Thoughtful people brave enough to blow whistles seem to be the greatest check on what looks like a secret, unaccountable, illegal centralization of power based on lies from the top of the government on down.
Many powerful people will see him otherwise. I shudder to think of what will become of him, though I'm sure we'll see it played out in headlines.
Whistle-blowers are not our only defense, however, as we all have power too, for example contributing to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):
"His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: "I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation," reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project."
My personal favorite is the Freedombox project: https://www.freedomboxfoundation.org/learn
(By the way, I don't know about anybody else, but for the first time I can think of, I'm seriously concerned about the consequences of posting support for somebody like this online. I don't know how things will play out years down the road and who will do what with this information.)
EDIT: Followed up by posting the above on my blog -- http://joshuaspodek.com -- based on comments below.
I don't know about you, but that's a chance I'm willing to take. As far as I'm concerned, Edward Snowden is an American hero and deserves a medal and a ticker-tape parade before he deserves to spend the rest of his life on the run, and possibly ultimately in a jail cell, or having his life taken prematurely by US operatives.
I think he did the right thing though, by going public. Presumably he knew the odds that "they" would track him down anyway, and by going public he has a chance to leverage popular public sentiment as a shield of sorts. As he says, it's a tactic to keep them from "going dirty". He might still wind up in jail, but there's a better chance now that they'll have to deal with him through ordinary judicial means, and (hopefully) no torture, or secret imprisonment at Guantanamo or whatever.
Hopefully Iceland (or maybe Ecuador!) will grant him political asylum and give him a shot at a semi-normal life, albeit far from his original home.
Postscript: To any NSA / CIA / FBI / etc. spooks who are reading this - blow me.
It is easy to feel anger towards those we perceive as oppressors, but if this nascent movement (I hope it is a movement!) is to have any success, thoughts like these from Gandhi should not be forgotten:
Real noncooperation is noncooperation with evil and not with the evil doer.
Noncooperation is not a hymn of hate.
My noncooperation is with methods and systems, never with men.
Noncompliance and noncooperation have a time and a place. We must avoid the temptation of viewing them as silver bullets simply because we find them pleasant, easy to stomach.
The struggle then becomes one about respect and cooperation, without which no government can last, for even the greatest tyranny is executed not by one man giving orders but by everyone cooperating. The underdog struggles to inspire others. The state struggles to keep the facade of legitimacy. Sometimes the words "you are no longer our legitimate government" are stronger than all the guns in the world.
Imagine if half the country suddenly decided to no longer respect American law. They refused to pay taxes, obey traffic law, etc. What would the government do? In the end, they wouldn't be able to do anything. Once you understand that proposition, Gandhi's methods start looking a lot less gentle and a lot more dangerous.
Start beating the shit out of people, killing them, etc., etc. and the people would very quickly relent.
He's a hero. Putting the word American in there is very, well, American. The NSA has done a lot worse by foreigners than Americans.
There's absolutely nothing unique about inserting the nationality of a hero that relates to Americans. I see it done regularly by citizens of other countries. In my observation, national pride is nearly universal.
In my observation, it might be universal, but its degree varies greatly, with americans on the high end of the scale.
Nobody would say "a Greek hero".
"A hero of Greece"
"A national hero"
"A hero to the fatherland"
"A hero to the people"
The last paragraph of your comment expresses a fear that is rational, but one that we need to abandon as a community. If we are afraid to even post support for a controversial cause on the internet, then we are already lost.
We do not all need to be whistleblowers. We can champion liberty and freedom of privacy in our own ways. The first step is being brave enough to stand up for what is right, no matter who we are, no matter how apparently small our sphere of influence is.
The government should be at the mercy of the vox populi, not vice versa. It is our duty - our inalienable right - to support and rally for those who care more about the triumph of democracy and liberty than their own safety.
My father (who grew up in Communist Romania) has been warning me about all the stuff I post online for over a decade now... and the reason I keep doing it is precisely that.
I've thought the same thing many times. I think there is really no choice since I don't want to live under a dictatorship, and if I don't voice my opinion I keep thinking about it. So it's better to voice what you think, then go back to work. I feel like at least I'm doing my part.
this is exactly what's so scary. people have to think about posting on Hacker News.
