don’t agree. But it doesn’t mean the argument isn’t there simply because you don’t agree. You’re still not grasping the “it really is okay if we all disagree occasionally in a democracy” concept ;)

  70. ronbo says:

    “apparently”? Please provide us with the details making it apparent. When did asking if you spied become “shilling”? Please, provide the links and logic.

    It might be just fear and accusation by association.

  71. ronbo says:

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So how do we get them off the theory that it’s a killer submarine full of evil ghosts about to cut our throats? It’s like our own version of FOX News.

  72. ronbo says:

    You speak the truth to their lizard brains.

  73. ronbo says:

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. By trying to spin this into something it is not, your stock is falling.

  74. ronbo says:

    I love the lizard brain comment. I think it’s also equal parts jealousy.

  75. ronbo says:

    “State secrets”? I can’t wait to see you crucify Occupy Wallstreet for domestic terrizm. You appear to be spinning jealousy into a mighty fine suit for an emperor.

  76. ronbo says:

    Are you projecting your “hanging off a cross” or did you break the biggest story in history? Your jealousy is quite apparent.

  77. ronbo says:

    Said the TV guest, who has had more appearances than the man breaking the biggest story in the history of journalism.

    You will never become greater by becoming less. Punt the jealousy, please.

  78. ronbo says:

    Don’t give badgerite a second thought. That’s John’s ditto-head.

  79. ronbo says:

    When you’ve got a war hard-on, you look for any bear hug you can get. ;-0

  80. ronbo says:

    And your contribution to transparency is…? Oh how easily does the mouse roar when he listens only to his echo.

  81. ronbo says:

    “Manipulation”? Please present the facts that you must obviously are not presenting in your comments.

    The irony of a “free” America and a 007 Putin as anything but the same oligarchy – just different players – seems lost on you. How is his asking if Putin spys “the polar opposite” of transparency? Building your house on such loose sand, makes for a weak foundation.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, ma’am.

  82. BeccaM says:

    There are several reasons as to why this has happened, some dating back to the 1980s and the Reagan/GOP privatization craze. Lots of work in critical and highly sensitive areas began to be turned over to the private defense sector. Back then, some folks knew about companies like Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and the various military-oriented defense subcontracting companies. But few knew the other names: Bechtel. Booz-Hamilton. Halliburton. KBR.

    Throughout the Reagan military build-up, far more money went to private contracts than to the actual military. Why? Well, the military can’t lobby on its own behalf, nor can it give big honkin’ campaign donations to the politicians voting on these increasingly bloated defense budgets.

    The idea of private contractors taking over duties all the way down to making and serving food and providing water to our soldiers while in combat is a very new and rather radical change. Someone got the bright idea that not should our troops not feed themselves anymore, but that a private corporation can make a profit while doing it.

    National security and military defense have always worked side by side and their always-full budgetary slop troughs are very near to one another. The same GOP-preferred capitalism ideology held sway there, too: Why hire someone to be a civil servant when you can throw buckets of money at outside contracting companies to do the job? Companies which can be counted upon to donate generously to the campaigns and causes of the politicians who voted to throw the buckets of money in the first place.

    Hence I have to laugh when people sneer that Ed Snowden “violated his sworn oath.” He swore no oath. He’s not military, wasn’t in the government. What he violated was his employment contract to a for-profit private contracting corporation.

    This is what comes of putting money ahead of everything and believing blindly in the God of Capitalism: Corruption. Blatant illegality. Contempt for the rule of law and civil duty. The system comes to exist for its own sake, and seeks only to protect itself as its first mission. Everything else, including national security itself, is secondary to the first goal of self-preservation and constant expansion.

    The National Security / Defense Industrial Complex has grown so fast, so out-of-control, and so unsupervised, I’m with you: I think it’s inevitable at this point that the whole apparatus is compromised from top to bottom and is probably rotten with foreign operatives.

  83. ronbo says:

    You don’t read John’s posts, obviously. Or are you just his personal ditto-head?

