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Snowden To Address Audience in First Live Q&A, Days After EU Testimony
March 10, 2014 3:32 AM   Subscribe

The good news is that there are solutions. The weakness of mass surveillance is that it can very easily be made much more expensive through changes in technical standards: pervasive end-to-end encryption can quickly make indiscriminate surveillance impossible on a cost-effective basis. The result is that governments are likely to fall back to traditional, targeted surveillance founded upon an individualized suspicion. Governments cannot risk the discovery of their exploits by simply throwing attacks at every “endpoint,” or computer processor on the end of a network connection, in the world. Mass surveillance, passive surveillance, relies upon unencrypted or weakly encrypted communications at the global network level.

Edward Snowden submits written testimony to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance, and answers questions. The testimony takes place 3 days ahead of his highly anticipated SXSW appearance, to take place later today. Snowden is expected to speak about privacy, security, mass surveillance programs, free speech and whistle-blowing in a rare remote video appearance before a live audience.
Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo finds this “deeply troubling” in a letter he's sent to the organizers of the conference.

Meanwhile, people who wish to #asksnowden questions can use the hashtag on Twitter. The talk is to take place at 12pm PT, today.
posted by fantodstic (89 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm scared to click [add to favorites]. Does that mean they've won?
posted by panaceanot at 3:46 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I was scared before I hit the "submit" button myself. But it must be all the caffeine and after-hours delirium that made me say, finally, "what the hell." Clicking buttons is so easy!
posted by fantodstic at 3:47 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


"By allowing Snowden, who Pompeo described as a treasonous fugitive, to speak, the appearance will validate his behavior and actions of stealing thousands of classified documents, handing them over to journalists..."

Good. These behaviors and actions should be validated when the people who classify those documents only do so to hide their wrongdoing from the people they are committed against.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:14 AM on March 10 [22 favorites]


"Ultimately, Pompeo fears the debate will turn the conference into a circus."

I'm sure that if I bothered to check, I would find that Cm. Pompeo has a long history of giving a shit about the conference, going all the way back to the time of Biblical dinosaurs.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:27 AM on March 10 [8 favorites]


According to grej who apparently looked it up... Congressman Pompeo: received a total of $20,500 in his last election cycle from defense/aerospace companies, another $10,500 from defense electronics companies, and yet another $6,000 from miscellaneous defense companies (total $37k).
posted by panaceanot at 4:39 AM on March 10 [8 favorites]


Pompeo: Mr. Snowden has absconded with sensitive national security information that goes well beyond programs potentially related to privacy, yet the American press makes it sound as though he only sought to reveal a few NSA programs. Even more damning is his willingness to put American soldiers' lives at risk, as he may have revealed where our troops are stationed. Surely that privacy interest deserved respect too.

I would like it to be said here and now that Pompeo may have killed again, his blood stained hands rising from the body of another photogenic child. Surely, surely, ladies and gentlemen, we must agree that this is a damming possibility. Surely children deserve life? Love photogenic children, hate blood stained hands. Vote not-Pompeo!

(I, also, am available to discuss this at conferences).
posted by jaduncan at 4:45 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I think the difference in cogency and openness in Pompeo's letter and Snowden's statement speaks volumes. Pompeo talks in vague smears and attacks the man, whereas Snowden makes specific statements about the activities of the state.
posted by jaduncan at 5:01 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]


Mike Pompeo a venial US right wing politician and Koch Industries supporter objects.
adamvasco 'communist pinko leftist hippy globetrotting liberal' and a believer in socialism, freespeech and freedom from foreign governments infringing on his life says ''Viva Edward Viva''.
posted by adamvasco at 5:02 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


Dear Congressman Pompeo,

Do the opinions you assert in your open letter to SXSW accurately reflect the opinions of the majority of your constituents in the 4th district of Kansas? Did you poll them on this topic? If not, why are you using your office stationery to write this letter?

Sincerely,

Concerned Citizen
posted by GrapeApiary at 5:21 AM on March 10 [12 favorites]


The question of whether Snowden ought to speak at SXSW is the major topic of C-Span's Washington Journal today; I haven't watched or listened to it for quite a while, but it appears the website now offers the show as a complete unit (rather than streaming that which is on the air at a given time).
posted by mr. digits at 5:28 AM on March 10


The NSA granted me the authority to monitor communications world-wide using its mass surveillance systems, including within the United States. I have personally targeted individuals using these systems under both the President of the United States' Executive Order 12333 and the US Congress' FAA 702. I know the good and the bad of these systems, and what they can and cannot do, and I am telling you that without getting out of my chair, I could have read the private communications of any member of this committee, as well as any ordinary citizen. I swear under penalty of perjury that this is true.

Revealing capability is one thing. Capability isn't a crime. What "could" have been done is frankly uninteresting. GIVE US THE MEAT Eddie. Let's see more of what HAS been done. Let's see how the NSA was spying on the Democratic National Committee, members of Congress, and the Supreme Court. Surely if the capability exists, then it has been done.
posted by three blind mice at 5:28 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I had no idea Snowden was a musician.
posted by valkane at 5:36 AM on March 10


... But I can't wait to see him drop the beat.
posted by valkane at 5:51 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Surely, surely, ladies and gentlemen, we must agree that this is a damming possibility.

