That was such a refreshing article. I've been saying it for a while now, I'm hopeful that we're going to see some very positive reforms in 2014 or 2015, as well as an eventual hero's welcome for Snowden. It takes a while for such a massive shift in public opinion, but it's inevitable. The reason it's taking so long is just a knowledge gab with the people that aren't as well-informed and don't know the magnitude of the abuses. As people learn the full scope of what's been revealed they tend to be (for the most part) outraged. I look forward to a couple decades from now, when I can tell my kids about how us folks who were paying attention were all vindicated when the NSA reforms were enacted and Snowden was given a full pardon.
It's unfair to characterize people who disagree with you as being uninformed. A lot of people who don't like Snowden's actions know as much about the situation as you do. They've just drawn different conclusions. The gap here is one of personal philosophy and opinion, not one of knowledge.
I''m not entirely sure why Snowden is getting so much personal credit. I remember watching an episode of Frontline on PBS that discussed “Room 641A” . A few quotes from the cited wikipedia page, emphasis added:
”[the room] is fed by fiber optic lines from beam splitters installed in fiber optic trunks carrying Internet backbone traffic and, as analyzed by J. Scott Marcus, a former CTO for GTE and a former adviser to the FCC, has access to all Internet traffic that passes through the building, and therefore 'the capability to enable surveillance and analysis of internet content on a massive scale, including both overseas and purely domestic traffic.”
”[the program] was originally broadcast on May 15, 2007. It was also featured on PBS's NOW on March 14, 2008. The room was also covered in the PBS Nova episode 'The Spy Factory'.”
I admittedly watch more PBS than the average person. I was talking about Room 641A and concept of the NSA directly siphoning every call, email, text and url sent from the AT&T Pacific data center several years ago. Snowden’s revelations were news and he provided theretofore unnknown details. But they weren't completely out of the blue.
People knew that the NSA was collecting data on an unprecedented scale before Edward Snowden. These programs aren’t new, they didn’t start last year. Snowden unquestioningly gets credit for coming forward, he deserves praise for taking such a risk. It’s clear that he provided us with a paper trail and evidence that no one had in May of 2007. But our knowledge of the NSA’s activities is not “entirely because of information provided to journalists by Edward Snowden” as the NYT OpEd alleges. People had the knowledge years ago. The outrage is recent.
We'll see if the future holds substantive policy reforms or presidential pardons. Cautious optimism never hurts.
You're underestimating the importance of that paper trail. Knowing that they could have such a capability is not the same thing as knowing that they are actively exercising it, laid out in helpfully blunt Powerpoint. Yes, if you were paying attention, the signs were there. But even well-informed tech people have been taken aback by the breadth and sheer gall of the NSA's snooping. Snowden isn't the only NSA whistleblower, but he is the most important. He deserves the personal credit he's received.
As for the article, I'm thankful. If my relatives won't listen to me, maybe they'll listen to the New York Times editorial board.
>>>>> Knowing that they could have such a capability is not the same thing as knowing that they are actively exercising it.
I hope you don't give your government that much credit and really are not that naive. Considering the NSA and CIA's history, why would think anything other than they were actively using technologies to eavesdrop on the general population?
Conspiracy nuts have been screaming this from the rooftops for years and suddenly because of Snowden they're finally listening? Sure he deserves credit for the evidence he's released, but this is not something new by any stretch of the imagination.
Conspiracy nuts have been screaming this from the rooftops for years and suddenly because of Snowden they're finally listening? ... but this is not something new by any stretch of the imagination.
Those of us paying attention knew something was going on, yes. For my part, I believed that there was much more spying going on than they were letting on. It seemed clear that the FISA court was a rubber stamp, and the refusal to release exact numbers of wiretaps approved pointed to them hiding a surprisingly large number.
However, the revelation that there was, in effect, just the one giant umbrella wiretap authorization, came as a big surprise to me. I never dreamed that the extent could be that great.
"we are only spying on terrorists and military targets."
"The postal secret will never be violated. Mail and emails by extension are safe forms of communication."
"A warrant is needed to listen in on a telephone call. Telephone call is a safe form of communication."
"Building a database on the citizens political affiliation is illegal, and ground for political dismissal of officials."
"The ISP, email provider and telephone company is only a common carrier. They are not allowed to watch."
"Warrants and subpenas are directed at individual. Collective punishment is wrong, illegal, and something only other countries do."
"The government job is to protect people. If the government know of a serious vulnerability in society, they will inform people in order to protect them."
"Only criminals breaks into computer systems."
knowing that the US government could lie on all those points is not the same as knowing that they are. Tinfoil hat was define as such because they thought the government lied on those points, based on the fact that the government could do it.
... but really it's always been more than just conspiracy nuts saying this.
It's essentially been common opinion in the tech community for decades that the NSA looked like they were building the capability for mass surveillance, and that in all likelihood was probably doing it.
Snowden provided a greater degree of proof, but anybody that was really surprised by what was going on wasn't really paying attention...
This site lists articles going back to 1982 about the NSA domestic spying programs. A whois lookup on the site puts the information on the site around 1997. It's fascinating to me people seemed to have no idea, yet the information had been out there for years and years.
I liken it to Jose Canseco. For so many years he was telling people guys in the MLB were all juicing. He got blacklisted and people hazed the crap out of him for the mere suggestion. A few years after his book came out, every player he named was confirmed as a steroid user.
In the same way, one day, when someone will discover life on other planets or something similar, there will be people telling us, that people knew that life exists outside of the Earth.
Evidence is one crucial point that is necessary to be able to distinguish tattle from facts. Knowledge without evidence is just a possibility.
