NSA whistleblower goes public

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old NSA contractor and ex-CIA employee, has revealed that he is behind the series of leaks that have appeared in the Guardian and Washington Post this weekend, which detailed top-secret, over-reaching, and arguably criminal surveillance programs run by America's spies with the cooperation of the Obama administration.

Snowden says he always intended to come forward after the leaks, and to face down the consequences of his actions. He describes himself as a disillusioned Obama supporter who was disappointed after the 2008 election to see America double down on the overreaching spying programs that had worried him when he was with the CIA. He is giving up a comfortable life with a $200,000 salary, a girlfriend, and a home in Hawai'i to blow the whistle on what he views as immoral, out-of-control spy programs. He says he does not want to be at the center of this story; he wants the focus to be on the government's actions.

He is holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong that he has barely left for three weeks. He takes extreme measures to avoid potential eavesdropping and hidden cameras. He believes he will be arrested or possibly killed, and enumerates many ways that this could happen -- rendered by the CIA, imprisoned by the Chinese government, murdered by Tong gangsters or other criminals working for American or Chinese intelligence agencies. But he says he is not afraid, and stands by his choice.

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and "say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become". The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. "The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won't be able to help any more. That's what keeps me up at night," he said, his eyes welling up with tears...

...But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. "I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA's surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. "What they're doing" poses "an existential threat to democracy", he said...

...For him, it is a matter of principle. "The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to," he said.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: "I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation," reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

He may not see himself as a hero, but I do. Thank you, Mr Snowden.

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance [Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras/The Guardian]

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I do not expect to see home again' [Q&A/The Guardian]


      1. On the one hand yes he will be thoroughly discredited, or at least attempts made ot do such. On the other I very much doubt the CIA/NA or whoever will want him to drop deadanytime soon. Him dropping is going to look very /VERY/ f’ing suspicious.

        1. You have to be a bit more creative. 
          Surly he is doing drugs and during a drug purchase-gone-wrong he is killed by his tong-dealer. 
          Or even better: He jumps out of his hotel room window, US gov blame chinese security “they tied up loose ends after hiring him” and who will believe those commie bastards anyway if they claim otherwise.

          1. In that light, yes going to HK was a foot put wrong. Should have just gone to Iceland in the first place.

          2. Well, Assange thought Sweden would have been his fortress and look at how that turned out. Iceland is not a paradise, it so just happens that they’re currently going through a phase where there is a widespread interest in leaving them alone (because other people could start having perilous thoughts about not bailing out their own bankers, voting out their nomenklatura, and so on).

            Europe, even in its most remote and idealistic corners, is too old and cynical a place to welcome people like him while he’s still under heavy fire.

          3. toyg: Come on, Sweden’s not trying to ship him off to the US. That’s pure conjecture with absolutely no factual basis. He also could have avoided his Sweden situation by, dunno, maybe not trying to have sex with sleeping women?

          4. twianto: if there’s one thing that came out in tatters from the Assange affairs, it’s the state of the Swedish legal system: prosecutors closing and reopening cases on a whim, launching hardcore Interpol searches for blurry he-said-she-said cases… Which might not be too surprising, considering the PirateParty shenanigans as well, but hey. As recent riots pointed out, Sweden is not a paradise.

          5. Problem is to get to iceland from hawaii you have to transfer while in the US mainland. Easy ot just snag and disappear him while waiting on the transfer.

            Hong Kong was litterally the most stable place he could go that didn’t require a transfer flight. Plus it’s a popular vacation spot so him going there wouldn’t set off flags.

          6. @twianto:disqus 

            That’s pure conjecture with absolutely no factual basis. He also could have avoided his Sweden situation by, dunno, maybe not trying to have sex with sleeping women?

            Were you trying to show an example of pure conjecture?

            Educate yourself:

          7. Okay, we’re done talking about Julian Assange now, since he’s not the subject of the post.

          8. @twianto Last I heard it was because he had sex with them without a condom (I assume they thought he was wearing one).

            Did they update the propaganda?

        2. Well, a certain Dr. Kelly’s death was also “/VERY/ f’ing suspicious'”, but there were no real consequences. (I’m not saying three-letter-agencies were actually involved in that circumstance, of course)

          1. Needle marks on his wrist, Imean, found his watch in a location that had already been thoroughly searched ohshitImean, Nothing To See Here, Move Along.

          2. There’s always, “Edward Snowden lost his long-term battle with depression yesterday.”

      2.  yep, give it a week he will be a radical liberal transgendered homosexual with a husband in china who hates everything american and the 5 minute hate segments on fox news will be sure to whip their base into a frothy rick santorum of hatred towards him.

          1. I fucking hate Glenn Beck, he’s so cuckoo, and him jumping behind the leaks is so transparently because he’s anti-Obama.

            But he should be free to be cuckoo and hatemongering and a total fucking clown, without the chilling effect of a state apparatus doxxing him and his followers without a warrant and without due process.

          2.  You may not like Fox news or Glenn Beck, but they are looking more and more creditable these days.  The whole “Obama is evil” speech seems to go over better when Obama certainly seems to be evil.  He has already surpassed Nixon in the “scandal” department.  Benghazi, IRS, spying on reporters, giving illegal guns to Mexico, phone records, etc.

          3. @facebook-1073720809:disqus Either you didn’t follow the Nixon story too well, or, more likely, you’ve been caught up in the Fox news echochamber

          4.  morcheeba:  Nixon, as I recall, resigned over Watergate.  Spying on enemies, bugging offices, and sending government agencies after his enemies.  Obama’s administration has sent the IRS after conservatives, spied on the media, spied on major portions of the US population,  not sent help to an embassy under attack and lied about it later, sold illegal guns to Mexican drug gangs, and tried to retain rights to use drone strikes on Americans on American soil.

          5. Problem is, both loser parties are A-Okay with this Panopticon; the GOP because they believe in it from a Puritanical, nosy-neighbor world view, and Democrats because they are cowards that don’t want to be tarred as terrerist sympathizers (which explains why Senator Obama voted to give AT&T a free pass for spying all those years ago now).  We The People are fucked.

          6. I know, agreeing with Glenn Beck to this extent is really disturbing me. I just looked at his twitter feed, and there’s nothing about the NSA I don’t agree with.

          7. they are already alluding to him being a chinese spy and calling for his execution.
            give these things time…

      3.  NBC News has already started reporting him as a “high-school dropout,” so it’s already begun.

  1. tinyurl.com/29zen7b   Arbitrary.  Def 1: based on individual discretion, not fixed by law.  Def 2: ruling by absolute authority or unrestrained power. 

    Edward Snowdon parsed, selected and released information based on a decision of transparency.   He has stated that in doing so, he is different from SFC Bradley Manning.  And in that regard, he’s right.

    1. And yet the government has not come up with a single individual that was harmed by Manning’s document releases.  So there’s that.

    2. Apparently, there has also not been a single whistleblower since about 2000; just a series of traitors and enemy spies.