Has he denied it?

No? Well,then.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:14 AM on March 10


Capability isn't a crime.

Yes, it is. This is why drug possession is illegal as well as its consumption and sale, and why the US is going apeshit over certain kinds of reactors and centrifuges in Iran.

We don't need an accurate log of who used the system how. The system was clearly engineered to commit crimes domestic and international - its blueprints alone are a condemnation and indictment of everyone involved.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:14 AM on March 10 [22 favorites]


The best response SXSW could make is to just ask Snowden the exact questions Pompeo lists and give him plenty of time to shred them to pieces.
posted by ook at 6:26 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


@valkane, SXSW is a tech conference and a film festival as well as a music festival.
posted by subdee at 6:30 AM on March 10


I had no idea Snowden was a musician.

If he hasn't collaborated with Thurston Moore yet, he will.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:02 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


This morning I heard a bit on NPR about how the NSA is changing its internal practices to stop leaks and prevent another Snowden, (can't find an online link to that yet). It was hard to keep driving when my eyes were trying so hard to roll out of my head.
posted by emjaybee at 7:11 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Congressman Pompeo: received a total of $20,500 in his last election cycle from defense/aerospace companies, another $10,500 from defense electronics companies, and yet another $6,000 from miscellaneous defense companies (total $37k).

Am I the only one who is continually surprised at how cheap it is to buy Congressmen? I mean, $37 grand, presumably for two years? That's it?

I'm a firm believer that everyone has a price, but it's embarrassing how low some of those prices are.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:49 AM on March 10 [20 favorites]


Am I the only one who is continually surprised at how cheap it is to buy Congressmen? I mean, $37 grand, presumably for two years? That's it?

I'm a firm believer that everyone has a price, but it's embarrassing how low some of those prices are.


Yes, this is something I'm constantly amazed by. I'm sure the industries are just laughing their asses off. They're buying legislation worth billions for less than what they probably spent on the wine bar at the last company get-together.
posted by odinsdream at 8:00 AM on March 10 [12 favorites]


I'm waiting to see whether any of the Texas congressional delegation or any of the folks in the primary runoff here get involved in the anti-Snowden (at SXSW) shenanigans. Lots of money from a big conference vs payoff from the defense-industrial complex: it's a hard choice to know which to bow down to.
posted by immlass at 8:15 AM on March 10


The ROI on hiring a tax break lobbyist in 2004 was 22,000%. I seem to remember from one of my PoliSci courses that's not unusual, the ROI on most lobbying is on the order of tens of thousands of percent.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:16 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


Pompeo is basically the NSA's own personal representative in the House, when the Snowden leaks first sprang into the public and Rep. Justin Amash sponsored a bill to defund the NSA, he and Rep. Richard Nugent sponsored the successful opposing amendment which reaffirmed the NSA's domestic spying agenda.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:22 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


The Texas Tribune is livestreaming the event.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 8:50 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I somehow missed that Snowden was speaking via real-time video stream rather than the older sense of "live," and wondered how he got there without getting arrested first.

Figured he was sort of half way expecting to get arrested on the stage. Making the state look evil if so, and stupid if not.

I mean, I don't blame him for not attempting that, just...
posted by LogicalDash at 8:56 AM on March 10


The ROI on hiring a tax break lobbyist in 2004 was 22,000%. I seem to remember from one of my PoliSci courses that's not unusual, the ROI on most lobbying is on the order of tens of thousands of percent.

I find it increasingly hard to see the dividing line between lobbying and bribery.
posted by jaduncan at 9:00 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I'm a fan of Soghoian, and I'm interested to see how the talk goes.

Specifically, there are inconsistencies with Snowden's story that I'd like to see questioned.

For instance, where Snowden has said that as a contractor he wasn't protected by whistleblower laws, when it looks like he in fact was (or would've been, had he followed established procedures for reporting abuse).

If there's any proof that he attempted to raise concerns about the programs he was working on with his supervisors, or tried to go through the proper channels.

Or if we could get some clarity on the chronology on when exactly he first got in touch with some of the journalists and activists who he's been working with on his leaks: Greenwald, Poitras, Appelbaum (the Catherine Fitzgerald / Edward Lucas line of questioning).

I'd like to see some questions like that come from someone more aligned with the tech and freedom-of-speech sectors. So far the discussion that I've seen has been divided between the wikileaks "no questions allowed" crowd and people associated with national security and intelligence who aren't always at liberty to fully disclose everything about their position.
posted by faceattack at 9:13 AM on March 10


The talk so far is less questioning Snowden's story and more best practices for startups.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:20 AM on March 10


I find it increasingly hard to see the dividing line between lobbying and bribery.

What? Look - there it is, over there next to the Emperor's new clothes. Surely you see that!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:29 AM on March 10


Specifically, there are inconsistencies with Snowden's story that I'd like to see questioned.

I find Snowden himself to be utterly irrelevant, and this line of questioning is a feeble attempt to shout down the outrage and horror at what has been revealed. It's not working terribly well.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:39 AM on March 10 [36 favorites]


I find it increasingly hard to see the dividing line between lobbying and bribery.

