Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden

Moral Courage? And what other kinds of courage? Edward Snowden,  Hugh Thompson, whistle-blowers…

Last Thursday Chris Hedges opened a team debate at the Oxford Union at Oxford University with this speech arguing in favor of the proposition “This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.”

The others on the Hedges team, which won the debate by an audience vote of 212 to 171, were William E. Binney, a former National Security Agency official and a whistle-blower; Chris Huhne, a former member of the British Parliament; and Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for the United Kingdom.

The opposing team was made up of Philip J. Crowley, a former U.S. State Department officer; Stewart A. Baker, a former chief counsel for the National Security Agency; Jeffrey Toobin, an American television and print commentator; and Oxford student Charles Vaughn.

Chris Hedges posted this Feb.23, 2014

Edward Snowden’s Moral Courage

I have been to war. I have seen physical courage.

But this kind of courage is not moral courage. Very few of even the bravest warriors have moral courage.

For moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle. And with moral courage comes persecution.

The American Army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and 10 terrified Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre.

Thompson ordered his gunner to fire his M60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson, like Snowden, was hounded and reviled.

Moral courage always looks like this.

It is always defined by the state as treason—the Army attempted to cover up the massacre and court-martial Thompson. It is the courage to act and to speak the truth. Thompson had it.

Daniel Ellsberg had it. Martin Luther King had it. What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden.

In this still image from video footage released by WikiLeaks on Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks in Moscow during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award. (AP photo)

“My country, right or wrong” is the moral equivalent of “my mother, drunk or sober,” G.K. Chesterton reminded us.

So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data, your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.

There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power.

Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile.

An omnipresent surveillance state—and I covered the East German Stasi state—creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible.

Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state.

It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control.

The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, “but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.”

The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain’s chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress. This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life.

A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to.

It knows it is being lied to. The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying. And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.

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Snowden Bombshell: Downloaded All the roster of US public employees…

Edward Snowden, the former contractor at the National Security Agency took with him multiple “Doomsday” packages of information when he departed the country and began revealing how intensely the US Government is spying on its own citizens.

He has the personal home info for all Elected Officials, Law Enforcement, Judges, Bankers, Corporate Boards of Directors and more!

 posted this Feb. 8, 2014

Snowden Bombshell: Seems he downloaded entire roster of U.S. government – all names, home addresses and other personal info of **all** officials and gov’t employees — including law enforcement — plus bankers, corporate boards of directors and more!

edwardsnowden_thumb

At a classified briefing for members of Congress which took place on Wednesday, members found out that Snowden took with him:

  • a complete roster of absolutely every employee and official of the entire US Government.
  • The names, home addresses, unlisted personal home telephone and personal cellular phone numbers, dates of birth and social security numbers of every person involved in any way, with any department of the US Government.
  • The files include elected officials, Cabinet appointees, Judges, and  **ALL** law enforcement agency employees including sworn officers.
  • Similar files with the personal information of EVERY government contractor and all employees of that contractor!
  • Similar files with all the personal information of EVERY Bank Corporation, their operating officers and their Boards of Directors, including all current and former members of the Federal Reserve
  • Similar files with all the personal information about anyone holding any type of license from the Government such as Doctors, Lawyers, Stock Brokers, Commodities Traders . . . . and many more.
  • Similar files with all the personal information of EVERY non-bank Corporation in the U.S., including their operating officers and Boards of Directors.

Snowden has made it clear that if he is arrested, if he vanishes, or if he “dies” from any cause whatsoever, ALL of the information in his possession will be published publicly.

TRN has confirmed that, working through Julian Assange and his “WikiLeaks” organization, copies of the encrypted data have already been distributed to more than 1,200 web sites around the world.

Those sites have agreed to conceal the information until such time as contact with Snowden is “lost.”  Once contact is lost, the sites have been told they will receive the Decryption keys via CD ROM, E-mail and P2P / Bit-Torrent file transfer.

