Power’s bitch: Snowden responds to criticism of TV appearance with Putin

Facing criticism over his appearance at a propaganda event organized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, NSA leaker/whistleblower Edward Snowden penned an op ed today in the British newspaper, the Guardian, defending his actions, and claiming that they were part of a larger strategy to begin a public discussion in Russia of the country’s domestic eavesdropping

First, Snowden claimed that he hit Putin hard in his questioning:

On Thursday, I questioned Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: “Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals’ communications?”

I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.

Not quite.  Snowden didn’t “question Russia’s involvement” and he didn’t “challenge” anyone.  Both of those sentence constructions suggest that you put your interlocutor on the spot – Snowden simply did not do that.  He asked Putin a softball question, Putin lied in response, and Snowden had zero follow-up, which was to be expected all around.

Here is Snowden’s question:

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

And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than their subjects, under surveillance?”

Snowden didn’t “question Russia’s involvement,” he asked a question about Russia’s involvement. There’s a difference. And he didn’t “challenge” whether it’s ever morally justified to spy on your own population en masse, he simply asked nicely.  This was not speaking truth to power.  This was being power’s bitch.

Snowden goes on to suggest that his real intent in appearing with Putin at the staged propaganda event was to start a national dialogue about domestic spying in Russia. More from Snowden’s Guardian piece:

The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia’s surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticised me in the past year), described my question as “extremely important for Russia”. According to the Daily Beast, Soldatov said it could lift a de facto ban on public conversations about state eavesdropping.

spock-11th-dimensional-chessOthers have pointed out that Putin’s response appears to be the strongest denial of involvement in mass surveillance ever given by a Russian leader – a denial that is, generously speaking, likely to be revisited by journalists.

In fact, Putin’s response was remarkably similar to Barack Obama’s initial, sweeping denials of the scope of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, before that position was later shown to be both untrue and indefensible….

But to me, the rare opportunity to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media outweighed that risk. Moreover, I hoped that Putin’s answer – whatever it was – would provide opportunities for serious journalists and civil society to push the discussion further.

What “serious Russian journalists” and what “Russian civil society” is Snowden expecting to pick up the ball in a dictatorship where the media is controlled by the man he claims he now intended to put on the spot?

If Snowden is suggesting that the American media will now cover Russian spying, they already do.  There is no “taboo” in the west about covering Russia’s misdeeds. Snowden is clearly referring to the taboo in Russia against criticizing the state, or as Kremlinologists like to call it, committing suicide.  Vladimir Putin owns, funds, and controls the major media in Russia.  How exactly is this national conversation supposed to ignite in autocratic Russia the same way it ignited in democratic America?

Fortunately, I was able to find raw video of Snowden “challenging” Putin, in the original Russian. The “questioning” starts about 18:50 into the video. Below is a rough translation:

PUTIN: I agree with you and if I’m elected governor, I will lower taxes whether those bureaucrats in the state capital like it or not! Ahem, Edward do you have a question you would like to ask your uncle Vlad?

SNOWDEN: Yes, sir, a very inane one. Mr. Putin, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?

lisa mr burns runaway train

“Mr. Putin, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”

PUTIN: Ooh, a tough question but a fair one. Edward, there’s no single answer. Some voters respond to my integrity, others are more impressed with my incorruptibility. (Edward leaves the table) Still others buy my determination to lower taxes. And the bureaucrats in the state capital can put that in their pipes and smoke it!

[Edward is in the kitchen.]

SNOWDEN: Oh Mom, that felt awful.

THE GUARDIAN: Mmm… I’m sorry dear. It will all be over soon.

SNOWDEN: But Mom, we’ve become the tools of evil.

Yes, the cartoon-American ended up realizing she had become a tool of evil. The real American, not so much.

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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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131 Responses to “Power’s bitch: Snowden responds to criticism of TV appearance with Putin”

  1. JD says:

    I guess my first thought isn’t so much about Snowden( all of the imperfect vessel talk…etc) but more to what’s up with John Avraosis? I use to read this blog more in the past, but can’t help wonder what the authors real agenda is? One of the more interesting aspects of the whole Snowden affair is how and who reacted to his disclosures. To me it seemed to bring out some people’s real agendas, The author’s over reaction to Snowden fits in with many media people’s over reaction, and brings up questions of why? Hey Mr. Avraosis do you do work for any of our government agencies? You know like the NSA, or CIA? You sure seem tobe over the top about this topic/person, and I can’t help but wonder why?.

  2. caphillprof says:

    please provide those links

  3. AlexanderHamiltonsGhost says:

    Thinking about it further, however… If Snowden did this out of fear for his freedom, why go on afterwards and tell everyone he was trying to stick it to Putin?

  4. karlInSanDiego says:

    Important point, Ronbo. What caused the fall of the Soviet Union? Was it Reagan? Was it the economy? According to Gorbachev, something of an expert on the subject, given that he led it at the time, it was Chernobyl and Glastnost, empowering people to see past the myth of the infalible USSR and see that all those decades of Iron Curtain, us against them mentality, had left the Soviet Union poor, and 2nd rate in every way, even their nuclear technology and their need to lie to themselves about the severity of the accident, and their unpreparedness for the catastrophy. This precipitated an unrest and awakening like had never been seen in modern Soviet history. The seed of doubt can change the course of history, and shame on any of us who can’t give Russians enough credit to take the right path, given enough truth. It’s time to let go of childish notions that Russians aren’t any better at understanding things than we are.

  5. Funkylikedat says:

    It’s evident, to me anyway, that Snowden designs his narrative to fit the criticism he incurs on the actions he takes. The Kool-Aid mixed up for him by his “media handlers” and Julian Assange must be very tasty because I see that SO MANY Americans have lapped it up and cry for more and more.
    His treasonous actions have been re-classified as “whistleblowing” and most recently his weak questioning to Putin has been characterized, by him, as “wait a darn minute, I was just setting him up” …. !
    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, this one is mine …. THANKS :-)

  6. Badgerite says:

    Yes. But you would be dreaming.