Comparatively, bribery is way more expensive. $37,000 in manila envelopes wouldn't buy you a county commissioner for six months, let alone a Congressperson for two years.
posted by Copronymus at 10:51 AM on March 10


This morning I heard a bit on NPR about how the NSA is changing its internal practices to stop leaks and prevent another Snowden, (can't find an online link to that yet). It was hard to keep driving when my eyes were trying so hard to roll out of my head.

That's actually good news. I am fairly confident that the only thing they could achieve in this manner would be making their systems harder to use in an effective manner. That's what happens when you throw security checks on top of security checks. And in the end, when that data becomes usable, it is still subject to leakage if the user doesn't like what he or she sees.
posted by Edgewise at 10:52 AM on March 10


I have to say that I'm struck by how rational and eloquent Snowden is. I like to think that anyone who actually listened to what he has to say would have to agree with him. I suspect that the problem is that very few people have done so. He's actually a much much better spokesman for the rights of individuals versus the government that Assange ever managed to be. Assange basically comes off as an anarchist whose overriding motive is to weaken all government regimes, whereas Snowden is actually a reformer who loves his country, and wants to see it as healthy and ethical as possible. I consider him to be a hero.
posted by Edgewise at 10:59 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]


If there's any proof that he attempted to raise concerns about the programs he was working on with his supervisors, or tried to go through the proper channels.
There is already proof that he wouldn't have accomplished anything if he had "tried to go through the proper channels".

What do you do if you find out that the CFO is embezzling from the shareholders? Report it to one of his underlings? Of course not. Likewise, when the head executive of the "proper channels", the Director of National Intelligence, is outright lying to Congress, the only remaining step in the proper channels is to go over his head.
posted by roystgnr at 11:07 AM on March 10 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one who is continually surprised at how cheap it is to buy Congressmen? I mean, $37 grand, presumably for two years? That's it?

I think donation tallies should be looked at the similarly to how you might look at the numbers in a public company's financial results. They project a particular kind of legalistic fiction but they were arrived at via the fastidious application of every conceivable loophole and clever scheme, and consequently are no longer a wholly accurate depiction of reality. That $37k may well have been accompanied by an untraceable $15 million donation to the congressperson's PAC.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:11 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


According to grej who apparently looked it up... Congressman Pompeo: received a total of $20,500 in his last election cycle from defense/aerospace companies, another $10,500 from defense electronics companies, and yet another $6,000 from miscellaneous defense companies (total $37k).

That guy's a cheap date. If that's all it takes to buy a congressman, maybe Metafilter should shell out for one. We could have a bake sale.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:13 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Rest assured fellow MeFi's, I, a Kansas native and current resident of the forlorn state, have already crafted and electronically delivered a rebuke to this shit bird congressman.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:21 AM on March 10 [7 favorites]


You can use this zip code: 66840 to contact the little bastard and let him know he stinks.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:23 AM on March 10


I find it increasingly hard to see the dividing line between lobbying and bribery.

But money is speech and corporations are people. So why do you hate free speech?
posted by octothorpe at 11:41 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I find it increasingly hard to see the dividing line between lobbying and bribery.

Herod: "I understand that Roman gentlemen do not take bribes; one must offer them a gift."

There is no dividing line at all. One has the vague sheen of respectability--after all, plenty of good causes lobby too, and the bad lobbyists benefit from that halo effect.

I really do think there's a good place for lobbying, and there are ethical and reasonable ways to go about it. Lobbying should be about as interesting and entertaining as making a presentation in front of City Council. Lay out facts, lay out your interpretations of same, urge your representative to vote in a certain way. And do it all on the public record. Unfortunately no matter how much sunshine you direct on something, the roaches will always find a way to scuttle around. Especially with, as feloniousmonk pointed out, the ability to throw enormous sums of money at PACs without anybody knowing about it.

If I get $10K from five different companies in one industry, that's hardly anything, right? It'll help a bit in my re-election, but really any sufficiently motivated person or group of people could get $2K together, so that seems okay; the optics are fine. It's the invisible back-door millions going to SuperPACs that are the real purchase price, and the thing that everyday citizens can't do a single thing to counter that doesn't take an impossible amount of impossibly slow and difficult work.

(There's also the problem of lobbyists straight-up just writing legislation. That shit really needs to stop, even if it's the good guys doing it.)

And once again the answer to "how do you unbreak elections in the USA" is campaign finance reform, distributing public money to candidates for their elections, private money strictly prohibited. Any graft from lobbying at that point would have to become really blatant (or even more blatant) and I'm pretty sure there would be a serious backlash. Or perhaps allow private money, but only if donations are placed in a general pool that's divided equally between candidates.

But at the end of the day, these people are serving the public. Seems like a bad idea to let the richest members of the public control the system.

Which (unintentionally, I promise) lets me circle back to the bit of discussion earlier about going through channels and so on. As alluded to, what do you do if your boss is corrupt? Go over their head. And frankly, the idea of going through channels to complain about a program that has been approved from the very top seems pointless at best.

