Edward Snowden in 2009: Leakers "Should be Shot in the Balls"

Joe Mullins of Ars Technica has posted some Internet chats from 2007-2009 that feature NSA leaker Edward Snowden. At the time, Snowden was about in his mid-twenties and living in Switzerland working for the CIA. As Mullins explains, Snowden would chat with just about anyone and wax philosophical and crack wise about all sorts of topics. These ranged from the status of prositution in Switzerland to the gold standard (Snowden in favor of it) to Ron Paul (Snowden said he voted for Dr. No) to New York Times stories about the Stuxnet computer virus that screwed up Iran's nuclear program.

Snowden was more than a little vexed by the Times' reporting on classified material.

In fact, posting as "TheTrueHOOHA" on various Ars chats, Snowden went ballistic over a 2009 Times story that discussed covert operations:

Are they TRYING to start a war? Jesus christ they're like wikileaks...

They're reporting classified shit about an unpopular country surrounded by enemies already engaged in a war and about our interactions with said country regarding planning sovereignity violations of another country...

you don't put that shit in the NEWSPAPER...

moreover, who the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this?

And then there's this punchline:

Read the whole story here.

None of this changes what needs to always be the front-and-center - and even exclusive - focus with regard to Snowden: the actual NSA programs that he revealed. In the end, the whistleblower is far less important than what he or she reveals and it's a serious mistake to start thinking more about the person who revealed the scandalous behavior rather than the behavior itself. Yet this is interesting stuff, especially in light of recent revelations that Snowden pursued a job with the NSA expressly to reveal some of its operations. What made him flip from wanting to shoot leakers "in the balls" and trashing Wikileaks to his current state of mind?

I discussed related issues last night on HuffPostLive with Sibel Edmonds, Becket Adams, Tangerine Bolen, and moderator Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. Check it out here.

And read my latest Daily Beast column, "Cold War Remixed: Edward Snowden Moves into Graham Greene Territory."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • UnCivilServant||

    If people were not allowed to revise their opinions, well... the world wouldn't look much different given the obstinance of most people, but I personally like to reserve the right to change my mind.

  • Spiny Norman||

    I used to think that way, but no longer.

  • Enough About Palin||

    You'll come back around to the truth eventually.

  • yonemoto||

    I think he deserves to be shot in the balls, for voting for ron paul. I say this as someone who voted for ron paul.

  • ||

    What made him flip from wanting to shoot leakers "in the balls" and trashing Wikileaks to his current state of mind?

    I'm guessing it's that he learned the true levels of malfeasance and spying going on within the US government. Or that he found out that Michael Bay is a CIA plant designed to turn us all into moronic sheep. I know that's what did it for me.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So that's what turned you into a moronic sheep.

  • ||

    That's not the only thing!

  • John||

    I am guessing he is probably a nut who got pissed off when the NSA didn't recognize his genius. I am skeptical that he went from "shoot the leakers" to leaking because he was so shocked by the malfeasance. Ah no. He is just a self important nut who got pissed when the NSA didn't recognize his genius.

    Now why Reason feels the need to keep reporting on Snowden's character instead of the real issue of the information he leaked, is beyond me. Who cares what kind of a person Snowden is?

  • Xenocles||

    I'm not skeptical, because I've done it. Maybe not as quickly, but it's not even all that weird to me.

  • Zeb||

    I agree that his personal details and motivations are irrelevant. But I think is is perfectly reasonable to think that he really did just change his mind. Or he thinks that some things really do need to be secret, just not massive illegal domestic spying programs.

  • John||

    It is possible. But it is unlikely. First, he knew very well what the NSA did. The things he found, while infuriating, are hardly shocking. If Snowden was concerned enough about such issues to make himself an international outlaw over them, he never would have gone to work for the NSA in the first place.

    The fact is people are not that noble. And most people who take really extreme actions do so for very narcissistic reasons. Snowden is not Sokerov.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    " And most people who take really extreme actions do so for very narcissistic reasons."

    Support?

  • John||

    The entire history of the human race. Have you read many biographies of historical figures? None of them are as noble as they seem.

  • Xenocles||

    I thought he went to work at BAH specifically to obtain the evidence.

    Maybe most people are not that noble, but many people have been far more noble. It happens often enough to be believable. And narcissism or not, the revealed information remains. Even if the real motivation is a combination of ego and conscience, is that really so terrible?

