I think [Edward Snowden] has carried out a heroic act. That is the proper act of a citizen to let people know what their government is doing. For the most part, the public should know what their representatives are doing. Of course, governments never want that. They want to operate in secret. … I have spent a lot of time looking through the classified documents in the US, which is maybe the freest society, most of the documents are classified to protect the government against its own population and not for security reasons. I think anyone who tries to lift the veil on this is doing the right thing. In fact, the programs that the government was carrying out are really illegitimate and it was correct to expose them. I think he is going to suffer for it. You know. But it was the right thing to do.
Apparently we are supposed to ‘respect institutions’ so much that we never feel entitled to information about how they operate.
The Sickening Snowden Backlash
[What] Snowden and Manning realised was that the system was so dangerously broken that they had to sacrifice themselves, if necessary, to try to stop it. They could not live with themselves any other way.
It is highly instructive that the courage of a few brave men such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have done more damage to the hegemony of the well-entrenched and normally unchallenged US war racket than any number of al-Qaeda-inspired or -directed terrorist plots could have achieved. Indeed, the fact that Snowden didn’t become intoxicated by such power, but instead sought to shut it down at the source is an action of revolutionary potential, if others take up his call. It is a true inner and greater jihad.
If a couple of relatively minor intelligence workers such as Manning and Snowden could access information that upends so many of their government’s policies, and the lies and half-truths upon which they’re based, imagine what 20, or even 200 could do. They might actually get Americans off their couches and into the streets to demand the kind of political reform that the political class has thus far had little incentive to enact.
We don’t have to call it jihad, but after a dozen years of a disastrous and bloody “war on terror” with the Muslim world, there are definitely worse ways to define it. However people want to describe it, these individuals have shown their peers in the governmental, intelligence, military and corporate bureaucracies across the world that they too have a choice - that merely continuing as cogs in oppressive machines cannot be considered the legitimate, or even only, choice left to them - even if the alternative comes at a steep price.
Let us hope at least a few are inspired to follow their course.
As a side note, I’m curious to see how many blips this post will set off at the NSA. Any NSA guys following, just shoot me an answer in the replies. Better yet, just shoot me a text. You’ve got my digits.
Not only do they ignore or disregard the fact that the government has carved out national security exceptions to protect power from disclosures that Snowden made by ensuring that he can be prosecuted, jailed and effectively silenced no matter how he makes disclosures, but they cheerlead for zealous prosecution of these individuals for periods of time that exceed the length of time they would ever advocate for torturers, war criminals or those who commit felonies in violation of laws intended to protect individual rights and liberty in the United States. Which means that when people like Edward Snowden come forward, not only do they have to fear their own government but they also have to fear their country’s media and the pundits who populate the airwaves because they fully understand they will become victims of news coverage that might as well be paid propaganda produced by senior officials inside the national security state.
Attacking the messenger, and ignoring the message is a very old propaganda strategy to cultivate distraction.
Worse than the government’s disregard for our constitutional rights has been the acquiescence of Congress and the courts. The Obama administration and the Bushites before them all made sure that their lawlessness first passed muster with Congress. President Obama’s first line of defense after the story broke was to announce that congress knew and approved of all his plans.
Republican and Democratic members of Congress have exploded in a rhetorical competition to see who can vilify Snowden the most. Far from giving a feeling of assurance, the congressional double cross only serves to confirm that once again there is unanimity in Washington about how best to screw the people.
The normally cool Obama and his top staffers are a bit off stride and noticeably panicking. In his increasingly annoying and halting monotone he assured us that [the NSA] wasn’t listening to our phone calls. And just in case that less than comforting statement didn’t work for you he also claims that the spying program has thwarted terror plots on our behalf. It wasn’t clear if these were the plots invented by the FBI and their informants, but I digress. Raising the specter of terror has become the last refuge of scoundrels.
