Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Five hours with Edward Snowden (dn.se)
327 points by henrik_w on Nov 6, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 219 comments

"During the Bush administration, people were kidnapped all over the world and dumped in secret prisons, where they were tortured. During the Obama administration, the kidnappings, the secret prisons and the torture, have been replaced by death lists and extrajudicial executions of people, carried out by pilotless aircrafts, known as drones." I spent hours and hours in 2007/08 watching Obama with the hope that change is real this time. And now, it's painful just to hear his name. With the current candidates on either side, just bracing for worse.

> I spent hours and hours in 2007/08 watching Obama with the hope that change is real this time

If most people just watch, even the best efforts towards change are going to be subverted.

> With the current candidates on either side, just bracing for worse.

There's always Bernie, but it means putting some effort into the political process yourself. :)

> What I understand is that the power of corporate America, Wall Street, the corporate, the media is so great that real change to transform our country does not take place unless MILLIONS OF PEOPLE BEGIN TO STAND UP and say very loudly and clearly that the United States government has got to represent all of us, and not just the top 1 percent," he said.

What makes you think that Bernie Sanders is any different on this issue than anyone else?

Sure, he says nice things about stopping the programs. But he's clear that Snowden should go through the legal process and receive punishment. In particular he does NOT say that he would give Snowden clemency. Which makes his position indistinguishable in practice from Hillary's.

> Which makes his position indistinguishable in practice from Hillary's.

Love him or hate him, we all owe Snowden our thanks for forcing upon the nation an important debate. But the debate shouldn't be about him. It should be about the gnawing questions his actions raised from the shadows.[1]

Not sure "indistinguishable" is the most accurate word. Seems her stance is much less forgiving/lenient and focuses more on the act of breaking the law and that he should be punished for that.[2]

[1] http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/must-read/why-i-dont-...

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/13/clinton-sande...

There are two positions, 1) punish Edward for revealing what our servants do in our name or 2) do not.

Everyone is camp #1 is indistinguishable from the people who abuse our trust themseves. Criminal.

He may be in perfect agreement with Snowden himself. I believe Snowden would be happy to serve a reasonable prison sentence after a fair trial.

It appears you're conflating a stand on a particular issue with the others your parent poster brought up. A cursory look at the two candidates' platforms shows their positions to be widely divergent, especially when it comes to foreign policy and defense.

I think it's a mistake to think that people disagree on the general direction, other than jobs (income). If anything, the 1%ers tend to be more concerned with esoterics of law, war, etc, than the rah rah working class.

> There's always Bernie

If you think Bernie is going to actually do anything different if he makes it to the White House, well you are living in a dream world then.

Obama was promising to launch cruise missiles and drone strikes into Pakistan during the campaign; why did you think he was going to be less violent and more restrained than Bush?

It seems that many Obama supporters whipped themselves into such a hatred of Bush that they never really considered who they were really supporting (, though I do not presume to accuse you of that).

But the alternative was McCain, who accused Obama of being weak on war matters. So if you wanted to favor a candidate that seemed like 'less war', you would've still selected Obama.

"the" alternative... that's one of the biggest issues with the system (locked into two parties).

Obama turned 180˚ on whistleblowers and he promised "Change". We didn't thought that he will abandon Habeas Corpus at all and turn local conflicts into a undeclared global war on everybody. This was not expected.

> I spent hours and hours in 2007/08 watching Obama with the hope that change is real this time. And now, it's painful just to hear his name. With the current candidates on either side, just bracing for worse.

# Don't tell me that some power can corrupt a person; You haven't had enough to know what it's like!

Back in 2008 some friends invited me to celebrate Obama party. I was only one who told them then he is a damn liar, a good one, but a liar. Was a good party anyway.

And Im telling you know, a candidate will come a few months from now which will again win your hearts and minds and promise what you want, and you'll again fall for it.

Youre american presidential election is an strong illusion of partifipating in governmental decisions. Thats all it is, you dont have anyone reasonable to vote for.

My favorite part about American politics is that apparently a candidate is declared the "winner" a year and half before the actual election.

My favourite part of the US elections is the false premise of voting for either a bullet in the left side of your brain, or as a pleasant alternative, the right hand side.

Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.

I seriously believe there should be a bottom line vote for "None of the above, choose new candidates"

This and abolish the party system, let each individual stand on their own merit.

The idea that you have no say, except once every few years, to pick one of the per-chosen to "respresent" you, isn't actually at-all democratic. It's more like monarchy-light.

Having more than two parties also helps a lot, btw.

By which I mean, at least five, with realistic odds.

The chance of that happening is only slightly more likely than hoping for a perfect enlightened despot unicorn to step up.

Technology is truly augmenting ourselves and this medium "shapes the scale and form of human association and action", as Marshall McLuhan once said.

With that given said, compare a whistleblower, say 20 years ago, with one today. Snowden not only had the world's greatest communication platform at his disposal, to disseminate whatever information he cared about, but now he can still address millions of people, speaking at the world's greatest universities and giving interviews, while being in exile.

Regardless on where you stand on these privacy/spying issues, I think it's hard to deny the fact that he started a dialog, and now the entire world can be part of it.

McLuhan also wrote:

> With the telegraph Western man began a process of putting his nerves outside his body. Previous technologies had been extensions of physical organs: the wheel is a putting-outside-ourselves of the feet; the city wall is a collective outering of the skin. But electronic media are, instead, extensions of the central nervous system, an inclusive and simultaneous field. Since the telegraph we have extended the brains and nerves of man around the globe. As a result, the electronic age endures a total uneasiness, as of a man wearing his skull inside and his brain outside. We have become peculiarly vulnerable. The year of the establishment of the commercial telegraph in America, 1844, was also the year Kierkegaard published "The Concept of Dread."

> [...] When new technologies impose themselves on societies long habituated to older technologies, anxieties of all kinds result. Our electronic world now calls for a unified field of global awareness; the kind of private consciousness appropriate to literate man can be viewed as an unbearable kink in the collective consciousness demanded by electronic information movement.


The sensual intimacy of what Snowden revealed is hard to convey to people who don't live on the internet. They don't understand the violation and the anxiety. Even John Oliver can't change that.

>Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.


Funny, I would say that the perception of this as a violation is something only felt by those who don't understand that the whole point of putting your nerves outside your body is to expose them to the world. If you wanted to keep them private, all you had to do was nothing.

Or to boil it down to John Oliver terms since you seem to be a fan, nobody's going to see any pictures of your dick unless you take pictures of your dick.

To put it in terms that match our political realities, no one will see your dick provided you take exceptional care to not expose your dick for even the slightest second, otherwise, there are too many people watching to make a guarantee.

Technology marches ever forwards.

> If you wanted to keep them private, all you had to do was nothing.

You are advocating for the complete repression of any idea that hasn't yet become both known and acceptable to the mainstream.

It's not going to always be pictures of your dick. To name just a few of the most obvious groups with real risks, you're effectively saying that anybody with unpopular political views, anybody LGBT, and anybody with a religious belief that isn't "Christian" shouldn't participate in modern society and the network interactions that participation requires if they want to stay safe?

Blaming the victims for not staying out of sight isn't the solution.

Especially because governments don't go repressive overnight. What's perfectly reasonable today may not be in ten years. (Example, Iran.)

No, I'm not. No clue how you got there.

If you have an unpopular view, speak out. Be oppressed. Fight back against the oppression if you can, and roll over and die if you cannot. If you win, your side is and always was right. If you lose, the opposite.

You are saying that oppression is part of the natural order, and that the winners always have the moral high ground.

I find your Nietzschen worldview abhorrent.

Again, no I'm not. And I find your implication that I believe or care about such a thing as a "natural order" abhorrent.

