The disillusionment of Edward Snowden
February 12, 2014 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Edward Snowden was politically conservative, a gun owner, a geek - and the man behind the biggest intelligence leak in history. In an exclusive extract from Luke Harding's new book, The Snowden Files, Harding looks at Edward Snowden's journey from patriot to America's most wanted. In the second exclusive extract, Harding looks at the role of Russia's intelligence agency (the FSB) in securing Snowden's exile - and whether they have been able to access his secret files.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (84 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
What (besides trying to sell a book full of baseless smears and speculation) makes him think that Snowden is not now a patriot?
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:11 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


Sliming Snowden
posted by anemone of the state at 9:33 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald:
"@wikileaks "The Inside Story of Edward Snowden", by Someone Who Never Met or Spoke With Edward Snowden"

posted by anemone of the state at 9:40 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


The book is written by Luke Harding, "an award-winning foreign correspondent with the Guardian. He has reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and has also covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is the author of MafiaState and co-author of WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy (2011) and The Liar: The Fall of Jonathan Aitken (1997), nominated for the Orwell Prize. He has also written for the magazine Granta. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, the freelance journalist Phoebe Taplin, and their two children."

Why do you think a foreign correspondent for the Guardian would write a book baselessly smearing Edward Snowden?
posted by modernnomad at 9:41 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


What (besides trying to sell a book full of baseless smears and speculation) makes him think that Snowden is not now a patriot?
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:11 PM on February 12


Maybe the obvious fact that he betrayed his country to the great advantage of its foreign enemies and rivals?
posted by knoyers at 9:41 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Just sigh.
posted by planetesimal at 9:43 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Maybe the obvious fact that he betrayed his country to the great advantage of its foreign enemies and rivals?

This is laughable.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:43 PM on February 12 [45 favorites]


It is kind of a remarkable feat of writing to create that whole excerpt implying that the FSB is keeping Snowden "trapped" in Russia, and yet manage to not even tangentially touch on the United States government's role in keeping Snowden in Russia. Doesn't really inspire me to go buy the book, though.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:44 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


TheTrueHOOHA: Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine

TheTrueHOOHA: you fucking retards

TheTrueHOOHA: Magically the world changed after the new deal, and old people became made of glass.

Later in the same session, Snowden wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day.”


Wow.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:48 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


anemoneofthestate: I'm familiar with the arguments about the media's handling of Snowden's information (and its treatment of Snowden himself) referred to in the Cryptome post, and I think those views have some merit, but stuff like this --

"billionaire Omidyar leaped to fund a $250 million bordello to service this natsec investment adventure with exciting jaunts to Rio to sit at the feet of Marquis de Greenwald (amidst leg-humping dogs) for instructions in the sexiest of journalism following the slimy Internet pornography industry"

-- just sounds unhinged to me.

And re the use of the word "patriot": It's in the headline of the first Guardian article linked in the FPP. It might have been used there as (sloppy) shorthand for "flag-waving patriot," in the style of the erstwhile TheTrueHOOHA; but maybe that gives the Guardian too much credit.
posted by FrauMaschine at 9:49 PM on February 12


What (besides trying to sell a book full of baseless smears and speculation) makes him think that Snowden is not now a patriot?

I read the linked articles, and I didn't get the feeling that Harding was smearing Snowden at all, or calling into question his patriotism. Is my reading comprehension that bad?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:49 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


The really sad bit about of the Guardian was how they received Snowden docs and then left their source to fend for himself. Ed Snowden would be incommunicado in a cell if it weren't for Wikileaks and Sarah Harrison, who helped him get out of Hong Kong.

Fun fact: Harrison is currently in exile in Germany. After Greenwald's husband got held at Heathrow and his electronics confiscated under a terrorism law, she has very good reasons to be scared.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:51 PM on February 12


Fraumaschine: Yes, after reading to the end, that was a rotten link to post.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:53 PM on February 12


Seriously. "Marquis de Greenwald"? Ugh.
posted by FrauMaschine at 9:55 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Golden Eternity:

Later in the same session, Snowden wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day.”

Wow.


Firstly, hope nobody here gets judged for their idiotic internet postings from their early twenties.

Secondly, this might be relevant were Edward Snowden running for Congress. But in the context of Edward Snowden the whistleblower, telling the world about the NSA's panopticon, it's not a salient point.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:57 PM on February 12 [17 favorites]


TheTrueHOOHA etc.

Later in the same session etc.