Once the decryption keys are sent, the sites have been instructed to wait a specific amount of time to confirm Snowden’s disappearance, arrest or death and upon expiration of that time period, to publish the decrypted materials.

Making the situation all the more dire for the government is that Snowden has made clear he will release some of the information under certain “other” circumstances.

For instance,

1. if Martial Law is declared in the US or if any elections are canceled for any reason, all the government employee info goes out.

2. If an economic collapse takes place, all the Banker/Stock Broker/Commodities Trader information goes out.

3. If Corporations start hyper-inflating prices, all the information about them, their officers and Board of Directors will go out.

Snowden literally has the most powerful people in the United States in an inescapable stranglehold.  If any of the things articulated above take place, everyone throughout the country will know exactly who to blame and exactly where they live.

One can only speculate that under the right conditions, it might not be long until those responsible for the problems of our country, faced consequences for their actions; consequences delivered one at a time, in the dark of night, when there is no help . . . . and no escape.

Leading members of the House Armed Services Committee emerged from the classified briefing “shocked” at the amount of information he reportedly took with him beyond the NSA surveillance programs.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Armed Service panel’s Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee and also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the briefing on the defense consequences of Snowden’s leaks was “very highly classified,” and therefore details couldn’t be discussed.

Thornberry did say that lawmakers “left the briefing disturbed and angered” after hearing that the leaks by the former Booz Allen Hamilton employee “went well beyond programs associated with the NSA and data collection.”

He characterized the leaks as so severe that they “compromise military capability and defense of the country” and “could cost lives” — while they “will certainly cost billions to repair.”

“His actions were espionage, plain and simple,” Thornberry said.

Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) read his statement rather than making comments on the fly “because of the seriousness of this issue and the sensitivity” of the information they’d just heard.

“Ed Snowden isn’t a whistleblower; he’s a traitor,” McKeon said.

No matter what opinion people hold of the data collection programs, he added, people should be “shocked and outraged to find that a substantial amount of the information has nothing to do with the NSA.

SOURCE: PJ Media

About Ask Marion

I am a baby-boomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us.

So far… we haven’t done very well!! Favorite Quotes:

The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy”;

“Do something that scares you every day!”;

“The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place”.

Note 1NSA Whistleblower Snowden in Exile as the Obama Scandals List Grows

Note 2: Israel has already all the files of the Lebanese people through the corrupt governments and via the foreign intelligence services based in Lebanon.

Who is Daniel Ellsberg? Predecessor of the whistle-blowers…

Submitted by ellsbergd Plantiff

“Hi Reddit,

I am Daniel Ellsberg, the former State and Defense Department official who leaked 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents on the Vietnam War to the New York Times and 19 other papers in 1971.

Recently, I co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Yesterday, we announced Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, will be joining our board of directors!

Here’s our website: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org

I believe that Edward Snowden has done more to support and defend the Constitution—in particular, the First and Fourth Amendments—than any member of Congress or any other employee or official of the Executive branch, up to the president: every one of whom took that same oath, which many of them have violated.

Ask me anything.

Here’s proof it’s me: https://twitter.com/DanielEllsberg/status/423520429676826624