You're not very good at this reading thing, are you?

Note that I am not the person you were originally discussing with.

How else am I to interpret "If you win, your side is and always was right. If you lose, the opposite."?

As descriptive rather than prescriptive. And certainly not naturalist.

Oh. What's your email account password, please?

I don't have one. Password authentication is SO last decade.

Then maybe you could upload an unredacted archive so we may peruse it. Or are you a hypocrite?

I already have - that's called sending email.

I am of course a hypocrite, as are we all, I'm sure. But I don't see how that's relevant here.

I would love to read more along these lines. Do you have recommendations for a McLuhan book?

Interesting how it highlights the importance of independent countries and legal systems.

"Edward Snowden reached 1.5 million followers in no time. He only follows one himself – the NSA’s official account."

That's funny.

On an unrelated note, what a hero this man is. The US should consider itself fortunate that it has people who at great personal cost would expose wrongdoing. It's a pity the irrationally scared public doesn't consider him a hero.

I wouldn't consider him heroic, I recently watched Citizen Four and the impression he gave me and the way he put it was that he was just fed up. That being said, I'm not sure I'd have it in me to do the same, though I haven't found anything I truly believe in to the deepest depths of my core...yet.

> "I didn’t choose Russia. They chose Russia."

But he was on his way to Cuba, which would have been his choice. It would have been a bad choice, because the US would have grabbed him there. It's a pretty quick jaunt from anywhere in Cuba to the US base at Gitmo.

What this article makes clear is that he is heavily guarded by the Russians. It's not a coincidence that this meeting took place in a hotel filled with high ranking Russian military. Would Cuba have afforded him the same level of protection?

> But he was on his way to Cuba, which would have been his choice.

His destination was Ecuador. It's not like he had a lot of choices, or he didn't try other countries: https://edwardsnowden.com/asylum-requests

Okay, I was just going by this article, which just stated Cuba. Regardless, it'd be pretty easy for the US to put a boat off the coast of Ecuador and get out of there quickly.

Different story with Moscow.

I don't think your assessment of the situation is correct. I doubt the logistical challenges involved of kidnapping Snowden would give the US military and intelligence communities much pause if he were in Russia, Cuba, Ecuador, or anywhere else. Physical proximity to Guantanamo Bay and the US mainland are neither required nor particularly advantageous, these are global organizations with secret prisons in many places.

What keeps him safe is that there is nothing to be gained in stealing him, he is a public figure, and another sovereign nation has granted him amnesty.

When I think of Edward Snowden, a video comes to mind, where there are three cattle in a corral and a butcher kills one of them with a riffle from close range. The cow obviously doesn't quite make it out of that situation and basically just falls over on its side. The shot and the cow falling kind of startles the other two cows and they jump an take a few steps but then just kind of stand there and look around and slightly take a look at their fallen comrade, but otherwise go about just kind of standing there, continuing to do their cow things.

That's kind of how I see society. What Snowden revealed has been going on and it's really just the tip of the iceberg and it will only get worse. But what do we do? We say "that's not cool" and then get back to posting our whole life on facebook and trusting the assurances of the same government that does far more lying than not. Here we are, you are maintaining your own government surveillance dossier on facebook, with all the connections and associations listed and conveniently connected. It is any and all past authoritarian dictatorships' wildest dream they could have never even imagined. yet it continues, the business media proclaims that there is no stopping facebook's domination, which will include what Zuckerberg's slip-up from yesteryear of intending to fully replacing the internet even if just in perception of people's minds. (see his free access to facebook in emerging markets where he is trying to head off the internet becoming a thing in people's minds)

It will be quite interesting to see how this all plays out. I am not going to hide the fact that no matter how I look at it, even if things seem all rosy and nice and pretty now, there are far more wildly risky and probably catastrophic outcomes down the path society has and seems to insist on taking.

No, not quite. I publish things on Facebook, et al when I want them to be public. It's the equivalent of a bulletin board for me.

When I want something to be between myself and a specific person or group of people, I make a phone call or email. Obviously it's not as restrictive as saying something in person, as you might for something truly private.

But there are degrees. The only way to keep something truly private is not to tell anyone but it's not fair to equate a private conversation with a public broadcast, just because you sometimes use the public broadcast.

You are clearly not a primary user. I'm not sure why you would think your example would be relevant. The vast majority of people post a lot of stuff and even more do not know how to prevent Facebook from tracking their movements across the internet and in real life. We used to think stalkers and state level corporate hegemons tailing people was something that dictatorships and authoritarian regimes did. Wait a minute. Maybe that hasn't changed.

>The only way to deal with an unjust world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. -Camus

I look at what younger people share online and am routinely shocked at their willingness to open the kimono. But maybe if we all overshared, everywhere, all the time, these fascists would have 0 power.

It is quite surprising that some people really haven't caught on yet. I look back at some of the things I posted on superficially private forums in the late 90's that in retrospect, I'd never post today. I don't excuse my naivete but still, I think a lot of people (both young and old) hadn't quite wrapped their heads around the capacity for indexing and preservation of all that data. Sure, you didn't want your stuff showing up in a search engine but hey, you used a screen name!

Regardless, however misguided my ignorance may have been in 1998, I seriously don't understand how anyone would be OK posting things that could easily be incriminating (photos of their stash, videos of drunken behavior) on sites as public as Facebook.

As you mention with your quote, maybe it's a reaction to the idea that you'll never be able to curate the sober and responsible "persona" you'd like without unrealistic levels of precaution. So rather than spend your youth in constant fear and anxiety that someone will see your drunk pics, there's something liberating about just admitting that we're all human and many of us have our "responsible life" and our moments of cutting loose.

Still boggles my mind when people post blatantly illegal activity on Twitter or Facebook though. But other than that, I try to keep a balance. When I'm out drinking with friends, any photos or videos that get taken do not go on Facebook and if they are shared at all, it's only with the people who were involved and only via less public channels. And if the behavior in question is more potentially objectionable than some drunk karaoke, the cameras stay away.

People think Facebook and other social networks help them run faster... except they run in the wrong direction.

Great piece of reporting, but the style makes it really hard to follow.

It has the form of a podcast that was transcribed to text. Yes, it would have been easier to follow if it was all audio.

It took me a few to realize when the conversation was changing from the narrator to Snowden.

> I had everything set up in such a way that my family could cut ties with me and condemn me if things went poorly. And I was okay with that; I was prepared to accept that.

Snowden was acutely aware of the consequences his actions could have. This really drives that home.

>In 2007, FBI agents carried out so-called morning raids at the homes of people who worked or had worked at the NSA, and had tried to blow the whistle on a mass surveillance program they felt had gotten out of control. One man was dragged out of the shower in his home, a gun to his head, in front of his family. Another man opened his door and soon had the house full of black-clad agents in Kevlar vests searching his home until late at night. The home of Thomas Drake, a senior executive at the NSA, was searched, his passport was cancelled and he lived under the threat of 35 years imprisonment for four years, prosecuted under the Espionage Act. He lost his job, his pension and spent everything he owned on his defense lawyer. Today he works at an Apple store in Maryland and has been able to establish that the only person, who was investigated and prosecuted, after trying to talk to his superiors about the mass surveillance, was himself.

I remember the first time I read 1984, in middle school. To my young mind it was extremely frightening, and every time I would put it down I would have the same feeling one has when they wake up from a nightmare: relief that it was just a fiction. That it was unlikely to ever happen in real life. Snowden's revelations made me feel like that relief is gone forever.

Right after the revelations came out, I discussed it with a former journalist in Silicon Valley, who was also Jewish American. I could not believe it when he used the, "I'm-not-worried-because-I-have-nothing-to-hide" argument. I guess he never heard the reason why the Nazis were so successful in killing and imprisoning Amsterdam's Jewish population, at a rate that far exceeded other European countries.