An in my very amateur opinion, Mr. Snowden receives the personal credit simply because he has provided the world with evidence of that previously "known" activity.
That snooping at a room at AT&T became part of a lawsuit that threatened to reveal more about the wiretapping program but it was squashed by congress, including Obama, when they voted to give AT&T and other telecoms that broke the law at Bush's behest retroactive immunity.
Not sure what your point is as to how that relates to Snowden.
The point is Snowden's revelations made headlines, and Room 641A didn't. The lionization of Snowden is baffling when it was already well-known.
Personally I disagree with the parent quite strongly -- the recent revelations made it quite clear that the NSA's data hoovering is making the State Department into a frivolous formality. Diplomacy is irrelevant when you already know the internal political structure of your allies/adversaries, and it takes 'real politik' to the extreme (like playing a game of poker with the cards revealed to a powerful few). The loss of privacy in diplomatic correspondence is a far greater blow to the peace of the world than the revelation of your torrid love affairs or your weak financial integrity.
It didn't make the headlines Snowden's leaks have generated but it was news and anyone interested in civil liberties at the time knew about it when it came out, I know I did and any follower of Greenwald before he became "mainstream" knew about it (even if it was a little bit later). I don't know what your complain is here. The fact that this specific part of the leaks was known doesn't diminish what Snowden did one bit. If anything it increases it's importance.
Exactly. I think just about everyone knew that "the government" spies on people. It has divisions dedicated to that exact purpose. This was public knowledge.
But, much like war, when people are fully informed, that tacit acceptance goes south. When people realize that "some unelected, uanccountable government employee has access to my phone calls and my emails including the ones to my (lover/bookie/doctor)", or put another way, "The government spies on ME" that is a much more powerful thought than just "Eh, the government spies on people".
"It's unfair to characterize people who disagree with you as being uninformed. A lot of people who don't like Snowden's actions know as much about the situation as you do."
True, but the point the parent comment is making is that as people learn more, more people will support what Snowden did / want NSA reforms. I think it's clear that will happen but we'll see what public opinion does over time.
Anecdotal I can say that members of my family (the type that barely use a computer) had only a vague notion of the NSA's domestic spying until the Snowden stories broke through the everyday media noise.
You've made friendly comments about my comments here on HN before, so I'll make a friendly comment here about yours. I have noticed that you consistently view Snowden as a hero, but I respectfully disagree. It would take more electrons than the margins of one HN comment could contain (and more time than I have with my work responsibilities today) to explain how I think Edward Snowden could have revealed the same key facts more responsibly, but even though I largely agree that it's good for the public to know more about what NSA was doing and how NSA was characterizing what it was doing to Congress, I don't think Snowden engaged in responsible disclosure ("whistle-blowing"). I think Snowden over the last year has been just as sincerely but ultimately mistakenly misguided as Kim Philby was in the 1960s. Snowden appears to think that he has made the world and his native country a better place on a net basis, and he may even be right about what will happen to his native country as a result of his disclosures, but I think he is mistaken about what the overall course of his actions has done for the world as a whole. That's all I have time to say about this at the moment, but I want to put that out there as an American who has lived under real tyranny before and has observed how tyranny is overcome by people power.
Other members have already pointed out that you haven't stated any specifics, so I won't repeat that.
I'm curious as to why you felt that Snowden hasn't strengthened what you call "people power"? Do you really think there was any way he could have alerted Americans and the rest of the world to the scale of government spying by being "responsible"? This when senior government officials thought nothing of lying outright to lawmakers and judges - people who are supposed to act as a check on government power? I'd really like to hear what you feel might have been a more responsible version.
I also did read your linked comment about living under the Taiwanese dictatorship. You say:
>> I assumed that all my postal mail, domestic or foreign, was read by the ruling party's secret police as part of the delivery process
Decades later we have democratic governments around the world doing the same - reading and storing all our electronic communications - instead of dictatorships. And we know this thanks to Snowden.
I appreciate your nuanced opinion, which I've tried to fully understand as you've posted about it in the past. It stands in contrast to my admittedly hardline position. I do uncompromisingly see Snowden as a hero. While you consider America's actions in the context of other governments such as Russia and China and how they spy on their citizens, I want America to lead the way, to be role model so to speak for the rest of the world. When America treats people well, it benefits everyone; conversely, when America acts hypocritically, when we spy on or torture innocents, every despot on the planet sees that and can say "Well America does it," and have firm ground to stand on. That's why we need people like Snowden, to keep the American government in line, because historically that's how we have world peace. And also, to be a little more selfish, because I live here.
> every despot on the planet sees that and can say "Well America does it," and have firm ground to stand on. That's why we need people like Snowden, to keep the American government in line...
Whether styled as a despot or not, when it comes to the exercise and maintenance of power, nobody is ever saying anything remotely like 'well America does it' - it's just irrelevant. It's never a moral question, but one of what power can be assumed (both at home and abroad). That's the interesting thing about Snowden - he just acted and took the upper hand. (And even more so that he further consolidated by maintaining it, despite huge efforts to bring him down a peg or two.)
I am not American and I will second this. A lot of American policies and operating procedures tends to get pushed onto other democracies since 'that is the way we do things at home'. Your horrible patents system is one of them. If the US tightens up their regulations on citizen surveillance and privacy, the citizens of other democracies DO get a boost.
The NSA is spying unnecessarily. More people die in DUIs in the US each year than in terrorism since 2001 (since ever possibly?) but we don't routinely monitor text messages for signs of drunkenness or even mandate breathalyzers as you leave the bar. The point is that we have dedicated billions of dollars and trashed civil liberties of Americans over terrorism. Well, I want to know we are spying on the appropriate people and making gains from our losses. Let's not even talk about Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, drones, etc. I mean we could go on for hours discussing how 9/11 was our own political mistake from the 80's come to bite us back.
Sure, I don't have a right to know what compounds are in secret paints on our stealth fighters or how many nucs are kept in our subs... but I am certain that I have the right to know that I am secure in my communications domestic AND ABROAD from the US gov't unless a narrow warrant has been issued under evidence-support suspicion of wrong-doing. If you believe that this is not the case, then you would happily sell America to the tyrants under the guise of security.
A proper rebuttal would probably warrant at least something of blog post length, if not an actual essay.
If you try to make some shorter reply in this audience then it would simply be hyperanalyzed to find every little chink on the armor of the logical argument (and failing that, simply to start making emotional appeals that ignore logic completely).
It's pretty funny when the "chilling effect" applies in the opposite direction IMHO; it's something I've also struggled with IRT the Snowden Saga.
I agree. Saying "well, I can tell you for a fact that you are wrong, but I don't have time right now" is a very poor form of debate. Hopefully he elaborates soon, as I think he's a very intelligent poster!
BTW, I read the Australian article and it doesn't tackle the real issue. I don't care if the NSA is spying on foreign citizens, I care if the NSA has even gathered one iota of data about me, when there is no suspicion that I specifically have done anything wrong. You have a J.D., so you can appreciate how controversial even something like a DUI checkpoint has been in the US. I would rather let criminals go free then let even one innocent man end up in jail. The mandate of our constitution demands the most liberal interpretation of civil liberties. For Americans, this kind of data collection should be illegal. I don't care if people want to call Snowden a hero or not, but he did the 'right' thing and nothing you or your suggested article present are satisfying arguments:
1. They don't address spying on Americans, specifically.
2. They don't present specific evidence of how this intelligence saved specific lives.
I sincerely hope you elaborate more, because as a non-American I feel that the world will now have a chance to become a much better place and Snowden did remarkable thing, which apart from giving a sort of CV you don't address.
I think that E. Snowden was in a position to judge which path is right. I trust that he knows better than you, me and probably others what would have happened if he tried to go public without ever leaving the USA.
I read your profile. One reaction was that because of your experiences, you might have already been desensitized to having your rights violated in such a manner. It was more of a shock to us who didn't expect our google searches to be monitored, but now we are all also becoming desensitized.
I believe that trust is a necessary part of any life power structure, and that privacy is a part of that trust. The rights granted by those in power to those below are levers that help the system continue to work in service of the whole. The five eyes privacy violations are an unbalancing act which screws with human power in the event that something goes wrong and we have to repair or restructure the executive organ of our planet. Giving up privacy in this manner is giving up future self control in conditions that cannot be predicted. We should maintain ability to overthrow power structure at any time, we just shouldn't want to (or worse, need to without knowing we need to). I'm not giving up the levers of a system i've amplified with authority over my self. Having all actions of my life known by that system is giving up levers.
Why do you like that theaustralian article so much when it supports lines like "you can't have 100 per cent security as well as 100 per cent privacy in the digital age" and "NSA chief Keith Alexander revealed that the NSA programs leaked by Snowden had helped thwart more than 50 terror plots"?
> Why do you like that theaustralian article so much when it supports lines like "you can't have 100 per cent security as well as 100 per cent privacy in the digital age" and "NSA chief Keith Alexander revealed that the NSA programs leaked by Snowden had helped thwart more than 50 terror plots"?
The Obama 100%/100% thing is correct but privacy is a right. The line is not an excuse to take my privacy away without asking me. You can't drop my percentage without giving me opportunity to dissent or without my knowing about it. To do this is to make decisions about me and for me that reduce my power, it means i'm not free and becoming less free.
The article is good but it doesn't dismantle the argument either, it clarifies it. That's nice and all, but ProPublica makes as many guesses about what possibly could be done using only non-phone metadata sources as NSA makes guesses about the absolute need for it.
Remember that the U.S. Intelligence Community "could have" been tipped off to 9/11 beforehand, but it didn't happen. ProPublica saying that FBI "could have" caught an email or that a magical court order to divulge U.S. phone numbers calling al-Shabab in Somalia "could have" found Basaaly Moalin in San Diego is pure speculation too, and doesn't exactly jive well with the historical evidence that the Intelligence Community finds it difficult to identify plots beforehand.
As far as your opportunity to dissent, you've had it and continue to have it. Unless you think every governmental action should be put to mass referendum then you go through your elected representative. After all the phone metadata program was specifically baked into public law several times over in the past decade, and it was done so by our representatives. It didn't simply appear out of nowhere.
If the alternative to tyranny turns out to be illiberal democracy (where many of the same things that people hate about tyrannical systems take place- unrestricted government spying, torture, government corruption, breakdown of rule of law, militarism), then what's the point?
I think it's far more important to figure out how to prevent liberal democracies from turning into illiberal democracies, and how to reverse such changes, than to try and topple tyrannical systems as things stand right now. The inertia afforded to democracies by the idea that they enjoy a moral legitimacy that no other form of government possesses makes fixing a broken democracy a lot harder than turning a broken dictatorship into a democracy. We also have far more successful examples of the latter than the former.
I just have to say that I very strongly dislike this type of comment.
First, you disagree with the poster, and proceed to make a few claims "I don't think Snowden engaged in responsible disclosure", [Snowden was] "ultimately mistakenly misguided", and "mistaken about what the overall course of his actions has done for the world as a whole."
After those claims though, you bow out with "That's all I have time to say about this at the moment" (and of course you lead the comment with a similar "It would take ...more time than I have with my work responsibilities today"
You took enough time to write a 1335 character comment, but not a single bit of it was about backing up or explaining the logic behind a single one of your claims. If you don't have time to get into a discussion, don't, and don't expect others to respect such a one-directional attempt at conversation.
Now, I will make a small try at explaining why I think you are wrong.
"I don't think Snowden engaged in responsible disclosure"
I think Snowden did the best he could given the restrictions he was under. He took the data over a certain amount of time, and given the amount of documents it is infeasible that he could purge truly sensitive information withing a decent timeframe, therefore he did the next best thing, which was to contact respectable news outlets and give them the documents on the condition that they use their resources to do what he could not. He gave all documents up (minus a supposed insurance file) and sought political asylum, a respected political tradition since the days of Hammurabi. I really can't fathom any better course of action for the situation, but if you would like to suggest one please go ahead.
""mistaken about what the overall course of his actions has done for the world as a whole."
I'm not sure, but to me this seems like it might allude to a claim that the revelations have made the US/World weaker. That simply isn't true. The weaknesses are already there, we the public are simply just learning about them. Could that create a political weakness? Yes indeed, but that is irrelevant because it was the NSA and other powers that be that actually performed the acts that created that weakness, not Snowden and not the public.
On your link about Kim, I also have a strong suspicion, hopefully an unfounded one, that you may have fallen into the trap that "journalists" like Joushua Foust have fallen into, in which they all but outright claim "ze Russians" have some nefarious hand in Snowdens cookie jar. Before doing this, please remember that it was never Snowden's intention to seek Asylum in Russia and was headed for Latin America when matters out of his control put him in a spot with limited options.
Didn't read the article (blocked by the Great Firewall), but here's a year-ender from Gwynne Dyer. He says... "[Instead of] a list of events, a year-end piece should be a first draft of history that tries to identify where the flow of events is really taking us. By that standard, Snowden comes first."
I find it pleasantly surprising -- almost unbelievable, in fact -- that a highly sought-after fugitive accused of treason and practically certain to be found guilty of serious crimes is so widely supported by the public and the media.
Has there ever been another person whom the executive has done everything in its power to paint as a dangerous enemy of the state, whose approval rating was several points higher than the President's and several times higher than that of Congress? Or is this a never-before-seen situation?
The inverted totalitarianism we live in can seem almost invincible, but this to me is a big glimmer of hope that some people at least are still unwilling to swallow the (two-)party line.
I hope this leads to some real change, but then again, I can't exactly hold my breath.
An NBC/WSJ poll from late July  (the most recent poll I found that assessed general favorability of both President Obama and Edward Snowden, lists Snowden with a favorability of 11%, 37% behind Obama's number at that point in time.
A Harvard poll of millennials  (defined as 18-29) show that 22% consider him a "traitor", 22% consider him a patriot, and the remainder are "not sure".
Of course, polls which pose questions about approval of his release of documents may differ substantially, but then again, so do polls about specific actions the President has taken. I don't know where the data for your assertion comes from.
Those numbers ring true. You just have to serve on a jury to learn how much deference the average person gives to people in positions of authority.
Even the tech industry, which is losing tens of billions due to loss of trust, is glacially slow to act, or even announce measures against surveillance, because a real defense against the NSA also means users will be able to hide information from law enforcement, and they will have to decide to slaughter other sacred cows of the data security business.
I think the last individual who might've been in a somewhat similar position was Daniel Ellsberg, for releasing the Pentagon Papers.
"For his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage and theft of government property, but the charges were later dropped after prosecutors investigating the Watergate Scandal soon discovered that the Nixon administration had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg."
But I think Snowden opened a far bigger can of worms, considering that the Pentagon Papers didn't involve spying on US citizens, etc.
Googling "Snowden approval ratings" brings up headlines like
"NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Has a Higher Approval Rating Than Congress"
"CNN POLL: Snowden Has A Better Approval Rating Than President Obama"
"The Scorecard: Snowden Approval Rating 54%, Obama 46%, Congress 17%"
None of these are particularly recent (seems this was a meme around June), but suggestive that Snowden is one of the most popular national political figures in the U.S. right now, granted that is a low bar.
"The Scorecard: Snowden Approval Rating 54%, Obama 46%, Congress 17%"
As far as I can tell, they do not cite actual sources so it's impossible to know how good the survey was. It's entirely possible that they only surveyed people who know who Edward Snowden is, which ruins the point.
The most interesting poll number I've seen recently was that 38% of the electorate thought that their OWN member of Congress should not be reelected – the highest point for this statistic ever. This year's Congressional election may be interesting.
i keep telling my tech friends and even non tech higher educated alternative thinking crowd that they are in no way representative for the general public. they always look at me completely astonished.
there is an interesting quote from a bush advisor. i don't know what it was exactly. but the gist of it was that people against bush are outnumbered 2 to 1. every time we make fun of his stupid english the general public identified themselves more with him.
> i don't know what it was exactly. but the gist of it was that people against bush are outnumbered 2 to 1.
Actual polls showed that, late in his presidency, that was pretty much the opposite of the truth: Bush supporters were outnumbered 2:1.
Bush's approval was weak prior to 9/11, shut up to about 90% in a rally-around-the-flag response in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and then declined pretty steadily from there, with a brief positive bump at the outset of the Iraq War. Bush wasn't popular because people made fun of his use of English, he was popular pretty much exclusively to the extent that he was able to use circumstances to conflate in popular consciousness opposition to his leadership with opposition to America as a nation in a time of war.
Probably Daniel Ellsberg. I don't know if he actually had higher approval rate than Nixon, but considering Nixon had to resign after that, I'm thinking he did. There are also a lot of parallels between Ellsberg and Snowden, and a lot of parallels between Nixon and Obama, too, for that matter.
I actually think what Obama did (or continued to do) was much worse that what Nixon did in regards to the mass surveillance and spying. Nixon would've been impeached if he would've pushed the spying machine so far. In fact, he was almost impeached for what he did then, too, which is why he resigned first to save himself the life-long shame. Maybe Obama can learn from that and do the same.
It's also the NYT that protected Ellsberg back then, although I'd say the NYT has been very reactive in Snowden's case, and TheGuardian was the most pro-active one in defending him, by far.
I recommend watching this documentary about Ellsberg.
If only there were more people like Ellsberg, Manning and Snowden, and we wouldn't have to wait decades before the crimes and lies of the military industrial complex or the government get exposed. That would be something, but for that to happen, people need to ask for much, much stronger whistleblower laws. Heck, it should be a Constitutional amendment, because I think whistleblowing is absolutely vital to a properly functional democracy. Without it, governments become rotten and corrupt, and the the public can only react decades later when it's too much to bear. It shouldn't be like that. The public should be able to react to government wrongdoing a lot sooner, to correct the course.
>> "His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. (There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.)"
As a foreigner, this is probably the most astounding. After all the commotion in the 90s with Bill Clinton lying about the Monica Lewinsky affair, the double standard is striking. From the outside it seems as if Clapper is simply above the law.
Clapper was also in the unfortunate position of being legally required to lie: Refusing the respond, or deferring his response to a closed session, would have been evidence enough that such a program existed.
Anything other than a simple, direct denial would have been 'leaking' information about the possibility of such a program existing, which is expressly against the law as well.
> The NSA programs are either constitutional or not.
The idea that constitutionality, or any other question of legal interpretation, is a matter of objective fact which has a clear, crisp, true or false answer is, while a comforting illusion, not at all even remotely true.
Sure, but that doesn't help you either, as there are many other precedents besides NSA programs for situations where the government can compel a search without a warrant. This is permitted by that pesky little word "unreasonable" in the Fourth Amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-Fourth Amendment, US Constitution
It's pretty hard to square the alleged seizure of all privately transmitted data with the Fourth Amendment.
Attempts to justify it that we've heard about so far, like the assertion that it's not a seizure until the data is "looked at" is clearly a post-hoc rationalization which, put nicely, strains credibility.
> It's pretty hard to square the alleged seizure of all privately transmitted data with the Fourth Amendment.
"Seizure" would imply the government taking custody of something away from the owner, which is not what's going on during a bitcopy.
Search is closer, but you missed noticing one of the most important words: " ...against unreasonable searches and seizures".
In other words if the search can be construed "reasonable" for any reason (which is very much a "judgment call") then it is automatically Constitutional (even if it's not automatically legal, which can be a separate consideration).
Additionally the NSA is not seizing all privately transmitted data (which is in any event physically impossible). Either they have to be selective about what metadata is retained long-term, or they have to buffer everything but only for a short term in which case they are acting very much like a "common carrier" with an exceptionally bad problem of bufferbloat.
But either way, there's another problem: The data being "searched" isn't your data, it's someone else's data (at a different ISP or host) that happens to be bit-for-bit identical to the data you transmitted, which means any 4th Amendment claim would be theirs to make, not yours. So I would be careful about how strictly you try to read into the Fourth Amendment, as only the "judicial activist" interpretations of it would possibly exclude electronic surveillance of the type now done by NSA.
You're arguing that it's obviously unconstitutional, but the logical inverse of that is not that it is obviously constitutional.
There is a very wide gulf between those two positions, a gulf where the constitutionality of those programs is up for reasoned debate (e.g., with Sen. Wyden's question).
But Clapper would have responded the way he did since disclosing "methods & means" of electronic surveillance is also illegal, and given the direct nature of the questions by Sen. Wyden could hardly have been properly evaded by the standard "can't confirm or deny" excuse the government always gives. In other words Sen. Wyden employed the same logic as the "warrant canary" you guys all find so fascinating :)
He put himself in this position, likely with the intent to lie.
Both intelligence committees submit questions to intelligence agencies in advance, who can then comment on these questions and make requests for change (such as moving some to the closed session). This is done in private, so moving a question to the closed session does not reveal any information to the public.
Even if for some reason this question blindsided him, he could have refused to confirm or deny it in an open session, as others have pointed out. But he wanted to put the PR fires out, and telling Congress and the public that they didn't collect bulk metadata indiscriminately served that end at the time, but later came back to bite him (and hopefully cost him his job, if not more).
Is this true? I thought Clapper knew about the questions in advance, which means he could have easily asked committee staff to only ask those questions in closed session. Congress is usually very deferential about those sorts of issues.
> Ok, but then my follow up question would be: why put him in front of congress to testify in the first place? Did congress not understand that he was legally required to lie to them?
I think Congress would think that he is legally required to answer them truthfully, not to lie, and would be appalled at the suggestion that anyone could be legally required to testify falsely to them.
There's a second flat-out lie, the bit where Obama claimed his executive order would have protected Snowden.
There's also the part where Obama tells him that the "avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions" are talking about it with his superiors. Problem with that is, as soon as Obama accepts that these government actions were in fact wrong or unlawful (and at least a couple of them very plainly are), he also has to accept that actions should be taken to address this situation. Then either Obama is very very stupid because he believes that talking to superiors about abuses of this scale would be met with anything but utter silence, or he is in fact playing dumb and lying through his teeth because he doesn't actually want any action to be taken.
 the belittling, condescending tone of this phrase makes me throw up a little. But that's been the US government's attitude during this whole episode "tut tut, don't you worry your pretty little heads about this". More like an elitist aristocracy.
Many Administration officials have been similarly caught in lies, either outright or by omission. With a complicit press and with most protest groups silenced who is to bring up charges? Let alone far too many Republicans think that in this case the NSA needs defending.
I'm glad someone has pointed this out. Perjury is considered a serious crime (remember that Martha Stewart was hounded for simply lying to a Federal agent), and there is no more serious form of perjury than lying before congress.
The New York Times, which has stood up countless times for freedom of speech and constitutional principles (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan regarding free reporting of civil rights violations without fear of libel, and New York Times Co. v. United States regarding the free dissemination of the classified Pentagon Papers) has once again, delivered a masterclass in defense of Edward Snowden.
I know some of you may have doubts as to the ties between the media and the government, but the historical record does indicate that the New York Times has had a flagship role in challenging government abuse on many levels. I don't see why it would not have a similar role in this debate.
On the surface, I welcome this editorial. About time.
But the NYT has deep connections to the USG, so I'm wondering where this editorial is coming from. It could be a trial balloon on the part of the administration to test the public's appetite for a reduced sentence for Snowden.
Without making a judgement call on the virtue of his of actions: I consider myself very skeptical of the notion that this administration, which has cracked down on whistle-blowers/leakers as much (or more) than any other, is about to offer anything other than the "full weight of Justice" on Snowden.
I enjoyed Philip Bump's piece from the Atlantic about this:
"Why Does CBS Keep Asking Its Ridiculous Amnesty Question About Snowden?"
> What can Snowden promise them, anyway, that they would make this deal? The toothpaste is out of the tube.
My understanding is that he has actually been quite a bit more judicious than Manning about what he has released, putting out stuff that clearly shows what the NSA is doing wrong. I get the impression that he does have more material that could go out but he doesn't feel really needs to be public, as a bargaining chip.
> My understanding is that he has actually been quite a bit more judicious than Manning about what he has released, putting out stuff that clearly shows what the NSA is doing wrong. I get the impression that he does have more material that could go out but he doesn't feel really needs to be public, as a bargaining chip.
I believe he's claimed to have gotten rid of all materials prior to going to Russia. They're in the hands of the team of journalists distributed around the world.
> I believe he's claimed to have gotten rid of all materials prior to going to Russia.
This was in response to the question about this data accidentally falling into wrong hands. He said he was very confident that nothing was stolen copied or accessed during his stay in Hong Kong, and that he completely wiped his harddisk before going to Russia.
This doesn't mean that this data does not exist, anywhere, as a bargaining chip. Just that it is not present with him, on a physical storage medium in Russia.
> My understanding is that he has actually been quite a bit more judicious than Manning about what he has released, putting out stuff that clearly shows what the NSA is doing wrong.
That was his claim, yes, but it's quite incorrect.
Various journalists have the data now and are piecing through it, not Snowden, but things like details of Chinese hacking or tapping into Merkel or Medvedev's phone calls are not violations of U.S. civil liberties and can hardly be said to have been judicious disclosures.
In that regard Manning actually ends up with a better case IMHO; Snowden claimed to have specifically looked at and identified every piece of data he took as requiring disclosure (although taking 58,000-1,000,000+ pieces in a year with a full-time job to do would tend to argue against being 'selective'), so any areas where Snowden leaked something that was only vital to national security happened after he specifically cleared it.
Manning, on the other hand, specifically released a few things but other than that let loose a bunch of data she never quite scanned through. This was definitely negligent, but doesn't seem to have been malicious.
I don't think covering up something else is what the US should be looking at. If the US were to pardon snowden, it would be to turn a corner (or if you are super cynical, look like your turning a corner) on domestic spying.
Recall that nelson Mandela was classified as a terrorist by the CIA for quite a while. and now his funeral was attended by numerous presidents and ex presidents. I'm NOT saying snowden == Mandela, but that a change in language and a pardon would be to turn a corner on this issue.
This implies a very straightforward "either the NYT is the POTUS's bitch, or it is independent" situation. I think there's a win-win outcome to be had, from the NYT's perspective, where the NYT prides itself on being the authoritative source that even the POTUS relies on.
I'm young, so excuse my naiveté, but I can't remember another time (in my lifetime) that the gov't & press have been in such a standoff with a stark contrast of opinion.
It seems news these days is mostly feeding people's opinions back to them ("here's what you had to say on twitter") and taking pot shots at the other sides of the spectrum on lots of surface level points that quite frankly - neither side is going to shift anytime soon.
That said, if nothing else, it seems the quality of news post-snowden has picked up a little & it seems the press is finally starting to do their job in informing the public rather than just appeasing it (or maybe I'm just paying attention more).
As a general rule, I think the press doesn't push itself very hard- it largely does whatever it has to do to sell papers (or equivalent).
Here's what I think: Intelligent commentary on difficult issues emerges into popular consciousness whenever the difficult issues are serious enough that the intelligent, thoughtful folk are forced to have conversations with the general masses. In this simplistic sense, major issues "shake up" sociopolitical reality.
I know this sounds a little elitist. I don't consider myself to be one of the "intelligent, thoughtful folk". I'm a veritable moron. But whenever these shakeups happen, there's an increased demand for intelligent commentary, and the press moves to fulfill that demand.
That's my theory. I could be totally wrong; would love to hear input/criticism from others on this.
I'm not all that young anymore, and I certainly don't remember this either.
As others have noted, Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s is probably the most recent precedent.
And the mainstream press have absolutely been falling down on the job, with very few exceptions. The Times is barely worth reading, and I'm finding NPR/BBC increasingly unlistenable (or simply not worth my time). The Guardian has hit my must-read list, and I'll be very interested to see what Greenwald does with his new venture.
That probably means the judiciary is just as corrupt as the executive and legislative branches, so it's not so much a matter of whether or not they're violating the law, as how much they and their political opponents are paying the judges.
Several failed Latin American democracies come to mind as concrete examples.
Obama appears not to have had a clear picture of the issues back in August when he delivered a speech solidifying his administrations views on the issue. The president suggested that if Mr. Snowden had wanted to avoid criminal charges he could have simply told his superiors about the abuses.
However, whistle blower protections do not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden. And the New York Times Editorial board agrees:
>"In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not."
"In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago."-Pentagon Papers Whistle-Blower Daniel Ellsberg
For the occurrence of this editorial we can chiefly thank Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, for presenting Snowden's documents and handling the journalism carefully and with great influential power. Lesser journalists wouldn't have known what to do, or who to consult to figure out what to do, how to word and interpret things precise enough, and one bad step could have led to disaster, whether in terms of the story, or of Snowden's/their own safety. People can point out potential imperfections in their methods, but today they have this editorial (on top of everything else, including the federal judge rulings) to show for themselves.
They convinced the "Paper of Record," one with a history of party-blind fealty to power, to put out something like this. What has any of us done?
I have a legal question, perhaps someone here would be more educated enough to answer. Which part of our "systems of checks and balances" is supposed to balance the system in this instance. The president seems uninterested in changing anything, congress seems uninterested (and incapable) of doing anything, and the supreme court can only knock things down. It would seem to me like there is a large amount of people who want an action taken, both to change the system, and to pardon snowdon. Is the answer really only to wait until the next election cycle?
I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that cases like the ACLU v. NSA will be able to strike down programs like this. But you're correct, unless Congress is moved to do something about it (which, given their track record, seems unlikely), we'll have to wait until the next election for a mentality shift.
I interpreted it as the latter, and I actually really like it. Since this whole thing started, there's been a lot of debate about whether he's a patriot or a traitor. Without even reading the article, I think that headline is the clearest, boldest statement the NYT could make about where they fall on that question.
Well he certainly would not do it before the 2014 elections and unless a rift occurs within his party I do not expect it when he leaves office. The only safe time would be right after the 2014 elections.
Yet why would he? Snowden caused him grief and this is a President who doesn't seem to give one wit about public opinion. Oh sure they float trial balloons but only to deflect.
I would prefer to see a major European country step forward and offer his citizenship and protection. That or push through the UN a resolution protecting people like him
I know that the U.S.A. is the greatest country on earth and utterly amazing in every possible way imaginable, however, the majority of the world's population do not live in the U.S.A.
In the U.K. we like America, we even have a 'special relationship' (according to our politicians, the fact is that no American politicians see it that way or mention the fact). However, do most people in the U.K. want to visit or live in the U.S.A.? No! Further into Europe I really doubt that the average French person would want to up sticks and move to the U.S.A.
If fleets of B-52's carpet bombed Europe with free U.S. passports, visas and one-way tickets to 'the land of the free, home of the brave' I very much doubt that there would be that much of a scramble to pick them up, hop on a plane and rush to the U.S.A. Sure, some would go, but even then, after a year or two they would want to return.
It has been a while since I have heard anything about floods of refugees wanting to leave Russia, so life there can't be all that bad.
What's to say that Snowden isn't actually enjoying life in Russia? His C.V. is rather impeccable and I doubt he will be struggling for work. He is almost certainly not without his female admirers too. He might just get used to knowing that the U.S.A. is off limits. He might also be able to be relaxed about personal security. He knows that if anything happens to him then it is pretty bad news for Uncle Sam even if it is a lone nutter that does the deed.
Okay his asylum status runs out in less than a year but how much does he really value a U.S. passport? Or for charges to be dropped against him? It is not that big a deal. Uncle Sam has no leverage here even if Americans don't see it that way.
Immigration to the United States has always been as you say in the matter that many people who arrive here leave after a while. I used to have visions of nineteenth-century ships arriving full of immigrants to the United States, and then traveling empty back to Europe to pick up more immigrants, but the historical data actually show that about one-third of all persons who immigrated to the United States in the era of unrestricted immigration eventually migrated back to Europe. But they were changed after living here. Much of what makes Europe very livable these days results from returned would-be Americans promoting the democratization of Europe. (Much of the rest of what makes Europe very livable these days results from the United States rescuing Europe from central European tyranny twice during the world wars, and following the second rescue with the Marshall Plan and the Bretton-Woods agreement.)
So of course some people like to stay in the country where they grew up, where they are able to speak the language and are familiar with the cuisine and climate and where their childhood friends live. Nonetheless, the United States is second to no country in the world in its net gain of immigrants from various countries all over the world. Many, many, many people want to immigrate to the United States. Russia is surrounded by wretchedly poor, badly governed countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and many people leave those countries to go to Russia. But Russia does not gain population through immigration to large degree, because many people who were born in Russia are glad to leave Russia (and they populate whole neighborhoods near where I live).
Prediction, as someone who has practiced immigration law in the United States: if the United States had open immigration again as it did until about the 1870s, it would gain a substantial percentage of population by immigration, even if some people who arrive return to their countries of birth. Usually people all over the world become more interested in living in America after hearing from other people who have lived in America, on a net basis.
AFTER EDIT: Ah, yes, the expected downvote again. Anyway, you are welcome to explain your disagreement, as I won't mind hearing a differing opinion from someone else here. That's something I learned in American culture: feel free to disagree, then hear someone out about why they disagree.
I did not downvote, but I can explain some of the reasons:
> Much of what makes Europe very livable these days results from returned would-be Americans promoting the democratization of Europe.
First time I ever heard this argument, so without solid arguments, I will continue believing that democratization in Europe is the expected result of the Age of Enligthement.
> Much of the rest of what makes Europe very livable these days results from the United States rescuing Europe from central European tyranny twice during the world wars
Well, this is a cute one, but work in Europe was mostly done by the Soviet Union and Britain in WW2, US just dealing the last blow to an already moribund opponent. (That is, for Europe, the US actions in others operative theaters at the time was huge, but we are talking about Europe here). US was quite late in WWI too, but I have no idea who would have won without them. They sure helped, but your comment make it look like a single country saving the day.
> and following the second rescue with the Marshall Plan and the Bretton-Woods agreement.
Marshall plan sure helped Europe economically, but saying it was pure goodwill instead of a political move isn't fair, it being devised by a military give some hints on the 'real' objectives. I won't complain about that, since american supremacy was way more tolerable than USSR (Or so I was told, but winners write history, right?). I don't know enough about Bretton-Woods agreement effect to comment on it, so I will abstain.
> Many, many, many people want to immigrate to the United States.
Yup, Hollywood did a nice job selling the american dream. Though that is changing, US/USSR is going from 'good guys/bad guys' to 'bad guys west/bad guys east' pretty quickly these days.
I don't want to turn this into a continuous argument, but I studied WWI a lot so kinda wanted to comment on that.
As far as WWI goes, the reason Americans think that we saved the day is because about the time we sent several million troops over, Russia had surrendered and the Germans diverted their veteran soldiers from the Eastern to the Western front. Further, we think it's important that we prevented the continued unregulated use of u-boat warfare, which had been crippling the UK.
As for WW2, it's probably because the USSR was the bad guys so we couldn't acknowledge their success.
Down-votes - sometimes worth the price for wading into controversy.
I up-voted you even though I have a British perspective on WW1 (nobody taught me at school that Americans fought in that!), WW2 (the war that started in 1939, not whenever it was in the 1940's that the Americans showed up), Marshall Plan (we only paid back our war debt to the USA a few years ago, great).
I could go on...
Essentially you illustrate my original point - Americans think that America is fabulous, the rest of the world have a more nuanced view.
Perhaps I am misunderstanding your comment – what does this have to do with how great the US is?
Snowden grew up in the US. Having the US after him means he is excluded from traveling to a large part of the Western world due to fears of extradition (even making it out of Russia, due to flight connections and such, might be hard).
Perhaps he is happy living in Russia for the rest of his life (though I doubt it), but since when does a desire for clemency indicate he (or anyone) views the US as the "greatest country on earth?"
I avoid planes in Europe too, airports being far from city centers, plus checking-in, can add up to 4H to any travel (more than an hour to the airport, check-in, boarding, and afterward getting your stuff and actually getting from the airport to the city is another hour and a half).
I use night train, when available, 1/2H to the train station, 5mn to boaard, and I wake up the following day in a nice city to explore. (not an hour away from that city, but in the center).
Excuse me? Do you have no idea what right the TSA has and how the TSA abuses their rights? Besides being highly overpaid and highly ineffective as mentioned by the Israeli airport security chief recently.
Only in 3rd world countries like the US and some of the worst parts of Africa and Asia you have to wait over 1hr in the line on average, and it's better to avoid the worst airports, like Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta or Newark at all to fly in from abroad. Paris CDG (de Gaulle), Heathrow, Rome and Istanbul are the worst in Europe and you still cannot compare it to any airport in the US when flying in.
Is CDG really one of the worst?
I never had to wait, but took a plane from there only twice, so hardly significant.
Or I wasn't there during high season, or I'm a young white guy, so never pulled out, IDK.
I just want to know, was Obama administration responsible for increased NSA surveillance? or was this something set in motion by the Royal George Bush Family Inc. and that can't be stopped? Seems like Obama is getting all the shit for something his predecessor set in motion and now cannot be stopped.
It seems like there's forces even more elite and powerful than the president that dictates what he can do and can't do and that he is largely a puppet with strings being pulled by stakeholders that benefits most from totalitarian power over it's peons.
Without Edward Snowden, this tyranny would've gone unnoticed for centuries. I think he should run for President.
Well, Obama not only supports it, he definitely has the power to do something about it if he wanted to. He doesn't want to. It's not that it can't be stopped; if the President wanted to do so he could conceivably fire the CIA and the NSA.
I don't think that the president has the effective power to do any harm to the security apparatus. He didn't even try so far, though it was rumored that he might go Bulworth some day.
They probably have too much power and info over him. But at least he is still alive. JFK tried too but was eliminated by them, and afterwards only the Church committee tried to limit their power a bit, but not their budgets. The fact the Obama completely turned 180° on all security and constitutional matters from his senate times should tell you.
I'm currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the first part of the book talks about the methods Hitler and others used to get to power. Trust me, you'd take your statement back if you knew.
SA was in essence a gang of lowlifes that used murder, intimidation and terror to get rid of opponents.
Hitler had amazing abilities to lie to everyone to get to the result he wanted.
That said, one can not fail drawing up parallels with some of the aspects how The Third Reich got to power and how the people running it operated with what's going on in the world today.
Also to be clear I mean the NY times. Nothing wrong with a multi faceted opinion but it's not cool that they don't even point out the evolution of their beliefs. I mean isn't that the point of having an awarded newspaper?