So you go to your actual real boss: the people. The President wasn't Snowden's ultimate boss; every American citizen was. He had a duty to go to his boss and say "Hey, bad things are happening where you don't see them."

There should be no channels required whatsoever for legal whistleblower protection. All that should be required is telling the truth about an illegal/dangerous/etc practice.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:47 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


The livestream was mostly disappointing. It felt like a panel discussion featuring occasional Snowden bits, instead of The Snowden Show I thought it'd be, where he did most/all of the talking.
posted by mathowie at 11:55 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I certainly agree that "Snowden is .. a reformer who loves his country" who makes "much better spokesman for the rights of individuals versus the government that Assange ever managed to be" in practice, and a "hero", but..

Anarchists like Assange want to weaken organizations that abuse, exploit, etc. people, Edgewise, including governments. We're wrong in lauding "good soldiers for bad causes" who became "even better soldiers for good causes" over people who spent their lives pursuing good causes like Assange.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:27 PM on March 10


Anarchists like Assange want to weaken organizations that abuse, exploit, etc. people

So do patriots like Snowden. I don't understand your point here. Either fighting the good fight is worthy of praise or it isn't, and just because Snowden hasn't been ideologically pure his whole adult life doesn't mean he should be lauded any less than Assange.

This is why the Left keeps failing. We're cannibals.

Assange is basically a douchebag who wants the world to be better.

Snowden is basically a reformed douchebag who wants the world to be better.

Can we not just say "hey, these two guys are trying to make the world a better place" and continue the discussion--and action--from there, rather than having some bizarre comparison about who deserves to be thanked more?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:34 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


We absolutely need "pervasive end-to-end encryption [to make] indiscriminate surveillance impossible on a cost-effective basis". In particular, I'd love it if European governments countered the U.S.'s efforts to sabotage encryption standards, software, etc.. I'd tentatively suggest temporary, say 10 year, legislation requiring that :

(a) Any new computer sold include a browser equipped to used TLS, etc. whenever possible, like HTTPS Everywhere.

(b) Any websites hosted offer at least ECDHE-RSA authentication for TLS, etc.

(c) Any new computer or phone sold include an XMPP client with OtR messaging that defaults-on whenever conversing with another machine that supports OtR and similar for SMS and voice.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:45 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


The talk of a particular Congressman being bought off bothers me, because that's not what's happening at all. There's a difference between bribes that go directly to an individuals pockets and the campaign contributions needed to be elected. Because we have no limits on campaign spending in this country, elected officials need to spend most of their time raising funds in order to be re-elected. It's not because they're greedy - it's because only the people best at raising funds will get elected.

Campaign contributions aren't a sign of individual corruption. They're just the consequence of the sick system we've created where the constant need for elected official to fundraise creates a market for political influence.
posted by heathkit at 1:10 PM on March 10


I find Snowden himself to be utterly irrelevant, and this line of questioning is a feeble attempt to shout down the outrage and horror at what has been revealed. It's not working terribly well.

I'm not shouting. I've been quite interested in the problems of executive overreach and indiscriminate surveillance for quite some time, and since Snowden the man has become linked in the public eye with concerns over privacy, I think this is quite relevant.

Particularly if it turns out that what Snowden did is in fact more like espionage than the whistleblowing of Drake and Binney, who did follow proper channels.



There is already proof that he wouldn't have accomplished anything if he had "tried to go through the proper channels".

What do you do if you find out that the CFO is embezzling from the shareholders? Report it to one of his underlings? Of course not. Likewise, when the head executive of the "proper channels", the Director of National Intelligence, is outright lying to Congress, the only remaining step in the proper channels is to go over his head.


I am asking about claims that Snowden himself has made specifically last week in this Washington Post story. Now, evidence of these concerns may not be FOIA-able - a problem unto itself - but I would be interested if it turns out that there is in fact evidence for what he's claiming.

As for the comparison with Drake and Binney: both followed the correct procedure, both went through bullshit they shouldn't have, and both are now free men. I don't say this to minimize their misfortune, but to emphasize that they did the right thing, like Daniel Ellsberg: leaked, stayed, fought.

Maybe it's because I'm gay. Maybe it's because I don't like countries that bump off inconvenient journalists. But when I hear someone lecturing about human rights whose reaction when in possession of sensitive documents which indicate overbroad surveillance - and others of an unspecified number which are simply classified information about national security - is to flee first to China and then to Russia, forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Not to mention worried about how this issue gets played in public if or when Snowden gets painted as a Russian stooge. "Privacy isn't a real concern - only spies and hackers care about that stuff."
posted by faceattack at 1:18 PM on March 10


Ellsberg leaked information before it became open knowledge that the US Government can--legally, apparently--hold you in prison forever. Snowden leaked information after seeing what happened to Manning.

Times change.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:23 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's because I'm gay.

I'm thinking it has more to do with your gullibility.