  • John||

    No it isn't terrible. It is just irrelevant. Snowden's reasons are his own. I can't emphasize enough that people need to avoid making Snowden a hero. Doing that allows the NSA and its defenders to make the debate about Snowden and not them and this program.

  • Xenocles||

    I certainly agree with removing the man from the discussion. You'd think for a magazine named Reason they wouldn't gossip about Snowden so much. (Got some gin in the freezer.)

  • Loki||

    I thought he went to work at BAH specifically to obtain the evidence.

    Has this actually been proven to be true? The only person who knows for sure why he went to work for BAH is him. Has he admitted that that's the reason he took the job? I only ask because I thought that started out as speculation but it's now being repeated as fact.

    Not that it makes any difference to me, the fact that he made this information available is what's really important, not the reasons why he did it.

  • Xenocles||

    I have no support but for some reason I seem to remember this as having come out from Snowden himself in an interview.

  • Loki||

    I haven't watched or read every interview the guy's given so it's entirely possible he did. But rumors are also reported as facts all the time too, so I wasn't sure.

  • MJGreen||

    He was pissed that people were leaking and publishing information that could inflame relations with a volatile country, possibly leading to yet another war.

    As you like to point out, the "threat" posed by Snowden's leaks is that of the American people, not a foreign country or terrorists with the desire to kill Americans. He didn't even need to change his mind, as it's not really a contradiction in context.

  • Locke||

    THIS- This is what's important.

  • Rebekah||

    Now why Reason feels the need to keep reporting on Snowden's character instead of the real issue of the information he leaked, is beyond me.

    Read the second to last paragraph. I think it's a question worth thinking about.

    I mean, this was a guy who sought out government work, likely due to patriotic sentimentality. As someone who was a teenager when the towers fell, I saw a lot of my peers eager to take up the mantle of Team America and perform some sort of service. It's been heartbreaking to watch some of them come to grips with how thoroughly they've been duped, and even more so to watch others fail to.

  • John||

    I am thinking he sought government work because he needed a paycheck. And I am also thinking that had the NSA rewarded him enough, we wouldn't know who he is today.

    Portraying Snowden as some kind of lost soul who realized the evils of America only when it was too late is as vomit inducing as portraying him as some kind of a evil genius spy. The world doesn't work that way. He did this because he was pissed off at the NSA over something, because he wanted to be famous. Think about it, he could have anonomously leaked the existence of the program. Hell he is an IT guy. He could have very easily communicated with Greenwald and provided and verified the information without Greenwald even knowing who he was. Instead, he does it openly, and then grants interviews to the press afterwards. He clearly wanted fame. And don't tell me he wanted to be a martyr. If he wanted that, he wouldn't have ran and said "great, lets have a public trial".

  • Rebekah||

    Wait, who's preoccupied with Snowden's character, again?

  • John||

    You are. I am not the one that made the post. Speculating about his character is not the same as saying it is relevant. It is not. And the fact is he probably isn't that great of guy. But that is mostly because most people are not that great.

  • yonemoto||

    John, you need to check your timeline. in 2008, when he became a Rawn Pual supporter, this guy was 23, and he had already been working for the feds for 4-5 years.

    So in 5 years he goes from getting a job, to becoming disillusioned enough to want Ron Paul, but wanting to shoot leakers in the balls, then in another five years actually leaking NSA documents. This is pretty consistent with BEING IN YOUR TWENTIES AND FIGURING YOUR SHIT OUT.

    When I was 16, I reflexively hated those narcissistic asshats who bandied bout using Linux. By 18, I was a casual user of BeOS, open-minded to non-windows alternatives, but made fun of open-source software. By 23, I was exclusively using FreeBSD, and by 30, I developed enough of an allergy to the whole idea of IP to started a nonprofit corporation specifically to research and release IP-free pharmaceuticals.

  • Robert||

    He wasn't necessarily referring to leakers in gen'l, just to those who leaked that bit in particular. Plus, maybe expressing opinions like that helped him get his job; if so, more balls to him!

  • A Serious Man||

    What made him flip from wanting to shoot leakers "in the balls" and trashing Wikileaks to his current state of mind?

    He became aware of the extant of NSA surveillance and lack of oversight?

    I certainly hope a number of commentators on Hit and Run become whistleblowers. Imagine all the weird shit they could drag out from these forums.

  • UnCivilServant||

    In my case, it's mostly wastage of funds by an egotistical monomaniac's contradictory directives to an already demoralized workforce. Old news and not terribly shocking in this day and age.

