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subego Aug 1, 2013 04:00 PM
Irony Overload
Russia has granted temporary asylum to Snowden

John McCain says because of this we need to speak out for those demanding "greater freedom, accountability and rule of law in Russia"


Why am I not surprised he takes a position speaking for freedom, accountability and rule of law is dependent on whether we like you, rather than these things having some form of, oh, I don't know... inherent value.
 
BadKosh Aug 1, 2013 04:15 PM
McCain has been damaged goods since he was a POW. He should NEVER be trusted.
 
ebuddy Aug 1, 2013 08:42 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by BadKosh (Post 4240910)
McCain has been damaged goods since he was a POW. He should NEVER be trusted.
Friggin' ouch, brother. I'm certainly not the biggest fan of McCain, but that just reads -- harsh.

Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4240907)
Russia has granted temporary asylum to Snowden

John McCain says because of this we need to speak out for those demanding "greater freedom, accountability and rule of law in Russia"


Why am I not surprised he takes a position speaking for freedom, accountability and rule of law is dependent on whether we like you, rather than these things having some form of, oh, I don't know... inherent value.
I'm not sure McCain was speaking to you and me. My take-away is; "we Snowden needs to speak out for those demanding greater freedom, accountability and rule of law in Russia." and "Enjoy your freedom, accountability, and rule of law in Russia."
 
ghporter Aug 1, 2013 11:40 PM
Well let's see here... If Putin's government is using Snowden to show how they support "freedom and rule of law" in the U.S., then let's toss in the old "sauce for the gander" card. Considering that rule of law is sketchy at best in Russia (though probably better than when Putin wore a KGB badge), his statements about such things are poorly veiled self promotion. I can't see why though, as he's in charge and will keep himself in charge as long as he likes. Great "rule of law" stuff there.

Anyway, the thing with Snowden is that he's essentially a prisoner in a relatively posh cell while he's in Moscow, just as Assange is essentially locked up in Ecuador's embassy in London. And with the exception of Julian embarrasing his captors hosts by acting like he's in charge of their assylum granting, he's still stuck. Great way to capitalize on one's "rights" and avoid facing charges he says he can beat. But that's another issue.

McCain is essentially saying that using Snowden as a political billboard is a two way street, and he's right. And the U.S. government actually does hold pretty much all the good cards in this game.
 
subego Aug 2, 2013 03:17 AM
To Putin, "politics" is having you assassinated.

What I see as more likely is Snowden is getting rolled for intel in exchange for not handing him back.
 
Waragainstsleep Aug 2, 2013 06:49 AM
Russian politics is more a case of 'everything has a price' as I understand it.
 
subego Aug 2, 2013 07:28 AM
Hmmm... that sounds somewhat universal.
 
Waragainstsleep Aug 2, 2013 01:39 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4241001)
Hmmm... that sounds somewhat universal.
A customer of mine once told me about a deal between some regional chief (I don't know if he was a governor or a mayor or a minister of something) and a famous US company that prided itself on doing things by the book without exception. Long story short, they paid the minister and they paid his brother who was some kind of local gangster an exorbitant amount of cash in order to get the contract they were after. Its amazing what a few billion dollars will do to people's attachment to the moral high ground eh?
 
subego Aug 2, 2013 05:25 PM
That's the way the book is written there.

Here too, but we usually don't kill you.

It's not as bad as it used to be, but you still don't do business in Chicago without greasing the right palms.
 
lpkmckenna Aug 2, 2013 05:44 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4240982)
What I see as more likely is Snowden is getting rolled for intel in exchange for not handing him back.
Unlikely. Putin just wants to remind Obama that he's not his bitch. And Putin would definitely look like a bitch to the Russian people if he handed over Snowden.
 
subego Aug 2, 2013 05:48 PM
If it was that, wouldn't he have been let in much earlier?
 
subego Aug 2, 2013 06:03 PM
Add to that, Putin really has Snowden by the scroat, and has been known to play hardball.
 
lpkmckenna Aug 2, 2013 07:06 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4241072)
If it was that, wouldn't he have been let in much earlier?
No, because Putin also wants Snowden to know who's in charge, by making him sweat it out for a month.
 
subego Aug 2, 2013 07:08 PM
Snowden doesn't realize who's in charge at great peril.
 