Andrew Bossone posted on FB:
Reddit conversation with “Daniel Ellsberg, the former State and Defense Department official who leaked 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents on the Vietnam War to the New York Times and 19 other papers in 1971.”
On recent events: “About the public’s reaction to the Pentagon Papers today. I think it would be about the same, generally favorable, because people are about as disillusioned with Iraq and Afghanistan (and Libya) as they were about Vietnam in 1971.
We still await the Pentagon Papers of these recent wars, and I hope someone will leak them. I think they would be welcomed, and I hope used, by the public.
But I think Obama’s reaction to me today would also be the same as Nixon’s to me in 1971: Lock Ellsberg up for life.
Obama wouldn’t have to do what Nixon ordered done to me in May, 1972, when I was exposing and attacking his policies while out on bail during my prosecution: order a team of ex-CIA “assets” under direction of “former” CIA and FBI agents “to incapacitate Ellsberg totally.
Obama wouldn’t have to do that because I wouldn’t be out on bail; I’d be in isolation, incommunicado, like Manning was and Snowden would be….
I don’t believe [Snowden] be out on bail or bond while awaiting trial.
Like Chelsea Manning, he’d be in an isolation cell, incommunicado (Manning hasn’t been spoken to by a journalist for the more than three years since she was arrested in Kuwait), probably for the rest of his life.
The Constitution hasn’t changed–the laws he is charged under, and I faced in 1971-73, would at that time very likely have been held to be unconstitutional in that application (to leakers: I was the first to be prosecuted for a leak, under the Espionage Act or any law).
But with the new courts, that’s much less likely. I don’t think anything or anyone would be served by his suffering that fate.”
http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1vahsi/i_am_pentagon_papers_leaker_daniel_ellsberg/

Names Americans mispronounce: Guide to foreign countries

The U.S. Congress is debating new economic sanctions on Iran this week.

Should you switch over to C-SPAN, you would hear members of the world’s most powerful legislative body offering perhaps a half-dozen different pronunciations of the name of the country they argue cannot be trusted.

It can be jarring to hear legislators arguing fervently that only they understand the true threat posed by Iran even as they mangle its name.

Still, many Americans can probably sympathize.

It’s not just members of Congress, after all, facing down foreign names they may be unsure how to pronounce. Thanksgiving is coming up, meaning heated and perhaps beer-fueled debates about the state of the world.

Whether you’re wading into those arguments or merely listening as Uncle Frank goes on another tirade for or against NSA leaker Edward Snowden, you’ll probably notice that there’s a subset of important foreign names and places that are often referenced in contemporary American debate but that, somehow, we as a nation have yet to figure out how to pronounce.

Max Fisher published this November 22, 2013

A guide to 26 foreign countries and names that Americans mispronounce

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If you're not sure how to say his name, or the name of his country, read on. (AFP/Getty)

This is Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If you’re not sure how to say his name, or the name of his country, read on. (AFP/Getty)

Here then, as a service to congressional and Thanksgiving arguments alike, is a list of 26 foreign names that Americans most frequently mispronounce, as well as guides for how to say them correctly and warnings against common mispronunciations.

Even if you know to say ee-RON rather than EYE-ran, there are others you might be unknowingly misstating — such as Pyongyang or Bashar al-Assad. You can hear many of them spoken out loud at Voice of America’s pronunciation site.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iran: ee-RON How it’s NOT pronounced: EYE-ran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: ah-lee hah-men-ey-ee How it’s NOT pronounced: allie komonny

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: hah-sahn ROH-hah-nee How it’s NOT pronounced: hassun roo-honey

Iraq: ee-ROCK How it’s NOT pronounced: EYE-rack (ee-Rak. ee-Rock is a Persian pronunciation)

Qatar: KUH-tur (almost exactly “cutter” but more emphasis on the first syllable) How it’s NOT pronounced: kah-TAR

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: buh-shar al AH-sud* How it’s NOT pronounced: basher al uh-sahd * This is the Arabic pronunciation (hear it here), for when you really want to show off. Most Westerners simply say buh-shar al ah-SAHD. (Bashaar al Assad)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: reh-jehp tie-yep urr-doh-wan How it’s NOT pronounced: ressip tie-yep urr-dug-an

Egyptian coup leader Abdel Fatah al-Sissi: ahb-dell fah-tah al-SEE-see How it’s NOT pronounced: ab-dell fah-tah al-sissy

AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Pakistan: pah-kee-stahn* How it’s NOT pronounced: pakky stan * Both of the a’s should be pronounced as in paw, not as in pat. This is true of most a’s in this section.

