Edward Snowden

Thank You, Edward Snowden

"The NSA has turned the internet into a giant surveillance platform."


Last week the Cato Institute put on a terrific conference about unconstitutional domestic spying. The Cato conference took place after a summer of alarming revelations of just how deep and extensive the feds' secret surveillance of our everyday communications had become. The conference, held at the institute's downtown D.C. headquarters, brought some of the most knowledgeable Internet luminaries together with some of the fiercest fighters for Americans' Fourth Amendment rights.

Watchdog organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sought for years to expose the extent and depth of federal surveillance, but their efforts were largely stymied by the very walls of secrecy they were trying to breach. In the 2006 case Hepting v. AT&T, for example, the EFF sued the giant telco for the privacy violations incurred by allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap and data-mine all of the company's customers' communications. To forestall this case, Congress in 2008 passed the FISA Amendments Act, conferring retroactive immunity on the telephone companies and government agencies for engaging in warrantless wiretapping. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the FISA Amendments Act by the ACLU and other groups, on the grounds that they had no standing to sue because they could not actually prove that the NSA was spying on them. This is Catch-22 logic: The ACLU needs to sue the NSA to get the evidence that the agency spied on it and its clients, but they can't sue because they have no evidence that the agency spied on them.

The walls of surveillance secrecy were finally cracked by the June revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden's files conclusively show that the federal government has been operating a vast spying program that violates the Fourth Amendment rights of tens of millions of ordinary Americans. To justify this surveillance, the government offers tortured legal interpretations of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

Section 702 authorizes warrantless surveillance of the communications of foreigners outside of the United States. As Snowden's documents reveal, the NSA has interpreted Section 702 as a backdoor loophole allowing the agency to retain and comb through the call data and emails of Americans whose communications are "about" a terror suspect or have been "inadvertently" intercepted by the NSA's PRISM monitoring program. The even more egregious violations of our constitutional rights, Snowden revealed, occurred under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which the NSA has used to justify the dragnet collection and retention of the call metadata of essentially all Americans. (Metadata includes the numbers called and the location, date, time, and duration of each call.)

The first keynote at the Cato conference was delivered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who cited the "revelations of June" numerous times. Several speakers used such circumlocutions during the conference, clearly as a way to avoid actually speaking the name of the man who finally broke the news that our government has been unconstitutionally spying on us for years. Despite his reticence with regard to Snowden, Wyden has been at the lonely forefront of the fight to rein in America's growing surveillance state. It was Wyden who asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a March hearing whether the agency collected any sort of data on hundreds of millions of Americans. "No, sir," lied Clapper. "Not wittingly."

After Snowden's revelations proved that Clapper was a liar, Clapper attempted to justify himself in a June television interview by suggesting that "collect" doesn't mean the same thing to him that it means to ordinary Americans. "Collect," Clapper claimed, doesn't mean intercepting and storing data about telephone calls; the data are only "collected" when the agency goes searching through its vast databases looking for specific calls. At the Cato conference, New York Times national security reporter Charlie Savage pointed out that "Congress doesn't know that there is a secret lexicon at the NSA in which words mean something else at the NSA." He recommended that people might want to look up the Electronic Frontier Foundation's helpful NSA glossary, which shows how the agency reinterprets normal words in ways that ordinary people would say amount to "lies." Another speaker, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), said that Clapper should step down and be prosecuted for lying to Congress.

During his morning keynote, Wyden outlined the main provisions of a new bill he introduced with Sens. Mark Udall (D-Utah), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) two weeks earlier. The bill would end the mass collection of American's communication data, close the backdoor search loophole under FISA Section 702, provide an advocate to argue against government abuses before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and enable citizens to be heard in federal courts when they believe that the surveillance agencies have violated their Fourth Amendment right to privacy. In addition, telecommunications companies would be enabled to disclose more information about their cooperation with government surveillance activities.

Wyden warned that the agency heads and their enablers in the Congress, such as Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would be striking back against proposals for increased transparency. "Their objective is to fog up the surveillance debate," he explained, "and convince Congress and the public that the real problem is not unconstitutional surveillance, the real problem is sensationalistic reporting." Wyden is encouraged, however, by the broader reaction to the "revelations of June." Referring to the Amash amendment, a July measure that sought to cut funding to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, Wyden said, "If you'd told me that you could get 200 votes on the floor of the House of Representative, I would have said you're dreaming." The amendment failed, but the vote was surprisingly close.