  7. Funkylikedat says:

    One can dream Badger …. one can dream ….

  8. Badgerite says:

    That is it exactly. In terms of the future, it is control of the internet by governments that is at stake. More than anything else. The internet in its current form is a threat to repression.
    As in China, repressive governments want the convenience of the internet without all of that messy free speech and transparency and connection that it breeds. It does not surprise me that Russia is taking a page out of China’s playbook on that score. Freedom of speech is being shut down all over Russia. And if that happens, and it has, ‘surveillance’ is irrelevant.
    China doesn’t need to ‘spy’ on its citizens. It monitors their speech and their access to information, including on the internet, right out in the open.
    And ‘messy’ speech is simply not allowed. Russia appears to be going in that direction also.
    Snowden didn’t even ask the right question.

  9. Badgerite says:

    What planted a “powerful seed of doubt” in Russia is sanctions. And I suspect that more doubts will become apparent over time. Vladimir Putin is taking Russia along a path to isolation from democratic countries of the west. It will not benefit Russians in the long run.

  10. Badgerite says:

    I very much doubt it. They do not have anything resembling a free press there. If he speaks publicly, it is because Putin allows it.

  11. Badgerite says:

    And this was already known and the basis for lawsuits brought in 2006. The only thing Snowden provided was the evidence that the phone records collection applied to all American phone records. And this was allowed because of a precedent that held that there is no expectation of privacy in records that are in the possession of a third party and who possession of those records you consent to.
    This is currently the issue before the courts. Whether the NSA interpretation of precedent allowing them to collect all phone records is correct.
    “Telephone data” = phone records = what numbers were called by what numbers and when. Pretty much what is on your phone bill. They can peruse these records.
    But the identity of the person who owns those numbers is not allowed unless that call records demonstrate a pattern of suspicious calls and this pattern would be required to get a warrant to search anything more than the annonymized phone records.
    What you are doing is histrionics.

  12. Badgerite says:

    Yes we would. There was a lawsuit based on that information that was leaked by a Verizon technician ( an actual whistle blower who did not feel the need to run off to China and suffered no bad consequences from his leak ). The leak was made public by a New York Times article in 2005. ( The information was given to them in 2004 but they held it til after George W Bush’s re-election because they did not want to be accused of trying to tip the election to Kerry.) That lawsuit was in 2006 and was dismissed due to lack of standing in the the parties suing could not show that their records had been some of those collected.
    And it isn’t ALL DATA. It is all metadata. Which is phone records. Which is what numbers called what numbers and when. Annonymized. Which means no names connected to numbers. Just the straight up numbers. If by querying those numbers, an NSA analyst could find suspicious connections between any number and the number of a known or suspected terrorist, then that information would be taken to a judge as probable cause to get a warrant to look at the content communication and the identity of the person involved.
    What Snowden provided to that lawsuit, and it is the only thing not already known that he provided, is that ALL Americans phone records were being collected. The standing issue, at that point, became moot and the lawsuit was revived.
    He could have stayed home and done that.

  13. Badgerite says:

    Hey, you want some bigotry against women? Why didn’t you say so?
    Please check out the video of Vladimir Zhirinovsky berating three female journalist, pushing a couple of his aides at them and telling one of them to go “rape” a pregnant journalist because she belongs at home. To their credit, most of the onlookers, including his aides, seem quite aghast.
    And this guy is leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and Deputy Speaker of the Duma. And that is considered ‘liberal’ right now in Russia.

  14. Badgerite says:

    You are not ‘being traced’. Metedata is literally your annonymized phone records. What numbers called what numbers and when. That those records can be collected by the government, stored and later examined to determine a probable cause to get an individualized warrant to look at the content of the communications is what that program is about. The stored records are searched for connections to known or suspected terrorists numbers. If the connections between numbers present a suspicious pattern, the NSA is required to take that pattern to a court of law and get an individualized warrant to look at the parties involved and what was communicated. In terms of actual fact, only a tiny number of connections would actually qualify to be looked at by an NSA agent. And to go beyond that to look at the actual communications involved would require an individualized warrant stating with particularity what provides the probable cause. But, whatever.

  15. Badgerite says:

    Telling China which Chinese tech firm the NSA has a ‘back door’ into would not be ‘whistle blowing’. And it would not be something the law would classify as anything other than espionage done in the interests of a foreign power.

  16. Badgerite says:

    I have no reason to ‘dissent’ about spying on Al Qaeda or China or Russia or Pakistan, or Assad in Syria or Kim Jong Un in North Korea. Or any other foreign intelligence gathering. Plus, anyone who thinks the internet is private is not playing with a full deck.

  17. Badgerite says:

    It forbids UNREASONABLE SEARCHES. If there is a reason that is justified, like a terrorist organization that has cost 3000 lives in one devastating strike and sought to cost more, the compelling state interest is present to justify ‘spying’ within certain Constitutionally required constraints. The constitutionally required constraints, of course, are legislative enactments authorizing such intelligence gathering and warrant requirements that can be looked at by a court of law. Whether the NSA exceeded this in terms of the bulk collection of American phone records would be the only issue that is before the courts. And the only issue really under consideration before an American court.
    And that has absolutely nothing to do with Angela Merkel’s cell phone or which Chinese Tech firm that NSA has a ‘back door’ into. Or if or how much the NSA is spying on Brazil. Or what intelligence sharing agreements the US has with other governments. Or anything like that.

  18. Badgerite says:

    No. Espionage takes in also those actions of spying done for ideological reasons.
    And Snowden fits the bill on that one.

