So there is no way he will pardon Snowden (even if it's The Right Thing to do).
 Barely a week before he leaves office, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has authorized controversial new legislation that grants America’s 16 intelligence organizations access to raw communications data from the NSA’s surveillance efforts.
So information that was collected without a warrant—or indeed any involvement by a court at all—for foreign intelligence purposes with little to no privacy protections, can be accessed raw and unfiltered by domestic law enforcement agencies to prosecute Americans with no involvement in threats to national security.
I see this as being in contrast with Snowden, whose revelations have (perhaps) led to politicians prioritising oversight of surveillance, and whose actions claimed to be motivated by an attempt to protect citizens' rights.
I don't know if you would classify this as merely 'somewhat interesting' confidential information, but personally I am glad it was released and I think the public has a right to know about these things.
I am not aware of any major wrongdoing uncovered by the diplomatic cables leak. The comments I read/heard from diplomats who reviewed the data rather implied that the US diplomatic staff is doing its job rather well, with often an accurate description of the internals politics of the countries they cover. Leaking these memos certainly resulted in a few red faces as private, undiplomatic comments made it to the front page. But I don't see the benefit.
That leak is more akin to the sort of reckless leaks where massive amounts of private, sensitive data made available by unscrupulous hackers just because they could. This is a very different animal from the Snowden leaks which did uncover major wrongdoings and were filtered responsively.
Private Manning should be pardoned. That poor kid has suffered enough.
Ah. I misunderstood.
I think OP had it right in saying she has served time.
If you pardon Snowden he would get away scot free, which is a hard sell.
We're letting some cowboy military officials inflict illegal punishments because they are mad and that needs to be reined in as well. The military answers to civilian control in the US.
I am also well aware that the UCMJ which all service people fall under has different provisions than civilian courts but these officials aren't even following that.
(link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_12,_2007_Baghdad_airstrik... )
Political change takes work. If you can't be bothered more than than clicking a button online, you're sending a message to our elected representatives on how you prioritise issues.
Yes, because they probably don't result in the desired decisions.
No, because they send a signal, letting everybody know "no, you're not the only one thinking things need to change urgently now".
If we feel alone, we tend to not take any action. If we are part of a group, we feel empowered and take action, sooner or later.
This is what such petitions may achieve.
Worse, they promote complacency. ("I sure showed them by signing that petition!") Getting rid of disgruntled constituents by having them press an Internet button is a politician's dream.
Petitions--particularly written ones--brought forth by an organised body, or used to organise one, can be powerful. Internet petitions aren't those.
And then the Administration picks and chooses what they respond to. They'll ignore this one but since they responded to the Death Star one, they must be cool!
Great points though.
If they pardon him, they say it's alright to release national secrets based on "feelings" (even if it's morally correct to do so, they can't have that). If they try to get him to the US for a public trial, who knows what will happen. If they bring him home for a secret trial, the risk rioting or a martyr. Similarly, if they kill him with a direct assassination he will be a martyr, and they'll be dramatically ruining their image. Finally, if they kill him in a covert way, no one will believe it and in all likelihood it will be widely believed it is the governments doing.
By leaving him in this limbo, the government can claim what ever they want about him without proving it. At the same time, Snowden has no more info to disclose, although he has a solid and growing cult following.
For the record, I signed this as soon as I heard about it and shared it with everyone I knew. I think it's important to be counted and try to share and convince others if your beliefs, if you believe it'll dramatically impact your future.
What Snowden did and what he stands for is the last chance to have any form of democracy or privacy. Unfortunately, it appears to have failed, but that doesn't mean you stop trying to improve things. Perhaps, the younger generation (millennials and below) will recognize what he did, as opposed to what the government is trying to spin.
You're missing an important point IMHO. If the NSA is an organisation that works on behalf of the US citizens then he is a hero and the US gov should give him a metal. Right before that, they need to create a sort of structure which allows these guys to express their concerns without being sidelined.
If the NSA is an organisation serving the government (or some other more sinister group of people) disregarding US Citizens then you're right.
The biggest reason I believe they will not pardon Snowden is to keep the sentiment among three-letter agency officials that he is a traitor because [reasons] and the government doesn't want to go against these guys because they hold the keys to a very dangerous infrastructure that I believe is developing an agenda (and has a mind) of it's own.
ps. I might totally off, that's just my take from what I see from far and beyond.
Ah, but the thing is, they built the domestic surveillance infrastructure based on "feelings" — after all, the real threat of terrorism is minor compared to all sorts of other dangers the resources could have been spent on.