  • ||

    ".....wastage of funds by an egotistical monomaniac's contradictory directives to an already demoralized workforce."

    A perfect summation of local/state/federal government work.

  • ||

    I could tell you lots about money being spent building web sites that never get deployed and such, but is that really a shocker?

  • Old Bull Lee||

    If he is talking about someone leaking details of troop movements, that's not really the same as what he has leaked.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The NSAs massive domestic information culling doesn't matter you guys. What matters is that Edward Snowden once completely forgot it was his girlfriends birthday. Is this really the kind of guy you want to call a hero?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Really? I forget my own birthday, let alone anyone elses. I applaud anyone who fails to recognize the anniversary of someone's whelping.

  • ||

    Given that he is on the run and hiding in airports and wherenot, I would be willing to be he isnt religiously brushing his teeth or bathing regularly either.

    How can anyone look up to such an unkempt, smelly bastard?

    We have to focus on what is important here, not useless distractions.

  • John||

    That is right. If Snowden is a bad guy, we can't pay any attention to the truthful information he provided.

  • ||

    The NSA is spying on every American in the country, but let's forget about that and focus on the messenger. I heard that he wears white after Labor Day!

  • Pro Libertate||

    His character only matters if we have to trust him. But it sounds like that may not be necessary here.

  • Libertymike||

    Once had a girlfriend who thought that wearing white after Labor Day reflected a certain rebel without a cause attitude and was, at any rate, downright rude and insulting.

    That a person would pay any mind to such drivel is just..............

  • RightNut||

    Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the stuxnet leaking done BY THE WHITE HOUSE, as a way to shore up support from Pro-Israel groups?

    A leak done for political purposes that puts lives and an ally's national security at risk, leaked by the very people who are in charge of that program is very different from Snowden leaking illegal and potentially unconstitutional government programs.

    To be honest this only makes me like Snowden more.

  • Xenocles||

    In 2004 I (think I) voted for Bush and I was proud to shake his hand in 2005 when I graduated. People change.

  • Libertymike||

    Good for you. Of course, people can change.

    However, is the hand you used to shake Dubya's hand one and the same as the one you use every night before falling asleep?

    That may explain why Woodrow has been shrinking. So, you can truly blame it on..........

  • Xenocles||

    ...

  • Loki||

    .....BOOOOOOOSSSSSSHHHHHH!!!!111!!eleventy!!!!

    ???

  • ||

    Related Topic;

    Anyone here listen to Doug Stephan's radio show in the morning? My wife plays it on her shower radio while she readies for work. The guy is mostly non-political and I would characterize as very mainstream, middle of the road and he has a national audience. This morning he said he had been to Kansas. Everyone there is armed to the teeth and stockpiling ammo. They are doing so with the belief that they will have to use it against the federal government.

    Cohost said yep, a year or two ago that would be considered crazy talk, but now almost no one considers it so.

    I keep getting this feeling of dread in my gut.

  • sloopyinca||

    I keep getting this feeling of dread in my gut.

    Why would you dread the inevitable? Just work on dehumanizing your targets and be prepared...like cops are...for what you're going to have to do.

  • Xenocles||

    I think the choice between the death of the body and the death of our humanity is something we might dread. I would prefer to minimize the degree to which I must emulate my enemy in order to defeat him.

  • sloopyinca||

    Oh, I agree. And I won't be meeting the impending revolution (be it violent or peaceful) with any glee. I just prefer to prepare myself and put the dread aside by thinking about the end result.

  • Scotticus Finch||

    Anyone here listen to Doug Stephan's radio show in the morning? My wife plays it on her shower radio while she readies for work.

    Answered your own question there, in my case. Zing!

  • Rebekah||

    Four years is a long time to a 20-something year old. A lot can change. Being only a year Snowden's senior, I don't think there's a whole lot that I don't think differently about now as opposed to then (or at least I can justify my original stance better). I'd be more worried about someone who didn't change their opinion when faced with contradictory information.

  • Xenocles||

    Not a week goes by when I don't think randomly of something I did, said, or thought in the past (sometimes the recent past) and think "Holy crap, what an idiot I was."

  • Hugh Akston||

    When I was 20, I probably said something about M. Night Shyamalan being the next Hitchcock.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ken Hitchcock?

  • sloopyinca||

  • Pro Libertate||

    I used to watch Creature Feature as a kid.

  • Brett L||

    You monster.

  • ||

    Well Hugh, he sure looked like he was gonna be.

    Dammit.

  • ||

    Yeah, WTF happened to him? I loved Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense and Signs. He had established patterns that I enjoyed looking for, just like Hitchcock.

    Hated every single last one of his movies after Signs.

    Maybe he didn't want to be the next Hitchcock and started making shite to get away from that genre.

  • Brett L||

    Um... the fact that he was already a one-trick pony by Signs and it wasn't that great a trick when you knew it was coming.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I never got all the hype, though I liked Sixth Sense. Hitchcock was way beyond anything he's made or is likely to make.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Rosebud was Bruce Willis.

  • ||

    I was just about to post pretty much what you have said, Rebekah. This makes even more sense if you put in the context of the 2008/2012 Ron Paul campaigns. I am also around Snowden's age, so was in my mid-20s during the 2008 Paul campaign. Before, I had only a casual interest in politics and libertarianism, but after getting swept up in the Paul campaign I would say that I was not even a shell of my former self in regard to philosophy.

  • sloopyinca||

    Hey, if Obama's opinion is able to "evolve" on gay rights, then Snowden's is able to evolve on whistleblowers, especially in light of what he saw after making this statement.

    It's like saying you're ok with people in the middle east using their own standards of conduct and changing your mind after seeing some nutball fundie Muslim in Detroit kill his daughter for converting to Christianity.

  • Rasilio||

    Hmmm

    Leaking info about international ops != leaking info about domestic violations of civil liberties

    There is your answer

  • ||

    Simplified conversation two days ago with a youngish psychiatrist associate ( who votes dem ) of my wife:

    Me; Hey, sociopaths are master manipulators. How far will they push things to get what they want? Will they keep pushing until they see people getting angry and then let up?

    Her: No. They dont care. They will keep pushing until they get what they want.

    Me; Even if they see people pushing back?

    Her; Yes. They will keep pushing until you punish them. When they start feeling pain and see that the strategy will fail, then they will just change their strategy, but they will never quit until you kill them or they get what they want.

    Me; Jesus Doc, that sounds a lot like the federal government, doesnt it?

    Her; *silence. The look on her face was the same as if I had just told her her house had burned down *

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "went ballistic" Funny, Nick!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    OMG, a person who brought us vital information about immoral activity by the government is not a morally pure specimen? Gasp!

    I bet the government itself would never use morally impure people to get evidence of wrongdoing by private parties, so the govt's supporters totally have moral standing to complain about Snowden!

  • Adam330||

    Not sure that his position is inconsistent. As I understand it, he has chosen not to leak a bunch of stuff that he thinks would actually harm national security. What he did leak doesn't harm national security, it just embarrasses Obama and the NSA. In his posts, he's criticizing the leak of information that actually harms national security.

  • John||

    Good point. He has yet to leak anything that is harmful. I am quite sure he could have leaked a lot that was harmful. Contrast this with Manning who leaked the names of people working for the US in Afghanistan and likely got some of them killed. Snowden has done nothing like that. The existence of this program should have always been public and subject to public debate.

  • Loki||

    What made him flip from wanting to shoot leakers "in the balls" and trashing Wikileaks to his current state of mind?

    Based on the snippet of his posts, it sounds like he was talking about classified information regarding military plans that were leaked to the press:

    "Are they TRYING to start a war? Jesus christ they're like wikileaks...

    They're reporting classified shit about an unpopular country surrounded by enemies already engaged in a war and about our interactions with said country regarding planning sovereignity violations of another country..."

    I'm not sure what news story he's refering to here, but this sounds a lot different than a Top Secret program designed to spy on every single American. IOW, it could be that he makes a distinction between reporting classifed military information that could start a war, and disclosing sweeping large scale violations of everyone's rights. This doesn't necessarily make him inconsistent or a hypocrit. In fact it doesn't even require a change of heart on his part.

    Of course none of this will stop the assclowns who have been smearing the guy since day one from continueing. Just add "hypocrit" to the list of ad-homs they've already been using.

  • John||

    All good points. Also, he leaked information about the US hacking China, which is really dangerous and risks starting a war.

  • Loki||

    Yes and no. It's been pretty much "known" for years that we hack them (and everyone else), they hack us (and everyone else), and everyone else is hacking us, them, and everyone else and no one's started actually shooting at anyone yet.

