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Give Snowden his due: He made a surveillance debate possible (latimes.com)
186 points by dllthomas on July 31, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

We should more than give him his due. We should throw him a frickin ticker-tape parade.

I'll settle for a pardon.

Under the current administration, I'm hoping we even get any sort of meaningful response to the pardon petition (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/pardon-edward-snow...).

I'm holding out a tiny glimmer of hope that Obama comes to his senses enough to pardon for the domestic pieces. It doesn't seem likely, but doesn't seem to directly contradict what he's said, and maybe Obama can pre-emptively compromise with me for once...

The deadline's approaching. My money is on "We are unable to comment on an ongoing investigation."

That does seem most likely, and I would not count it as meaningful. They've also said before that they don't comment on individual pardons, though I can't think of a good reason for that.

In this case, though, the pardon itself would be a substantial piece of policy. I think it would be disingenuous and disrespectful of the administration to refuse comment.

I expect to be disrespected, but hold out some small amount of hope that they will surprise me.

Like the one Bradley Manning got.

I know this will probably initiate a huge debate but I'm not personally convinced that what Bradley Manning released and what Snowden released is equivalent in scope. In the case of Snowden the documents seem much more targeted to exposing the problem he's trying to bring light on. While Manning made a much broad stroke release of tons of documents probably not even knowing the content of all those documents which totaled almost 500,000.

Any person that looks at the two situations and compares them objectively would come to the same conclusion -- one was reckless and negligent while the other was intentional and targeted.

At the risk of diminishing Manning's plight, I'm sure whistleblowers like Snowden are exactly the kind that Wikileaks wants supporting them.

Also, it stands to reason that Manning's plight itself may have inspired Snowden.

I'm wondering if Manning's failure was going to Assange at WikiLeaks instead of Glen Greenwald at The Guardian?

If there was a single thing that Snowden did better, it was showing good judgement in who he turned over his evidence to.

That's one of Manning's failures, yes. Assange used him and then hung him out to dry. Manning realized that for himself, but too late to make any difference.

It was for that reason I got worried (and remain worried) for Snowden once WikiLeaks swooped in to plant their flag. I'd trust HRW, EFF, ACLU, FSFE, or even just flying his father over there before I would trust WikiLeaks to always think in Snowden's best interests, and on not just their own. WikiLeaks already screwed up the asylum process with Ecuador (via Assange's ego) long enough to possibly maroon him in Moscow.

Glenn has his own issues IMO but I certainly get a better vibe from him regarding concern for the safety of his sources, and even concern for public safety compared to WikiLeaks.

I highly encourage you to go read Manning's statement that he gave as part of his guilty pleas before the trial, where he talks about the 'relationship' he thought he had with Assange, and the relationship he actually had with Assange.

If you have a link to a transcript of Manning's actual words, I would be interested in it. The best I can find is this article from Wired: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/02/bradley-manning/ which says things like:

"Only after Manning gave WikiLeaks the video of the Apache assault in Baghdad shortly thereafter did he start to hear back from someone in the IRC using the handle “Ox.” He believed that Ox was “likely Julian Assange” or Assange’s then-second-in-command, “Daniel Schmitt” — the German activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Shortly thereafter, Manning encouraged Ox to use a different handle to contact him, “Nathaniel,” after the author Nathaniel Frank.

Manning said his ensuing discussions with “Nathaniel,” often about the classified material, became friendly, enjoyable and long. “In retrospect, I realize these dynamics were artificial,” Manning continued. “They were valued more to me than Nathaniel.”"


"But Manning said that no one at WikiLeaks ever encouraged him to leak — which may be significant, if the U.S. government is, as rumored, considering charging Assange in connection to the leaks.

“No one associated with the WLO [WikiLeaks Organization] pressured me to give them more information,” Manning said. “The decision to give documents to WikiLeaks [was] mine alone.”"


"...Manning said he first tried to take his information to the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico, before contacting WikiLeaks."