And the idea that they really did it because of terrorism is pretty much the most charitable interpretation of why they did it — it is easy to devise darker ones.
If they don't pardon Snowden, then they are saying (yet again) that it is alright for the government to waste our tax money — in secret and in order to spy on us, no less — based on feelings.
I see where you're coming from, but you can spin it either way. What I think they should to is to use the pardon to gain trust and create anonymous contact points so that whistleblowers will use the official channels first.
Politicians want him home for a public trial. But if there's a secret trial or he's assassinated, there will be outrage in certain circles (ACLU/journalists), but he won't be a huge martyr.
Regardless, while assassination maybe would be a cause celebre, almost certainly a trial would be politically popular.
Then the government will have to actually prove all the character assassination attempts. Even though there is no evidence they really have against him at this point. I mean, in terms of being a Russian spy, or an alcoholic or something.
Also, remember these are the same pollsters who had Hillary winning the election...
No, polls said "more people will vote for Hillary than Trump" - and they were right. The failure was of the journalists and pundits interpreting that as a win.
It is the wrong time to weaken the IC any further given how that would play in the "IC vs Incoming administration" showdown that seems to be squaring up.
"It's OK to share information and run to Russia" is not a good thing to pardon when you're trying to investigate whether people close to the incoming administration have shared information with Russia.
He'll likely get convicted. The US would be happy to put him on trial.
>If they bring him home for a secret trial, the risk rioting or a martyr
Secret trial? Rioting? I think you're overestimating general support for Snowden and have some odd ideas about the way the justice system works.
On the other hand, we know that Russia is recruiting intelligence assets like him all over the western world. It is entirely possible Snowden was recruited by Russian operatives before his defection to Russia, maybe even before stealing the files.
You still don't get the point that Snowden may be flat out lying over certain things, like his reasons to go to Hongkong or to "choose" Russian exile.
What do I have to make up? He went to Russia and helped Putin's cause. That's all I know.
I do believe this to be at least as plausible as the apparently more popular alternative that Snowden is a saint, didn't lie about anything and only wanted to make the world a better and more democratic place by getting help from China, Putin, Castro and Venezuela.
You just made all of these up to explain away his behaviour which is generally not that consistent with "Russian spy". For the simpler version - "he probably wasn't a Russian spy" you don't have to propose any of these (really strange) things. Can you think of any spy who behaved like that? Did Kim Philby give interviews on his way to Moscow? You don't have to believe Snowden is a saint or hasn't lied about or obfuscated his motives to think there is little evidence he's a Russian agent because there really isn't any, so far.
And yes, this kind of thing happens all the time. "Moles" are the exception in terms of covert "assets". Double agents even more so. On the other hand, there are recurring reports of employees in the government and defense contractors being approached by operatives (or other assets). The Chinese seem to be very fond of honey traps, too.
Saying Snowden isn't an asset isn't that much simpler and it doesn't need less assumptions. Because I am not deciding on either possibility, and not trying to convict him, Snowden's honesty isn't a proven fact in my view. I don't have the burden of proof to assume he could be lying, just as nobody can prove he isn't lying.
I.e. recruited Snowden as a spy. I'm not sure what we're hairsplitting over.
You do have the burden of, if not proof, then some kind of plausible theory supported by something other than complete speculation. None of the stuff Snowden did (you can safely ignore everything he's said) really fits with 'Russian agent'. Why leave at all? Why go to Hong Kong? Why deal with journalists? Why even actually carry the data around? None of this really makes much sense.
There are plenty of reasonable 'Snowden, the not-saint' theories you can put forward that can at least be used to explain some of his actions. For instance, maybe Snowden took all the extra data in the hopes of passing it to a foreign intelligence service/government in exchange for his safety. That's distinctly non-saintly and at odds with what he's said. But it's self-consistent.
A Russian agent has infiltrated the NSA but then somehow his handlers can neither keep him in place nor safely extract him OR his (their!) data. He then takes off galavanting across the world, talking to journalists and in possession of a giant pile of classified material. Eventually and seemingly accidentally, he get stuck in Moscow. Is this possible? Maybe. But it sure is convoluted and implausible. It's just speculation that doesn't really fit anything and seems mostly to serve as a roundabout way of saying 'I really don't like Snowden'. I think it's easier to just say you really don't like Snowden.
Snowden never "infiltrated" the NSA. He got access to some data he shouldn't have had.
You also assume that the Russians didn't get the data, either before or after his flight.
