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People Who Called Snowden a Traitor Shocked to Learn About All This Domestic Surveillance

Welcome to the club! Now let us tell you how to fix it.

SnowdenDennis Van Tine/UPI/NewscomThere's this whole "Life comes at you fast" shtick that folks on Twitter use to point out people's hypocrisy. Suddenly Democrats care about federalism when it comes to immigration law enforcement! Suddenly Republicans don't care about federalism when it comes to immigration law enforcement! I try not to engage in the shtick too much, because it feels more like point-scoring than actual debate.

But I can't help but bring it up right now. Yesterday, a story about federal surveillance abuses made the rounds in the conservative parts of Twitter I pay attention to, not the tech-security circles where I usually see such discussions.

The story, via a media outlet called Circa, documents a recently released report from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). The report features examples of the FBI passing along private data it collected without warrants to people who should not be seeing it.

It's an important story, and it's great that it's getting attention. But what it reveals is well-known to anybody who has been paying attention to the surveillance disclosures and FISA Court document releases that have slowly been surfacing since Edward Snowden started leaking. The federal government is accessing and spreading around more information about U.S. citizens than we realize. That's what Snowden's disclosures were about, right?

So here's a March tweet from conservative TownHall.com contributor Kurt Schilchter calling Snowden a traitor:

Here's an outraged Schlichter today, sharing a link to the Circa story:

I selected Schlichter because he's pretty prominent (and isn't going to be bothered by me pointing this out), but I've seen several tweets of the "Why isn't the MSM covering this?" variety from other conservative tweeters, acting as though the press is giving former President Barack Obama cover for setting up a surveillance system that they now think is being used to attack President Donald Trump. The reality is that these surveillance problems do get reported to an American public that has largely, unfortunately, stopped paying much attention. (As a guy who has been covering surveillance for Reason for years, I can easily map out the decline in readership of these pieces, and I suspect other sites can as well.)

If you think the intelligence community and the deep state is abusing its powers to go after Trump and his allies for political reasons, guess what: This is exactly the consequence that Snowden himself warned of! A major criticism of the expansive surveillance state has always, always, been its potential for abusive snooping on citizens, whether it's Black Lives Matter or a militia. The problem cuts across the political spectrum. Perhaps people shouldn't have been so quick to call Snowden a traitor. Perhaps they could have spent more time thinking about the actual consequences of the powerful surveillance state, and maybe all those previously reported FISA Court disclosures that helped inform the very story they're passing around now.

But regardless of how folks like Schlichter got here, welcome to the surveillance skeptic club! Now that you're here, you should know that there's a very important congressional vote coming up. Section 702 of the FISA authorizations sunsets this year, and Congress has to act. Right now, tech companies are lobbying for changes that would provide more oversight on the National Security Agency and limit the feds' ability to collect information without warrants within in the U.S.

One problem: The White House has said that it doesn't want any reforms to Section 702. They want to leave government's surveillance powers as they are. If you're a Trump supporter who believes that he's being targeted by the intelligence community for political reasons, well, here's a way to reduce the possibility that future Democratic administrations will behave the same way. Civil rights and privacy advocates want to see Section 702 either reformed or eliminated in order to protect Americans' privacy. Consider joining the cause now that you're more familiar with how this surveillance actually plays out domestically.

And maybe, just maybe, reconsider your views of Snowden's whistleblowing.

Photo Credit: Dennis Van Tine/UPI/Newscom

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  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I try not to engage in the shtick too much

    Best to leave that to the amateurs *cracks knuckles*

  • loveconstitution1789||

    If whistleblowing how the US government is unconstitutionally spying on every American is being a traitor, then I am okay with that kind of traitor being pardoned for being a patriot.

    You cannot expose unconstitutional government conduct without proof and that makes you a traitor when you obtain said proof. The traitors of the Constitution are in government right now and were in the Obama and Bush administrations.

  • Tionico||

    "TREASON", that which "traitors" do, is the only crime named AND defined in the Constitutioin. It is making war on this nation, or upon one or more states.