Golden Eternity, where are these quotes from?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 10:03 PM on February 12


TNR

(I just googled "Snowden" and "social security" after reading the "retard" comment in the fpp.)
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:07 PM on February 12


Exploring this side of Snowden's past is interesting to me because it sort of lines up with other stuff I've read about whistleblowers, which is that in general they are idealistic people who start off genuinely believing in the mission of their organization.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:08 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I'm with paleyellowwithorange here - I actually just received my copy of this book yesterday and though I'm only about 1/3 of the way through it, it really doesn't have any "baseless smears" in it at all. There's certainly no sense in the book when it talks about Snowden's postings on the internet that they are good reasons to not listen to what he says now.
posted by modernnomad at 10:27 PM on February 12


Maybe the obvious fact that he betrayed his country to the great advantage of its foreign enemies and rivals?


Hmmm. Not obvious, not a fact, not determined, and [citation needed].
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:29 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Hmmm, public smearing of Snowden just after he's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


This is my shocked face.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:32 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I wish I understood "betrayed his country" in this context. I would suggest that unless someone is a mindless authoritarian, the NSA's behavior comes across as a far deeper betrayal of "American ideals".
posted by maxwelton at 10:33 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


What (besides trying to sell a book full of baseless smears and speculation) makes him think that Snowden is not now a patriot?
posted by drjimmy11


So now I'm curious, drjimmy11 - where do you get the idea that this is the author's stance and motivation?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 10:33 PM on February 12


What does gun ownership have to do with being a blind patriot rightwing loyalist?

Everything that's come out of Snowden's mouth makes it pretty clear he's a libertarian, if not in name then in broad ideology. Libertarians love guns.

Libertarian leanings, even with the gross anti-social safety net tendencies, are not inconsistent with Snowden's actions. And his leanings are clearly not Republican. It just looks like, as with the Paul family, someone mistook purist libertarianism with contemporary conservatism.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:46 PM on February 12


Later in the same session, Snowden wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day.”

Wow.


Yeah. I know. Clearly, it should be "lie in hospitals all day". What an idiot.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:52 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


Some things that trouble me about Snowden not being a spy, and the dialog that surrounds him online.

-The initial leaks were two days before a US/Chinese summit on digital espionage.
-Many of the leaks are in no way whistleblowing. Things like a TAO handbook, or exposing exact ways and targets do not fall under whistleblowing.
-I really don't understand why he chose to go to China. I know he said they have a long tradition of supporting free-speech, but that is bullshit. He had control over the timing of the leaks presumably. Why not go to Ecuador or Iceland? They certainly seem to fit his ideals better.
-Many of the leaks have been timed intentionally to embarrass the USG. This has not gone unnoted by other independent, respected researches (such as Matt Blaze) who predict Snowden leaks with pretty reasonable accuracy.
-I understand, but don't like, the medias obsession with the NSA. From the Snowden leaks, I've seen worse abuses of power from GCHQ, CSIS, and AT&T, yet these don't fit the narrative and are being discarded.

Just because he said "they'll try to paint me as a spy" doesn't mean that the fact don't heavily point in that direction. That isn't a defense.

Here is a senior editor at the Economist who says roughly the same thing: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303519404579350481345357224

Here is another respected journalist who questions Greenwalds connections to Ebay Dude: http://pando.com/2013/11/27/keeping-secrets/

The point of all these articles and objects isn't that they're correct necessarily, in fact I'm sure they contain biases or errors. The point is that the reply to all of these arguments is: we'll clearly you have an agenda and you're trying to smear him. This is not a refutation of the potentially valid points they make.

So yeah, while I personally think Snowden is either incredibly naive and being manipulated by other people or just straight forwardly a spy, I'm open to having my view changed, presuming that someone can explain some of the above with things other than "you're trying to smear him". Considering the above, I think that's a reasonable to shifting the burden of proof.

(Please don't think I'm just straight up defending the NSA. I would love to see large scale NSA reform. I'm happy some of the domestic leaks are spurning a public dialog about it, and there's at least an outside chance meaningful reform will happen. I honestly think more people feel this way, but the dialog that surrounds the whole debate is such a pile-on that many people remain silent.)
posted by yeahwhatever at 10:56 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


-The initial leaks were two days before a US/Chinese summit on digital espionage.
Should Greenwald have waited for a time more convenient for the USG, so the story would have had less punch to it?

-Many of the leaks are in no way whistleblowing. Things like a TAO handbook, or exposing exact ways and targets do not fall under whistleblowing.
That's not what everyone thinks. It's quite possible that they pulled a TAO shipment interdiction on one of the developers for the TOR Project recently. It's important to know they're doing this stuff.

-I really don't understand why he chose to go to China. I know he said they have a long tradition of supporting free-speech, but that is bullshit. He had control over the timing of the leaks presumably. Why not go to Ecuador or Iceland? They certainly seem to fit his ideals better.
Presumably, he didn't want to go to a small country the US could throw its weight on without some kind of iron-bound asylum.

-Many of the leaks have been timed intentionally to embarrass the USG. This has not gone unnoted by other independent, respected researches (such as Matt Blaze) who predict Snowden leaks with pretty reasonable accuracy.
See above: This is how you do good journalism. Put out a story, let the subject issue denials which are lies, then prove that they're lies.

-I understand, but don't like, the medias obsession with the NSA. From the Snowden leaks, I've seen worse abuses of power from GCHQ, CSIS, and AT&T, yet these don't fit the narrative and are being discarded.
It's all part of the same story. Greenwald has been reporting on the GCHQ with equal dedication.

Just because he said "they'll try to paint me as a spy" doesn't mean that the fact don't heavily point in that direction. That isn't a defense.

Here is a senior editor at the Economist who says roughly the same thing: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303519404579350481345357224
There is no proof, or even reason to believe that Snowden is a spy. If he really were, he would not have had to leave Hong Kong, nor would he have had to stay at Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a month. As he said, "They treat spies better than that." Baseless allegations are just that. Baseless.
Here is another respected journalist who questions Greenwalds connections to Ebay Dude: http://pando.com/2013/11/27/keeping-secrets/
Pando, of course, is beholden to Peter Thiel. The billionaire beneficiary thing is a little troubling (Omidyar's too-little, too-late "I do protest" for the PayPal Five was sad) but Greenwald, Scahill and Poitras have proven their dedication through their work- they don't seem likely to compromise their ideals.

The point of all these articles and objects isn't that they're correct necessarily, in fact I'm sure they contain biases or errors. The point is that the reply to all of these arguments is: we'll clearly you have an agenda and you're trying to smear him. This is not a refutation of the potentially valid points they make.
Wait, baseless suggestions that Snowden is a spy don't count as smears? By the way, Snowden lost control of the documents when he handed them over to Greenwald- the FSB had nothing to gain from him.

So yeah, while I personally think Snowden is either incredibly naive and being manipulated by other people or just straight forwardly a spy, I'm open to having my view changed, presuming that someone can explain some of the above with things other than "you're trying to smear him". Considering the above, I think that's a reasonable to shifting the burden of proof.
Start from known facts and work forward- not from baseless innuendo.
posted by anemone of the state at 11:15 PM on February 12 [18 favorites]


That's an interesting intellectual exercise, at the least. What would 'Edward Snowden the spy' actually look like? If his movements and the leaks were the same, but the actual context was that he was a spy being closed in on by the USG, would his actions make sense from our perspective?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 11:17 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Should Greenwald have waited for a better time, so the story would have had less punch to it?

No, of course not. His job is to pack as much punch into a story as possible. Snowden on the other hand could have picked his timing with an agenda (aside from his stated agenda I mean).

Yes, it is. [with regards to non-domestic leaks potentially not qualifying as whistleblowing]

Could you please explain this a bit more? I'm honestly trying to engage in good faith. As I understand it, whistleblowing centers around highlighting abuses of power be they illegal or not. Things like the TAO catalog that were leaked around CCC are simply tools. Revealing the NSA has certain capabilities doesn't strike me as highlighting abuses of power, instead it just seems like revealing capabilities.

Presumably, he didn't want to go to a small country the US could throw its weight on without some kind of iron-bound asylum.

But it doesn't strike you as even a little weird? That you would leave someplace for violations of your liberty and go somewhere worse? I understand the argument and point your making, and I think it has weight. I also think it's a bit odd, and worthy of question. I think that you can hold both of these views simultaneously, and I don't think the questioning it is as absurd as people paint it. Do you agree?

See above: This is how you do good journalism. Put out a story, let the subject issue denials which are lies, then prove that they're lies.

While this is not a very charitable interpretation of my argument, you are correct, this is how journalism should try to operate.

Mark Ames (and Paul Carr) were writing articles critical of Snowden prior to being acquired by Pando when they were still NSFWCorp. While there, they were very critical of libertarians and Palantir. It will be interesting to see if they remain so. But thank you, I was not aware of of those ties.

I agree about starting from facts and moving outwards. The fact that Snowden leaked a bunch of things which hurt our intelligence capabilities abroad for supposedly idealistic reasons, then took refuge in countries with objectively worse human rights violations who benefited from his leaks I cannot explain or rationalize.
posted by yeahwhatever at 11:41 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


But it doesn't strike you as even a little weird? That you would leave someplace for violations of your liberty and go somewhere worse?

It would be weird if he had gone to Russia or China after blowing the whistle on how the Russian or Chinese governments spied on their own citizens.

As it happened he blew the whistle on the US government, meaning that he was likely to face life in jail if he stayed in the US. So there's nothing weird about him leaving for a place where he might not have to spend the rest of his life in jail. It makes sense even if the only place he could go was also a country that spied on his own citizens. There's nothing remotely "weird" about it, it's just sensible self-preservation.

The reason that he initially went to Hong Kong (which is quite different from anywhere else in China) was that it is one of a handful of places on earth with a relatively free press and transparent judicial system that is not part of the US sphere of influence, and it is a place where any extradition would have to involve a lengthy (and public) appeals process. And while it was never likely that Hong Kong would grant him asylum, he probably reasoned that it was somewhere he'd get a window of opportunity to pass his information to journalists, draw international attention to his story and make asylum claims without being immediately "disappeared". It seems to have been a wise enough choice, in that at least the Chinese authorities had enough independence from the US to allow him to leave.
posted by moorooka at 12:27 AM on February 13 [10 favorites]


The spy charges aren't very compelling. The history of spies defecting doesn't look anything like this. When spies give their countries secrets up, they hand it over to another government, not investigative journalists.

Similarly, accusations of 'traitor' ring pretty hallow and false. Actual traitors are giving their country up to another country or group. He's a 'traitor' in the same way activists people that are critical of US foreign policies are traitors - they are merely trying to improve the country.

Is posting his libertarian/authoritarian rantings of his youth online an awful thing to do? People are hungry for insights, and every scrap he ever wrote will be closely scrutinized (maybe/sort of). Certainly Julian Assange received this level of scrutiny (and better executed character assassinations). I'm pretty amused at how little ammunition Snowden critics have, and how pathetic attacks on him generally seem.

Regarding TAO: revealing these capabilities fully announced to software makers how they are being targeted. And it's not just the US that is building these capabilities; it's much better for the security ecosystem to have this public acknowledged information.
posted by el io at 12:42 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Snowden is a regular guy who did one very important thing. Now that the thing has been done, it's entirely separate from the regular guy.

I like the leak. I'm not very interested in the regular guy. I hope he lands a comfortable job managing the office network for the agricultural statistics bureau in Moscow, finds a nice Russian woman who wants to have his babies, and isn't hurt by "patriotic" American government employees sent for revenge.
posted by pracowity at 12:43 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Snowden is not a conservative, he identifies as a libertarian.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:58 AM on February 13


Hmmm, public smearing of Snowden just after he's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

To be fair, they're handing those out to just about anyone these days. Even Obama got one, and he jokes about firing drones at human beings.

Perhaps Snowden's ultimate punishment as a whistleblower is to be lumped in with people like Obama and Kissinger?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:36 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


But it doesn't strike you as even a little weird? That you would leave someplace for violations of your liberty and go somewhere worse?

I'm sure he would have preferred to go to Denmark and do IT for a wind farm, but Denmark would have bent over and barked like a dog for America. He had to go somewhere that scares America and would take great joy in embarrassing America and not giving in to American pressure. That leaves Russia and China and maybe a couple of little powder keg shit holes like North Korea and... North Korea.

So he chose Russia, which is much nicer than China and North Korea in terms of "violations of your liberty" and access to good living and the like. And as the US slowly gets worse, Russia slowly gets better. Eventually (and he may be there many years) you probably won't notice much of a difference between living in the US and the USSAren't, especially if you're a skilled IT professional with native English abilities and semi-celebrity status. You'll see him on Танцы со звездами.
posted by pracowity at 1:39 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is filing a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration over the NSA's collection of phone metadata, which violates of the Fourth Amendment.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:51 AM on February 13


My prediction: Snowden will be in US custody by the end of the year. The means has to do with domestic and international politics.