  19. Badgerite says:

    Questioning? He lobbed a little soft ball at Putin and Putin deflected.
    And now he has become a legend in his own mind for “calling out” Putin.
    After all the propaganda value he has provided to Putin, I doubt Putin minds.
    As to Manning. I do feel sorry for the guy. But, as you can see by current conditions in not just Iraq but Syria, Egypt and a lot of other countries in the Middle East, I think his actions were misplaced. I thought the video needed to be released. And if that had been all he had released, and it had been released to press other than someone like Julian Assange, he might have gotten much more lenient treatment.
    If you want to be considered a whistle blower, than you release selectively what you think the chain of command has been remiss in and what needs to see the light of day. You do not do a document dump of anything you can get your hands on.

  20. Badgerite says:

    Expand the definition of ‘whistle blower’ to include espionage that benefits foreign governments and harms US interest abroad.

  21. Badgerite says:

    So all of those countries were in violation of international law. I don’t think so.
    What’s more, Snowden never intended to get on that plane. As subsequent facts demonstrate, it would not have provided him with any kind of real protection from American internationally supported attempts to apprehend him.
    He planned to stay in Russia. No extradition from Russia. Ever. No once.
    He wasn’t going to Ecuador.

  22. Badgerite says:

    The WPA would not apply because he did not comply in any way, shape or form with its requirements no matter who he worked for. If he had worked for the government directly, what he did and the way he did it and the information he took and divulged about foreign intelligence activities around the world conducted by the US government is NOT within any legal definition of whistle blowing that I am aware of. What he did was espionage. That is what he is charged with because that is the definition his actions fit into. As such, he would not qualify for WPA protection no matter how much it was to be expanded.

  23. Badgerite says:

    He would not be covered as a whistle blower due more to the fact of WHAT he divulged. Not who he worked for. What tech companies the NSA has tapped into in China? How is that ‘whistle blowing’.

  24. Badgerite says:

    He went waaay beyond whistle blower. I can’t see advocating laws to protect what is essentially, if conducted by a Russian spy, espionage. No one could argue that ultimately he committed espionage. He may have thrown in some whistle blowing as well. But the law does not protect espionage. Nor should it. Richard Clarke describes what he did as high treason. And wasn’t talking about call records of American citizens.

  25. Badgerite says:

    No. Not really true. He supported him UNTIL he was proved a cheat.
    He never has lost his admiration for what he accomplished as an athlete because even on steroids, 7 Tour de France wins is epic. Especially since, all of the major competitors were on steroids as well. Count on it.
    But he lost his admiration for him as a person. And has said as much.
    Not that that has anything at all to do with this issue.
    Just mis direction as usual.

  26. Badgerite says:

    I think that is generous. I don’t know that that martyr complex and the ego it highlights can be disassociated with what he did and particularly HOW he did it. And to how connected he is to the actual, real world impacts of his actions.

  27. Badgerite says:

    Putin, the FSB, and actually no intelligence service in the entire world will ever let this guy anywhere near anything of import again. He cannot now claim to broaden his attacks to repressive governments in the world. He chose his target. That would be, as John points out, primarily the Untied States and the United Kingdom, Australia and even Norway. And those are really, in my opinion, some of the freest countries in the world. China, Russia, Iran, Syria. Those countries intelligence services have never been seriously harmed by him. And never will be.

  28. Badgerite says:

    Well, if that is all it takes to further that democratic feeling, maybe he should “call out” Kim Jong Un on Korean TV. I’m sure that would have the desired effect.

  29. Badgerite says:

    He is in this position because he chose to confiscate and abscond with a whole slew of classified information and then from the perch of our two greatest former competitors in the world, in terms of democratic vs non democratic governance, attack US FOREIGN intelligence gathering around the world on some lame theory that all privacy will be squelched by the NSA. If he had wanted to stay in the United States and leak the information about the bulk collection of American phone records, the one legal challenge that may actually pan out, he could certainly have done that and face little or no jail time for it. He wanted to go much, much, much further than that in attacking American foreign intelligence gathering. And he did. And that is why he is in Russia. No accident. That is the only country that wasn’t going to extradite him. And why he did that, who knows? If someone’s actions don’t make a lot of sense the way they explain them, then I tend to question the truthfulness of the explanation. Or the person’s judgement. Or the person’s motives.
    What I do know is that he harmed the US and he helped Vladimir Putin.
    And I don’t believe he has furthered the progress of human rights in any way, shape or form.

  30. Badgerite says:

    That seems to be the response of his admirers when one points up that Snowden is horrendously naive in what he says he seeks to accomplish (I’m being generous) and may in actual fact be harming those very values around the world that he says he is all about, and is either aware of that or should be aware of that and doesn’t really care. Putin would not have let him have a public forum if he posed any threat whatsoever to Vladimir Putin and the Russian surveillance state.
    It just doesn’t work that way in Russia. People who pose that kind of a real threat to him or the Russian surveillance state or state power either get killed or do hard time in prison. Indeed, you can’t even be gay in Russia without being seen as posing a threat to the Russian state.
    He was allowed that forum precisely because he is not threat at all.

  31. cybrestrike says:

    American Exceptionlism is one helluva drug.

  32. cybrestrike says:

    The fact that some people forgot what the 4th Amendment is sort of disturbs me.

  33. cybrestrike says:

    He isn’t a spy. A spy would have sold (in money or favors) the information to the highest bidding country. Snowden did none of that. He went to the press.

  34. Jim Puckett says:

    John: Just because you can’t imagine how the truth about Russian spying on its citizenry might get out does not mean it will not. It is very possible that Snowden already has the truth about it from NSA docs. What is revealing to me, is that you seemed to be just primed to jump all over Snowden for asking softball questions. I really don’t think Snowden is a coward and I really don’t think his explanation in the Guardian is going to make Putin happy. The most cowardly acts I witness right now are pundits like you who are just itching to kill the messenger when our constitution is violated.

  35. ronbo says:

    The old John found those shrill put-downs repugnant.

    Do you understand that by trying to feminize “max” with the word “girl” that you are merely showing your own internal bigotry against women? Bigotry isn’t ferocious. Dude, you seem a totally different person than the champion of equal rights.

