Traitor or Whistleblower? Attacks on Snowden Mount From Political and Media Figures

228px-Picture_of_Edward_SnowdenThe attacks on Edward Snowden have increased today. CNN’s Jeff Toobin who previously denounced Snowden as a “clown” has added that he is a “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison”. In the meantime, Senator Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker John Boehner have denounced Snowden as a “traitor.” Other media organizations have barred their reporters from referring to him as a “whistleblower” in what has become a deluge of negative stereotyping of Snowden -even before we know the whole story. Indeed, the attacks began with folks like Toobin almost immediately after he came forward.

Once again, I am not saying that Snowden does not have to answer for any crimes, but the effort to portray him as a craven traitor is a bit too much too early in this story.

In Toobin’s case, it is worth noting that he has also belittled the objections to the massive surveillance program — the same position taken by Democrats and the White House. He has explained his view of those programs, which I disagree with but respect. However, for Toobin to call a man a “grandiose narcissist” is bizarre. As noted yesterday, this is a man who threw his life away to reveal what he believed to be an abusive surveillance program (as to many other citizens). This is one of the most narcissistic towns on Earth and its leading denizens in politics and the media often seem uncomfortable with people who are willing to throw away their lives on principle. It is the type of self-sacrifice that they would never consider in their own lives. We have many principled and honest people living in this town. However this is also  a town with an abnormally high number of  sycophants, self-promoters, adulterers and the rest. In other words, narcissists. It is not surprising that so many would find an individual like Snowden hard to understand or dangerous.

The labeling of Snowden as a traitor will only increase the likelihood that he will flee to another country. This individual and story is clearly more complex than dismissing him as a “clown” or “traitor.” He insists that he revealed this information protect the public and privacy. That is not the motivation of a traitor.

As for the refusal to call him a whistleblower, it seems part of the full court press to demonize Snowden or prevent favorable references to him. [It brings to mind the successful effort to convince media to call waterboarding “enhanced interrogation” in the media rather than “torture” as it has long been defined by courts] Snowden is a whistleblower in my mind. It is true that the Administration can argue that these programs were lawful to the Supreme Court’s precedent stripping pen registers of full constitutional protection in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979). Many of us disagree with that ruling, but this is a new application of the precedent. While the government has long sought the information for individuals, the Administration is essentially issuing a national security letter against the entire population. Moreover, it does appear that violations have occurred in these programs.

Putting aside the legality issue, whistleblowers are defined more probably by public interest organizations. For example, The Government Accountability Project, a leading nonprofit handling whistleblowers, defines the term as “an employee who discloses information that s/he reasonably believes is evidence of illegality, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement, abuse of power, general wrongdoing, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Typically, whistleblowers speak out to parties that can influence and rectify the situation. These parties include the media, organizational managers, hotlines, or Congressional members/staff, to name a few.”

Snowden clearly fits that more common definition of whistleblower, even if the government contests the application of statutory protections. Many can legitimately question Snowden’s chosen means for objecting to this program. However, the hostile and dismissive treatment by the establishment reflects an obvious fear of the implications of this scandal. Even US Sen. Al Franken (D, Minn.) has tried to stamp out the outcry by insisting that he was aware of the program and “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.” Democrats are scrambling to deal with the latest betrayal of civil liberties without their knowledge and consent. Franken knows that the issue is not how it has been used (though abuses are being reported) but its potential for abuse. It is a databank allowing transparency of every citizens calls and associations. Nevertheless, the establishment is joined together in mutual interest to deaden the reaction of citizens, as I discussed in a column this week.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

The effort to discredit Snowden is an impressive effort and could well succeed. There is less discussion of the loss of privacy as the focus has shifted to the price of hotel rooms and annual salaries for Snowden. We are being told again, by people like Franken, to trust us and go back to sleep. Franken added “There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that is not appropriate for the bad guys to know.” Of course, it was not just the bad guys who were not allowed to know. Citizens were also not supposed to know, but Snowden blew the plan. Now people are actually demanding answers and accountability – something secrecy was supposed to prevent.

Before we repeat the growing effort to label Snowden as a traitor, perhaps we should ask about the betrayal of our privacy and constitutional values by others pushing these labels.

159 thoughts on “Traitor or Whistleblower? Attacks on Snowden Mount From Political and Media Figures

  1. Depends on whom you ask….. Are we promoting terrorism…. By expecting the Constitution to be respected…..

  2. Senator Feinstein sent a letter to Acting US Attorney General Mukasey – when they shut down the Los Angeles Public Corruption Task Force to bury the investigation into Mitt Romney’s case.

    Then, Senator D went silent (and blocked my emails to her).

    Add that evidence to the fact that she is working with McCain to close Gitmo (but MOVE the detainee’s to other places) [NOTE: I’d rather keep them there and fight for a REAL transparency than move them all over hell & back where we can’t keep track of WTF’s going on].

    Now, Senator D is in agree with Boehner on THIS issue.

    I’m going to have a movement!

  3. I do not know Mr Snowden. He may not be a ‘perfect’ human being. That does not matter to me. I am grateful for his actions to tell citizens what he was seeing. Thank goodness some citizens take our democracy seriously.

  4. He is a whistleblower. Plain and simple. (Just like the minds of the idiots who think it’s ok for the government to behave this way)

    As many of us as possible need to continue to keep the focus on WHAT was revealed and not the revealer. Maybe we can get some more folks to remove the wool.

  5. Well said! These people are scared. They cannot fight the truth by being truthful themselves. Their only recourse is lies, propaganda, threats and smears.

    You can tell everything you need to know about people who engage in these types of actions, by their actions. They are speaking volumes about who they are and what they stand for. Keep on calling them out for who they are.

  6. Good column professor, thank you. And thank you for outing Al Franken (a man for whom I had some modicum of respect) for me.

  7. Mr. Toobin’s comments tell us more about him than they do about Mr. Snowden.

    The vitriol, the misdirection, and the half truths suggest that Mr. Toobin comes from the Goebbels school of journalism – ideology trumps integrity.

    We (and the Constitution) are not well served either by many of the press, nor by our elected leaders.

    The mainstream press laments its decline from dominant news source to failing industry. People like Mr. Toobin bear much of the responsibility for that change (as well as the lack of respect) that the press is experiencing.

    As a personal commentary. I do not follow Mr. Toobin; I do however read about his shenanigans through this blog.

  8. So when those in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches fail to do this, what does that make them?

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

  9. The current democrats, republicans and media attacks on Edward Snowden is extremely sad. They want us to believe that a guy is a traitor because he exposed the government for its secret spying campaign against its own citizens. Democrats are really forgetting what principles that have made them the party that they once were!!! Edward Snowden is a hero!!!

  10. To me, Al Franken has become one more hope turned to bitter ash in my lifelong effort to help elect a principled politician that can resist being seduced by the dark side or cowed into submission by authority.

  11. I believe Edward Snowden is a hero that may well have sacrificed a very comfortable life for the greater good.

  12. It is irresponsible for the elected officials and those in the press to accuse and declare someone guilty before they have even been arrested. This is a witch hunt at it’s most basic level. The American people should be outraged.

  13. Jeffrey Toobin is the “legal trial lawyer advisor” for CNN. The public is supposed to put some stock in his opinions. He has never tried a case in a courtroom in his entire life. He is known at CNN behind closed doors as
    “The Cheater” because he cheats on his wife and had an affair with some women and sired her child. It is ironic that he calls Snowden a “clown” when “The Clown” is one of the phrases applied to him at work by the co workers. They play the song by Bob Kuban and the In Men: Watch Out For The Cheater. The lead verse is: Watch out for the cheater, make way for the two hearted clown.

  14. For CNN and other media outlets to jump on our Whistleblower incarnate is a disgrace. Tonight I am going to make a list of sponsors on CNN News and make a list. Boycott CNN and its sponsors. Watch out for the Cheater, Jeff Toobin.

  15. ALL of the voices in government being raised which paint this guy with every evil deed since Eve took a bite of an apple is nothing more than widespread complicity to deflect the bright light of their incompetence once again. Don’t you just love big government…and this fiasco isn’t limited to Obama and the Dems, Republicans are just as dirty. Many people warned of the dangers when the Patriot Act was born, and in that governments love to creep and take a mile if you give them an inch, this is the result. Now we’re just starting to get all the “expert witnesses,” the denials, dodging, fabrications, demonizing, why it’s George Bush’s fault – whatever is necessary to save their ignorant backsides because they kept an 800LB gorilla in the closet. Then someone opened the door and Whoa! There’s an 800 LB gorilla in here. What better villain than a whistle blower to take all the blame instead of elected officials who put the program in place. Ironically, We the people deserve this garbage government – we put these loonies in office, all of whom think they know what’s better for us than we do ourselves, and it doesn’t matter if they trod all over our rights and liberties as long as we’re “secure.” I guess, in perspective, I feel better about the other dozen scandals, $17 trillion in debt, Obamacare, a bad economy, high unemployment, government waste, etal and will just hope that that someone in Washington takes pity and eventually makes the decision for me….freedom or security. Gee, I hope it’s security. Who wants to be free.

  16. Reckon they’ll put him in a rack for public viewing or make him wear a Scarlet T around his neck…. Seems I’ve read stuff like that happening…. It will the plane he’s on blowup over Lockerbie ……

  17. A particularly nasty clown named David Brooks wrote a vicious opinion piece for the NYT

    Having painted Snowdon as a thoroughly unpleasant person to begin with, he goes on to list the betrayals perpetrated by this most vile and treacherous of human beings.

    I think that Brooks must have mounted a horse so high that the lack of oxygen way up there must have affected his thought processes.

    “He betrayed honesty and integrity” – Unlike Clapper who had confirmed …. sorry! I misspoke….denied to Congress that such a thing was going on.

    “He betrayed his employers. Booz Allen and the C.I.A. took a high-school dropout and offered him positions with lavish salaries. He is violating the honor codes of all those who enabled him to rise. ”
    Ignoring the Constitution = “honor code” you see.

    “He betrayed the cause of open government.”
    The administration and NSA are really bent out of shape on this one. There they were on a holy crusade for openness, and then Snowdon ruins it by …..

    For the next one, oxygen deprivation must have been really biting.
    “He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods. ”
    It’s shocking! If the NSA can’t indiscriminately suck up and store details of everybody’s calls, locations and Net activity, then they will have to employ many millions of contractors to monitor everybody’s communications in real time. They will inevitably do this. They will probably have to outsource this to India or China to reduce costs.

    “He betrayed the Constitution.”
    This might not be referring to the Constitution that has a Fourth Amendment. It’s probably some other Constitution.

    “Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability,”
    ….. accountability..yup!

  18. If Edward Snowden can be called a traitor so can our president and those in congress who blindly support him.

  19. We need to know why a 29-year old was making $200+ K at this private contractor.
    Had he been directly employed by the NSA or CIA, he wouldn’t have been earning nearly as much.

  20. Anon yours;

    That’s a obfuscating question!

