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Author Topic: Snowden  (Read 3718 times)

Calach Pfeffer

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Snowden
« on: December 15, 2013, 01:58:50 AM »
So it turned out to be bigger than just PRISM. Nowadays he makes news like no other Pope Francis. So.... Person of the Year or Poison?

On the one hand:

Snowden's Gambit is Working

Edward Snowden opened his pilfered cache of top secret NSA files to the public for a relatively simple reason. "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things," he told The Guardian. Snowden consciously sacrificed a comfortable citizenship in the richest nation in history because, he says, he felt the public had a right to know the extent to which the government was snooping on their data—and because he thought that by disclosing NSA operations, he'd effect change.

He was right. A New York Times report brings news that a presidentially appointed committee has concluded that NSA activities must be reined in—that they should continue, but with much more oversight.

"The committee’s report, the officials said, also argues in favor of codifying and publicly announcing the steps the United States will take to protect the privacy of foreign citizens whose telephone records, Internet communications or movements are collected by the NSA," according to the Times.

President Obama himself has endorsed the notion.

“I’ll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA, and, you know, to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,” he said in an interview on MSNBC last week.

A small, nebulous victory, maybe—details about what those reforms or restraint might actually be remain scarce—but a victory nonetheless. The Times report details other changes, too: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has apparently been effectively relieved of his command over the cyber-spying effort that focuses on foreign leaders. And the already widely discussed proposal to create a public advocate to participate in secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court hearings is likely to be a recommendation from the report.

In short, Snowden's gambit is working. Swaths of the American public, as well as some of their sharpest-tongued representatives, have responded vehemently to the revelations, and called for reform. There's been a media firestorm, a rally in DC, and numerous Congressional hearings. And now, maybe, a genuine recalibration of how the state deals with domestic surveillance.

The deep irony here is that the findings of Obama's personally appointed committee are legitimizing Snowden's actions as a clandestine, law-breaking whistleblower—and directly refuting the statements the president had made on the matter.

In his speech on the NSA last August, Obama claimed that Snowden was not a patriot, that he should have disclosed the leaks publicly, and that he would have been protected by whistleblower laws.

"My preference, and I think the American people's preference, would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws; a thoughtful fact-based debate that would then lead us to a better place."

The truth is, it took Snowden's leaks to inspire that debate. There would have been no presidential committee, no public rebukes to James Clapper, no major shifts in spying policy preferences without them. It only happened because Snowden blew the whistle in such a dramatic and public way. The public had to know what was going on to weigh in, and Obama (or any of his forebears, for that matter) never intended to let us in on the discussion.

And that's what Snowden wanted to change.

"The secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure,” he told the Times in a separate interview last October. “So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision."

“However, programs that are implemented in secret, out of public oversight, lack that legitimacy, and that’s a problem. It also represents a dangerous normalization of ‘governing in the dark,’ where decisions with enormous public impact occur without any public input.”

Despite the protestations of detractors that sit at highest levels of government, despite the angry dismissals, and those who've labeled him a traitor, Snowden is beginning to achieve exactly what he set out to do. His greatest fear, he said, was that nothing would change—but that fear is all but unfounded now. Whether it will be enough, of course, remains to be seen. But he's gotten his debate, he's beginning to win it, and sunlight is creeping in.

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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2013, 02:02:06 AM »
On the other hand...

John le Carré to Edward Snowden - "Good luck... You're probably screwed."

John le Carré, the former spook turned spy novel writer, is probably a better person than most to ask about the likely fate of Edward Snowden, the US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who has probably done more to reveal the brazen hypocrisy of Western governments than anyone else.

"Well done, lad!" le Carré told German newspaper Der Spiegel in an interview. "Snowden has taken what was surely a very difficult and life-determining decision: he has broken laws and betrayed his employer to unveil a much more serious breach of the law by the NSA itself. I wish he would get a medal, or at least win back his freedom."

He also described as "utter nonsense" the claim of John Kornblum, former US ambassador to Germany, that Snowden could safely have whistle-blown to his superiors. "On principle an intelligence agency cannot let a whistle-blower go unpunished," said le Carré.
He continued: "Mr Snowden, make no illusions! They will persecute and probably even catch you, because you have committed a mortal sin - You have made the US government and corporate America look like idiots. And for that they think the death penalty is too lenient."

So, once his year in Russia is up, Snowden is probably toast. Germany probably won't give him asylum, and somewhere like Ecuador or Venezuela would also quickly turn him over to the US with a change of government - or, he could expect to be "rendered" to the US.
As for the various surveillance and eavesdropping programmes of the NSA, GCHQ and other Western intelligence agencies, le Carré suspects it's all a waste of our tax dollars/pounds/euros*.

"I was aware how the Americans skim everything. But I do not understand what it is supposed to bring, the cost of the evaluation is disproportionate to the result," he says.

"And, of course, it is illegal. The Americans seem to have given up all of their hard-won freedoms. We live in extraordinary times - and what most amazes me is how calmly we take all of these monstrosities."

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roadwalker

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2013, 03:12:34 AM »
I've never much liked top ten lists or personalizing major issues.  Snowden is a brave guy for following his conscience.  I hope, but don't expect, changes to the way the mafia governs the world.  The US government is embarrassed and has been put into an awkward situation by the revelations; i.e., foreign leaders that must deal with US leaders were shown to be spied upon in their personal and/or professional lives.  They probably assumed as much, but now have to face their constituents with the proper amount of outrage - and yet not piss off the armed-to-the-teeth crazy American cousin.  More likely scenario: the Snowden affair will be massaged by major governments all around and minor ones will be ignored.  Outrage and reforms will be / have already been scripted, contingencies plans(for large protests, further leaks, etc.) have been thought up.  Russia and the US may make a deal where Snowden is 'allowed' to escape to Ecuador or Venezuela in anticipation of either ignoring/discrediting him or capturing him after a coup d'etat.  Or he may eat or drink something that doesn't agree with him, or be killed in a mugging, drive into a lake.  Hope not.  Interesting times to be young.

Day Dreamer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2013, 04:32:07 AM »
Personally, I think Snowden is safe from harm but not imprisonment. As long as he stays out of USA-friendly countries that is.

Hypothetically, if something were to happen completely innocently like a car accident or a heart attack, what percentage of the populace would still believe that the US gov't really offed him - about a third? At least.

All he did was confirm the existence of big brother. Tell me again how "free" you are   :wtf:
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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2013, 06:23:55 AM »
I dunno. There is a certain "Well, duh!" element to uncovering the existence of hi-tech surveillance programs, but prior to Snowden's revelations I at least had no inkling of just how monolithic they'd become. I mean, I watch the movies. But I'd been holding on to some sense that any massive overwatch program of the kind you see on TV was to some degree fantastical. Snowden, at the very least, has pushed us through to the next level, the one where this stuff is for really real and decisions are required.

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Day Dreamer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2013, 08:31:05 AM »
Interesting comment CP, is it because you had an "ignorance is bliss" mentality, "head in the sand" attitude, or the feint hope that it was make believe in movies only? I know you're smart enough to know it existed, but a little surprised that it was at this level. Right now nothing really surprises me, even at how willing we relinquish our privacy

I mentioned once before at how shocked I was that the authorities were able to catch the Boston Bombers. I'm glad they did, however the amount of surveillance was overwhelming. With what Google, Facebook et al are amassing, the powers that be know the flavour of your farts before you felt it.

And none of this is new, even Nixon's eavesdropping a thousand years ago wasn't a shock (the cover up was). I recall how one time the US found more artificial espionage bugs than the real critters in their embassy in Moscow back in the USSR days
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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2013, 09:57:15 AM »
But, but... don't these programs seem disproportionately large? They need billions of yank dollars and hundreds of thousands of people, and a whole crock pot of technological infrastructure...

I've never (knowingly) worked for any larger institution than a university. Maybe that's where the surprise is coming from - lack of familiarity.

Howevaire... it does still seem like what the NSA has put together is big enough that it counts as a new species. Needs new decisions and maybe new concept frameworks.