That is why the internet is the greatest opportunity to free ourselves finally from oppression, and also an opportunity if we let them for authoritarians to clamp down on us if we ignore them.
Some people are born fearful and they cower their whole lives. Others of these fearful seek to control, by any means necessary. It is up to those of us that can stand up, even in small ways, and provide an example to all.
So yeah, it's just some internet posts right now. But it's also much more than that in the aggregate.
CIA for example looks for devoted and patriotic people more than they look for capable people. They figure they can teach whatever is needed as a special internal course but they can't teach patriotism. So for example they love to hire ex Marines, they are considered patriotic.
Now patriotism is a double edged sword. It works well if the government and agencies are honest and transparent. Patriotic people working in such systems might accept a lower pay but they know they are helping their country. When that start to go south and they start seeing shady things going on they have a choice:
1) Rationalize participating in un-patriotic things (illegal search for ex)
2) Fight against it by leaving the agency or
3) Fight against it by going public and exposing it
Most people probably end up choosing 1). Few choose 2) and only select individuals choose 3).
In more conventional settings, standard patriotism is intrinsically nationalistic and often based on race, which makes things easier for operative agencies (so to speak). Here in Europe, "patriotism" could hardly ever be invoked as basis for subversive acts or whistleblowing in a security setting.
You can be a supporter of the EFF and believe that the work the NSA is doing is necessary and good for the country. I worked on Lawful Interception systems and I had no problem with their use as long as a COMPETENT COURT was the one regulating it.
On the other hand, maybe big data fishing is the most effective method.
I think he makes some good points.
I don't think the NSA views itself as a facilitator for "turnkey tyranny", just yet. If you think you're fighting for freedom, then why wouldn't you hire people that feel the same?
Maybe this whole thing will help wake people across all levels of the CIA and the NSA, and there just might be some actual change.
I know, I'm dreaming. But clearly I'm not the only one.
It's telling, and terrifying, that this is a rational and common concern. Put plainly, it means we fear for the dissolution of our free society (yes, I believe we still live in one).
Well, at the very least, don't bother sending your CV to Booz Allen Hamilton, Palantir, etc. Also, fuck these assholes. Seriously, is there anything worse than this?
I've never heard anything more naive than trying to change a corporation as a new hire, as a small cog in a giant machine.
But that would exclude a lot more companies, many of which employ a lot of regular HN-users. Anything can be rationalized for a paycheck.
And although I've managed to steer clear so far, I'm not claiming to be any better.
Especially so when you see the oversight committee receive a bald-faced lie, where the leader of the Intelligence agencies lies to the American people by extension, since this is the only public oversight these programs receive.
Welcome to the land of the freedom in witch people is afraid of speaking their mind!
In Dulles UAL lounge listening to 4 US intel officials saying loudly leaker & reporter on #NSA stuff should be disappeared recorded a bit
— Steve Clemons (@SCClemons) June 8, 2013
A: "Someone responded to the story said 'real spies do not speak like that'. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general."
-From the written Q & A, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblowe...
The tweet by Steve Clemons- https://twitter.com/SCClemons/status/343392529913356289
Of course it's shit talk and it's not going to happen. That wasn't the point though. The point was about the attitude.
If the CIA is filled with officers who give out their real names to every corporate chain that asks nicely, do you really think they're smart enough to keep their mouth shut in public?
There will be a time where policies will change, because the only thing which restricts the activites of the surveillance state are policy, even our agreements with other sovereign governments; we consider that to be a stipulation of policy, rather than a stipulation of law. And because of that, a new leader will be elected, they'll flip the switch, say that because of the crisis, because of the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. It will be turnkey tyranny.
- Edward Snowden
Some strong allegations here - that anyone is fair game for surveillance by the NSA, and that there is indiscriminate tapping of communications. Also some strong justifications for blowing the whistle on these activities.
A hero for our times.
you hit the key point. You don't need to be much of a student of history to know that at some point there's going to be someone who's all to willing to abuse these powers.