    Our Constitution is to be protected by due diligence. If that requires whistleblowing – then I’m all for it.

    However, that being said, accepting “msm” take on things is a fool’s folly.

  21. Any democracy’s definition of patriot must include the possibility of someone uniquely positioned to see that the government is deceiving the electorate and sufficiently courageous to risk everything for principle. I’m not saying that every whistleblower is necessarily in the right, but neither is every whistleblower necessarily a traitor. And absent evidence of self-interest, even those in the wrong should be prosecuted regretfully rather than gleefully.

  22. I don’t get it.

    The Government uses the Foreign Intelligence Survailence Court to have National Security Letters approved to spy on Americans.

    Since when are Americans considered Foreign?

  23. There is less discussion of the loss of privacy as the focus has shifted to the price of hotel rooms and annual salaries for Snowden.
    = = =

    More so, there is even far less discussion about the LIES told to Congress in March.

    Diane… Paging Miss Feinstein. Comein… Diane?
    Has she left the house again?

  24. Laser,

    Not sure what you’re aiming at… Please explain which comment you’re directing yours to, please and thank you….

  25. Diane Feinstein has more Chins than the Shanghai phonebook and is an errand girl for the prez. Man, does California have 2 losers for Senators!

    Al Franken was one of the worst writers and even worse performer on SNL. He was detested by the cast and crew. Incredibly, he’s a even worse Senator

    Toobin couldn’t shine Turley’s shoes.

    I have watched that interview of Snowden twice now. I was paid good money to read people. He is NOT a narcissist, although the person calling him that indeed is, along w/ being a philanderer.

    Did I cover everyone?

  26. In the WAPO Neil Irvin writes:

    ‘ The people (up to and including the president) who know what Prism and similar programs are truly capable of argue that disclosing those details would make it too easy for bad guys to evade government monitoring.’

    The problem with that view is that since the 1980’s it has been widely acknowledged that NSA has the capability to intercept decrypt and monitor essentially any electronic communication anywhere in the world.

    Current revelations only update that understanding to the internet age.

    The only individuals surprised by current revelations, including those by Snowden, are the some members of the American public. certain federal judges, Jeffrey Toobin and maybe Al Frankin.

    Our adversaries and anyone who bothers to read the NYT, the WAPO and numerous popular books already knows of the capability of NSA and many or the details supposedly newly revealed.

    Irwin would not be making such outlandish statements, at least not in print, if he bothered to read some of the special series published in his own newspaper.

    BTW, this is one of the least funny and least entertaining performances by Frankin in months. As an intelligence analyst Frankin was much more persuasive on SNL.

  27. S.T.,

    That was an excellent take down analysis. Thank you.

    Philosophically, these attacks are considered intellectual fallacies. A personal attack does not address the truth claim that an individual is making. Should we grant the horrible nature of the monster Snowden and the purity of Obama, this does not say anything about the truth of either person’s statements. Those statements must be evaluated on their merits.

    It is precisely because the ideas have merit that personal attacks are the only way these people can go. It is horrifying to see how many people are on board with jettisoning the rule of law and what lengths they will go to protect the lawless powerful.

  28. My vote is abstain – until I may verify more facts.

    That being said, the fact that the guy comes from Carlyle funded group;
    is highly specious to begin with.


    It also goes without saying that, when main stream goes upon the ad hominem personal attack mode – I tend to be on the accused side!

  29. Snowden seems a hero to me, but then I’m just an average American, not one privileged to live in the Washington, D.C. environs and come under the spell of being a “very important person” inside the Beltway. There are few who having attained the spotlight in D.C., who don’t get suckered into believing the self serving experts representing the National Security/Military/Industrial/Corporate Complex. I’m sad to see Al Franken has joined their ranks, but then I don’t know what behind the scenes threats and pressures the VIP’s are subjected to.

  30. I hope that you continue this fight for our freedom and continue to write about how these programs are a violation of our 4th amendment rights. Likewise I will continue to let people know what I think.

    Don’t let the real story die as the media tries to sell us stories about what Snowden had for lunch or who he dated in high school.

  31. The dogpac tried to email Al Franklin a message and it will not go through. Everyone should “EMail Al”. He has all the looks of a snake in the grass. He had better do an About Face Al or we will have to impeach him. As for CNN and its moonshine men like Toobin, it is time to boycott CNN.

    The Second Amendment seems more important this week than last week.

  32. “There are dread secrets that none may know and have peace. More, secrets that render whosoever knoweth them an alien unto the tribe he belongs to, that cause him to walk alone on earth, for he who takes, pays.”

    ~ E. Hoffmann Price (Am. Author 1898-1988)

  33. I would like to get Gilda Radner back. She could mock Al Franken and the likes of Jeffrey Toobin. “JEFFREY!”

  34. This is why we need Cardinal Nation on the West Bank. We need a nation which will give refuge to guys like Snowden. Poor sumitchBay had to go all the way to China to seek refuge. BarkinDog is about to come out with his BarkinDog Doctrine. It is very interesting and pertains to Pirate Territories and failed nation states like the U.S. which have lost their moral compass.

    Say Toobin: Which way is North? No, not Ollie North. No, not Claribell. Toobin, You are the Clown– the Clown Prince of CNN. Ya gotta learn to talk fast like that John King guy Toobin, then they will make you an anchor.
    Ya got your Brownie Points with the Koch Brothers this week Toobin.

  35. Thanks S.T. I missed that one.

    Brooks’ new material is much funnier than Frankin.

    I am still holding my sides and gasping for breath after reading ‘they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods. ‘.

    What, Dave – you mean the older, more intrusive …methods like getting a warrant and listening where there is real suspicion???

    Who knew? All these years we though Dave was an old stick in the mud and now he reveals himself as a master of parody.

    Lets give Dave an internship at the Onion – he has definitely earned it.

  36. I’ve never met Snowden, or Assange, or Manning. I don’t know if they’re noble paragons of virtue. Probably not.

    Doesn’t matter.

    I’m grateful that they passed on information.

    They’ve shown us the world that we’ve all created.

    They’ve forced us to witness how weak, fearful people can be manipulated to create a perpetual-wartime security state. The one we live in.

    “What are we going to do about it?” is the real question.

    Stop making decisions based on fear would be a start.

  37. A study of brainwashing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Corporatism:

    Milieu Control

    The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual’s communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also – in its penetration of his inner life – over what we may speak of as his communication with himself. It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.

    Such milieu control never succeeds in becoming absolute, and its own human apparatus can – when permeated by outside information – become subject to discordant “noise” beyond that of any mechanical apparatus. To totalist administrators, however, such occurrences are no more than evidences of “incorrect” use of the apparatus. For they look upon milieu control as a just and necessary policy, one which need not be kept secret: thought reform participants may be in doubt as to who is telling what to whom, but the fact that extensive information about everyone is being conveyed to the authorities is always known. At the center of this self-justification is their assumption of omniscience, their conviction that reality is their exclusive possession. Having experienced the impact of what they consider to be an ultimate truth (and having the need to dispel any possible inner doubts of their own), they consider it their duty to create an environment containing no more and no less than this “truth.” In order to be the engineers of the human soul, they must first bring it under full observational control.” — Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

    Just load up the facial-recognition software, run it against the stored database of Omnivore personal surveillance videos and you get guaranteed probable cause for suspicion of looking unimpressed.

    “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.” — 1984

  38. The focus should be on assessing what Snowden did — in collaboration with the Washington Post and the Guardian. I don’t care why he did it, who he worked for, where he was born, whether he prefers cats to dogs, or whether he’s worthy of being labeled a hero — a term I’m personally reluctant to dole out to anyone other than my dad and an anonymous bone marrow donor I’m indebted to.

    Was this disclosure to the Guardian and the Washington Post — coupled with their editing, censorship, publication and distribution of his information — a beneficial thing? And the answer isn’t clear — because it shifts based on whose interests you’re zeroed in on. There are winners and losers in this, but in my book, the American public — which got wake-up call from Snowden’s disclosures — profited. But their gain is only speculative. If they don’t act on what they suspected but now have confirmed, then all was for naught.

    The President — both the specific individual and the office — took a hit on this. So did other government interests and agencies, except, perhaps, the IRS which may enjoy the respite from Page One that this affords them.

    All in all, I believe that what happened was a terrific, much-needed, and long-overdue wake-up call. I’m happy to go along with the name-calling about Snowden. He doesn’t seem like a bright guy taking state secrets to China and hiding out there. That’s really his problem. I’m just glad he did this, regardless of his motivation or intention. I’d welcome more discussion about the pros and cons of the release of this information as I can always pick up the latest People or Us magazines to get the dirt on people I’m not particularly interested in.

  39. Bob Krauten,

    If not for Fear Itself, the United States would have to get by on Reactionary Panic, Mystic Dread, or Abstract Angst, instead. As Gore Vidal truly spoke:

    “Americans are among the most easily frightened people on earth.”

  40. We certainly should be wary of the use of ad hominem attacks on Mr. Snoden to distract from discussion of the various programs at work and what limits should be placed on government activities. At the same time we should be wary of praising him without more information, and similarly avoid wasting too much time talking about the messenger, rather than the content of the message.

    I hope Mr. Snowden proves to be a hero, but I think that he, himself, said that he doesn’t want to be a distraction from the issues at hand.

  41. […] Many on the left — and worryingly many on what was once considered to be the right — have been occupied of late disparaging Mr. Toobin, the “hacker” du jour, as a traitor and worse. Seemingly, they have less interest in our constitutional freedoms than in attacking someone who is less enchanted than they are with their growing and increasingly powerful Government. Jonathan Turley writes about that here. […]

  42. He’s a whistleblower. Just like Bradley Manning. And for any fool who wants to use the term “traitor”? I suggest you read the definition of treason as contained within the Constitution, consider the actions of the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration, and the fact that none of them are in prison for ordering torture or aiding the Saudis in the wake of 9/11. Then take a good look at the comparative “aid to the enemy” each respective actions entailed and the comparative value to the average American citizen and the protection of their rights.

    Then shut the Hell up.

    John of Orange. Looking your direction.

  43. “I’ve never met Snowden, or Assange, or Manning. I don’t know if they’re noble paragons of virtue. Probably not.”

    Bob K.,

    Good point. A deed should be judged on its merits and not the personality of the doer. Part of the trap we Americans often find ourselves in is judging people on personality, or looks, rather than their actions and how those actions affect others.

  44. Bob K.,

    “Stop making decisions based on fear would be a start.”


    And start making informed decisions.

  45. The shepherds and wolves are mounting the corral fence. The shepherds are spreading honied oats, don’t worry the government is for you, we will protect you. The wolves are howling fear fear, the teeth of terror are only moments away. Stay in your sheep pens or die.
    Sheesh. Anyone notice us sheeples just ain’t getting as much money for our wool these days.

  46. Max 1 great u tube copy. Clapper has some splaining to do.

    Related to WITTING

    alive, apprehensive, aware, cognizant, mindful, sensible, sentient, ware, conscious
    insensible, oblivious, unaware, unconscious, unmindful, unwitting
    Related Words
    alert, attentive, careful, cautious, heedful, observant, open-eyed, regardful, safe, vigilant, wary, watchful, wide-awake; hyperaware, hyperconscious
    Near Antonyms
    careless, heedless, inattentive, incautious, mindless, unguarded, unheeding, unwary

  47. I think there should be a Turley v Toobin cage match w/ proceeds going to the winner’s charity of choice.

  48. Michael S Goodman : “We need to know why a 29-year old was making $200+ K at this private contractor.
    Had he been directly employed by the NSA or CIA, he wouldn’t have been earning nearly as much.”

    He was making that much because he had Top Security clearance.
    There is a shortage of such people.
    A Washington Post study estimated that there were only 854,000 such people. This might seem like ‘a lot’, but there are sooooo many private contractors who need to have them on the payroll in order to get contracts and make loadza billions of dollars.
    Booz Allen say they have about 8000 employess with that level of cearance.
    “Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.”
    Read it and weep.

    Goodman would probably make less than half that salary working directly for the taxpayer.
    He would not have to be wonderfully gifted technically. His security clearance would be more important. He would just have to avoid screwing up the systems that he administered.
    “It has been estimated that the average annual cost of a United States Government civilian employee is $126,500,” the committee found, “while the average annual cost of a ‘fully loaded’ (including overhead) core contractor is $250,000.”
    The Guardian link gives some idea of how the billions are being swallowed.

    That WaPo study indicates:
    “Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.”

    That’s a mess.

    It is understandable that the administration would hang, draw and quarter (multiple times) anyone who leaked information. They have to terrorise anyone who might be thinking about whistleblowing.
    The stores of secrets are like a billion gallons of cow slurry in a gigantic rusty tank. If one of those ~5 million people get away with leaking confidential level, or one of those ~800,000 people get away with leaking top secret – the game is up. The tank will start to burst.

    It does not strike the powers that a solution might lie in not in the first place having guilty secrets that might motivate people to leak them.
    I don’t think that Snowden, Manning or any whistleblowers in the past would have done what they did if the secrets that they had access to had been benign.

    Long term, the aim must be to build huge data stores ( e.g. Utah ) combined with ultra-massive computing power running artificial intelligence software. That would minimize the exposure to those undependable humans.
    The reality that such software would have to be written by some really intelligent poeple must lead to a suspicion that intelligence is not all that it is cracked up to be.

  49. The irony is now, finally, there is bipartisanship (against Snowden).
    I agree with other posters. It is not clear if he is a good guy or a bad guy. This may well give ‘aid and comfort to the enemy’. It is also something that while it may need to be secretive, and to be, it is not what this country is supposed to be about (well until the Patriot Act, at any rate – I know Nixon, Hoover, etc but I am talking about currently)

  50. What is striking to me is the uniformity of the treatment of Snowden by so many different news sources.

    It is almost as though an executive committee made a decision and everybody fell into line.

    I don’t recall this kind of treatment or uniformity in the case of Manning.

    I think the difference is that Manning released 500 to 700 thousand documents. With that number it is impossible for there to be any clear focus. Manning may have done great damage but there is no danger that his actions could focus and mobilize public sentiment.

    Snowden in contrast has confirmed some of our worst fears regarding a few important programs.

    If there is any chance that public opinion will mobilize and demand a change regarding warrants, and monitoring of email, and phone data it lies with Snowden and the public’s perception of his action.

    It is necessary to demonize Snowden in a way that was never important for Manning.

    It is clear that many in the media believe that if they can control the terms of debate they can determine the conclusions reached.

    For those people it is absolutely essential that Snowden be know as a leaker, or worse – a clown or a traitor, and not as a whistle blower.

  51. “Michael S Goodman : “We need to know why a 29-year old was making $200+ K at this private contractor.
    Had he been directly employed by the NSA or CIA, he wouldn’t have been earning nearly as much.”

    Michael S. Goodman,

    In both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, private contractors doing the same job as soldiers make perhaps 10 times more money for taking similar risks. The government since at least 1980, has not only had ever growing “contracting out” of government jobs, but seems happy to pay the premium wages to the non-government workers.

  52. didnt the soviet union have psychiatric hospitals full of political prisoners?

    Boner has to go as does most of the congress and senate. Time to vote for liberty defending independents.

  53. “What is striking to me is the uniformity of the treatment of Snowden by so many different news sources.”


    I think you realize that it ain’t no coincidence.

  54. Sling: combined with ultra-massive computing power running artificial intelligence software. […] The reality that such software would have to be written by some really intelligent people must lead to a suspicion that intelligence is not all that it is cracked up to be.

    I am not sure why you think that; artificial intelligence software does not have to be written by exceptionally intelligent people, there are a million programmers in this country that can write it. In fact, one of the attractive features of artificial intelligence software is that it can (and I have seen it) automatically work around bugs in its own code; if something is not being computed properly, or the data is corrupt, then the predictive power of the result is non-existent and the AI will ignore it!

    Things like Genetic Algorithms (GA) can, by mimicking evolution, mating, random mutation and survival of the fittest set of rules, find truly surprising (and verifiably true) relationships in data; but GA can be written by CS undergrads, or even software-inclined engineering students. Some other AI guided searches routinely solve exponentially difficult problems in combinatorics. What makes AI worthwhile is the breathtaking power of brute force, throwing ten thousand computers at a problem when each can explore ten thousand directions per second to refine a solution.

    AI doesn’t have to be written by smart people, the computer is a power multiplier for the same reason one average guy can compute the payroll for ten million people; he just needs to have the mental capability to recognize when his program has been completely tested. Almost all AI in use today is some form of search (including neural networks, Bayesian networks, genetic algorithms, simplex reduction) for a set of rules that predicts something at better than chance (and those rules may or may not be encoded in some mathematical formula); or finding rules that simplify and expose hidden relationships. Which is what our own intelligence is about, but AI, even though much dumber than humans, often has the advantage of speed and numbers. It doesn’t take a genius to write it.

  55. Michael S. Goodman: We need to know why a 29-year old was making $200+ K at this private contractor.

    Presumably he has a skill in demand, and was willing to go where he was told, and he knew that was valuable. In this world, one often gets what one demands, particularly when the end-customer doesn’t give a crap what the rate is. I would wager the private contractor was billing the NSA $250 an hour for Snowden’s time, which would work out to $500K a year or more, and the NSA didn’t blink an eye.

    I have seen a number of contracting firms do the same, with both large corporations and with the government, I worked for some of them as a younger man.

    It is a dynamic many people fail to grasp, that for some people in charge of mega-million dollar budgets, they get zero credit for prudent spending, they are only judged on whether they made something happen or failed. They don’t shop for price, they shop for results, and often failure is a very distasteful option, career wise.

  56. Hoover kept files on those of interest to him, the powerful that he wanted to control. So who’s the new Hoover keeping files of phone calls and internet and emails of those of interest to him/her. Could members of Congress and journalists be among the most interesting?

  57. To bad these so called reporters didnt act with the same vetriol over the missing WMD issue. Maybe if they did they would have really saved lies. The US Media has become pathetic.

  58. This scenario would be golden if it actually happened:

    Senate and House intelligence committee joint hearing. Testifying is the NSA Chief.

    Senator: “Chief, exactly what was recorded by the NSA?”

    Chief: “All e-Mail, streaming video, and webpages visited along with their content.

    Senator: “Who’s email, streaming video and webpages were watched?”

    Chief: “All Americans, including yourselves.
    I would pay real money to see the look on the senators’ after that answer.

  59. Has anyone else noticed how loudly this drama is playing out?

    From the very beginning, the name Snowden reminded me of Catch-22. And it seems to me that the name Snowden is a perfect metaphor for the death of privacy and the bill of rights that we’re currently witnessing.

    What’s Snowden’s real secret?

    “Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollable. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.”

    Think about it; the willingness of the public to give up their liberty, their privacy, so eagerly for the illusion of more safety illustrates how the spirit of our “great experiment” (i.e. our constitutional form of government) is gone. I think Ben Franklin would agree that once we abandon our rights the spirit is gone and we are truly nothing more than garbage.

    It also seems to me that playing the part(s) of Yossarian in this drama we have Jonathan Turley and Glenn Greenwald; facing off against the likes of Lt. Colonel Korn played by none other than Jeffery Toobin.

    Accordingly, the only way for me to retain my sanity and sense of self respect is to keep rooting for our heroes; our Yossarians; Jonathan Turley and Glenn Greenwald.

  60. “It is not clear if he is a good guy or a bad guy.”
    It does not matter. It is irrelevant.
    What matters is the meaning of what he revealed.

    “This may well give ‘aid and comfort to the enemy’.”
    Not really. Not to any real enemy.
    I’m tech-minded.
    It has been my working assumption for many years that all of my communications are so easily harvestable that they would be definitely be stored if someone thought that I might be vaguely interesting.
    I know for sure that at an absolute minimum, ‘metadata’ on my activity has to be held for some time by service providers.
    I mess with *commercial* analysis of my activity by employing various technologies. That’s not security. It’s just a limited measure of obscurity. It is not unusual to find that an innocuous mainstream website has up to 20 separate trackers on it. Also thank you for your cookies.
    It’s only ‘because I can’ – which echoes the ‘because we can’ of the harvesters and spooks.

    This is not to be paranoid. The only limitation is data storage space. Data storage is really cheap – particularly when big and bought in bulk.
    Compressed text is a fraction of the original plain-text bytes.

    The main thing stopping storage of *all* voice calls is the storage space.
    Speech to text will help there for non-selected subjects..

    Did you know that Apple store all your SIRI commands for up to three years? It’s for research into how people use it. Oh look! That’s your voice for comparison with other audio apart from your queries and the results.
    SIRI is listens to the room all the time. So does Google Glass – oh! and your new Xbox.
    Xbox and ideas about Google/intelligent TV are great. They have cameras that see who is in the room. This is very useful for parental control of viewing – and to guage reactions to the advertising that has been selected for display according to the profiles of the people in the room.
    Turn off the cameras – but they can be turned on remotely. Some people put stickers over the cameras of their laptops and mobile devices.
    Don’t worry. Be happy. That sort of stuff only happens in the movies – because movies don’t have to worry about storage capacity and bandwidth.
    The only reason that things don’t happen is “because they can’t”.
    “Yes we can!”
    – No you can’t – yet. Well, OK. You can – but only selectively.

    Anyhoo – “aiding the enemy” (TM)
    If your enemy was not already well aware of the capability, then you didn’t have much of an enemy. Your enemy has not been reading tech websites. Given that you’ve been increasingly been replacing (physically opposable) boots on the ground with high-tech drone killings, ‘being clever’ is the only reasonable option left open to your enemy. (a) to survive and (b) to strike back.

    All that’s happening here is that the establishment is really pissed off because someone has blabbed – and that’s embarassing. It is particularly embarassing if you’ve been tut-tutting about how other regimes disrespect their citizens.
    It’s mostly a size-of-penis/clit(for-equality) thing. Power baby!

  61. I still believe that Dick Cheney is a traitor for outing Valerie Plame; but, he has never been held accountable.

  62. Darren Smith: “This scenario would be golden if it actually happened:”

    What really happened, according to

    We asked the White House for evidence that every lawmaker had been briefed on the telephone surveillance program. We received a copy of a 2011 letter that Feinstein and her GOP counterpart, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, had sent to colleagues inviting every senator to view a classified report on expiring provisions, including “one of roving authority for electronic surveillance and the other on the acquisition of business records that are relevant to investigations to protect against international terrorism or espionage.”

    Or to put it another way

    We received a copy of a 2011 letter that Feinstein and her GOP counterpart, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, had sent to colleagues inviting every senator to view a classified report on “The recording of all e-Mail, streaming video, and webpages visited along with their content for all Americans, including yourselves.”

  63. “If your enemy was not already well aware of the capability, then you didn’t have much of an enemy. ”

    Thats about right. The claim that Snowden told our adversaries anything they have not know for years is so much bunk.

    The only people surprised by Snowden’s so called revelations are some members of congress, some federal judges, and US citizens too dim to read the NYT, the WAPO or so lacking in curiosity they failed to notice the publication of several books on the subject over the past 35 years.

    On the other hand Snowden has embarrassed a few of the elite and may have made it impossible for federal judges to summarily toss important cases – yikes!!! they may have to argue the merits. That is not supposed to happen.

    But providing aid and timely information to our adversaries – not a chance. If they ever have to effrontery to make that charge I am going to demand the venue be changed to SNL.

  64. Tony C: “artificial intelligence software does not have to be written by exceptionally intelligent people, there are a million programmers in this country that can write it.”

    I accept what you say – but up to to a point.

    The problem is that proceesing the sheer volume of data via ‘drone’-manufactured software could result in an overwhelming volume of results – making the results effectively unusable.
    Some genius level would be required in order to produce reports that could be actioned by decision makers.

    Without that, we could end up with local SWAT teams continually busting innocent people due to low-level people serving the needs of an indifferently-programmed machine.

    CIA drones have apparently taken out wedding parties, tribal council meetings, etc. That’s been with human oversight. It would be nice to think that a computer program would make better decisions.

  65. BettyKath,

    Someone is doing the same thing J. Edgar was doing. Probably in the NSA, and not the appointees who are figureheads. The question too is who’s giving the marching orders to the person(s) in the NSA?

  66. Which is the supreme law of the land the US Constitution or the USA PATRIOT Act?

    “This constitution, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” U.S. Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 2

  67. I was thinking about the Constitution trumping the Patriot Act when I read the comment above by Personalnongrata. Right ON!

    Jeffrey Toobin and the schmucks who call our Whistleblower a “Traitor” should think about the meaning of that word before they banter it about. If one betrays an obligation and allegiance to one’s wife, then one is a traitor. Jeffrey Toobin had an affair and fathered an illegitimate child while still married to his current wife. Clown, rat, traitor. Smug as a pug on a rug. Whoops sorry pugs.

  68. Mike S. Exactly my point. Thanks for clarifying.

    Some things are so obvious to me that I think my gibberish in pointing out what is so obvious is understandable. Thanks for the help.

  69. For many months here, I have been telling you that Leftism is the greatest danger facing the US and the World today, but my message has fallen on deaf ears largely because most people have been duped by the media and pseudo-history books that the Left wing and the Right Wing are polar opposites, when, in fact, they are IDENTICAL in every material respect.

    And the ultimate Leftist goal is a POLICE STATE.

    Thus, no one here even notices that the people they like to think of as “leftists,” such as Feinstein, Franken, and Obama, and those they like to think of as on the “right” wing, such as Boehner, McCain, and Graham–are in FULL AGREEMENT: SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS IS GOOD.

    And at the same time, both of these two “groups” (really the same) assert that the reason for the surveillance is to protect Americans from terrorists, even though they all STRONGLY SUPPORT FUNDING ISLAMIC TERRORISTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

    Finally, I have also warned you about the US Supreme Court, as most of you still think that it consists of justices with ideological differences. WRONG again. The underlying principle of the SCOTUS is this: make laws that advance the special interests of big business and big government and diminish the rights of the individual. Call it “corporate socialism” if you want, but it’s just LEFTISM, and it signals the coming Police State. Thus, if this case ever reaches as high as the SCOTUS, look for the following ruling, but expressed in far less transparent language:

    “Unfortunately, the 4th Amendment only applies to “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Phone and email records are none of those things, and are, therefore, exempt from the 4th Amendment. Although “effects” may seem to apply to some individuals, “effects” actually means personal/tangible things owned by individuals.”

    It’s the Police State. Get used to it. It’s coming, and this is only the beginning.

  70. “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”
    — Patrick Henry

    “The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”- Winston Churchill

    “In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”- George Orwell

  71. The Media is the enemy. Democrats & Republicans are the enemy. We all must think outside these nasty boxes.

  72. Ralph Adamo – “It’s the Police State. Get used to it. It’s coming, and this is only the beginning.”

    Indeed. Did someone here ponder what ever happened to the “Occupy” movement?

    Were the leaders of this popular movement ferreted out by the omnipotent PRISM and forced to ‘occupy’ dungeons and cells?

    Hell, I’m going to register as a Republican and convert to Christianity! Forgive me God, for I have sinned.
    From now the ‘enemies’ of the State are goin’ to be my enemies too! (my rheumatic fever does not agree with cells and dungeons, sorry….)

    Death to the Terrorists and the Infidels!!!

  73. Ralph,
    OK, you’ve got us all figured out. No flies on you! We give up!

    If Left wing and Right wing are not different, and “…in fact, they are IDENTICAL in every material respect,” then why is Leftism “… the greatest danger facing the US and the world today”? Could we possibly reduce it to,

    “Wing is the greatest danger facing the US and the world today”?

    I also take umbrage, in that several commenters on this blog have previously anointed Bob Kauten as what’s wrong with the U.S.A.

    I relish my importance, and do not relinquish my exalted position willingly.
    I AM what’s wrong with this country. Accept no substitutes.

    Yes, you have been telling us this stuff for months, now. Thanks for the reminder.

  74. Yes, the Police State is here in ever increasing degrees, but don’t you dare get used to it! It was clear to me in 1970, much more so after the monumental lie of 9/11. Deal with it as you can but never get used to it. Anyone who will trade freedom for security, deserves neither & will lose both. (B Franklin I believe)

  75. Okay, Bob, you lost me on this you’re “what’s wrong with this country” thing. I must have missed this, but who has said this and why?

    Yes, traveling limey, that quote was from Big Ben. The REAL Big Ben. And you’re right; people definitely should not get used to the notion of a Police State.

    But the way I see this working through the system is in increments. Instead of drastic sweeping changes toward a Police State, it’s done in small enough increments that people are conditioned to accept those changes and, ultimately, approve of them. It is said that if you put a frog in a pan of very hot water, it will try to jump out immediately if it can. But if you put the frog in cool water and gradually heat it in small increments, the frog will remain in the pan and ultimately perish from the heat. I don’t know if this is actually true, and I don’t recommend that anyone actually try this experiment because I happen to like frogs. But I like the metaphor, and I certainly think it applies to the human experience.

  76. If someone is 80 years old and from California and they call some person “a traitor” then I have some reservations. Diane Feinstein needs to resign. Toute Suite. She is too old for a nursing home much less the Senate.

  77. I think that Daniel Ellsberg needs to step up on a taller podium and speak up a little louder. And by the way, where do YOU stand Bill Clinton, Georgie Bush (Midland) and Georgie Bush (Kennybunkport), and Jimmy Peanut Farmer Carter? Do you think that Snowden is a traitor? How bout you Hilary? Condominium Rice? Barbara WaWa?

  78. Oh, HumpinDog, don’t ask Barbara WaWa, she is older than Diane Feinstein for Chris Mathews sake. Keep the media types out. Ask the former CEOs of the Exceptional Nation what they think of the PRISM? Mein Gott, the NSA probably knows the contents of my email to Saturday Night Live.

  79. Ralph Adamo,

    Bunk. Not even a good try. You sound like Benito Mussolini calling Francisco Franco a “leftist.”

    “The New Deal Democrats who understood that a democracy is not safe if it does not give its citizens an acceptable standard of living and protect the state from being hijacked by private power, are gone. The remnants of the liberal class, and the hollow institutions they inhabit, flee from those who speak in the strange and unfamiliar tongue of liberty and justice.” — Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class

    Corporate tools like Dianne Feinstein and Barack Obama will have nothing to do with liberty and justice any more than the likes of Boehner, McCain, and Graham will. But that sameness of ideology and policy only makes them <b<all crony-corporate crypto-fascists — i.e., totalitarians of the right. In other words: when a Democrat joins up with the Republicans, that doesn’t make all of them “leftists.” How ridiculous to even think so. When a “smart” man like Barack Obama adopts the ideology and policies of a dimwit like Deputy Dubya Bush, that does not make Bush as smart as Obama. It makes Obama as dumb as Bush. Take care with that free-association thing, because it can cut both ways.

    The political spectrum in the United States, especially since Reagan, has moved inexorably to the right, so that today hardly any politics left of right remains. Labor, the poor, and anti-war Americans have no political party to represent their interests, and to the extent that any political movement arises seeking to do so, the right-wing corporate oligarchy will rent a few Clinton and Obama Democrats to savagely discredit it.

    The United States today has become almost the exclusive private property of corporate “persons,” courtesy of right-wing court packing and corporate Democratic politicians selling out to the Republicans over the last thirty years. No one can find any genuine “left” in America today. It surprises me that anyone can even spell the word any more, since so little of anything resembling the real thing remains in the United States.

    Call a Republican a “leftist” and he’ll laugh.
    Call a Democrat a “leftist” and he’ll cry.

    If you want to see a political “left,” you’ll have to move to Europe.

  80. David Blauw
    1, June 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm
    “There are cases where they could inadvertently… perhaps… collect… but not… not wittingly.”

    I’m concerned about his use of “could” and “perhaps” in relationship to “collect” and “not wittingly”.


    The Chill Factor: Investigative Reporter Talks US Covert Wars and National Secrets

    As the White House faces questions about secret internet and telephone surveillance programs, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill says, “There’s a chill that’s been sent through the national security reporting community.”

    Scahill, who investigated the United States’ covert operations in the war against terrorism in a new documentary, “Dirty Wars,” told Top Line in an interview recorded prior to the most recent NSA leaks that sources inside the government have grown fearful of talking to the media.

    “Many sources that I used to be able to talk to through encrypted e-mail or with chats using OTR, off the record software, they won’t do it anymore,” Scahill said. “It’s either in person or nothing. … There’s a real fear on the part of whistleblowers and sources that the Espionage Act is going to come knocking on their door one day under the Noble Peace Prize-winning, Constitutional law professor, Democratic president.”

    In his documentary, Scahill makes the case that the Obama administration has overstepped its stated goals of “targeted killings” of terrorists in places like Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

    Asked if he thinks the U.S. is creating more terrorists than it is killing, Scahill responded: “I think we’re creating more enemies than we are killing terrorists. When I was in Yemen, people were saying, ‘You consider al Qaeda terrorism. We consider the drones terrorism.’”

    He told the story of investigating the United States’ first authorized attack in Yemen, which occurred in 2009.

  82. The attacks against those of us who want to stick with America and reject Stalingrad have a different definition of security than those who are selling a phony security.

    The definition of security is in the 4th Amendment:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    The only definition of reasonable in that Amendment, with respect to searches or seizures, is:

    1) probable cause,
    2) oath or affirmation
    3) a particular description
    a) of the place to be searched
    b) of the persons or things to be seized

    Where any of that is missing it is a destruction of security.

    Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” says:

    destruction of security = security
    war = Peace
    Freedom = slavery
    Ignorance = strength

  83. Bob, Esq. 1, June 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Think about it; the willingness of the public to give up their liberty, their privacy, so eagerly for the illusion of more safety …
    That has not been established, it has only been asserted by the media.

    They can’t be trusted obviously, since many of them are CIA and NSA assets (Mocking America).

  84. Sling: The problem is that proceesing the sheer volume of data via ‘drone’-manufactured software could result in an overwhelming volume of results – making the results effectively unusable.

    One way to fix that is pragmatically simple; by having the AI develop a probability assessment of threats, one can then sort the Hits by probability, and report only as many as the human staff can handle (or the eavesdropping equipment, or second-tier investigatory AIs, or whatever).

    So imagine a stock market investing AI, that has an investment budget of half a million a day. It may find all kinds of things it “believes” will be good investments today, but part of its mission is to find the best set of investments that costs less than half a million and maximizes probable return over some period of time. That produces what we call a “combinatorial explosion,” there are so many combinations of investment vehicle selection and possible levels of investment and a sea of historical data to examine that the search is effectively infinite, and would literally take billions of years on modern equipment.

    So we use AI to focus the search on the most probably paths to a solution. We accept we may not find the optimal solution, what we look for is the best solution we can find in, say, four hours using five thousand machines in parallel. How many solutions can we evaluate in twenty thousand processing hours?

    That is 72 million processing seconds. Even if they took one second each to evaluate, if we sort those solutions, the top twenty beat 72 million alternatives. So we can examine those top twenty, and we either find they have merit, or we figure out why the ones without merit were selected, and we try to revise and refine our AI with new rules or new information that can identify that lack of merit, without discarding too many of the solutions that do have merit.

    Like our own minds, AI is not designed to produce perfect solutions, just solutions with a high probability of being right. That is why we can be fooled by optical illusions, or magicians, or con men, because our sensory and mental equipment is not designed with bulletproof logic, it is designed to give us a most probable guess of what is happening in real time (fast enough for us to act on the information), and that guess can be wrong.

  85. I am not 100% certain the term whistleblower entirely applies not because Snowden did anything wrong, he did not, but because this is something we should have been aware of all along. In our panic after 9/11 both Democrats and Republicans voted for the Patriot Act. Some of us were speaking out against it right from the beginning, knowing this is what would happen, but few listened at the time. Now we have hypocrites on the right afraid of a brown man with this power, and bigger hypocrites among Democratic fans of the President (which is not to say all Dems, or even the PotUS’s supporters are like this) suddenly OK with our privacy being invaded despite railing against it five plus years ago.
    Snowden certainly is not a traitor. He stood up for the American people against a state increasingly in service to big money. State corruption and collusion with big business are nothing new, but they have been snowballing at least since Reagan. So good on you Eric Snowden for doing the right thing.

  86. Hackers vs. suits: Why nerds become leakers

    By Timothy B. Lee, Published: June 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm


    “A society in which people can do and say what they want will also tend to be one in which the most efficient solutions win, rather than those sponsored by the most influential people,” Graham wrote. In other words, hackers tend to be fierce civil libertarians because they’re sensitive to the problems that occur when their habitual adversaries, the suits, gain too much power.

    To help gain some insight into why so many hackers engage in revealing secret information or passionately support those who do, I called Jacob Appelbaum. He’s a developer for the Tor project (though he emphasized he’s speaking only for himself) and a longtime supporter of WikiLeaks.

    He didn’t think much of my thesis. “This is about bravery, it’s not about learning how to use Linux,” he told me. “The courage, the moral and ethical components of it, are far more important than the technology.”

    “An extremely moral person would have trouble just following orders,” he said. “In the long tail of history just following orders is wrong. That’s the key thing that really matters.”

    Of course, Appelbaum’s explanation and mine aren’t mutually exclusive. Stallman, Swartz and Trigg have each displayed their own kind of courage in their single-minded pursuit of their ideals. They did what they believed to be right heedless of how their actions would be viewed by those around them. So it’s probably not a coincidence that men with their personality traits have been willing to risk everything to bring greater transparency to the national security state.”

  87. Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution

    So we refused to be part of the NSA’s dark blanket. That is why whistleblowers pay the price for being the backstop of democracy

    by Thomas Drake

    What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.

    Like me, he became discomforted by what he was exposed to and what he saw: the industrial-scale systematic surveillance that is scooping up vast amounts of information not only around the world but in the United States, in direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution.

    The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA’s lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:

    “The White House has approved the program; it’s all legal. NSA is the executive agent.”

    It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. “You don’t understand,” I was told. “We just need the data.”

    In the first week of October 2001, President Bush had signed an extraordinary order authorizing blanket dragnet electronic surveillance: Stellar Wind was a highly secret program that, without warrant or any approval from the Fisa court, gave the NSA access to all phone records from the major telephone companies, including US-to-US calls. It correlates precisely with the Verizon order revealed by Snowden; and based on what we know, you have to assume that there are standing orders for the other major telephone companies.

    It is technically true that the order applies only to meta-data. The problem is that in the digital space, metadata becomes the index for content. And content is gold for determining intent.

    This executive fiat of 2001 violated not just the fourth amendment, but also Fisa rules at the time, which made it a felony – carrying a penalty of $10,000 and five years in prison for each and every instance. The supposed oversight, combined with enabling legislation – the Fisa court, the congressional committees – is all a kabuki dance, predicated on the national security claim that we need to find a threat. The reality is, they just want it all, period.

    So I was there at the very nascent stages, when the government – wilfully and in deepest secrecy – subverted the constitution. All you need to know about so-called oversight is that the NSA was already in violation of the Patriot Act by the time it was signed into law.

    When I was in the US air force, flying an RC-135 in the latter years of the cold war, I was a German-Russian crypto-linguist. We called ourselves the “vacuum-cleaner of the sky” because our capability to gather information was enormous at the time. But it was always outward-facing; we could not collect on US targets because that was against the law. To the US government today, however, we are all foreigners.

    I became an expert on East Germany, which was then the ultimate surveillance state. Their secret police were monstrously efficient: they had a huge paper-based system that held information on virtually everyone in the country – a population of about 16-17 million. The Stasi’s motto was “to know everything”.

    So none of this is new to me. The difference between what the Bush administration was doing in 2001, right after 9/11, and what the Obama administration is doing today is that the system is now under the cover and color of law. Yet, what Snowden has revealed is still the tip of the iceberg.

    General Michael Hayden, who was head of the NSA when I worked there, and then director of the CIA, said, “We need to own the net.” And that is what they’re implementing here. They have this extraordinary system: in effect, a 24/7 panopticon on a vast scale that it is gazing at you with an all-seeing eye.

    I lived with that dirty knowledge for years. Before 9/11, the prime directive at the NSA was that you don’t spy on Americans without a warrant; to do so was against the law – and, in particular, was a criminal violation of Fisa. My concern was that we were more than an accessory; this was a crime and we were subverting the constitution.

    I differed as a whistleblower to Snowden only in this respect: in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I took my concerns up within the chain of command, to the very highest levels at the NSA, and then to Congress and the Department of Defense. I understand why Snowden has taken his course of action, because he’s been following this for years: he’s seen what’s happened to other whistleblowers like me.

    By following protocol, you get flagged – just for raising issues. You’re identified as someone they don’t like, someone not to be trusted. I was exposed early on because I was a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations. In closed testimony, I told them everything I knew – about Stellar Wind, billions of dollars in fraud, waste and abuse, and the critical intelligence, which the NSA had but did not disclose to other agencies, preventing vital action against known threats. If that intelligence had been shared, it may very well have prevented 9/11.

    But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.

    I reached a point in early 2006 when I decided I would contact a reporter. I had the same level of security clearance as Snowden. If you look at the indictment from 2010, you can see that I was accused of causing “exceptionally grave damage to US national security”. Despite allegations that I had tippy-top-secret documents, In fact, I had no classified information in my possession, and I disclosed none to the Baltimore Sun journalist during 2006 and 2007. But I got hammered: in November 2007, I was raided by a dozen armed FBI agents, when I was served with a search warrant. The nightmare had only just begun, including extensive physical and electronic surveillance.

    In April 2008, in a secret meeting with the FBI, the chief prosecutor from the Department of Justice assigned to lead the prosecution said, “How would you like to spend the rest of your life in jail, Mr Drake?” – unless I co-operated with their multi-year, multimillion-dollar criminal leak investigation, launched in 2005 after the explosive New York Times article revealing for the first time the warrantless wiretapping operation. Two years later, they finally charged me with a ten felony count indictment, including five counts under the Espionage Act. I faced upwards of 35 years in prison.

    In July 2011, after the government’s case had collapsed under the weight of truth, I plead to a minor misdemeanor for “exceeding authorized use of a computer” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – in exchange for the DOJ dropping all ten felony counts. I received as a sentence one year’s probation and 240 hours of community service: I interviewed almost 50 veterans for the Library of Congress veterans history project. This was a rare, almost unprecedented, case of a government prosecution of a whistleblower ending in total defeat and failure.

    So, the stakes for whistleblowers are incredibly high. The government has got its knives out: there’s a massive manhunt for Snowden. They will use all their resources to hunt him down and every detail of his life will be turned inside out. They’ll do everything they can to “bring him to justice” – already there are calls for the “traitor” to be “put away for life”.

    He can expect the worst; he knows that. He went preemptively overseas because that at least delays the prying hand of the US government. But he could be extracted by rendition, as he has said. Certainly, my life was shredded. Once they have determined that you are a “person of interest” and an “enemy of the state”, they want to destroy you, period.

    I am now reliving the last 12 years from what’s been disclosed in the past week. I feel a kinship with Snowden: he is essentially the equivalent of me. He saw the surveillance state from within and saw how far it’s gone. The government has a pathological incentive to collect more and more and more; they just can’t help themselves – they have an insatiable hoarding complex.

    Since the government unchained itself from the constitution after 9/11, it has been eating our democracy alive from the inside out. There’s no room in a democracy for this kind of secrecy: it’s anathema to our form of a constitutional republic, which was born out of the struggle to free ourselves from the abuse of such powers, which led to the American revolution.

    That is what’s at stake here: to an NSA with these unwarranted powers, we’re all potentially guilty; we’re all potential suspects until we prove otherwise. That is what happens when the government has all the data.

    The NSA is wiring the world; they want to own internet. I didn’t want to be part of the dark blanket that covers the world, and Edward Snowden didn’t either.

    We are seeing an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and truth-tellers: it’s now criminal to expose the crimes of the state. Under this relentless assault by the Obama administration, I am the only person who has held them off and preserved his freedom. All the other whistleblowers I know have served time in jail, are facing jail or are already incarcerated or in prison.

    That has been my burden. I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to defending life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I didn’t want surveillance to take away my soul, and I don’t want anyone else to have to live it.

    For that, I paid a very high price. And Edward Snowden will, too. But I have my freedom, and what is the price for freedom? What future do we want to keep?

  88. What follows are Thomas Drake’s tweets from his article in The Guardian today.

    Thomas Drake @Thomas_Drake1

    Vast surveillance regime created by willful&deliberate violation 1st/4th/5th Amend N deepest of secrecy, intent 2 spy on all & ‘own the net’

    8:22 PM – 10 Jun 2013


    Thomas Drake @Thomas_Drake1

    NSA – dystopian Stasi on Steroids that just wants “to know everything” about anybody, anytime, anywhere–regardless of any & all constraints

    5:31 PM – 9 Jun 2013


    Thomas Drake @Thomas_Drake1

    #Snowden chose 2 free darkside NatSec info as magnificent act of selfless civil disobedience 2 protect our liberty.

    3:41 PM – 9 Jun 2013


    Thomas Drake @Thomas_Drake1

    Latest NSA revelations: ppl must get clear & present danger of authoritarian totalitarianism via the Leviathan NatSec state & surveillance

    11:14 AM – 9 Jun 2013


    While what’s taking place may not directly impact most Americans, it’s clear to me (given the nature of a domestic program that hasn’t yet come to light) that this will impact future generations in ways that, again, many/most Americans can’t even begin to fathom.

    Drake’s tweets are not in the least bit hyberbolic — given what I’m seeing and what I know.

    Now’s the time to try to rein this in… Repeating the final portion of Drake’s article (full posting, above):

    “We are seeing an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and truth-tellers: it’s now criminal to expose the crimes of the state. Under this relentless assault by the Obama administration, I am the only person who has held them off and preserved his freedom. All the other whistleblowers I know have served time in jail, are facing jail or are already incarcerated or in prison.

    That has been my burden. I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to defending life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I didn’t want surveillance to take away my soul, and I don’t want anyone else to have to live it.

    For that, I paid a very high price. And Edward Snowden will, too. But I have my freedom, and what is the price for freedom? What future do we want to keep?”

  89. I hope that those who are calling for Snowden’s head will ALSO be calling for the intelligence people who committed PERJURY in their testimony to Congress when they said that the NSA and other agencies are NOT doing what we now know they were in fact doing. If Snowden is guilty of anything, then the crooks who lied in sworn testimony need to be in the dock before he goes.

  90. AP: Applebaum says: “An extremely moral person would have trouble just following orders,” he said.

    But he is wrong. Extremely moral people do not have to be smart, and may be extremely moral simply because they follow orders (like those in the Bible, or spouted by authoritarian figures).

    As a self-confessed tech nerd myself, I think Timothy Lee’s thesis is far more correct. It takes attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of complex systems in order to be a nerd, people that cannot see getting exercised over code that transposes a few trailing digits of Pi are not nerd material. (3.14159256? Are you out of your frikkin’ mind?!?!?)

    Within complex systems, it is the ability to intuit ramifications and interactions of changes to the system that makes one an expert. The true nerd develops a subconscious mental model of the system that lets them perform thought experiments with changes that, with reasonable accuracy, forecast the results of the changes. It is how they can stare at code or blueprints or circuit boards for hours, and then in a flash have an insight that corrects something, or improves something.

    We nerds trust these mental models of how things work, and we trust our ability to build coherent mental models based on our observations. That is WHY we disdain those that seem to be numbly unaware of how things work, and seem to be mindlessly accepting of self-proclaimed authority, whether they are wearing suits or not.

    That trust, however, also makes us nerds believe in our own predictions, after we have thought about it long enough to feel we have explored all the angles. That is when bravery kicks in, when the nerd concludes that they are in a position to make a difference, and that the difference will not be made if they do not act.

    Not all intelligent people will also have the bravery to act, but the intelligence precedes the bravery. People that are not intelligent enough to mentally model the big picture and see where it is headed are just not motivated to acts of bravery or self-sacrifice, they continue their unexamined routine, following orders, and blissfully assuming somebody “above their pay grade” has already decided that in the big picture those orders are necessary for the greater good.

    Such people have little confidence in their own reasoning or conclusions, and are forced to choose pre-packaged reasoning from an array of authority figures they trust more than themselves. Unfortunately that often turns out to be a personality contest or a sales contest (either the person is charismatically appealing or their ideas largely justify what one already wishes were true).

  91. Maybe if we still had Woodward and Bernsteins this would have come to light a lot sooner. The media has become merely a lapdog for their owners particular political bent.

  92. leejcaroll: Because that is where the big money is. What Woodward and Bernstein did cost a lot of money and was difficult and uncertain. There are only so many Pulitzers to go around. It is easier and more reliable to air a fluffy fashion interview with the First Lady, or just make stuff up about one side (opinion shows, talk shows, etc.) No Pulitzer, but lots of commercials sold.

  93. Tony C.,

    The full quote. Better to keep it in context, IMO.

    “An extremely moral person would have trouble just following orders,” he said. “In the long tail of history just following orders is wrong. That’s the key thing that really matters.”

  94. As we used to say back during my days of employment as a computer programmer at the now defunct Hughes Aircraft Company:

    “When a man makes a mistake, he makes a mistake.”.

    “When a machine makes a mistake … makes a mistake … makes a mistake … makes a mistake …”

  95. “Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) on Wednesday rejected the notion that Edward Snowden compromised the country’s security when he leaked details of top secret National Security Agency surveillance programs.

    Appearing on MSNBC, the Montana Democrat also said he disagreed with Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who argued that journalists who report on intelligence leaks should be punished. Tester said Snowden “probably shouldn’t have done what he did” but doubted that the disclosures undermined national security. In fact, Tester said he found the recent revelations — reported on by both The Guardian and The Washington Post — to be helpful.

    “The information that they wrote about was just the fact that NSA was doing broad sweeps of foreign and domestic phone records, metadata. First of all, Snowden probably shouldn’t have done what he did. But the fact of the matter is is I don’t see how that compromises the security of this country whatsoever,” Tester said. “And quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee.” ” Talking Points Memo

  96. AP: Even in context, not necessarily. Did the WWII Allied soldiers that followed orders do the wrong thing? How about the Northern soldiers fighting our civil war, or the Revolutionary soldiers fighting for our independence?

    Even in the long run, just following orders is not wrong. It might save your life (just following doctor’s orders, just following a fireman’s orders in a burning building, just following a cop’s orders to remain where you are because it really is safer). It may save the lives of others.

    The truth is that often, the people giving the orders really do have our best interest at heart and really do have far more experience, and no time to explain why they are giving the orders they give.

    Applebaum suffers from selective vision; it is true that many disasters have been the result of just following orders (including the Holocaust), but it is ignorant to think all orders “just followed” have therefore resulted in catastrophe; the truth is probably the majority of order “just followed” have resulted in catastrophic prevention.

    I believe the military, police, and agencies do (on balance) protect us, and I do not think large organizations can function without orders; some things are too complex for everybody to know everything, and not everybody is capable of understanding the complexity, anyway.

    He is wrong, that is not the “key thing that really matters,” the key thing that really matters is the intelligence to know when and why one should just disobey orders (whether one has the bravery to do it or not), and when it is okay to just follow them.

  97. Oath of Office

    I pledge allegiance to the corporation:
    A “person” as the judges have proclaimed,
    And place this “him” or “her” above my nation
    Whose Constitution “he” or “she” has maimed
    Pursuant to no legal obligation
    Except immunity — however named.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2013

  98. Michael Murry: As a former soldier with a security clearance, I can tell you that private citizens are able to work on national security issues and be privy to very high level secrets, even if they are paid by civilian firms. Sometimes it is the only way to gain access to talent that is not going to ever join the military. One does not commit treason against the private firm, but against the country that trusted you with knowledge you were sworn to keep secret.

  99. Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013 01:31 PM EST

    James Clapper must go

    His attempts to mislead the nation — and absurd claims afterward — should get him fired and prosecuted

    By David Sirota

    In the latter interview, Clapper again stood by his statement, and claimed “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner.”

    These talking points will no doubt metastasize into the idea that because he was asked about a classified program, Clapper had no choice but to lie, and that therefore outright lying is somehow the “least untruthful” – and therefore acceptable – thing to do in his situation. That’s right, apparently as if living in 1984, we are all supposed to believe that war is peace, freedom is slavery and, now, yes, lying is not untruthful.

    Beyond its Orwellian absurdity, the problem with that line of reasoning is that it is fundamentally false. We know Clapper didn’t have to lie because other people in a similar position managed to not commit perjury. As one example, at a Senate hearing in 2006, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked a similar question about mass surveillance, and answered by saying simply: “The programs and activities you ask about, to the extent that they exist, would be highly classified.”

    Clapper didn’t do this – instead, with a day’s notice of the question, he decided to lie to Congress. And, as the New York Times Andrew Rosenthal says, that’s a big deal.

    “Government officials employ various tactics to avoid actually saying anything at intelligence hearings, mostly by fogging up the room with references to national security and with vague generalities,” he writes. “Outright lying is another matter…You have to wonder about giving a position of vast responsibility to someone who can beat Mr. Gonzales in dishonesty.”

    You have to also wonder how a person like that can be allowed to stay in his job and avoid prosecution.

  100. Ralph Adamo:

    “But I like the metaphor, and I certainly think it applies to the human experience.”

    It is a good metaphor, and it does apply. People can get used to anything, if it happens incrementally. One of the reasons people who break their necks have such a hard time coming to terms with not walking and losing the use of their legs and/or arms. If they lose the use in tiny increments they get used to the diminished capacity and are much more accepting.

    The same with our freedoms, we have lost so many in the last 50 years that I am surprised so many people care about this. I hope, as Americans, we are “genetically” opposed to blatant tyranny.

  101. From Wikipedia:

    Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].” In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aiding or involved by such an endeavor.

    From the US Constitution:

    SECTION 3. Clause 1. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open court.

    Tony C.,

    I defy you to demonstrate where either Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden has “levied war” against any of the several United States or has attempted by himself to overthrow the national government. Nor can you show where either of these men has has “adhered” to any foreign enemy. Nor do I think that you have ever heard Manning or Snowden confess in open court (Bradley Manning doesn’t even get an open court proceeding in which to testify) to any act of treason. Nor do I think that you have ever heard two eyewitnesses to the same overt act testify in open court that Manning or Snowden have committed “treason.”

    You just throw the word around with reckless abandon, without seeming the least concerned with what it means.

    Come back and try again when you’ve gotten clear on the concept.

  102. MM: WTF are you talking about, moron? I think both Manning and Snowden are American heroes, I do not think either of them are traitorous in the least. I would say the same about Assange, were he an American citizen, but suffice to say, I do not think Assange is an enemy of the United States, but a hero to the world.

    I do not throw the word about with reckless abandon, I mentioned that, as the law says, a CITIZEN can be a traitor (meaning a civilian). I will also point out that “adhering to the enemy” or giving them “aid and comfort” are vague and ambiguous terms, and providing information of any kind to the enemy can fall under the rubric of “adherence” or “aid” or “comfort.”

    I do not think of Snowden as a traitor in any way, shape or form. Since you seem to be literate but comprehension-challenged, I will repeat what I said: I was in the military with a high security clearance; and I saw civilians with similarly high security clearances with access to sensitive documents that, although employed by civilian firms, were in a position to easily commit treason against our country.

    Read that until you understand you have made a moronic error.

  103. “Perhaps the construction of such a [digital] panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their [files] for royal inspection.”

    — Antonin Scalia, Dissenting, Maryland v. King,

    “The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.”

  104. “How can anyone commit “treason” against the management of a private, for-profit corporation like Booz Allen Hamilton?”

    Michael M.,

    Perhaps an equally good question would be how can the government trust any profit making organization with our national secrets.” Profit is of necessity only loyal to the bottom line.

  105. “Friedman wrote: “And, I’d add, not just bloviating. Imagine how many real restrictions to our beautiful open society we would tolerate if there were another attack on the scale of 9/11. Pardon me if I blow that whistle.”


    We must translate Tommyboy to put him into perspective: “I am a rich media whore, married to a billionaire’s daughter. My life is great and I could care less about the rest of you!”

  106. Tony C.,

    Please allow me to try again. I simply said that one cannot commit “treason” against a private, for-profit corporation. I also said that one cannot commit “treason” simply by sharing company private or even government “classified” information with journalists. You seemed to say that the mere disclosure of such information by an employee of a private corporation constitutes grounds for treason against the nation. If by this you meant that the disclosure of information could theoretically but not necessarily or even probably harm the nation, then fair enough, but absent any demonstration of actual harm, intended or otherwise, the mere theoretcial possiblity of harm tells us nothing about “treason.” In addition, you provided no legal definitions or precedents to support your theoretical suppositions but offered instead the fact that you had served in the US military, which I considered a non-sequitur. I think I read you accurately enough.

    And by the way, if the United States Government trusts its most “vital” (meaning a matter of life and death) secrets to private, for-profit corporate camp followers, then the United States Government deserves waking up one morning to discover that — as Senator Patrick Leahy admitted — “The banks own this place.” And not just the banks.

    Good to read that you do not consider Edward Snowdon guilty of “treason.” That said, it would help in defending his innocence to insist on the severest limitations on the U.S. government’s — or anyone else’s — misuse of the term “treason.” Loose suppositions about theoretical possibilities do not help, in my opinion.

    I maintain that it does not matter who trusts whom with what sort of information. The crime of “treason” has very strict legal parameters constraining how the government may seek to punish a citizen for this crime. In support of my position, I cited the legal definitions of “treason” so as not to embroil myself in verbal disputes that always fail because the interlocutors disagree about what key terms and concepts mean to them. In any case, the government bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual had actively conspired with a foreign nation with the intent of harming the United States. So the definition of treason depends not upon the accusation that someone shared some form of information with journalists, but what harm a person meant to deliberately inflict upon the United States in the interests of some foreign nation and what, if any, harm actually resulted from the sharing of “classified” information. In the cases of Manning, Snowdon, and Assange, none of them intended any harm by their revelations and no harm to the United States actually happened as a result of their sharing information of critical interest to the American people. Exposing crimes and embarassing politicians, generals, and CEOs does not in any way, shape, or form constitute “harm” to the United States. Quite the opposite.

    Governments and private corporations can, of course, terminate the employment of anyone who knowingly violates company or government policy. Fair enough, although public and private review boards — as well as courts — do sometimes exist that insist on fairness and not sheer vindictiveness by the employer. So Booz Allen Hamilton fired Edward Snowdon and the US Army could dismiss Bradley Manning with a bad conduct discharge and time already served during three years of unconscionable pre-trial detention. Julian Assange, as a journalist, had the right to publish whatever he wanted.

    But the thin-skinned and vindictive U.S. government — most especially its current President — insists on making an “example” out of genuine whistleblowers and journalists instead of rooting out crime and corruption within the United States Government itself. So the struggle to take back the language and meaning of participatory democracy must go on.

    Finally, If I went too far in accusing you of a cavalier attitude regarding the misuse of the term “treason,” then I apologize. Inaccurate, unsupported, and insufficient to not necessarily mean “cavalier” or “glib.” I don’t consider you either. The ad hominem “moron” thing, I’ll just overlook.

  107. Mike Spindell,

    See what I wrote to Tony C. above.

    I would never trust a for-profit corporate camp follower or dogs-of-war mercenary with anything important, let alone vital. The fact that such self-interested war-profiteers have now virtually swallowed the “government” that foolishly hired them speaks for itself. As Barbara Tuchman said of England in 1848: “the goverment had become practically the private preserve of the propertied class.” I think that description fits the United States Government quite well today.

    As you probably know from Western history, the Romans outsourced their military “defense” to dogs-of-war mercenaries and one day woke up to find nothing between the ravenous mercenaries and their own defenseless selves. Some centuries later, the crusading Christian armies got into hock with the merchants of Venice and instead of “liberating” the Holy Land wound up working off their gambling debts by sacking Christian Constantinople for the Venetians.

    None of this history, of course, applies to “exceptional” America, except that a great deal of it already has. (Don’t tell anyone, though. We wouldn’t want to divulge any “unauthorized” “secrets.”)

  108. (This is an attempted repost, revised for brevity)

    MM: You seemed to say that the mere disclosure of such information by an employee of a private corporation constitutes grounds for treason against the nation.

    It does. Example: If in the course of my access to classified material I read that the USA plans to, say, mount a rescue mission of American hostages by covertly entering a foreign country on a specific date via a specific route, and I leak that to a journalist that trumpets it to the world, I have put American lives (soldiers and hostages) at risk; the mere knowledge that this mission is afoot aborts that mission and may result in the immediate execution or “disappearing” of one or all hostages. I believe I would have aided an Enemy, regardless of whether we had officially declared War on that Enemy.

    Example 2: Suppose in the course of my access to classified material I learn of a new type of undetectable listening device; an un-powered, non-transmitting device immune to all known detection methods that can be incorporated into anything from a structural component of a building to a piece of art or furniture. Now, if I publish the details of that device and its manufacture to the world, wouldn’t that be treason? Because if the USA had any Enemies, I would be giving them the technology to spy on us.

    MM: If by this you meant that the disclosure of information could theoretically but not necessarily or even probably harm the nation, then fair enough, but absent any demonstration of actual harm, intended or otherwise, the mere theoretical possiblity of harm tells us nothing about “treason.”

    I think it does, and I think that is a silly argument. If the release of classified information to foreign Enemies results in them destroying New York City with an atomic bomb, but that happens five years from now, does that act retroactively cause the release of information five years ago to have been treason?

    Although it is necessary in law to define some crimes by their later outcomes (an assault charge can be upgraded to murder if the assault victim eventually dies as a result of the assault), I do not think that is the proper approach to defining “treason,” waiting for actual harm to be demonstrated, because “actual harm” is not as clearcut as a dead assault victim.

    The way the law is currently interpreted is not material to this discussion; by current legal interpretation just about any revelation of any kind is treasonous, and I disagree with that completely. If you wish to defend that, our discussion is done. As far as I am concerned, leaking classified information is treasonous only if the information should have been classified in the first place, and in my opinion no information that covers up a crime by the government should be classified, and only information that can provide a clear and convincing aid to those hostile to our country, military personnel and citizenry, here or abroad, should be classified. Classifying information because politicians think it would upset Americans, cause lawsuits or protests, or harm their political fortunes is wrong.

    Once information HAS been released, the question of whether there is a clear and convincing aid to an “Enemy” should be up to a civilian jury, much like deciding if a murderer should be put to death is up to a civilian jury. If we can trust them with that we can trust them to judge whether the released information (already public) has a clear and convincing potential to produce harm in the hands of those hostile to the USA or its citizens.

  109. “the Romans outsourced their military “defense” to dogs-of-war mercenaries and one day woke up to find nothing between the ravenous mercenaries and their own defenseless selves.”

    Michael Murry,

    A very apt analogy for this trend in America. The first Iraq War had started me on a train of thought about our soldiers being used as Hessian mercenary’s. In our never ending wars of this new Century we see our armed forces fighting and dying, yet emotionally disconnected from the media and the public. While they are not drawn from the Germanic peoples as were the Roman mercenaries, eventually there had to be a disconnect forming in the minds of the military that when it comes to the citizenry they are “protecting” it’s us versus them. If indeed both these wars end what is to be done with the enlarged military. In the 90’s they were downsized after Iraq and the USSR’s downfall. Imagine “downsizing” our troops now into an America with high unemployment? If our police have for years felt they were in an “us vs. them” situation, what will our military personnel feel, if indeed many of those at the top of the hierarchy haven’t already imposed their feelings, on let us say an inexperienced President, who seems unable to restrain or deny them.

  110. Mike S: I fail to see why you think it is necessary to belittle the President as inexperienced, powerless and too incompetent to wield the power he holds.

    It makes far more sense to me to believe the President is fully competent and able to restrain or deny them, but agrees with them and has no desire to restrain or deny them, indeed, by his voluntary actions it seems to me he clearly wishes to defend and enable them.

  111. “The Other NSA Whistleblowers Hope This Time Is Different”


    Chris Pyle, Whistleblower on Domestic Spying in 70s, Says Be Wary of Attacks on NSA’s Critics

    CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, when I was blowing the whistle and they couldn’t get any dirt on me—I had led a very uninteresting life—they made up dirt and tried to peddle it on Capitol Hill in order to discredit me and prevent me from testifying before Senator Ervin’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. Every bureaucracy hates dissenters. They must expel dissenters and discredit dissenters, because dissenters force them to reconsider what it is they’re doing, and no bureaucracy wants anybody to interrupt what they’re doing. And so, this is the natural, organic response of any bureaucracy or any establishment.

    Now, I think it is inappropriate and quite irrelevant to analyze Ed Snowden’s motivations. It doesn’t matter much—except in court, to prove that he either did or did not intend to aid a foreign power or hurt the United States. But separate from that motivation, whether he’s a narcissist, like many people on television are, no, I don’t think that’s relevant at all. He’s neither a traitor nor a hero, and he says this himself. He’s just an ordinary American. He’s trying to start a debate in this nation over something that is critically important. He should be respected for that, taken at face value, and then we should move on to the big issues, including the corruption of our system that is done by massive secrecy and by massive amounts of money in politics.

    AMY GOODMAN: Chris Pyle, we want to thank you for being with us, co-author of Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, Getting Away with Torture and The Constitution Under Siege. In 1970, Christopher Pyle disclosed the military’s spying on civilians and worked for three congressional committees to end it, including Frank Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence. He now teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

  112. “Mike S: I fail to see why you think it is necessary to belittle the President as inexperienced, powerless and too incompetent to wield the power he holds”


    I seriously believe that every President since JFK has had people sit down with him after election and in essence given the limits of his powers by those in control of the military. That is why our defense budget continue to grow and why our government fails to crack down on entities like the banks that have caused this “recession” by acting criminally. Perhaps I’m paranoid……but then again perhaps not. I think the fact of this is widely known among certain D.C. circles and that Obama may not have had the pleasure of being in these circles. It is of course possible that his Presidency is a result of his being in the loop, but given his performance thus far I doubt it. While I think JFK’s murder was the result of these forces making an example of him and in a sense stepping somewhat out of the shadows, I think the roots of this stretch back to the end of WWII and the switching of the OSS into the CIA.

  113. “My life was turned upside down and inside out,” said Drake, who now earns an hourly wage as a technical expert at an Apple store. “I know what it’s like to live in a surveillance state because the surveillance state was on me, riding me, for so many years. They obviously wanted to do me in. It was relentless. I wouldn’t want any American to go through it.” -Thomas Drake

    Make no mistake, they will ruin one’s life. They’re very, very good at it.

    Thomas Drake, Former NSA Official, Gives Advice To Edward Snowden: ‘Be Lawyered Up To The Max’

    Drake, a 56-year-old former intelligence official at the National Security Agency, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act in 2010 for allegedly revealing classified information about the agency’s sweeping warrantless wire-tapping program. The government later dropped all but a misdemeanor charge.

    “For me this is a déjà vu,” Drake said, adding that Snowden’s previous comfortable life was over.

    “When you offer up information about the dark side of the surveillance state they don’t take too kindly to it,” he said. “They want to stay in the shadows.”

    (Reuters Digital Video:

    Drake, one of six people indicted for leaking secret information since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, said the FBI investigated him because it believed he was the source of a New York Times story published in December 2005 that first revealed the NSA’s wire-tapping program. He says he was not the source of that information, and 10 felony counts against him were dropped when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling government information.

    In a series of interviews over the past week, he described the experience of coming under investigation.

    “My life was turned upside down and inside out,” said Drake, who now earns an hourly wage as a technical expert at an Apple store. “I know what it’s like to live in a surveillance state because the surveillance state was on me, riding me, for so many years. They obviously wanted to do me in. It was relentless. I wouldn’t want any American to go through it.”

    Asked if he still believes what he did was worth it, Drake had no doubts: “Is freedom worth it? Is liberty worth it? Is not living in a surveillance society worth it?”

    “If you don’t want to live it, then you’ve got to stand up and defend the rights and the freedoms that prevent that from actually happening,” he said.
    (Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Claudia Parsons)

  114. Mike S: If you truly believe that, then inexperience or incompetence does not enter into the question at all; what explains his actions is fear for his life, or the lives of his wife, children, and other family.

    Of course if the country is really run by some form of Mafia, it hardly makes sense to let self-selected candidates get far enough to present them with this problem; a man with official power that has to be threatened.

    It would be more prudent to intervene earlier in the selection process, when losses would go largely unnoticed. I think a psychopath can prove he means business without a crime ever being reported (or linked to the candidate).

    Which makes me think, If a Mafia runs the country, then Obama is just a simpatico sociopath that embraced their philosophy from the start, and you and I were fooled by his sociopathic charm and flawless lying. For me, it wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.

  115. “Which makes me think, If a Mafia runs the country, then Obama is just a simpatico sociopath that embraced their philosophy from the start, and you and I were fooled by his sociopathic charm and flawless lying. For me, it wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.”


    That is reasonable, as is the theory of the threat to himself and his family. I used “inexperienced” with the thought in mind that he was naive about the powers of the office. Who really knows the real personalities of the celebrities we see in politics? Whatever the individual reason, I truly believe that the Presidency has much less power than the way it is portrayed and that the power ended when JFK was killed. Having had too many strange assassinations in the 60’s they used other means, just as effective, when it came to Nixon. By the time they got to Clinton it was just the threat of impeachment. Another part of this takeover has been the change in Senate filibuster rules, that allows one Senator silently to insist on an unconstitutional majority of 60 to pass legislation.

    I wrote this and I still believe in it:

  116. I have wondered, and hoped I was being merely paranoid, but now I am not so sure, about the effort to consolidate power, by dems for instance not putting up challengers in some races including Boehner. Keeping him is as speaker assured nothing would get done and allowed more executive orders in lieu of congress doing their job, which the House promised not to do from the night of the first inauguration.

  117. Snowden had other avenues to follow rather than fleeing to Hong Kong and then talking to a british newspaper exposing the work he was aware of. He could have gone to Justice, the FBI, his Senator or Congressman. All these avenues were open to him but he chose to run away and tell the press about a classified program being used to foil plots against the United
    States. In my mind, this makes him a traitor and a coward. I am not arguing here about what the government is doing just what Snowden has done.

  118. Sheila Nickerson,

    Every year the US gov’t pays billions to hire shills & useful idiots to post their proaganda on in internet, a public fact. I forgot the number but I’m betting you’d be one that knows is from the pay stub.

    Whats the number?

  119. “He could have gone to Justice, the FBI, his Senator or Congressman. All these avenues were open to him but ” …..
    …… he was aware of what happened to the likes of Thomas Drake, William Binney and others who initially took their concerns to “proper authority” only to suffer extreme pushback. Look them up. Lock them up even.

    “a classified program being used to foil plots against the United
    It has been claimed that in the years since 9/11 two plots were uncovered due to indiscriminate mass domestic surveillance. It is not entirely clear if the discovered communications were the initial factor in detecting the plots.
    Alexander claimed “dozens of plots” recently, but didn’t have any details for these dozens. The resulting headlines missed out on the fact the for this “dozens”, he had included “and abroad”.

    Perhaps Alexander could inflate the “success” numbers by including “low-level terrorism”. This definition apparently covers purely political movements such as the Occupy movement.

    He could include the surveillance of domestic groups that are hot on the ‘resist oppressive government’ aspects of the 2nd Amendment. Resisting an oppressive government sounds very terroristic – unless we’re talking about a foreign government. People who resist foreign oppressive governments are freedom-fighters/rebels – unless the particular oppressive governments are US clients or somehow support US interests.

    Incidentally, have you ever read up on how the administration took advatage of Hoover’s interesting files? Such a thing is no longer possible – because of strict oversight?. No?

  120. “I am not arguing here about what the government is doing just what Snowden has done.”


    By not examining what the government has done you are missing the whole point. As for him going through “channels” that would have just gotten him arrested anonymously.

  121. The Sickening Snowden Backlash

    by Kirsten Powers Jun 14, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

    It’s appalling to hear the Washington bureaucrats and their media allies trash Edward Snowden as a traitor, when it’s our leaders and the NSA who have betrayed us, writes Kirsten Powers.

    Whether one supports or opposes the NSA spying programs, Snowden has done a public service by exposing them and igniting a debate about government surveillance that even the president says he welcomes. There is no reason for the mere existence of either program to have been classified by the Most Transparent Administration in History. The claims that terrorists have been tipped off by these revelations are not credible. Nobody seriously believes that until now terrorists didn’t know the American government is monitoring their email and phone calls. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) told MSNBC Wednesday, “I don’t see how [Snowden’s leaks] compromises the security of this country whatsoever.”

    In his 2003 book, Why Societies Need Dissent, liberal law professor Cass Sunstein pointed out that, in society, “a single dissenter or voice of sanity is likely to have a huge impact.” But the problem for dissenters is that they “have little incentive to speak out, because they would gain nothing from dissenting” and in fact might be punished.

    Snowden knew this and he did it anyway. He clearly understands something that those screaming “traitor” do not: the allegiance we have as Americans is to the Constitution, not the institution of government. Snowden summed it up best when he told a South China Morning Post reporter this week, “I’m neither a traitor nor a hero. I’m an American.”

  122. Snowden has only reported on an expansion of a massive surveillance program that was already reported on by the NYT, USA Today, etc and this may be only the tip of the iceberg…
    Pundits like to use namecalling as a diversion when their arguments get weak(there is plenty of clown activity at the upper eschelon levels of the system…that can be reported on) we can use this forum for this

    Snowden has done a great seervice for Amerikan citizens in further exposing this Orwellian apparatus that is acting in violation of the constitution…

  123. Excerpt from “The Snowden Principle” by John Cusack

    At the heart of Edward Snowden’s decision to expose the NSA’s massive phone and Internet spying programs was a fundamental belief in the people’s right-to-know. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.

    From the State’s point of view, he’s committed a crime. From his point of view, and the view of many others, he has sacrificed for the greater good because he knows people have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. And legal, or not, he saw what the government was doing as a crime against the people and our rights.

    For the sake of argument — This should be called The Snowden Principle.

    When The Snowden Principle is invoked and revelations of this magnitude are revealed; it is always met with predictable establishment blowback from the red and blue elites of state power. Those in charge are prone to hysteria and engage in character assassination, as are many in the establishment press that have been co-opted by government access . When The Snowden Principle is evoked the fix is always in and instead of looking at the wrongdoing exposed, they parrot the government position no matter what the facts

    The Snowden Principle just cannot be tolerated…

    Even mental illness is pondered as a possible reason that these pariahs would insist on the public’s right to know at the highest personal costs to their lives and the destruction of their good names. The public’s right to know—This is the treason. The utter corruption, the crime.

    But as law professor Jonathan Turley reminds us, a lie told by everyone is not the truth. “The Republican and Democratic parties have achieved a bipartisan purpose in uniting against the public’s need to know about massive surveillance programs and the need to redefine privacy in a more surveillance friendly image,” he wrote recently.

    We can watch as The Snowden Principle is predictably followed in the reaction from many of the fourth estate – who serve at the pleasure of the king.”

  124. Gene H.
    I have found video tape of a prisoner (#48 to be specific), that was tried under this Snowden principle. The following contains the procedure and verdict. … May the Great McGoohan help us all.

  125. Here is some breaking news. Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong for an undisclosed country. According to some sources, he is accompanied by diplomats and attorneys from Wikileaks. Some sources initially gave his destination as Russia, but later news says Ecuador.

    Statement from the HKAR government:

    Mr. Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.

    The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

    The HKSAR Government has already informed the US Government of Mr Snowden’s departure.

    Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.

    Copy of original document:

    ABC News says he is going to Ecuador. Source:

  126. Still a bloody hero! Hopefully, with a name like that, I’ll remember his name longer than that other internet hero that chose to knock himself off when the Feds wouldn’t leave him alone. This Snowden is the opposite of the Illuminati figure Lord Snowdon.

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