… [L]ong before Edward Snowden walked out of the NSA with his trove of documents, whistleblowers there had been trying for years to bring attention to the massive turn toward domestic spying that the agency was making. Last year in my Wired cover story on the enormous new NSA data center in Utah, Bill Binney, the man who largely designed the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping system, warned of the secret, nationwide surveillance. He told how the NSA had gained access to billions of billing records not only from AT&T but also from Verizon. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he said. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” Among the top-secret documents Snowden released was a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order proving the truth to Binney’s claim and indicating that the operation was still going on.
I also wrote about Adrienne J. Kinne, an NSA intercept operator who attempted to blow the whistle on the NSA’s illegal eavesdropping on Americans following the 9/11 attacks. “Basically all rules were thrown out the window,” she said, “and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans.” Even journalists calling home from overseas were included. “A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations.” She only told her story to me after attempting, and failing, to end the illegal activity with appeals all the way up the chain of command to Major General Keith Alexander, head of the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command at the time.
Without documents to prove their claims, the agency simply dismissed them as falsehoods and much of the mainstream press simply accepted that. “We don’t hold data on U.S. citizens,” Alexander said in a talk at the American Enterprise Institute last summer, by which time he had been serving as the head of the NSA for six years. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made similar claims. At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last March, he was asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” To which Clapper responded, “No, sir.” The documents released by Snowden, pointing to the nationwide collection of telephone data records and not denied by government officials, prove the responses untrue.
The entire edifice of “secrecy,” especially with regard to national security, is a vicious lie from start to finish. Put it all out there. If full disclosure endangers those who work for the Death State, the problem — and the responsibility — is with those who choose to directly advance the Death State’s goals. It is decidedly not with the leaker, or with the journalists.
In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic
Pardon my utopian extremism, but knowing what your government is doing really isn’t such a bad thing and it has to do with aiding the (American) public, not the enemy. Knowing what your government is doing is not some special privilege that the government generously bestows on us when we’re good and obedient citizens, it’s an obligation that goes to the heart of the matter in a free country. After all, it should be ordinary citizens like us who make the ultimate decision about whether war X is worth fighting or not, worth escalating or not, worth ending or not. … When such momentous public decisions are made and the public doesn’t have—isn’t allowed to have—a clue, you end up in a fantasy land of aggressive actions that, over the past dozen years, have gotten hundreds of thousands killed and left us in a far more dangerous world. These are the wages of dystopian government secrecy.
Chase Madar, Bradley Manning vs. SEAL Team 6
[…] Thanks to Bradley Manning, our disaster-prone elites have gotten a dose of the adult supervision they so clearly require. Instead of charging him with aiding the enemy, the Obama administration ought to send him a get-out-of-jail-free card and a basket of fruit. If we’re going to stop the self-inflicted wars that continue to hemorrhage blood and money, we need to get a clue, fast. Should we ever bother to learn from the uncensored truth of our foreign policy failures, which have destroyed so many more lives than the late bin Laden could ever have hoped, we at least stand a chance of not repeating them.
I am not trying to soft-pedal or sanitize Manning’s magnificent act of civil disobedience. The young private humiliated the US Army by displaying for all to see their complete lack of real information security. Manning has revealed the diplomatic corps to be hard at work shilling for garment manufacturers in Haiti, for Big Pharma in Europe, and under signed orders from then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to collect biometric data and credit card numbers from their foreign counterparts. Most important, Manning brought us face to face with two disastrous wars, forcing Americans to share a burden of knowledge previously shouldered only by our soldiers, whom we love to call heroes from a very safe distance.
Did Manning violate provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice? He certainly did, and a crushing sentence of possibly decades in military prison is surely on its way. Military law is marvelously elastic when it comes to rape and sexual assault and perfectly easygoing about the slaughter of foreign civilians, but it puts on a stern face for the unspeakable act of declassifying documents. But the young private’s act of civil defiance was in fact a first step in reversing the pathologies that have made our foreign policy a string of self-inflicted homicidal disasters. By letting us in on more than a half-million “secrets,” Bradley Manning has done far more for American national security than SEAL Team 6 ever did.