The Dutch, you see, are meticulous record keepers. Even today you can find property records that date back to 1600s and earlier. And, at some point along the way, someone thought it would be a good idea to record people's religion, in addition to the more typical things like address and date of birth. Oh, they had been doing it long before Adolf Hitler conceived of his final solution. It must've seemed like a good idea at the time. They probably never thought those records would be used the way they were after the Germans took over the country....

I wonder what is the future for him. I guess when the next president comes in office, and those leak story blow over, maybe he'll get pardoned, or maybe he'll stay in Russia for the rest of his life. The sure thing is that nobody will forget him.

Although I wonder if it can be proven or argued (or not) that Snowden is not working with Russia. Maybe in the realm of intelligence nothing can really be proven, and it doesn't really mean anything for me to trust my gut about Snowden not working against the US. Are there any articles debunking those theories ?

You can find the argument in the article. If you want to spy for Russia, you don't do it by dumping a bucketload of articles to a guy living in Brazil writing for the Guardian.

Theres no value in the press for Russia.

I've read some of them, but they all fail to provide a motive for why he'd work against the US, or how Russia would have even contacted him. There's also a mix of stories that say he was flipped before going to Russia which fail to suggest how Russia made contact with him in the first place, and stories that say he was flipped in Russia, with no real suggestion of what he's doing.

If he'd had a choice he wouldn't be in Russia. It was literally the last place left to go.

Also, they changed the passwords when he left.

Where is the tl;dr version? I really am beginning to lose my appreciation and patience for this padded editorial stuff.

I've view Snowden has a hero in a time where it is very hard to stand up and cast a light on national wrongdoing. I often struggle when I return to the US Midwest and my family and others complain that Snowden is a traitor. I wonder why they can't see the obvious wrongdoing by our leadership and how it erodes our values.

Since its the Bible belt I often find myself reminding people of the story of David [1] who hid with the Philistines when his nation and leader of Israel and turned on him. The irony is almost overwhelming to them since Snowden so closely fits the exact profile of the story.

Some nights in my darker moments I worry that we and by extension myself, have become the bad guys in that story, more akin to the egotistical and delusional King Saul than David.

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2027

[2] My relevant history: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9444512

> I wonder why they can't see the obvious wrongdoing by our leadership and how it erodes our values.

It's because traditional Christian values have been hijacked by business leaders who believe it is in their best interests to cultivate a populace with unquestioning deference to authority. (They're probably right about that too.)

>Avoiding the risk of transgression has become more important to us than carrying a difficult position for God. And it is this that is killing us. "The more dangerous a thing, the more is its conquest ordained by life": it is from that conviction that the modern world has emerged; and from that our religion, too, must be reborn.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

who believe it is in their best interests to cultivate a populace with unquestioning deference to authority

Facts not in evidence. You really think you can know what they believe in their hearts?

Quite right. One example is the whole "support the troops" fetishism you find in the midwest and the south. If you really supported them you would not want to send them off to dangerous places for spurious reasons.


Well, thanks for the backhanded compliment. But why do you think it's dumb? It seems self-evidently true to me.

My life experience has been that Christian vs. non-Christian is not a valuable lens through which to view the world and will lead you to some pretty crazy places, and it looks like you have landed in one of those crazy places.

I only couched it in those terms because the comment I was responding to couched it in those terms.

While it's true business leaders will promulgate myths such as "the lord helps those who helps themselves" and "the first thing jesus christ will do in the second coming is repeal the estate tax", they are one faction out of many types of elites seeking to distort mainstream christianity to fit their values.

And they may actually believe those things. That's the issue I have with the parent. He's basically suggesting they're all liars.

That what this thread needs is a bunch of culture war bullshit about traditional Christian values?

You can always choose to ignore the bullshit and focus on having a thoughtful conversation!

If the shoe fits...

Really? "Wake up sheeple" is all you have?

Um, no.

Let's review: the comment to which I was responding was by someone who considers Snowden a hero and couldn't understand why his midwestern family considered him a traitor. The OP specifically couched his confusion in terms of Christian values, and even cited a Bible passage. I responded with an answer to the question that he posed in the terms in which he posed it, and which made a factual claim that I believe to be correct, and which I can support with evidence. That's what I meant by "if the shoe fits..." (Just in case you're not aware: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/if_the_shoe_fits)

You know what? You're totally right, and I'm wrong. I apologize.

I still want to push back on the idea that people raised in conservative Christian families are necessarily authoritarian, but I'd have better luck doing that in a conversation I hadn't already poisoned by jumping the gun.

> I apologize.

Apology accepted.

> I still want to push back on the idea that people raised in conservative Christian families are necessarily authoritarian

You'd have even better luck if you pushed back against something I actually said. I never said that Christian families are necessarily authoritarian (though there are clearly strong traditions of authoritarianism in many branches of Christianity). What I said was that traditional Christian values have been corrupted by cynical business interests for material gain. And again, this seems to me to be self-evidently true. Look up "prosperity gospel" for example.

It's a bit unfair to blame "business leaders" when this trend of Christian power-politics started with Constantine the Great.

Well they are the current leaders who are carrying on the tradition.

This was an all- too- characteristically dumb knee-jerk response from me. Sorry.

Is it dumb because it's untrue or because it won't generate valuable discussion here?

"who believe it is in their best interests to cultivate a populace with unquestioning deference to authority"

The populace doesn't ask questions. They simply parrot what a few outspoken people with a mouthpiece tell them to do or think. Most people are lemmings they don't have your brain (I looked at your resume). Not that every conclusion that you would come to would be correct. But in the everyday world (away from NYC, SV and HN) the mediocrity and low level thinking of everyday people is stunning. A large amount of lawn signs is enough to get you elected to local office.

> But in the everyday world (away from NYC, SV and HN) the mediocrity and low level thinking of everyday people is stunning.

Please don't think that 3 communities contain the monopoly on critical thinking. From my observation (living in the "Bible belt"), it comes from a person's news media sources. Television and newspapers (traditional news media) parrot party lines and support the two-party duopoly. People that have always gotten their news this way understandably are easily controlled.

There is a newer generation (not just young people) that use the internet as an augment or even primary source of news[1]. This gives a completely different perspective on world events. These sorts of people are all over the world.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOeAa6Ye4dc

Don't worry about it. We have always taken time to recognize our heroes. History is littered with people who were called traitors who now have roads and schools named after them.

But I do wonder if our politicians were to trying to pull off another Iraq Invasion type event, whether it would be as easy today as they made it appear in 2003. Would it be easier for a whistleblower to disrupt it today? It doesn't feel so.

Because two wrongs don't make a right? Some of what Snowden did seems straightforwardly heroic, and some of it... much less so, to me at least.

Not everyone thinks exactly the same way you do. Believe it or not, outside message boards like this, there are a lot of people that don't care about NSA surveillance of US Internet traffic at all, and care a lot more about Islamic terrorism (to be clear: I am not one of those people).

Frankly, Snowden is a Whistle-Blower by all definitions of the meaning. The US has some basic Whistle-Blower protections in place, which strongly motivates the government to flat-out deny any possible hint of it. Instead, the government has a large incentive to paint Snowden as a traitor, even if all evidence speaks to the contrary (nobody died from his leaks, nobody was in danger, it revealed capabilities all governments of the world already suspected and likely were attempting to guard against, he did not profit from it, he suffered at great personal detriment from the exposure, etc...)

John Oliver made a humorous analogy during his brief interview with Snowden.

When John Oliver framed the government domestic surveillance program as having the capability to intercept, store, and review your nude images (being sent to your partner, for example), it really made people upset.