"“I never hid the fact that I downloaded copies of CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A” and burned them onto CDs, Manning said, even labeling and storing them “in the open” in his unit’s tactical operations center. Nor did he hide that he also downloaded compression software to facilitate the transfer, Manning said."


"In each of these cases, Manning denied that he was compromising national security. The military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan were often “historic,” with its intelligence value perishable after “48 to 72 hours.” The Guantanamo Bay documents had “no useful intelligence” and did not disclose any results of detainee interrogations. The State Department cables were available to “thousands” of people throughout the government. A Washington Post reporter, David Finkel, had already written about a deadly Apache helicopter attack in 2007, in which civilians were killed, that Manning viewed on video."

I know that most news organizations have a slant to their reporting. Please do find me the transcript of Manning's statement so that I can see where he gives the impression that he was hung out to dry by either Wikileaks, or Assange himself.

I can never get pro-manning people to answer one simple question: what was he blowing the whistle on?

Unchecked, indiscriminate killing of civilians in Iraq. Proving that the military was over there operating outside the spirit of what we as a supposed free democratic and just society stand for.

Pretty damn simple.

Most of the leaked information didn't concern that though. The most damning leak was the Collateral Murder video, and at most, it's more an example of negligence or confusion over the rules of engagement than indiscriminate killing of civilians.

I don't think that's a controversial statement [1]. Now this doesn't per se mean Manning was unethical, but the two cases should be treated very differently.


Today was disheartening.

The Guardian writes an expose on what should be the greatest political scandal of our lifetime- the fact that low level contractors and government employees can access all of our chat history, emails and browsing history.

The response? No one on social media is really discussing it, CNN America only has a passing mention of it on their front page (buried near the bottom) and America goes on with its day.

What does it take to get American's outraged about something?

"People do not react to abstractions. They only react to direct experience. Very few people are even interested in abstractions, and even fewer people can become emotionally involved or emotionally react to an abstract thing."

- Stanley Kubrick http://youtu.be/xa-KBqOFgDQ?t=51m30s

It's worth noting that this was in the context of nothing less than the atom bomb.

What does it take to get Americans outraged about something?

Suggest that professional game players should take sensible safety precautions.

> What does it take to get American's outraged about something?


When this story brokeout, i had the idea that the best way to publicize this is to find an example of a private sexual conversation on record, which they obviously have. Would have been interesting for Snowden to get one of those just in case.

That, or an inside trading potential example.

Money or sex is something everyone understands.

America is overloaded on stimulation. For something to get attention, it has to be extraordinarily sensationalistic. These stories are boring government spy stuff to average joe. The NSA would need to be eating babies, assaulting the family dog, promoting / blocking abortions, promoting / taking guns, or the equivalent.

I would argue that half of the country only gets fired up about something when they're told to do so by the party they vote for, the same one that dictates what they believe on any given issue. That's why it hurts that there is a Democrat in the Presidency right now, it has silenced a lot of the supposed civil rights advocates on the left.

A nipple slip.

I think most people assumed the government was always doing this , and just accept it will continue to do this. To most people its not that far from the police being able to get access to similar records. The whole secret court aspect flies over the heads of the masses

| What does it take to get American's outraged about something?

Americans can get outraged just fine. The problem is that many people just don't understand exactly what's going on. They're either not very technical, and/or don't understand through the context of history, the ramifications of mass state surveillance.

This highlights the problem with our news-as-entertainment media model. It gives us what the country wants (sensationalism, excitement), not what the country needs (facts, context). Until not-for-profit media organizations can give the private news industry (in particular: CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS) some legitimate competition, we'll be stuck in this cycle.

Take away their bread and circuses[1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses

This should have been the first release. Unfortunately the media and average citizens have a short attention span for continuing coverage of anything..

He should have led with this leak.

Who knows what may be released tomorrow? On the whole, the timing of these leaks has been excellent, and appears to be calculated to maximize their effect.