This fits perfectly with the goal of shaking confidence in western democracy. For this it makes perfect sense to give the data to journalists and come up with a simple and untainted origin story. It doesn't mean that the data Snowden had didn't end up in the FSB's hand. It doesn't mean the data he had access to was more valuable to the FSB if not passed on to journalists.
The only way this theory doesn't fit is when viewed in light of simplistic notions of "Human Intelligence" methods, inspired by some bad spy movies. In reality, it's much more boring, and limited compromise of foreign assets seems the norm, rather than some super-spies becoming moles or double agents.
Again, I have no idea what this discussion of terminology has to do with anything. I'm using the plain English meaning of 'spy'. It's not really that important. Although Snowden specifically sought a job to gain access to data and social-engineered passwords out of coworkers. It's not like he was finding files people had forgotten in bathroom stalls and then bumped into the Russian Naval attache at Starbucks and they got to talking.
Where did I assume that? And again, how is that related to anything?
This fits perfectly with the goal of shaking confidence in western democracy. For this it makes perfect sense to give the data to journalists and come up with a simple and untainted origin story.
No. It doesn't. Snowden's impact has been extremely limited. His value as a source at his job would far, far outweigh any imaginary 'influence operation'. You're essentially saying that the most important thing to Russian intelligence is not actual intelligence but making the west look bad. You haven't answered the zillion of simple questions that arise - why on earth would anyone cultivate a source with such valuable access only to blow him on some completely ridiculous sideshow that could have been accomplished much more cheaply. And, of course, you'd have to do it perfectly - there is nothing the US would like to do more than to discredit Snowden as a Russian spy. So one slip, one little bit of evidence and not only have you wasted this invaluable source, your 'confidence shaking' operation is discredited. Nobody would do that. Your theory has to provide some sort of rational motives for the players and it doesn't - it just piles on improbable things. I'm not trying to defend Snowden. I'm trying to defend common sense. If you think he's a spy, try explaining his actions, his motivations, the motivations of his handlers, etc. I don't think you can.
The handler then would face the decision: Force Snowden to do what he can't and/or wouldn't do, or moving on with the secondary plan.
Maybe Snowden really hadn't anything with him in Hong Kong which he hasn't already shared with Journalists and the Russians.
Hard for Snowden to say no to those demands at that point. "Give us everything you have right now and we won't send you back to the US."
China does the same for any equipment or planes they seize from the US- inspect the hell out of it and then return it.
I think you are somewhat out of touch with his own statements and circumstances.
He could still have had access to part of the documents. He could have given the documents he published, or another set of documents, to a Russian operative up to a few months earlier.
He certainly revealed everything he knew to the FSB. Or do you think the FSB would take "no" for an answer from someone who is fully at the mercy of the Russian government?
I do recognize the value of the revelations. I just don't accept Snowden's motives at face value.
I'm not saying there is evidence for colusion with Russia prior to the affair, but it's very possible and explains quite a few things.
Given the number of times the intelligence agencies have verifiably lied about this affair alone (many) and the number of times Snowden has verifiably lied (zero), why would you default to believing the known liars?
>and explains quite a few things
There's very little that is unexplained about Snowden.
I'm not really believing much of what the NSA or CIA said about him. I don't need to in order to entertain the possibility that Snowden was recruited by a covert operative -before- the affair. It explains how a lowly sysadmin comes up with the courage and the plan to flee half way around the world.
I also don't believe the intended travel itinerary. Wouldn't it be easier to make a vacation in Venezuela, publish his material from a nice cushy hotel and THEN try to get asylum? How did he know China wouldn't detain/deport him? Same with Russia? There is no proof for either version. But enough suspicion to justify holding off on making Snowden a saint of democracy.
He also may have access to material nobody published yet. Again, it's not about what happened, but what he would have had to fear if he didn't have contact with the Chinese or Russian government before fleeing there.
Is, as you are well aware, not what I said.
>I'm not really believing much of what the NSA or CIA said about him.
...except the accusation that he's a Russian spy which you are very attached to.
>I also don't believe the intended travel itinerary. Wouldn't it be easier to make a vacation in Venezuela
If he booked a flight to Venezuela and didn't tell anybody he would have been detained at the airport. If he told somebody he would have been investigated and then game over. This was explained at the time. There were certain places people like him could fly to which wouldn't set off any trip wires. Hong Kong was the only one he could fly to where he wasn't just going to be detained and sent home (I mean, he could ahve gone to the UK too but probably not so wise).
The NSA did not dispute this part of the story.
>How did he know China wouldn't detain/deport him?
He didn't. They probably just seemed like the least likely to detain him of all the places he could fly to unmonitored.
Now seriously, I honestly don't know: what would Snowden being in colusion with Russa prior to the affair explain, or explain better?
Less of a factor is that in my opinion, the whole endeavor would be more believably be the result of someone being convinced and assured of assistance, maybe even rewarded, than the courage of a singular man.
Please keep in mind, I value the alternatives where Snowden wasn't recruited beforehand as equally plausible. Not that much more plausible, though.
Moving him out of the country exposes him to risk. Look at what happened to Evo Morales.
If they didn't, and he stumbled "by accident" into Russia, they don't need to "break" him at all, having all the leverage they could possible want.
I remember all the claims of "he was hiding in the Russian consulate in Hong
Kong" and "he celebrated his birthday with the Russian ambassador", with zero basis to confirm these until, surprise surprise, it turns out he was relying on a completely different network while there.
Just basic and unsubtle character assassination, really.
And he didn't have any importance to the world at all, before he fled to Hongkong and Russia. How should "ties to Russia" emerge before? Wouldn't it be more reasonable, if those ties existed, to hide them?
Sorry, I know a lot of people don't like hearing it, but Snowden having been recruited by Russia before his defection is just as plausible as him having pure democratic motives and seeking the help of China and Russia.
There is absolutely zero reliable information on Snowden's motives.
Why go to the trouble of trying to contact Greenwald, and Poitras. He tried to get Greenwald to set up mail encryption, it failed, Glenn ignored him for a few months until he managed to reach him through Poitras. A man who's sold state secrets and afraid the Men in Black are about to come would not wait that long.
But anyway, you deal in absolutes "There is absolutely zero reliable information on Snowden's motives.", so you probably know best.
Letting himself get associated with Russia is one of his few mistakes, although he didn't have many options.
Literally, the reason he is in Russia is because US government waned him there. Either because they calculated that might discredit him, or to point fingers to Russia, or sheer incompetence, or whatever other reason or reasons. But the fact is, Snowden is in Russia because the US government put him there.
You keep assuming he bought tickets to Cuba and Venezuela intending to use them. It might have been his plan all along to stay in Russia. It's funny how some people think Snowden is somehow a saint who can't possibly lie.
Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister of Ecuador, confirmed they received a request from Snowden for political asylum. The plane of Bolivian president, flying from Moscow, was grounded in Austria on the on the suspicion of Snowden being on board. The plane was first denied access to airspace of Spain, France, and Italy. Spanish foreign minister Jose Garcia-Margallo, stated publicly on TV that they were told Snowden was on board.
Snowden didn't revoke his passport. He also didn't made three countries close their airspace and land the plane of Bolivian president in the fourth country. There's only one address with power to do that.
All the arguments I've heard so far against the possibility of Snowden having been recruited before the affair assume Snowden is telling the truth. Which is not sufficient in my view.
I uh... no that is just not even a little bit true.
> Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way.
> Not only did they go through multiple and all the proper internal channels and they failed, but more than that, it was turned against them. ... The inspector general was the one who gave their names to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. And they were all targets of a federal criminal investigation, and Tom ended up being prosecuted — and it was for blowing the whistle.
William Binney describing the FBI raid on his house while he was in the shower: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9-3K3rkPRE&t=5m27s
> Top NSA Watchdog Who Insisted Snowden Should Have Come to Him Receives Termination Notice for Retaliating Against a Whistleblower
(my clickbaity headline would be "NSA appears to lack competence at searching its own email")
Everytime you intervene and rock a boat there are severe consequences for tens of millions of people. It cannot be the kind of casual action we have been taking for decades. Basic human stuff. When it comes to refugees the 'empathy' dissipates quickly and we cannot even absorb hundreds. If these kind of actions was about sincerely caring about other people why would this be?
Given the kind of aggressive civic activism seen for Jan 20 one would conclude people just don't care about surveillance enough or we would see similar levels of activism. But it's also interesting to consider the levels of propaganda at play and the need to 'organize' and fund certain actions. There are enough special interests to do the former but not enough for the latter. For a average citizen even before you start organizing you will end up on dozens of lists and the security state will make your life difficult.
>They could if they wanted to. Do they want to? If they get him to the U.S., they'd have to deal with him.