  84. ronbo says:

    Opinion based on ???

    Use independent thought and logic, not FOX logic (I want it to be so, so I believe it is so).

    Please present your facts. Otherwise, they are just your FOXified opinion.

  85. BeccaM says:

    That’s the part that makes me want to pull my hair out by the roots. Sure, there are plenty of unknowns yet, including exactly why he didn’t or wasn’t allowed to continue on from Moscow to Ecuador.

    Criticize all we want Snowden’s choice to go to Hong Kong, which he said was prompted by familiarity and possession of a valid travel visa, and the lack of an extradition treaty. (Personally, I can think of several alternate destinations that would’ve satisfied the latter two conditions, with on-arrival temporary visas available.) But I really am sick and tired of so many insisting he wanted to end up stuck in Russia with no valid passport, no travel documents, a temporary asylum grant that’ll expire in a few months, and no viable destination because the United States has unilaterally declared the entire planet to be a No Fly Zone for Edward Snowden.

  86. gnothis says:

    Do you know anything about how he ended up there? Do you know about how we intercepted and forced a landing of the President of Bolivia’s plane and forced a boarding (it is sovereign Bolivian territory)–actually threatening the President’s life by getting France, Spain, and Italy to deny it airspace as it was getting low on fuel? This was all because we suspected Snowden was on the plane. Do you know that we pulled Snowden’s passport while he was between flights in Russia, trapping him there? If his being is Russia is such a threat to our national security than why the hell did they do that? Do you know that we have peaceful economic and political relations with Hong Kong, China, and Russia? Do you know he has a snowball’s chance in hell to get a fair trail and hearing in the USA? If you want to have respect for him then quit impugning his motives and stop ignoring the enormous coercive influence the USA has all over the world.

  87. gnothis says:

    None of you know Snowden’s motivations. None of you know anything about his personality. None of you know his intentions. All of these assumptions reveal much more about those assuming and reveal nothing about Snowden. It’s like Maureen Dowd and the cast of Mean Girls have taken over this comment thread (and the tone is being set at the top). Snowden is a big doo-doo head!

  88. gnothis says:

    Don’t you know that after you’ve said something once you are supposed to STFU and censor yourself forever or else you are Mel Gibson and Zimmerman?

  89. gnothis says:

    So he needs to be silenced because he had his chance to speak? Are all the appearances you make ‘self-aggrandizing’? Not allowed to write letters to foreign governments? Haven’t you been on Fox? What the hell were you propping up? Are you aware of what you are writing or are in the midst of an anger fueled lizard brain moment? He should shut up? WTF? The “cause” you obviously care so much about–with your ‘he stole American state secrets’. I guess if the state calls them secrets than the public has no right to know. Very disappointing.

  90. Swami_Binkinanda says:

    I submit that the 1947 act establishing the CIA was the official beginning, preceded by the WWII creation of the OSS. Legacy of Ashes, Tim Weiner, 2007 history of the agency.

  91. Swami_Binkinanda says:

    Where could you go to get away from America on this planet?

  92. gnothis says:

    You accidentally left Zimmerman out of the title. Maybe you could compare him to Hitler?

  93. goulo says:


    That’s not the kind of article I’d expect to be written by someone who was trying to do pro-Soviet propaganda for Putin.

  94. goulo says:

    Is this really what someone shilling for Putin would write:

  95. benb says:

    Snowden’s a virtual prisoner in Russia. Access to him is controlled and the threat exists that if he says anything that pisses of the Russians, they simply revoke his asylum status and repatriate him. There’s no need to torture that boy to get him to cooperate.

  96. Houndentenor says:

    I want to have respect for Snowden but he makes it impossible. The only thing would have been worse would have been a defection to North Korea. (Okay a couple of other places to but it’s a very short list.) It’s not like he’s in exile in a freedom-loving European country. He can’t claim to be savvy enough to be a whistle blower AND claim to be naive about Putin. And her certainly can’t be living there and pretend to be that naive.