  36. BloggerDave says:

    Why people can’t understand that Snowden is a mixed mag is beyond me… Stop the idol worship and see him, warts and all…

  37. pappyvet says:


  38. pappyvet says:

    Absolutely. Never been very good at walking in lockstep. If you agree with every point of view you are not thinking. That does in no way mean that the person you disagree with is a traitor or lost their minds or gotten soft. If we do not look up from the map from time to time , we could walk off a cliff. This would please some to no end.

  39. TracyMN says:

    “But damn, then someone led him astray.”

    And is that “someone” Greenwald? Is it possible that he was so anxious to get this out, to break this story, that he didn’t think things through? That doesn’t seem like Greenwald. I mean, Snowden’s life was virtually in his hands.

  40. Hey may have. But damn, then someone led him astray. When I would pick, and then help, people to testify before congress on gay stuff, or offer to help people blow stories up (like the gay military guy timothy mcveigh), I warned them that their story could blow up HUGELY. You have to warn them of the worst-case scenario befrore they get involved. I hope someone warned Snowden that at the worst he could be shot, and at the best he’d certainly be arrested and tried for treason. Especially with how Chelsea Manning is being treated, I don’t know how anyone could look at that and say “yeah, I’ll steal and publish even more-highly classified secrets, from the NSA and not just the DOD, and not get treated as harshly as chelsea?” It’s not naive, it’s negligent.

  41. No, I’m just being ferocious and rightly so about an issue you disagree with. And like some on the left, you find people disgreeing with you anathema, akin to treason. When it’s simply the fact that not everyone agrees with you on every issue, and that doesn’t make them “evil” or wrong. I got the same guff from, the Hillary crowd ticked off that we went off Hillary in the primaries, and the Obama crowd that we went after Obama on gay rights. At some point, our objectivity and honesty finally comes to an issue dear to your heart. That’s not a change. That’s simply your turn to have someone honestly disagree with you. Welcome to America :)

  42. TracyMN says:

    Yeah, even I think what I wrote is naive. It looks to me, though, that he thought he’d get to live in Brazil like Greenwald. I just don’t think he ever expected to be stuck in a hostile country like this.

    I’m learning so much more about this issue just from reading the comments here.

  43. And that gets to my underlying point – that this isn’t just about people who think they crossed the line in how they spied on Americans. There seems to be a larger underlying proposition that spying, or spying is per se bad. This goes far beyond “we were protecting American citizens.” Now, people can argue over your question, and it would be an interesting debate. I’m sympathetic to why Europeans would be upset if we’re intercepting their private phone calls. As for Russians and Chinese, the Americans get in line, as the Russian and Chinese citizens already have all their phone calls tapped :)

  44. What bothers me is that this keeps happening, these odd eruptions that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with helping Americans overcome their own domestic spying. And I do think appearing with Putin, when Ukraine is on the verge of war, and the international community is trying to isolate Putin, is a betrayal of the Ukrainians, European security and more. It’s pretty egregious. He knew why Putin wanted him, on this show.

  45. Oh I don’t agree. I think when you steal the nation’s most highly-classifie secrets – and the kind of intelligence Snowden took was far above “top secret,” and he knew it – you expect to be executed for it. He absolutely knew the repercussions. He should have expected to be either shot or sent to Gitmo. That doesn’t mean he’s not in a tight bind now. But I just don’t think he is, or should be, surprised that the govt went after him. I would truly expect to be tried for treason had I done this, with my knowledge of SCI classified info.

  46. I think you’re going to have a difficult time finding honestly analysis from people who insist on agreeing with you on every progressive issues. The honest ones won’t :)

  47. TracyMN says:

    I don’t think, when he began all of this, that he could have foreseen being in this position: a fugitive in a hostile country in fear of returning to his own hostile country. He’s in no position right now to confront the tyrant in charge.

    None of us knows what we’d do in his position. I hope I’d make wiser choices, but I won’t smugly and judgmentally say that I would, while sitting in the safety of my home.

  48. AlexanderHamiltonsGhost says:

    I’m on the fence with this one, John. After blowing the lid off the NSA and having to go live in Russia, is the man not allowed a little leeway if something like this is the one thing preventing him from being sent off to an American prison for life (assuming, of course, he was coerced into asking the question)?

  49. Mark_in_MN says:

    US government actions, including those concerning nations like Russia and China (maybe even especially those concerning nations like Russia and China precisely because they are not exactly friendly) shouldn’t be topics of public debate and discussion?

  50. Mark_in_MN says:

    But I have to wonder if spying on Europe is bad (and I think it is) why isn’t spying on Russia and China also at least something that should be open for debate, open for scrutiny, and open for questions about method and target: the how, when, where, and why?

  51. quax says:

    For the first time a statement on the Snowden issue that I can wholeheartedly agree to.

    Dud’s too young and naive to realize when to shut up.

  52. quax says:

    Of course it is the average Russians who eventually have to realize that they don’t have a future with Putin. Plenty of heroic Russians of the Pussy Riot kind already know that. Having Putin lie that blatantly on TV may very well be the kind of propaganda that will backfire on him eventually.

  53. ronbo says:

    “girl’? I hope the old John doesn’t see this. He was ferocious (and rightly so).

  54. ronbo says:

    Since anyone technologically aware suspects that they are being spied upon, Snowden planted a powerful seed of doubt. While everyone seems to fear Putin, that little mouse took the bait and lied in public. Putin will soon be squeaking and no longer roaring (his economy is stagnant and the lizard-brain awaken in conquest always leads to regret in reality).

    We just need to be patient, think/act strategically and keep watering that seed of doubt.

  55. ronbo says:

    Do you also oppose the US Constitution which forbids spying on Americans?

  56. ronbo says:

    Now that we are aware of our torture programs (some even outsourced), do you intend the irony? Regardless, it’s delicious.