OreoCookie Aug 2, 2013 07:12 PM
Snowden ran out of options: all Western nations are allied with the US and don't really have the backbone to stand up to the US. The US' myopic focus on him and the lack of discussion on the programs (in the US and countries that have fallen victim to these programs) he has uncovered make me sick.
Quote, Originally Posted by BadKosh (Post 4240910)
McCain has been damaged goods since he was a POW. He should NEVER be trusted.
That's really low: you drag out McCain's traumatic experiences as POW for an ad hominem attack?
 
ghporter Aug 4, 2013 09:52 AM
The U.S. thinks Snowden still has unreleased and very important information, so I wouldn't say the focus on him is "myopic." He violated the law and his binding promises not to release anything he had access to, and tried to cash in on that. Now, he's found himself in a pickle of his own making, and he is now (I hope) realizing that he is neither free nor in charge of anything.

I still don't believe that he "blew the whistle" on anything that "needed" publication. In today's world, where there are more, broader, and finer-grained threats to all people, there needs to be some way to at least track what's happening and what some people are planning. I'm not saying at all that this is a "wonderful thing" or that we should have someone listening in on everything we say and do (which does not seem to be the real case with any of what Snowden has outed), but that if you don't have this kind of information, you can't analyze it in such a way as to be able to defend against a threat. In any case, there should be a real, personal cost to actively and intentionally violating promises, contracts and the basic principles under which someone is hired to do this kind of work. Maybe Snowden is learning about such costs now.
 
reader50 Aug 4, 2013 04:40 PM
I'd like to argue that the highest law of the land (the Constitution) overrules lesser legal issues, like secrecy agreements with intelligence agencies. If so, then anyone finding corruption that undermines the Constitution would not be bound by those agreements. Higher law trumps lower law.

While I believe Snowden did find mass corruption; set that aside for the moment. Before one could objectively determine if Snowden is in violation of his obligations, or has committed any crime whatsoever, a court would have to determine if the evidence he exposed shows corruption of Constitutional law. All the top elected officials swear to uphold the Constitution as part of their oaths of office.

The government has been ducking such a hearing, even in the court of public opinion. They've gone straight for Snowden (and Manning) without addressing the issues raised. Since those same officials are the ones implicated in "possible" Constitutional violations, this stinks. The people who pursue whistleblowers should not be the same people the whistle was blown on. And their statements against Snowden are at best doubtful - should Snowden be proven right, said officials may be guilty of treason. Which carries a death penalty. They are hardly impartial judges.
 
ghporter Aug 4, 2013 06:34 PM
Counterpoint: the Constitution itself says that it is the Supreme Court that has the power to interpret the Constitution, not someone who, with limited access (thus limiting the context in which he could interpret what he could see) "thinks" that something was amiss. It seems that just about all of it was, at least on its face, "approved of" by the appropriate authorities. This includes the people in charge of both House and Senate intelligence committees, by the way. Those senators and congressmen were the most appropriate individuals to say "hey, this isn't kosher," and are also the most appropriate individuals to have brought the information to SCOTUS.

Within the intelligence services of the United States, just as in the military, there are specific processes and procedures for just about everything. Even contractors for intelligence agencies are briefed on (and sign their agreement to) appropriate steps if they are uncomfortable with what they're doing for personal or legal reasons. None of those procedures includes stealing documents and making financial deals with foreign newspapers to publicize classified information.

Whether Snowden's information did or did not do so, exposing classified information has a track record of getting people killed. In this case, it would be a stretch to say that his leaks were immediately responsible for Americans getting killed, he certainly made it easier for groups organized to harm America to avoid being monitored, which could make it easier for them to kill Americans. I personally abhor what he did, and from what I've been able to glean of it, his motives were less "enlightening the public" and more "enriching himself," which I abhor even more.

Fidelity to the basis of what one is supposed to be doing, i.e. serving the American people, also means accepting that those in charge probably know a little more about a huge program than low level programmers who are hired to maintain code and tweak features. Snowden's whole set of actions show a lack of honesty with his employers, and an underlying concept that "the government" is some vast conspiracy against the American People. I'm not wearing tinfoil, and I've worked as a part of "the government" for long enough in important enough positions to completely reject any of Snowden's thesis. This does NOT mean that I think all of what he exposed was good and righteous. I KNOW that there are much better ways to get the ideas and programs we are all now overly informed about addressed by the appropriate people and on the way to having SCOTUS evaluate their constitutionality.
 
subego Aug 4, 2013 06:39 PM
@reader50

Treason? Which enemy are they aiding?
 
subego Aug 4, 2013 07:01 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by ghporter (Post 4241243)
I personally abhor what he did, and from what I've been able to glean of it, his motives were less "enlightening the public" and more "enriching himself," which I abhor even more.
There are much easier ways to get rich than becoming an international fugitive. What is your evidence this was his ploy?