However, when he framed it as being able to siphon all communications en masse, people essentially got the glazed-over look and stopped caring.

When presented with the fact that all that "nude image grabbery" and violations of personal privacy and freedoms has only resulted in a single "terrorist plot" being thwarted (that guy who gave money to a terrorist group and was promptly arrested)... people get very upset because the result certainly does not justify the cost.

It comes down to an understanding issue (or lack-thereof). Technical details bore most people, which makes them not care.

Another good analogy is the German Secret Police steaming open all letters, reviewing the contents, then re-sealing them and putting back into the mail stream. People think that's egregious, and that it would never happen in the US. But it clearly is...

These are certainly issues that majority of Americans are going to deeply care about - the trouble we have is how to communicate it in such a way as-to boil down and condense years of technical understanding in just a few words.

It's actually not an issue at all if, like John Oliver, you just care about making a point on a comedy program and don't care about being at all accurate. Snowden is a whistleblower who went far beyond the scope of responsible whistle blowing. That's why he is correctly seen as both a traitor and a hero.

> went far beyond the scope of responsible whistle blowing

Care to elaborate? Or just make snide comments without any factual content.

By definition, Snowden is a Whistle-Blower.[1][2][3][4]

Fact checks of Snowden's claims have largely been found to be very accurate.[5][6]

[1] http://whistleblower.org/what-whistleblower

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower

[3] http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/Enforcement/whistleblowers.htm

[4] http://www.whistleblowers.gov/

[5] http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/apr/09/...

[6] http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/0...

Nobody is arguing that Snowden disclosed things that were false. The argument is that not everything he disclosed was in the public interest.

I find it difficult to hold that argument to any light.

Yes, US foreign relations were damaged as part of the release - but how can anyone claim it's OK to subvert US companies efforts to do business in good faith with foreign customers? Or to wire-tap our closest allies? What about the fallout in pursuit of Snowden where US government officials technically invaded the sovereign nation of Bolivia (the Bolivian President's plane)?

Bringing it home, how is it OK to wire-tap our own elected officials? Or the entire city of Salt Lake? Parallel construction which put people in prison without a fair trail? Purposefully weakening or subverting security protections for every citizen?

Yes, it stung. However it was necessary, and absolutely in the public's best interest. These surveillance programs are very much out of control and scope. There is no sane argument to the contrary.

You can make anything sound nice if you couch it in vague enough terms. Spying on other countries is in fact, the entire point of the NSA. Domestic surveillance is not, and it was right to expose that. However, that does not excuse the things he inappropriately leaked any more than the NSA's lawful data collection excuses their unlawful programs.

What was inappropriately leaked?

You are making the argument that Snowden should have done nothing, when in fact that is the least moral thing to do in that situation.

The US is not some how "weaker" because of Snowden - it's weaker because of it's flagrant disrespect to all other nations in the world, especially our allies.

Information about foreign surveillance programs and details of NSA methods.

I never made such an argument. In fact, I have repeatedly stated what I think he should have done - reveal information about some obviously unconstitutional domestic surveillance - there's obviously no shortage of choices there.

Whether the US is weaker or stronger does not have anything to do with the question of whether Snowden broke the law. It might affect the judgment about whether he was justified in breaking the law, but that's something for the judge to decide during sentencing, or the president to decide when pardoning him. It's not an excuse for refusing to stand trial.

Try putting systems in place to enable whistleblowing at an earlier level. You're punishing Snowden for your government not working.

In fact, nobody is punishing him. He chose to flee the country to escape consequences for his actions.

Consequences were going to be a secret military trial where the death penalty was on the table.

He has stated many times he will come back and stand trial, so long as it's a fair public trial in civilian courts (because he was/is a civilian).

The US Gov't is unwilling to provide this more fair trial.

I think you're confusing Snowden with Manning. Snowden is not in the military and is not subject to UCMJ. Perhaps what you meant is that some evidence, being classified, would not be released to the public? That does go against what Snowden asked for, but there's nothing military about that. It's also IMO an unreasonable demand unless the information in question is a subset of what he already leaked, which is unlikely.

Nope, the death penalty is definitely on the table based on the charges we've heard bandied about.

And the issue isn't that some evidence is classified, but that all evidence Snowden would want to present is classified. Even his motivation is based on works that are claimed to be classified.

I didn't say capital punishment was or wasn't on the table. I said it wasn't a military trial. Those are two completely orthogonal issues.

If Snowden can't present a single piece of evidence in his defense that isn't classified, I don't think he's got much of a case. Last I checked, the constitution isn't classified.

Come off it.

You can't have a fair trial where 99% of the evidence is not allowed to be submitted.

The US has Whistle-Blower laws for a reason, yet the US Government is not allowing them to cover his case.

Until a guarantee of a free trial, he has stated he'll remain where he's at. And that's entirely reasonable.

Regardless of what Snowden thinks, evidence submitted doesn't have to be made public. Due to his contractor status, it's unclear which whistleblower protections would cover him, but that's something that can be established during trial. It's clear that Snowden and his supporters believe that a "fair" trial means one where he's exonerated. That's unreasonable.

You clearly have not been following the entire story. Selective facts don't tell the entire narrative.

I'm pretty sure I know more than you do here, but I'll humor you. What facts do you think I'm missing?

Then you'd know it's not that the evidence presented at trial would remain sealed but that he wouldn't even be able to present it.

That's within the context of it being a trial open to the public.

> That's within the context of it being a trial open to the public.

Which the US Government is not allowing. We've looped back to the beginning here... and you still don't understand, don't accept, or don't know the entire narrative.

No, he won't be able to present evidence at any trial. It's much more than keeping some testimony sealed.

Even without inspecting every single leak of Snowden, I believe that some of what he leaked shouldn't have been, as it is unlikely that he is perfect. However, if we want to demand perfection from our whistleblowers, then we are going to have to wait a long time.

Snowden did not have the option of leaking one or two things, then poring over data and leaking a few more. He had one shot to grab as much evidence as possible and flee the country. Given those constraints, I think his behavior was appropriate.

What is really to blame here is a system that made Snowden's method of revealing this data the best choice if you want to minimize your own chances of being tortured. Everyone who worked to ensure that complaints and dissatisfaction with mass surveillance were treated as traitors even before the Snowden leaks.

The ironic part is that the people who rail against Snowden in grabbing "everything" instead of only the "bad, important stuff" is exactly what Snowden is demonstrating that the government is doing! If they hate what Snowden did, why don't they hate what the government is doing in SECRET, to EVERYONE?

How does this argument even make sense? It is trivially possible to be angry at both the USG and Snowden.

Sure. But this is a great counter to the all-to-frequent dismissals framed as criticisms that Snowden should have done something more.

"Sure, I support valid whistle-blowers, but what Snowden did ..."

It's a simple way to show that to be hypocritical authoritarianism rather than valid criticism when they don't make the connection.

Your argument makes no sense; you could indeed say "The ironic thing about those supporting Snowden is that he grabbed "everything" instead of only the "bad, important stuf" which is exactly what they are complaining the government did.

Except governments are supposed to be accountable to their constituents. Had the government been transparent about what they were doing, there would be no need to blow the whistle in the first place, creating the need for Snowden to collect intelligence on the NSA's spying programs.

EDIT: It's victim blaming.

> I believe that some of what he leaked shouldn't have been,

Then blame your (government's) employees who left Snowden with no choice but to leak.

They essentially entangled classified data (their job) with unclassified data (the facts of their fraud).

He did actually have that option. If he had merely stolen and leaked information about two or three blatantly unconstitutional programs, which surely would have been very simple, I doubt quite so many people would be calling him a traitor. I certainly wouldn't.

What was the wrong? Releasing purposely-kept-secret documents that show our government breaking it's own laws?

Is breaking an unethical law ethical? I believe so. The same reason a solider is taught/told (although they usually do not in reality) to disobey an illegal order.

The argument I've been exposed to - which could be full of misinformation so please correct me - goes like this:

Snowden could have just been a whistleblower. But in addition to revealing all the info about the NSA's spying tactics, he traded additional info to various nation-states in order to secure his personal safe passage. Thereby putting USA operatives abroad at risk in order to protect himself.

The stupid part is that I don't know if that is actually the case, but I wasn't able to counter this argument when I heard it.

No, in fact the interview addresses this specifically:

"The home of Thomas Drake, a senior executive at the NSA, was searched, his passport was cancelled and he lived under the threat of 35 years imprisonment for four years, prosecuted under the Espionage Act. He lost his job, his pension and spent everything he owned on his defense lawyer. Today he works at an Apple store in Maryland and has been able to establish that the only person, who was investigated and prosecuted, after trying to talk to his superiors about the mass surveillance, was himself."

The whistleblower laws in place a) wouldn't have applied to him, since he was a contractor, and b) are a trap anyway, since whistleblowers end up getting prosecuted, regardless of the laws. Snowden's only other possible course of action was to do nothing.

He could have limited the scope of his leaks, or stayed in the US to face trial and persecution. Either would be more admirable than what he has done.

He coordinated with the New York Times and The Washington Post and The Guardian specifically to review, redact, and limit the scope of his leaks. The releases from the press were redacted. To argue that he did not limit the scope of his leaks with intent is to deny reality.

From the press to the public, yes, but insufficiently. From him to the press, which is where the barrier of classifiedity was actually breached, there was no discretion at all.

And intentionally so – this allowed the press to review the information in context and present the information as accurately as possible to the public. The NSA abandoned the rule of law a long time ago when it chose to spy on Americans' phone calls and then lie to Congress about doing so; it should come as no surprise that people are willing to break the law in return to expose those facts.

Nobody's surprised here. I know why he did what he did. I just disagree.

Why would anyone be retarded enough to intentionally stick around to be subjected to what they've proved isn't justice?

The same reason he was retarded enough to give up his career and home to leak classified information to the press.

The leak helped, how would letting himself go through the shit that Chelsea Manning is going through, help?


No, I have no need for Snowden to go to prison before I'll listen to what he has to say. You just want him to suffer for some authoritarian reason.

If you think someone needs to be tortured to atone for some sin, be my guest.

Holy assumptions, batman. Nobody needs it. Some want it, but I don't. You asked how it would help and I answered.

That's not true (that he traded info for safe passage). He was a classic whistleblower, he took his information to the New York Times and the Washington Post first.

Trading additional information to other countries to avoid standing trial in the US would be a grave offense. I don't think that's what he did.

Obvious lie is obvious.

Also, if we did put his back to a wall it'd be our fault.

The I'm not a criminal so I have nothing to hide argument might get ridiculed on HN, but it is a strong argument for a lot of people. If you can let some faceless government entity read your emails and that decreases your chance of dying in a horrific terrorist attack by some small but unknown margin, that is a deal many people are willing to make.

That is a convincing argument for a lot of people. A lot of people also don't consider that they forfeit their right to dissent if the government ever does anything that they disagree with in the future.

I'm not sure I follow that chain of logic. This information is collected for the purpose of "national security". Most people seem to be ok with that. If that information is used for another purpose, why can't they start complaining then?

Because organised dissent against a government would be deemed a matter of national security. That might be fine and dandy now, but I think it's incredibly risky to say that there's no conceivable event in the future that would make you feel strongly enough to join a protest against the government.

I think that is a pretty big leap to make that our government would start crushing legitimate organized dissent. It is basically an argument that our government will be more evil in the future. However, if that is the true fear, why are we worried about intelligence gathering. Shouldn't we be more afraid that our now evil government has the strongest military in the world?

Snowden provided evidence that the US is using its military spy apparatus to track the interpersonal interactions and day-to-day relationships of US citizens, on an ongoing basis, without meaningful oversight. That's not intelligence gathering, it's intentionally spying on your own citizens in defiance of a constitutional prohibition on that very activity.

Thats not the deal thats being offered, thats a lie which most people are willing to swallow.

The deal is, give up your freedom, in exchange for having masters. Still a reasonable deal for most people.

This is the crux of the problem. We are all forced to watch the world like a film and it is them who are the directors and its director is Michael Bay.

Even the directors cut is only part of the picture and even if you are privy to the fact that there is a story book on which the movie is based, you'll find that it is out of print and the TPPA has prevented it from being published for another 125 years.

>The deal is, give up your freedom, in exchange for having masters

Except this is a theoretical argument that doesn't hold much weight to normal people in the real world. How does mass surveillance today harm Joe Six Pack who lives a modest middle class life in Cleveland, Ohio? It doesn't.

That the harm isn't noticed is not the same thing as there being no harm. See also the harm caused by petroleum usage that Joe Six Pack also ignores, not understanding that ignorance is no protection from reality.

Petroleum usage causes real concrete harm like climate change. What real world harm does the NSA inflict on the American public? "Losing your freedom" means absolutely nothing to the average person if their life in not affected in any measurable way. If you want to convince people why the NSA's actions are bad, you need a way to explain it without resulting to slippery slope or philosophical arguments that are so easily written off or ignored.

That is the whole point though. If I don't experience the harm, you'll have to convince me it actually exists. I'll gladly take a deal if I have some reasonable doubt in the harm, or know it won't effect me.

> some of it... much less so

Like what?

Delegating to journalists he hardly knew a cache of documents so large that he could not possibly have read them, cheerleading the disclosure of intelligence secrets that had nothing directly to do with the surveillance of Americans.

Delegating that job to journalists has always seemed to me like a responsible decision on his part. What would you have had him do instead?

If the journalists released "intelligence secrets that had nothing directly to do with the surveillance of Americans" (it's not clear to me that they did, but I'm willing to suspend disbelief here) isn't that on them, not Snowden?

Read everything, disclose only information that he could reasonably connect to the NSA violating the rights of Americans. Not reveal everything all at once. Not assume that a particular journalist whose politics he supported would (a) carefully minimize the leak to whistleblowing material only and (b) be competent enough to protect it against the intelligence services of other countries.

I don't see what's so complicated about that.

I just not sure how much choice you can afford when going up against a state actor. I would say spreading the "blame" and being a public figure was quite crucial to increasing the odds of success and providnig less incentive for the US government to take action.

> he could not possibly have read them

> Read everything


They obviously wouldn't have the stuff to release in the first place if it weren't for him.

I never understand this reasoning. That all the burden should be placed on Snowden to pour over the documents and determine what is breaking the law and what isn't. He was fairly certain a majority of it was - at that point it's most responsible of him to hand it off to people who are in a better decision to make those calls.

1) Do you expect a single person to go through 1000's of documents with their rudimentary understandings and interpretations of the law? Would you and why would you trust him if so?

2) Should he have a lawyer go through the documents with him?

3) Should he get second opinions on whether or not something is breaking the law?

4) Should he trust a team of respected journalists and their team of lawyers to go through the documents on his behalf?

The journalists he released the documents to have trust that they've established for years. That makes them hard to dismiss as looney bins. Snowden does not have that trust and would have been easy to dismiss by himself.

As per my other comment above/below - I think he's basically handled it as well as he could under the circumstances. Most of what's come out is pretty much targeting nefarious and/or potentially illegal practices. I think his actions have been - and hopefully will continue to be - a positive force for change.

But - yes, he chose to release that material. If, for instance, the journalists released something irresponsible that, say, led to deaths of people, that's still part of a chain of events that leads to him and his decision.

I'm glad he did what he did, and so far things seem to have gone ok, and I can't imagine the stress and pressure he's under.

>But - yes, he chose to release that material.

You either blow the whistle or remain silent. Choosing to not release the material would mean he's compliant, and not a whistle blower. Which - given the details that have come to light - I judge the compliance of the individuals impeding on my rights to privacy far harsher than I judge Snowden as a whistle blower.

>If, for instance, the journalists released something irresponsible that, say, led to deaths of people

Do you think Snowden or the journalist team are more or less likely to release something irresponsibly that would lead to the deaths of people? My bets are on Snowden; had he acted alone.

Simply because as an individual he is less capable of citing/knowing which laws what is breaking, what should be released and shouldn't be released (he would have to make that call himself, rather than discussing it among others), how details may be interpreted by the public, dangers of releasing certain information, etc. I believe it would be inevitable for him to fuck up had he acted alone.

Your argument boils down to "he shouldn't have blown the whistle" and I cannot agree with that. At all.

> Your argument boils down to "he shouldn't have blown the whistle" and I cannot agree with that.

You're simplifying it too much. I think he did the right thing, but took some big risks of varying kinds, too. That's part of what makes someone a 'hero' isn't it? Pressing forward in the face of uncertainty and danger.

I was just arguing with the "it's all on the journalists if something goes awry" line.

Those risks are inherent with blowing the whistle. Full stop. Cannot be removed. They come with blowing the whistle. The only way to prevent those risks entirely would be by not blowing the whistle. If you disagree, please explain to me how I am simplifying too much.

Blowing the whistle comes with inherent risk. He did everything within his power to minimize that risk and act responsibly.


I see I'm arguing a statement ever-so-slightly out of your original context (read your edit). So disregard this as a tangent discussion. :) Cheers.

The risks we're talking about obviously aren't inherent in blowing the whistle. "Don't release things you haven't read". Seems straightforward enough.

If he had taken steps to minimize the leak but missed stuff, there would be a reasonable argument here. But he leaked things that pretty clearly didn't document misconduct, but was damaging to the NSA, and a casual skim of that stuff could have ruled out its publication.

Would quibble with your mention of "release" here because Snowden hasn't released that sort of information directly.

To the extent he amassed and shared with journalists the type of information you're talking about, Snowden has previously stated that he felt he needed to prove to journalists that he was an authentic source.

Your claim certainly still applies in the form of "he didn't need to do that" or "he didn't need that much material to establish bona fides" or even "he's lying" but to my knowledge, he didn't release damaging information himself.

Snowden did leak information to journalists who then decided to report on it, and I'm sympathetic to the idea that Snowden should have assumed journalists would be inclined to report on damaging information that didn't reflect misconduct. Snowden may also have made different assumptions than you do about what constitutes misconduct.

That's a fair point, but it's pretty easy for us to say, chatting about it comfortably, with the benefit of hindsight.

Sometimes you leak with the situation you have, not the situation you'd want or wish to have, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld.

I'm not sure I understand. Exactly what prevented him from minimizing the material he leaked?

By pretty much everyone's admission, Snowden relied on Greenwald and others to minimize the leak, and that's what they've done: only a fraction of the documents he took have been published. At first blush, that sounds admirable, but when you think about this for a second, the implication is that people like Greenwald are now in possession of a huge collection of documents that aren't in the public interest (if they were, Greenwald's obligation would be to publish them!).

You are taking as given that he released things that he didn't read. I don't think that's a reasonable assumption. According to Greenwald the documents were meticulously organized and chosen to either expose wrongdoing or provide the necessary background information for a journalist to understand the wrongdoing.

By every account of the people who know, Snowden read and understood every single document he leaked.

The "spy mall catalogue" doesn't fit the definition you used. Implants into COTS hardware to accomplish SIGINT missions against foreign governments is neither nefarious nor illegal.

It may not be illegal, but it has a few negative secondary effects, among them:

1) reduces the value of US hardware on the international market, as businesses want to use equipment without backdoors installed by foreign intelligence services

2) pits the intelligence community against large portions of the tech sector, who because of market pressure will be forced to consider such activity a security threat

3) obliderates any moral high ground from which to stand on to condemn foreign intelligence services for doing the exact same thing, e.g.the State department's hypocritical efforts to condemn the Chinese for various forms of espionage in which the NSA apparently routinely engages

Certainly not illegal. Why would it not be nefarious?

It can't be any more nefarious than an assault rifle (there are at least purposes for spying implants that don't involve killing people). If you feel like all military hardware is nefarious, and think people should leak secret weapon plans, that's an intellectually coherent argument.

Personally, guns bother me a lot more than SIGINT implants.

I do not understand how private firearm ownership is identical to covert tampering with exports in consumer electronics.

That's some very untrustworthy language used there. The article expresses lots of allegations, doubts and negative opinions, but never mentions the big brother surveillance, the point of what Snowden did and the immense value for society of it. Even if some published documents were harmful to US government, it is not Snowden who published them. The article reads more like a manipulative government propaganda than like a balanced text written by a genuine journalist.

> never mentions the big brother surveillance

That's false.

>immense value for society of it

The question we're addressing here is not "Did Snowden do good things?" The question is whether he is a hero, and the fact that he did bad things is relevant. You could argue that he did more good than bad, and I might even agree; but doing more good than bad doesn't make someone a hero.

the data-mining program that slurps up e-mail and phone data of American citizens

>Even if some published documents were harmful to US government, it is not Snowden who published them.

He gave them to journalists that published them. How is it not his fault?

You're right, the article mentions it. But it does not do a good job at that, it does not paint things in proportion. The big brother surveillance and recording of everybody in US is euphemised as "domestic surveillance program" and "data-mining program". The focus of the article is on slandering Snowden.

"The question we're addressing here is not "Did Snowden do good things?" The question is whether he is a hero, and the fact that he did bad things is relevant."

The article, as some groups do, tries to turn people from thinking and talking about the important things such as the big brother surveillance and questioning government to various irrelevant issues, such as "isn't he a traitor". They try to mislead your attention astray. Don't let them; think for yourself.

If you don't think the question of whether he's a traitor is relevant, then don't worry about that question. I originally posted this link because people were debating that question.

You said "slandering". That generally implies untruth, but the only thing you've really pointed to is non proportionality, which is kind of weird (does every article need to include every single fact at all relevant to the case? Presumably not, but then on what basis can you call something disproportionate?)

"If you don't think the question of whether he's a traitor is relevant, then don't worry about that question." No way. This question is an irrelevant issue with which the propaganda machine confuses people and derails the actual discussion about broken government they want to have. And that is why I'm worrying about this question here.

"but then on what basis can you call something disproportionate?" I call the article disproportionate, misleading and low-quality based on reading it and remembering other accounts of things.

Thanks for the link. This article by Gosztola on salon.com questions Eichenwald's claims regarding Snowden a gives some compelling arguments against them. I do not think that is an attack ad hominem. Of course, after reading both articles, one may get an impression that Eichenwald cannot be trusted. But whether that is so or not, one needs to decide for himself.

The fact that rmxt brought up some problems with a different story that Eichenwald wrote in this context is an ad hominem. Besides, there's no need to trust Eichenwald, the stories he links to are written by others, and the bulk of his article is argument, which you can agree or disagree with without any trust being required.

That's an attack on other positions this person has taken re Snowden, not the one he took in the article I linked. Mentioning that in this context seems like an ad hominem.

By and large, what's been released seems relatively pertinent and 'on target'. To me it seems like he's handled it all pretty well, especially given the circumstances: I can't imagine the pressure and stress.