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Day Dreamer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2013, 10:24:39 AM »
Are you talking about the same people who have moved cities, changed foreign governments, etc?

Are you talking about a country with almost 20 billion American dollars in gross revenue?

Are you talking about at the third highest populated country?


Quote
Howevaire... it does still seem like what the NSA has put together is big enough that it counts as a new species. Needs new decisions and maybe new concept frameworks.

Who would monitor and dictate terms? How would one bring about a charge? The Courts in The Hague?

Its not a new species, but it is big, old and incredibly insidious!
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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2013, 11:45:47 AM »
Are you talking about the same people who have moved cities, changed foreign governments, etc?

Are you talking about a country with almost 20 billion American dollars in gross revenue?

Are you talking about at the third highest populated country?

well, if you put it that way...

That's resources, though. There's still questions of will and legitimacy. The narrative's at stake. Like, for instance, it's now possible to say that China and America are both surveillance states that engage in grand internet theft (at least).

Among other things, I'd like to know about proportion. See, China's the next superpower, etc, rah rah, but we've had superpowers already so there's a measure. But the measure's in the narrative. Superpowers are and do this and that etc and so on. So I don't see where or how China fits. Someone in America should tell us what a great nation is.

or anyway I keep getting lost without someone telling the right story.


Quote
Who would monitor and dictate terms? How would one bring about a charge? The Courts in The Hague?

Democracy.

Or so the theory goes.

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kitano

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2013, 02:51:18 PM »
I was quite surprised by people's reactions as well. Did people think that these companies like Google and Facebook were totally innocent? The information is their main product, you still theoretically have the option of going off the grid by using paper and so on. I know that nobody chooses to do that, but it is an option

It just always seemed obvious to me that you should keep the really private stuff off the internet where possible

Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2013, 12:00:41 AM »
I don't get the cynicism. Alienating users is a bad business model. Going to great lengths to protect user is similarly bad, that being lots of work for little reward, but some lengths would be good. A plausibly benign middle road seems reasonable to have expected. Where would Google or Microsoft or the NSA for that matter get the energy to keep on screwing with people? ISN'T LETTING STUFF SLIDE MORE NORMAL?!

Maybe I don't understand how large organizations get their priorities generated.


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Day Dreamer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2013, 12:31:15 AM »

Maybe I don't understand how large organizations get their priorities generated.



Or who their meal ticket really is
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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2013, 01:05:48 AM »
So, next question then, will it change?

I think "open source" and "information wants to be free" and all that other stuff about how the internet functions on models of equality and freedom, has mostly been window dressing. It worked as ideologies for small groups of users who were predisposed to think that way, but under pressure it dissolves because it tends to require behind-the-scenes organization, people getting together in cabals to decide affiliations. Which is fine, mostly. It's the basic model for all internet forums. Then Facebook rolls into town, and that same basic model blown up to huge scale begins to look authoritarian. Especially when the NSA starts using it.

But, it's all being talked about now. There's an in-front-of-the-scenes opportunity to make public rules about what is free and right.

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Day Dreamer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2013, 02:34:53 AM »
Ah my idealistic young friend, when you snatch pebbles from hand you will understand.

I believe FWIW, that all gov'ts will not only continue, but expand on this. And to appease the masses, every so often they'll throw a bone to the media/vigilantes/whistle blowers/ so that these boy scouts can stand proudly and say look, we're keeping Big Brother under wraps.  Any info "leaked" will be ostensibly useless/out of date/redundant.

Any cartel formed will be temporary. As long as you are useful now, we're allies. This is like WWE story lines.
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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Snowden
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2013, 03:43:18 AM »
I agree the capabilities won't go away any time soon. I suspect one side effect of Snowden's revelations is a defacto legitimization of surveillance. It used to be what every hipster knew was going on, but it's in The Guardian and Washington Post now so there it is.

But... ideas of what the internet is, what connectivity is, what we have by way of rights and responsibilities... they've all been a bit small given what's possible... AND NOW WE KNOW!

Scifi is coming true. Google is making robots. The future is coming here now and we should all be thanking the terrorists personally.

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