  57. revbones says:

    That’s not a free society. He “stole” over 1.7 million documents showing that the government was violating the constitution. When the media won’t or can’t expose it, and the government violates the rights of citizens, it’s up to people like Snowden. I fear the type of citizen and society you seem to support.

  58. It’s my two stories yesterday, links provided.

  59. caphillprof says:

    What documents are you referring to?

  60. karlInSanDiego says:

    If you haven’t watched Snowden’s interview on German TV (NDR), I suggest you do so. He conducted a long interview with very cogent answers to real, thoughtful questions. He was very well spoken and it made me realize, I had already been sold bull$hit by the US media and members of our government who painted him as a disaffected and without the intellect or understanding of what he had seen, to be able to judge its legality. This is where Snowden expressed that Clapper lying to congress on CSpan made him realize he had to do something. Watch that interview and you will see, that while Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have both helped us break our petrified embarrasing patriotic silence, Snowden likely had a better understanding of what he was doing and how he was doing it. Now if we can just get Chelsea out of prison, we may find out that she too, understood well what she was doing.

  61. He wasn’t motivated by a concern for constitutional violations when he took and released documents detailing US spying on Russia and China. That’s one of my main points.

  62. bkmn says:

    And as I asked earlier in the day, why do entry level contractors and enlisted privates have access to all this classified information?

    This is a major flaw in our national security.

  63. SstoBP says:

    Hon, you need to check out that Walgreens special on Depends. Best to stock up now. Some day they might start that Occupy Vegas thingy again. I’m sure you’d want to participate without the risk of crapping your pants.
    So how ya doin’, girlfriend?

  64. You keep searching, girl.

  65. Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a command performance. Then again, at some point, you say “no” and accept the consequences. You’re not longer the loyal opposition when you start doing PR for Vladimir Putin. He doesn’t “have” to do the appearance, he chose to do the appearance, and help Putin, because he didn’t want to face prison at home. Again, that’s his choice, but I dont’ think I’ve ever made a political choice that would involve helping someone like Putin.

  66. caphillprof says:

    Because Snowden was appalled at the NSA violation of the US Constitution. He’s only in Russia because the US stranded him in the Moscow airport in transit to South America.

    None of us know whether or not Snowden took documents critical of Russia. Moreover, Snowden no longer has access to the documents he took. They were turned over to Greenwald and Poitras in Hong Kong.

  67. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Not an accusation, sparky. More of an observation.

  68. Bill_Perdue says:

    NGO’s like the ACLU, the CCR, Courage to Resist and the
    The Private Manning Defense Fund are engaged in fighting the drift to the right and to more and worse oppressive laws by the WH and Congress. So is the antiwar movement and the left.

    Congress and the WH, because they’re run by Democrats and Republicans will only continue to make things worse.

  69. Bill_Perdue says:

    Snowden and Chelsea Manning acted heroically to protect American civil rights and liberties and the lives of GIs and civilians in Obama’s wars of aggression. Obama and Putin are the opposite – they both attack civil liberties and rights. Whatever else transpires Snowden is a hero for exposing Obama’s push, with the cooperation of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, for putting the finishing touches on an American police state. So is Chelsea Manning.

    The creation of a police state by Democrats like Obama and the Clintons and Republicans like the Bushes consists of massive spying, enabled by FISA, which Obama supports. And NDAA, which is Obama’s plan for detention of citizens who oppose his gutting the Bill of Rights, his union busting, his austerity measures and his wars of aggression.

    The police state apparatus is also enabled by the Republican sponsored Paytriot Act, which Obama voted for extending and especially by Obama’s claim that he has the right to murder American citizens on a whim. He’s done it four times in extra legal and racist attacks on Their names are Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Mohammed. One was a sixteen year old boy from Denver Colorado.

    Obama, according the the ACLU has a new hit list and plans on more racist and extra legal murder of American citizens and the ACLU and the CCR are against it. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/02/10-3


  70. BeccaM says:

    It was a violation of international laws and treaties to impede the travel of President Evo Morales through civil airspace. Four countries not in a state of hostilities with Bolivia — France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal — all denied access to their airspace. Most of them lied as to why, and the attempted search took place in Austria, with Morales refusing to allow the authorities on board his plane.

    Spain relented only after Morales provided written assurance that Snowden wasn’t on the plane — which actually would’ve been within his authority as president of Bolivia, to grant temporary diplomatic asylum.

    Can you imagine the uproar if Air Force One was forced down somewhere, denied access to the airspace necessary to fly back to the States, because some other country wanted to search the plane for an accused fugitive? We’ve have people here demanding the offending nation be nuked to molten glass.

    We Americans just love to believe other people don’t mind being humiliated by us.

  71. Olterigo says:

    “There are no Russian forces in Crimea” Oops! Putin lies? No, he’d never do such a thing.

    Meanwhile, in the light of day Russia is shutting up its own top blogger who has been revealing the wrongdoings and corruption of Russia’s politicians. Sure, Navalny is a somewhat unsavory figure, but he has been barred from using internet. He is not in a prison, but he is under, essentially, a very strict house arrest. And Snowden who is in Russia thinks he can do anything?

    And the Russian government has just passed in 2nd reading (there will be a 3rd) a set of “anti-terrorist” bills, which make it mandatory for “popular” bloggers (meaning more than 3K daily visitors) to register with the government, limiting their freedom of speech. One of the bigger issues being specifically barring bloggers from revealing info about “private lives” of citizens – pretty much meaning no more stories about politicians owning properties in Russia and – what’s more – in posh places abroad.

    And the country discussing whether a Math textbook needs to be patriotic or just teach math. In some places, outspoken people (against Russian actions in Ukraine) already getting blowback from their neighbors (not even the official govt). But yes, Snowden is hoping that his soft question will start a conversation on government-surveillance in Russia.

