Monday, June 17, 2013


Comes now again, Edward Snowden, and once again makes this story about him and not about the U.S. Government, and when he doesn't do that sufficiently, Glenn Greenwald does it for him:

The second question, from The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, read as follows: "How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?"

And even that fat, wet, right-over-the-plate slow pitch was too much for the batter:

Snowden stopped short of answering the question directly.

"All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me," he wrote. "Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped." 

Which is pretty much what Greenwald has been promising since this story first broke and the republic did not fall upon the revelation that the government is spying on people, maybe even its own people.   As Josh Marshall said:

the one interesting and significant thing to come out of this Snowden live chat is his focus on what is technically possible within the NSA vs whatever policy restrictions are in place to protect privacy, constitutional protections for US citizens and so forth. It’s not even totally clear, reading these answers, how much Snowden and his nemeses within the Intel Community are even disagreeing about how things work.

This, I think, is what JMM is talking about:

 "US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it's important to understand that policy protection is no protection - policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection - a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the 'widest allowable aperture,' and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn't stop being protected communications just because of the IP they're tagged with… More fundamentally, the 'US Persons' protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that 'We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.'"
or this:

"More detail on how direct NSA's accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want," Snowden wrote. "Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on - it's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed."

 I've no doubt there's a lot of "power and danger" in this system.  The question is:  how do you eradicate that, without eradicating the system?  Google, Yahoo, Bing, Apple, all have this information, too; not to mention Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, etc. As I said before, the idea that The Phone Company knows more about us than anyone else goes back at least to 1967, which, if I'm doing my math right, is about 17 years before Our Heroic Snitch was born.  It's certainly a few decades earlier than the Revolution of the Intertubes.  Everything old really is new again.

So, yes, the government can hoover up this information.  The salient question is:  do they?  We can't take away their power to get the information; we can only seek to limit their desire to get that information, or at least limit their willingness to do so.  Of course the limitations are policy based; that technological genie ain't goin' back in that bottle.  We are back where we started:  do we trust the government not to violate our privacy?

Because if we don't, what the hell are we gonna do about it?  Except go off the grid and disconnect from all the communications conveniences of this modern world which most of us seem to think are so essential to our well-being.  Certainly Mr. Snowden imagines these communications devices are the thing that's keeping him alive.

In other words, given the state of the world, limited policy protections are the best we can ever hope for.  Maybe that explains why Glenn Greenwald is still fanning the flames for more revelations to come out that will finally persuade the world to think like Glenn Greenwald.

Or like a cheap spy novel; there doesn't seem to be much difference.

And where the hell are the rest of those documents?  Are you going to tell us again how a government spied on foreign dignitaries at an international meeting within its borders?  O, the humanities!

By the way, that line from the "Founding Fathers" is in the Declaration of Independence, not the U.S. Constitution.  We have a long-standing legal and civil tradition of not treating non-citizens quite the same way we we treat U.S. citizens.  And yes, we spy on both of them, but from different justifications and with different policy and legal limitations.  And frankly:

  Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%.

Maybe not, but nobody put you, a private contractor hired to perform a specific task, in charge of U.S. foreign, legal, or national security policy.  That decision, in other words, is slightly above your pay grade.  And if you don't like it and you want to expose it, come back to America and face the consequences of your crime; make your stand in a court of law, present your defense to a jury of your peers, and persuade them, your fellow citizens, that you are right and the government is wrong.

Until then, you're just a coward; and a putz.


  1. And they all said, "Amen." Well, I did. Some folks are finally discovering that Snowden may not be quite the hero, and, most certainly, he is not the hero Snowden himself and Greenwald believe him to be.

    With their access to vast amounts of data, the government agencies missed the plans of the Tsarnaev brothers to bomb the Boston Marathon, which makes me think maybe less is more. Perhaps that's the discussion we should be having.

    All the damned scandals just won't get proper traction with the public.

  2. The other discussion that we should be having is how come we, as a society, are willing to give up privacy because "we need to stop terrorists!!!" but we somehow are less willing to do the same to prevent gun violence even though ... well, who killed more people, the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing or Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook elementary?

  3. Yup.

    Still don't understand how that works, except the NRA has mythical powers to ruin politicians, which powers politicians are still convinced exists.

    Kinda hoping Mayor Bloomberg, et al., finally disprove that one. Not holding my breath, though.

  4. RMJ,

    Speaking as an NYCer, Mayor Bloomberg is too busy tanking his heir apparent's, Christine Quinn's, mayoral ambitions by completely alienating the Democratic base via his heavy- yet also ham-handed dealings with unions to accomplish much else at this point. Anyway, Mayor Bloomberg is easily dismissed as a "big city politician" to carry much weight with key NRA-enablers. OTOH, money talks and if Joe Lhota or John Catsimatidis were to come out majorly in favor of gun control AND such a position didn't harm, or even better helped, fundraising in the Upper East Side (still a key money base for the GOP), then that would give politicians a motivation for going after the NRA.

  5. BTW, another wrinkle in terms of whether or not the NRA (or any interest group) has political power is that people say one thing and vote/politcally identify another way, and presumably politicians know this. My favorite example is a family friend who has been known (although she would blanch at any realization of this) to make statements pretty much in line with Marx's theory of labor and then to complain about how much of a "socialist" Obama is.

  6. Most of the NRA mystique stems back to the Republican roll-over in Texas.

    Texas has always been a one-party state. It was Democrats after the Civil War (the party not of anti-slavery), and it became the GOP in the '80's, something cemented in the '90's when a long time Texas Democrat lost re-election.

    Clinton, et al., blamed it on the NRA, which took credit for opposing the assault weapons ban Clinton signed. Since then, the NRA has been "invincible."

    When I reference Bloomberg, I mean his $$$$ backing Mayors against Guns, or whatever his group is. Enough money in the right places, and maybe politicians will start noticing that the NRA doesn't run elections they way the myth says they do (it's already true, but who's paying attention?).

    Something like 70% of Americans, for example, don't want to get involved in Syria. But McCain and Graham and, now, to some extent, Obama, know better. And, of course, nothing comes out of the DC press except that we must do "something."

    Now, will that 70% vote on Syria in 2014? 2016? Or on Sandy Hook? Aye, there's the rub.....

  7. "how come we, as a society, are willing to give up privacy because "we need to stop terrorists!!!" but we somehow are less willing to do the same to prevent gun violence even though ... well, who killed more people, the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing or Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook elementary?"