    HOW does divulging information concerning wrongdoing, termination or citizens' rights without due process, and the other things of which Snowden is accused rise to "making war"? If he had divulged the inner workings of the targetting system of submarine based ICMB's, thus reducing our effectiveness to respond in war, that MIGHT rise to "treason", but the real harm would have to be demonstrated to a high standard to convict.

    this bidniss of getting their panties in a wad cause someone "leaked" inside info of how they are abusing the powers they have usurped, not given them in the Constitution, is bogus. What we NEED is more Snowdens, and judges with the stones to bang their gavels and say NOT GUILTY when mundanes are caught with their hands in their own cookie jars. Grow up. gummit dweebs

  • ||

    When you say "stones" you should add "morals". None who show a conscience and refuse to let corruption exist will be promoted. They soon learn their career is limited. Snowden is our hero, but a traitor to TPTB.

    Governments do not become corrupt, they are institutionalized corruption. They will destroy all that is good in society.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Not to rain on the parade, but sub-launched and bomber-carried nukes are unattractive to sensitive socialist governments because they can reasonably expect a Spartacus to turn those against them. This is why they relied so on fire-and-forget ICBMs, and were shocked and crushed when processor technology made SDI defenses possible against rockets on a parabolic trajectory. The secrecy cult here is to protect perps who would otherwise hang after war crimes trials. It has nothing to do with national security, but rather, the aiding and abetting of crime.

  • Devastator||

    Trump and his ilk are far more traitors to the Constitution than any who have come before. Colluding with Russians.

  • Harry Jones||

    What proof of collusion do you have Devastator? Please release it now to the FBI. Interesting how your comment is just an accusation without ANY content. It's SOOOO obvious you don't need to explain yourself.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    But regardless of how folks like Schlichter got here, welcome to the surveillance skeptic club!

    His name was Seth Rich. His name was Seth Rich.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ha, Shackleford tweeted it back in his face. BOOM.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But I can't help but bring it up right now. Yesterday, a story about federal surveillance abuses made the rounds in the conservative parts of Twitter I pay attention to, not the tech-security circles where I usually see such discussions.

    The first thing that seems notable to me is that surveillance is a hot-topic with conservatives during a conservative(?)/republican presidency.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The first thing that seems notable to me is that surveillance is a hot-topic with conservatives during a conservative(?)/republican presidency.

    Only because they believe (and may be right) that the surveillance state was used against their chosen messiah. They haven't had a genuine change of heart about whether or not the State should have the surveillance powers in question, just that it may have been used against their TEAM.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Likely. I certainly can't argue with that.

  • ||

    Only because they believe (and may be right) that the surveillance state was used against their chosen messiah.

    At the risk of going overboard in favor of one team, I don' t recall any sort of spying nonsense being employed against Obama. Additionally, while it doesn't exactly refute Scott's assertions that less spying would be preferred, the expansion of spying under Bush carried some justification. At least, I consider secretly pursuing foreign agents who blew up (civilian) buildings on native soil a legitimate function of government (given checks).

    Team Stupid certainly proceeded to convert it into an epic fuck it up and then hand it over to the other team, but they weren't exactly quite the same way Team Evil was quiet. And they certainly fucked it up further back when they were Team Evil.

  • Tionico||

    I agree to the extent that the Bush reign could, by and large, be trusted to use those new powers with some measure of restraint.... and propriety. I strongly opposed the new laws precisely BECAUSE I did not trust them to become normal on the certaintly that some future administration WOULD surely abuse it, and with impunity. What ho, when "yonner cum de kinyun" who DID in fact seriously abuse.
    What NEEDS to happen now is while we seem to have a decent admin (by comparison almost any would be better) at present, we have seen that change in the space of a few months. IF they are enforced

  • colorblindkid||

    It is expected that Republicans and Democrats only care about this shit when the other guy is in charge. What's inexcusable is the media's lack of coverage when it is a Democrat doing it. There was widespread criticism and opposition to the Patriot Act in the latter years of the Bush presidency. That all died the second Obama became president, even though took Bush's unconstitutional surveillance program and somehow made it much worse.

  • mtrueman||

    "That all died the second Obama became president"

    It was dead before then. If I remember, Obama, as candidate, had spoken of holding the snoopers to account but changed his mind and voted against while still in the senate.