But when I hear someone lecturing about human rights whose reaction when in possession of sensitive documents which indicate overbroad surveillance - and others of an unspecified number which are simply classified information about national security - is to flee first to China and then to Russia, forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Nice how you leave out the part where the U.S. government stranded him in Russia after they revoked his passport. He didn't choose to stay in Russia or China. He is in Russia specifically because the U.S. government forced him to stay there. Please, in the future try to stick to the facts instead of regurgitating NSA propaganda here on the blue.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:38 PM on March 10 [15 favorites]


Or to put it another way: Ellsberg did what he did in an era when to go to jail to preserve your ideals was not only held to be far more noble than it is today, it was also a hell of a lot dangerous. Both in terms of the psychological danger (no reason why Manning should have been held in that dehumanizing solitary), physical danger (maybe talking out of my ass with this one, but it seems like prisons are becoming more and more frightening places to be, and the danger of never, you know, breathing free air ever again. If anyone here thinks Manning is ever actually going to get out of prison, or anyone at Gitmo is actually going to be tried properly let alone released, I have a bridge to sell you.

Forty years ago, Ellsberg did a noble thing that was reasonably safe to do in context. Not without consequence, sure, but his consequences didn't include possible rendition to and disappearance. The US Government has done that to people who have done far, far less--in many cases actually nothing--to damage US interests.

Snowden is somehow... a badguy? For not wanting to risk that?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:47 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


Campaign contributions aren't a sign of individual corruption.

It's a sign of systemic institutionalized corruption, which is an even more insidious corruption because it can't even be prosecuted any more.

Calling it by its name (corruption) isn't implying that he buys new boat with the money, it's simply noting that he needs the money and he does what he needs to do to get the money - sells out We The People to those with the money.
posted by anonymisc at 1:57 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


4 Opposition to the Affordable Care Act
5 Opposition to Shutting Down the Prison at Guantánamo Bay
6 Support of Government Shutdown
7 Opposition to the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court
8 Climate Change Denial
9 Hostility Toward Islam

posted by iamck at 2:10 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


is to flee first to China and then to Russia, forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Your skepticism seems founded in misunderstandings. For example, Russia is not thought to be his intention, but the result of US arm-twisting the airport of the next leg of his flight. We know for a fact that he cannot get a fair trial in the USA, because under the antiquated law that he broke ( / that he is accused of breaking), his defense is inadmissible in court.

The people that systematically and illegally closed off all his legitimate avenues are loving that you swallow their talking points hook line and sinker.
posted by anonymisc at 2:12 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


If there's any proof that he attempted to raise concerns about the programs he was working on with his supervisors, or tried to go through the proper channels.

The only corroborative evidence you might get would come from people who are not in a position to release that information — a condition which you state is acceptable to you — or who would have to use journalistic outlets like Wikileaks — which you do not accept as a source of verifiable facts. It is therefore unclear what would be acceptable evidence under your stated conditions — virtually no information anyone offered would be acceptable to you. This is quite literally the same Catch-22 scenario publicly offered by government officials who are currently prosecuting the case against Snowden.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:19 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


He didn't choose to stay in Russia or China. He is in Russia specifically because the U.S. government forced him to stay there.

I recall reading that his intended final destination was Cuba, if I'm not mistaken. Forgive me if I'm not enthusiastic about receiving lectures on human rights from that locale either.


Russia is not thought to be his intention, but the result of US arm-twisting the airport of the next leg of his flight.

Perhaps there is something I've yet to read on the subject, but from what I can determine, the series of events which ended up with him in Russia are not exactly clear. I've read conflicting accounts (allegations?) about him communicating with FSB agents/representatives in Hong Kong. It is altogether possible that he thought he was guaranteed transit through Russia, and then not permitted once he arrived there. One possibility among many.


The only corroborative evidence you might get would come from people who are not in a position to release that information — a condition which you state is acceptable to you — or who would have to use journalistic outlets like Wikileaks — which you do not accept as a source of verifiable facts.

I don't believe I've ever stated an opinion on mefi about WL. I find it striking that a few posters have so strongly characterized my position as "NSA talking points" simply because I have expressed some skepticism about Snowden's story.


We know for a fact that he cannot get a fair trial in the USA, because under the antiquated law that he broke ( / that he is accused of breaking), his defense is inadmissible in court.

This does not address what I meant when I referenced Binney and Drake in my previous post, alongside the question as to whether or not there was evidence that he had actually tried to communicate his concerns to his superiors.

I understand someone not wanting to go through the thresher that B&D did. I can also understand Snowden's motivation, I think, for doing what he's doing now. Certainly, Greenwald has sequenced the leaking in a much more news cycle-friendly way than Assange's earlier bulk dump.

I still have questions about Snowden that I'd like answered, and I was hoping that there might be some critical questions for him at his SXSW appearance. I do think what he has done so far - which needs some clearing up in terms of chronology and motivation - is problematic at least. I myself am trying to figure out exactly where I stand on the issue, but I'm not sure the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend logic of "against surveillance=awesome guy/hero" cuts it for me.

The reflexive hostility and aggressive mischaracterization of my position around here isn't particularly heartening, I gotta say.
posted by faceattack at 2:51 PM on March 10


since Snowden the man has become linked in the public eye with concerns over privacy, I think this is quite relevant.

Particularly if it turns out that what Snowden did is in fact more like espionage than the whistleblowing of Drake and Binney


you haven't demonstrated any relevance except that you personally think it is. let's assume snowden is the worst person in the world-- does it change the issue of the US spying on everyone? you said you are "quite interested in the problems of executive overreach and indiscriminate surveillance" but only want to focus on snowden.

I still have questions about Snowden that I'd like answered

i'd prefer the government answer the questions you say you are so concerned about. you are getting pushback bc this is the game that's played out in the media and you haven't brought up any points that haven't been refuted in previous snowden discussions.
posted by twist my arm at 3:05 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one who is continually surprised at how cheap it is to buy Congressmen? I mean, $37 grand, presumably for two years? That's it?

I'm a firm believer that everyone has a price, but it's embarrassing how low some of those prices are.


I strongly suspect this kind of money doesn't buy you policy, it buys you some attention/access.

The more expensive part (though often more than cost effective) is probably in hiring people whose job it is to craft policy arguments and communicate them to staff.

All this is probably as expensive as there are other citizens or organizations interested talking to congress about another point of view.

Which is to say it's cheap to the extent that we either don't have time to engage congress ourselves or we don't care to.
posted by weston at 3:30 PM on March 10


I strongly suspect this kind of money doesn't buy you policy, it buys you some attention/access.

Well, you don't buy one congressman, you buy him ten seats over fifteen years.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 PM on March 10


faceattack: I recall reading that his intended final destination was Cuba, if I'm not mistaken. Forgive me if I'm not enthusiastic about receiving lectures on human rights from that locale either.

Have you got a link for that?

faceattack: from what I can determine, the series of events which ended up with him in Russia are not exactly clear. I've read conflicting accounts (allegations?) about him communicating with FSB agents/representatives in Hong Kong. It is altogether possible that he thought he was guaranteed transit through Russia, and then not permitted once he arrived there. One possibility among many.

Have you got a link for that?
posted by Len at 3:58 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Faceattack, Snowden's revelations about the US government's illegal and unconstitutional behavior are far more important than speculation about his hypothetical motives.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:09 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]


Google States Unequivocally It Was 'Attacked' By The Chinese... And By The United States
posted by jeffburdges at 5:09 PM on March 10


I recall reading that his intended final destination was Cuba, if I'm not mistaken.

Do you always believe everything you read in the corporate media?

Perhaps there is something I've yet to read on the subject, but from what I can determine, the series of events which ended up with him in Russia are not exactly clear. I've read conflicting accounts (allegations?) about him communicating with FSB agents/representatives in Hong Kong. It is altogether possible that he thought he was guaranteed transit through Russia, and then not permitted once he arrived there. One possibility among many.

I don't suppose you have any credible citations to back this up, do you? No? Okay, then I will repeat my request that you stop reciting by rote NSA propaganda here on the blue.

I still have questions about Snowden that I'd like answered

No you don't. What you have are vague and un-sourced insinuations.

The reflexive hostility and aggressive mischaracterization of my position around here isn't particularly heartening, I gotta say.

The only position that you seem to have is that we should be suspicious of Snowden's motivations, and that he might be a spy for either China, Russia, or both. If this is a mischaracterization of your position please clarify. Needless to say it is a dubious position, at best, with nothing to back it up other than innuendo .

Either way, even if Snowden is a traitor and a spy for the Russians and Chinese this pales in comparison to the betrayals of our own government he has revealed. Unless of course you want to argue that the national security secrets of the United States are more important than the democratic underpinnings of our supposedly open society. Go ahead and make that argument; I'd love to hear it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:11 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


NSA on TV: Get all the latest entertainment news, celebrity gossip, domestic spying, and wiretapping scandals you crave!
posted by homunculus at 5:26 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


As for the comparison with Drake and Binney: both followed the correct procedure, both went through bullshit they shouldn't have, and both are now free men. I don't say this to minimize their misfortune, but to emphasize that they did the right thing, like Daniel Ellsberg: leaked, stayed, fought.

Former whistleblowers: open letter to intelligence employees after Snowden from Thomas Drake, Daniel Ellsberg, Katharine Gun, Peter Kofod, Ray McGovern, Jesselyn Radack and Coleen Rowley
posted by homunculus at 5:34 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I agree that fights over ideological purity are much of "why the left keeps failing", feckless fecal fear mongering, but I neither criticized Snowden's past or present ideology, nor lauded Assange above Snowden. I criticized the disrespect the American public shows towards activists, of which Edgewise's comment reminded me.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:36 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


they did the right thing, like Daniel Ellsberg: leaked, stayed, fought.

Are you honestly claiming that if Snowden had stayed and fought that he wouldn't be in jail now? This seems simply unbelievable to me...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:44 PM on March 10


I recall reading that his intended final destination was Cuba, if I'm not mistaken.

You are mistaken. He was en route to Ecuador when his passport was revoked.

It took approximately fifteen seconds of googling to find that out. The "reflexive hostility" you are encountering may be related to the fact that you are clearly not even making the barest amount of effort to ensure that what you're saying is factual. "I seem to recall reading vague unsubstantiated rumors somewhere unspecified" is perhaps not the ideal way to justify your opinions.
posted by ook at 5:52 PM on March 10 [13 favorites]


So, mea culpa:

It was a flight bound to Cuba, then possibly Ecuador, pending asylum request. Or, potentially other jurisdictions. So Cuba was only the first stop. My mistake.

