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Counterpoint: Why Edward Snowden May Not Deserve Clemency 573

Posted by Soulskill
from the issues-that-are-complicated dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Fred Kaplan, the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relation, writes at Slate that if Edward Snowden's stolen trove of beyond-top-secret documents had dealt only with the domestic surveillance by the NSA, then some form of leniency might be worth discussing. But Snowden did much more than that. 'Snowden's documents have, so far, furnished stories about the NSA's interception of email traffic, mobile phone calls, and radio transmissions of Taliban fighters in Pakistan's northwest territories; about an operation to gauge the loyalties of CIA recruits in Pakistan; about NSA email intercepts to assist intelligence assessments of what's going on inside Iran; about NSA surveillance of cellphone calls 'worldwide,' an effort that 'allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.' Kaplan says the NYT editorial calling on President Obama to grant Snowden 'some form of clemency' paints an incomplete picture when it claims that Snowden 'stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency's voraciousness.' In fact, as Snowden himself told the South China Morning Post, he took his job as an NSA contractor, with Booz Allen Hamilton, because he knew that his position would grant him 'to lists of machines all over the world [that] the NSA hacked.' Snowden got himself placed at the NSA's signals intelligence center in Hawaii says Kaplan for the sole purpose of pilfering extremely classified documents. 'It may be telling that Snowden did not release mdash; or at least the recipients of his cache haven't yet published — any documents detailing the cyber-operations of any other countries, especially Russia or China,' concludes Kaplan. 'If it turned out that Snowden did give information to the Russians or Chinese (or if intelligence assessments show that the leaks did substantial damage to national security, something that hasn't been proved in public), then I'd say all talk of a deal is off — and I assume the Times editorial page would agree.'"
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Counterpoint: Why Edward Snowden May Not Deserve Clemency

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  • Technically correct (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sun (104778) <shachar@shemesh.biz> on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:40AM (#45870125) Homepage

    The NSA's operations abroad are not against the organization charter, and are, therefor, not against the law.

    Some of the revelations, however, while detailing operations that are technically legal, do paint the organzation in a light that shows it to be an unchecked body with too much power and not enough supervision.

    The specific examples listed in the article may not be under the above category. Still, it is not clear who did the sifting through and filtering the material to decide what gets published. If Snowden did none of it, than those can be chalcked down to "collateral damage". If the bulk of the material is relevant for a whistle blower, I'd still go with clemancy.

    Shachar
    P.s.
    Not that I, as a non-US citizen, or even resident, have a real say on the matter.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:52AM (#45870183)

      Not that I, as a non-US citizen, or even resident, have a real say on the matter.

      Not that I, as a US citizen, have a real say on the matter either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        US citizens cannot cop out like that. You must take the responsibility for what is done by your elected officials with your tax dollars.

        • by heypete (60671)

          US citizens cannot cop out like that. You must take the responsibility for what is done by your elected officials with your tax dollars.

          How, exactly?

          • by polar red (215081)

            your elected officials

            right. those people are elected.

          • by 605dave (722736) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:04AM (#45870495) Homepage

            By voting. We have incredibly low voter turn out rates. And yes here comes the "both sides are the same so why vote" argument. Alright, then get involved in politics in some way. Most people don't participate, then claim there's nothing that can be done.

            • by dido (9125) <dido@NOsPAm.imperium.ph> on Sunday January 05, 2014 @02:16PM (#45871783)

              And then anyone who tries to seriously get into politics in that way will understand just why the NSA's data collection is so dangerous and gives them so much power. I've seen many people around here make the ridiculous argument that NSA domestic data collection doesn't affect them because they're nobody. Right... But if you want to try to effect real change you stop being a nobody, and all that "dead data" they collected on you suddenly takes on life like so many zombies. Cardinal Richelieu once famously said that if he was given six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men he would find something in them by which would hang him. The NSA has far, far more than that. On all of us. I can only hope that you Americans still have the same courage your founding fathers had when they created your nation. You will need it in these dark days.