Taliban: tah-lee-BAHN How it’s NOT pronounced: tally-ban

Hamid Karzai: hah-MID car-z’EYE How it’s NOT pronounced: hah-meed CAR-z’eye

ASIA

Beijing: bay-jing How it’s NOT pronounced: bay-zhing

Shenzhen: shen-jen How it’s NOT pronounced: shen-zen

Bo Xilai: bow shee-lie How it’s NOT pronounced: bow zhee-lee

Guangzhou: gwang-joe How it’s NOT pronounced: goo-ang-zhoo

Pyongyang: pee-yuhng-YAHNG How it’s NOT pronounced: p’YONG-yang

Juche: JEW-chay How it’s NOT pronounced: joosh-ay

Aung San Suu Kyi: oun saan soo chee* How it’s NOT pronounced: ung san soo k’yee * The first syllable is like “sound” without the s or the d. More here.

Phnom Penh: naam pen How it’s NOT pronounced: fuh-nom pen

ALL THINGS EDWARD SNOWDEN

Sheremetyevo Airport: sheh-reh-MYEH-tyeh-vah How it’s NOT pronounced: share-met-yeh-vyo

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev: m’yehd-V’YEHD-yehf How it’s NOT pronounced: med-veh-dehv

Angela Merkel: ahn-GAY-luh M’AIR-kuhl How it’s NOT pronounced: ann-juh-luh murr-kuhl

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa: rahf-eye-EHL koh-RAY-ah How it’s NOT pronounced: raffy-ell core-ay-uh

Bolivian President Evo Morales: aiy-voh moh-RAH-lehs How it’s NOT pronounced: ee-voh mo-rall-ess

OTHERS

Kyrgyzstan: keer-guh-stan How it’s NOT pronounced: If you’re not sure, you’re probably wrong.

Niger: nee-ZH’AIR (rhymes with “Pierre”) How it’s NOT pronounced: NYE-jur

Max Fisher
Max Fisher is the Post’s foreign affairs blogger. He has a master’s degree in security studies from Johns Hopkins University. Sign up for his daily newsletter here. Also, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

NSA shares raw intelligence: Americans’ data relayed to Israel?

G and  published in theguardian.com, this September 11, 2013

NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens.

The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet.

The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state. (We need more elaboration on these notions: Are the Israeli to do the destruction of particular data on their own volition…?)

Israeli and American flags

The agreement for the US to provide raw intelligence data to Israel was reached in principle in March 2009, the document shows.
Photograph: James Emery

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The 5-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons“, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence.

The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.

“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the document says.

In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.

“Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA’s surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights,” the spokesperson said.

The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.

The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.

Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence.

The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government“.

Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.

It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications.

In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on “the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip“.

The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans’ emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target.

US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.

With much of the world’s internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency’s surveillance programs.

The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons’ identities”. It also requests that the Israelis limit access only to personnel with a “strict need to know”.

Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.

Although Israel is one of America’s closest allies, it is not one of the inner core of countries involved in surveillance sharing with the US – Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This group is collectively known as Five Eyes.

The relationship between the US and Israel has been strained at times, both diplomatically and in terms of intelligence.

In the top-secret 2013 intelligence community budget request, details of which were disclosed by the Washington Post, Israel is identified alongside Iran and China as a target for US cyberattacks.

While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigint sharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.

Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled ‘History of the US – Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992’. “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”

newtear3

In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US.

“On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended.”

newtear1

The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with Israel.

At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for Israeli personnel to protect US person information.

It is not clear whether or not this was because there had been problems up to that point in the handling of intelligence that was found to contain Americans’ data.

However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: “Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [Israel] operations.”

newtear2

The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.

In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.

“NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information.

Backers of surveillance program battle a challenge

The White House and congressional backers of the National  Security Agency’s surveillance program warn that ending the massive collection  of phone records from millions of Americans would put the U.S.  at risk from another terrorist attack.