  • Devastator||

    Show me a single reference to Obama or Bush trying to set up encrypted communications channels before they were ever even in the White House. That's right I didn't think you could. Both parties need to come down hard on the current White House trying to sell the USA off to the Russian oligarchs.

  • Sevo||

    Devastator|5.27.17 @ 4:05PM|#
    "...Both parties need to come down hard on the current White House trying to sell the USA off to the Russian oligarchs."

    Tin foil hats are on aisle #6. But it seems you have one already.
    You're an idiot.

  • Harry Jones||

    Amen Devastator is devastating his/her reputation without us having to do much.

  • Don't look at me.||

    I'm not sure how exposing wrong doing within the government is traitorous.

  • Zeb||

    No? Seems pretty clear to me. The government and citizens are adversaries. Informing the people about what the government is doing upsets the balance of power.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Looter governments, yes, mystical fascism, ditto. But that by no means follows from any other premises. Not long ago, when Mencken was writing, the generalization was true for lack of any alternative conceptual framework. Thanks to Nolan, Snowden has someone to speak up for him in this 21st Century.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    Only a tiny % of the stuff he released revealed wrong doing. I don't buy that argument re: traitor, but it's coherent.

  • ||

    Yes, it's confusing "if" you equate the govt. with "we the people". But the elite who rule do not consider themselves to be "the public" contrary to what they claim. This should be obvious by their reaction to exposure for criminal behavior. They circle the wagons and protect each other against accountability. They are predators. We are their prey.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Civil rights and privacy advocates want to see Section 702 either reformed or eliminated in order to protect Americans' privacy. Consider joining the cause now that you're more familiar with how this surveillance actually plays out domestically.

    What does this even entail? Money donations, town hall meetings? I feel entirely impotent on affecting any government action whatsoever. My friends loathe when I say this because we are all so special and anyone can be president -- but I am a peasant -- should I seriously buy into being able to affect even a modicum of base government action? All I see is the illusion of having a part to play in government processes.

  • Longtobefree||

    Not anyone can be president; reference Hillary Clinton.

  • Devastator||

    Welcome to the libertarian party. We basically have no say :) . You can always write your Congress critter. They're the only current branch doing anything about the Trump Russian connections. But it may be all smoke and mirrors since he's in the current controlling party.

  • Sevo||

    Devastator|5.27.17 @ 4:07PM|#
    "They're the only current branch doing anything about the Trump Russian connections"

    CONNECTIONS????!!!!
    Oh, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    If you're a Trump supporter who believes that he's being targeted by the intelligence community for political reasons, well, here's a way to reduce the possibility that future Democratic administrations will behave the same way.

    The problem is they want to keep the power to do this shit so that their TEAM can use it against the Dems now. They really couldn't be bothered to give 2 shits about how it can be used against them, again, by some hypothetical future Dem president.

    The ring of power is in their hands now, and instead of throwing it back into the fires of Mt. Doom, they'll try to use it themselves. /Nerd

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    The ring of power is in their hands now, and instead of throwing it back into the fires of Mt. Doom, they'll try to use it themselves. /Nerd

    This perfectly encapsulates the ever expanding seesaw of American Government.

  • ||

    All governments are institutionalized violence by public forfeit of sovereignty.

    The "one ring to rule them all" is a metaphor for the power created by the majority of a nation when they concentrate their power in the hands of a few. The few invariably are corrupt or become corrupt (with hardly any exceptions, look at how rare Ron Paul is), from the effect. We, as individuals, may find this hard to understand, but look at people who were nobodies, and then were given power/pressure to perform over their previous equals. Many can't handle it. They become arrogant and abusive. But they can be easily replaced. What if that were not so? What if they are safe as long as they put on a good public show? In private they wheel & deal (sell favors), get rich, increase their power, and get richer. People who go broke in the private sector or know nothing of it, get rich in the public sector. And here we can use a term I normally hate: "filthy rich".

  • Devastator||

    Thank you captain obvious.

  • FreeRadical||

    I try not to engage in the shtick too much, because it feels more like point-scoring than actual debate.

    It all depends how you use the shtick. If skillfully deployed, it can be a useful tool to illustrate the inconsistencies in someone's thinking and hopefully guide them to deeper understanding.