I'm much more ambivalent about the wikileaks cables leak, because that truly was a massive data dump, much of which was not exposing any wrongdoing, just private conversations.

The Belgacom stuff and TAO catalog leap immediately to mind as things that went way over the line.

It's disappointing to see someone who is usually so thoughtful on these issues implying that the mass surveillance of the ~7 billion people on this planet who are not Americans was inappropriate to disclose.

Perhaps you meant something different, but that's not how your comment reads.

Yes, disclosing that was inappropriate. What else do you want to know?

I'm not demanding that you agree with me, but I would push back on the idea that my argument is unreasonable.

I have conservative friends and I have an-cap friends and friends at many points in between. The an-caps oppose all espionage by any state anywhere; the conservatives think disclosure of any spying by the USG is treason. Not everyone agrees about this stuff.

This thread is rooted in a comment that expresses surprise that there are Americans that oppose what Snowden did. Well, there are a lot of Americans who oppose it, for a bunch of different reasons. So: be less surprised.

I want to know why you (at least implicitly, given your comment's wording) think it was appropriate to disclose mass surveillance of Americans but inappropriate to disclose mass surveillance of others.

I didn't mean to imply that you had the "wrong" political view or even one that I disagreed with. It just struck me as internally inconsistent given the (apparently wrong) assumptions I'd made about your perspective from other comments on the topic over the past few years.

And of course I'm not surprised that there are lots of Americans who oppose what Snowden did, but as someone who tends to pay attention to your comments, I was surprised by one of the reasons you seemed to.

No modern industrialized nation prohibits foreign intelligence collection. Most prohibit domestic collection, to some extent. Evidence of domestic collection is in the public interest. Evidence of foreign collection isn't.

These threads tend to get batty very quickly. Let me lay this out a bit:

* I think NSA (and, to a much greater extent, GCHQ) are culpable for a huge amount of misconduct, much of it revealed by Snowden.

* I'm glad the Snowden documents that illuminated clear misconduct, such as GCHQ cable tapping of Google in the UK, or US collection of cell phone metadata, were published.

* I do not generally believe that people in the NSA randomly listen to foreign communications for kicks, nor do I believe for a second that they do things like surveil presidential candidates, despite what Snowden has implied. Not because people in the NSA are good or righteous or principled, but simply because nobody has the time to do that

* I believe NSA foreign collection generally happens for reasons that most people in the US support - tracking terrorist networks and counterproliferation.

* I believe the balance of NSA foreign collections operations happen for reasons that I don't like, but that are pro-forma "legitimate" and part of the competition that occurs between all countries. For instance: to the extent that NSA is monitoring the state depts/foreign offices of other countries: I'm not a fan of that, but I'm not outraged by it.

* I believe NSA cuts a whole lot of corners in pursuing those goals, especially post-9/11.

* I do have a problem with corner-cutting, and I would have a problem with evidence that the NSA was listening to, say, German telephone communications for sport, or, like France, monitoring foreign commercial communications to tip off domestic industry, leaks illustrating that would be in the public interest.

Given this rough sketch of my worldview, it does not seem reasonable to me for the public to have a line-item veto over all the foreign SIGINT conducted by the USG. That notion seems equivalent to simply not doing SIGINT at all, which to me does not seem realistic or productive.

Just wanted to say thanks for the thoughtful reply and taking time to sketch out your views comprehensively.

Your comment left the why part of my question a little ambiguous, but I'm assuming from your response that it's a combination of because everyone else is doing it, the US sort of has to in order to remain competitive because everyone else is doing it, because it's not prohibited, and because it's not in the public interest (assuming you mean US public's interest here).

I wanted to apologize for mincing your words a bit upthread - this comment makes more clear the distinctions you draw around misconduct, "legitimate" / de facto practices, and what's in the public interest.

Thanks again!

As for the "why" - presumably it would be in the public interest for the government to spy upon notorious public enemies like terrorists or potentially hostile governments? Is there a good argument otherwise?

> I believe NSA foreign collection generally happens for reasons that most people in the US support - tracking terrorist networks and counterproliferation.

> I would have a problem with evidence that the NSA was [...] monitoring foreign commercial communications to tip off domestic industry

Then this might interest you:


the conservatives think disclosure of any spying by the USG is treason

Neoconservatives, anyway. Conservatives as classical liberals, as well as paleocons, would largely align with the anti-surveillance side.

Neoconservatives are conservatives who believe in a muscular foreign policy focused on the middle east centered on support for Israel. Tea Party conservatives aren't neoconservatives, nor are libertarians.

Well, to be fair, most Americans are unlikely to care about foreign surveillance (although I can hear Team America World Police playing in the background right about now...).

The issues that upset Americans is going to be the domestic surveillance programs.

Journalists with a publicly verifiable track record who had a history of adversarial journalism. He chose them for their principles, not their charisma. It seems like you're grasping at straws here. How is an embedded contractor with high level security clearances supposed to get cozy with journalists? It's ludicrous.

Snowden watched what happened to Bill Binney and Thomas Drake and knew that the suggested whistleblowing path was a trap. Journalists were the second to last resort (the last being the wikileaks approach). The outcomes are evident. He was right. There is/was a problem and courts and commentators worldwide acknowledge that. Hell, even Obama acknowledged there were problems.

And on your last point: it turns out non-Americans have human rights too, something that Snowden would have no-doubt recognized after living in Switzerland. American exceptionalism bullshit is no excuse for crimes against humanity (i.e. mass surveillance).

These are uncharacteristically dumb comments from you.

The Safe Harbour with Europe has been revoked based on proof presented in the Snowden documents.

I'm European so I'm happy, but this wasn't in the best interests of US. Unless we're talking about freedom of speech.

> but this wasn't in the best interests of US.

In the short term. In the longer term it is in everybody's interests, including the US.

Revoking Safe Harbour could be in the long-term best interests of american society, if not of the US government. It may help people in tech companies in pushing harder against the surveillance by government and freedom restrictions it imposes.

When he revealed this [1] was when I started to question Snowden. Hacking into the networks of a destabilized foreign power that is fighting a civil war that involves huge American interests including eventual military action seems like exactly the thing the NSA is supposed to be doing.

[1] - http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/13/snowden-nsa-syr...

To be clear, Snowden didn't reveal this to the public, the Guardian did. So it seems to me that if this shouldn't have been revealed, this is on them, not Snowden (unless you want to argue that none of what Snowden handed over to the Guardian should have been revealed).

Snowden was their source for this information, how is he not responsible for revealing this to the public? He wasn't telling the reporter this information in confidence. What he did do, is simply turn over non-redacted documents and let the media outlets redact at-will to find the newsworthy story. Regardless of the story that comes out, Snowden is the reason it is out there now, that makes him responsible for it.

Snowden is responsible for taking documents out, but it cannot be maintained he is solely responsible for publishing them. He made sure of that, for good reasons. There was little time for thorough review and checking of everything; he had to get rid of the documents to move on. Reporters he gave the documents were supposed and agreed to do that. It's them who are responsible for revealing the documents to public.

That doesn't appear to be the case. From the second paragraph of the linked article:

>In an interview with Wired magazine, Snowden said the elite NSA hacking unit, called Tailored Access Operations, accidentally cut off Syria’s internet while attempting to infiltrate it.

This [1] appears to be the interview the article is referencing.

Either way, Snowden is 100% responsible for everything that is revealed regardless of whether it was revealed by himself directly or a journalist with which he shared the information. You can't just pipe secret information through a journalist to absolve yourself of leaking that info.