Of course, that vote was only possible because of Snowden's disclosures. Yet in July, when Wyden was asked whether Snowden is a hero or a villain, he replied that "when there is an individual who's been charged criminally and he has been charged with espionage, I don't get into commenting beyond that." Wyden should comment, and his comment should be: "Thank you, Edward Snowden."

Next up at the conference was a panel of national security reporters moderated by Cato's Julian Sanchez. The panelists were Bart Gellman of the Washington Post, Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal, and Charlie Savage of The New York Times. Gellman was the first speaker to say the word "Snowden," noting that the whistleblower's greatest fear was that the risks he took would be all for nothing; that there would be no debate over the extent and intrusiveness of domestic surveillance. In fact, Gellman declared, "Snowden succeeded beyond his wildest dreams."

Gellman also said that Clapper wasn't the only administration official to lie to Congress. NSA chief Keith Alexander wasn't telling the truth when he claimed a year ago that his agency does "not hold data on U.S. citizens" at its gigantic new data facility in Bluffdale, Utah. And the Justice Department had certainly been misleading, even if it didn't technically lie, when it said the Section 215 authorities had been used only 20 to 30 times to collect data. Yes, but those 20 to 30 times allowed the NSA to collect trillions of records.

Gorman added that the Snowden revelations had "shaken the trees" and prompted other reporting that has forced other government disclosures about various domestic spying efforts. For example, the NSA has tapped the Internet backbone through secret agreements with nine major (but unnamed) U.S. telecommunications companies. This has given the agency the capacity to monitor 75 percent of all U.S. Internet communications. Once it was revealed that the big telecommunications companies were cooperating with the NSA spying program, Gellman noted, they started agitating to be allowed to disclose more about what they are being asked and ordered to do.

The luncheon keynote was delivered by Rep. Amash, who described how spy agencies try to limit congressional access to information about their activities, making meaningful oversight all but impossible. Agencies speak in generalities and then engage in a game of 20 questions with legislators who seek deeper knowledge. They might, for example, answer a query with "No, our agency doesn't do that" without mentioning that another agency does.

Amash described one occasion in which he was seeking to review a particular document and the agency promised to arrange for members of Congress to do so. The agency did not send a message that the document was available for scrutiny by emailing members' offices directly; instead it sent the notification through the more general and less read Dear Colleague email system. Even then, the document was available for review only between 9 a.m. and noon in a briefing room on the day just before Congress was scheduled to leave for vacation. Members who reviewed the document also had to sign a nondisclosure agreement saying that they would not discuss it with other members who had not seen it.

After lunch, the conference featured a panel of legal experts, many of whom have tangled in court with the NSA and the Justice Department. Georgetown law professor Laura Donohue argued that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was solely created to supervise spying on foreign powers and their agents. Under statute, the FISC is supposed to review and grant orders under Section 215 only when agencies supply "a statement of fact showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation."

Donohue argues that the FISC and the NSA have now interpreted "relevant" to include all data on all telephone calls, and possibly other records, such as data on all emails, financial records, medical records, and so forth. As such, Section 215 orders function as general warrants allowing officials to rifle through the records of any American without the need to show probable cause as delimited by the Fourth Amendment.

The ACLU's Jameel Jaffer agreed that the NSA's dragnet collection of phone records violates the relevance standard of Section 215. He also argued that it violated Americans' reasonable expectations of privacy under the Fourth Amendment and, less obviously, our right of free association under the First Amendment. If people think they are watched by government agents, he explained, they may curtail innocuous contacts with others out of fear that government functionaries will misinterpret or abuse information about their relationships. David Lieber, privacy counsel for Google, struck another First Amendment note, expressing frustration over the government's prior restraint of speech when it forbade his company (and others) from disclosing even summary statistics on how much information on its customers the feds were requiring it to turn over.

Paul Rosenzweig, a former deputy assistant for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, is much more sanguine about NSA domestic surveillance. He offered a very nice demonstration, produced by journalist Kieran Healy based on David Hackett Fischer's biography of Paul Revere, showing how metadata on various club memberships would have identified Paul Revere to the British authorities as the center of terrorist network in late-18th-century Boston. That may sound alarming to you, but to Rosenzweig the NSA's use of such relational data-mining is "relevant" to an investigation.