        • by mosb1000 (710161)

          So I have to take responsibility for a secret program, which I always suspected but I could never prove existed? And if one of us does do something like Snowden or Manning, he's called a traitor and charged as a criminal? But this is my fault individually?! I have absolutely no control over it whatsoever.

    • by jcr (53032)

      The NSA's operations abroad are not against the organization charter, and are, therefor, not against the law.

      Why do you assume that the NSA's charter entitles them to break the laws of other countries?

      -jcr

      • and more to the point, they ARE breaking the law. They are clearly and without question breaking the law, and violating the constitution. All this talk of how it's actually just breaking the "spirit" of the law is just propaganda. I think the real scary part is that they could be using their information to blackmail out leaders and we'd have no idea.

  • Snowden may be a first class asshole for all I know but that's irrelevant... our elites have failed us and it's only a matter of time before history repeats and the streets run with blood.

    All Snowden has done is shown precisely how naked the Emperor is. Squabbling over minutiae is just window dressing from this point onwards.

    • Re: freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

      by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:53AM (#45870201) Homepage

      Soldiers fight for our freedom? As if fighting in some third-world crap hole has anything to do with our freedom here in the United States. I think Snowden is a true hero. He didn't give his life for oil or empire, he gave his life for something that intimately has to do with *our* freedom.

      • Soldiers fight for our freedom? As if fighting in some third-world crap hole has anything to do with our freedom here in the United States. I think Snowden is a true hero. He didn't give his life for oil or empire, he gave his life for something that intimately has to do with *our* freedom.

        WTF? Who said anything about soldiers.... Please re-read what I wrote

  • by foobar bazbot (3352433) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:48AM (#45870165)

    about NSA surveillance of cellphone calls 'worldwide,' an effort that 'allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.'

    Yes, it's essential to national security that we "look for", identify, and if necessary kill, any and all "unknown associates" of Ms. Merkel!

    It doesn't prove Snowden is in the right, but when the NSA's proponents can't string together one paragraph summarizing the "good" programs Snowden's compromised without this sort of thing, you can be pretty damn sure NSA is so far wrong it's not funny.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:48AM (#45870167)
    Snowden could have been an Ellsberg; instead he chose to take his information to China and Russia. One would have to assume is the first things those country's intelligence agencies would do is get their hands on his files. He could refuse; but then again they could simply bundle him up and ship him back to the US and core political points. In addition, if what Kaplan says is correct and he did this in a premeditated manner then his whole story starts to unravel. At this pony, he has to start wondering what happens when he is a bigger liability to Russia than an asset? Putin certainly, as a former intelligence officer, will have no qualms over cutting him lose once he is no longer useful. finally, there is no upside for any President granting clemency. Cutting a deal, maybe, where Snowden gets a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperation.His biggest problem, in many ways, will be his ego. As his value fades and the world loses interest in him, if Russia doesn't cut him loose he'll probably wind up like Kim Philby, cutoff from friends and family, largely forgotten and ignored. That will take a harsh psychological toll.
    • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:57AM (#45870213)

      Snowden could have been an Ellsberg; instead he chose to take his information to China and Russia.

      No, he chose to take *himself* to China and Russia, and I can't say I blame him.

      One would have to assume is the first things those country's intelligence agencies would do is get their hands on his files.

      Except they didn't, because Snowden didn't take his files with him, at least not unencrypted.

      He could refuse; but then again they could simply bundle him up and ship him back to the US and core political points.

      Are you kidding? This is their best propaganda coup in the past twenty years. They're not going to screw it up even if they don't get access to Snowden's files.

      • Snowden could have been an Ellsberg; instead he chose to take his information to China and Russia.

        No, he chose to take *himself* to China and Russia, and I can't say I blame him.

        One would have to assume is the first things those country's intelligence agencies would do is get their hands on his files.

        Except they didn't, because Snowden didn't take his files with him, at least not unencrypted.

        So you're saying that because Snowden says "Putin's men did not threaten to castrate me if I didn't come up with an unencrypted thumb drive, therefore I didn't have Greenwald FedEx me one" then he clearly hasn't done that shit?

        Kaplan's point isn't that Snowden is an evil man who should be shot without trial, or even that he should be put on trial, it's that we have to have fairly lengthy and complex investigation, in which Snowden is clearly out of the control of Russia, before we can decide whether a trial

    • by AHuxley (892839) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:13AM (#45870267) Homepage Journal
      The Ellsberg days are over, There is no open court for cleared material. You face the same people you are wanting the press to know about with your cleared lawyer... in a sealed court. Nothing will ever get out and you still face a US court.
      Many good people in the US have tried the US court path, some with political protection. After the Ellsberg generation nothing much ever gets out to the tame press anymore.
      http://cryptome.org/2013-info/06/whistleblowing/whistleblowing.htm [cryptome.org]
      Getting out was the only way to get to the press. Now the press is releasing the material in its own way and the wider public can understand what they are getting when they use crypto.
      http://cryptome.org/2013/11/snowden-tally.htm [cryptome.org]
      http://cryptome.org/2014/01/nsa-codenames.htm [cryptome.org]
      Russia just has to wait and see if the info has been pre sorted, is bait, a trap or has unique internal errors to track Russian spies within the USA.
      Russia would be very careful with any free press material vs a person they understand working for them deep with in the US gov over years.
  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:51AM (#45870179)
    Since all of the NSA's collection programs are international in scope, how should Snowden separate the documents to make an international spying program such as XKEYSCORE resemble a "domestic-only" program? That's an impossible hurdle... The corollary is that in the author's opinion, any leak about the NSA's collection should be punished because it would include spying on "legitimate targets". But his argument sounds reasonable on the surface.
    • The author has actually supported several of the leaks.

      His problems are the leaks about US spy operations on various non-US governments, which are perfectly legal; and revelations about information-gathering in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

      And you're totally ignoring one of his main points:
      If Snowden is in Russia, and the Russians can threaten to shoot him (or even just send him back to the US), why would we believe him that he hasn't snitched on our Russian assets to them? Given that he chose to go there, and

  • Not "clemency" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:51AM (#45870181)

    He doesn't deserve clemency, yeah. For clemency, you first need to do something wrong.

  • by fisted (2295862) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:52AM (#45870187)

    am glad Snoden didn't release mdash;

  • one-way certainty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:52AM (#45870191)

    'If it turned out that Snowden did give information to the Russians or Chinese (or if intelligence assessments show that the leaks did substantial damage to national security, something that hasn't been proved in public), then I'd say all talk of a deal is off â" and I assume the Times editorial page would agree.'

    This is one of those propositions that can only ever be in the past tense in a single logical state: busted.

    These one-way allegations have a way of never dying, or at least not until it's back page news. Meanwhile, they muddy the waters a great deal just hanging there.

    Neither is it self-evidently clear that the NSA's voraciousness is separable, to where informed public debate can exist with only one-half of the picture (aka the domestic half).

    I think this article translates to: "it's our policy to never grant clemency under any conditions just in case we later discover a game-changing fact".

    The option of a conditional clemency is fraught with unsolvable issues. Snowden could attest that he's never actually done any entirely non-clement things, and if were subsequently learned otherwise, his clemency could be revoked. This would be "clement until proven guilty".

    Only for this to be workable, one would have to have a way to prove that the NSA never plants leaks of its own information to gain what it dearly wants—have I got a bridge to sell you—as there's no way to prove that a leak originated from Snowden unless the substance of the leak contains information one can verify the NSA never had at that time.

    Good luck with that.

    And somehow the subtext of all this seems to imply that the NSA's proven snookery (illegitimately authorized as far as the eye can see) should take a back seat to Snowden's unproven snookery (the worst things he might have done).

    I don't blame the NSA for the lamentable standards of civic discourse. But neither can the agency hide from their legacy of operating behind a thick smoke screen of democratic false impressions.

    • "Single logical state?"

      You do realize this is real life, not a circuit? It doesn't have a logical state. It's analog, and messy, and we have to deal with it using our mushy monkey-brains as best we can.

      And with all that highfaluting thinking, you missed Kaplan's main point:
      You don't grant a guy clemency until you know what he's accused of doing.

      And we don't know that Snowden didn't intend to end up in Russia. We don't know that he is telling the truth when he assures us he hasn't told the Russians jack-squa

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:54AM (#45870203) Homepage Journal
    Every country with their own little sets of 'freedom fighters' or revolitionaries would tell their groups not to trust email traffic, mobile phone calls, and radio transmissions by default.
    As for cyber-operations, every country has known since the late 1960's that their telco, crypto, banking, legal, embassy networks where under constant surveillance and could not to be trusted.
    By the 1980's encrypted embassy plain text was finding its way into the Western press...
    Some nations crypto staff seem to be not working for their nations best interests when passing junk encryption... the German efforts to protect their political communications seem very slow...
    As for Russian or China will they really be baited by an ex CIA source who got to work for the NSA via a contractor?
    Thankfully what has changed is a deeper understanding of software, hardware and crypto been junk as sold, delivered, reviewed or upgraded.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:06AM (#45870255)

    The rights enumerated in (but NOT granted by) the US Constitution are BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS to which every human being is entitled.

    Every human being on Earth has a fundamental human right against unreasonable searches and seizures, unlawful arrests, and to be free of total government snooping and over-reaching police actions.

    Exposing our violation of the rights of practically the entire Earth population was the right thing to do. Snowden deserves more than clemency. He deserves a sainthood.

    • Exposing our violation of the rights of practically the entire Earth population was the right thing to do. Snowden deserves more than clemency. He deserves a sainthood.

      This christian agrees, with the added qualifier- "He deserves a sainthood ... as much as anybody"

  • Truthy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quantaman (517394) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:14AM (#45870281)

    Kaplan says the NYT editorial calling on President Obama to grant Snowden 'some form of clemency' paints an incomplete picture when it claims that Snowden 'stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency's voraciousness.' In fact, as Snowden himself told the South China Morning Post, he took his job as an NSA contractor, with Booz Allen Hamilton, because he knew that his position would grant him 'to lists of machines all over the world [that] the NSA hacked.' Snowden got himself placed at the NSA's signals intelligence center in Hawaii says Kaplan for the sole purpose of pilfering extremely classified documents.

    What Kaplan leaves out is that gig was not the first time Snowden worked for the NSA, he'd been working with the NSA and CIA in various capacities since 2006. It was during this work "he became disillusioned with the agency's voraciousness". He took the contractor position explicitly to get the evidence for the illegal programs he already had first hand knowledge of.

    Kaplan actually emphasizes that this job was only 3 months, implying that Snowden had just learned about the programs and is therefore lying about all his deliberations and questioning within the agency.

    Whatever you think of Snowden I think there's enough evidence to conclude that Kaplan is a hack.

    • Re:Truthy (Score:4, Informative)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @12:26PM (#45870977) Journal
      actually wrong. Snowden had worked for the CIA prior, not the NSA. He had worked WITH the NSA, but not for.
  • by kasperd (592156) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:16AM (#45870285) Homepage Journal
    Had the released documents only reveled domestic spying, then the NSA might have looked even worse in the eyes of Americans, but the USA might not have looked as bad to the rest of the world. It would have been a misleading image of the USA though.

    It may have been illegal according to current American law for Snowden to reveal, that USA is treating every other country in the world as an enemy. But you have got to ask if it really is Snowden, who is wrong here. It could be that it is Snowden who is right, and on the other side, we have the law, the NSA, and the government who are all wrong.

    I'd say it is up to the population of the USA to decide whose side they want to be on.

    If the population of the USA thinks it is OK that NSA is spying on all other countries as if they were an enemy of USA, then the population should make this point very clear. In that case Snowden should never go back to the USA, but there will surely be countries of another opinion, in which Snowden can live as a free man.

    If OTOH the population of the USA thinks that the NSA has gone too far, then they should also make this point very clear. If it is only the small elite in power, who consider the spying to be OK, then the population need to replace them with somebody who acts in the interest of the population. In this case it is of little importance, if the NSA acted within the law, the law need to be updated to make it absolutely clear, that this is no longer legal. And Snowden's actions should retroactively be made legal.

