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Why Snowden Did Right 348

Bruce66423 writes: "Ebon Moglen Gives a comprehensive explanation of how the NSA's surveillance operations are a threat to a functioning democracy, and why there is a need for real change. There are interesting parallels to the Roman Empires: 'The power of that Roman empire rested in its leaders' control of communications. ... The emperors invented the posts to move couriers and messages at the fastest possible speed. Using that infrastructure, with respect to everything that involved the administration of power, the emperor made himself the best-informed person in the history of the world. That power eradicated human freedom. "Remember," said Cicero to Marcellus in exile, "wherever you are, you are equally within the power of the conqueror.'

Nowadays, 'Our military listeners have invaded the centre of an evolving net, where conscriptable digital superbrains gather intelligence on the human race for purposes of bagatelle and capitalism. In the US, the telecommunications companies have legal immunity for their complicity, thus easing the way further. The invasion of our net was secret, and we did not know that we should resist. But resistance developed as a fifth column among the listeners themselves. Because of Snowden, we now know that the listeners undertook to do what they repeatedly promised respectable expert opinion they would never do. They always said they would not attempt to break the crypto that secures the global financial system. That was false.'"
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Why Snowden Did Right

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  • thank you Snowden (Score:5, Insightful)

    by watcher-rv4 ( 2712547 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @01:56PM (#47101007)
    If somebody did something right in the last decades, politically speaking, was Snowden.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:04PM (#47101085)

    If all Snowden had done was blow the whistle on domestic surveillance programs, I'd agree entirely.

    But doing a massive document dump that included things the NSA is *supposed* to do - spy on non-US countries - puts Snowden in another category. What that category winds up being is going to be decided by history. But it won't be that of a simple whistleblower doing nothing but good.

    Because the only people who claim that have "harming the US" as a goal. (At least have the balls to admit that, please.)

  • Re:Almost... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:09PM (#47101129)
    It's not democracy if capitalism has its hooks in every aspect of government.
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:24PM (#47101265) Homepage Journal
    If you think back 40-50, one of the primary criticism of Soviet Russia was that no one in that country did any real work. In industry you sat around all day playing chess, and the governement most spent it's time surveilling itself and everyone else. While this was an exaggeration, the point should be well taken. The purpose of a governement is to govern, and if too many resources are spent spying, if the stability is so strained that constant monitoring of citizens is required, then that nation-state is not going to survive very long. It is not only the expense, it is the waste of talent, the existence of meaningless jobs. This later is really death to a country. If young people know they need no real education because they can just chill in the military or hang out and drink vodka while spying on other people, why would they bother to gain real skills?
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:24PM (#47101269)

    If somebody did something right in the last decades, politically speaking, was Snowden.

    My daughter had to write an essay for her high school literature class about someone she considered to be a hero. Three kids wrote their essay about Edward Snowden. No one else was picked by more than one student. I have hope for the next generation. Maybe they will do better than we are doing.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:25PM (#47101273) Homepage

    You presume that U.S. citizens are the only ones whose rights matter. Don't feel bad—many of us U.S. citizens think the same way. But you will find if you talk to citizens of other countries, like Germany and Canada and France, that they also care about these issues, and care that the NSA, GCHQ and others have spied on them. And, more importantly, the techniques that the NSA has used to pwn the net are so damaging that even when they are used for legitimate foreign policy reasons, the harm they do to our domestic interests is massive. And the bugs they planted in Cisco router firmware are even worse: they have motivated people to use Chinese tech instead of American tech, and in the process likely created an opportunity for the Chinese government to collect intelligence in our stead. Is that better than nobody being able to collect the intelligence?

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gma i l .com> on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:31PM (#47101333) Journal

    But doing a massive document dump that included things the NSA is *supposed* to do - spy on non-US countries

    It's hilarious how Americans are not at all bothered by the US spying on the whole rest of the world, including their own allies.

    Fuck those guys right? Only Americans deserve any privacy that doesn't need to be taken through digital superiority.

    Nah I'm just kidding, it's actually worse than that. They don't think about how many foreigners' privacy they invade any more than they think about how many ants they run over on their morning commute.

  • Re:Almost... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:34PM (#47101357)

    So, essentially, in a communist world, the government controls the industry, and in a capitalist world it's exactly the opposite thereof?

    Uh... can I choose "neither"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:36PM (#47101389)

    The United States is not a democracy. It never has been. We use a democratic election process to elect representatives. That means we live in a republic. Which, coincidentally, is what the Romans had before they were an empire.
    But a republic is what the founding fathers had in mind. A true democracy would not work in America. And if you doubt that, learn what a true democracy entails.

  • Cowards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:45PM (#47101459) Journal

    The sad truth is the majority of Americans are fundamentally cowards. That, combined with the human tendency to grossly over estimate the risks from rare events with severe consequences creates this problem.

    Unlike a war which happens over there terrorist acts can happen anywhere. If they can happen anywhere, they can happen here, to me! Gasp!

    Look at the hysteria that occurred when the anthrax mailings were going on. People were reporting "white powder" everywhere and breathlessly telling each other "that could've been me, I could have DIED".