      1. Yep. And to think it all happened under “the most transparent Administration…”

        So many traitors and enemy spies leaking our transparencies. I guess our only hope is more waterboarding and torture until the people we hire to protect us realize we’re the most benevolent country in history, a real goddamned City on a Hill.

  2. I take my hat off to you Mr. Snowden. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of a true patriot.

  3.  “…ex-CIA employee”, i was under the misconception (provided for me by folks who aren’t “ex-“) that there was no such thing.   one may go “inactive”, but the legally-binding-semi-divine-blood-oath never lapsed.

    anyway, why is this guy breathing the fresh air (for now) and Bradley Manning is in the brig? (whoops… army) stockade

    1. Because Mr. Snowden is not a serving military officer, and the government therefore has to make a temporary pretence of respecting his rights.

      It won’t take long.  Speaking truth about power is even more dangerous that speaking truth to power.  Good luck, Mr. Snowden.

      1. That legal technicality hasn’t stopped the US gov before. Most guys in Guantanamo were/are civilians tried by a military tribunal.

        1. Yes, but they were captured by military troops in countries where the US had a policy of “do whatever the fuck we feel like”, and weren’t under media scrutiny before being kidnapped.  It’s going to be… harder… to try that approach with China.

          He’s at least made sure the US government has to extradite him as a civilian, not just “disappear” him.

  4. This guy is a hero. No questions quantifiers or reservations. I know no other way of describing it.

  5. Hawaiian hacker exposes NSA wrongdoing, flees to Hong Kong. Not only is Edward Snowden incredibly brave, he’s apparently living in a Neal Stephenson novel.

          1. Given Adam Savage managed to get a forty inch chunk of metal through tsa screenings? Plausible!

    1.  Does this mean tomorrow he’ll be *SPOILERS* captured by a Muslim terrorist and flown back to North America in a stolen Russian jet?  Apologies if you haven’t made it through REAMDE yet.

  6. “He is giving up a comfortable life with a $200,000 salary, a girlfriend,
    and a home in Hawai’i to blow the whistle on what he views as immoral,
    out-of-control spy programs.”

    I am relieved to know that not everyone can be bought.  Let’s hope more leakers come forward soon.

    “…don’t let fear of imprisonment deter you from speaking up and
    fighting back. Silencing our movement is exactly what they hope to
    accomplish with these targeted, politically motivated prosecutions. They
    can try to stop a few of us but they can never stop us all.”  –Jeremy Hammond

      1.  Highest mountain in Wales.  Well, it’s spelled Snowdon over here, but they are linguistically related.

  7. Funny how the Obama admin is going after people with moral backbones. What kind of person goes after people with strong morals and ethics? Ask yourself that.

    1. An immoral, lying, hollow, authoritarian, kleptocratic sociopath.  Obama says all the right words, and then does the exact opposite.  He is building a totalitarian state where the government will know everything about us and thus can totally control us.  That control doesn’t apply to his wealthy buddies — the bankster-criminals and corporate heads — of course.  I am convinced he is a sociopath, because he is so good at appearing reasonable and substantial, but when you hear his unrehearsed words and “hear him think”, he’s shallow and uncaring.  His lame claims that the things the banksters did weren’t illegal (they were).  His strong words defending the rights and morality of whistleblowers (before he was elected anyway).  The guy exudes reasonableness and sincerity.  Who could do that so well but a sociopath, or someone who truly is that sincere?  And we damn well know it ain’t the latter.

      1. I’m sure his lack of power to change surprises and annoys him as much as it does you. One man in charge of a whole country? Preposterous and highly improbable.

        1. Change what?  He takes the plutocracy-approved path at every turn.  And he goes even further:  he has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all past presidents combined.  And the Espionage Act is an unconstitutional bit of paranoia passed during WWI that was rarely used because of its draconian and unconstitutional premise.  Of course it was never overturned because that seems to be how government works, but Obama clearly and unashamedly approves of it.  He has also expanded the NSA surveillance system, and now defends it.  He doesn’t want to change anything his corporate masters don’t approve of.  He could fight against the powerful, on behalf of the American people, but he chooses not to.

          1. No I don’t.  I said he has a lot of power. That is not the same thing.  When he wants something he knows how to twist arms and threaten people to get it.  He wanted to let the banksters continue their crimewave, he wanted to drop the public option, he wanted to ignore his promises regarding EFCA, the environment and civil liberties.  He could fight for the people of this country against an increasingly invasive and all-powerful corporate state.  He chose not to.  Instead he is pushing for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Look it up.

          2. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s using what power he does have in the worst possible way.  Nobody makes a worse authoritarian than a lip-service liberal given power.  (See: Blair.)

        1. I see, so calling Obama out for his lies and full-court press deceptions (and proposing he may be a sociopath for being so good at it) is the same as going all Alex Jones and calling him Hitler.   Gotcha.

          1. He’s not any worse than any other politician that gets to the national level in pretty much any country on earth.  Calling him a sociopath undermines articulate criticism.

          2. Exactly. We’re in an OOC feedback loop. Every POTUS and administration that extends the Gov’s reach eventually hands the keys over to a new one. And no administration ever wants to have LESS reach. Blaming Obama without blaming Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, etc… is just silly. And blaming them without admitting that they have very little power to turn the system around is even sillier.

          3. Whatever, sociopath, wonderful guy, I don’t really care.  I happen to think he has many of the traits of a sociopath.  I also felt that way about W.  The point is he is allowing and furthering the creation of a totalitarian state.  I say this because a government that knows everything about all of its citizens is all powerful and unstoppable.  He is overseeing this “modest encroachment” as we speak.

            I have a similar dislike for Bush and Clinton, but Obama is president NOW.  And he is defending this unconstitutional garbage NOW.

            I also expected more from him.  The things he said and promised before he was elected were outright lies.  I didn’t expect much from Bush or Clinton frankly.  Obama knows how to say all the right things, and he plays on people that way more effectively and cynically than the others.   That is why I call him a sociopath, because he is so effective at his manipulations.

          4. Look, I’m not saying that Romney, W or anyone else would’ve been better.  They were and would’ve been terrible.  But Obama is more effective in many ways because he gets people like you defending him.  Could Bush have gotten away with gutting habeas corpus and assassinating American citizens with impunity?  Could Bush have gotten away with proposing to gut social security?  Obama lulls democrats into a false sense of security and then pulls off worse crap than the republicans.  Can’t you see that?  

          5. Yes, it’s a system problem rather than a problem we can lay at the feet of one guy.  It’ll be a woman pretty soon that people are calling a sociopath.  Still, you’re right.  This personal destruction stuff really undermines actual change.

          6. I’m pretty sure that Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, most UK Home Secretaries since 2007, etc. have already been called sociopaths.

          7. “Not any worse than any other politician” is pretty fucking far from the envoy of hope many people saw him as five years ago, and it´s certainly far less than he promised. If he really is a good-willed but ultimately powerless pawn he is one of the really useful ones.

          8. I am not going to base my political critiques on the fantasies of a bunch of people who can’t distinguish between voting for President of the US and voting for Prom King. I knew from the beginning that he was fairly conservative, but that he was far better than the opposition.

            Personally, I would have preferred Hillary, whose politics aren’t much different, but who’s a hell of a lot scrappier and might have won more battles.

          9. I am replying to your reply below.

            I am certain you are a better informed individual than at least 95% of the world´s population. While I agree it is everyone´s duty to inform themselves we all know few people do.

            Your comment makes Obama out to be a conservative who is good at presenting himself to be something else, which is very close, if a little more gentle, to what Ygret was saying.

            The only difference seems to be just how much of a phoney one makes him out to be. While that does sound very much like any other politician on earth, Obama did make himself out to be not just any Prom King but the magical Prom King of fairy wonderland. That makes him a grade A phoney in my book.

          1.  An army of Hitler gholas.

            Better than clones because they can be programmed not to be fuck ups, if done correctly.

          2. After ten millennia or so, will one of them become the Kwisatz Hitlerach?

            If you don’t get the joke, lucky you; that means that you didn’t read all those awful books.

          3.  Not sure if Adolf could handle it.

            I got through Children of Dune. Still, better than Twilight.

          4. Maybe if you kill 20 million people instead of just 8 or 9.  Stalin perhaps.  Its not really a cute question to be smug about.

    2.  Obama is merely a figurehead with no real power. Democracy? Not so much; more jingoistic juggernaut with authoritarian tendencies.

      1. That is just hogwash.  He has a lot of power.  He just pretends he doesn’t when he wants to do something he needs to pretend he doesn’t.  For example, in  his recent national security speech he asked if we want to be the kind of nation that keeps people in indefinite detention and force-feeds them.  He could change that practice right now by simply releasing the people we have no evidence against.  Even W did that, releasing hundreds that were wrongly imprisoned at Guantanamo.  But he chooses not to, and instead pretends that it is “we” who are doing this thing. 

        1. You honestly think he’s sabotaging health care reform and the economy just so he can consolidate his power for the stuff he really cares about?

          The guy’s no politician (see: Bill Clinton in his way, or Hillary Clinton in hers), and yet he showed up out of the blue into the biggest sandbox with the biggest babies….and guess what?  He didn’t take over.  Gee, who woulda thunk it?

          1. I think he passed the health “reform” he wanted to pass.  But yes, he sabotaged the public option by bargaining it away in secret.  This is documented fact.  He ignores other promises he made that are inconvenient for him to support.  One of the biggest, in my opinion, was support for EFCA.  He didn’t even pretend to do anything about it once he won in ’08.

            I think his instincts are authoritarian and corporatist.  He believes the neoclassical garbage that is spouted as fact by the establishment economists.  He pretended to scoff at trickle down economics and yet post-election every economic decision he has made or supported has been based on trickle down and the Robert Rubin cabal.  He vitiated the rule of law when it comes to the large banks and mortgage servicers, and yet subjects the non-rich citizenry to draconian prosecutions, be they patriotic whistleblowers, state medical marijuana dispensaries, illegal immigrants, or dissidents in OWS and the peace movement.  And remember that he has total control over the Justice Dept and who it directs its power at.

            Frankly, if you don’t listen to what he says and just watch what he has done, he is a rather reactionary conservative.

          2. Always take advantage of the peoples desire to frame events as transpiring in a Just World.

      2. Screw that.  Snowden could tell us we were all being spied on, but no senator, no congressman, no president could?  If you are going to get elected president, the least people can ask of you is that you have enough spine to try to stop tyranny in your own country.

  8. – It may sound paradoxical, but going public was the only way to survive this. The US would have found him anyway, and who would ever care for an ‘accident’ of  an anonymous US employee? This way he doesn t need body guards: crowds of journalists will surround him from now on. 

    – Revealing his personal view may instigate more folks to follow after him.

    – Also, the choice of Hong Kong may turn out to be effectively clever.

      1. As former british colony it’s open enough for media and journalists but as a part of China reasonably save from US retaliation.

      2. I think Hong Kong is a clever choice because it leverages the advantages of China’s superpower status, while still being a fairly liberal city in their country. If he went to Europe, I think he would be extradited immediately (and would have no sympathy from governments that are probably cooperating with US intelligence). The other option would be going to some place like Havana or Caracas where he would face a reasonable probability of being kidnapped and flown back to the US, while simultaneously undermining his push for privacy by conspiring with US ‘enemies’. These factors don’t apply to Hong Kong because the US isn’t going to take such extreme measures with another superpower and Hong Kong isn’t demonized in the US as being a place under the thumb of a tyrant. Finally, China is not particularly sympathetic to any woes that US intelligence agencies have. Hong Kong is the most logical place in the world to go to for a US whistleblower.

        1. Yea China might protect him just as a fuck you to the United States. Until as such time as he becomes expendable.

          1. agree with all that, but I wonder, too, why he didn’t fly to Island in the first place, who appear to be harboring internet civil rights etc. activity, or is that a myth?

          2.  Iceland has close economic ties to America – its a nice ideological choice but a poor tactical one.

  9. It is my fervent hope that Edward Snowden is only the first of many men and women in the belly of the NSA beast that will realize they’ve betrayed the very concept of democracy and freedom, and release everything they can to the American people.

    1. Right now, every NSA employee and contractor is getting a full cavity search. They’re not releasing anything – and if they do, it will be something that’s undergone intelligence controls so the government can determine unambiguously who leaked it, and they will disappear instantly.

    2.  You can assume that at least one of them has read your post, and we can only hope he or she is at least having a good look in the mirror.  But probably not.

    3. More likely they’re breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t HAVE to come clean, because someone’s already done it for them.

      As someone with strong moral convictions, but no backbone, this would be me.

        1. That level of patriotic heroism earns him the title: Sir Shiny Shirt.  (Oh, good god, trying saying that one fast.)

      1. It reminds me of the shirts game-show contestants are tricked out in. Seeing as they ALL seem to wear shiny, metallic-looking shirts, I’m sure they’re made to wear it, and their own shirt is confiscated till after filming, as it would have caused eldritch Moiré patterns on the screen and ushered in the reign of the Great Old Ones.

    1. A hero and a martyr, in the tradition of great civil rights figures such as Eugene Debs, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harvey Milk.  Snowden has given up everything to confront and expose the great civil rights issue of the modern age.

      I have nothing but the deepest respect and thanks for Mr. Snowden.  He has done an invaluable service to humanity.

  10. Ellsberg described his reaction (to the announcement by Randy Kehler, a draft resister, that expected to go to jail):

    And he said this very calmly. I hadn’t known that he was about to be sentenced for draft resistance. It hit me as a total surprise and shock, because I heard his words in the midst of actually feeling proud of my country listening to him. And then I heard he was going to prison. It wasn’t what he said exactly that changed my worldview. It was the example he was setting with his life. How his words in general showed that he was a stellar American, and that he was going to jail as a very deliberate choice—because he thought it was the right thing to do. There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger. Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men’s room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing. The only time in my life I’ve reacted to something like that.