    Maybe Snowden’s naive, maybe he’s dumb, maybe he is afraid of a cozy cell somewhere in the backwoods of Siberia, but his article is ridiculous nonetheless.

  72. Swami_Binkinanda says:

    Why worry about oppression by state security if you are willing to do what they ask for free? better not to ask questions.

  73. Olterigo says:

    I’m not 100% sure (but you can never be 100% sure dealing with international law), but landing and searching a plane belonging to a foreign leader is not “illegal.” It is highly unusual and may be (rightfully) seen as an affront, but it is not an illegal action, because the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations covers only diplomats and staff, the permanent buildings and attached territory.

  74. Olterigo says:

    John also criticizes our own American government. Time and time again. From the earliest time that I remember this site, it was never just about criticism of American policies and laws against LGBT. It always had a greater scope, with Democratic politicians getting their criticism when criticism was due.

  75. Olterigo says:

    Snowden, looking to start a conversation on state surveillance in a country, which is now discussing whether the 2nd-most-popular math (math!) textbook is not patriotic enough? http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/497834.html

  76. silas1898 says:

    “He has a very bad cold….”

  77. SJDinAudubon says:

    You are fundamentally wrong, and making excuses for your own mis-analysis. I am outta here.

  78. BeccaM says:

    Assuming he has a choice in the matter of course. Personally, for Ed Snowden, I imagine the words “We might just let the Americans have you” would be awfully persuasive these days.

  79. pricknick says:

    Cesca is a hack. Just look at his unwavering support for Lance Armstrong even after it was proved he was a cheat.

  80. BeccaM says:

    And like I said below, it wouldn’t matter if they were. Our gov’t now just makes up terms to reassign people to categories so that legal protections no longer apply.

    The first ones to be so used were ‘terrorist suspect’ and ‘material witness’ — both used to excuse imprisonment — sorry, I believe the new euphemism is ‘indefinite detention’ — without indictments, charges, or trials.

  81. BeccaM says:

    ‘Aiding the Enemy’ is another of those chilling phrases — because neither of those is ever defined concretely. Likewise those who bandy about the word ‘treason’ with apparently blithe indifference for its legal definition and requirements for conviction of such in a court of law.

    Dissent does no longer seem to be an American ideal or conviction. I think it died of neglect in those Free Speech Zone ‘Freedom(tm) Cages.’

  82. Guys, I’m going out with the dog. I will not engage in shouting match with folks who can’t accept the concept that not everyone on the left agrees with you about everything. I don’t call you names, and question your expertise or your sanity or trueness to the cause simply because you disagree on this issue. As I’ve written repeatedly, some folks on our side need to to focus on the real enemy, and need to learn that we all don’t agree on everyting, and outside of Russia and China and a few other places, that’s actually okay :) I’m gonna walk the dog, you go hate each other. :)

  83. I already explained in my pieces that by exposing US programs vs the Russians Snowden clearly thought he was exposing something that wasn’t know, or he wouldn’t have stolen as it wouldn’t have counted as whistleblowing, it would have only counted as espionage, if you steal something you know everyone already knows – it’s not whistleblowing.

  84. He’s got expert advice from Greenwald, from his lawyers, and a lot more people who know how all of this works. It’s difficult to understaend these choices of his in that larger framework. He knows better.

  85. I’m actually curious why Snowden didn’t take any documents critical of Russia when he was at the NSA. He stole documents critical of the US and the UK. Why did he stick with America and its staunchest ally, rather than also take documents exposing actual tyrants who opress their populations far more than ours do. I would argue that you’re the ones who have a contradiction here.

  86. That’s very quaint and naive of Snowden to go on Russian tv and serve the propaganda interests of the Russian dictator, and then go in the foreign press and urge people to do what he didn’t have the courage to do, stand up to their own dictator. I mean seriously, Snowden refused to call Putin out, but he wants Russians to do it?

  87. Hey, I call people out, left and right, when they do wrong. If you coddle a dictator who has just annexed his neighbor, and is about to take another chunk of the country,while oppressing his own people, including letting nazis organize nationwide in a criminal conspiracy to abduct and torture young gay men as young as 13 years of age, then yes, I’m going to call you out on it.

    Then bigger question is why you don’t have a problem withy anyone, let alone any American, providing propaganda support to a man who oppresses gays, and lots of other people, and who is on the verge of annexing his neighbor, which would condemn 45 million people to life under a tyrant.

    Answer that question. I’ve already explained why I, as a civil rights advocate, have problems providing PR support to the modern day KGB lord.

  88. scottdedalus says:

    John fearlessly speaking truth to faraway tyrants and dissidents on the lam from our country. He’s a profile in courage, that boy.

  89. Funkylikedat says:

    Sorry to butt in but … and I have no idea why John is anti-Snowden, if he is ….
    However – I think that Edward Snowden is a traitor. Simply put, loose lips sink ships < (still a good way to live in a free society). It's been reported that he "stole" over 1.7 million documents. A good majority of them having to do with things other than the "spying on Americans" BS that have won him favor in some circles. Documents that include intelligence on other countries, military capabilities and weapons systems.
    He should be classified as a "spy" and tried for treason …. period.

  90. Max_1 says:

    Try explaining that to John…

  91. Max_1 says:

    Verizon forced to hand over telephone data – full court ruling
    The US government is collecting the phone records of millions of US customers of Verizon under a top secret court order. Read the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order

    You can accuse me of histoyonics, if you must…
    … Here’s the history, for your enjoyment.
    (documents included for the factually challenged)

  92. Max_1 says:

    Taking to the National airwaves and blogosphere…
    … People are doing a lot to promote apathy.

    Convincing citizens that speaking out, harms ‘National Security’ and ‘Aids the enemy’… Ergo the silence.

    Dissent… not a modern American conviction anymore.
    … Instead, something you’re most likely to be convicted of.

  93. Max_1 says:

    Step 5: Accuse those who reveal the illegal stuff of, ‘Aiding the enemy’ and ‘ Harming National Security’ on very public platforms so as to persuade the public that National Security trumps their Constitutional Rights.