    No, not really. Unless you were a postal worker, you had a bigger chance of being kicked to death by a wild mule than you did of encountering anthrax in a package.

    The sad truth is people play their potential role up in their mind because they think their lives are boring and uneventful. A terrorist attack may be horrible, but it is exciting, too. People do the same thing with celebrities. "OMG! I ate dinner in the same restaurant as Justin Bieber! He was there the night before!"

    Add all of that together and you get a lot of people who will gladly give up lots of freedom for a little (perceived) security.

  • Not rocket science (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:46PM (#47101483)

    Hah, If nothing else, that he's being shielded by a true tyrant is evidence of what side of right he's truly on.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:46PM (#47101485) Homepage
    Because america, although projected as one, is far from a functional democracy. We've engaged in systematic disenfranchisement and enslavery of an entire race of people during slavery and well into the 20th century within the confines our our policy of mass incarceration. Women didnt achieve equal voting rights until the early 20th century. We wiped an entire indigenous race of humans out of existence during colonization. Voter identification is enforced in 30 states and will prevent free and open election for anyone without a picture ID. Gerrymandering, closed primary elections, and the 2000 florida voter scandal are all conclusive proof we do not even remotely represent a functional democracy and have not for quite some time. Former criminals, after completing their sentence, are barred from the right to vote in many states and may only seek restoration of their voting rights with the pardon of a governor and a steep fee. Many states still maintain a debtors prison system by which those who cannot pay court costs are summarily enrolled in detention facilities. A Third party has not existed in any respectible context in the United States for more than 100 years, and the electoral college system exists to ensure this reality remains unchallenged. There are virtually no repercussions for employers who resist or refuse an employees request for time off from work to vote. Japanese americans faced internment and were not permitted to vote during world war two, let alone contact family members outside of their camp. Jews were barred in america holding state office for quite some time, and atheists to this day in many states are still restricted from holding political office. New York has a stop-and-frisk policy where they do not need probable cause to stop anyone at will. Our supreme court recently ruled that the systemic isolation, relocation, and arrest of protestors during the presidency of George W Bush was entirely legal. As evidenced by the occupy campaign we readily beat, torture, and maim protestors even going to far as to hose passive protestors with pepperspray for simply existing. Our borders have the free right to interrogate, stop, and detain anyone (american or not) without any formal probable cause. Those declared terrorists may be detained indefinitely and shipped to a secret torture camp in Cuba. We have banned the communist party from ever taking part in an american election or operating as political party.

    so while I applaud the author for pointing this very recent discovery out, its critical to remember we are as much a functional democracy as the USSR was a functional communism.
  • by c4320n ( 2551122 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:48PM (#47101499)
    Preposterous. 'Just following orders' (or, 'Just following our directive', as it were) is no excuse. Every human being has an inalienable set of rights, and surveillance violates these rights; culpability for that violation exists regardless of the NSA's ostensibly-foreign 'jurisdiction'.
  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:51PM (#47101545)

    I think you'll find that the NSA is relatively efficient at what it does in terms of its mission statement. That's the more chilling analogy here. 40 to 50 years ago it took massive amounts of "feet on the street" to gather intelligence along with lots of time to analyze the information. Now with wholesale wiretapping of all forms of communication there's not much that our government can't learn about nearly every citizen in the country. By nearly we have to think of kids who aren't on the Internet or have a cell phone yet. If you start to tie together the communications surveillance with the amount of surveillance that goes on from commercial entities and local law enforcement a profile on the behaviors and destinations of every American is now at hand. Your license plates on your car are tracked, your credit card/banking transactions tracked. Your travel is now tracked both by "chipped" passports and airline itineraries. Even your transit pass is tracking you. We may have backed into our Orwellian surveillance world in the name of easy shopping or "security" but that certainly doesn't mean that we have to allow it to continue. That's the failure of our democracy right now, we're failing to push our leadership to dismantle this system and to push for legislation that would outlaw these wholesale collection processes in the first place.

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:56PM (#47101581)

    If you're going to put Obama in that category then I have to add George W Bush to the list and most of Congress who also went along with violations of the Constitution too.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:59PM (#47101595) Homepage
    No. You will have the same amount of privacy and national security than without him. But now you have better means to actually estimate it.

    What was suspiciously absent from the debate about Mr. Snowden was the question, how many people before him did the same stunt internally, but didn't came forward and informed the world. The internal security at the NSA seems to have been lousy, and it is quite possible that there have been many more leaks, but they went to the highest bidder and not to investigative journalists.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @03:10PM (#47101687)

    Americans are afraid because the media - especially Fox News who prays upon old people;the majority of voters during the mid-terms - has instilled fear to generate ratings.

    TV, Internet and radio news is evil and for stupid people.

    Spread the word.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @03:29PM (#47101813)
    Because the spook agencies have the right to overrule the constitution when they think they are right. What could possibly go wrong with that?
  • by Urkki ( 668283 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @03:31PM (#47101833)

    Because every contractor has the right to overrule the democratically elected government when they think they are right. What could possibly go wrong with that?