    I don't know what the majority of the population of USA thinks about that question, but I think the world deserves to know. Does the population of USA think it is OK for USA to be spying on every other country?
    • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:53PM (#45872503)

      Of course the US population wants us to spy on every country. We are not some pansy Aristocratic Monarchy which only wins through honorable behavior. We are the United States, and we win because we cheat. George Washington never won a fair fight in his life. Bobby Lee fought fair, and lost half his Army to a guy who didn't fight at all (Bill Sherman), and the other half to a guy (Grant) who won mostly by knowing the best place to throw bodies. So the American people don't think we should stop tapping foreign leaders phones. We get kinda embarrassed about Angie Merkell because she seems like a nice lady and we don't want to remind her of the Stasi, but we won't stop tapping her phone. We are America, our unofficial motto is "trust, but verify", we will cheat our asses off (just ask the American Indians, there's a reason they gave up on reforming us and became citizens in the 20s), and if you don't like it you should probably support a European superstate because that's the only thing that can stop us.

      Now if you did a poll and asked about mass data collection I doubt Americans would put it in the same "of course we cheat" category, but this article isn't about arresting Snowden for the mass data collection. It's about the spying on foreign officials, outing our techniques in Pakistan, etc. And that shit is firmly in "of course we cheat."

  • human rights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by allo (1728082) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:24AM (#45870317)

    are called human rights, because everyone has them. Even criminals, convicted murderers, child killers. Every human has human rights.

    So, snowden is a hero. Privacy is not only meant for the USA.

  • Credibility (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:36AM (#45870367) Journal

    As far as the intent argument goes. We have know all kinds of abuses have been happening for a long time. Courts have issued rules on insane standings rules that say things like "you can't know your right were violated" so you can't sue, which means you can't find out through discovery.

    So someone like Snowden who is on the outside would have had little choice but to intentionally infiltrate the NSA or just keep bending over and taking it like everyone else. It might be more fair to describe him as an activist than a whistle-blower, but morally I think there is plenty of equivalence there.

    The issue about disclosing the stuff that isn't likely to be illegal or outside charter is that it was probably necessary for credibility. If the only stuff he handed over was heavily filtered and redacted the only questions that would have been raised would be "why should we believe any of this is authentic, the courts will never let us verify any of it?" and "What aren't you telling us?" It isn't as if he posted the whole trove on 4chan or something he leaked to (mostly) responsible press agencies who have always played the role of filter for this kind of thing in western democracy. I think the wider leaks though perhaps unfortunate with respect to some national interests were quite necessary and done as responsibly as possible.

    All and all the arguments against clemency pretty much boil down to "he threatened order, and we can't have that" Which when it comes to military and intelligence personal and civilian employes of similar nature is not an argument entirely without merit; but the NSA is so out of hand a wrench any smaller would have done nothing to even slow the gears. At some point the system gets to broken to work with in it.

  • by Atmchicago (555403) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:58AM (#45870463) Homepage
    He copied the documents but did not deprive the NSA of them. He only copied them and did not steal them. This is the same distinction that must be made when discussing copyright violations. It seems like a small point, but the thievery elicits much stronger emotional responses than copying does, and some are making deliberate efforts to paint Snowden in as bad a light as possible. Please, let's use the correct term.
  • by spikenerd (642677) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:59AM (#45870473)
    ...for the people, and of the people has no legitimate reason to indefinitely keep secrets from the people. When temporary secrets are needed, they should be placed in escrow, so the reasonableness of the duration can be evaluated when it comes out, and those keeping the secret can be held accountable. Until the government provides such reasonable checks, surely the people are justified in seizing all of its information by force.
  • Shadow Play (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:12AM (#45870545)

    I am convinced that Mr. Snowden represents more than himself, and that he has help and assistance from a faction or factions inside the organs of state security that do not like the way things are headed.

    This piece by Mr. Kaplan clearly represents a bit of propaganda from the other side, the elements inside state security that do like the way things are going. In that light, while not informational, it is informative about the shadow play going on behind the scenes.

  • Pay Attention (Score:4, Interesting)

    by misfit815 (875442) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:31AM (#45870631)

    That editorial was written to shift perception. The CFR is part of the inner circle in Washington. Anything that comes from anyone associated with it should be viewed as a tactic in a larger campaign. He's not trying to argue the finer points of Snowden's guilt or innocence. He's trying to move the needle of public opinion, so that subsequent actions against Snowden have less resistance.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:40AM (#45870697)
    Oliver North called himself a "patriot" after being pardoned for his involvement in weapon sales to Hezbolla, less than a year after it had blown up more than one hundred US Marines, weapon sales to Iran which had declared itself and enemy of the USA and a bit of embezzlement on the side to pay for home improvements and a car. Various other people in the party that is now calling for Snowdon's blood also called him a patriot. He had his photo taken wrapped in a flag when he was running for office. He said he was selling weapons to terrorists without orders from above (although Poindexter was implicated it was not by North), just out of a sense of duty to his country.
    Fast forward to Snowdon. Why should he get a raw deal when what he did was far less damaging than North, and his whistleblowing, apparently also out of a sense of duty to his country, was of far greater national benefit than selling weapons to terrorists and a declared enemy?
  • by DroneWhatever (3482785) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:59AM (#45870803)
    There is little doubt in my mind, some of the best and brightest, the people writing the exploits and doing the most devious thinking, were recruited from the floor of DEFCON. The military finally smartened up and looked at the talent pool, unfortunately for the American public. NSA recruiter: "Do you want to be in the shadows of the public, and do what you do for little to no money, assume huge risks with little to no credit for your work? OR, would you like to work side by side with other like minds, making 250k+ a year, company vehicle, paid housing, big bonuses for working code, and get to work with unlimited bandwidth and computing power? You will have physical access to devices when needed to test your code and theories, and, you will be completely immune to prosecution. Free coffee, sodas, meals, gyms, 4 weeks of paid vacation. You WILL NOT, however, be allowed to work from home, and, you will never have to take your work home with you. Sound good?" Me: "I didn't graduate high school, is this a show-stopper?" NSA recruiter: "You are going to be a real asset to the NSA, we value your commitment, sign here." I bet they never thought what they would be doing would lead to this. They thought they were strictly going after bad guys. Getting your ego pumped and stroked tends to make you forget who you are and what you once stood for.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @12:03PM (#45870829)

    So some guy from The Establishment says that Snowden and all future leakers should have somehow performed a humanly impossible feat of meta analysis on millions of documents which constitute proof of widespread criminal and unconstitutional activities . THAT is the standard leakers shall be held to. Or else. They're not leakers, and it's espionage.

    So says the Council on Foreign Relations.

    You can just seem them breaking into workshop gorups brainstorming how to spin the Snowden Affair so as to turn the American public against him and give the NSA defenders on PBS and FOX talking points.

    "Hey polls show people think he's a whistleblower , but maybe if we can split that perception by appearing to agree with the public on *some* of the stuff while damning him with the other stuff, we can split the opposition."

    This from the CFR. What did you expect? I used to think that the CFR might be some kind of collective voice of wisdom, experience and expertise on world affairs. You know, people who had wide ranging real world experience and were out of their posts or retired but still engaged and concerned.

    I am an asshole this way; I impugn my own idealism to the actions of others.

    The CFR is a bunch of hand picked academics and fucking yes men and women drawn from previous administrations and Ivy leagues universities whose main function is to think and live and produce "solutions" within the Skinner box out of which cookies , cake and ice cream have fallen to them their whole lives . They're entirely composed of and express the perspective of government and establishment academic institutions whose "think tanks" and "department chairs" are little more than hand-up-your-ass-moving-your-mouth , you-know-who-feeds-you-baby extensions of Washington officialdom and groupthink.

    Good thing they weighed in on Snowden. I know we were all breathlessly awaiting their opinion on this matter.