The second afternoon panel focused on techniques to protect data from federal surveillance. First, the good news: Jim Burrows of Silent Circle, a new company offering various encryption services, observed that TOR, the free open source software that protects users' anonymity, generally stands up to NSA snooping. Less happily, David Dahl of SpiderOak, a company that offers encrypted file backup, decried the recent revelations that the NSA had succeeded in introducing subtle vulnerabilities by influencing the development of encryption standards. Matt Blaze, an Internet security guru at the University of Pennsylvania, observed that maintaining vulnerabilities in computer code doesn't just make it easier for the NSA to spy; it makes it easier for the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians to spy, and for Internet criminals to steal data and cause other havoc.

Burrows discussed the case of Lavabit, an encrypted email service apparently used by Snowden. The NSA ordered Ladar Levison, the owner of the service, to hand over data that would enable the agency to spy on his 350,000 customers. Levison instead shut down the service, saying that he refused "to become complicit in crimes against the American people." Burrows noted that Silent Circle was also an offering encrypted email service. Within 10 hours of learning what had happened to Lavabit, Silent Circle shut down and purged its own service without notice to subscribers. Burrows noted that had Silent Circle informed its customers in advance the shutdown might have become illegal. "We knew for sure that someday some law enforcement agency would order us to give them a backdoor," said Burrows.

Burrows noted that there is no email that is currently secure against metadata collection, although users can securely encrypt the content of their messages. The ACLU's Chris Soghoian added that the laws of physics make it impossible to shield the location data emitted by mobile phones. SpiderOak's Dahl speculated that some peer-to-peer communications protocols with built-in cryptography might make secure email possible.

The final panel considered what reforms are necessary to rein in domestic surveillance. Cato Senior Fellow John Mueller demolished the claim that the NSA's domestic spying has done much to protect Americans against terrorism. NSA chief Alexander claimed in June that mass telephone surveillance program had thwarted 54 terrorist plots. In October, Alexander admitted in a Senate hearing that the telephone dragnet's effect was much more modest: It may have helped in one or maybe two cases.

"The Obama administration has doubled down on this program and doesn't believe that it has done anything wrong," despaired Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the ACLU. Center for Democracy and Technology senior counsel Kevin Bankston remarked that it is "insane" that Google's privacy counselor David Lieber "had to dance around the question of receiving requests from the NSA." People are free to say they haven't received such requests, but they're not allowed to tell anyone when they have.

"The NSA has turned the Internet into a giant surveillance platform," declared renowned tech guru and Harvard Berkman Center fellow Bruce Schneier. Metadata collection that tells spies where a person went, who he spoke to, what he bought, and what he saw equals surveillance. "When the president says, 'It's just metadata,'" he means, "Don't worry, you're all under surveillance all of the time." Schneier argued that we need to make the Internet secure against all attackers. "A secure Internet is in everyone's interests," said Schneier. "We are all better off if no one can do this kind of bulk surveillance. Fundamentally, security is more important than surveillance." The panel agreed that it is critical to pass legislation preventing the government from mandating that companies build spy-friendly insecurities into their systems.

The final keynote speaker, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R–Wisc.), outlined the contours of his Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-Collection, and Online Monitoring (USA FREEDOM) Act. His bill would limit the collection of phone records to known terrorist suspects, force the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts to disclose surveillance policies, establish a constitutional privacy advocate in that court's proceedings, and permit companies to disclose NSA information requests.

At the end of conference, the one person whose efforts made it possible to for new Congressional reform efforts aimed at reining in the surveillance state went largely unacknowledged. And so, again: Thank you, Edward Snowden.

Disclosure: I am still a card-carrying member of the ACLU.


NEXT: Bloomberg's Tears Taste Like Mountain Dew

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.

  1. “The NSA has turned the internet into a giant surveillance platform,” declared internet guru Bruce Schneier, last week at the Cato Institute’s terrific conference about unconstitutional domestic spying.

    I’m glad Mr. Schneier is as pessimistic as I am.