    Being a contractor does not matter, but being a citizen does. It gives not just a right but an obligation to take the measures they think are necessary, when faced with something as treacherous as what Snowden faced. The democratically elected part of the government was largely in the dark about this, making Snowden's actions doubly justified. The decisions needed at a situation like that are hard on many levels. He did pretty good, even in hindsight.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @03:58PM (#47102043) Journal

    Very true. But Bush isn't currently in office. Obama can still affect future legislation in a meaningful way, and those congresscritters can still effect meaningful legislation. Let's keep the focus on those actually in office, and drop the partisan BS. Neither party is on our side here, but politicians still care if enough of a stink is raised among voters (the geek voice doesn't matter, but when they start getting calls from friends and family asking about stuff, you bet it matters). I think most people actually care about being spied on--it's programmed into us, as with most mammals, at a pretty fundamental level to treat strangers watching us as hostile--but most people don't yet realize the extent. There's also still hope for the courts.

    I believe the German high court recently ruled as unconstitutional the cooperation between their own intel agency and the NSA, on the basis that the NSA does not comply with German law when spying on German citizens. Perhaps we can manage the same?

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @05:33PM (#47102755) Homepage Journal

    The NSA is the one that has betrayed the country. Snowden called them out.

  • by Lt.Hawkins ( 17467 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @07:08PM (#47103303) Homepage

    Apparently in your worldview, news organizations are unbiased and don't have any ulterior motives like "ratings" and "click conversions" and "sell books" and "scoop the other news organization" and their own political agenda. ABC News, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and Fox News are all equivalent and will all publish the same items with the same unbiased coverage.

    Manning and Snowden did a massive data dump to organizations who will publish anything to get eyeballs. Slow news day? Lets pull out another one of these millions of documents, because outrage at the NSA sells and wins awards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @07:10PM (#47103313)

    First of all, Snowden didn't actually tell us anything we didn't already know; all he did was remind everyone that it was still happening. The stuff he told us was old news that had already been reported by every news agency and then forgotten by the American public.

    Second, in his haste to tell us what we already knew, he also included some extra classified information == an act of treason.

    tl;dr: Snowden could have just said "see story from <date>; it's still happening."

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:03PM (#47104735) Homepage Journal

    Why would kids mistaking a traitor for a hero give you hope? You didn't fixate on Snowdens revelation of domestic spying, and totally overlook his treachery regarding international spying, did you?

    Nope. But given that he wisely didn't dare take the time to sort everything out before handing the data to the Guardian and fleeing, I agree with Snowden that the latter was an acceptable cost for blowing the whistle on the former. The outing of the international spying operations did little real damage; it didn't provide much information on methods, didn't expose any human assets, and despite the de rigeur howls of outrage, everyone knew it was going on anyway. At most there was a little surprise as foreign agencies discovered that the NSA was even better than previously thought.

    On the other hand, the revelation that the NSA was blatantly violating the legal restrictions on its operations (albeit with some weaselly definitions attempting to work around it) and -- even more important -- that the NSA had abandoned one half of its dual mission in favor of the other half, was hugely important to get out.

    Ever since I worked with the NSA a few years ago I've thought of them as the good guys, because when I worked with them they were clearly and seriously trying to strengthen the security of the corner of the US financial system I was working on. I knew they tried to break security as well, but was certain that they'd take steps to close serious holes they found which threatened important government and non-government security. The rationale was that since their job is both to spy on everyone else's signals and to secure ours, they could only safely leave holes in place if they were confident that only they could exploit them.

    But thanks to Snowden we now know they not only didn't help to fix the holes they found, and didn't care if the holes were something that others might exploit, they actively tried to create new ones, to subvert new designs and implementations. They've been working to weaken our entire security infrastructure -- actively working against one half of their mission -- in order to make their jobs on the other half easier.

    We really, really needed to know that. Frankly, it's information of such vital importance to REAL national security, meaning securing the freedom of Americans rather than the narrow goals of government agencies, that it would have been worth a lot more damage. Lives, even.

    Yes, Snowden is a hero. Not an unblemished hero, but on balance a true American hero.

    I should mention that I still don't consider the NSA wholly rotten. Actually, my colleagues work closely with an NSA employee, the guy who designed and still works on SELinux. He's smart, dedicated and very serious about improving security. There are lots more like him, probably the majority. But the organization is rotten and needs a serious housecleaning to refocus on both of its missions. Thanks to Snowden we know that.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @03:13AM (#47105771) Homepage

    Democracy can not and does not exist within a cocoon of lies, where the truth us actively suppressed. You can not make an independent decision based upon lies and in the absence of truth, you only get to agree with what you have been instructed to agree with. What happens here is the minority who craft the public mind space to achieve their own personal goals will ruthlessly attack those who attempt to pierce that bubble of illusion, those attacks being outright extermination or severe torture and imprisonment. We are already in that stage and are currently somewhat protected by the internet. The ability to spread and diffuse the truth amongst many (so it comes from many, many sources, torrentable web sites might become popular with distribution from many points, individual level ISP like protections) and thus not come publicly under individual attack unless we specifically and expressly stand out from the crowd of online protesters and resistors unless of course we have something of true global significance to present, they we have to take our chances, like many others have done before us.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian