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Edward Snowden book coming out Sept. 17 (apnews.com)
31 points by jbegley 77 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

What I find interesting is that my opinions on Edward Snowden have drastically changed over time.

When the leaks first came out, I regarded him as a hero, for exposing what the US Government was doing. At this time my view of the world was extremely America centric, where all other countries were pretty powerless and the US was the only one doing such deeds. I think this view was fairly naive.

In the last decade my thinking has changed. After seeing that Russia, China, many EU countries, Iran, and Israel have similar programs and are also weaponizing the internet, I've come to think of Edward Snowden as a traitor. It is not just the US doing these things, everyone is. He exposed the US's tools and has weakened the US's security position immensely. Countries like China and Russia are gaining in this new battlefield, and what advantage the US had has was lost with Snowden. It is now more like if he leaked the schematics of US weapons to Russia during the cold war. I find it telling as well that he fled to Russia.

I find many people have had a similar turn of opinion with Julian Assange. Perhaps it is because Geo Politics has simply gotten more confusing -- it does seem that America is no longer the 'World Police'

But on the other hand, he did wake up Americans to the concept of security. Once the cat was out of the bag that everyone was being spied on, and that governments have the power to breach systems, it seems that people have come to care more about these matters. I would say this a good thing

He is definitely a very interesting topic

It's not about inter-nation spying. It was about the NSA secretly spying on the US's own citizens, on its own companies. This is not acceptable, and that is why it's illegal - it subverts democracy. "China and Russia are doing it" is not an excuse for that - they are examples of countries we should not aspire to be like.

Also, regarding this geopolitical information warfare business - none of us were told about this, or asked if this was a game we wanted to play. That is not how democracy is supposed to work. Defense, sure. But the best defense against the current way that Russia/China is weaponizing the internet is sunlight, not secrecy. In this too, the NSA is derelict.

Also Snowden didn't "flee to Russia" - that's pure right-wing "talking point" (lie). His passport was suspended by the US State Department while on layover in Moscow.


Wow. Can you really not remember the infamous Prism PowerPoint slide? https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prism_slide_5.jpg

And China/PRC != Hong Kong, whatever Beijing would have you believe. Why are you posting propaganda?


>taking the paranoid rants of a barely literate high school dropout at face value?

Have you heard Snowden speak? I've not heard many people in my life who are more educated and eloquent.

If he's so educated why couldn't he pass an analyst test and have to work as a SharePoint admin? Why did he think PRISM was some all-consuming surveillance system, when the documents so clearly stated it wasn't? Why did he think Hong Kong would grant him asylum for leaking Chinese targets? Why couldn't he pass high school? Why is he a libertarian?

I've known many people like that who can convince laypeople that they're smart, but everybody in the field (software engineers at Internet companies in Snowden's case) immediately sees how stupid they are. Look at flat Earthers and antivaxxers for contemporary examples.


Even if all that is true, who cares? Also, all libertarians are stupid?

He exposed the US government illegally spying on their own citizens (and lying about it), at massive personal risk. He's a hero of true democracy. That's all I need to know.

This layperson is also convinced he's smart, BTW.

There is a bit more then that: https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying

And no, he didn't flee to china, he transited through Hong Kong, which seems to be a sound tactical choice considering Hong Kongs unique position in international politics.

I have been waiting to hear his take on the protests going on there because back then he said he chose HK because of the freedoms it exercised.

I think it did at the time, I see the protests as a response to mainland China's efforts to reduce those freedoms.

> There is a bit more then that: https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying

EFF has no evidence that it was anything more than that. If it was anything more than that, don't you think Snowden would have leaked it?

> he transited through Hong Kong

Not by choice. He wanted to stay in Hong Kong, but Hong Kong wanted nothing to do with him.

“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law.”


> EFF has no evidence that it was anything more than that. If it was anything more than that, don't you think Snowden would have leaked it?

A lot of it is public record, no need to leak: https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/timeline

What is in the public record does not include intentional spying on Americans as they have alleged.

He was in Hawaii, and not in possession of a teleport. Which country with functioning human rights strong enough to resist American extradition pressure do you suggest he have taken a plane to?

I wouldn't have concocted some ridiculous conspiracy theory to require fleeing to an oppressive country which I would leak intelligence to, but assuming I were that stupid but not stupid enough to look at countries more closely, I probably would have asked for asylum from Ecuador following Assange's example. Snowden was not being followed until he started leaking secrets, so he could have gone literally anywhere on Earth.

> I've come to think of Edward Snowden as a traitor

For me he made the Great Game of Privacy a lot fairer. You should read the excellent entry on Wikipedia about the aftermath of the leaks[0]. If the leaks meant that privacy-loving folk went 'dark' in light of the leaks, then this is a net plus. Snowden's actions possibly hindered NSA in catching undesirables, but it's a small price to pay for a bolstered Internet and privacy-respecting comms. And who's to say that the apparatus even worked that well in foiling the efforts of plotters? Bill Binney[1] consistently drives his message home that the NSA's surveillance apparatus is very inefficient at foiling plots, and I agree with him.

Even if it stopped one plot in all the time of its existence, it's still an enormous effort and an enormous amount of money spent just to foil one plot. Old fashioned police work is better at foiling plots because it doesn't have to rely on big data algorithms sifting through the noise of Internet traffic (most of which is innocuous). Old fashioned methods work because they employ simple detective work - it doesn't need the NSA at every choke point and decrypting countless crypto.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowden_Effect

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Binney_%28U.S._intelli...

> I find it telling as well that he fled to Russia

He didn't flee to Russia. He fled to Hong Kong, hoping to live a good life outside the great firewall by getting into the PRC's good graces via transfer of classified material to them. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1266777/exclusiv...

Unfortunately for him, China just laughed at him and kicked him out.

If there's a lesson in all this, it's to pay attention in reading comprehension lessons in elementary school or you might misread documents, get paranoid, and flee to oppressive regimes.

The linked article talks about Snowden publishing data on US operations in China as parts of the leaks, it does not seem to corroborate your claim that he was trying to be "getting into the PRC's good graces via transfer of classified material to them".

He "published" that data by specifically leaking it to a Chinese newspaper. He was seeking asylum in Hong Kong at the time. Of course, Beijing did not want a prolonged diplomatic tussle with the US, so they could not let him stay. Their choices were to extradite to the US or to let him go somewhere else, and both options make it not their problem, so they let him (forced him to) go. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/10/hong-kong-edwa...

Yes published. the link you posted is a link to a publication. I am not sure what you are trying to insinuate with the rhetorical quotation marks.. The fact that it is a Chinese newspaper that publishes it seem logical, it is after all information of interest to the Chinese population. (I imagine a US paper's response being something like "NSA spies on China? Duh, that's their job..")

What legitimate reason is there for an American citizen to tell a Chinese newspaper about Chinese computer systems US intelligence agencies have compromised? Is it fine to leak information about CIA-compromised Russian systems as long as I leak it to Pravda and not the NYT or directly to GRU? Your distinction has no practical use.

Also, "published" because Snowden didn't publish anything. He showed documents to SCMP, which publishes a newspaper.

The simple answer is that you have been consuming too much mass media, and have succumbed to its insidious bias.

This "weaponization" of the Internet narrative is based around casting vulnerabilities as if they're "nobody's fault", rather than mundane gross negligence. The digital realm inherently favors defenders - if there is no logic error, packets just bounce off. And this applies even in the less-certain psychological realm - foster a culture of rejecting sensationalized propaganda and it will no longer rule elections!

But a narrative based around shoring up defenses and being diligent would be pretty boring. And the news media certainly doesn't want to attack propaganda generally, merely stave off "Russian" propaganda to preserve their own authority. So the whole topic gets sensationalized as the age-old escalation-aimed status quo - governments saber ratting at each other to drum up internal support.

But free people are not countries and we are especially not governments. What Snowden exposed was how governments, specifically the US government, are attacking their own citizens in the name of this "security". Everybody involved in tech should have already known, but just didn't want to admit it to themselves because it is so "anti-American" and conflicts with the web 2.0 gravy train. Snowden certainly wasn't the first, but he was at the right time with the right information the public can grok (XKEYSCORE vs 641A).

Additionally, the government has no philosophical mandate without the oversight of and subservience to The People. If you want to throw around the term "traitor", look no further than these agencies that swear oath to the Constitution and then work to undermine it by escaping from its governance! No matter how much "collateral damage" was done to that game of USG spooks playing with other spooks, spilling the beans is justified to push these activities back under control of the People.

"Blindly trust us, we're working behind the scenes to keep you safe, but can't tell you how" is not the setup of a Free society. This is the overarching dynamic that the mass media generally downplays in their present narrative, preferring people identify with the power structure rather than emphasizing how it is acting against them.

>Everybody involved in tech should have already known

Yeah, I knew back in 2008 or so, well pre-Snowden, and it freaked me out. Room 641A was the major giveaway, but there were lots of little things. I told all my friends about it - and got shrugs. They either didn't care, or didn't believe me and wrote it off as conspiracy-theory nonsense. The sad fact is that it takes the media telling people something is a scandal before they'll believe it is one, and for that to happen there has to be an event to report on. Snowden's role was more that, and making the evidence really incontrovertible. Before that, what could we, as tech people, have done?

Oh, and, witnessing the inevitable flip from "that can't possibly be happening" to "of course that's happening, I knew it all along, no big deal" was a frustrating experience. Only one of my friends came to me and was big enough to say "you were right". It taught me an unpleasant fact of people's psychology: people have such astonishing status-quo bias that they will rewrite the past to match the present.

I don't know when I personally could claim to "know". It's more like reading rumors, looking at the motives of the parties, and accepting it as the most prudent understanding. Klein/641A was low level and so the major confirmation to technical people - we can extrapolate general implications from the fundamental setup. Binney addressed a higher level but was too early to be appreciated at large.

> "that can't possibly be happening" ... "of course that's happening, I knew it all along, no big deal"

At first glance these appear to be opposed, but they are actually both just cognitive dissonance modulo different unignorable facts.

> one of my friends came to me and was big enough to say "you were right".

This is called taking responsibility. The hurdle wasn't even the admitting you were right, but rather themselves coming to terms with the implications.

>It taught me an unpleasant fact of people's psychology: people have such astonishing status-quo bias that they will rewrite the past to match the present.

Very perceptive. What blows me away is that even knowing the past, they still think the future won't be different.

I'm in Australia, and the amount of apathy is astounding.

Scary developments like the AABill which is to literally force citizen sysadmins to secretly spy on other citizens under threat of 10 years jail, with no oversight and no ability for legal representation.

Passed with bipartisan support, except for some amendments that were meant to happen in February which would have made the catastrophic bill just disastrous.

No amendments have happened, there is no media interest, and no concern from the lobotomized public.

> Oh, and, witnessing the inevitable flip from "that can't possibly be happening" to "of course that's happening, I knew it all along, no big deal" was a frustrating experience.

It certainly was frustrating because "that" still isn't happening. It taught me the unpleasant fact that people will believe any conspiracy theory as long as a newspaper prints it, even if every other newspaper points out everything wrong with the conspiracy theory.

Is Vlad getting a cut for hosting him?

Snowden is a top scumbag. Bring him to justice. He could have just disclosed domestic spying operations. Instead, he lit a match and torched the NSA to the ground, while kicking off a global subversion movement directed primarily at the USIC. That he fled to adversaries while, for instance, disclosing USIC hacking efforts against them indicates his motives. He's anything but a patriot. He's a traitor against the United States, against the oath he took. His profits from the book should be seized.

Why does Snowden's twitter only follow @NSAGov? Are they his sole "target" forever? His entire social presence is centered around this idea of the NSA being his sole "adversary"? He torched the NSA to the ground.

Why did someone who is so calculating execute an ostensibly haphazard plan to end up overseas? Intentional or not, Snowden went to HK then Russia. He stays in Russia to avoid facing justice.

How much time did Snowden have to plan for his escape? At least since December 2012. It was enough time for him to think through and coordinate the biggest part of such a plan: the diversion. It would not be surprising to discover that he had help domestically during this process.

The forthcoming book does allow Snowden to write his own history.

Writing your own story is what every human does. Then we mediate our perceptions with others. It does get amusing that we apparently live in times where there is already an established hivemind perception people are expected to adhere to. I could have understood it in former USSR. I do not understand or accept it for US. I moved here by choice and I am stupid and naive enough to believe founding fathers dreams.

Snowden is still a hero to me. At least he shone light on it. Before that, Wyden tried to do it through official channels, but Clapper outright lied in public.

So what do you do? Collect paycheck, keep your head down, not make waves and listen to elected critters make statements you know to run counter to reality.

Alternatively, you can tell the truth and risk government wrath for telling how things really work.

Yeah. What a scumbag that Snowden is.

Most of what Snowden said was the nonsensical ravings of a conspiracy theorist. You would think he would have documents to prove his conspiracies, but the only illegal program he revealed was phone metadata collection, which was borderline enough that the second court to look at it ruled that it was legal.

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