Take away their Twinkies

Evidence of harm?

George Zimmerman


> Defending Our Nation. Securing Our Future.

...I read that as...

Defending Our Own Money. Securing Our Own Power.

NSA surveillance foiled this potential terrorist and he is now incarcerated:


He was going to bomb NYC subways.

Please, if you're going to participate in this so called "surveillance debate", stick to facts and refrain from hyperbole.

If you're going to participate in the "surveillance debate" don't be so stupidly myopic to argue only the ridiculous point that this keeps anyone safe from "terrorists".

If the NSA can literally look into any electronic conversation between anyone, then why haven't they stopped a single drug cartel? Any premeditated murder? Why hasn't a single banister been brought to justice over their internal emails detailing deliberate mortgage fraud? Why weren't they able to prove Bernie Madoff was swindling billions for years and there were many warnings? What about all the illegal insider trading of pretty much every congress person?

Oh that's right, because this system has absolutely nothing to do with bringing criminals to "justice" or keeping you safe.

This is digital enslavement and every single person who approves of this bullshit is complicit.

Trying to say that trillions of dollars in stolen money from people (if the funds taken from taxes are used to build a digital prison around you, those funds were stolen from you) to prevent some singular supposed attack is justified is farking insane!

The reason the NSA hasn't gone after anyone else is that it would probably be illegal to -- not that the program in general is legal, but it would be more blatantly illegal than simply focusing on groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The AUMF and constitutional case law give the executive branch a fair amount of discretion when it comes to national security. It's pretty hard to shoehorn drug cartels, bankers, and your run-of-the-mill murderers under national security. As such, prosecuting those folks using NSA-gathered evidence would force the NSA to reveal more about the program than it's comfortable doing.

I'm pretty sure you e missed my point. I also think you fail to understand what is really going on here.

>If the NSA can literally look into any electronic conversation between anyone, then why haven't they stopped a single drug cartel?

See: Coast Guard.

>This is digital enslavement and every single person who approves of this bullshit is complicit.

And your evidence for that claim is...? Enslavement? Seriously?

More hyperbole.

You made some very good points, here.

He wanted to build a bomb from acetone peroxide and detonate it in the subway. His only success in this grand plan would have been blowing himself up in his apartment as he closes the lid on his explosives, the friction between the lid and TCAP residue instantly detonating the mixture.

(As always, their stupidity is our best protection, not the NSA)

Are they all dumb and stupid? If so then everyone who's been claiming that terrorists are already encrypting all their communications and using proper COMSEC are incorrect.

If they're not all dumb and stupid then simply sitting on our hands waiting for the next massive attack is folly, and more importantly it's something the American public won't long stand for.

The nation has a long history of action where their sensibilities are offended, even where it doesn't maximize the cost/benefit analysis. Guess when this was said: "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!".

A President or Congressman who tells the public that their counterterrorism plan consists of simply relying on the fact that it's not like lots of people will die will be the first ones out of office. Even Rand Paul agrees with counterterroism for crying out loud, he argues that you should have specific targets and then collect instead of collect first and wait for targets as the NSA is doing now.

It's not that they are all stupid, but a rational cost-benefit analysis would dictate that significantly less money be spent on so-called national defense and military programs than is spent today.

The reason we spend money on "anti-terror" stuff is b/c terrorism is actually a highly efficient/extreme form of propaganda messaging, and propaganda is something that states care very much about. It cuts to the core of the legitimacy and efficacy of the state as an institution and so what is being protected is institutional credibility, not human life.

That's a good thing. But still, they let the other ones go: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23493323

Is that part of the old "keeping the threat alive" strategy?

(Considering the eternity it took them to find OBL. And the one hiccup during the hunt when Bush called the team back, when in reality they were pretty close, as I remember reading.)