The source had instructed his media contacts to come to Hong Kong, visit a particular out-of-the-way corner of a certain hotel, and ask — loudly — for directions to another part of the hotel. If all seemed well, the source would walk past holding a Rubik’s Cube.
So three people — Glenn Greenwald, a civil-liberties writer who recently moved his blog to The Guardian; Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who specializes in surveillance; and Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian reporter — flew from New York to Hong Kong about 12 days ago. They followed the directions. A man with a Rubik’s Cube appeared.
It was Edward J. Snowden, who looked even younger than his 29 years — an appearance, Mr. Greenwald recalled in an interview from Hong Kong on Monday, that shocked him because he had been expecting, given the classified surveillance programs the man had access to, someone far more senior. Mr. Snowden has now turned over archives of “thousands” of documents, according to Mr. Greenwald, and “dozens” are newsworthy.
Mr. Snowden’s ability to burrow deep into America’s national security apparatus and emerge clutching some of its most closely guarded secrets is partly a story of the post-Sept. 11 era, when the government’s expanding surveillance Leviathan and complex computer systems have given network specialists with technical skills tremendous power.
While some lawmakers in Washington accuse Mr. Snowden of treason, he casts himself as a truth teller. Like Pfc. Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg, whom he says he admires for disclosing troves of government secrets, Mr. Snowden explained his actions in a Guardian interview by saying the American people have a right to know about government abuses that were kept hidden from them.
He portrayed himself as carefully selecting what to release, seeking to avoid the attacks that accused Private Manning of recklessness. Private Manning, who confessed to leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents made public by WikiLeaks, faces a possible life sentence in a court-martial.
“He has no regret of any kind, no sense of, ‘Wow, what I have done here? I can’t go back,’ ” Mr. Greenwald said of Mr. Snowden. “He is so convinced that he did the right thing.”
He added: “It’s not like it’s delusional — he’s completely rational. He completely understands that more likely than not, he’s going to end up like Bradley Manning or worse. Yet he has tranquillity.”
It is not clear how Mr. Snowden extracted the secret documents, and the portrait of his transformation from a trusted National Security Agency contractor to a leaker is still impressionistic. [continue]
[…] The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa – but that warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, and with the broadest possible interpretation. This makes mockery of the rule of law, let alone of the bill of rights. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: “It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp.”
For the president then to say that there is judicial oversight is a nonsense – as is the oversight function of the intelligence committees in Congress. The fact that their leaders were briefed on this and went along with it, without question, only shows how broken the system of accountability is in this country. As the founder James Madison wrote:
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
When national security is invoked in the United States, that is what we now have. In effect, Congress has delegated its responsibilities and powers to the executive. The oversight structure has been shown to be a total sham: the congressional committees concerned have been totally co-opted. They are simply black holes of information that the public needs to know.
The surveillance revealed by Snowden’s disclosures exposes this executive coup: that this is done with Congress briefed, but without the ability to resist or even debate the measures openly, makes a mockery of the separation of powers. What has been created is the infrastructure of a police state.
I do not say that the United States is a police state. We have not seen the mass detentions that would complete that process. But given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the electronic and legislative infrastructure of one. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – I fear for our democracy. If the government had then had the capability that it has now, I do not doubt there would have been mass detentions. These powers are extremely dangerous.
In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:
“I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”
I would say we have, in fact, fallen into that abyss. The NSA, FBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers that the Stasi in the former East Germany could only have dreamed of. What has been feared and warned about has come to pass. The so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America.
The question now is whether Senator Church was right or wrong that crossing the abyss was irreversible. Three days ago, I would have agreed that effective democracy was now impossible. But with this brave man Snowden willing to put his life on the line to get this information out, creating the possibility that others will join him, I think we can get back across the abyss.