NSA

Past NSA Whistleblowers Praise Snowden, Say They Tried and Failed With the Legal Route

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Edward Snowden
The Guardian

Yesterday, the New Yorker's Jeffery Toobin took to the air to wag his jaw, repeating what he and others snoopy-state apologists have already said in print: Edward Snowden was no hero for exposing the National Security Agency's massive surveillance scheme because it's "legal" and because he had "legal options" as an alternative to revealing what he knew to the world. Interestingly. even as Toobin was shaking his finger at Snowden, USA Today published an interview with three of the whistleblower's predecessors who praised the man now taking refuge in Hong Kong and warned that they spent years trying those "legal options" — only to get dragged over the coals for their efforts.

In USA Today, Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe described their efforts over the years to battle against a massive data collection system that had been unleashed against Americans at home as well as indiscriminate targets abroad. As Peter Eisler and Susan Page write:

For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.

To the intelligence community, the trio are villains who compromised what the government classifies as some of its most secret, crucial and successful initiatives. They have been investigated as criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime.

So, how did those "legal options" work for them? According to Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who represents the three:

Jesselyn Radack: Not only did they go through multiple and all the proper internal channels and they failed, but more than that, it was turned against them. … The inspector general was the one who gave their names to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. And they were all targets of a federal criminal investigation, and Tom ended up being prosecuted — and it was for blowing the whistle.

But … How could these intelligence professionals turn against a "legal" surveillance program that was approved by the executive branch and Congress and supported by the courts?

Thomas Drake: He's an American who has been exposed to some incredible information regarding the deepest secrets of the United States government. And we are seeing the initial outlines and contours of a very systemic, very broad, a Leviathan surveillance state and much of it is in violation of the fundamental basis for our own country — in fact, the very reason we even had our own American Revolution. And the Fourth Amendment for all intents and purposes was revoked after 9/11. …

He is by all definitions a classic whistle-blower and by all definitions he exposed information in the public interest. We're now finally having the debate that we've never had since 9/11.

Of the three whistleblowers, Binney takes the least sympathetic stance toward Snowden, saying "certainly he performed a really great public service to begin with by exposing these programs and making the government in a sense publicly accountable," but warns that by exposing surveillance targeted at China, "he is transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor." Be Binney believes Snowden should be prosecuted only after "the previous administration, the president and vice president … all the chiefs and deputies of the NSA … all the people on the intelligence committees that approved this."

Radack makes a good point about the question of whether Snowden is a "hero" or a "traitor," saying, "I don't like these labels, and they are putting people into categories of two extremes, villain or saint. … By law, he fits the legal definition of a whistle-blower." Well said. Why does a whistleblower have to be of pristine character and make only perfect judgments along the way if what matters is the abuses he or she has exposed?

I'll also add that I'm not impressed by the chorus saying Snowden would have engaged in proper civil disobedience only if he'd remained at home and slipped his own head in the noose after making his disclosures. That's a position that works only to the benefit of the hangman, except in cases of mass disobedience, which have a chance of overwhelming the police and courts and further gumming up the works. As an army of one, Snowden could have expected little more than a Silverado-style "fair trial followed by a first-class hanging," mostly carried out in secret, no doubt.

I hope Snowden doesn't defect to China. But, now that he's done his good deed, it's time for him watch out for his own ass.

And it"s time for us to decide what to do about "the previous administration, the president and vice president … all the chiefs and deputies of the NSA … all the people on the intelligence committees that approved this" so we can cut down the monster they've created.

Toobin should feel free to wag his finger some more as we dismantle that legal system and punish its creators.

See the USA Today video interview below:

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  1. And lets not forget that one of the first things Obama did was fire the IG of Americorps. He sent out a clear message from day one that IGs were not to be doing their jobs.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..17539.html

    And judging from the appalling slowness of IG investigations of the IRS and Fast and Furious, his message got through. Anyone who claims Snowden has “legal options” to disclose this stuff is a liar or a fool or both.

  2. OT: Can we please get rid of the autoplaying video?

    1. I’d love to turn off the damned autoplay, but it doesn’t offer that option and the video is worth seeing (or pausing).