I'm not easily emotional but reading this article I had some heart bumps and wanted to cry. I'm speechless.
Thank You Edward Snowden for your act of heroism, the present will certainly condemn you but the history will certainly remind with honor people like you who made progress our currently deficient democracies.
I think that's really down to us, don't you? The US Government will certainly condemn his actions, but I doubt many of the public will.
e.g. the police weren't able to find the coked-up hit-and-run driver who crippled my adorable child but I'd recognize his face anywhere, and that guy on TV is him for sure.
Exemplary. I am glad that men like he exist, bur I am genuinely fearful for his safety. Look what happened to Bradley Manning.
I think it was a good thing that he revealed his identity so as to speak with authority and be representative of the current events.
But I also believe it was done too early and too carelessly - the government now knows exactly where to look for the leak and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
I disagree. We have the technology to allow people to speak with authority and be representative with the protection of anonymacy (or pseudonimity). I find his courage admirable, but I still think it is a bit of a waste.
By the way, I suggest you watch this guy's speech. It's pretty powerful, especially if you're an American:
I can only hope that's how all Americans are feeling right now, because that's needed if things are going to change.
Hopefully, both Snowden and Greenwald have put several dead man's switches into effect to ensure the continued leaking of information regardless of whatever attempts the intelligence community make against their lives or credibility.
I'm hoping that future leaked information includes accounts of wiretapping judges, economic espionage and wiretapping of legitimate pacifist activist groups. i.e. enough information to completely destroy the argument that this system is about catching terrorists.
So what's next ?
The CIA will want to have a word with him before they decide what their next move will be because he's holding the cards and they don't know what they look like.
Let's stand up quickly for this hero before it's too late.
Your nervousness is NOTHING compared to what he felt while deciding whether or not to release this. Share his burden.
This seems commendable.
But I'm even more impressed he's unveiled himself, which takes incredible bravery even if you assume every protection of due process is available to you.
Shame on us if we don't act and let this man's sacrifice go to waste.
So many questions, so few answers. Hopefully the coming weeks sheds more light onto this.
Is there any particular reason why you don't believe the fact sheet from the Director of National Intelligence or Marc Ambinder?
According to these sources (selected excerpts):
> PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program.
> PRISM is a kick-ass GUI that allows an analyst to look at, collate, monitor, and cross-check different data types provided to the NSA from internet companies located inside the United States.
> All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider based upon a written directive from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.
More recently he also claimed that PRISM wasn't a previous-disclosed data collection program. It hadn't been previously disclosed before; and it is collecting data.
So, let me turn this around. Is there any particular reason why you do believe him?
Marc Ambinder's article, by contrast, is quite believable. But going beyond the quote you pulled, he also has lists quite a few open questions about PRISM collecting data on US persons. So it seems to me that we're still a long way from the bottom.
The grammar here is slightly confusing. Do you believe PRISM is collecting data in a previously undisclosed way? If so, why?
It is all "legal" in a sense that there are court orders, but there are no real checks as the orders are blanket ones.
Moreover, to read your mail older than 180 days from any provider according to the current laws they don't need any order at all to do it legally:
Let's see if "it's legal" as said by those you quote simply means "we don't need to ask anybody for permission" and "every three months we get from our court the permission to do anything." The fact is that they use such arguments, let's see the extent of it. The recent news seem to suggest that it's bigger that it was known up to now.
Holy shit that was a bad choice for many reasons. I can't think of a worse place to go, other than Russia or Iran with respect to the intense desire of those nations to extract as many secrets about NSA capabilities as possible. These are the most secret of the secret capabilities of US intelligence. He even boasted that he knows many more secrets that he himself took care to censor unlike Bradley Manning. I think China will be very interested in hearing those redacted snippets.
Secondly, if he ends up revealing sensitive information to these countries, any sympathy from the US population will turn into calls for frying him as a traitor. Going to China makes him into a Rosenberg.
This guy doesn't seem very smart at all. And using pillow cases and shields over screens to stop the NSA? You're telling me this guy doesn't know what TEMPEST is? Didn't he see Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State? You need a Faraday Cage.