  94. BeccaM says:

    It’s been a progression of degraded constitutional protections, starting with Thomas Drake, Joe Wilson and Sibel Edmonds, up through John Kiriakou and Mark Klein, and ending (for now) with Manning and Snowden.

    Over the last dozen years, it’s been a steady ratcheting of harsh measures against whistleblowers. The problem is despite the repeated revelations, we — the American people and those we elect to serve in our goverment — continue to do nothing.

  95. Max_1 says:

    We know that the subcontractor agents are NOT covered…

  96. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    I kind of figured Snowden as another techie idiot when he described himself as Libertarian.

    On the other hand, we don’t require (or shouldn’t) whistleblowers to be saints with pure motives, so long as the whistle blown was a valid warning.

    On the gripping hand, Snowden is no longer operating in the capacity of whistleblower. Whatever good he’s done, it’s over and done with. He has a new career apparently as a Russian media personality and I think we all ought to be free to criticize his new line of work.

  97. Max_1 says:

    Knowledge of foreign affairs?
    Aided the enemy

    How so?
    Evidence should be readily available to those, ‘in the know’.

    So, why the abundance of nothing?
    How, precisely has Snowden, “Aided the enemy”?
    You know, verifiable facts and proof.

  98. pliny says:

    Having actually gone to read the Guardian article, I have a much different take on Snowden’s explanation. In trying to recreate a Clapper-lies-to-congress moment, he’s not just encouraging people to talk about mass surveillance in Russia – he’s encouraging young, disillusioned FSB officers who might be in a position to see through the bullshit to come forward.

  99. BeccaM says:

    If the U.S. government is willing to illegally force the plane belonging to a foreign leader to the ground and conduct an even more illegal search of said plane with the intent of seizing someone if found on board, I rather doubt the WPA is considered relevant at all by them.

    It doesn’t matter whether it’s clear or not. ‘National Security’ has become the assertion permitting and exempting any actions the authorities wish to take. Objections are brushed aside with further assertions of National Security. Ever since Thomas Drake, whistleblowing has gradually become a one-way ticket to solitary confinement without charges.

    Step 1: Just like it did by reclassifying POWs as ‘illegal enemy combatants’ and torture as ‘enhanced interrogation’, the government first asserts that the individual is not a ‘whistleblower’, and therefore the legal protections do not apply.

    Step 2: Throw the individual into a very deep, dark hole and spend the next few years breaking them psychologically, so they cannot possibly defend themselves in whatever kangaroo court you decide to put them through.

    Step 3: While said individual is utterly incommunicado, blanket the airwaves, using the helpfully compliant media, with smears, innuendo, and any way possible to utterly discredit the messenger. Fortunately, everybody focuses on this and not on the message, which is the entire goal.

    Step 4: Keep doing the illegal stuff, because every other potential whistleblower now knows full well that saying anything will destroy their own lives, that the national security state will do anything in its power to crush anybody who dares to speak up.

  100. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Man, every time I see this style of histrionic posting, I must ask: do you really not grasp that posting the same shitty thing over and over again within a few minutes doesn’t multiply its strength, but makes it into a joke? If you want to be tuned out and ignored, you’re going the right way about it.

  101. emjayay says:

    Man bites dog, news. Putin lies, not news.

  102. revbones says:

    Are you talking about yourself there John?

  103. revbones says:

    Yeah, it certainly helped Manning…. Seriously, just get off of him. It’s very unlikely you would have done what he did if you were in his shoes. Now he’s paying the price by being stuck in Russia while you are here caterwauling because you have some ridiculous dislike for him. Was his questioning edited at all? Why are you so anti-Snowden?

  104. Max_1 says:

    FRI APR 18, 2014 AT 05:52 AM PDT
    Media Humiliates Itself: WAPO Gives Platform to Shameless Anti-Snowden Smears
    Jesselyn Radack


  105. Max_1 says:

    April 17, 2014

  106. Max_1 says:

    All best on the quiet front… yes, indeed.
    Find the sand, sticks head in.
    I’m not the one messaging on my blog site…
    … I don’t claim tact or panache. I seek FACTS!

  107. dommyluc says:

    John, the Simpsons reference was pure gold. All you needed was the three-eyed fish, and considering how lax Russia probably is as per environmental regs, they probably have plenty of those.

  108. The_Fixer says:

    Yeah, and the Whistleblower’s Protection Act may as well have been written on Charmin toilet tissue when it comes to the real important stuff. As I said above, as soon as a whistleblower threatens those with any real power, that law seems to be non-existent.

    I am not defending nor am I totally condemning Snowden; he’s as imperfect as any one of us. But I wonder if the situation weren’t better regarding whistleblowers that we’d have not gotten to this point. If this NSA spying stuff weren’t stopped earlier on by someone who had true protection, would we be talking about Edward Snowden? I can’t definitively answer that, but think maybe we wouldn’t.

    And don’t forget that paranoid conservatives (such as GW Bush and now Obama) started all of this surveilence. And the technical-industrial complex (closely related to the military-indistrial complex) aided and abetted the U.S. government’s illegitimate spying on its citizens. Because it made them oodles of money.

  109. I actually wasn’t familiar with him. Just googled. Exactly the same concerns. I do PR for a living, and one of the first things you do in any public campaign is make sure your public face is sane and clean and untouchable, lest controversy over that figurehead detract from the cause. That’s why people are concerned about Snowden the man, because he keeps detracting. He should keep his mouth shut and let his jouirnalist friends public his classified documents. But every time he speaks, it looks like me me me, and as Cesca says in the piece below, then something goes wrong.


  110. There was an update to the story. Several of you demanded that I address Snowden’s commentary, see the other posts I wrote in the comments. So I did.


