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the right thing and he should not, like Ellsberg, and unlike Manning, be convicted under the charges included in the outdated 1917 Espionage Act.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 NYPD announced yesterday that it was closing it’s “Demographic Unit.”
If you don’t know about this task force, it was first reported by the AP in 2011 that a special NYPD unit was conducting surveillance of normal Muslims, recording where they worshiped, where they ate, what they talked about at the cafe, etc., in an effort to thwart further terror attacks following 9/11.
This was a ridiculously overblown reaction by the NYPD, post-9/11, and is a violation of civil rights.
So now, according to this report in The Guardian, groups are trying to make sure that other NYPD units are not going to pick up where the Demographics Unit left off.
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.
This article in The Guardian reports that, in an MSNBC interview, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said he would be willing to “engage in conversation” with NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden regarding a return home. But Holder also said granting full-clemency would be “going too far.”
The good thing about this article is it presents both sides of the argument and the channels through which the Government would have had Mr. Snowden go through as a whistle-blower. But on the other hand, Snowden says that he would not have been able to release all the information he found important to divulge by going through those legal channels.
A good article in The Guardian on Pres. Obama’s speech today at the Justice Department. It was regarding the growing concerns expressed by critics of the NSA bulk data collection and related government overreaches.
An article in The Post reports that the NSA document-leaker Edward Snowden has offered the Brazilian government access to his collection of secret documents in return for asylum.
Brazil has been the most vocal critic of NSA collection of their electronic communications for the most part.
But this, in my opinion, is beginning to smack of espionage by Snowden when he is just offering his collected materials to various other governments for asylum. His idealism is turning into pragmatism.