Snowden did spend his 30th birthday at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong, according to Business Insider. This is not uncontestable proof that he had contact with the FSB in Hong Kong. But I guess the USA is the only country that posts spooks in consulates and embassies.

I think that the major difference of opinion between myself and everyone else on here is the significance of what Snowden revealed. I think in terms of the conversation he started in the general media, his leaks have turned the popular conversation towards something that could use the attention. But if you read the 9/11 Commission Report, or Woodward's book about the planning of the Iraq invasion, or much of the reporting coming out after 9/11 I don't think the comprehensive nature of intelligence collection is surprising.

Do I think it's a good idea? To my mind it looks like the major problem lies in analysis and judgment, not collection. And I do worry that the comprehensive, automated capacity for snooping might be the equivalent of laying the intelligence equivalent of a loaded gun around for a possibly unpleasant administration sometime in the future.

I don't think that a few powerpoint slides about the logistics of how intelligence agencies are gathering data so clearly outweigh the possibility - and I think it's a strong possibility, if he's under the "protection" of a foreign intelligence service - that he delivered sensitive information into foreign hands.

While what Snowden has detailed is in some cases potentially worrisome, he hasn't provided any concrete examples of abuse of these systems. And before someone points it out, I don't think that spying on diplomats and heads-of-state of other countries is nefarious. This is what all intelligence agencies do and have done since forever.

I don't think this is something upsetting on the scale of Rumsfeld v Padilla or the John Yoo torture memos.

Evidently the community here disagrees, and fruitful discussion beyond this disagreement will not be forthcoming.
posted by faceattack at 9:10 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


So the stuff he revealed is secret, although everybody knew it; and he's a traitor for revealing it, even though it wasn't secret; and he delivered it to the Russians, even though it was available in public documents; and we should be worried about it, but we aren't justified in doing anything about those worries.

Oh yes, and he might have had plans to travel via Cuba! Well, you've got him there, gov. Visiting Cuba's illegal, so it is.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:29 PM on March 10 [10 favorites]


Visiting Cuba. That's a paddlin'.
posted by ostranenie at 9:44 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


It might be tricky to get public key cryptography really off the ground.

You'd need to somehow encourage people to obtain keypairs and publish their public keys.

Maybe provide a peer-to-peer messaging API/service of some sort?

It's still a hassle generating and managing all these key pairs. You'd really need to figure out some kind of value proposition to make it worth everyone's while...

Many would be unhappy with what you did, it might be best to do it anonymously.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:54 PM on March 10


It's still a hassle generating and managing all these key pairs. You'd really need to figure out some kind of value proposition to make it worth everyone's while...

Apparently 'privacy' doesn't do it.
posted by jaduncan at 11:29 PM on March 10


faceattack: While what Snowden has detailed is in some cases potentially worrisome, he hasn't provided any concrete examples of abuse of these systems.

You're just being obtuse now, unless you're concern trolling. The systems themselves are the abuse.
posted by Len at 11:49 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


faceattack?

I know you disagree about (ZZzzzzzZZZzzz)Snowden's significance and I know you mean well but, if you can, name another person that has had more global news impact in the last 8 months. To me, here is your most telling sentence in this thread so far:

This is what all intelligence agencies do and have done since forever.

Yeah, I think we the citizens get that. This is not what makes me look away from the unfolding Snowden revelations - it is, rather, what draws me - and I would say a lot of others, to this debate. This is what we're having, right? A debate about mass surveillance, no?

It looks more like you want to have a debate about Snowden and powerpoint slides and their minute significance in the big picture, given the official justifications and secret-court approved documents, and Proper Channels. To you, and to all of those who unfazed stand for these programs and decry Snowden as a mainly embarrassing and "troubling" narcissist foreign spy thief, I want to ask the following questions, for example:

Is whistleblowing of the kind Daniel Ellsberg did during the Vietnam War categorically different?

Is Ellsberg's whistleblowing less important because governments have always been known to do questionable things while waging wars?

Ellsberg sought to inform the American public about what was being done in it's name in the dark, outside of the democratic process. This incidentally revealed a considerable number of chronic liars in office for what they were - all of which is totally The People's business to discuss and opine in. The people involved were less important than the precedent of one person's act of conscience having such a powerful and lasting effect on public discourse.

I submit to you that Snowden's revelations were an act of conscience and courage in the very best American tradition - something Ellsberg himself has variously endorsed. This is also important, by the way, considering how many in the public government establishment laud Ellsberg but seek to differentiate his kind of whistle-blowing from Ed's kind of whistle-blowing.

Certainly, I would like to hear more about why you think Snowden and Ellsberg's were differently motivated revelations. What you've said here implies that those who take the issues that have been brought to public light by Snowden's revelations possible are wrong or misplaced in their perception because simply by fiat. I have rarely seen a more frustrating comment in MeFi :

Evidently the community here disagrees, and fruitful discussion beyond this disagreement will not be forthcoming.

So much conviction, I want to believe with you but seem unable to cross that bridge. I don't know, maybe the grassy knoll is always greener on the other side.