    (from Wikipedia)

      1.  It is obvious that it was sheer coincidence that Randy Kehler’s willingness to go to prison actually made a difference (by being overheard by Ellsberg who subsequently leaked the Pentagon Papers). It is the willingness of Kehler to go to prison *no matter what* for standing up for his ideals that made a difference in the first place, he didn’t and couldn’t know he would literally end a war by this.

        1. I was actually quoting Ellsberg, who apparently had an inkling that he could literally end a war.

  11. Obama has used the trope, “That’s not…who we are” far too much. It IS who we are. Every prior commenter who predicts the corporate media will try to ruin Snowden’s rep: you know “who we are.” You’re right: it will happen.

    The Q is: is there a straw/camel’s back for the electorate? Will they ever catch up and realize Snowden is a true hero? “Hero” has been horribly debased, semantically, by American fascists since Reagan at least. (EX: see Colbert’s use of the term to point this up.)

    Man, I almost get choked up reading about Snowden today. I wish he was “who we are.” 

    More Snowdens!

    1. Even if they “catch up”, what are they gonna do? The US electoral system (like many others) is borked by design and overwhelmingly favours entrenched incumbents organised in two loosely-defined political parties, there is no chance of “revolution at the polls” on fundamental policy issues. 

      Or do you think Mitt Romney would have done anything substantially different from what the Clinton/Obama boys are doing right now?

      1. Indeed. It’s not voting that will change this, it’s organizing.

        Let’s remember that the constitution protected chattel slavery for decades. It can protect quite a few injustices.

      2. You’re right: the system is borked/gamed/bought/Citizens United-ed.

        I only voted for Obama because I assumed Romney wd. be even worse. Which brings up a scary Q: 

        IF we accept that they’re only listening in to try to catch terrorists (and if so, whey can’t they catch the name “Tsarnaev,” as the joke went on Reddit), what about some future Admin? Like, say, Ted Cruz? Or a Newt Gingrich sort? 

        1. Yes.  And when they have all this data in storage, they will begin to use it for everything from character assassinating dissidents and other opponents to snooping for tax evasion, unpatriotic speech, etc.  When the government knows everything about its citizens, it becomes all powerful and totalitarian.

          The 4th amendment makes this type of data collection completely unconstitutional.  It doesn’t matter how many branches of government join together, they are not granted the power to overturn the 4th amendment.  The only way to justify it is if we are all under suspicion, which is of course preposterous.  And being under suspicion is the beginning of the end of freedom.  And being under the threat of being under suspicion, which this data gathering embodies, means we all must constantly self-censor to avoid becoming suspects.  This is the opposite of freedom.  With programs like the ones Snowden has outed, we have lost our freedom, completely.

          1. “It doesn’t matter how many branches of government join together, they are not granted the power to overturn the 4th amendment.”

            This must be the argument of everyone in the fight against these bastards and their simpleton, unquestioning supporters.

      3. The very term you used — borked — was created in your lifetime.  It can still be reversed.  The roots aren’t set yet.

      4. do you think Mitt Romney would have done anything substantially different

        Probably not.  But at least my Democratic senators would be speaking out against it.

        1. Are you suggesting that progressive political parties might be (and often are, in fact) more useful to their voters when they are not in power? One of many paradoxes of democracy…

          1. What I’m suggesting, and I’m far from the first, is simply that Republicans like and support the national security state no matter whether they are in or out. Democrats like and support it when their guy is in office.

  12. My apologies for my childish comment, but I can’t even fathom the size of this guy’s balls. I truly truly hopes this works out for him as well as it can, and that something decent comes out of what he sacrificed to show us.

    1. Kids probably got a bit of an ego. It’s not to put him down, it just is what it is,

        1. Indeed.

          The tendency we’ve developed of referring to people who are well into adulthood as “kids” is an indication of our sense of a lack of real agency in our lives.

      1.  Well, you are actually putting him down a bit.  Because you have probably risked more or something, so where does he get off really?

        Whatever ego he has, he deserves at this point.

  13. Thank you, Edward Snowden. This man is what a real patriot is.

    He has given all of us a second chance, and the US gov. will definitely have him killed, tortured, or worse. We have become a nation cowering in fear of
    our government, and this man was the one among us with the power to
    keep abusing it, but stood up and said no more, Mr. President.

    He, along with Manning, are my generations’ Daniel Ellsbergs.

    May god have mercy on his soul, for the bastards that run my country will
    surely take it from him. And I voted for Obama the first time too. Missed the absentee vote the second time around. It’s time we stand up as a nation and say no more of this bullshit, no more spying, no more warrantless wiretapping, no more espionage, no more torture in the name of peace, no more subverting our values as a nation for the sake of the cowards among us, who would
    endlessly trade more rights for the illusion of security.

    I will gladly live with the possibility I may be killed by terrorists any day living a benign existence in the US, if it means as a nation, we end these Orwellian and evil laws, and return to the great nation we were before 9/11 turned us all into obsessive cowards, who elect cowards and fearmongers.

    If I could take a bullet for this man, I would.

    1. I doubt you have anything to fear. The beauty of Mr Snowden’s campaign is that the whole world is now talking about this – far too many communications for even the NSA to deal with.

      1.  Not to worry.  They will flag it and get to it eventually.  Some years in the future your file will be opened – or perhaps re-opened if you start to get politically active in a way that threatens them.

        Internet is a beautiful thing, but one downside of near infinite storage is that everything gets stored and kept as a reference.

        1. I have no delusions of grandeur – they’d have to create a fictional sphere of influence for me to even rate as an extermination priority. I have practically no sway on the general public whatsoever, except for very infrequent Facebook/Boing Boing rants :-)

          1.  What could they want with little old me, huh?

            The thing is, there is no way to know what will come.  If your child or spouse gets politically active and then disappears after an arrest, you will likely be finding your political voice fairly quickly.  If someone you love has their life ruined because of some accidental addition to the no-fly list.

            There are any number of reasons people can and do become politically engaged, no matter their original intentions.  I wouldn’t wish any of those reasons on anyone, for the most part.  And I wouldn’t want something I said on some stupid web forum in 2003 to be used to discredit the value of my point of view, or my character, if I was trying to free my son from Gitmo.

        2. Yes.  And we all have something to fear.  As rocketpj says, at any time, if you become inconvenient, or you come under suspicion because some secret algorithm has singled you out, then your entire history is there for them to inspect, dissect and bend to say anything about you they wish.  Your entire life will be available to hold against you in any way they wish:  to show you lied about something once, and therefore you are probably lying now;  that you committed a crime you discussed with a friend, no matter how innocuous, will be proof you are a criminal now, etc., etc.  Ex-cops and lawyers will tell you to never speak to the police under any circumstances without your lawyer present.  This is because even the most innocent thing you say can be twisted or juxtaposed with something else to make you appear to be lying.  Even if you only tell the 100% truth.  Now imagine that you have just spent 15 years making statements that can later be brought up to show your “character”, as if you were talking to a police officer in interrogation every time you went on the internet or made a phone call.  That’s what these NSA programs do to you.

          1. Gagging people by instilling fear is bullying. Collectively, we have power that as individuals we do not. The outcome for better or worse will be determined by how many people come to realise that. So I’m a naive idealist. I prefer that to being bullied.

  14. If the government does not want their nasty little secrets revealed then they should behave in a moral and legal manner and then people will not feel obligated to reveal those nasty little secrets.

    1. I think your comment is how the US government is actually going to move beyond this Snowden thing.  They might prosecute him.  But they certainly aren’t going to murder him, and they won’t bother with some over the top attack on his character.

      It is going to be so much more simple than that.

      They’re just going to respond by releasing documents showing that what the NSA is doing is nothing like what Snowden says, that he’s just an egomaniac looking to get famous, and he has no clue (nor the security clearance) about what is really going on at the NSA.  They’ll just release a few select documents to make Snowden look like a fool, and that’ll be the end of it.

      I really think that’s a hell of a lot more likely.  People are eager to believe that Snowden is full of  it.

      1. Hard to say. I think the person doing the clever releasing right now is Greenwald (and I think I’d have hated to meet him in court were I a lawyer – he’s the sort who dots his I’s and crosses his T’s). You’ll note that he is giving the NSA and the US government opportunities to respond before he releases each new revelation, and I suspect he’s choosing the releases accordingly.

        “Well, yeah, we’re getting info on all calls within the USA, but it’s only business data…”

        Bang! Prism – the NSA is getting damned near anything it wants with the cooperation if the big tech firms…

        “Well, yeah, we do have a direct line into these tech companies, but we only direct the surveillance outside the country, and we get proper (!) FISA warrants…””Maybe domestic information gets hoovered too, but it’s inadvertent…”

        Bang! Boundless Informant – three billion intercepts inside the US in the month of March alone, all counted and accounted for.This last is particularly effective, because Gen. Clapper is on record as having told Congress that there was no way to give a ballpark estimate of domestic intercepts. On their own, Congress would love to overlook this… contempt and perjury are the correct terms… but that becomes very difficult when the nature of the lie becomes common knowledge.

        Glenn is giving these people enough rope to hang themselves. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that he is saving the most damning stuff for precisely the contingency you are mentioning here.

        1. Problem is, the NSA is now beyond control by mere politicians (who have more secrets than most).  It’s J Edgar all over again.

          1. Again, hard to say. It’s more likely to be a Mexican standoff now. He might have the goods on a number of them, maybe even most, but for a fair number, the goods aren’t going to be outright illegalities: they’ll be embarrassing (caught in flagrante in diapers and bondage with the mistress, maybe). A lot of morally reprehensible (and profitable) stuff is perfectly legal for Congress-critters – insider trading does come to mind.

            However, it isn’t particularly hard to prove contempt and perjury now, and those can indeed carry jail sentences. I’m old enough to remember J. Edgar, and he never really got caught out that way – the really peculiar and damning stuff only came out after his death. I think the situation will flex when the damage that Clapper and his boys can do to their careers no longer balances the damage that supporting him incurs. Sensenbrenner is already backpedalling something ferocious. (“This isn’t what I meant when I drafted the PATRIOTAct!”, which, of course, begs the question of what he did mean…) When the tipping point comes, I expect a lot of pols to be throwing themselves on the mercy of the public – “He made me do it!”

            Who knows? It may just work out for them – I’ve noticed a lot of Americans seem to like public shows of contrition. (I don’t entirely understand that, I’ll admit – I’m a bloody-minded Scots-Canadian.)

            The thing here is that it is a matter of opening up cracks. I remember Watergate very well, and that took time. What did happen was that the Nixon presidency stopped looking like a juggernaut, and eventually revelations started popping out of the woodwork as “Sauve qui peut” took over. The NSA’s reputation has just been dented: it is confirmed now that they’re spying on very nearly everyone. That’s actually somewhat liberating – it’s no longer a nebulous threat; it’s a known one.

            Some smart, honest judges (and you do have them) are going to look at the implications of that, and start looking more closely at the “official secrets” defence being used to shut down motions of standing in some of the court actions the EFF, ACLU, etc. have brought against the government. It’s hard to deny standing when you realise that it’s no secret that the plaintiffs are being spied on, and that even you yourself are.

            If Greenwald remains as shrewd in his releases of Snowden’s material as he has been, it will encourage others to start coming forward. I am fairly sure the scandal won’t go away. 

            The question is, what do we want to put in place when the cracks do open wide enough? Electoral reforms, to be sure (all through the West, I’d say), but what else? The technological genie that enables this kind of surveillance isn’t going back in the bottle, that’s for sure.

            As food for thought, I’ve seen these developments compared to 1984. I’m going to suggest that John Brunner was more prescient, and the social/technological/economic situation actually looks much more like The Shockwave Rider.

          2.  More people should read Brunner. Mind you, more people should read Orwell too (I’m betting 70%+ who make ‘It’s like 1984!!!!’ comments haven’t).

      2. Most people won’t believe it.  I don’t think that is how it will play out.  The more the government denies this stuff yet continues to hide behind “classified” status the more suspect they become.  The cat is out of the bag now.  And they’ve made it obvious we can’t believe anything they tell us.

        1.  I remember saying similar things ten years ago when the Bushney cartel were just getting started.

          The thing is, these bastards won’t stop until they literally have no other choice.

          1. You do have a point there.  I tend to the lose the bet when I propose the government is responsive to the people.  I just hope most people come down on the right side of this issue, however the government reacts.

  15. So, who’s going to start the IndieGoGo campaign for this guy? He’s certainly unemployable now, in any country.

    1.  He can write a book.  I would buy it.  We can then expect the talking heads to immediately assume that he betrayed the country to get a book deal.

  16. “Sooner or later…one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.” 
    ― Graham Greene, The Quiet American

  17. You know…big things often start small. 

    If enough people here — us — voice our support of  young Snowdon and what he’s done…and do the best to make sure the message spreads across the Net…there might be a fighting chance for all this to turn out well.  It’s all we have … but I, for one, think it really counts for something.

    He’s done his part…and now he’s hanging out there. As someone who has supported the Obama administration on most everything, I sincerely hope that we can spark its conscience right to the Oval Office. I really do not think this is what the President had in mind when entering office.  

    The plain fact is that this is NOT the country I want. Are we a free society…or not? The President can make a difference here. I hope he gets the message.

    1.  I sincerely hope that we can spark its conscience right to the Oval Office.

      Keep playing, Nell.  Sooner or later you’re bound to land the ball in that little cup and win the iPad.

  18. I’m curious how he got his hands on stuff.  Often, you can get stuff by snooping backups, if you’re a backup admin or doing a restore.  If you’re a technician, you’re in people’s offices on their machines trying to fix stuff; maybe he USB-sticked a bunch of docs.  Or stole a laptop.  Or found stuff on a loaner laptop. Or grabbed a CD someone had in their office for a couple years and didn’t miss. In any event, I’m curious why he didn’t try to remain anonymous and on the inside, to get more stuff.  I’m curious why he one-shotted it.  Lots and lots of questions.

    1.  It’s possible he has more, and he’s holding it back. He could be drip-feeding the leak (seems like The Guardian is). Or, he could have something he’s holding as insurance.

      1. One would hope he’s that smart.  He didn’t finish high school and landed great jobs, so you know he’s brilliant.  But is he strategic?  We will see.

        1. >>so you know he’s brilliant.  

          Or he’s the idiot nephew of someone important. 

      2.  The best in insurance for a whistle-blower is to release everything.  Then you’re not worth murdering.

        1.  Deadman’s switch: if I die for any reason, an unnamed 3rd party will release everything.

          1. With a DS you’re still worth impersonating, stalking, oppressing, torturing, etc… not to mention putting everyone who’s evernh been associated with you under suspicion.

            If you release everything you know, you change the value proposition.  You are no longer worth as much effort to seriously pursue.  Everybody’s got a budget, even the bad guys.  Make yourself not worth their time.

          2. There is one advantage to releasing only a few documents, though.  You are giving the people you are blowing the whistle on rope to hang themselves with.  They think you only released a little so they make denials inconsistent with the rest of the information you have, which is even more damning when you release that too.

            I think Manning proves that they’ll come after you whether it is worth their time or not, just for vengeance.

        1. Important point that I didn’t realize earlier: Snowden gave 41 slides to The Guardian. Only 4 were published. Any guesses as to what’s on the other 37 slides?

  19. Also, just for shits and giggles, let’s give Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc., the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s say their NSA-wordsmithed responses were, in fact, sincere in their coincidental phrasing that they don’t allow NSA to crawl through their walls.  What, in that case, *WOULD* it take for the NSA to get at the full store of Google’s unencrypted, highly distributed data, in the name of national security?  

    My guess is that Google uses non-in-house, non-self-signed keys to ALL their stuff.  Why?  Why not do it in-house and maintain it?  Because it’s a lot of work. It costs money and time that you can better spend on hiring someone else who does that task for a living.  Google and Verisign are tiiiiiight together.

    This means that all the NSA has to do is infiltrate Verisign and either grab the keys, or grab the session that made them and re-create the certs, or grab the backups, or grab the packets during the session and re-create the keys on their own server, or or or… all amounting to grabbing the spare keys to the car and starting her right up and driving around town.

    Once the NSA has the certs, it doesn’t matter if they are inside or outside Google scooping traffic.  All that matters is the decryption.  I highly doubt NSA is cracking packets with brute-force decryption unless they absolutely absolutely must try.  Failure to crack 80+ bit is well-documented.   Cracking certs is mostly likely something they rarely attempt.  Why crack it, when you can just go grab it from the source?

    Again, why sneak in the back door when you can walk right in the front?  

    I would bet a pile of perfectly ripe bananas that NSA has its hands on a massive pile of certs, which it got from Verisign, and the other CAs by FISA decree, and they can run them intelligently against any encrypted traffic they are interested in.  …In addition to having a replayable 30-day copy of the entire Internet’s traffic, sifted down to traffic identified as important and replayable for 60 days, with an archive of some traffic they want to keep in indefinite storage.

    I think it’s mostly a shoe-leather system of gathering data and the keys to it, rather than some fancy decryption and man-inside-Google cold-war-style MI6 espionage story.  It’s a mundane story of forcing companies to hand over the keys to other companies’ shit, and using the FISA court to keep everyone quiet.

    But I still want to know more about how Snowdon did it.  I’d like to know why he didn’t stay anonymous.

    1. Your hypothetical scenario is highly plausible, and follows the established model of “find the central point of trust and get everyone using it, then subvert it.”
      It’s actually very plausible that Google’s using their own keys and certs internally, but the CAs are definitely a highly susceptible point of the infrastructure.

      1.  I did.  He didn’t give details.  He did answer the “why didn’t you stay anonymous” bit, but not to my satisfaction.  He left so much behind.  Why not collect it all in and find a conduit for leaking it out while continuing to work?  I don’t know.  More questions.

          1. Me too.  I wouldn’t kid myself thinking I’d do the same thing.  I’m too much of a big pussy to try it.

        1. He probably knows enough about networking and security to understand that nothing you do online can really truly be guaranteed to be 100% anonymous at all times. Seven proxies might be an obstacle for the average Joe R. Hacker but just a triviality for well-funded agencies with access to all routers in the land.

          Or maybe he read Dostoyevsky and knew he’d be his own worst enemy the longer he’d stayed undercover.

          1. C’mon.  Walk out with hard-copy on a CD or usb stick and tell a friend of a friend to use Tor to send it to someone and destroy the thing afterwards?  How are you going to trace a screenshot?

          2. Tor is eavesdroppable like mad — plausible deniability won’t help you much when you’re the only user with a friend in the social graph who is a CIA contractor… and even if you are not, it’s clear your adversaries have the capabilities to shake quite a few trees for as long as it takes. Would you do that to your friends ?
            He’s a network professional, fighting one of the most powerful organisations on Earth, with an unparalleled degree of access… about which he knows much more than you and I will ever do. I’d trust his judgement on the matter.

  20. “it’s dangerous to our national security and it violates the oath of which that person took. I absolutely think they should be prosecuted.” Republican Rep. Mike Rogers

    Don’t Senators take an oath to uphold the constitution?  Isn’t this program that these senators support a violation of that oath?

    1. Exposing a violation of the Constitution is a violation of the Constitution until they say it isn’t.  Simon Says you can NOT tell anyone we are breaking the law.

  21. We have an American citizen who feels safer in Hong Kong as a political refuge than in the United States (Land of the Free, Inc.).  Think about that.

    Edward Snowden is a American hero and it’s a national travesty that he has to seek justice and political asylum elsewhere.


    1. It’s certainly weird that a political refugee would feel safer in another first-world, economically developed, relatively safe city than the country he’s on the run from, yes.

      1. I think you sadly missed the point that he shouldn’t be running from a “free country” in the first place.

  22. Change who runs this country, or merely placing limits on their favorite policies?  

    And Edward Snowden has risked his life and more for the people of this country.  Is it too much to ask that from our presidents?

    1. It isn’t, no. But to accept that as a sacrifice you must also accept that he has little power to make big decisions without putting himself at huge risk. Which was the original point.

      1. I can accept that, but I see it as taking huge risks to become president in the first place.  And if the point is that he shouldn’t do anything that might put him at further risk, well then I can’t see the logic.

        1. Ah, now I wouldn’t say that means he shouldn’t do anything, I agree that he should. If he really believes what he said pre-election then he should follow through.

          But I’ve seen a lot of people acting like all he has to do is wave his hand and things get done – like he’s omnipotent. Few accept that it’s no where near that simple.

      2. I agree its not THAT simple, in most cases.  But where it is, he has still refused to act.  That’s why that Code Pink woman stood up at Michele Obama’s speech the other day.  We laugh at people like that, apparently.  But they are much braver than the rest of us for standing up and telling truth to power.

        Obama refuses to  do even the things he says he wants to do and can do with the equivalent of snapping his fingers.  And yet he can propose gutting social security to “please his opposition”. 

        1. Oh you won’t get an argument from me in that regard – I don’t think even his most loyal supporters would support him in not realising any of his promises.

    2. You seriously underestimate the amount of risk this particular president is dealing with.  The threats come from all sides, but most especially from “patriots” (i.e., racists).

      1. Oh please.  Even Reagan was almost assassinated.  Its the chance you take when you go for that brass ring.  He had the guts to take the power, but doesn’t have it when it comes to protecting the citizenry.

  23. I just emailed my senator (Wyden) and let him know I support Mr. Snowden. Please do the same. More voices, louder voices.

  24. Never minding that the NSA is an oddball agency to poll, the gathering of metadata (are phones still designed to have default behaviors like conferencing everyone you know, that you have to back it off doing for its bonus fee to just call say, one person;) seems consistent with the FCC and carrier consortium rules.

    Contrawise Baraq and Snowden seem to have fallen for the ‘leak’ dogma, so I expect the Cronenberg scene where they both order a double-down at a Shanghai KFC is going to provide insight to their true nature…with less fly barf.

  25. I don’t mean this in any way to disrespect the actions of Mr. Snowden, who is most certainly a patriot and a man for whom words have meaning…


     why in the world is ANYONE working for the NSA or the CIA making 200K a year?!!?!?!

     arent there supposed to be hundreds of thousands of these new cyber-spooks working for Homeland security now?

    When did our strategy for competing in the global marketplace and war theatre become “hey everybody- let’s just set all of our money on fire!!”

    1. Among his other job titles, he was a senior system administrator. In Silicon Valley, junior system administrators get $65 – 70 K.

      1. No I totally get that, and I’m sure he’s worth it on some level, but when i think back on ww2 and vietnam, and the people who did the work of those wars, I cant imagine any of them were making a comparable wage.

        Now maybe the aircraft designers were, the munitions factory bosses etc, but I think there is something inherently foul smelling (to me) about ANYONE working for any of our war machines making that much money…

  26. Compare and contrast this guy’s wake-up call with Alex Jones’, from a few posts back–and who responds, and how…

    1.  Okay, I’ll bite.

      Alex Jones has been ranting and raving himself purple for years about this and a thousand other things.

      Alex Jones has produced thousands of hours of commentary and interviews with esteemed guests as well as countless articles and investigations.

      Alex Jones is a Grade A Patriot that has truly pledged his “life, fortune and sacred honor” to reveal what this cluster of a government has been doing and for all of his trouble the best that the sophomoric, hipper-than-thou BB members can offer is witless derision and jokes about “cringing” and “assholes”.

      Then along comes this hideous, two-bit spook that after living a life of luxury sucking (and chewing) on the taxpayer’s teat he has “doubts” that he should have known long before dropping out of high school. ($200,000/year for a high school dropout? WTF?)

      Reminds me of the “valiant men and women of law enforcement” that have “doubts” (usually after retirement) about their actions in the “war on some drugs”. Much like a serial rapist that has “doubts” about his chosen life path and now thinks that women’s lib might have some valid talking points.

      And then, and then, the slobbering and fawning BB readers (and others) call this fellow a “patriot”,  “a shining light in the darkness” and even a “New Jesus”.

      It’s all just kind of sad.

      1. Alex Jones has risked neither his life, nor his fortune.  And his chosen profession gives doubt as to whether he has a sacred honour to lose.
        Interviewing esteemed guests doesn’t make you a hero, even if you do it well.  Investigating conspiracies is only useful if you’re capable of distinguishing them from the lunatic nonsense you read on the net.
        Alex’s ranting and raving on this point would be more impressive if it could be picked out from his ranting and raving about everything else that crosses his mind.  (Ranting is only useful for emphasis; when it’s you’re default mode of speech, it’s past time to stop.)

        Snowden, on the other hand, is in the same category as Clive Ponting.  That he was well-paid for doing his job only makes it more impressive that he has the guts to firebomb his career chances.

  27.  Kennedy got us in to Vietnam and brought us closer to the brink of nuclear war than any other American president. The idea that he is some sort of American Hero is simple and somewhat repugnant- Sure- he was born rich, was graced with physical charm and a boyish grin, but he was an idiot and a dangerous idealist.

    1. I like that:  “a dangerous idealist”.  As if idealism is the danger we face in this world.  He started the war in Vietnam, but it took less idealistic men like Johnson and Nixon to really make it hum.

      I’m not saying he was a great president or a hero.  But he was no worse than many and better than most.

    2.  None of which is relevant to the question of whether he was shot for sinister reasons because he decided to do something that some powerful people didn’t like.

  28. It’s my desire to have his heroic actions reflect badly on Obama, an aparent steward of national interest and democracy, to the point it becomes known as Obama’s Iraq.

  29. Here’s a potentially dumb question: what did anyone think was going to happen knowing the NSA had built an unfathomably massive, secret data center?

  30. While I’m heartened by all the commentary no one has asked the one important question.

    What do we do?

    How do we collectively organize and tackle this?  What’s the first baby step we should be taking to actually do something about this?

    I’m sick of reacting, I’m sick of commenting, I’m sick of mailing lists and petitions.
    Let’s stop being passive observers and start taking action.

    Let’s brainstorm.  What CAN we do?

  31.  Arguably illegal? Let’s argue that. Since President Bush and congress gave us the Patriot Act after 9~11  all kinds of invasive stuff is legal with “oversight” by FISA , a secret court.  I wish President Obama had taken a harder stance against it, but the security~terrorism industry is the new military~industrial complex and only the people can turn that back. So far in my life they have been either too afraid or too in love with the jobs to do that.   

  32. Alright, I’ll give some counterpoint to this love-in. 

    People are acting like this is a new thing, as though it is some sort of revelation that the world’s largest intelligence agency and its counterparts are looking inward instead of outward-only. It didn’t start with Obama, it didn’t start with Bush Jr., Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc. etc. etc. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, that it is an acceptable state of affairs, but it has been this way for a long time, longer than I and most bOINGbOING readers have been alive. The degree to which our communications were captured and evaluated was limited only by technology (the technology we used to communicate, and the technology used to capture and evaluate what we produced), not by political will. 

    This latest leak may fill in some details about implementation, but the main story should come as a surprise to no one. I’m no one to judge acts of heroism, but I personally think Mark Klein’s actions during the Bush Years took a lot more guts than  Edward Snowden’s during the Obama Years. 

    1. Snowden’s delivered much stronger and more detailed evidence than we’ve seen previously for mass surveillance by the US government. This degree of surveillance could not have been possible even a few decades ago — Nixon couldn’t have had instant access to anyone’s phone conversations.

      The Guardian’s publication of Snowden’s evidence has made this a very public issue, very suddenly.

      But I think the most significant thing that has happened is that major politicians, particularly Senator Dianne Feinstein and President Barack Obama, immediately confirmed the basic details about the Verizon intercepts, and doubled down by arguing that it was legal and justified.

      We’ve just had a nightmare scenario publicly confirmed: the effective elimination of individual privacy, and the elimination of the Fourth Amendment. Clearly, major politicians are gambling that we’ll just accept this as a new norm.

      That is the crisis. We have a brief window of popular outrage.

      1. This isn’t the new norm, it is the norm and has been for some time. Snowden’s evidence is not stronger in proving mass surveillance by the US government, it is the most recent. It was proven decades ago that mass surveillance was underway; reference the Church Committee, among other investigations. Observations about the twinning of satellite groundstations and microwave receivers by DoD agencies go back at least as long. 

        I’m not sure how claiming legality and justification of operations qualifies as “doubling down”. It’s not as though they said “But you’re right, guys, we’re gonna go ahead with the anal probes just to be sure.” 

        I also don’t see how the major players of the three branches of government would feel that they’re gambling… Their predecessors have been running the same basic game for over half a century without losing their shirts. Hell, they kept winning for 22 years without the easy spectre of the USSR to play villain.

        1. Every person who takes a public stand against this and throws away their life in an attempt to revert this norm and fight for freedom is a hero – there have been heroes under every administration.

          We should be screaming from the tallest towers about how much of a hero this is, because then others might come out, and we’ll need a relentless drumbeat if we want things to actually change.

          1. Scott Bakula is my hero. He could’ve coasted on Quantum Leap fame for the rest of his days, but he screamed “NO!” from the top of the Warner Brothers water tower and became a space captain.

  33. I don’t understand why so many will tolerate Google and Facebook storing and scanning their messages for keywords to sell them advertising, but will get angry when the NSA does the same to try to fight terrorism.  Both suck, but doesn’t the former suck more?

    1. Most people regard advertising as a minor nuisance.

      The people who’ve worried about Google and Facebook invading their privacy in a systematic way have been most worried that the enormous databases they compile may be used for social or political manipulation. The nightmare scenario would be that governments would get direct access to these databases and use them for political control.

      We have just had confirmation that that nightmare scenario is in fact already happening.

      The US government has been known to describe system cracking, labor actions, nonviolent protests, and even investigative journalism, as “terrorism”, and there has been a trend towards slapping “terrorism” charges in mundane criminal proceedings.

      Also, the US government has asserted its right to summarily execute suspected terrorists, or to imprison them without trial or review of evidence, and to torture them. And while the victims of these policies have overwhelmingly been people outside the US, major politicians have asserted that they should be able to apply the same policies to US citizens.

      Some have pointed out that there is some selfishness in that there has been more outrage expressed at indiscriminate surveillance by the NSA than there has been at drone strikes or other violence routinely committed by the US in the “war on terror”. There is a lot of justice in that criticism, but it has to be pointed out, also, that the people in the best position to restrain the US government are people in the US, and if our ability to resist is significantly reduced, it will become much more difficult to bring the US government under control.

    2.  Adblock Plus works for that. For STASI-type bullshit, it’s considerably less effective.

      1. That’s irrelevant: shielding yourself from the products of Google’s surveillance does not prevent the surveillance from happening.

  34. To me, this guy has the greatest health insurance on the planet at this moment in time. If anything, ANYTHING were to happen to him, regardless of the facts, even if it’s truly an accident, the whole world is going to assume that the NSA did it. I need health insurance that good.

    1. Um, they would probably send someone from an organization that handles weapons regularly. Sending a team of NSA folks to perform a hit would be like using slide-rule poindexters as rugby players.

      1.  My point was that if anything at all were to happen to him, the world would expect that it was the NSA that was behind it. Of course they have their own hitmen. They’re an intelligence branch even more secretive than the CIA, with approximately 30,000 military people assigned to them.

  35. Legal fees.  This guy is about to be rogered every which way from Sunday.  China will sell him out, maybe use him as a thorn in the US’s side.

    He’s amazing.  How do we help him?

    btw I’m getting chatter this is the tip of the iceberg.  A lot of people know a lot of stuff, but are scared to talk.

  36. Let me point out the international impact this is having as well – some chilling words from the UK’s Foreign Secretary (and chilling that he was nominated to face the public, as opposed to say … the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister)

    “Law-abiding” citizens have “nothing to fear” from the British intelligence services, the foreign secretary says.

    William Hague said reports that the UK’s eavesdropping centre GCHQ had circumvented the law to gather data on British citizens were “nonsense”.

    But he refused to confirm or deny claims GCHQ has had access to a US spy programme called Prism since June 2010.


    That first sentence could come straight out of 1984 (if in fact it doesn’t!)

  37. Mr. Snowden. His, the one brave voice that stood up for privacy among those tens of thousands of government workers. He looked and what he saw was unconscionable.  And he did something about it

  38. Once the government can examine everything (pretty much) about someone’s past, that person is no longer free.  If the government wants to, they can doctor up anything about you they want — to prove you are “evil”, or mentally ill, or a liar… and once they can do that to anyone they have total control over us.  They can retroactively examine anyone’s life and find whatever “evidence” they want of anything they want to charge you with.  

    Why do you think criminal lawyers tell their clients never to speak to the police without their lawyer present?  Even if you tell 100% truth and are innocent they can turn your words against you. All they need is a “witness” who saw you somewhere you (or your decades of internet history) claim you weren’t and they have you as a liar, and if you’re lying about that, well then you are very likely guilty.  They don’t even have to fabricate the witness.  People want to help the police, and they “see” things they didn’t see all the time.  This scenario plays out regularly in this and other ways.  Hence lawyers tell you to say nothing to the police.  These NSA records essentially mean you’ve been talking to the police since 2006, and they can catch you in any number of “lies” to weaken your credibility.  People get life sentences for things they didn’t do based on evidence just like this.

    Once you are a suspect, that is the beginning of the end of your freedom.  The fact that we are all under threat of becoming suspects based on something we said or wrote 15 years ago, or whenever, because the NSA has all our history, means we are all constantly under threat of suspicion.  This is what totalitarianism looks like.

    1. I’m pretty sure it’s even easier than that.

      Agent:  “Do you want me to tell your wife about the porn you’ve been watching?”

      Me:  “No”

      Agent:  “Now we’re getting somewhere”

  39. One thing that I have failed to see so far in the media is any link to the Boston bombings… surely, billions of intercepts and millions of dollars spent… PRISM DOESN”T EVEN WORK
    That should be justification enough to shut it down

      1. Yes. And on and on it goes.  They will come up with a laundry list of good things PRISM has done, when they want to.  They’ll just make it up.

        Our government has misplaced, fucked up priorities.  We overspend on surveillance and defense.  Who is attacking us?  Uh, dudes with pressure cookers that we can’t stop beforehand?

        Meanwhile, we are the unhealthiest nation on the planet, dragging ourselves and everyone else down with our obesity and terrible consumption habits. 

        But the powerful have us divided.  A level half of us see progress on health issues as evil.

        Evil won in the USA long, long ago.  Now we’re playing out the epilogue.

  40. I truly hope that Snowden’s acts are the birth of a movement, one that gains major traction. However, winning over hearts and minds of a majority to the notion that this is unacceptable will never be enough. IMHO we should not accept the current trajectory, that ever more terrorism (or the perception of it) is the new norm. Winning peace, and halting the stuff that precipitates terrorism should be part of the demand, just as much as retaining basic privacy and freedoms.

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