Throughout this whole incident, I've really had trouble understanding your position.

I shall give you my current position, and commentary on what I understand yours to be.

What matters is if what the NSA et. al. are doing is legal. If it's legal, then Snowden really ****ed up, and deserves jail time IMO.

If it's not legal, then Snowden was obligated to leak this information. I don't care what oath you take, that doesn't let you commit crime.

Unless you're privy to some classified information due to your previous position (which if that's the case, I highly recommend shutting the **** up) you aren't in a position to determine the legality of the NSA programs, just like the rest of us.

This means there is a very real possibilty you are taking the position "I abhor people who put forth examples of the goverenment breaking the law".

Defend that position, because I can't.
 
reader50 Aug 4, 2013 07:24 PM
@subego, it is my understanding that treason need not involve aiding another state. State officials take oaths to uphold the Constitution, I believe willfully violating that term would qualify. Treason is betraying ones country, not necessarily to another. I suspect you're thinking of the "aiding the enemy" charges, which come from the Espionage Act.

@Glenn, the history of whistleblowers who go through channels since 9/11 has not been encouraging. It seems everyone who criticizes the surveillance state from within gets fired and/or charged. While we could discuss former NSA employee Thomas Drake, perhaps it would be more useful to name any accepted whistleblower. Even one, who has not suffered during this time.

A government unaccountable to the people is not a representative government. Both Snowden and Manning should have been aware of what happened to previous whistleblowers before they acted, and if ones superiors will not address serious problems, then you have to go to their superiors. ie - us. If you perceive lawbreaking and tolerate it, then you become a co-conspirator.

Manning's first leak was apparently the chopper incident in Baghdad. Where a military crew fired on civilians without having taken fire, or verifying their targets. Who turned out to be a reporter and assistant. Then came back, and fired on a good samaritan who stopped to take the wounded to a hospital. I believe his kids were in the back, to watch their dad killed. The internal investigation through channels found no wrongdoing, and buried the info.

The uniform telephone surveillance is authorized (according to the government - their interpretation is classified) by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. After Snowden's disclosures, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (author of the Patriot Act) stated to the rest of the House that it was not intended to authorize universal telephone surveillance. And Rep. Sensenbrenner voted in favor of the Amash amendment to defund most of the phone monitoring.

Recent polling shows a majority of Americans find Snowden to be a whistleblower, rather than a traitor. And I've seen no evidence either person has benefited economically, or intended to.
 
ebuddy Aug 4, 2013 07:39 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by reader50 (Post 4241251)
@subego, it is my understanding that treason need not involve aiding another state. State officials take oaths to uphold the Constitution, I believe willfully violating that term would qualify. Treason is betraying ones country, not necessarily to another. I suspect you're thinking of the "aiding the enemy" charges, which come from the Espionage Act.
And here's the rub IMO. If Snowden had merely provided information related to the US' actions against Americans - to Americans, that would be one thing. Offering this information to foreign governments up to and including our means of data collection and handling of information related to those governments or upon those acting in those governments' interests is something else. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver this information and Snowden decidedly opted for the wrong way.

I also think it's possible Snowden had an optimistic, albeit naive view of Assange's lifestyle these days.
 
subego Aug 4, 2013 08:14 PM
Here's the definition of treason in the Constitution.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
 
reader50 Aug 4, 2013 08:33 PM
It appears OS X Dictionary is not a definitive source. Though "Enemies" is not a precise definition. From context, that appears to be Enemies of the assembled States. Which implies rival States, but doesn't exclude worthy individuals like Will Smith.
 
subego Aug 4, 2013 09:07 PM
Foreign governments ask Apple to hide the proper definition of treason from their citizens lest they realize they're getting the short end of the stick.
 
subego Aug 4, 2013 10:04 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by ebuddy (Post 4241252)
And here's the rub IMO. If Snowden had merely provided information related to the US' actions against Americans - to Americans, that would be one thing. Offering this information to foreign governments up to and including our means of data collection and handling of information related to those governments or upon those acting in those governments' interests is something else. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver this information and Snowden decidedly opted for the wrong way.

I also think it's possible Snowden had an optimistic, albeit naive view of Assange's lifestyle these days.
Which foreign government did Snowden offer this information to?
 
subego Aug 5, 2013 12:13 AM
 
OreoCookie Aug 5, 2013 07:35 AM
@Glenn
I think your post displays far too much faith in authority: Snowden's motives (which I'll get into a little below) don't matter much in the big picture. The story here is that the US government systematically collects and analyzes humongous amounts of data domestically and abroad. It's a giant infringement of privacy that potentially violates the US constitution and treaties with friendly nations.