The obsessive discussion about phone records is such an obvious straw man. Phone records are just the tip of the iceberg. It's all the other communications surveillance that we should be talking about. They'd be happy to give up phone record dragnets because they know that's not a useful repository of information anyway.

Well well, a couple of people are starting to wake up. I was nearly despairing that the impact of what Snowden was saying would be lost in the snowstorm the government was trying to create to obscure his message by attacking the man.

It seems the message is getting through, and that is a great thing.

Surveillance "debate"? I must have missed something.

In modern parlance the word debate is used place of "dialog" or "conversation", even if there is little actual debating going on.

We are winning but nothing is done and nothing will be done. The whistle blower won't be pardoned, and in a few month nobody will care about it. I so deeply wish that this is going to hurt at some point certain businesses so that some big player might use the little influence they may have to change things.

Someone should suggest to the American public that this mass surveillance is a big threat to sports and will somehow kill Baseball and Football (the one played with hand) in the country.

"I need to reduce your freedom to keep you safe", no one can argue with that.

Also: What does everybody expect from "the debate"?

Is there a way we can get out of this mess? I currently don't see any, besides the one with massive loss.

Please, anybody, correct me.

Call me naive, but I would be surprised to learn that these systems are being used to overtly control the electoral process. So the way out of this mess is to talk to your friends and family and make sure they understand the issues and what is at stake, and make sure they do the same. Elect politicians who will do better - Obama promised and didn't deliver, but the issue only seemed to matter to a sliver of what were basically his base anyway. In the wake of an election with this issue more front-and-center, because the people have demanded the issue remain more front-and-center, I'm not convinced you'll see the same behavior.

The electoral process has already been subverted through gerrymandering and a two-party system. All the good, honest, hard-working folks get stuck together with the parasites and psychopaths. In either party there is a very wide range of people from salt-of-the-earth types to scum-of-the-earth.

If you don't utilize gerrymandering then you lose, and if you're campaigning in a third-party then you lose.

But that's not anything new, and there's not any reason to expect that subversion to prevent fixing these issues, and fundamentally if enough people are convinced, things will change - "enough" is higher than it probably should be, but I'm not convinced it's higher than it would need to be for a successful revolution or the like.

> Elect politicians who will do better


The 2-party system will simply not allow it. They have the monopoly over the 2 "choices" we're given each time. They will continue to give us "choices" that they can control. Remember how one of the earlier whistle blowers revealed that Obama had been under surveillance earlier? People who are under surveillance are controllable. If they are allowed to access power, it's really not a stretch to think that they just have the function of a puppet. The 2 parties are controlled by the campaign money donors, which are mostly corporate interests. Do you remember how the Republicans ejected Ron Paul from the debates by quickly changing the rules when he got traction? (Not that I would really want Ron Paul for President.) The media are controlled by the same interests, just look at how little coverage you find about the new slides in the mainstream media, today.

The parties have a monopoly over the choices, but the parties aren't the NSA. They have much more of an interest in getting our votes and our donations than they have in letting other people spy. Unseating the current party machines enough to make a meaningful difference on this issue is likely to be hard, but I maintain that it's most likely more doable than violent revolution (and significantly less bloody, if we start soon).

I certainly don't pretend it's easy - but convincing people is the way it will happen.

An ex-president told us that won't work. Maybe we should listen and realize the problem is very serious.

I don't disagree at all that the problem is very serious. "Talk and convince people" is a much more serious response than ranting about revolution or bitching on HN, and defeatism gets us nowhere. If you have further things to suggest, I'm all ears. I was out protesting on the 4th; I will be out again this 4th; "talk and convince people" isn't an argument for doing nothing, or for being lackadaisical about it. Get off your ass, engage with people, talk to them, and convince them first of the issue, and then that they need to do the same.

And nothing Carter said - I assume you are referring to Carter's statements - were in absolutes. The system can be broken, it can be much harder to fix things than it should be, and yet it still might be our best means of fixing things.

What is the alternative?

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