    "I'm sorry to report he trial balloon didn't float too well."

  • by American Patent Guy (653432) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @12:07PM (#45870861) Homepage

    Isn't it curious: do we really know more now than before Snowden made his "revelations"? We already knew that the NSA was snooping in our "metadata" and in all kinds of international traffic. So who now protests what the NSA does? Great Britain, Germany, Israel, Australia, India and Brazil. All countries with strong ties to the U.S.; all countries who have cooperated or can be presumed to have cooperated with the intelligence-gathering of the U.S. in the past. Why don't we hear the protestations of China, of North Korea, or of neutral countries like Spain?

    Isn't it curious: the NSA "contractor" plugs in his portable drive into the evil network and, like Princess Leia, carries off the plans to the intelligence-gathering form of the Death Star for the Rebels while being undetected. Who would you pick to act such a part? Perhaps a young, geeky-looking guy -- oh, and let's make him white so we can avoid negative colorations of the the U.S. (and other countries') minorities...

    Isn't it curious: the NSA "contractor" escapes the control of the possessor of the information. He supposedly knows all of the right contacts to gain "amnesty" in a foreign country. He lands in Russia rather than in a more neutral country ... and Russia does have strong ties to the U.S. now, don't they? He who "betrayed" the NSA sips expensive wines and eats caviar under the protection of a country that really shouldn't care less what happens to him, right?

    When the grass grows high in the forestland, sometimes the keepers of the forest execute a controlled burn. They intentionally start a fire in the grass so they can have the resources to keep it under control, rather than wait for some future accident to cause a crisis. I suspect that here the grass is public opinion, and Mr. Snowden is the match put into the grass.

    Mr. Snowden does not deserve amnesty: he already has it.

  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @12:45PM (#45871099) Journal

    Kaplan is arguing that Snowden would have to be perfectly selective about what he took in order to "deserve" clemency. He would have to take from the NSA "the pound of flesh nearest the heart", without a drop of blood or grain of sinew or bone. That's an impossible standard.

    Snowden shouldn't get mere "clemency". Snowden should get a full pardon for the laws he broke, plus the Presidential Medal of Freedom and/or the Congressional Gold Medal for exposing these totalitarian programs.

  • good piece (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @01:40PM (#45871537) Homepage Journal

    And I don't mean that in a positive way. This is the first time I've seen where someone has actually expended some effort to write up something that seems convincing.

    However, it is still full of holes. There are two very important ones that are hidden in plain sight, bold-faced lies said out straight so that most audiences won't even notice, much less question them.

    The first is his "why didn't he reveal anything about the evil other guys? is he maybe working for them?" allegation, hidden in the two sentences

    It may be telling that Snowden did not release [...] any documents detailing the cyber-operations of any other countries, especially Russia or China [...]If it turned out that Snowden did give information to the Russians or Chinese

    Well, doh, he didn't work for any russian or chinese intelligence agency during his career, so he did not have an inside view or access to classified documents in any of them. Insinuating otherwise is like complaining that Putin didn't fix the US healthcare.gov problem.

    The second crazy-ass hole is that the NSA also did good. You find that a lot these days, apparently it's been given out as a party line.

    Well, that is a dramatically misleading statement, not because it is wrong but because it misses the entire point. Allow me to illustrate:

    I propose we create an agency similar to the NSA, let's call it the NCA - the National Crime-Eradication Agency. It will have a budget of a billion US$ and one simple task: Buy as many guns and ammo as you can get for that amount, and then drive into every big american city and gun down everyone they meet.

    Like the NSA, they will successfully execute a death penalty on many, many murderers, rapists and other criminals who escaped detection or conviction. Even many whose crimes we didn't yet know about because the victims kept silent or were never found.

    All in favour?

    Of course not, it's a crazy scheme. Just like the NSAs "total surveilance so we detect a few bad apples" approach. Destroying the privacy of several billion people is not an adequate price to pay for capturing a dozen or even a hundred bad guys.

    Sure it did get them some. So would carpet-bombing New York City. Success alone is a worthless measure without taking cost into account.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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