      1. Talk to the squirrels. Plenty of sites allow you to turn off autoplay with a site-wide setting.

        1. Don’t you have to sacrifice a barrel of acorns to get them to pronounce from on high?

      2. You can get a browser plugin that will accomplish that purpose. Just google “flash autoplay disable”. You can always click on a flash video that you want to see, and it will play.

    2. If running NoScript, blocking brightcove will stop the video.

  3. I love how the same idiots who are claiming Snowden should have gone the legal rout with his concerns in the next breath claim this information should never have been released. So if the information should never be released, how would have going the “legal rout” have resulted in any change?

    1. Because there would have been “a process” and that would make it all OK.

      Citizens don’t need to know about “the process” as long as there is one.

      Didn’t you know that? Cheney agrees.

  4. but warns that by exposing surveillance targeted at China, “he is transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor.”

    I am sure China is well aware that NSA targets them. So I don’t think he gave anything away.

    1. I like how people who are illegally ignoring the 4th amendment aren’t the ones being called traitors.

      1. Doesn’t he?

        B[ut] Binney believes Snowden should be prosecuted only after “the previous administration, the president and vice president … all the chiefs and deputies of the NSA … all the people on the intelligence committees that approved this.”

        Seems to me he’s calling for all of those guys to be prosecuted first.

        1. I wasn’t referring to Binney; rather, to the Krauthammer types who are frothing at the mouth that Snowden be branded with the “traitor” label.

      2. Indeed.

        Snowden is called traitor because he exposes the shameful and illegal activities of the government… He’s actually a hero!

    2. Did we declare war on China while I was asleep? I thought they were our friends and trading partners with most favored status.

      1. Don’t you understand? China is stealing our jobs and maliciously buying up our debt so that they can control us…in some…way…

        1. Dey took ur jerbz…and bought a bunch of bonds. Not, I think anymore (on the bonds).

      2. The goal of US relations with China is to avoid a war, cold or otherwise. China’s goal is to become a superpower. There’s no reason to think it has to be a zero-sum situation, but it’s naive to think both countries can be persuaded not to gain advantages here and there with covert operations. At any rate, the US can only dream of having China’s lack of compunction in this regard or any other. Does China being a mostly unfree state absolve the US? No, but that unfree state (where are the Chinese whistleblowers, hm?) is who the US is competing with.

        1. Oh, the U.S. authorities are doing more than dreaming.

          1. We fellate Israel every chance we get yet they still spy on us constantly. China knows we spy on them and they spy on us just as hard, possibly even harder. There is nothing wrong with spying on friends, enemies, neutral parties, etc – all nations spy on each other.

            Calling him a traitor for pointing out we spy on China is like Israel calling someone a traitor for pointing out they have nuclear weapons…it’s stupid.

        2. Does China being a mostly unfree state absolve the US? No, but that unfree state (where are the Chinese whistleblowers, hm?) is who the US is competing with.

          That’s Friedmanesque. Bravo.

          1. I’ve been insulted plenty of times here, but that was really below the belt.

            1. Don’t worry, for trolls and sock puppets it’s a complement.

              1. Tony must be a real masochist. I don’t think he’s made a single post here, without getting an intellectual smackdown.

                1. Hahahaha.

        3. where are the Chinese whistleblowers, hm?

          Have you checked the shallow graves and the prisons?

    3. He gave away the fact that there is information in his brain that the CHinese might want to know.

      I can’t imagine why he would do something that unfathomably stupid.

  5. Thomas Drake writes in the Guardian:

    “I differed as a whistleblower to Snowden only in this respect: in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I took my concerns up within the chain of command, to the very highest levels at the NSA, and then to Congress and the Department of Defense. I understand why Snowden has taken his course of action, because he’s been following this for years: he’s seen what’s happened to other whistleblowers like me.

    By following protocol, you get flagged ? just for raising issues. You’re identified as someone they don’t like, someone not to be trusted. I was exposed early on because I was a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations. In closed testimony, I told them everything I knew ? about Stellar Wind, billions of dollars in fraud, waste and abuse, and the critical intelligence, which the NSA had but did not disclose to other agencies, preventing vital action against known threats. If that intelligence had been shared, it may very well have prevented 9/11.

