Archives For: Snowden Leaks

No Hero

Jun 10 2013 @ 5:51pm

Jeff Toobin takes Edward Snowden down a few notches. Money quote:

These were legally authorized programs; in the case of Verizon Business’s phone records, Snowden certainly knew this, because he leaked the very court order that approved the continuation of the project. So he wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done.

Enter The Media Martyr, Ctd

Jun 10 2013 @ 4:40pm

A reader adds to this post:

I spent a decade as a government IT contractor and another five years in commercial IT contracting (which I’m back to). Over the course of my government time I was basically in the same job, but as contracts rebid or companies merged or whatever, I worked directly or indirectly for four different companies. It’s entirely possible that Snowden was in the job prior to March but under a different lead or sub contracting company. The relevant question isn’t when did he start at Booz, since that’s really just a paperwork and billing question, but rather when did he start on site.


Your reader’s suggestion is to call the Ethics Hotline maintained by the NSA? That’s unrealistic to the point of being laughable – what conceivable effect would that have (aside from costing Snowden his job without publicizing the program)? As for the idea that he work with members of Congress, it’s just as silly. Remember, Wyden and Udall were deeply troubled by the program, but couldn’t say anything because they didn’t want to release classified information. The only way that this program comes into the public eye is for a hero like Snowden to take the hit and alert everyone. It seems to be legal, so there’s no crime to report; and yet it’s nevertheless causing a huge public outcry. The case for leaking this material couldn’t be clearer, and I applaud Snowden for his brave act of civil disobedience.

Huge public outcry? We’ll see. But the debate itself and the end of secrecy around this program are healthy developments, it seems to me. Meanwhile, Noam Scheiber compares the missions of Edward Snowden and Aaron Swartz:

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The Dish On The Leaks

Jun 10 2013 @ 3:11pm

A mid-day round-up of today’s coverage: my view is basically David Simon’s – that a lot of this is bullshit – but that’s clearly not how many readers Water_drop_animation_enhanced_smallsee this issue. Au contraire.

More Dish fodder: a post where I hope this is an opportunity to debate if we still need a serious counter-terrorism policy at all; a reader wonders about whether Snowden sought the Booz-Allen job in order to leak; a granular primer on what PRISM actually is; the foolishness of Snowden’s seeking refuge in Hong Kong – or perhaps not; and the inherent difficulty of a full public debate about programs that are labeled secret.

Stay tuned.

Yglesias Award Nominee

Jun 10 2013 @ 2:51pm

“National security is different from internal matters of the government. We’re dealing with foreign threats here. They’re not allowed to go into that data until they have a warrant signed off on by a judge. That is totally different from the IRS abuses, which I think are very serious, and I think it’s very important for conservatives and Republicans to make that distinction,” – Bill Kristol, agreeing with me and Josh Marshall (on PRISM anyway). And, er, yes, gulp.

Quis Custodiet … ?

Jun 10 2013 @ 2:23pm

Obama says that the NSA isn’t listening to your calls:

But Conor worries that our system of checks and balances is useless in the era of deep state:

Congress cannot act as a check on the executive branch in the way the Framers intended when hugely consequential policies it is overseeing are treated as state secrets. The Senate, intended as a deliberative body, cannot deliberate when only the folks on the right committees are fully briefed, and the Ron Wyden types among them think what’s happening is horribly wrong, but can’t tell anyone why because it’s illegal just to air the basic facts. Our senators have literally been reduced to giving dark hints.

Walt believes this situation “gives those in power an obvious incentive to inflate threats”:

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Quote For The Day

Jun 10 2013 @ 2:19pm

“Given a choice of who gets thrown under the bus — Obama or the liberal media — Obama is first on the list. The liberal media would be a close second,” – talk radio host, Michael Smerconish.

Which Leaks Matter?

Jun 10 2013 @ 1:54pm

Ben Wittes and Robert Chesney explain why it’s a mistake to conflate the recent leaks about PRISM and Verizon:

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What Is PRISM, Exactly?

Jun 10 2013 @ 1:33pm

Ambers provides an extremely thorough, acronymn-filled explainer on the NSA program:

What makes PRISM interesting to us is that it seems to be the ONLY system that the NSA uses to collect/analyze non-telephonic non-analog data stored on American servers but updated and controlled and “owned” by users overseas. It is a domestic collection platform USED for foreign intelligence collection. It is of course hard to view a Facebook account in isolation and not incidentally come into contact with an account that is owned by an American. I assume that a bunch of us have Pakistani Facebook friends.

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How Dumb Was Fleeing To Hong Kong?

Jun 10 2013 @ 1:18pm

Many bloggers have noted how foolish the NSA leaker was for choosing to hide out in Hong Kong, but:

[T]here is at least one reason it could be incredibly shrewd: Hong Kong’s asylum system is currently stuck in a state of limbo that could allow Snowden to exploit a loophole and buy some valuable time.

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Dissents Of The Day

Jun 10 2013 @ 1:15pm

A reader writes:

Okay, I really don’t understand. Mike Bloomberg wants to regulate smoking and guns and soft drinks and you rail about how “the man just despises freedom.” Yet when the NSA is revealed to be invading communications records on a massive scale and says “trust us, we’re not actually listening to the content,” you’re content to stand by and yawn. Answer me this: Which is the more basic, existential threat to individual liberty: the right to smoke cancer sticks and buy a Big Gulp whenever and wherever, or the right to have some semblance of privacy when communicating with other people? A quick skim of the Constitution makes it pretty clear which of those would have attracted the interest of its authors.

More interesting to me than the much-publicized phone-metadata aspect of PRISM is the way it allows the NSA virtually unlimited access to anything you have done on the Internet. Gizmodo’s explanation of the program is terrifying:

When the NSA monitors phone records, it reportedly only collects the metadata therein. That includes to and from whom the calls were made, where the calls came from, and other generalized info. Importantly, as far as we know, the actual content of the calls was off-limits.

By contrast, PRISM apparently allows full access not just to the fact that an email or chat was sent, but also the contents of those emails and chats. According to the Washington Post’s source, they can “literally watch you as you type.” They could be doing it right now.

In any context other than this, a backdoor into your computer that allowed someone else to view this kind of data would be considered a computer virus, and the person doing it would most likely be a hacker interested in stealing your identity. The government regularly sends people to lengthy prison sentences for doing that. In the wake of the IRS scandal, which we are told was the work of a few rogue government employees, who’s to say that a few “overzealous” NSA employees aren’t reading things they’re not supposed to read?

Yes, today they tell us the content isn’t being viewed, but the key factor is that it CAN be viewed. At any time. And we wouldn’t know.

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