    1. This much-needed surveillance goes far beyond the Internet. Just to take one city, let’s not forget how we worked out a good stop-and-frisk and spying-on-Muslims program in New York. And now we can get one of those “cultural heroes,” street “artist” Banksy, who is apparently being hunted by NYC cops:


      And while we’re at it, let’s not forget “artist” Essam Attia, who created fake “NYPD drone” ads and was also hunted down by the cops (there’s some good coverage on independent blogs, nothing in the mainstream press).

      But above all, the authorities used their Internet surveillance techniques with utmost skill in combating the dangerous activities of an academic whistle blower who sent out criminally deadpan “Gmail confessions” in the “name” of a well-known NYU department chairman. See the documentation at:


      It should be plain that this entire wave of subversive activity, which Snowden has yet to condemn, poses a great danger to public order and must be carefully watched over and suppressed as rapidly as possible. Fortunately we have a lot of cops and prosecutors working for us, and they’re getting more and more adept at interpreting the law in novel ways, so we can get these “whistle-blowers,” “artists” and “satirists” and shut them up before they do any more harm.

  2. Although Snowden deserves praise for his heroism (and I agree with Ron’s complaint regarding this conference), I wish the mainstream media would do what this conference did.

    All the focus on Snowden distracts from the real story, which is the crimes he has exposed.

    1. Start working at home with Google! Its by-far the best job Ive had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. Useful Reference http://www.Pow6.com

  3. I realize what I’m about to post is irrelevant to this article but I wanted to get a “top post” (and consequently some feedback):

    I’m sure I’ve heard this idea expressed before among these very commentators but I reached the epiphany myself recently: we should start voting for Democrats in all subsequent elections. Why? It’s a simple calculus: the policies of both majority parties are bringing us gradually to a day of unpleasant reckoning, but the Dems will get us there faster. Republicans pay lip service to fiscal responsibility (and in very rare instances actually do come through); Democrats do not. So if we push their policies, we can get to the hard part sooner and with less drawn-out agony. (I say this as someone who has never voted or even conceived of voting for a D before; I used to be a pretty partisan conservative Republican but has since thankfully become libertarian).

    1. I think this is definitely a tempting viewpoint, and I’ve been advocating something similar with Obamacare (i.e. let it fail on its own terms), but I think there’s a danger to that as a long term strategy.

      We’ve seen the Republicans come as near to absolute power as one could reasonably expect under a government like ours, and what did they do with it?

      I think you would see something similar if the Democrats were to achieve the same things (although with SCOTUS stacked the way it currently is, that’s unlikely to happen in the next few decades).

      The trouble is that it takes a long, long time for things to start sucking badly enough for people to want to change them, and I doubt the Dems could hold power for that long.

      The politicians of one team invariably blame their successors and predecessors for any and all problems, and team loyalists are always eager to agree. I remember the recession becoming the “Obama recession” for the Team Red crowd the moment Obama won the election in 2008 in just the same way that Team Blue immediately blamed Bush for the recession that started months before he was inaugurated in 2001.

      That’s why I think that, futile as it seems at the moment, supporting Libertarians is probably the best plan.

      1. Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I’m just thinking that if our fall is inevitable (I happen to believe it is) then we might as well go full speed ahead and those of us who see it coming (mostly us libertarians) can brace ourselves as best we can and try to come out in one piece on the other side. Sure, TEAMS are always going to play the blame game against the other team, but at this point it doesn’t matter. It seems to me from at least a cursory perspective that this train is running away. So yes, supporting libertarians causes does seem hopeless and futile.

        1. But I might suggest that supporting the Democrats in the spirit of the Romans who opened the city gates for the Visigoths is embracing hopelessness and futility, when championing libertarians at worst would have the same end result.

          I don’t think giving Democrats more power would hasten a decline enough in a dramatic enough way to wake people up and make them see what really needs to be done. Good old-fashioned trying to persuade people is really the only thing to be done.

    2. My solution is not to vote and let the powerful and their naive supporters duke it out over the carcass of the American Experiment.

      1. That’s depressing, but given our sorry state of affairs, not unreasonable.

    3. Is this a serious comment? You’re actually contemplating a method whereby you can help the society that you have lived in your entire life simply cease to exist?

      Do you only live off the land you own outright? Do you only rely on bartering for good and services (if so, what good/service can you offer that won’t be worthless in this post-“unpleasant reckoning”)?

      Also, this is incredibly defeatist and, to be honest, cowardly viewpoint. You’re essentially saying you can never change your country or your society. And you’re a coward for wanting to destroy it in such a cynical method.

