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« Oh Perfect: Deputy Director of CIA Resigns; To Be Replaced with White House Lawyer With No CIA Experience | Main | They're gonna be screwing with your A/C again soon... »
June 12, 2013

Snowden's Looking a Little Dodgy

Before I get into all of this, let me explain why I feel we're being snookered on this, and why it bothers me.

The media and the Institutional Class generally have dismissed every scandal allegation as akin to Birtherism. The Benghazi cover-up was dismissed by the media, and the Institutional Class, as some ginned-up fake conspiracy theory spread by crazy people. Just like the Birth Certificate thing.

This was a hard stance to maintain, given that the Talking Points were clearly a fiction from the get-go and that there was an avalanche of evidence that the attack was known to be a coordinated, planned attack from the start, and no evidence whatsoever that it was a "spontaneous demonstration" at all, but yet the Institutional Class advanced its own political interests anyway in suggesting the whole kerfuffle was a fever-swamp fantasia cooked up by the extreme rightwing.

Fast & Furious, too, of course. To this day no one in the media can tell you how a government gun-tracking program could track guns without actually tracking guns, and yet they continue to even trouble themselves to ask the government how tracking can be had without tracking, but, you know, Birtherism.

The government must have a good reason for all of this. We don't know what that reason is, but you'd have to be some kind of wild-eyed Birther type to think that a cover story that makes no sense at all is worth asking a few questions about.

So what I'm worried about here is that this Snowden doesn't know what he's talking about and has overhyped his disclosures, and that, in the coming days, we'll find out that PRISM is less and less than he originally claimed it was. And then, the Institutional Class, having rubbished NSA-gate as also "akin to Birtherism," will then take the IRS scandal to also be akin to Birtherism, and the EPA's shellacking conservative groups with hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs for FOIA requests while freely providing them to liberal groups will be taken as akin to Birtherism, and suspicions about the James Rosen matter will be akin to Birtherism, and so on.

I am always fearful about seizing upon weak evidence especially when we have so much strong evidence -- because mark my words, if the NSA scandal peters out, this will be the only scandal the Institutional Class will deign to discuss, and will categorize all other scandals as "like the so-called overblown NSA scandal."

I don't know what the NSA is doing, and as the days pass, I'm less sure that I even know what I thought I knew five days ago. it's now being claimed that PRISM isn't even the intelligence gathering program at all, but rather the data management tool -- i.e., the user interface -- used for looking into suspect data.

The administration is pushing back on the definition of what Prism actually is – that it’s not a snooping programme but a data management tool. The call logging accusations are pretty much beyond doubt (and reason enough to scream Big Brother) but the Prism angle is a little less clear. Extremetech points out that it is a programme that has hidden in public sight, that Prism is in fact, “the name of a web data management tool that is so boring that no one had ever bothered to report on its existence before now. It appears that the public Prism tool is simply a way to view and manage collected data, as well as correlate it with the source.” This is not to say that there isn’t a scandal to investigate here: “What is much more important is to pay attention to what data is being collected, and how.” But Prism might not be the smoking gun.

None of this debunks outright Snowden’s claims that the NSA is gathering data, that it has extraordinary power or that it has lied to Congress about it. But it does smack of a lack of fact checking on the part of The Guardian and it risks giving credibility to those who think this is a lot of fuss about nothing (and I'm not one of them). As Joshua Foust of suggests, the problem probably rests with Snowden. He first approached the Washington Post via a freelancer and demanded that they publish everything without time for fact checking or government comment. The Post hesitated – so Snowden went to The Guardian instead. This forced the Post to speed up publication of its own story. Frost: “Both papers, in their rush, wound up printing misleading stories.” If so, they're in trouble.

Now, of course, a data-management tool implies there is data to manage, so Snowden's story is not completely debunked. The NSA is obviously gathering lots of data. But I'm not sure we know much more about this from Snowden's disclosures than we did before.

We have his say-so on some of this, but lacking actual proof, we have to rely on his word, and that is becoming a perilous proposition:

Snowden’s backstory is not entirely accurate. Booz Allen says that his salary was 40 per cent lower than thought and a real estate agent says that his house in Hawaii was empty for weeks before he vamoosed. Does the fact that he only worked for three months with Booz Allen and the NSA suggest he was planning a hit and run all along – that he took the job with the NSA with the intention of stealing the documents?
Answer: The timeline strongly suggests something like that happened. H/t @comradearthur.

And more so by the moment.

NSA leaker Ed Snowden claimed to have broken both of his legs while training for Special Forces.


That is simply not true as the statement from the Special Warfare Center & School below clearly points out.

Much, much more troubling than some resume-fabulations is this: Snowden is now not only blabbing about programs which may be objectionable and legitimate topics of national debate, but about programs which aren't objectionable and are not legitimate topics of national debate.

It's one thing to inform the American people what the the American government is doing.

It's another thing entirely to inform the Chinese people what the American government is doing.

n a new interview with Hong Kong newspaper The South China Morning Post, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden says the U.S. has been hacking Chinese and Hong Kong computers since 2009. The paper said it viewed documents supporting Snowden's claim, but was unable to verify them.

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald - the journalist who first broke the story of the NSA's vast surveillance system - told CNN "The Lead's" Jake Tapper Monday that there are more stories to come.

Wednesday's revelation demonstrates that Snowden will continue to share information.

Of course the US hacks Chinese systems, and of course we spy on China. But such espionage is clearly proper-- especially because the Chinese penetration of American secrets is so much more advanced and extensive than our own.

While disclosing a debatable, controversial surveillance program into the private files of American citizens may be a useful and permissible leak, disclosing the basic and proper functions of the American intelligence community is simply not. This is what we pay these agents to do.

This is purely gratuitous, vindictive attack on the American intelligence community-- and America itself-- for no better reason than petty spite, or some kind of misguided Hero Complex, or perhaps an intense belief in the mid-seventies-based leftist paranoia of Ron Paul, in which all countries are highly ethical actors, except the US, which is an egregious privacy-violating secretive hegemon which occasionally forces freedom-loving, peacefully-intended countries like the Soviet Union and Iran to take action in retaliation to our own imperialistic maneuverings.

The only difference between Noam Chomsky and Ron Paul on this point is that Noam Chomsky is better and more widely read and doesn't obsess as much about dimes.

Don't believe me? Here's Edward Snowden, Hater of the American Security/Surveillance State, speaking kindly about.... Russia.

“All I can do is rely on my training and hope that world governments will refuse to be bullied by the United States into persecuting people seeking political refuge,” he said.

He also hinted, though did not claim explicitly that other governments may ultimately welcome him.

“Asked if he had been offered asylum by the Russian government, he said: ‘My only comment is that I am glad there are governments that refuse to be intimidated by great power,’” the Morning Post reported.

He so hated the secrecy and control of the American Surveillance State he fled to... China, and may soon seek greener pastures in... Russia.

Like Julian Assange, or Ron Paul for that matter, the hatred here is not for totalitarian systems of control generally, but for the American one specifically, and that is worrisome.

And it's worrisome because most of what we think we know about this scandal comes not from documents and verified proofs but from Snowden himself.

Earlier today I read this Ron Fournier piece, "Why I Don't Care About Edward Snowden," and was strongly inclined to agree, believing that the whole "Is Snowden a hero or a villain?" subplot was a bit of baby-talk to interest the low thinkers who cannot think in anything but those terms, in terms of people and personalities rather than ideas and principles, and who prefer such personality-based thinking to occur in the most baby-talk-ish of all possible manners of debate: Is this person completely Good and completely a Hero or is he completely Evil and completely a Villain?

And thus the political debate becomes MySpace: ROXXOR or SUXXOR? Upding or Downding? Let's get #HeroSnowden #trending over #VillainSnowden.

And I agreed, I thought, with his conclusion that such talk was a complete misdirection away from the actual questions at hand: Do we support this program? Do we even know enough about it to make that determination? Isn't the government now hiding from us not only the details of secret projects, but even the most elementary and basic information about the broad parameters of goals of such programs, such that we are denied the ability to actually make any sort of sensible judgment at all?

Is the government not essentially telling us to simply Trust Our Betters, and denying the most important of all principles underlying what was once called America-- the idea that common citizens shall make informed decisions about how their country shall operate?

And while I still mostly agree with that, I have to dispute that a bit, because much of what is claimed about this program is claimed by Edward Snowden, and I am not taking his word for it anymore than I'm taking the perjurious word of James Clapper for it. And, as Clapper's dishonesty and agenda weighs in the balance when we consider his claims, so too should such things weigh in the balance when we consider Snowden's.

The Timeline: Neo-Neocon does some thinking and realizes that Snowden seems to be have been "working with" Glenn Greenwald since just about the day he took the job.

So that would mean he probably took the posting to get the documents, and was not, in case you thought this, subject to a crisis of conscience due to what he saw there. He had the crisis of conscience before the job interview.

But there is a more important implication: This means that Snowden probably did not learn what he found objectionable about US intelligence by his three months of work for it, but rather that he already knew what he found objectionable about US Intelligence and spent his three months of work for it finding evidence to support his already-believed conclusions.

Having an agenda does not make someone a Bad Man or a Villain or SUXXOR.

It does, however, mean one should be careful in sifting through his claims for the truth. Most likely, most of the information he's giving you is stained, splattered, and soaked-through with his pre-existing agenda.

I Hereby Promise to Administer the Most Transparent Blog in American History: And with that, let me put some cards on the table.

I am jealously guarding the primacy of my favorite scandals, the IRS, James Rosen, and Benghazi, plus the perjury. I do not like other scandals sharing the limelight. I do not think they add to my favorite scandals. I think they steal spotlight. I think they crowd the stage.

And I want my Stars front and center.

Here's the thing: The IRS scandal is plainly a partisan illegal political scandal done for corrupt motives.

Unconstitutional ones, too. This gets to the very heart of the American experiment.

The NSA scandal, if it pans out, is an illegal scandal, yes, but unlikely done for partisan or corrupt motives. It would be a case of overreach and constitutional violation, yes, but probably not with partisan or corrupt motives.

And it's the latter that hang someone. Mistakes or differences of opinion do not. If the NSA turns out to be an overreach, but one done without partisan or corrupt motives... well, no one's getting impeached for going too far to protect the American people from a terrorist attack.

George Bush got reelected on that platform, for crying out loud. He practically announced, "I intend to go too far."

That doesn't mean that this isn't worrisome or unconstitutional. It means, at the end of the day, the IRS and Benghazi scandals are threats to this corrupt administration in a way the NSA scandal never will be (or is extremely unlikely to be).

And so yeah, I'm kind of like: "Let's stick on the one where we have them, and not this other one where Obama will say 'gee I'm sorry if I'm more concerned about American lives than conservatives are, but I guess we'll just have to disagree."

You can disagree with the principle behind that line, but you can't argue it's a good defense, politically, and that the LIVs of the American Idiocracy won't think it sounds pretty good to them, now let's get back to watching The Bachelorette.

digg this
posted by Ace at 05:50 PM

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