Yes, in theory there is oversight by the Intelligence Committees, but do you think they have done a good job protecting people's privacies and acted in your interests? Are courts which rubber stamp warrants worth their salt? You seem completely content with the current form of checks and balances.

Moreover, later in your post, you conflate loyalty towards your employer with loyalty towards the people:
Quote, Originally Posted by ghporter (Post 4241243)
Fidelity to the basis of what one is supposed to be doing, i.e. serving the American people, also means accepting that those in charge probably know a little more about a huge program than low level programmers who are hired to maintain code and tweak features. Snowden's whole set of actions show a lack of honesty with his employers, and an underlying concept that "the government" is some vast conspiracy against the American People.
These things are not at all identical, and while his leak means he has been disloyal toward his employer, I think he has done that out of loyalty for the American people.

I don't think he has chosen a life in exile lightly or for a quick buck, he's not selling this information to the Chinese for some huge profit. I'm not sure why you think money was the motive here. In any case, even if it were, the overarching story does not change one bit.
Quote, Originally Posted by ghporter (Post 4241243)
I'm not wearing tinfoil, and I've worked as a part of "the government" for long enough in important enough positions to completely reject any of Snowden's thesis. This does NOT mean that I think all of what he exposed was good and righteous.
I don't quite understand what you're saying here: the first sentence suggests to me that you don't believe in the existence or breadth of the programs Snowden has uncovered. The second one indicates that you at least believe some part of the story is true. So far, the news keeps coming on all sort of sites with a plethora of detail, be it political sites or tech sites like arstechnica.
Quote, Originally Posted by ghporter (Post 4241213)
The U.S. thinks Snowden still has unreleased and very important information, so I wouldn't say the focus on him is "myopic." He violated the law and his binding promises not to release anything he had access to, and tried to cash in on that.
The focus of US politicians on Snowden rather than the NSA's efforts is myopic and misplaced.
 
ebuddy Aug 5, 2013 07:39 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4241265)
Which foreign government did Snowden offer this information to?
That's just it, we don't know for sure at this point. Snowden has given several people heavily encoded copies of this information in case something happens to him. "Authorities have said they are worried that the NSA whistleblower could also share the files with the countries - including China and Russia - they believe have helped the whistleblower escape."
 
OreoCookie Aug 5, 2013 07:40 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ebuddy (Post 4241252)
And here's the rub IMO. If Snowden had merely provided information related to the US' actions against Americans - to Americans, that would be one thing.
In a globalized world, this is no longer possible: the NSA syphons internet traffic independently of the citizenship of sender and receiver. You cannot expose this program without exposing that it's an international efforts.
Quote, Originally Posted by ebuddy (Post 4241252)
Offering this information to foreign governments up to and including our means of data collection and handling of information related to those governments or upon those acting in those governments' interests is something else. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver this information and Snowden decidedly opted for the wrong way.
As far as I know, Snowden has not given this information to foreign governments but to the media. That's a big difference.
 
ebuddy Aug 5, 2013 07:46 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by OreoCookie (Post 4241301)
In a globalized world, this is no longer possible: the NSA syphons internet traffic independently of the citizenship of sender and receiver. You cannot expose this program without exposing that it's an international efforts.
True -- when you go straight to the media as opposed to the right way which is through a member of Congress.

Quote
As far as I know, Snowden has not given this information to foreign governments but to the media. That's a big difference.
We don't know this for sure. As I said minutes ago, above -- the concern is that perhaps some of the encoded copies of this information are in unsavory hands. I've not fully developed my judgement of Snowden as I'm reserving it until we know more and just giving you what we know from latest news. Like I said, there's a right way and a wrong way to distribute this information. Snowden knows what they are and opted for the wrong way. That's bothersome out of the gate regardless of how hungry we may be for the truth. There are real people behind this information.
 
OreoCookie Aug 5, 2013 09:07 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ebuddy (Post 4241302)
True -- when you go straight to the media as opposed to the right way which is through a member of Congress.
I think it is debatable which would have been the best way to bring this to light. But it's surprising to me that your focus does not lie on what Snowden has uncovered but rather how.
Quote, Originally Posted by ebuddy (Post 4241302)
There are real people behind this information.
The »people behind this information« is us!
 
subego Aug 5, 2013 02:26 PM
@ebuddy

I agree going to Congress would have been the ideal situation, but I can't blame him for a second for not going that route.