The truth when told by those in power or In The Know is always more potent, more telling. This is the potency of whistle blowers - it is the case that because of their position they can't be easily dismissed.

The public that, by the secretive nature of its government, can not reliably trust said government's statements about it's affairs, is a public lost in deception, in lies, in apathy. And when the lie becomes evident, clear, and present, the government that respects it's public should act accordingly.

When it does not – when it would rather ignore the public's outcry and demands for answers and treat the public interest like a PR problem, well, that's the kind of thing that calls for the (ideally) unnecessary measures of whistle-blowing.

Ed Snowden's right: The consent of the governed is meaningless unless it is informed.


By the way, Ed, if you ever come across this by cosmic chance:


Thank You.
posted by fantodstic at 2:42 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


Actually public keys aren't a particularly secure method to establish session keys, Len and save alive nothing that breatheth.

Ideally, you should use ephemeral Diffie–Hellman (DHE) for session key exchange, usually the elliptic curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDHE). We could, and imho should, secure almost all digital communications using ECDHE right now with no action by the users except for upgrading their software and almost no user interface changes, thereby providing good security for even mosts activists.

Now ECDHE provides only secure key exchange, not authentication. So ECDHE is vulnerable to impostors, man-in-the-middle attacks, etc. All these impostor-likes attacks are expensive and risk exposure though. There are employers and schools run man-in-the-middle attacks against web traffic on their local network, but folks learn about the attack.

Anyways, authentication should only happen after the secure channel gets established, which creates many options for authentication beyond simply manual key exchange.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:13 AM on March 11


I find it striking that a few posters have so strongly characterized my position as "NSA talking points" simply because I have expressed some skepticism about Snowden's story.

Perhaps because your 'skepticism' is indistinguishable from NSA/USGov talking points, which have already been soundly and comprehensively refuted.

The very existence of all this data collection is the abuse. Unconstitutional abuse, at that.

And before someone points it out, I don't think that spying on diplomats and heads-of-state of other countries is nefarious. This is what all intelligence agencies do and have done since forever.

It's the indiscriminate spying, which is emphatically not what all intelligence agencies have done forever. It's the corporate spying, which is obviously problematic at best.

And it's the untrammelled, permanent domestic spying on US citizens that is the major abuse.

Engage in good faith, with facts, please.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:19 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Embarrassing stories shed light on U.S. officials' technological ignorance
posted by jeffburdges at 8:05 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


-SXSnowden
-Snowden Makes a Profound Point
-Snowden at SXSW: immediate impressions
-Experian Lapse Allowed ID Theft Service Access to 200 Million Consumer Records
-Now the NSA Infiltrates the Internet To 'Manipulate, Deceive And Destroy Reputations'
posted by kliuless at 4:32 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to link to my response from last time the "but he fled to CHINA and RUSSIA!!!11" thing came up
posted by moorooka at 5:53 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Omnivore: Surveillance as privacy pollution
posted by homunculus at 5:57 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Ed Snowden, You Wasted Your Time at SXSW
posted by homunculus at 2:43 PM on March 13


I disagree Snowden spoke at SXSW precisely because "At every street corner and in every bar was a company whose existence hinges on the commodification of you, your face, your spending habits, and your words." Snowden needed to speak to the people taking away our privacy for their own personal profit because the NSA, etc. exploits their work.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:03 AM on March 14


[Transcript] Bruce Sterling Closing Remarks - SXSW 2014: "The future is about old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky"
posted by kliuless at 5:38 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Britain is treating journalists as terrorists (via ; previously)

'I cannot return to England, my country, because of my journalistic work with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and at WikiLeaks. There are things I feel I cannot even write. For instance, if I were to say that I hoped my work at WikiLeaks would change government behaviour, this journalistic work could be considered a crime under the UK Terrorism Act of 2000.'

'The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat "designed to influence the government", that "is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause" and that would pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public. UK government officials have continually asserted that this risk is present with the disclosure of any "classified" document.'

'Elsewhere the act says "the government" means the government of any country -- including the US. Britain has used this act to open a terrorism investigation relating to Snowden and the journalists who worked with him, and as a pretext to enter the Guardian's offices and demand the destruction of their Snowden-related hard drives. Britain is turning into a country that can't tell its terrorists from its journalists.'

posted by jeffburdges at 3:07 PM on March 22


Giv Snowden Asyl i Danmark
Give Snowden asylum in Denmark

posted by jeffburdges at 3:32 PM on March 22


Jeffburdges, both your links go to the same page.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:12 PM on March 22


Just one link with a newline. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:28 PM on March 22


The Domestic Spying of Hoover’s FBI Is an Eerie Prequel to the NSA’s Snooping Today: In the ’70s Americans learned the hard way that intelligence agencies hate to tell the public what they’re doing. Recent revelations about the NSA prove that oversight and accountability are as necessary now as they were four decades ago.
posted by homunculus at 12:33 PM on March 23


Wacky Snowden Haters Pile On The Bandwagon Claiming Snowden Is Somehow To Blame For Russia In Crimea
posted by homunculus at 4:28 PM on March 25


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