    The key, and this is nearly impossible when talking to progressives, is to not be an asshole while you're doing it. Well, the same goes when talking to all-war, all-the-time conservatives too. Very hard.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Obama was in office when Snowden's revelations hit the media.

    Did you expect people to be principled in their condemnations?

    If Snowden's revelations had come to light while Trump was in office, there would probably be an impeachment.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    ^ THIS !

  • tommhan||

    Yep, you win the prize for most common sense comment of the day.

  • Devastator||

    Obama was just following the basic flow of the past 30 years of government surveillance. Trump and his circle are being accused of selling out the country to the Russians. You have to compare apples to oranges. Trump's surveillance of the country via electronic measures is going to be practically the same as Obama's and Bush's before him, so why aren't you attacking him on that as well?

  • sarcasmic||

    Principals, not principles.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "But regardless of how folks like Schlichter got here, welcome to the surveillance skeptic club!"
    Sure, if they're actually joining the club.

    But I'll have to beg forgiveness here, but it's not like we have any reason to believe "they" are actually "joining" the club, and not just using the moment to score political points.

    Or to put it another way... don't confuse someone coincidentally sharing your viewpoint at one specific moment, in direct contradiction to their history of views on the topic, with them actually being on your side. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend, and embracing them as such before they prove they are is just setting yourself up to claiming everything is a "Libertarian Moment" for years on end.

  • Tony||

    You can be concerned about the US intelligence community abusing its powers and think Snowden is a traitor at the same time. Did I just blow your mind or what?

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Considering the "Snowden is a traitor" line tends to involve copious amounts of question-begging, the idea that these positions can be held at the same time is rather intellectually inconsistent, to say the least.

  • blitzstrasse||

    This is a true statement. You may be concerned about the US intelligence community abusing its powers and think Snowden is a traitor at the same time.

    You'd have to be a total honking douchemaggot, but it's doable. Lots of people do, but they're mostly Republicans. Did you wander out of the safe zone today, Tony?

  • Sevo||

    Tony|5.26.17 @ 3:18PM|#
    "You can be concerned about the US intelligence community abusing its powers and think Snowden is a traitor at the same time. Did I just blow your mind or what?"

    No, Tony. You're famous for bullshit piles this tall.

  • Hank Phillips||

    These anonymous sockpuppet infiltrators hiding behind cardboard monicker of Sevo and Tony do get tiresome. There is the Klan, Wallace For Prez, Birchers, Tea Party, YAF, Consta2shun and GO-Pee... literally close to half a dozen places their screed would sound informative and even witty.

  • Sevo||

    The idiot posting as Hank Phillips ought to apologize to his mom for being such a fucking ignoramus.
    Stuff it up your ass, shitbag.

  • tommhan||

    I do have conflicting feelings on this and it is hard for me to figure out where I stand. You cannot let government workers think they can take whatever they themselves consider wrong and it is certainly against the law to do so but on the other hand I am glad we know how our ever growing powerful government abuses it's power to spy on Americans. I do not like gray areas.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    So, how else were we supposed to find out about the extent of the surveillance state? Rely on "the most transprent administration in history" to come out and tell us? Roll it back out of the goodness of their hearts? It had to involve a whistleblower. I don't think Snowden was a spy or traitor, but even if he was I'm glad for what he did

  • strat||

    I never, ever, thought that I'd say this, but for the first time in more years than I care to admit, Tony has a point.

    The ends shouldn't justify the means, even if the ends are admittedly partially salutary. Only partially.

  • Jickerson||

    The ends shouldn't justify the means, even if the ends are admittedly partially salutary. Only partially.

    What do you mean by this? If you mean what I think you mean, I can only say that Snowden did absolutely nothing wrong. It's not that Snowden was right because the ends justify the means, but that exposing the government's unconstitutional and unethical practices is perfectly acceptable. If his actions were illegal, then those laws are unethical and need to vanish. Breaking laws isn't necessarily immoral at all, and often is not.

  • ||

    If you haven't seen the movie "Snowden" then you don't know the whole story. As a voluntarist I was satisfied before, on the principle of "live & let live" or the NAP or my job for NSA. But for others who did not survive govt. training camp (psychologically speaking), I can see why they hate Snowden, salute the flag (and the empire it stands for).