Anyone in Congress would say "I'll lose my job, become enemy number one of the ****ing NSA, and probably go to jail as an accomplice, especially if I have to front for you here while you hide in a foreign country. Go fish."

As a related aside, if I were Glenn Greenwald, I wouldn't visit here for awhile.
 
ebuddy Aug 5, 2013 08:53 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by OreoCookie (Post 4241306)
I think it is debatable which would have been the best way to bring this to light. But it's surprising to me that your focus does not lie on what Snowden has uncovered but rather how.
The reason for that is actually quite simple. While many of you were still basking in Obama's victory, the NSA had ratcheted up their surveillance on a scale that went well beyond the FISA guidelines as reported by several whistle-blowers to the New York Times in April of 2009. i.e. this is old information and the only reason it has come back up is because of this Administration's numerous other abuses of the public trust that desperately need to go away. I've made it very clear how I feel about these programs, but now we're talking about Snowden if that's okay.

Quote
The »people behind this information« is us!
And numerous others who need to be trusted with important information.
 
ebuddy Aug 5, 2013 08:58 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4241341)
@ebuddy

I agree going to Congress would have been the ideal situation, but I can't blame him for a second for not going that route.

Anyone in Congress would say "I'll lose my job, become enemy number one of the ****ing NSA, and probably go to jail as an accomplice, especially if I have to front for you here while you hide in a foreign country. Go fish."
There's no doubt in my mind that this information would've been in perfectly capable hands be it an Issa, Paul, Cruz, Rubio... plenty of Congresspeople who would have no problem risking their political hides with the popularity of the establishment base.
 
ghporter Aug 7, 2013 11:24 PM
Oreo (subego and reader, too), my employer, and essentially Snowden's as well, WAS "the people." That's the point. I spent a whole lot of time doing unpleasant jobs in unpleasant places for a pittance because I wanted to "support and defend the Constitution," as a means of supporting and defending the American people. It is a feature of "service" that is seen as "quaint" nowadays, but my employer was every American, taxpayer or not. And in my experience, those in real positions of authority (in the military) got there through putting in the same kind of unpleasant time, year after year, because they believed in the Constitution as well.

I had a colonel (who was later promoted to general) tell me once that "integrity means 'doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking,". I guess the private sector doesn't think of integrity the same way, but it is (or was, anyway) pervasive in the military. And with my exposure to intel folks, I am completely certain that it is that way in the intelligence community as well. I can't prove it, because integrity is something that is only disproven, but having integrity in one's position is common in my experience in government service.

One certainly doesn't go to work in civil service with an expectation of getting rich, nor does one enter military (or military-related) service, either. One enters such positions expecting to work hard for a grand, important, overarching purpose. And one doesn't enter this sort of service for any sort of "power" or ability to subvert or evade either the specific requirements of statutes and rules, or the expectations of the American people.
 
subego Aug 7, 2013 11:56 PM
@Glenn

If I didn't know any better, I'd say you're taking the accusations of malfeasance personally.

Okay... I don't know any better. I am saying you're taking them personally.


If it helps any, I'm not angry at the people involved. Let me put it this way, if I had to day in and day out balance the law with justice, I'm not sure I'd always come out on the side of the law. This doesn't mean I lack integrity, it means I'm being put in an unbelievably difficult situation over and over and over.

Personally, I'd want a check and balance.
 
OreoCookie Aug 8, 2013 04:02 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ghporter (Post 4241761)
Oreo (subego and reader, too), my employer, and essentially Snowden's as well, WAS "the people." That's the point.
I'm still not sure why you insist to conflate the two. I get that many people (like yourself) have dedicated a significant portion of themselves for the greater good, but that doesn't mean that these organizations (here: the military and the various intelligence services) which work for the people have interests of their own which are genuinely different than those of the people they work for.

I am sure people in the NSA have radically different ideas about what level of privacy is appropriate than most of the people they are supposed to serve. Moreover, I believe that many in the NSA (and other services) act in what they see as the best interests of the people, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And then there is the aspect that people in organizations tend to want to cover their own rear-ends (or other people's rear-ends).

The Snowdens, Mannings and other whistleblowers are doing the same thing from their perspective: they have sacrificed everything (freedom, friendships, a job, etc.) for a greater cause. You don't have to agree with their actions to see that.
 
ghporter Aug 10, 2013 11:26 AM
Whether "the American People" want to be or not, they ARE "the government" of the U.S. It's the complacent, uninvolved and intentionally oblivious masses that make "the government" seem like a nebulous evil entity. And all government entities, from the local street maintenance people to the president are employees of the people. The interests of every government agency and entity MUST BE those of the people, whether that seems to come across or not. Nothing in the U.S. government exists without some Constitutional source, either directly as in the president and Congress, or by actions of agencies called out in the Constitution. That doesn't mean that everything each government agency does is always "good" or "legal," but that they are controlled by Constitutional limits. So if an agency does something that isn't clearly "good and legal," the Constitution sets out methods to challenge these things. Nixon's downfall was through Constitutional mechanisms, despite the numerous channels through which his staff violated laws, rules and specific Constitutional limitations.

The people in the NSA are pretty much "American people" who simply have more complex and compartmented jobs than most other government workers. They have to meet higher standards of integrity - which are also supposed to apply to their contractors - and they basically can't talk about what went on at the office over family dinner. There is most likely a pretty substantial internal debate as to whether the public's privacy is "actually" impaired by their actions, since those who are supposed to have access to the information they glean are both sworn to secrecy and in positions where they can spend an awful long time in unpleasant cells for goofing up. The adage about "the road to hell" is in no way lost on people with this sort of responsibility; I held positions with substantially lower levels of responsibility, and the adage was quite prominent in my training and in the way what I did was managed. Further, the use of classification to hide or evade responsibility for failures, crimes or malfeasance is strictly forbidden by law, and well enforced. Every agency has its own Inspector General who does not report to anyone below the head of the agency, and who can go over that agency head if needed. It's serious, it's enforced, and it's almost never done. On the other hand, with high level managers, there is an awful lot to keep up with. Mr. Clapper almost certainly was focused on something other than the Patriot Act when he answered those questions - which means that the other intelligence systems he was thinking of do not eavesdrop...

The problem with people at lower levels in these situations is that they lack a "big picture" of how their jobs contribute to higher level aims. Does the guy behind the elephant know why the circus does better because of how well he sweeps up? That's a simple system; what about a really complex system, especially where, unlike programming or designing a bridge or airplane, most of the players cannot discuss what they're doing? The secrecy that is essential to making the job work also makes it essential that everyone who has access to that information understands why they're doing what they're doing. Was it "good" that Manning published a major screw up by a helicopter crew? I don't think so. NOBODY that has rehashed the incident was there, nobody discussing it in the comfort of their home had people shooting at them from who knows where, and all of the armchair quarterbacks who spout "this was criminal!!!!1!!!" lack any contact with the kind of responsibility and stress that both the ground troops and the air crew involved were under. And there's the whole issue of the command center giving the order to fire, which given the information that was available to them was not unreasonable. It was tragically wrong, but not, in a combat situation criminal. And (assuming altruism was their driving force) both Snowden and Manning seem to have been more focused on their own interpretation of what they were seeing, without a broad enough context to understand that however it may look to them, diplomats all over call each other bad names in private, etc., so they were unable to look at the actual impact of what they did. As complex as the information they exposed is, it may be years before their impacts are finally understood.

I'm not blind, I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, but I do know that there are so substantial a level of controls rules and mandates on everything done by government agencies (for example, Congress allots to the penny how much military organizations have to spend on things like ammunition, repair parts, even toilet paper, and they make a big stink if there is any discrepancy in such spending), that while mistakes are always possible in human endeavors, actually intentional malfeasance is rare and difficult to hide. Lacking a broad understanding of what an agency does leads to mistakes and criminal acts far more than having a high-level position with sufficient power to do really bad things, because the higher up those people are, the more likely even accidental mistakes in wording are to get such people into serious trouble. Unfortunately, almost nobody outside defense and intelligence understand even a tiny sliver of how these organizations work nor how dedicated to their purpose of serving the American people the members of these organizations are.
 
subego Aug 10, 2013 05:02 PM
You make an excellent argument for why we should cut the NSA slack until we know more, but you refuse to apply the same line of reasoning to Snowden.

You're presenting your arguments as fact rather than assumptions. You have no idea what Snowden has seen or knows.
 
subego Aug 10, 2013 05:53 PM
 
reader50 Aug 10, 2013 06:43 PM
The revelations show a huge loss of our privacy, and it's not something we agreed to. Certainly I did not agree to universal monitoring of phone, mail (envelopes), email, chat, videochat, etc. So our loss of privacy rights is not something we agreed to, it is something that was taken from us. If we don't fight to regain them, the loss will be permanent.

Glenn, your responses keep summarizing your impressions of people in mid-level government positions, especially within the armed forces. But the policy objections (and likely crimes) all took place near the top. For an account from that end of things, may I recommend a TechDirt guest post today by Jennifer Hoelzer. She was the deputy chief of staff for Senator Ron Wyden. He's on the Intelligence Committee, and warned the public for years we would not approve of what was happening.

She once held a Top Secret security clearance (expired), was close to the action, and has a great deal to say. Warning: loooong guest post.

Her description doesn't sound at all like Glenn's experience with mid-level civil services. It sounds more like concealment of a power grab. I have no reason to believe she is lying, stupid, or misremembering.
 
subego Aug 10, 2013 11:00 PM
I have to call foul right off the bat.

The Hayden quote is being taken out of context. She's regurgitating a horrendous article in The Guardian.

This reflects on both her credulity and due diligence.


What Hayden said:
Group A are the people who would cyber-attack us.
Group A is made up of people from groups X, Y, and Z.
If we get Snowden, group A will attack us.

What The Guardian reported he said:
If we get Snowden, groups X, Y, and Z will attack us.


This really pisses me off (not at you reader50).
 
subego Aug 11, 2013 07:41 PM
I think this is relevant to Glenn's points.

Exclusive: Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans - ABC News

Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.

...

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.
 
ghporter Aug 11, 2013 09:38 PM
Reader, Hoelzer seems to make some good points. But on the other hand, they are her impression of what went on, and even though she had a Top Secret clearance, it doesn't mean she was ever really briefed into anything she's talking about. (Frankly, once one is "briefed out" of a classified subject, one is supposed to "neither confirm nor deny" that they ever actually had contact with the subject, so if she was in on something she's written about, she's goofed up by saying so.)

There are no doubt plenty of mid- and higher level people who want to look the best they can, and who want more power (and thus prestige and pay), or to at least advance through showing ability to do higher-level work. But the way things are structured leaves the materials segregated, so that people who manage "project A" probably don't even know most of the details of how "project A" works, and their managers probably don't know what "project A" is supposed to do.

On the other hand, while intercept operators sharing "listen to this one!" intercepts were definitely boorish and insensitive, they had no ability to take action on what they were hearing unless it had to do with what they were listening for. What could they do? "Hey, Colonel Jones, I heard you chatting about the old wah-hoo with someone other than your wife..." Nice way to wind up in the brig there, since that would be "personal use of privileged information" and also admitting that you were doing intercept work in the first place... They would pass potentially actionable information, such as hearing someone plotting with someone else to let unauthorized people into the Green Zone, but the rest of it? Telephone operators and network maintainers have access to that sort of thing all the time. Oh wait...most people NEVER consider that the overall telephone system they use as if it were perfectly private has ALWAYS had people monitoring it for quality, connectivity, and billing purposes. Put people into the picture with essentially the same amount of power - except for that part where they could get NSA or DIA involved - as telephone workers, and suddenly people's "privacy!!!1!!11one1!!" becomes irrevocably injured...
 
ebuddy Aug 12, 2013 08:51 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ghporter (Post 4242264)
Reader, Hoelzer seems to make some good points. But on the other hand, they are her impression of what went on, and even though she had a Top Secret clearance, it doesn't mean she was ever really briefed into anything she's talking about. (Frankly, once one is "briefed out" of a classified subject, one is supposed to "neither confirm nor deny" that they ever actually had contact with the subject, so if she was in on something she's written about, she's goofed up by saying so.)
Wait, so you're challenging the integrity of someone on the inside giving details about their day-to-day? Either we can trust these folks or we can't right? And don't you think some salacious material on say... a politician or major political detractor may make its way outside the confines of the listen-room?

You're basically saying, as long as you're not doing anything criminal, you have nothing to worry about because the intruder is not the enforcer -- all of which sort of flies in the face of any reasonable expectation of privacy.
 
subego Aug 14, 2013 05:57 PM
If you've seen the movie Broken Arrow, the term "broken arrow" is code for a stolen nuke. When one of the characters is told this he responds "I don't know if it's scarier this has happened, or that it's happened enough for you to make a code word for it".

I heard it pointed out the NSA clearly has no code name for this. They were caught 100% flat-footed, and even months later, are still tripping over themselves (we'll make an independent board made up of people picked by James Clapper). You'd think with all that money, the NSA would have worked up a "plan B".
 
ghporter Aug 14, 2013 09:37 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by ebuddy (Post 4242312)
Wait, so you're challenging the integrity of someone on the inside giving details about their day-to-day? Either we can trust these folks or we can't right? And don't you think some salacious material on say... a politician or major political detractor may make its way outside the confines of the listen-room?

You're basically saying, as long as you're not doing anything criminal, you have nothing to worry about because the intruder is not the enforcer -- all of which sort of flies in the face of any reasonable expectation of privacy.
First off, when one uses a communication channel provided by DoD, one explicitly acknowledges that it is subject to surveillance; Green Zone conversations were handled by military-provided communications systems, with that specific proviso. NO reasonable expectation for privacy existed there.

As to your first point, I'm saying that if you work with classified information, you can talk about your lunch, about office gossip, and about how the air conditioning was broken today, but you can't talk about your work because that would be talking about classified information to someone without a clearance. Further, in order to pass classified information to someone who HAS the appropriate clearance, you must also establish need to know that information. General SoAndSo may have a higher clearance than God, but unless you have explicit information that he needs to know your info, you don't tell him. Period. Training for this is very specific, and includes such ideas as "senior rank does not equal either sufficient clearance or need to know," and somehow 18 year old recruits get this stuff down pretty quickly.

The "intruder" is not someone who can either trace back a listened to channel to a specific individual, (ignoring the possibility that the people conversing may essentially fully identify each other), and is bound by the same classification system to NOT divulge outside appropriate channels what they have heard. That is the same as exposing any other classified information without authorization.

If you are working with classified information, you have already received a clearance (albeit sometimes a provisional clearance - something that 9/11 and an explosion of classified data has driven) and have signed and sworn that you will follow all the rules "so help you." If your job is listening to Green Zone conversations to find out who is plotting to bring in a suicide bomber, you already know the work is classified, and "spilling the beans" outside specific channels is a violation that can get you sent to Levenworth for a very long time. There ARE channels; the simplest is to go to your commander, and if your commander is not appropriate (he's mentioned in the sketchy conversation, say,) there is an Inspector General phone number that is confidential and very responsive. Going outside these channels is "taking matters in your own hands," and that is both explicitly forbidden and regularly reinforced.

The kind of things you're talking about aren't "overhearing something on the police scanner" while you're a runner for the local paper. This is a highly regimented, very rule-bound and legally binding system of rules and procedures, and one knows what they're getting into from the very beginning. Violating those rules is something that should be a very, very last resort after the entire system has fallen down, and it's obvious that in the two big "whistleblower" scenarios we've been discussing that neither one even tried the simplest of channels for reporting what they thought were improprieties.
 
ghporter Aug 14, 2013 09:52 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4242715)
If you've seen the movie Broken Arrow, the term "broken arrow" is code for a stolen nuke. When one of the characters is told this he responds "I don't know if it's scarier this has happened, or that it's happened enough for you to make a code word for it".

I heard it pointed out the NSA clearly has no code name for this. They were caught 100% flat-footed, and even months later, are still tripping over themselves (we'll make an independent board made up of people picked by James Clapper). You'd think with all that money, the NSA would have worked up a "plan B".
Culturally, actively violating the rules regarding handling classified information is something nobody at NSA was ready for. With the way so much more information has become classified over the last 12 years, and with the number of people requiring clearances ballooning, either the vetting process, the investigation process, or the processes of supervising people with clearances (or all of the above) have broken down and people with axes to grind, people with insufficient integrity, and people without enough maturity have received clearances AND access to information that was inappropriate.

A friend undergoing a special Top Secret clearance investigation had to tell his commander why investigators found information about he and his wife "skinny dipping" in the recent past...alone, in private. Another friend, having just finished school to be a videographer for the Air Force (she already had a BS in radio, TV and film from UT), had to wait 8 months for her clearance to come through before she could record training videos because the information in the videos was classified. Both of these were quite a while ago, and are essentially the baseline of how most people with experience in handling classified data think of clearances and the seriousness of the investigations and procedures involved in handling that data. This is almost certainly a major piece of the expectation that "this couldn't happen" in NSA.
 
reader50 Aug 23, 2013 02:01 AM
There is too much trust in the other thread. I find myself not in a trusting mood. As the alarms ring louder, it seems not everyone hears them.

Government is a special threat category, because they create the rules (laws), interpret them, and enforce them. We are vulnerable to corrupt government in a way we aren't vulnerable to corporations or foreign governments. Because we can appeal to our own for assistance.

I've been reading about other whistleblowers in the last decade. When they go through channels, they get fired. Sometimes bogus charges are included gratis. When whistleblowers go straight to journalists and the public, they are vilified and charged with espionage. The crimes they expose do not draw investigation, nor is anyone in high office charged. If this isn't corruption, then someone has been redefining the word.

James Clapper is a confessed felon. If any of us admitted lying to Congress, we'd be in the slammer for 5 years fast enough to make your head spin. No charges filed, no one's fired him, his paychecks keep coming.
 
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