    But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.”

    1. Clearly the system works.

  6. Exposing government abuses against American citizens is whistleblowing. Interfering with international diplomatic relations? That’s a little troubling. In a free country you’re allowed to believe that it’s wrong to spy on China, or on countries at a G20 meeting. But any country, however free, will assert a legitimate right to have its foreign spying operations secret. It’s hard to disagree with most of Greenwald’s, and I presume Snowden’s, grievances about American foreign policy. And I’m sure neither of them would characterize himself as on a radical end of the security/privacy spectrum (perhaps only in a post-9/11 spectrum would they be considered as such). But–I detect a slightly disturbing strain of libertarian utopianism in their grievances. The fallacy that there are not delicately competing interests in the world that challenge attempts to make the US a more morally upright actor, but instead that if the US behaves more transparently (or enacts a more laissez-faire market, etc.) that the world will somehow praise us instead of use it against us.

    1. But–I detect a slightly disturbing strain of libertarian utopianism in their grievances.

      Yes, your ability to sniff out strawmen is world-class.

      1. Calling libertarians utopian is hardly a strawman, and it wouldn’t be even if you didn’t claim to be utopians. It’s a well informed opinion.

        The idea that the US can enact a laissez-faire market and not be utterly destroyed by other countries that have no problem subsidizing sectors of the economy for their own ends is an aspect of this naivete. My point was that the same logic can apply to foreign policy.

        1. The idea that the US can enact a laissez-faire market and not be utterly destroyed by other countries that have no problem subsidizing sectors of the economy for their own ends is an aspect of this naivete.

          All that subsidizing, it’s worked so well for Europe. And all of those Chinese solar panels that are turning out to be crap.

          1. Subsidizing doesn’t automatically mean the product will be crap, and China doesn’t seem to be struggling to sell things on the global market. Contrary to libertarian doctrine, there is no free-market Santa Claus who imparts extra quality on goods and services. Or would we have better military technology if it were developed in a free market? Planning is planning. China is outcompeting the US on solar tech because it throws more money at it, and it doesn’t take a genius (or a free-market magic elf) to know that solar will be an important market. Indeed it takes free-market ideologues with an oil fetish to hinder the US’s ability to compete.

            1. Solar power isn’t a natural resource like oil, tied to the land. Let them throw money at it in the development phase and we can just scoop up the tech once it’s matured.

              That’s how European healthcare survives, after all.

              1. Correct me if I’m wrong but it’s the US that’s winning on the tech, while China is focused on production. One thing I think we’ll never be able to outcompete China on I’d stealing intellectual property.

                1. “I’d stealing”

                  typo or freudian slip?

            2. “Contrary to libertarian doctrine, there is no free-market Santa Claus who imparts extra quality on goods and services.”

              Yes there is, it’s called competition mixed with profit motive, although I suppose it doesn’t necessarily impart the highest quality since quality isn’t always what you want, it does impart the highest value and efficiency.

              1. I’m not denying the existence of the market mechanism, but it is not undermined when government becomes a consumer. Indeed you could be said to be pretty good at capitalism if you can get government as a customer. (Even if you do it by bribing politicians.) Government (ideally–in a world where bribing politicians isn’t tolerated) is just a special type of customer, making market purchases on behalf of the people as a whole. Sure it can make bad, even disastrous choices, but even a free market is littered with the consequences of bad choices. The point is that I’m now the one defending human agency as real. People can use their brains and come up with stuff of high quality and efficiency even without a profit motive–it’s done in the sciences all the time, and in fact profit motive is probably the biggest way in which the quality of science can be distorted. But you did mention competition too–and that’s a motive at play in science, and it’s also the motive at play in government, what we call elections.

                1. Wow, this whole post is an exercise in false equivalence. Government is not a “special consumer.” Government is not spending its own money, so it does not have the same incentives that actual consumers do.

                  But you did mention competition too–and that’s a motive at play in science, and it’s also the motive at play in government, what we call elections.

                  And in elections, political considerations override economic considerations.