    News flash: Snowden was a super patriot. Also, he was a boy genius on the computer. The CIA recognized how unique skills like his could be used to empower the agency alone. He was wooed. He was given full access.

    At first he was a little concerned. The more he learned, the more alarmed he became. He saw how people who followed all the CIA rules for pointing out legal violations were ruined, and reform never even contemplated. The CIA betrayed the people/Snowden, not the other way around.

  • Devastator||

    I'm not downplaying what Snowden, as it was admirable and brave, but he was not the super hacker portrayed in the movie. Lots of people have come out and said that everyone at his level of clearance had access to the information that he slipped out and gave to the press.

  • strat||

    Having spent most of my life with "super hackers", it's not at all clear that Mr. Snowden was in any way one.

    I can say that the in the very first video I ever saw with him, he sounded exactly like all of the hackers I know who constructed profound rationalizations to justify all manner of behavior that fed their ego.

    (Also, Devastator might be right about his other point, too.)

  • JasonPen||

    Federalism doesn't apply to immigration. We don't have border enforcement between individual states. The National government has complete authority to determine immigration laws, the states don't, unless they collectively pass a constitutional amendment.

  • Devastator||

    Border enforcement is treating the symptom and not the problem. Until all employees have to go through e-verify or a similar system, the problem of illegal immigration remains. What we need is a sane immigration policy to select the best and brightest from applicants. It should be expanded, but it does have to be controlled otherwise we're not a nation, we're just a plot of land.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    How about privatized instead? Anyone can come in if they have a sponsor, and the sponsor is responsible (also) if they screw up.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I think Snowden would make a good candidate, and absolutely has earned a medal for service to US citizens. I only regret his turning data over to that cowardly English rag instead of the brave (but yeah, ignorant and irresponsible) folks at wikileaks. This is not a game for snowflakes, sissies or quail. It is what Commander-in-Chief Eisenhower warned us against when (with evident trepidation) he passed the baton to Tricky Dick.
    But even more dangerous than the pissing matches within the domestic apparatchik is mixed-economy prohibitionist tampering with foreign politics. Supporting murderous mystical despots in ancient drug havens like the Philippine Islands, Surinam and Java is an example. Destabilizing the Brazilian government by selective leaks to antiabortion cronies is another mistake bound to come home to roost.

  • Devastator||

    Wikileaks has shown that they are partisan and only support the GOP under the twisted support for Russian interests. don't give anything to wikileaks, give it to multiple newspapers and be done with it. Or just push it out on bittorrent and the pirate sites.

  • Sevo||

    Oh, we have tin-foil hat imbeciles Hank and Devestator whacking each other off!

  • thisbrucesmith||

    Imagine you and a mortal enemy are unarmed and seated across a table from each other with a loaded gun placed in the middle within reach of both of you. You could mutually agree to leave the gun, get up and go your ways in peace, or you could struggle for the gun, and the overwhelming advantage it represents.

    That gun, metaphorically speaking, represents the power of the surveillance state. Of course the White House wants Section 702 left intact, as do many of its opponents. That's the problem with power, and the sad truth behind Lord Acton's famous observation about the same.

  • CMurph||

    >"I can easily map out the decline in readership of these pieces, and I suspect other sites can as well."

    Perhaps most of us simply don't need more evidence and have stopped reading such articles. Personally, I don't think the spooks will stop until termination notices are given to employees and the Fusion Centers and similar are bulldozed to the ground and probably even below!

  • Liberty Lover||

    It is still all political.

    When Bush II was president, spying was A-Okay with all Republicans and an outrage to all Democrats.

    When Obama was president spying was A-Okay with all Democrats and an outrage to all Republicans.

    You get it, we are all "F*cked" when it comes to spying, everything you say, write or do is now recored in the government's archives for further prosecution.

  • Devastator||

    And the same people continue to call him a traitor. It's the same ignorant bunch who want Obamacare cancelled but are totally for keeping the ACA because of knee jerk "Obama's the devil" reaction without knowing what the heck they're talking about.

  • The Fox||

    thanks

  • Art Gecko||

    There is only one way to fix it: repeal the National Security Act of 1947 and abolish the NSA, CIA and DOD completely. Truman later regretted signing the act and warned us to get rid of it, but we didn't listen.

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