I don't think they want to get him because it'd dramatically limit their options and possibly set a precedent with far-reaching consequences (is he a traitor? is he a hero? what does it mean to be either? is the public ready? how well would a pardon be received? if they pardon him, who else would they have to pardon? what does it mean to leak sensitive information? what does that mean for cases of espionage?)
Why address the elephant in the room when you shouldn't have brought an elephant in the room in the first place? Just let the elephant where he is.
There are examples of lenient sentencing, though. Former U.S. Chief of Staff to the Vice President, "Scooter" Libby, was not pardoned after he had blown the cover of an intelligence officer (classified information) to a news outlet. He was disbarred, but not forced to exile. He was reinstated a few months ago, ten years after the events.
I think Snowden being in the spotlight cuts both ways: on the one hand he stays relevant, people don't forget about him, and it'd be a complication if anything were to happen to him..
On the other hand, it makes it much, much, harder to pardon him and to regain his former life. (It would be easier if it were done discreetly, but discretion is out of the question now.
Finally: this could also be one hell of an intelligence operation, placing Snowden just right inside a country that is clearly on the rise and representing a challenge for the U.S..
Heads: China. Tails: Russia. Of all the countries in the world. This would be an operation for the books.
It seems like in the former case one would need to be convicted of something before one could be pardoned. Snowden hasn't been convicted of anything yet...
Although there is the caveat that amnesty at federal level would not provide immunity from prosecution by state courts, as far as I understand it.
Google took me here:
I'm sure helping his lawyers will help him indirectly but suggestions would be appreciated!
I think the closest Snowden will likely get is an honorable burial in US or have a bill named after him. But I highly doubt either party will pardon him.
Who knows, maybe one day some politician running for office or seeking a popularity boost may consider it if he feels that the domestic opinion is drastically in favor of a Snowden pardon. Though, while I am not quiet sure how reliable the polls i saw on the matter were, but they seemed to indicate a majority of Americans were hostile to a pardon.
Crossing fingers for this man that his situation rapidly finds a positive outcome! I'm generally not a big believer of the whole 'hero' concept but the tremendous life tradeoffs this man is bearing, not just to stand for his ideas and beliefs - but to defend privacy and freedoms - really inspire my profound respect. It also humbles me as I do realize I would never have that courage.
Turns out our government can be some real shady motherfuckers if you air their dirty laundry.
They've even tortured Manning so hard she's tried to kill herself in prison, twice. (Obama publicly declared her guilty before trial.)
I found it to make a compelling case, if only because it offers less emotion and more citations than I've seen elsewhere on this topic.
This is such a weird metric. "More citations" sounds like "more lines of code", and the problem with an emotional plea is not that it is emotional but that it often replaces logical ones.
> the smidgen of his revelations about possibly unlawful domestic surveillance or collection against U.S. persons
If you think that's an accurate characterization then you really didn't need this article to push you over the edge.
in other words, the article preaches to a choir and articulates a position for them. it doesn't aim to persuade an opposition.
The very concept of "setting an example" by not pardoning him is evil. Every case should be judged on its on merits and Snowden's case will be judged by history quite favorably.
Obama should have pardoned him and appointed him the NSA's Director of Compliance
Instead we have continued and increased violations of our rights as Americans.
Of course, the real problem is that Americans don't learn about principles, history, or civic duty in any serious way.
Most Americans don't really care if the government violates their rights because they don't really know what they are or why they're important. This can change quickly though, thanks to technology. I think the tide will turn soon.
The author is American so it's somewhat depressing he misunderstands the legal process so badly.
There is no conceivable scenario where Swartz could have been sentenced to 50 years in prison. Swartz's legal situation wasn't particularly grim and his lawyers would most certainly have informed him of this fact.
The response was entirely unwarranted. Violating a website's terms of service should not cost anyone their life savings or years in federal prison. A slap on the wrist? Sure...but they treated him like a "cyber terrorist" and tried to make an example of the softest possible kind of "criminal".
If the PDF website doesn't have anti-crawling technology then that's their fault. He didn't do anything more than stick a laptop on MIT's network and crawl the content. Any student might have done the same...should they have their life ruined?
And I'm not sure what "being rich" and losing his money matters. He knew the potential consequence of his actions. He got caught, and was likely facing in reality, a year in prison for his actions if he didn't take a plea. But he committed crimes knowingly for the purpose of what he saw as a noble act. That's admirable. But the narrative that he was a martyr maybe goes a bit far.
It's a strange sensation indeed, rooting for the success of the "other guys".
He could surrender and suffer horribly for decades or take his life...