[1] - http://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden/

At the same time, he's not responsible for the people actually, you know...doing those things. It's like if I steal a car and some dude I know calls the cops with an anonymous tip. They then tell the owner. Sure, the dude is "responsible" for the owner learning about it even if the info was piped through the cops. It doesn't change the fact that I'm the one responsible for stealing the car.

The referenced Wired article describes Snowden talking about what US government had secretly done back in 2012 in Syria. Exactly what is so harmful about this that it makes you "question Snowden"? That he values people's awareness and informed society over "huge American interests"?

You better than most know than you don't get heard until you release an exploit. Official channels were even more useless in Snowden's case than usual.

And as a taxpayer, I want to know how we're fucking up so I can try to correct some of it. Certainly it wasn't driving itself in a useful direction.

Also, if the fallout of having our actions revealed is horrible, maybe we should have done better things? Hmm. Because secrets do leak.

> Not everyone thinks exactly the same way you do. Believe it or not, outside message boards like this, there are a lot of people that don't care about NSA surveillance of US Internet traffic at all, and care a lot more about Islamic terrorism (to be clear: I am not one of those people).

Because such people have largely been lied to.

Islamic terrorism since its inception is less dangerous than preventable medical errors. Ffs.


> The new research followed up on a landmark study, To Err is Human, conducted by the Institute of Medicine 15 years ago, when researchers reported that as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals each year due to preventable medical errors. Experts now say that figure was too low and hospitals have been too slow to make improvements.

Where is the outrage? The money?

IANAP but could it be that you and your kin have a different view as to what the leadership of a nation is for?

For example, they could see the primary role as protecting the safety and prosperity of the citizenry of the USA.

You, maybe, see it as protecting the values of the USA as, for example, enshrined in the constitution?

I think there is an argument that Snowden's actions could have put at risk the former for the sake of the latter. I don't believe that he did but I could understand if someone believed that he took an unnecessary risk.

I think there is also an argument that says that to give up ones values if to forsake the need for protection as what's left isn't worth protecting.

I think both framings of Snowden are accurate given a subset of the facts. What will make it into history books is still up in the air, and reality is more complicated than either lens. Or perhaps future history books will capture the nuance of reality. That would be nice.

In the case of mass phone call metadata collection, it seems to have been well established that what the NSA was doing at the time was unconstitutional and is now changing. The mass metadata collection didn't stop, though, it's just run by telecoms instead of the feds. Has revealing it served the national interest? It doesn't obvious to me.

As for the rest of his leaks, there is more public disagreement. Apparently the NSA's IA mission took second place to the offensive after 9/11. That seems to be a terrible long-term strategy, especially given the calculus of state sponsored hacking, and if Snowden's leaks expedited the reversal of that change, that's definitely a good thing.

>> I think there is an argument that Snowden's actions could have put at risk the former for the sake of the latter

This is actually addressed in the article:

"CIA, NSA and DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency) Directors all have been brought on the floor of the congress and they have been asked by my strongest critics, begged for any evidence, that any national security interest has been harmed, that any individual has come to harm. And not in any single case have they shown concrete evidence that this occurred."

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Perhaps it is simply that they, unlike Snowden, don't blase-ly reveal classified information.

Perhaps the Snowden leaks prevented Sauron from reclaiming the One Ring. There's no evidence for that theory, either.

So, all we have to go on is "Trust us! And don't verify!" - from people who lie through their teeth at congressional hearings.

Indeed. An unfortunate dilemma of espionage.

> when I return to the US Midwest ... Since its the Bible belt

For those unfamiliar: The Bible Belt isn't in the US Midwest and generally the regions aren't much alike. The Bible Belt is the most conservative region in the US and is in the American South. The Midwest has historically been liberal, even progressive in places, the home of unions and democratic voters. (Also the Midwest isn't in the middle west, but you can find a map.)

That's not to say that there are no Midwestern areas where people are more religious or conservative, or that tsunamifury's family doesn't live in one.

Speaking as someone in a solidly midwestern state (though the definition is murky[0]) I don't think it's fair to say the midwest is historically liberal. There are a few liberal cities but there are also states like Missouri and Kansas. It's a mix of both.

[0]: https://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/what-states-are-in-the-m...

The more interesting point, stands, however: Snowden's actions are not a Christian vs non-Christian issue. Their effects on the NSA and the international cybersecurity community have been enormous, and whether their totality served the public good is an incredibly interesting debate without a clear answer.

> erodes our values

There's your problem right there. Your implication is that the people you talk to are blind to their own values. In reality, they simply value different things than you.

The story of David is meant to illustrate that we actually share the same values, but for some reason have chosen to demonize people we would otherwise lionize in retrospect.

That right there is your bad assumption: That self-declared Christians have anything remotely resembling "shared values".

Take two random self-described Christians and have them write down, "what would define a 'true Christian'" and you'll get two completely different sets of answers.

All religious beliefs are personal. Every member of every religion will pick & choose which tenets, sacred verses, etc that they want to believe and only believe in those things. No one agrees 100% on every little detail and only "extremists" follow their religions to the letter.

I believe the OP was referring to specific Christians who they converse with when the visit their family in the Midwest.

I think OP is right that there is a real phenomenon of people accepting a surveillance state without interrogating the notion. John Oliver's "dick pic" interview is an example of this. When he asked people on the streets if they were uncomfortable with bulk collection, due to (what I believe is) ignorance and physiological entrenchment, people parroted a response about national security. When forced to really confront the issues as they relate to their own lives, they changed their minds on the spot.

It isn't that their values shifted. They had a version of the narrative in their heads which was convincing, but shallow; it persists only because it is largely undisturbed. Good on OP for shaking things up.

There are other people who will genuinely disagree, and I imagine tell OP something like (disclaimer: I haven't read the story and am guessing), "David was facing a tyrannical monarch, we live in a free democracy; Snowden would receive a fair trial, so he should return to the States."

> All religious beliefs are personal. Every member of every religion will pick & choose which tenets, sacred verses, etc that they want to believe and only believe in those things. No one agrees 100% on every little detail and only "extremists" follow their religions to the letter.

You're using a lot of absolutes in your statement. It's as if you have some secret knowledge about the way all religious people think. Care to expand on your reasoning?

I'm a Sith.

> I wonder why they can't see the obvious wrongdoing by our leadership and how it erodes our values.

I can't keep up self-satisfaction when I've to admit that I am lacking deeper understanding of my environment. The simplest solution to that problem would be that I tell myself with as much other people as possible that understanding my environment isn't that important, because we've managed life until here without it. We declare ourself as normal and defame everyone not belonging to our social bubble. Maybe we even declare the minority of people that get whats going on as an undesirable to be in group. But you've to remember that those processes are normal and healthy. People getting sucked up in reality tend to depression.

For me the angle is accountability. Whatever your family wants, and it'll be different than you individually, they all want the elected and appointed officials of the government to carry it out honestly and without corruption.

Proper separation of the bodies of government is important for everyone, conservative and liberal alike. The domestic spying not just on average citizens, but also specifically on (potential) political opponents (like then-senator Obama, for example) weakens all of us.

It sounds efficient to some, to imagine one monolithic law-enforcement entity without its hands tied so the idea of parallel construction, for instance, doesn't bother them. But it's not a "rights of the guilty" leftist tree-hugging issue, it's a corruption prevention issue. By separating our agencies and making them work through official channels we have a check on any one getting out of control.

Be you Right or Left, the government are our employees and Snowden is the one who came to tell us the rest had their hands in the cash register. (And worse, were forging our name with the bank, etc...)

.@ggreenwald: "What bothered Snowden the most was not the spying itself but the fact that it was all carried out in secrecy" #newsnight


Snowden really doesn't know as much as he claims to. Not to mention he's careless and the he exposed legitimate intelligence operations on foreign countries

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact