Certain people, who had their egos (not national security) terribly hurt by the Edward Snowden revelations, continue to call Snowden names and stuff and show their outrage toward him for exposing the NSA’s wrongdoing. It would seem, however, they might want to redirect their outrage toward another former employee of the NSA: ex-chief Keith Alexander.
It was revealed yesterday the NSA is now being sued by a reporter for not disclosing Alexander’s financial records in the interest of making sure there were no conflicts of interest occurring while all of the other civil rights violations were being carried out under his direction. And it has been noted by the Atlantic that this information, by law, should be made public unless it is stopped by the president because it could be damaging to national security, a claim that would be completely absurd.
And this isn’t the only question (or even the most important one) about money surrounding Alexander. He is now offering his consulting services on security for the tiny sum of $1,000,000…per month. Looking at this situation and considering his expertise, it is hard not to see the obvious: he is offering his knowledge of classified government information and tactics for money. This is illegal, as Representative Alan Grayson has pointed out:
Disclosing or misusing classified information for profit is, as Mr. Alexander well knows, a felony. I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods. Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you. (Emphasis added)
And this is happening in comparison to the wrongful demonizing of Snowden, who did not sell his secrets to anyone and did his whistle blowing in a manner that was very controlled so as not to put any lives in danger or damage national security. Unless, of course, someone can actually provide an iota of evidence to the contrary, which hasn’t happened even a year later.
This brings us to a very fair question: who is the real villain now, Alexander or Snowden? The answer gets more and more obvious as time goes on.
U.S. intelligence took a couple of pretty hard slaps in its face this past weekend and, when reading the articles about their wasteful and ridiculous actions, the slaps were clearly justified.
First off, it was announced on Friday that Germany had arrested a man accused of spying for the United States and passing on the details of a German parliamentary committee’s investigation. It’s pretty disgraceful that the U.S. is spending taxpayer dollars to buy spies so we can know about an ally’s parliamentary actions, but it gets worse. The intelligence the U.S. wanted from this man is what the committee was investigating: NSA spying on Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel. A Reuters exclusive posted today confirms the role of the CIA in paying the spy.
There’s a lot to hate about these stupid actions, but the harm to foreign relations should be noted and is properly pointed out in the first article:
…the new allegation of American spying on an ally may make it harder for the US to get German help in its efforts to oppose Russian activity in Ukraine, and also to control Iranian nuclear ambitions.
Then, on Sunday, the Washington Post published another blistering article detailing the abuses of the NSA and its mass collection of the data of innocent Americans. The main point of the article is the NSA is wastefully collecting data on nine people for every one alleged target it is tracking. Which begs the often repeated questions, why is the extra tracking needed and why is there not a warrant needed for this additional tracking of innocent Americans? An example given toward the end of the article speaks volumes on this issue.
On the bright side of all of these revelations, we now know more about what is being done with our tax dollars and in our names as Americans. There is no doubt these agencies have overstepped their bounds by a ton and are doing so in ways that are simply disgraceful and wasteful. The more the American people know about NSA and CIA actions, the more they can be reigned in.
The type of secrecy these agencies are able to operate under would make any authoritarian regime envious and gets to the point of why they are such an offense to the idea of true democracy. The fact that we spied on our allies, their leaders, and their cell phones is shameful enough but now we have doubled-down on this stupidity by spending more tax dollars trying to find out about their investigations into our spying on them.
Quick show of hands. Who wanted their tax dollars spent on spying on Angela Merkel in the first place? No one? How about spending more resources on looking into their investigation of that and damaging our standing in the world even more? Still no one?
One last question: who is in favor of continually increasing the unknown budget for this stupidity at the cost of cutting helpful social programs like education, food stamps, Medicaid, etc.?
This morning when I was watching the Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd on MSNBC (a good program for mainstream politics), Todd interviewed Sec. of State John Kerry with questions about NSA-leaker Edward Snowden.
Kerry proceeded to call Snowden a “traitor” and said he “betrayed his country.” He then called on Snowden to “man up” and return to the United States to face the law. He said he should take his argument to the courts like Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers in the early 70’s, that is, if he were a “patriot.”
But what chance does he stand in the United States when pleading his case in a court of law?
According to this Guardian interview with Snowden adviser Ben Wizner, the chance of him returning to the United States to “man up” seems unlikely for the political landscape here would land him in an unfairly constructed trial with a draconian sentence if convicted.
But when I saw the interview this morning I thought of what of us who think that what Snowden did was a good thing? Am I and others sharing my opinion not patriots? I wouldn’t put the label of “hero” upon him in my own estimation, but I think he did the right thing and he should not, like Ellsberg, and unlike Manning, be convicted under the charges included in the outdated 1917 Espionage Act.
Also, remember that:
“NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams traveled to Moscow this week for an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor’s first-ever American television interview will air in an hour-long NBC News primetime special on Wednesday, May 28 at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central.
I just spent the last three hours watching two great episodes of the PBS program “Frontline” that deal with the history of the NSA surveillance program.
The first episode is a two-hour piece on the creation and development of the program from the time of 9/11/2001, to the inclusion that NSA actions still continue with Pres. Obama. It includes interviews with everyone (sans Bush/Cheney) and gives a detailed account of the history of the program.
The second episode of one hour contains a brief introduction to Edward Snowden and then the complicity by major tech corporations with the NSA and the FBI regarding electronic surveillance.
Plus the website has many complimentary information and interviews that I have yet to look into but look interesting. It is important and compelling viewing.
One thing that continues to hold true for the intelligence community in regards to the Edward Snowden revelations: they will never stop trying to demonize him for hurting their image so badly.
In a recent op-ed, former high-ranking CIA official, Jack Devine, embarrassed himself by attacking Snowden and trying to bundle his whistle-blowing in with past traitors to the U.S. in an attempt to link his actions to more nefarious events. He failed miserably.
The first glaring mistake Devine makes is giving the piece an overriding theme of comparing Snowden’s actions to that of traitors who fed covert information directly to Russia, mostly during the Cold War. Just one colossal problem with that comparison: Snowden did not covertly give the information he had to another foreign government or entity. He gave it to the media and to the people of the United States so what was going on could be debated openly. That is not an act of treason and should not be compared to other traitorous actions.
Devine also alleges the revelations have helped terrorists devise ways to encrypt their communications and gives a nifty little chart supposedly showing what has happened since the publication of the Snowden documents. This is the only item he can present as proof the situation has done “enormous international damage done to our country’s self-defense”. But this assumes terrorist networks were not already encrypting their communications, which they obviously were. The only thing his chart proves is a potential correlation and not actual causation. If he wanted to prove Snowden’s revelations had caused harm, he would need to extend that chart out for years prior to show there had been no attempts by terrorists to find different ways to encrypt their data.
And he knows he can’t do it.
This just screams of previous claims that widespread torture of terrorists produced a ton of intelligence and many other terrorists were captured and terrorists attacks were stopped because of it. Then when asked to provide actual proof of these frequent occurrences, the intelligence community comes up empty-handed.
Then he makes a rather bizarre point:
It is eminently clear that the intelligence community, Congress and the White House are struggling with the double-edged sword of privacy and national security, particularly as technology progresses at unprecedented speed. And I am reasonably optimistic that, despite the public hand-wringing, they will quickly come up with the right balance that protects our civil liberties and doesn’t cripple our intelligence collection against our enemies, who do, at times, operate in and cooperate with U.S. citizens. When the news cameras stop rolling, these officials all know just how vital these collection platforms are to our defense while at the same time truly appreciating the value of the law and the importance of protection of our citizens’ rights.
What he clearly doesn’t realize is (assuming this were a real democracy) this is what should have been done in the first place. And while it seems there will be some improvements, there will likely be continued violations of privacy of U.S. citizens without their knowledge it is occurring. This is obviously a claim made by someone trying to simply protect his agency’s turf and continue to get things done away from the critical eye of the American public. And it completely ignores all of the wasteful spying on our allies and their leaders and the taxpayer dollars that were thrown down the drain on those endeavors.
Then Devine makes another odd claim, especially considering he spent over three decades at the CIA:
It is inconceivable that any country can last long without guarding its sensitive information and capabilities and washing people like Snowden out of the system.
So, a country can’t exist long if its info is out in the open? Isn’t that the entire point of spying by U.S. intelligence? By that logic, shouldn’t Germany and Brazil be crumbling right now because of U.S. spying on their leaders, Merkel and Rousseff? Shouldn’t the U.S. be a footnote in the pages of history because of the Pentagon papers or the Chelsea Manning/Wikileaks situations? This is just another ridiculous claim that has no bearing on reality whatsoever.
For years there were rigid policies set in place that rightly prohibited NSA, CIA, and FBI from collecting on American “persons” (including green-card holders), unless there was a court order demonstrating reasonable cause.
Yeah, that’s been one of the things clearly proven false by the Snowden revelations, something Devine grudgingly concedes with kid gloves in the following paragraph.
Finally, after all this absurdity, Devine makes the most ignorant and ridiculous claim of the entire piece. He says Snowden should:
put himself in the hands of the U.S. judicial system, the most impartial in the world.
Wow. I’ll assume that was done tongue-in-cheek. Wait, no I won’t.
Most impartial? Seriously? I have to wonder which cave Mr. Devine has been living in for such a long time?
Let me introduce you to Robert H. Richards IV, a man convicted (not alleged or suspected but actually found guilty) of raping his daughter…who was three years old at the time. Length of prison sentence handed down: zero days. Why? Because the “defendant will not fare well” in prison. Did I mention he is an heir to the du Pont family fortune?
We could go on forever with the obvious disparities between how the justice system treats the rich vs. the poor. But when someone makes such a stupid claim, it should always be addressed with the appropriate scolding.
The demonizing of Edward Snowden will continue in the days to come but one important aspect will be absent from these attacks: an iota of proof he did anything morally (or democratically) wrong or did damage to anything other than the intelligence community’s over-sized ego.
The NYT reports that CA Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, accused the CIA on the Senate floor today of spying on Congressional computers.
This new occurrence is the latest, and lowest, moment in the ongoing battle between the CIA and the intelligence committee regarding the investigation into the Agency’s detention program terminated in 2009 by Pres. Obama.
A judge in Texas has ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional while leaving the law in place upon further appeals. Part of his ruling should be hammered home across the nation in the fight for gay rights:
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” (Judge Orlando) Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.” (Emphasis added)
Gay Adoption in Michigan
Another court case concerning gay rights is currently underway in Michigan and is focusing on the effects of same-sex couples on parenting. People are allowed their opinions as to what they may think about gay parents but let’s get one thing clear: there is no legitimate scientific research supporting the idea gay parenting is in any way a detriment to children. As stated in the article:
“The scholarly consensus is that children raised by same-sex couples are in no disadvantage,” said Michael J. Rosenfeld, a Stanford University sociologist…“The consensus (among sociologists) is a consensus opinion that this debate is settled.”
The NSA Will Attack You Personally and Attempt Brainwashing
As bad as all of these actions are, take a close look at the last bullet point on the slide. One has to wonder what guidelines were followed and what alleged crime had to be committed for the texts and emails to be sent out to friends and family. And remember, these actions would have been taken against people who allegedly had done something bad, not criminals convicted in a court of law.
Another slide included in Greenwald’s article is just as astonishing and suggests making attempts at brainwashing people. In a slide titled “Gambits for Deception”, we see Orwellian phrases such as “Present story fragments”, “Swap the real for the false”, “Repetition reduces vigilance”, “Repetition creates expectancies”, and “Channel behavior”. How exactly is “swapping the real for the false” construed as being an important part of a democracy?
And let’s not forget there has been no proof any of the NSA’s unwarranted domestic spying activities have produced anything resembling useful actions that have stopped a terrorist, which is the justification for these programs.
An independent review has found the NSA’s phone data collection to be illegal. Whether the actions are legal or illegal, we must simply ask whether they are useful. Still little to no evidence supporting that, as mentioned in the article:
“Moreover, even in the dozen cases examined by the board where the metadata linked contacts to a terrorism suspect, most benefits were modest and “limited to corroborating information that was obtained independently by the FBI,” the board report found.”
Virginia’s new attorney general has decided not to defend the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Just like what has or will happen to every other ban such as this one, it will go down likely in the courts for the exact reason given by the AG:
“Having exercised his independent constitutional judgment, consistent with his oath of office, the Attorney General has concluded that Virginia’s laws denying the right to marry to same-sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
An excellent op-ed by economics professor Daniel Altman appeared in Foreign Policy regarding the reasons why high levels of income inequality are actually very bad for the economy. One of the biggest reasons:
“…the allocation of opportunity is not determined solely by effort or ability. To a great degree, access to opportunity in the United States depends on wealth. Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual discrimination may be on the wane in many countries, but discrimination based on wealth is still a powerful force. It opens doors, especially for people who may not boast the strongest talents or work ethic.”(Emphasis added)
In short, defenders of the economic status quo haven’t figured out being the child of a wealthy or powerful person does not equal being as smart or talented as the parent. I’m looking at you, former president youknowwhoyouare.
AG Eric Holder is calling for Congress to pass legislation reducing prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. One of the clear realities of the failed drug war at this point is the huge economic cost on tax payers (along with the societal ones on the many victims):
“The federal prison population has mushroomed by 500 percent, to 219,000, over the last 30 years, mainly because of the number and length of mandatory sentences, especially drug sentences…the Urban Institute said in a study that that reducing the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses by even 20 percent would save nearly $1.3 billion over 10 years and cutting the number of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses by half would save about $2.5 billion over the time span.”
And finally, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, took a break from apparently performing brain surgery on himself to try to court the votes of women…by insulting them. Well done, sir. I can almost hear the heavy flow of campaign money dumping into the Republican coffers of anyone-but-this-guy. His quote:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are hopeless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them with their prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”