  112. We’ve published a number of stories criticail of the programs Snowden revealed. Just check the archive. And, as I already stated, had Snowden simply revealed the bad stuff, and not decided to divulge the details of US spying on Russia and China, which has nothing to do with domestic eavescropping, and everything to do with helping countries that don’t like us, and had Snowden not done a propaganda event with one of the top ‘bad men’ in the world today, in the middle of an international crisis when the world is trying to isolate that men, then you probably wouldn’t hear nearly as much criticism from me and many others on the left.

  113. pricknick says:

    John, I really think you should join up with Bob Cesca. He has the same thoughts as you on everything Snowden.

  114. There is a Whistleblowers Protection Act, but it’s not entirely clear if it covers National Security agencies https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/whistleblower_rights.pdf

  115. Or we’re intelligent human beings, with some knowledge of foreigns affairs, and we simply disagree with you. I know, it’s a crazy notion that in a pluralistic society we simply disagree on something :)

  116. Max_1 says:

    “The fact that we’re talking about all of this is reflective of the serious problems we have in this country regarding the power and influence of government in what is supposed to be a free country.

    Some bloggers seek to instill the idea Snowden bad, US good.
    No and’s if’s or but’s.

  117. The_Fixer says:

    Oy. Snowden suffers from something I see a lot of in the computer/tech industry – “I am smart about technical things, therefore, I am smart about everything.” Unfortunately, being smart about “everything” requires a fair amount of life experience that Snowden does not possess.

    Putin’s motivation for allowing Snowden to ask this question is pretty simple – to provide a show for the Russian Rubes who think of him as being a legitimate, credible leader. I am sure that he realizes that his answer will be viewed as being pure bullshit by those inside Russia who haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid and those outside of Russia who already know him to be what he appears to be.

    At the risk of sounding like I’m attacking Snowden, it obvious to me that he didn’t quite know what he was in for from the start. If he was really as clever as he thinks he is, he wouldn’t be in this position.

    That’s not to say that he didn’t do some valuable work. And I don’t think his motivation was entirely centered on feeding his ego. However, I think he is only fooling himself if he thinks that asking this question is going to make a shit-drip’s worth of difference in Russia. Putin is going to do whatever he wants and thinks he is able to get away with. I read the Guardian piece and it smacks of justification and ego gratification as well.

    The one question that needs to be asked is “Why isn’t there a mechanism to protect whistleblowers when they expose government abuse?” Time after time, whistleblowers are not only villified, but prosecuted for exposing these abuses. Sure, low-level whistleblowers are given a free pass, but as soon as the subjects of their whistleblowing are high up in the chain of command, or when they sufficiently threaten the status-quo as it relates to those who hold the reins of power, all bets are off.

    The fact that we’re talking about all of this is reflective of the serious problems we have in this country regarding the power and influence of government in what is supposed to be a free country.

  118. Max_1 says:


    So John,
    What is it REALLY, you argue for?

  119. Max_1 says:


  120. Max_1 says:


  121. Max_1 says:

    Now that the Pulitzer has been announced…

    You claim that Snowden was the bad guy for taking secrets and revealing them to our enemies…
    … Who published these FACTS? And why aren’t the publications of these FACTS gaining the same ire your expose to your readers about Snowden?

    If nothing was ever PUBLISHED… what harm would Snowden be?

  122. Funkylikedat says:

    You go Edward Snowden …. that’s right, start stoking that surveillance fire in Russia. Speak out, scream to Pravda, expose Putin as a liar.
    LMAO – I truly hope the little traitor keeps on this trail of attacking the integrity of Putin. The more he rails against the Russian Authority the less we will hear from him until …. *POOF* … no more Edward Snowden !!!!

  123. Max_1 says:

    You addressing a person who clings to the notion Snowden ran to Russia…
    … FACTS.

  124. Max_1 says:

    Two articles about Snowden in one day?
    John, you out do yourself… slow down.

  125. pappyvet says:

    I don’t believe he is as smart as he is frightened and playing the game as hard as he can.
    He could have stayed here and garnered for himself a huge following. If he were truly patriotic or deeply committed where then is the backbone? He went through all this to run away? He would have had backing to the hilt and could have multiplied the outcry tenfold by holding the course.

  126. FLL says:

    Snowden’s motives may be honest, but Russia is not exactly the place to start a frank discussion about domestic spying, such as the very open discussion that resulted in the U.S. (and the U.S. Senate) after Snowden’s revelations. Um… such an open discussion requires a country with freedom of speech. Russia is not that country. If you say that you’re in favor of equal rights for gay people, you’ve broken a Russian law under which people have already been prosecuted. That doesn’t sound like a country with freedom of speech to me. My question to Mr. Snowden would be how it would be possible to have an open discussion about domestic spying in a country without freedom of speech.

  127. Elijah Shalis says:

    Snowden did the right thing by revealing the truth but it is really telling that he has stayed in Russia. I am shocked that no other country would take him. I am not sure what choices he has.

  128. THAT, I generally agree with.

  129. But who is it going to be revealed to? We in the west already know about Russia’s spying, so we know Putin’s lying. And in Russia, they probably know, but it’s not clear, that their government, and certainly the media, which is state run, lies. But whether they do or don’t know, how are they going to find out the truth? I don’t get how any of this undoes Putin. He’s not going to be permit a national debate on whether he lied in a country that increasingly resembles a dictatorship. I’d like it to be true, just not sure it is.

  130. pappyvet says:

    As I have said before , his revelations were true and important but he is destroying himself.
    I cannot say whether this crap was coerced or voluntary. The picture of life in an American prison I am sure runs screaming through his head. And I am equally sure that Putin enjoys having a chip that he can cash in if he should reason that it could smooth a rough edge .

  131. karlInSanDiego says:

    Sorry John, but your indignance is poorly placed. Snowden isn’t KGB. He’s smarter than most give him credit for, and his technique could be part of Putin’s undoing later, when it is revealed that Putin lied when asked directly, just like Clapper.

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