I think he made one of the best choices he could but, as he says, he can't ensure his own safety anywhere really.
China has been engaged in massive cyber espionage themselves. Everyone knows it, but no one can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, so they keep denying it, and nothing of consequence happens.
They could whisk Snowden off to a secret interrogation site, and then blame the CIA and say the US government snatched him. Who is the media going to believe and who can prove otherwise?
This guy doesn't seem very smart at all. And using pillow cases and shields over screens to stop the NSA?
"I had access to the full rosters of everyone working in the NSA, the entire intelligence community and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station, we have what their missions are"
Wow, is this guy for real? It sounds crazy.
> "I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."
It's not self-interested in that way, really - had he chosen to be anonymous (and never been found out) then that logic could work, but with where his life is now, surely what the NSA does in America will pretty much never be relevant to him personally ever again. And he must realise this himself, so I wonder why he used those words - I guess modesty (or perhaps false modesty), but would have thought he could have come up with a better way of being modest.
Maybe his motive was fame, maybe it was doing the right thing, hell maybe he was depressed and looking for some excitement in his life. Doesn't really matter to anyone except himself, and people should consider him a hero or not based on whether they agree with what he did, not why he did it.
And I'd certainly call him a hero.
As to reasons for outing himself, if he didn't want fame, etc., then even assuming no assassination, if he were discovered and prosecuted the right way (by which I mean, by the law, not right as in I think he should be prosecuted), then chances are that by speaking to the media first (which he sure wouldn't be allowed to do after being caught) he has a better chance of getting the public to support him.
HK is a strange land, but it's not lawless and has enough political peculiarities to be a good bet -- maybe not as good as Iceland (I don't understand why he didn't he go there in the first place, tbh) but one of the best. It certainly beats a windowless room in an Ecuadorean embassy.
Furthermore Hong Kong specifially is somewhat independent from China when it comes to oppression.
I also wouldn't be surprised, if a NSA analyst with that clearance level travelling to Iceland would raise a couple of red flags.
I think it's telling that Hong Kong is not in any way, shape, or form on the way from Hawaii to Iceland.
“It’s important for the committee to recognize people who are struggling and idealistic,” Mr. Jagland said in an interview after the prize was announced, “but we cannot do that every year. We must from time to time go into the realm of realpolitik. It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world.”
But Mr. Jagland seemed to savor the risk. He said no one could deny that “the international climate” had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason.
Of the president’s future, he said: “There is great potential. But it depends on how the other political leaders respond. If they respond negatively, one might have to say he failed. But at least we want to embrace the message that he stands for.”
I don't see this as a negative thing.
Unfortunately, with every Manning or Snowden that does their job there is one more person to be made an example out of to show future wanna-be whistle blowers what happens when you embarrass your three-lettered employer like this.
I wish Edward Snowden a lot of good luck in the near future, and I wished he'd chosen Iceland instead of Hong-Kong as his place to hang out.
Also, isn't there a large risk that someone at the bottom of the chain grossly misunderstands the materials he is leaking?
IT needs to have access to all systems to install patches and such, strategic decision makers just have access to need-to-know.
The KGB would always try to recruit people that ran the copy room and mail room. Now IT is probably the biggest target.
I don't understand why a low level IT person needs so much access though beyond a need to fix systems - there's no audit control on who is accessing these systems?
There was no real access and audit control with Bradley Manning, just unprotected SAMBA shares that contained sensitive data but not Secret data. Top Secret systems do tend to have an audit trail (I think it is required along with encryption) but I would expect that such systems can be accessed at a lower level by IT. For instance pulling a backup drive and associated keys to recover lost data from a "malfunctioning server". IT often has to work at a level below the level that you places security safe guards at. I'd bet 1000 dollars that the foreign intelligence agencies have friendly IT workers at the NSA that give them full spectrum access.
tl;dr Either you have IT that can do their job or you have systems which are secure against IT, you can't have both.
Disclaimer: I know this stuff from reading books and informal chats with people at tech companies, please apply salt to taste.