The foreign intelligence agency with the most capability to operate within Russia is Mossad. They have more assets there than the CIA or MI6, and also more officers with detailed operational knowledge of the environment. They also have an exemplary track record for reaching hard-to-reach targets behind hostile lines, from Adolf Eichmann to Iranian nuclear scientists and Hezbollah bigwigs in Syria. Finally, Netanyahu is in the doghouse with Obama and could really do with a peace offering to the US which won't play badly to a domestic audience (i.e., no territorial concessions, demolitions of settlements or the like).

Which sets the scene for an operation to capture Snowden, with Mossad taking a leading role on the ground (though possibly with strong CIA and/or MI6 involvement, possibly also other intelligence agencies from NATO and/or the "Coalition Of Willing" countries). Mossad would end up burning a lot of assets to pull this off, so Obama would owe Bibi a big favour, and everyone would know it.
posted by acb at 2:14 AM on February 13


I wonder if Putin will read this comment thread?
posted by infini at 2:53 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I'll just quote President Obama on this one :

“No, I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker”

“We've got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia, and I'm not going to have one case of a suspect that we're trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited so that he can face the Justice system here in the United States.”


Would the NSA, CIA, etc. pay the Mossad, or heck the FSB, a very dear price for Snowden? Sure. Can they do so without Obama's approval? I doubt it. Aren't they already in the dog house with even their funding actually in jeopardy?

Also, the Mossad retains a clarity of purpose lacking in other intelligence agencies, well Israel's continued existence is actually under threat, unlike any western nation. Ain't clear anything Obama could offer would warrant burning resources who they could better use to prevent an Islamic state from gaining nuclear weapons. Is anything on this earth as valuable to Mossad as the right dead Arab nuclear scientist? And afaik the Mossad does not capture people, they kill people.

Of course, the U.S. might eventually get Snowden by simply paying whatever the Russians want, but Obama's opposes “wheeling and dealing” right now.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:14 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


And afaik the Mossad does not capture people, they kill people.

They captured Eichmann; if there was enough need to do so, surely they could dust off the tradecraft to capture Snowden.

Of course, they could send someone to shoot him in Russia (and the special forces could do that with no foreign involvement), but that wouldn't send quite the message of putting him before a firing squad in Virginia. An assassination abroad is by definition a furtive and grubby affair, without the "majesty of justice" of him facing trial and being sentenced.
posted by acb at 4:25 AM on February 13


Here is another respected journalist who questions Greenwalds connections to Ebay Dude:

I don't know on what planet Mark Ames is a "respected journalist", but it certainly isn't this one. I feel like his gleeful retelling of that one time he had sex with a child disqualifies him from from any form of respect.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:19 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


They aren't going to do anything drastic with Snowden. They'll wait and arrest him if he ever tries to enter the US or a friendly country. Probably.

I would be more interested to find out what happened to the person who gave him (and presumably a lot of other printer-jam fixers) such wide-ranging access to ultra-super-holy-shit-secret files. Why do they not encrypt all secret files internally? Snowden should not have been able to read anything more secret than the NSA's softball league newsletter.
posted by pracowity at 5:24 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


They aren't going to do anything drastic with Snowden. They'll wait and arrest him if he ever tries to enter the US or a friendly country. Probably.

They need to make an example of him to deter the hell out of anybody else who may even be thinking of leaking anything. And part of the example is the object lesson that You Can't Hide From Uncle Sam. Snatching him from under Vlad's nose, putting him on trial (in a closed courtroom, with DoD press officers giving full accounts to the press at the end of each day) and a press op for Obama to sign his death warrant and say a few words about "the ultimate crime against one's country deserving the ultimate penalty" in his honeyed baritone would fit the bill.
posted by acb at 5:29 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Firstly, hope nobody here gets judged for their idiotic internet postings from their early twenties.

Is there an age at which people can be judged for their internet postings?
posted by euphorb at 5:58 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Gratitude for Edward Snowden
posted by infini at 7:00 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


New industry revolves around Brand Snowden
since Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the iconic image of the information-era dissident has been successfully used in various forms of art, media and merchandise. RIR offers a roundup of Snowden-related products in Russia and beyond.
posted by infini at 7:02 AM on February 13


But Rep. Mike Rogers says Snowden is a supergenius who's working with the Russians and couldn't possibly have pulled this off by himself. Certainly not by just asking for a fellow employee's password.

Maybe Snowden did them a favor by getting them to tighten up their shitty OPSEC. Certainly he will get the blame for any real or imagined leaks to foreign enemies for the next twenty years.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:16 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Some of what Snowden has done is whistle-blowing. Some is not. He probably deserves to go to jail, though not for as long as he would if he were put on trial.
posted by Dasein at 7:24 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Snowden is not a conservative, he identifies as a libertarian.

Which is possibly more extreme conservative. Purist libertarians identify freedom with private ways and means, tacitly denying that freedom should exist as a public institution, despite what they might publicly agree to. This sentiment recalls feudal times when government was private, but more explicitly relates to plantations, as concentration camps for enslaved labor.
posted by Brian B. at 7:26 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


These articles are great, thank you for posting them. I've ordered the book. As paleyellowwithorange notes, the articles feel like a relatively balanced treatment. This discussion reads like mostly people didn't bother reading the fine articles before posting their angry opinions to Metafilter. Too bad, it cheapens the discussion.

I've been curious about Snowden-the-person and the first article does a great job filling in some details on his life and motivations. But Snowden, Greenwald, et al have been very smart in making sure that Snowden is not the story, but rather the contents of the documents he leaked. That's smart for a lot of reasons, but mostly it avoids the same cult of personality mistake Wikileaks and Assange made. And it lets us focus on the important story, government surveillance.

There some inflammatory comments tossed around above about treason or illegal or blah blah. I just wish that amount of fervor for following the law was applied by NSA. Without Snowden's leaks we wouldn't know, for instance, about James Clapper directly lying to Congress when denying NSA's domestic programs that violate the Fourth Amendment. That systemic government violation of the Constitution seems pretty important to me.
posted by Nelson at 7:34 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Some of what Snowden has done is whistle-blowing. Some is not. He probably deserves to go to jail, though not for as long as he would if he were put on trial.

The various massive US spy departments will exaggerate any potential harm he might have caused them and their budgets, but so far it looks like the good he has done everybody outweighs the harm by a fair amount. Millions of people in the US and elsewhere are now very aware of how much the US has been violating their privacy. Things might change now that that truth is out, and there was no way anything like that was going to happen if someone hadn't evaded the usual channels and gone straight to the world press with a big sloshing bucketful of surprise. If the US ever tries him, I hope that's how the judge weighs things, and that he gets nothing but community service. Maybe community service for eternity, but just community service. Teaching IT to poor kids or something.
posted by pracowity at 8:02 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Exploring this side of Snowden's past is interesting to me because it sort of lines up with other stuff I've read about whistleblowers, which is that in general they are idealistic people who start off genuinely believing in the mission of their organization.

No zealot like a convert.
posted by dry white toast at 8:08 AM on February 13


I'll just quote President Obama […]

I’ve given so much “Hope” for “Change” that I now give rhetorical demerits for use of Obama quotes.
posted by davel at 8:20 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


(I recently lost my brain surgeon and neurologist for believing that “If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor.” What kind of brain damage do I have to still believe that guy?)
posted by davel at 8:26 AM on February 13


I didn't know concern trolling was a popular type of journalism.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:39 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Surely you must have.
posted by jessamyn at 9:11 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Surely you must have.

Humans have a penchant for self delusion.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:12 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is filing a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration over the NSA's collection of phone metadata, which violates of the Fourth Amendment.

One of things I find fascinating about this whole episode is how much of it seems to rely on an "enemies of my enemies are my friends" attitude. Here's Snowden relying on China and Russia, two countries who spy on their citizens—and who it would be foolish to think aren't spying on Snowden now—to aid his campaign to end spying by an American government he seems to have never much liked to begin with. Here's Rand Paul filling a lawsuit to end a program that it seems incredible that he and/or his party haven't/wouldn't rely on were they in power (or worse, a doctrinaire libertarian would simply outsource the NSA to Xe or AT&T, I imagine). Here are the "because the US" explanations for anything Snowden has done that puts him in a less than admirable light. It's all very George Smiley.

I think it's possible to believe that NSA practices are a cancer on American liberty and hope that Snowden's revelations lead to reform and still doubt that he's all the hero his internet supporters like say he is.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:17 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


a penchant for self delusion

I've also found, in my experience, that the more entrenched one is in the power structure the stronger this tendency is. Which goes a long way towards describing our current social and political problems without resorting to wild conspiracy theories.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:18 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The long view is calming. Seen all those pictures of old Nazi bunkers, of dozens of empty nuclear missile silos, rotting corpses of massive USSR and US 'installations' now emptied of electronics, rusting, wind-blown?

That's where this story, and mass surveillance, will be in 20 years. All these things are fads. Their primary functions are to transfer the tax cream into the right pockets, to gain mindshare, to serve as political fulcrums, and to give the cowboys something to do in peacetime.

As the climate heats up, this shit will all be dinosaur tales. Much as we'd apparently rather ignore what matters.
posted by Twang at 10:20 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible to believe that NSA practices are a cancer on American liberty and hope that Snowden's revelations lead to reform and still doubt that he's all the hero his internet supporters like say he is.

I don't think anyone is arguing to the contrary. What I see people doing is asking for some evidence beyond wild, leading speculation with no forthcoming basis in reality. Otherwise you just come off as disseminating NSA propaganda.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:22 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


What I see people doing is asking for some evidence beyond wild, leading speculation with no forthcoming basis in reality.

Outside the broad outline of events, I think very few of us can do much but speculate, one way or the other. There isn't much I can say with any certainty about Edward Snowden. I rely on pseudonymous internet commenters to keep me from disseminating NSA propaganda.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:40 AM on February 13


As paleyellowwithorange notes, the articles feel like a relatively balanced treatment.

There's a really glaring omission of the fact that the reason he was "stuck" in the airport in Moscow is that that's where he happened to be when the U.S. yanked his passport. Perhaps the book mentions it. You'd think a Guardian editor would have caught that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:57 AM on February 13


Later in the same session, Snowden wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day.”

Wow.


Wow indeed; I think this raises the strong possibility that Snowden's primary motivation was undermining Obama and making it harder for a Democrat to be elected in 2016.

Also, if Snowden ever was a spy, I'd guess he was a spy for the CIA on the NSA.
posted by jamjam at 11:23 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I rely on pseudonymous internet commenters to keep me from disseminating NSA propaganda.

Is someone stopping you from commenting? I'm not trying to silence anyone, just pointing out that there is no evidence to date, and anything else is pointless speculation which decidedly serves the interests of the NSA...intentionally or no.

Outside the broad outline of events, I think very few of us can do much but speculate, one way or the other.

This is true in the case of Snowden the person. But in the case of Snowden the leaker it is specifically because of his actions that we no longer have to speculate about the actions and culture of the NSA. We now know that our government has betrayed not only the foundations of our democratic institutions, insofar as they still exist, but also the peoples of the world who would look to the U.S. as a beacon of open government and free society. Our government has proven itself to be wholly criminal and illegitimate. They will prosecute Snowden, but not the torturers, war criminals, and civillian leaders who habitually lie to congress. Not to mention the capitalist class which has wrecked havok on our planetary ecology and systems of social support. So to focus on a relatively powerless Snowden's comments on an internet chatboard as somehow noteworthy or consequential is farcical in the best light and downright asinine in a less generous reading.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:47 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Also, if Snowden ever was a spy, I'd guess he was a spy for the CIA on the NSA.
Probably far more likely he was a spy for his company on the CIA and NSA.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:10 PM on February 13


Is Edward Snowden a prisoner in Russia?

Are loaded headlines phrased as questions very reliable suggestions?

posted by univac at 12:28 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


We now know that our government has betrayed not only the foundations of our democratic institutions, insofar as they still exist, but also the peoples of the world who would look to the U.S. as a beacon of open government and free society.

You see, that's my point. That's very stirring, but if I saw Snowden primarily as a champion of "open government and free society," then it would give me pause to see that the two governments he's relied on for refuge are so much less open and free than the US itself. Now maybe it's true that he had no other choice, but if so, it doesn't look good for freedom and openness when authoritarians are the only ones who can protect it. And if I wanted to see Snowden as a critic of "the capitalist class which has wrecked havok on our planetary ecology and systems of social support," his own words would give me second thoughts there.

Rather, I think it's more likely (and more interesting) that Snowden is himself a morally and legally ambigious figure who took morally and legally ambigious actions out of which some good may come. Like I said, it's all very George Smiley.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:00 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I am really not afraid of China or Russia randomly picking me up and interrogating me for being brown and on an airplane. They maybe "less open" but that might just be a hangover from manifest destiny manifesting itself inside everyone else on this planet's destinies. Just sayin'...
posted by infini at 1:03 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Less open indeed.

Mass abductions and murders by Russian KGB thugs in Ingushetia

List of Chechens, Abducted by Russian FSB in Chechnya During Last Month
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:13 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


if I saw Snowden primarily as a champion of "open government and free society," then it would give me pause to see that the two governments he's relied on for refuge are so much less open and free than the US itself. Now maybe it's true that he had no other choice, but if so, it doesn't look good for freedom and openness when authoritarians are the only ones who can protect it.

Why would that give you pause? What do the actions of China's or Russia's government have to do with revealing the abuses of the NSA? I hear this argument over and over but the connection is never made explicit. What does it really matter? Oskar Schindler was a Nazi, but 1200 Jews relied on him to survive. Does that mean they betrayed their people by relying on a Nazi for salvation? The U.S. government also relied on Nazi scientists to get an edge after WWII. Does that taint everything gained from that collusion? Great Britain and the U.S. relied on the might of the Soviet military machine on the Eastern front to defeat the Nazis. Does that fact mean that the liberation of Western Europe wasn't worth it or in some way morally invalid? I fail to see any logical and/or moral connection between where Snowden chose to go after he leaked the documents, and his legitimacy as a leaker. As others have noted above his decision probably had more to do with the probability of said governments kow towing to American demands than their human rights records.

That being said, my point is that we shouldn't "see" Snowden as anything other than a leaker. Anything else is speculation and noise which detracts from the abuses he has revealed...which in any rational accounting far outweigh any alleged moral and/or character flaws exhibited by Mr. Snowden. Trying to critique Snowden's character or actions outside of his role as a leaker is ludoucris when compared to the moral failings and crimes of the political and capitalist classes in this coutry. The moral calculus is neither difficult nor controversial.

And if I wanted to see Snowden as a critic of "the capitalist class which has wrecked havok on our planetary ecology and systems of social support," his own words would give me second thoughts there.

I fail to see what my description of the American government's hypocrisy has to do with Edward Snowden's apparent libertarianism. I suggest that instead of trying to put words into my mouth you address the hypocrisy that I was highlighting.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:57 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Americans are so amazingly quick to make such loony-bin irrational assumptions about one another based upon political ideology. It's really clarifies why the country is so fucked up, especially when you see it coming form the left.

Snowden is a real libertarian and patriot. He learned the NSA is fucking up America's liberty. He gave the evidence to the journalists best suited to put pressure on the politicians.

Snowden picked Greenwald over say libertarian journalists because Greenwald is fearless, while most journalists are pretty cowardly. Snowden picked Greenwald over say Assange because Greenwald is a better journalist. I respect Assange immensely as a philosopher and activist, and I'm sure Greenwald learned from watching Assange's blunders, but only Greenwald has managed to give lie to the propaganda by the NSA, et al. week after week. Assange failed to do that with the embassy cables.

Russia's action have zero bearing on Snowden's revelations. Also, Snowden's role is apparently done now so (a) Russia seemingly cannot influence the future through him and (b) his revelations are the story, not him.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:34 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Mass abductions and murders by Russian KGB thugs in Ingushetia

List of Chechens, Abducted by Russian FSB in Chechnya During Last Month


Horrifying indeed, but any more horrifying than the JSOC's kill/capture campaign? Which is actually not a derail in the context of the NSA. (previously)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:52 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Claims About Snowden's 'Harms' Based On Two Assumptions Unlikely To Be True
posted by homunculus at 6:45 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Gov't Officials Leak Classified Info To Journalists To Discredit Snowden For Leaking Classified Info To Journalists
posted by homunculus at 6:46 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


The New Snowden Revelation Is Dangerous for Anonymous — And for All of Us
posted by homunculus at 7:34 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


acb, the first time we talked about Snowden on MeFi you offered up your prediction that the US would shoot down a plane with him on it.

Now you're talking about hit squads from Mossad to do the job, paid off by the CIA. I offer my same advice as last time.
posted by modernnomad at 8:52 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I offer my same advice as last time.

Which was "Read less Tom Clancy." Always good advice to anyone.
posted by pracowity at 12:50 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Debate: Was Snowden Justified? Former NSA Counsel Stewart Baker vs. Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg
posted by homunculus at 9:25 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


yeahwhatever, in his initial interview filmed by laura poitras he makes a clear distinction between hong kong and mainland china; hk has historically had much greater freedom than the rest of prc, which still persists, eg internet is not filtered there
posted by p3on at 11:30 AM on February 14


James Risen and Laura Poitras: Spying by N.S.A. Ally Entangled U.S. Law Firm
posted by homunculus at 9:44 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


‘Why Have You Gone to Russia Two Times in Three Months?’—Heathrow Customs Agent Interrogates Snowden Lawyer
posted by homunculus at 6:27 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Edward Snowden elected as rector of Glasgow University
posted by homunculus at 6:47 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Edward Snowden action figure
posted by homunculus at 6:48 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


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