      Seriously, go to the effing Yukon with your cynical defeatism and let the rest of us try to make a positive difference in our society for ourselves and our children.

      1. Agoraphobic is definitely coming from a place of despair, but I agree that the situation is not as hopeless as all that.

        I think when the Republicans demonstrated so decisively during the Bush years that they are NOT libertarian in any sense of the term that inspired a lot of hopelessness among those who love liberty and knew not to look for it from Democrats. There was sort of an “et tu, Brute?” moment.

        Having been a teenager in the 1980s, I’ve never been under the illusion that the Republicans have ever done anything other than pay lip service to libertarianism, so I personally wasn’t terribly shocked by what happened in the 2000s.

        The comfort comes from the fact that the Democrats have never done anything other than pay lip service to socialism (and then only in a “wink-wink” “nod-nod” kind of way), and many on the left are losing faith.

        I think there’s real hope for a new alignment where the anti-government elements of both wings start finding their common ground against the statists in both wings. I think the statists seriously overestimate their popularity.

        1. “The comfort comes from the fact that the Democrats have never done anything other than pay lip service to socialism (and then only in a “wink-wink” “nod-nod” kind of way), and many on the left are losing faith.”

          Really? They just enacted another entitlement of the scale of Medicare and you don’t think they’ve done anything other than pay lip service? You don’t think they’re committed to make the tax code even more “fair?” You don’t think there isn’t even more social justice to be won? More redistribution? The 80’s had the Blue Dogs. They’re gone. Today’s Democratic party is hard on EuroSoco.

          I want some of your kool aid.

      2. “a method whereby you can help the society that you have lived in your entire life simply cease to exist?”

        At least it will be entertaining for a minute.

      3. How is wanting to rip off the band-aid quickly “cowardly”?

        I think that we are beyond the point where a informed citizenry, hungry for liberty, could change things. As Snowden said, they already have a turn-key tyranny ready to go.

        Do you think that the unaccountable bureaucrats, the ones with the real power, would willingly let go of the power that they’ve accrued over the last century? Do you honestly think that a few libertarian minded congress critters can put even the slightest dent in the uncontrollable behemoth that our government has become?

        We live in a country that for all intents and purposes views a relatively moderate politician like Rand Paul as a dangerous extremist. This country has gone well beyond the point where we’ll ever be able to roll back the welfare state, pay our bills, and significantly hobble the national security/law enforcement machinery.

    4. You just figured that out?

    5. “I’m sure I’ve heard this idea expressed before among these very commentators”

      You are probably right about this. I’ve been surprised at how readily libertarians are willing to consider embracing a strategy of impotence and passivity such as the one you are arguing for. I’ve seen others with similar ideas.

      Here is my problem with it. You say:

      “we can get to the hard part sooner and with less drawn-out agony”

      If your idea to cope with the ‘easy part’ is to do nothing, then I doubt that when the hard part comes, you’ll be in any position to do anything useful.

    6. The flaw in that strategy is that you assume that once it got bad enough, then freedom would once again bloom, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of Statism.
      I am not that optimistic. It is quite possible that with the death of liberty in the West, mankind would fall into an eternal twilight of Totalitarianism. And that’s where your post is really not off topic. With the surveillance tools available to a government today and in the future, what hope would there ever be for the downfall of the powerful? We would end up, in Orwell’s words, with “a boot stamping on a human face, forever.”

  4. This sounds like the worst possible way I would ever want to spend an afternoon.

  5. A couple of things:

    Snowden isn’t a hero. He is as unworthy of trust or praise as the actions he exposed.

    Phone numbers, locations, dates, duration etc isn’t meta data, its actually data. They give it the metadata label to make is seem harmless and nebulous. If it were harmless they wouldn’t bother collecting it for analysis. The could call it metacontent but whether its metadata or metacontent the question persist as to what data or what content this metadata describes.

    1. My words are merely the metadata describing the contents of my thoughts.

      My thoughts, in turn, are the metadata of my pre-conscious impulses.

      Therefore, NSA implants listening to my thoughts are simply collections of metadata, and therefore provided for by the Constitution.

    2. Snowden had no duty to ensure that information remained confidential if that information did not come from actions conducted in good faith. The ethical thing to do is to inform the parties most capable of correcting the problem, that party as it turns out is not the federal government.

      1. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these actions needed to be exposed but the ends doesn’t justify the means.

        You’re reading into his actions the intentions that would warp them in an ethical cloak. But you cannot be ethical by acting unethically. You take an oath and the ethical thing to do is to uphold that oath. You don’t violate your word then use the things you steal as leverage to save your own ass.

        If he had done this for ethical reasons he would have stood his ground and faced the consequences.

        1. I believe these actions needed to be exposed but the ends doesn’t justify the means.

          Which ends would you accept?

          You take an oath and the ethical thing to do is to uphold that oath.

          Question begging.

          If he had done this for ethical reasons he would have stood his ground and faced the consequences.

          Again, question begging. But for shits and giggles, why don’t you explain to me why going to prison would have been an ethical decision.

          1. Our government uses the ends to justify their actions. That reinforces the idea that no means are acceptable as justification for unacceptable means.

            Just because our ‘leaders’ have broken their oaths of office that does not justify any of us become less honorable. If you sink to their level and use the same tactics which we despise then we ourselves become despicable. That’s what he has done and that is why he is not worth of the hero worship people lavish upon him.

            Taking a stand for worthy principles is always more ethical than a self serving trip around the world trading the fruits of your theft with foreign governments.

            Try not to giggle so hard you shit…

            1. …no ends are acceptable as justification…

              1. you are failing language.

                murder is to shed innocent blood. kill is generic. whistleblower is to reveal secrets that should be revealed. traitor is to reveal if they should not. his actions were upright and noble, at great personal cost, and morally correct.

                the highest law of the land is the constitution. when the NSA broke the law all its nondisclosure contracts become conspiracy to commit crime and are null and void.

                even ignoring that, his word or reputation is nothing in comparison to the vast deception being perpetrated on the public.

                Doing right is more important than your own personal consistency (words/actions). If you commit to rape a baby, feel free to change course at any point. I promise i wont call you a flipflopper or hypocrite.

                Even if the act of breaking confidence is (on a local level) improper, its crushed by the moral virtue of being honest. Sometimes virtues do hit in head-on collisions. Its a reverse case of lesser of 2 evils.

                TLDR; his means dont need ends to justify themselves. they were right prima facie.

                1. And you are still failing to see the point while twisting your logic to justify something that you approve of.

                  All of the despicable things the NSA has done were done so in the name of ‘doing what is right’ because it was more important in the eyes of het government than protecting our rights to privacy.

                  And here you use that same line of thought to justify his actions, the call of the fanatic, doing what’s right. Then you borrow a line from the liberal playbook and throw in some nice emotional imagery for good measure.

                  The problem that people seem happy to ignore is that the NSA does have legal protection for what they did and they have the support of government and likely future governments. That is what we should be trying to change and Snowden didn’t help us in that respect.

                  Your word and personal honor may not mean anything to you but they should. They are a much more important indicator of who you are than the self righteous fervor you’ve wrapped yourself in.

                2. Snowden is not noble, he is not a whistle blower and doing something just because you think you can get away with it doesn’t make you morally correct when you only sort of get away with it. Unfortunately but the law of the land and decree of those who determine what’s secret he is a traitor. It’s also unfortunate that he was put in a position where that was an option.

                  The least he could have done was summon enough intelligence and moral fiber to do something valuable and lasting. Instead all he has done is act in the same duplicitous and deceitful ways as those he sought to expose. It’s impossible to see how that is right.

                  1. So, you think he acted ignobly by breaking his oath of secrecy to the NSA. But he also took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. If the two oaths are in direct conflict, which should he honor?

        2. I’m just applying the same (legally enforceable) ethical standards from my profession to the NSA. I would be expected to disclose unethical shit. Those means are perfectly justifiable. If the NSA had nothing shocking to disclose, then Snowden would have just ended up with a boring job at NSA, and nothing else would have happened.

          1. You think that saying one thing while doing another is ethical? Subterfuge, deceit, theft are ethical?

            Given the access he had there are ways he could have gone about exposing these activities which would have had a much more significant and lasting effect on our government.

            As I said before this stuff needed to be brought to the attention of the people, most of it wasn’t as secret as people like to pretend now, but none of this makes Snowden a hero.

