And if you look more closely, it doesn't sound like Orwell after all. It's too grandiose.
Perhaps treason that serves a higher good. Perhaps not. Reasonable people can disagree. But not need for the scare quotes.
Treason is defined in 18 USC § 2381 (pursuant to Article III definitional constraints) as a citizen of the United States "lev[ying] war against [the US] or adher[ing] to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere."
In this, US law follows the arguments of Blackstone, who believed that high treason, more so perhaps than any other crime, must be precisely defined and delineated ("For if the crime of high treason be indeterminate, this alone ... is sufficient to make any government degenerate into arbitrary power"). Madison warned in The Federalist that only a narrow Constitutional definition of treason could protect citizens from "new-fangled and artificial treasons" enacted to serve political factionalism. Arguably, were Snowden to be convicted of treason for exposing questionable government activity, it would be a textbook case of constructive treason, precisely that which the Founding Fathers sought to prevent.
Now, Snowden has been tried in the media as being guilty of treason (perhaps most famously by Richard Clarke), but that, I think, is a tough row to hoe, even in a post-9/11 America; the only "enemies" the US is specifically at war with are al-Qa'ida-affiliated terrorists, and there's just no evidence that Snowden had an "intent to betray" the US to terror groups.
Disclosures relating to, e.g., China or Europe are non-treasonous, as we are not at war with any of those states; in the same way, Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage due to his spying against the US for Israel, but his actions did not fit the definition of treason.
In summary, the charge of "treason" sets an extremely high legal bar, one that Snowden's actions -- while unquestionably illegal -- almost certainly do not rise to. He is a criminal on the run, certainly; a hero, possibly; a traitor, not at all.
> "adher[ing] to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere."
Incidentally, the information that Snowden shared was clearly not giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy, it was giving information to the people, so as you eloquently point out, treason is not applicable. Unless of course we now consider the citizens of the United States to be the enemy...
This is not an absolute truth. Revealing "state secret" documents is only treason if you identify the elites and elected officials as the country, and not the population. Arguably, when Ed released state secrets to the citizens of his own country, it was NOT treason. He certainly didn't betray the citizens who were being lied to by their government, and the citizens compose much more of the country than the government does.
If information magnifies power relationships, then require the powerful (governments, corporations, the wealthy), as well as those who've violated social contracts (criminals).
Which is fairly much how Europe's Right to be Forgotten is working in practice (as some of us predicted).
Governments used to have to go begging to private wealth to finance themselves, during panics, at times of war, etc. Today Bill Gates is hilariously undersized compared to the US Government (as are all corporations); 120 years ago, Rockefeller by himself towered over the US Government. During the 19th century governments of Europe had to beg for private financing for wars and bailouts.
What corporation, anywhere on earth, has any meaningful hard power? Tanks, jets, machine guns, aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, nukes, legal surveillance capabilities, thousands of soldiers, transports, military bases, the legal right to knock down your door and arrest you, the ability to put you in prison for 15 years with minimum sentencing laws, the legal ability to steal your property at gun point through civil asset forfeiture with no compensation, the right to arrest you for smoking pot, and on it goes.
Name a few corporations with anything even resembling those powers.
All real control over currencies today rests with central governments and their proxies (eg the Fed). That was not the case prior to the global establishment of the modern central banks in the last century. A little over a century ago, JP Morgan ruled the financial markets, and was vastly more powerful than the US Government in financial matters. Today, one month of QE is bigger than the entire fortune of the world's wealthiest man.
At what other point in world history, other than the last century, have governments been singularly all-powerful when it comes to military might? No domestic entity even remotely dares threaten the big governments of today. See: China, Russia, US.
No corporation can arrest you for smoking pot, but corporations could decide for smoking pot to become legal overnight. No corporation can launch a missile, but they can arrange for the missiles to be bought, installed, etc..
That said, I would soften your statement that governments are singularly all-powerful: ISIS, al-Qaeda, the iraqi insurgency writ large, MEND, and other non-state groups have been able to quite successfully go toe-to-toe with nation states and make out quite handsomely.
The Federal Reserve is not a government entity. Though the Fed's President is appointed by the government, candidates suggested by the member Banks who hold shares in the organisation.
Here are a list of private military companies.
Is it plausible that one of the reasons that major corporations have so much power now is because the government was TOO open for enough decades that the corporations were able to out compete?
I don't want a world where every move I make is being watched and I'm subject to arbitrary action by people who have power. I think total surveillance, even if it includes the powerful few, would be a disaster for human rights and freedom in general. So what if the dictator is impeccable in his daily routine, if he's watching every move of a population and subjecting them to unequal treatment under the law?
That may be possible, but it's also possible that total surveillance would result in a permanent entrenchement of whoever manages to gain (or maintain) power through the transition. It's very hard for a competing ideology to rise in prominence if it's possible to detect and crush every individual who starts to disagree, before they can even communicate it to anyone else. I think it's likely that with total surveillance we'd soon see the rise of rapid automated enforcement, which would be a incredible impediment to any attempt at changing the status quo.
That's already the case. There is (near) total transparency for the population. The only way to fight back, is to have total transparency for the powerful few too.
But they make the rules, and have the money and the power, so this ain't happening.
I don't like it either, and it's completely foreign to my (and almost everyone's) current way of living, but there are a lot of things about the current way of living that would have been completely foreign to anyone a century ago. (Imagine how previous generations would have felt about the quantity of information we make public, intentionally and un-, on social media!)
I am not defending or supporting this, but I think that it might be overambitious to declare (presumably without evidence beyond emotional reaction) what the human psyche can or cannot support.
So if you think transparency could be applied to everybody in society, you're wrong.
Rich people will have the means to protect their privacy, not the "middle class" and not the poor nor the extremely poor.
It's almost as if someone discovered a time machine, went back in time, showed everyone the documented and recorded evidence that a totalitarian dictatorship was forming; and everyone simply shrugged and called you a witch.
Unfortunately, humans are not really all that good at being preemptive. We are ultimately a rather stupid, reactionary life form that won't get it until after we have teetered on the edge of the abyss.
Oh, they care once they really understand. The problem is, most people, aren't really thinking that critically about it until it smacks them in the face at which point its (usually) too late.
At the end of the day, John Oliver hosts a comedy show. Though it tends to be on the informative side, it still oversimplifies and exaggerates to get its effect. The more I've watched him, the more I've grown tired of his explicit style of "share a factoid before immediately following on with a forced pop culture reference" that summarizes his work.
He seems to be becoming more popular as a research substitute, though.
I suppose but I've seen literally the exact same reaction when I've explained things like this to people in those sorts of terms vs. the terms the news uses.
The problem is the "official research" doesn't explicitly state things like that but use it in terms vague enough people really don't believe/understand that the pics they send their lovers are being stored.
Posing the question like that has serious biases because people really and genuinely do not understand the implications.
We need official research that is clear, concise, and written in a manner where the connections are obvious. Official research that relies on statements/questions that are vague enough to be heavily biased by the sources of the media the person consumes is valueless, honestly.
edit: also, are you really surprised that a comedian is better at explaining important issues to ordinary people in a way they understand than a security researcher or academic? He wasn't attempting to take a sample, rather describe how the issue should be framed. I wouldn't take it as evidence of anything, but rather a heuristic for arguments with your less-privacy-conscious peers, and it's a pretty solid heuristic I think.
Totalitarianism begins and ends with control of the military. You can't be a despot without control of the military, and once you have that everything else is trivial.
This "dictatorship" involves virtually every country in the West cooperating. That narrative does not work very well so we concentrate on how evil the US is and ignore who is working with them. This line of thinking guarantees the status quo is safe.
How is anything Snowden released hard evidence? Every single thing Snowden released could have easily been faked. Hell, those powerpoints look fake. Who thought an intelligence agency would use something straight out of the world of TPS reporting and cookie-cutter presentation templates? Note, I'm not saying they're fake, but it would be trivial for someone to make this stuff if they wanted. So the argument that there's this overwhelming proof that the public can't ignore seems like weak sauce to me. The public isn't terribly interested in hard proof (or have the time/expertise to weigh claims), historically. If they were, we'd probably be a society of hard atheists scoffing at anything that can't be trivially proven in the lab.
The real issue here is why certain things go viral and others don't. Snowden's fleeing was fairly dramatic and I'm assuming that helped get the ball rolling. The timed release aspect of his disclosures are fairly clever too. Frankly, I think Assange cut a path for him by normalizing this type of leak and the journalist/news system was ready for it. In the past, this system was too busy avoiding these issues, or worse, being a mouthpiece for the current administration (See the NYTimes' disgraceful Iraq pre-war reporting, repeating Bush admin propaganda without question.)
Without the Assange/Manning path, the previous whistleblowers only received marginalized exposure. Now news managers realize how profitable leaks are especially with the White House not reciprocating with the 'blocking of access.' Obama's more liberal direction probably guarantees more leaks in his terms. We'll see how things are with the next POTUS. I suspect a GOP POTUS won't be as forgiving as the Bush administration has shown (Valerie Plame/Wilson affair for example).
With real stuff, people freak out and tip their hand. Media contact is made, discussions about endangering lives are had, and everyone accepts that the core idea is true.
> Who thought an intelligence agency would use
> something straight out of the world of TPS reporting
> and cookie-cutter presentation templates?
These are people interested in making arguments, and dumping massive presentations on other people. Defense IT is pretty much 99% Microsoft, and the people making presentations are neither designers nor (usually) people who care about optimum information delivery. They add what flair they can.
Imagine the most restrictive IT department ever, with layers of bureaucracy hardened over years to prevent you from getting work done. No one is going to open Photoshop and make custom photos, as no one can install it, and the military networks are so locked down that I'd be surprised if they could reach sites with stock photos. (OK, that's probably allowed.) I expect that the only things they have are MS OFfice and the stock clip art.
Your argument is that someone could fake them so having documents or not doesn't matter.
The one big issue is when they aren't fake and that people look at the documents no matter how real or fake they look and test them to see if they are true. That is what happened with Snowden. He got documents and SOME of them were able to be used to show validity and than the other documents and his actions build up the case. Without those this whole Patriot Act would have just been extended. Not that this new one is extremely better.
There's a huge difference in terms of media appeal, journalistic norms, and general public appeal in having original source documents vs just a story.
If it were faked, it could easily have been denied.
I'd view myself as left-to-far-left with zero sympathies to libertarian politics as such. But any claim that all the libertarians are working together seems preposterous. Libertarianism appeals to geeks, constitutionalists and other sectors of the American population who tend to take it's positions seriously.
Rewind to a decade ago and suggesting that "the government" was committing mass surveillance and spying on everyone would be considered a conspiracy theory. You'd be assigned to a mental ward if you suggested that several governments were working together on this spying.
Not to defend his theory - but I find negatively reacting to any "far-fetched" theories merely because they are theories is rather short sighted given the number of them that turn out to be true, or partially true.
You are falling prey to survivorship bias. You forget the huge, overwhelming majority of conspiracy theories that are wrong, and remember the ones that turn out to be right. Without evidence, it's a waste of time to even consider them.
Poor evidence is evidence that is still investigated and proven to be credible or not. In the scenario where it cannot be investigated, one forms a belief around it and chooses whether to believe it themselves or not. This is how many conspiracy theories form. Feel free to be negative of people who hold their beliefs even after whatever evidence they had has been disproven, proven to be fake, or proven to be non-credible.
Snowden was a CIA agent. There is at least some history of the alphabet soup agencies competing and trying to shortchange another. That can be reason enough to suspect he's a plant.
The world is not black and white. There is a ground other than "believe" and "don't believe". You don't have to believe Snowden is a CIA plant. However you don't need to hold a negative view against the possibility, however small or improbable.
And what's wrong with that? He didn't present it as if he thought it were fact. Why do people have such a strong reaction to "conspiracy theories"? It's not as though these things never turn out to be truthful, but some people seem to reject all things that resemble conspiracy theories without consideration of any kind. Some even seem to take the existence of a conspiracy theory as evidence of the opposite.
As far as the idea in his post goes, the hypothesis presented is reminiscent of the USSR, where historically multiple internal security and intelligence units competed behind the scenes for power and sometimes undermined each other for the same.
I lean toward he did this at great personal sacrifice. If it was a turf war he wouldn't left for China and stuck in Russia.
I agree, but I am not so well informed that I can reasonably exclude all other hypotheses; nor do I think is anyone else so well informed. I don't put a lot of stock in the Snowden-is-a-CIA-operative-kneecapping-the-NSA hypothesis; it's more of a whimsical idea that is amusing to think about. It reminds me of some spy fiction I read years ago by Viktor Suvorov https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Suvorov
>If it was a turf war he wouldn't left for China and stuck in Russia.
I'm not sure how that follows. Snowden's wellbeing would definitely be in jeopardy if he had remained in the US, even if he were a CIA operative.
Binney, along with the other NSA whistleblowers, are interviewed at length for the film.
That, and Citizenfour were, for me, the most intriguing documentaries about these issues.
The recent theater about section 215 is a new step in this relationship: the government gets to look like they re making changes while Google (el al) get their letter of marque, excusing their continued mass data collection.
If you found part 2 of United States of Secrets to be interesting, I strongly recommend Aral Balkan's recent talk on the same subject ( https://projectbullrun.org/surveillance/2015/video-2015.html... ). If you found Frontline's description of Google in part 2 to be a bit frightening or disturbing, then Balkan's talk might terrify you.
A lot of the stuff which was later leaked by Snowden is discussed here, nice to see Binney vindicated.
Interestingly, the NSA facility in Hawaii where Snowden was working at the time is mentioned by name.
I often wonder if this Defcon talk inspired him to do what he did.
Does he mention there how he managed to blackmail the FBI to not prosecute him? ;-)
 According to wikipedia DEF CON 20 was held at the Rio Hotel & Casino July 26–29, 2012 -- according to the Hope 9 page, Hope 9 was 13th-15th of July the same year.
It's cool the way he talks about solving technical problems on pen and paper. He says, "miracles don't happen on the computer, they happen in your mind", that is awesome!
Super smart guy!
Also, he mentions later on that Laura Poitras was at attendance at that talk, who of course went onto direct Citizenfour.
Unfortunately, whistleblowing really takes substantial evidence, and that's what Snowden provided.
This has been such a disappointment for me. I had such high hopes for Obama. :(
I keep wanting to cheer for the exec. It should have some of the best intelligence in the world on subversive actors at play in the beltway and wallstreet, so I often expect a power play against those interests. Given that the exec repeatedly fails to do so tells me one thing:
The executive is already compromised. Uncomfortable conclusion to say the least. I mean more than just monied interest making donations too, as should be obvious.
I have two main questions: was continuity of government (aka shadow government) put into operation on 9/11, and does it still continue? I haven't found anyone but Peter Dale Scott asking these questions, and I never hear any answers.
"What is the first step out of this current state of affairs, in which the constitution appears to have been superseded by a higher, if less legitimate authority? I submit that it is to get Congress to do what the law requires, and determine whether our present proclamation of emergency “shall be terminated” (50 U.S.C. 1622, 2002).
As part of this procedure, Congress should find whether secret COG powers, never submitted to Congress or seen by it, are among “the powers and authorities” which Bush in 2007 included in his prolongation of the 2001 emergency.
This is not a technical or procedural detail. It is a test of whether the United States continues to be governed by its laws and constitution, or whether, as has been alleged, the laws and constitution have now in places been superseded by COG. "
What I would say is that as a former Marine and a combat vet who tried to understand the "why?" behind the war(s), I consistently return to Smedley Butler and the attempted facist coup known as the business plot and Butler's testimony to the committee. (also his War is a Racket speech)
Honestly, I don't think the facists ever went away, they just went "underground" and became subversive while playing along with whatever both parties were spouting. Hence the business class owns both parties.
All these are tough and complex issues and many of the answers are dirty and unpleasant. The American people are propagandized into the ground by the same interests, which is my main quabble with those who just want to blame the American people for their ignorance and apathy. They didn't get there all on their own!
Unfortunately even very astute individuals can easily get sucked into the "us vs. them" vortex of the divide and conquer tactics used by the "deep state".
Even if you do grasp the synergy of global finance, politics, the military-industrial complex, etc... most people in positions of authority and power have too much to lose or genuinely fear blackmail and/or physical harm. The connections are not too hard to find but they are antithetical to mainstream education and institutions and require a good deal of emotional and intellectual fortitude to accept. Reading the last will and testament of Cecil Rhodes including the political notes is one starting point.
Michael Parenti, while a bit loose with his citations and sometimes on the edge, is another who does a good job of broad overview summary.
Lately Chris Hedges and Robert Fisk, two men who have actually seen war, are also good men to listen to on the subject, though I find them less detail oriented and more social movement commentators.
Yes I will look into this positively. I follow the lessons of Noam Chomsky and some from Dr. Cornel West. They seem to extol the benefits of local community organization, and the fact that despite how it may seem, many people are actually working on the same problems.
I told a lot of people. I don't think many of them believed me at all. Even after room 641A was documented by the New York Times, talking about the surveillance programs I personally knew of in an online discussion was always met with demands for proof or ridicule.
Only after Snowden does the general public accept the truth.
Note the date.
But with no proof other than his word. It's easy to ignore one disgruntled former employee's lunatic ramblings. Not so easy with actual documents supporting their claims.
Not exactly a solid source you want to align yourself with.
I don't think we need mass surveillance since it creates more useless data and not enough indicators someone is planning something. So where is the line drawn between mass surveillance and no surveillance? How do we keep this country safe, without infringing people's freedom?