                  1. Government is spending its own money, or the people’s money if you prefer. Politics is meant to ensure taxation and spending are more or less in line with the will of the people. And your last sentence is the entire point–there are other considerations in this world than whether something will make you a profit, such as if people are having their needs met. That makes politics, if anything, more important.

                    1. Government is spending its own money, or the people’s money if you prefer.

                      Way to contradict yourself in the same sentence.

                      there are other considerations in this world than whether something will make you a profit

                      I didn’t say anything about profit. People are free to take into account any considerations they wish in allocating their time and money. They don’t need you to do it for them.

        2. So what if other countries subsidize sectors of their economy? That just means that American consumers have access to cheaper goods at the expense of foreign taxpayers. Seems pretty silly to lower the price foreigners pay for American goods at the expense of American taxpayers in response.

          1. Only if you think it’s silly to gain a market advantage. Perhaps ironically, it’s the most morally strict versions of libertarianism that are least utopian. They simply don’t care about ends–who cares if the market meets pragmatic social goals? What matters is (your limited definition of) freedom, first and only.

            1. Luckily for us, markets do meet pragmatic social ends. Better than bureaucrats, at least.

              1. In a limited way. Markets have never been shown to efficiently deliver universal education, defense, or healthcare, for example, if you count those as valid social ends.

            2. Saying subsidies to businesses make society wealthier is like saying taxation makes society wealthier. It simply is not so. If another country can make something more cheaply than us, let ’em! It’s called comparative advantage. Basic economics.

              And why does “market advantage” matter? Who cares if cars are built in this country, or if wheat is grown in this country, shipped overseas, and cars are shipped back?

              What does it matter if workers build cars or grow them in a wheat field?

              Here’s a good book has the potential to cure you of some of your ignorance, should you choose to read it.

              http://steshaw.org/economics-i…..tents.html

        3. *The idea that the US can enact a laissez-faire market and not be utterly destroyed by other countries that have no problem subsidizing sectors of the economy for their own ends is an aspect of this naivete.*

          Because…gov’t intervention in an industry, with its accompanying incentives to pursue political objectives rather than market objectives, makes the industry more efficient, cost-conscious, and consumer-oriented, right?

          1. I only favor subsidies that have social ends in mind. We subsidize heavily the defense industry, for example, as all countries do and have always done, and no one has credibly suggested we’d be better defended without those subsidies.

            1. And don’t forget Roadz!

              1. Adding a z to the end of a word does not undermine an otherwise valid argument.

                1. Valid perhaps, vacuous for sure.

            2. I only favor subsidies that have social ends in mind.

              There is no subsidy that can’t be defended with that line of bullshit. Thanks for chiming in, corporate whore.

              1. There is no subsidy that can’t be defended with that line of bullshit.

                Abso-fucking-lutely

              2. I don’t see why that’s the case. A rational person can say subsidizing oil companies goes against social interests while subsidizing clean energy promotes it.

                1. And a rational person can say the opposite too.

                  1. A less rational person, perhaps.

                2. A rational person can say subsidizing oil companies goes against social interests while subsidizing clean energy promotes it.

                  Hey.
                  Moron.
                  A subsidy is money taken from one party and given to another.
                  Oil companies pay billions of dollars a year in taxes. Billions.
                  For them to be subsidized their tax bill must be negative.
                  It is not. Therefore they are not subsidized.
                  Idiot.

            3. “We subsidize heavily the defense industry, for example, as all countries do and have always done, and no one has credibly suggested we’d be better defended without those subsidies.”

              I’m not sure that’s true. It’s pretty hard to argue that our current military is built for a defensive posture, other than the most stretched sense of the word. “Defense” as it is used now means the initiation of preemptive wars and the supporting of causes in foreign nations. We haven’t had a hostile power on American soil in any meaningful way in centuries (and no, the Japanese in the Aleutians doesn’t count), nor is there any credible chance of that happening anytime soon.

              If you accept the idea of blowback from poorly considered military and foreign policy choices, you can pretty easily make the argument that we would be much more secure had we not intervened in other nations. We certainly wouldn’t be the target of terrorism to near the extent we are now. But when you have a large military, which of course demands huge expense for maintenance, replacement of equipment, R&D, etc., you are much more likely to use it. In other words, had we not so heavily subsidized “defense” we might have had to actually stop and think before employing force. And that would likely have made for a much safer America.