            He looked at the hard choices and said “Oh shit, what have I done. One ticket to China please..”

            1. What if he just got the NSA job because he needed a job, having no intention of violating contracts, but then discovered the unethical shit? What exactly should he have done? Contracts are void, by the way, if they involve violations of public policy. And obtaining public information is not theft.

    3. If Snowden isn’t a hero because his actions were technically illegal by law but not by nature or even Concstitution, then I suppose Hitler just might be a hero because all his actions were authorized by the Reichstag.

      Suck it, shit-for-brains.

      1. Eloquent.

        Feel free to correct me but isn’t the constitution law? I’m not sure there’s a point in separating the two. No matter how wrong the actions of the government he is still in violation of article 3, section 3 of the constitution.

        Besides until now I haven’t commented on the legality of his actions, merely the character of the man.

        1. No matter how wrong the actions of the government he is still in violation of article 3, section 3 of the constitution.

          If you consider the American people to be “the enemy” then sure.

          1. It doesn’t matter who I consider the enemy to be. We also know that he gave this information and likely more to entities who are not us citizens for the purposes of either saving his own ass or hurting the US government.

            1. We also know that he gave this information and likely more to entities who are not us citizens for the purposes of either saving his own ass or hurting the US government.

              Gonna need a citation on that one.

              1. Obviously anyone opposed to Leviathan is in the pocket of the Russians, Chinese, and Kock brothers, all at the same time.

              2. Of course you would, you probably believe that China, Russia and other governments helped him avoid US custody out of the goodness of their hearts. In a few months you’ll get to see your flying reindeer and magical chimneys too.

                1. Having accomplished his primary goal, he did what he had to do.

                2. I’d think embarrassing Washington was enough motive for frenemy regimes to do Snowden a favor.

        2. “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

          So you thing “Revealing unconstitutional behaviour by his superiors to the american public” = “Giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the US”?

          Your mask is slipping.

          1. Chistophe, you don’t think his actions aided any enemies of the United States?

            1. Irrelevant. By your definition, anything which embarrasses dear leader is treason. Everyone who campaigned against FDR or voted against him was a traitor.

              Suck it, shit-for-brains.

              1. I always love your signature block, its always nice when someone can admit their true nature…

                I know you think being able to throw out a reference like dear leader and dismiss any argument which you don’t comprehend makes you sound smart but the opposite is true.

                I am not a fan of ‘dear leader’ or his predecessor. What you refuse to see is that it’s not my definition at issue here. The constitution defines treason and the sitting government defines its enemies. Its a fact of life over which I have no control.

                None of tis means that I agree with it, only that I recognize it.

                My only issue is the hero worship lavished on Snowden, a man who’s shown the character ad courage or a wet sock.

                1. I type that so-called signature block in manually, just for you, who so richly deserve it.

                  Yuu didn’t answer my questions, just as you have dodged everyone else’s questions.

                  Was Hitler a hero for doing everything legally?

                  Were all who campaigned or voted against FDR traitors?

                  Suck it, shit-for-brains.

              2. I always love your signature block, its always nice when someone can admit their true nature…

                I know you think being able to throw out a reference like dear leader and dismiss any argument which you don’t comprehend makes you sound smart but the opposite is true.

                I am not a fan of ‘dear leader’ or his predecessor. What you refuse to see is that it’s not my definition at issue here. The constitution defines treason and the sitting government defines its enemies. Its a fact of life over which I have no control.

                None of tis means that I agree with it, only that I recognize it.

                My only issue is the hero worship lavished on Snowden, a man who’s shown the character ad courage or a wet sock.

              3. By his definition, we ARE the enemies of the US (because obviously, the government we all “belong to”, per Obama, is identical to “the US”)

        3. Soldiers are required to follow any LAWFUL order, but not required to follow an un-lawful order. Disobedience is ok, even in the military (theoretically at least) when the order is un-lawful. I am pretty sure I can give Snowden a pass using this same logic. All he did was expose unconstitutional behavior. Others had tried going the whistle-blower route and got no where. He made a courageous choice in my mind and we should all be thankful.

          1. Snowden wasn’t a soldier. However every soldier knows that if they refuse an order lawful or not they have to be prepared to face the consequences, even if that means confinement or other punishment while you make your case for the unlawfulness of the order.

            We should be thankful people are more or less paying attention to the actions of the NSA. I disagree about whether Snowden showed any courage.

            As much as I enjoy reason I’m pretty sure I’m at the wrong place if I want anyone to understand how I can applaud the results while holding the man and his actions in contempt.

          2. What Snowden did to expose the domestic spying was noble. What Snowden did to expose the foreign spying was treasonous. It may be hard to believe but we do pay the NSA to actually spy on other guys outside of this country just as they pay their guys to spy on us. It is a legitimate activity. If Snowden had stopped at the former he’d be a hero (and he does deserve thanks for that) but he didn’t.

            1. Fair distinction. I disagree with the idea of his actions being noble since his intentions apparently were not.

  6. Snowden did open a Pandora?s box. Brazil has already announced they would protect their citizens by offering safe emails and government protection of their data. The problem is if they should believe their government?

    1. The big win is that the curtain has been pulled back. People now understand that they have to take measures to protect their information if they want it to remain unseen. Yeah, Brazil’s systems are probably going to be shit (and backdoored by local authorities), but Brazil’s government telling its own citizens their data isn’t safe by default is a big positive.

    2. Ya, I’m sure the US government would do the same if they could. For our own good of course.

  7. I for one don’t give a rat’s ass if Snowden is a coward. He did good, and to do good is praiseworthy.

    Mention has been made of an oath that Snowden took. Did it say anything about the Constitution?

    1. Just because someone else has chosen to ignore the law or to forfeit their personal honor does not make it praiseworthy if we do the same.

      1. your value hierarchy is fucked up.

        it says personal honor and integrity take precedent over what is universally right. right not just for the others, but for you: what is just.

        the nondisclosure agreements become conspiracy as soon as the NSA engages in unconstitutional behavior. you think those NDA are morally enforceable.

        if you swear an oath to rape a baby feel free to change your mind at any point. i promise i wont call you a flipflopper or hypocrite.

        in fact i will GAIN trust in your character AS you change course and break your oath.

        your value hierarchy seems to put personal consistency above its natural order and rightful place in the grand scheme of things. i seriously hope you wouldnt carry out an atrocity merely because you verbally committed to it, but your posts indicate otherwise.

        personal consistency does not preside over the whole of morality, in fact it occupies a rather low station within it, beneath repenting and self-improvement which are themselves only subsets of personal character. yet here you are arguing his personal character is best served by honoring a void contract, indifferently ignoring a vast injustice perpetrated on the public, his true employer.

        your position is morally depraved.

        also yes his behavior is praiseworthy. he is literally a hero, suffering great personal loss for doing what is right.

  8. my neighbor’s aunt makes $86/hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her payment was $21941 just working on the computer for a few hours. go to the website

  9. just as Carol responded I didn’t know that people can make $6819 in 1 month on the computer. read this

  10. Snowden did not “violate his oath”. His oath was to uphold and defend the constitution, which is precisely what he did. It is the NSA and senior government officials (of both parties) who are in violation of their oaths. They are the ones who should be prosecuted, not Snowden.

  11. The article states that Sen. Ron Wyden has “been at the lonely forefront of the fight to rein in America’s growing surveillance state”. That is true, but he did far too little, so gets he only partial credit from me. Once the Snowden revelations came out, Wyden was quick to claim that for several years he had been pushing Congress for more disclosure of the government’s (illegal) surveillance actions. Even if true, that’s still not enough. If he really believed that he should have been standing in the well of Congress publicly making that call and disclosing anything he believed to be illegal. He did not do so.

    His argument is that such statements would have been illegal, but that is simply untrue. Art. I, Sec. 6, Cl. 1 of the Constitution specifically provides immunity from prosecution for *anything* said on the floor of Congress. For the same reason he could not have been charged with violation any “nondisclosure agreements” he had been forced to sign before receiving the briefings and reviewing documents necessary for the discharge of his duties. He might have been punished by expulsion from the relevant committees, but that is a small price to pay and would have brought this whole issue to light years ago. Snowden’s actions would then have been unnecessary.

    Wyden’s cowardice is the reason Snowden’ courage became necessary. He owes Snowden a lot more than oblique and cryptic references.

  12. my buddy’s step-aunt makes $82 hourly on the computer. She has been out of a job for eight months but last month her pay was $21595 just working on the computer for a few hours. Recommended Site

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.