To have access to all the stuff he has, he must have top-secret classification and he might be be part of few Special access programs (SAP). Having already classification and begin part of relevant SAP's when working in CIA/NSA might make him very valuable for private companies.
For now I'll stick with Occum's Razor - the guy had no idea what he was looking at and assumed the worst.
By making sure the public knows who he is, where he is, and what he stands for Edward Snowden has (hopefully) protected himself from the more nefarious things American intelligence services may do to capture him by making them impractical for the sake of public relations. China would no doubt be upset if CIA agents nabbed him from a Hong Kong hotel. Plus, his fame gives an incentive to nations to give him political asylum if they want to make a political statement against the U.S.
"...My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be. ..."
I personally am against granting TS clearances to anyone under ~30 and S to anyone under ~25 due to the difficulty in doing background investigations on people of young age (illegal to bring in stuff before 18, and it's really hard to get useful information on pre-workforce people, both lots of false positives and false negatives).
I would have suspected someone like Binney (older, political setbacks) or someone much younger (PFC Manning).
From the video, it sounds like he was just ground-down by the cavalier attitude of the people around him towards the citizens whose privacy they were entrusted with. Eventually he couldn't reconcile that anymore with his internal moral compass, and so he leaked it and figured "let the American people decide". I don't get the sense of personal insecurity from him that you assume with many other people who blow the whistle.
I am glad his disclosures seemed at least somewhat contained, unlike PFC Manning.
He might as well have destroyed all the incriminating data and admitted himself to Guantanamo of his own accord for all the good that would do.
Yesterday I made a snarky comment about how nobody believes this whistleblower will lead a long and untroubled life, and while that's true it's not the point. This guy is a hero in my book for doing this, and I am very happy to see he seems like a very balanced and normal person.
Theme Parks Let In the V.I.P.’s
A Story about the price of tickets at theme parks.
You're right about NBC. Their current headline:
>Game of spoilers: Did Twitter kill DVRs?
Which is a piece expressing some TV viewers' outrage that tweets spoiled an episode of Game of Thrones for them.
 - http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/09/politics/nsa-leak-identity/ind...
NBC just seems to not have a lot of up to the minute content there (I would be pretty surprised if they do not cover it).
Men of stainless character will easily inspire confidence and automatically purify the atmosphere around them.
a) Everything is legal and backed by the population, then the NSA didn't have anything to hide.
b) The NSAs concedes that some people and organizations have a legitimate interest in some privacy.
I don't get why he did it either. Gave it up that is. Depending on how many people had access to that cross section of docs - and considering how ineffective companies and govs usually are at segmenting info I imagine that's quite broad - he could reasonably have hoped to avoid retaliation.
What's needed are successful, principled people like those reading HN to get involved, and start mounting campaigns to ultimately defeat people in Congress that egregiously curtail our freedoms and liberties. They must be idealistic, rational, vocal, and be prepared to mount a vigorous fight and debate to stop these violations. The politicians are easy to identify, as they advocate perpetual increases in national security at any cost, for the sake of "keeping us safe." The hacker community would back you. I would.
Elon Musk has said many times that the people respond best to precedents and superlatives. It's up to us to effect change and talk about it as much as possible, with friends, in our blogs, and our websites. People are receptive to successful people, because they've shown that they can achieve and better themselves.
We need a philosophical and cultural revolution in awareness, purpose, and identity. How can it be done?
We must use our power as citizens and right these wrongs.
This is so sad. People really do believe what windbag politicians tell them on TV and what paid talking heads on the same TV tell about them. It's not like every single politician being elected promises to right all wrongs and fix all evils. I can't even begin to get why seemingly intelligent people thought this particular time is any different from hundreds of times before.
The overt purpose is to prevent leaks.
The actual purpose is to remove the profit motive from expanding the military industrial complex. This will both dramatically reduce the scope and reduce the capabilities of the military and intelligence communities, so they will have to focus on real threats with their remaining resources.
You also won't get anyone good to do anything they don't truly believe in for a GS-11 to GS-13 salary, whereas plenty of good people will do mildly evil or at least banal stuff for $250k/yr contractor salaries.