        4. “The idea that the US can enact a laissez-faire market and not be utterly destroyed by other countries that have no problem subsidizing sectors of the economy for their own ends”

          I’m pretty sure our 0% corporate tax rate would trounce their subsidies.

          1. Pretty sure the effective 0% corporate tax rate of many major US corporations isn’t having that effect. And that is tantamount to a subsidy anyway.

            1. Indeed it is. Apple, Google, GE are doing pretty damned well, I’d say.

              1. So is Lockheed–so we agree that subsidies (in the form of direct payment or tax breaks) help industries succeed. Good, we agree that arithmetic works.

                1. I was waiting for the tax breaks = subsidies line. Funny, though, since it defeats your first argument, as I’d support any tax break in leiu of subsidy, so how do their subsidies convey an advantage over my tax breaks?

                  1. You’re right–the advantage is a tax break only amounts to a subsidy in the amount of the tax burden being relieved while a subsidy can be a targeted amount for a certain specific purpose. I’m even sympathetic to the argument that there should be no corporate taxes (to be replaced by direct taxes on the wealthy individuals who run them.)

                2. (in the form of direct payment or tax breaks)

                  Not taking is giving!

                  1. Widget company A pays 30% in taxes. For (name your reason), widget company B pays 0% in taxes. How is that meaningfully different from taxing both companies at the same rate and then giving cash in the amount of the break to company B?

                    Sarc, you’re explicitly endorsing a heavily distorted system simply because you believe less taxes = better at all times, even if applied in a piecemeal way.

                    1. Because stealing less of somebody’s money is not the same as giving them money.

                    2. Taxation is not stealing. Using public services without paying taxes is stealing.

                    3. So 47% of Americans are thieves? How do I opt out of using these public services?

                    4. There are no Americans who don’t pay taxes. Many don’t pay the specific tax known as the income tax, because they are too poor to qualify. That the Republican party has you convinced that the income tax is the only tax in existence is a problem you should probably consult a 3rd grade teacher about.

                      You can’t opt out as long as you’re living within the borders of a governed state, since many of the services, like national defense, pollution controls, and many others, are ambient in nature. And good luck getting around without using publicly subsidized transportation in one form or another.

                      Sorry if you didn’t ask for many of these things, but it’s impractical to tear down the entire country every time a new person is born then ask for their consent.

                    5. Sarc, you’re explicitly endorsing a heavily distorted system simply because you believe less taxes = better at all times, even if applied in a piecemeal way.

                      Die, strawman! Die!

    2. Only about 90 degrees left to go, Tony. You’re almost there!

      Don’t worry, nobody will notice if you transition slowly enough. We understand that your positions “evolve”.

      1. If I weren’t an American, I would probably have a different opinion about how much I care about the US being the dominant world power. But I’ve been on the very critical end of the spectrum when it comes to the post-9/11 security state since the Bushies enacted it. It is fun watching you guys project opinions onto me I’ve never expressed, though.

        1. Your opinions are whatever Obama tells you they should be. I don’t need to project, I’ve noticed the pattern and it’s confirmed with repeated trials.

          1. I share a broad agreement with Obama’s policy beliefs. That’s why people vote for people. I even think that if I were in his shoes I would probably take similar actions, even with this NSA stuff (while admitting that being president is likely perspective-distorting with respect to terrorism threats). I’ve seen little reason to doubt his integrity or intelligence. That’s just the way I see it. But I think Obama has very little to do with this issue or many others you guys try to make all about petty political sport. I’m not sure what you want me to do. I can dislike a program without having to disavow support of the president. As you’ll find out if Rand Paul gets into the Oval.

            1. “The Obama administration is completely right in what it’s doing, and also has no knowledge of what it’s doing.”

            2. “The buck stops everywhere but the Presidency.”

  7. If Snowden has half a brain he will get out of China.

    Certainly, he knows enough about US intelligence activities that the Chinese would be crazy not to want to bring him in and interrograte him. Giving away the fact that he knows about US hacking efforts in China is like taping a big “torture me”‘ sign to his own back.

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