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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” [1]. 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.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A




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 [people are] finally listening?

Yes. For example, they were called "conspiracy nuts" before.


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.


Before Snowden, it went something like this:

"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.


conspiracy nuts have been screaming all sorts of stuff from the rooftops for years.

if i say 'twenty' every time, eventually i'll correctly predict the outcome of a d20. this doesn't make me good at doing so, nor does it mean that you should have listened.


Yeah, but it's been well documented for many, many years:

http://www.mega.nu/cm/cm1.html

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.

Pretty much the same thing in my mind. . .


... 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...


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.


You're absolutely correct, Snowden receives personal credit because he's taken on great personal risk to share the information he's shared.

Let's not underestimate the value of a singular face to focus sentiment vs. a room.


Mark Klein was the ATT tech who exposed room 614A.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Klein


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".


> The lionization of Snowden is baffling when it was already well-known.

It's because Snowden made for a good messiah. Better PR trumps good journalism.


Really? You think the lionization doesn't come from the incredible personal risk he took to bring forward incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing on a massive scale by very powerful people?


You ask that as if it wasn't what I said.


> The lionization of Snowden is baffling when it was already well-known.

No it wasn't. It was well suspected by a few. Snowden provided hard evidence which each and everyone could see. To many, if not most ordinary americans, that is a huge difference.


"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.


These kind of thing changes your worldview. It's like math, you either prove it or it remain a hypothesis even after the 1.0000x10^1.000.000 repetition.




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