  • Adam330||

    I can't believe that China doesn't already know this.

  • A Frayed Knot||

    The probably do know it but they might have not known how and how much. Now they probably do.

  • John||

    They know it.. But I think the American public should know it. I don't think the President has a right to just secretly decide to start fucking with China and risking a war without the public knowing abou tit.

  • Spoonman.||

    Got it - you were saying hacking China is really dangerous and might start a war, not that Snowden leaking it might start a war.

  • Jon Lester||

    Separately from the Chinese state, the citizens themselves seem to be mostly supportive of Snowden's actions, and actually thought the state should have offered him asylum. You could contrast that with how many of us are being ignored on the issue of arming Syrian rebels.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    this is interesting stuff, especially in light of recent revelations that Snowden pursued a job with the NSA expressly to reveal some of its operations.

    I read part of an "expose'" in (possibly) Mother Jones, in which the heroic journalist went undercover at great risk to life and limb to work for about a week in an Amazon shipping facility; he wanted to find out if those cruel heartless bastards really expected their employees to spend their entire working day getting things off shelves and putting them in boxes so they could be shipped to customers. I wonder how many outraged readers called him out for failing to adhere to the terms of his employment agreement by "shining a light on the abuses" of big bad Amazon?

  • Brett L||

    I'm with you. I think the journalists beating this drum are buying rope to hang their investigative colleagues with.

  • Loki||

    I wonder how many outraged readers called him out for failing to adhere to the terms of his employment agreement by "shining a light on the abuses" of big bad Amazon?

    B-b-but... KORPORASHUNZ!!!!11!!!!!

  • Brett L||

    "Some dude in his mid-20s said something on an Internet forum that doesn't jibe 100% with his persona IRL!!1!"

    I guess everyone I personally know from the internet in the oughts has no standing to leak information.

  • Slammer||

    Let's speculate on what HOOHA means!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    As I understand it, he has chosen not to leak a bunch of stuff that he thinks would actually harm national security. What he did leak doesn't harm national security, it just embarrasses Obama and the NSA.

    Hasn't he primarily exposed the process without necessarily revealing specific information?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Those saying Snowden's character or personal story isn't the real story are right. But I won't apologize for finding it to be a fascinating story, nevertheless.

  • Mainer2||

    I heard Snowden leaves the toilet seat up.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Ya see? That's fascinating.

  • IceTrey||

    It's obvious Snowden is running a CIA false flag operation. The whole thing is some kind of a set up. Did you know that the Tsarnev's uncle Ruslan Tsarni was married to the daughter of Graham Fuller who was the 27 year CIA operative who conceived the Iran-Contra operation? Did you know Tameralan was in Chechnya for "training" sponsored by the Jamestown Foundation, a CIA front? Did you know that Tamerlan's wife is the descendent of a founder of Skull and Bones? All coincidences? Don't believe the MSM on anything.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    But he dropped out of high school!

    How can we possibly trust a man such as this?

  • ChrisO||

    I've read a lot of court decisions involving whistleblowers over the years. Most of them are complete assholes who just happened to perform a valuable public service. Snowden seems like a pretty good guy, by comparison.

  • IceTrey||

    Appearances can be deceiving. Everyone who knew them thought Bundy, Dahlmer and Gacy were all nice guys who wouldn't hurt a fly.

  • Jon Lester||

    Big deal. Five years ago, I was falling out with RedState over the FSR Georgia thing, and starting to actively do what I could to prevent a McCain foreign policy from becoming reality.

  • ashdex||

    first of all, those who allege narcissism and then cite it as some type of evidence of poor character need a reality check. I submit that we're all hard-wired as narcissists and hypocrites. To judge someones character on the former is committing the latter. What are these posts but sheer vanity? I was a whistleblower of sorts a while back, albeit for a small, private company, but it did prompt an FBI investigation. I was sure I was doing the right and principled thing at considerable risk to my career. And yes, it was also thrilling and ego-driven at times. I think it also started a downward spiral of my life (and it did ruin my career - a job I enjoyed and was good at). Sometimes I wish I had kept my mouth shut and just played the game and, at times, I hate myself for not being someone who can do that. My point is, that there is a dynamic here that few can understand. What he did took balls and I think it was the right thing to do and we're better off for it. I think he'll be dealing with some internal turmoil over his decisions for the rest of his life. That will eventually outweigh any short term 'profit' of fame.

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