Donna  Cassata published in the Lebanese daily “The Daily Star” this July 24, 2013:

WASHINGTON: With a high-stakes showdown vote looming in the House of Representatives,  White House press secretary Jay Carney issued an unusual, nighttime statement  on the eve of Wednesday’s vote. The measure by Republican Rep. Justin Amash  would end the secret program’s  authority, an action that Carney contended would “hastily dismantle one of our  intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) arrives for a news conference in the Ohio Clock Corridor at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) arrives for a news  conference in the Ohio Clock Corridor at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, made a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject the measure in separate, closed-door  sessions with Republicans and Democrats. Seven Republican committee chairmen  issued a similar plea in a widely circulated letter to their colleagues.

An unlikely coalition of libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats  says the program amounts to unfettered domestic spying on Americans. Amash and Democratic Rep. John Conyers  are the chief sponsors of an  amendment that would end the ability of the NSA to collect phone records and  metadata under the USA Patriot Act  unless it identifies an  individual under investigation.

Amash said his measure tries to rein in the NSA’s blanket authority.  Responding to the White House statement, the congressman tweeted late Tuesday:  “Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly  support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?”

Republican leaders allowed the House to consider Amash’s amendment to a  $598.3 billion defense spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The vote on Wednesday would be the first time Congress has weighed in since  former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden  leaked documents that revealed  that the NSA had collected phone records, while a second NSA program forced  major Internet companies to turn over contents of communications to the  government.

“This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative  process,” Carney said. “We urge the House to reject the Amash amendment, and  instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the  need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”

Proponents of the NSA programs argue that the surveillance operations have  been successful in thwarting potential terrorist attacks, including a 2009 plot  to strike at the New York Stock Exchange.

“This bill would basically turn off our ability to find terrorists trying to  attack us,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the  Intelligence panel.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence committee, joined other  Republican chairmen in a letter urging lawmakers to reject the Amash  amendment.

“While many members have legitimate questions about the NSA metadata program,  including whether there are sufficient protections for Americans’ civil  liberties, eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation  would not reflect our duty, under Article I of the Constitution, to provide for  the common defense,” the chairmen wrote.

The debate over privacy and national security has prompted calls and emails  to lawmakers, said Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, a member of the Intelligence  panel who said members of Congress are facing competing pressures.

The overall defense spending bill would provide the Pentagon with $512.5  billion for weapons, personnel, aircraft and ships plus $85.8 billion for the  war in Afghanistan for next budget year. (For how long this war on Afghanistan will siphon billions each year)

The bill is $5.1 billion below current spending and has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which argues that it would force the administration to cut  education, health research and other domestic programs to boost spending for the  Pentagon.

In a leap of faith, the bill assumes that Congress and the administration  will resolve the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have forced the  Pentagon to furlough workers and cut back on training. The bill projects  spending in the next fiscal year at $28.1 billion above the so-called sequester  level.

In addition to the vote on the Amash amendment, the House also will consider  an amendment prohibiting any U.S. funds for military or paramilitary operations  in Egypt and barring the administration from arming the Syrian rebels without  congressional approval.

On Tuesday the House voted to cut $79 million from the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, reducing the amount to the current level of $200 million as  projects have been delayed. The House also endorsed the $70.2 million in the  bill to study the feasibility for an East Coast missile defense site.

($85.8 billion for the  war in Afghanistan and cutting down on the $200 million for Afghanistan infrastructure…?)

The overall bill must be reconciled with whatever measure the  Democratic-controlled Senate produces.

Read more:  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2013/Jul-24/224838-backers-of-surveillance-program-battle-a-challenge.ashx#ixzz2ZxFyLGpE (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::  http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Criminal Document Disclosures & Foreign Asylum: Is Edward Snowden Christoph Meili?

As the saga of whether Edward Snowden will accept an offer of asylum in Latin America continues, his situation allows some comparison to the fascinating story of Michel Christopher Meili.
Who’s Meili?

Meili was a 29-year old Swiss citizen and an employee of a private company with significant connections to his government – the Union Bank of Switzerland.

In 1997, Meili was a security guard, who happened upon 2 carts full of Holocaust-era banking documents related to Jewish clients of UBS that were slated for destruction.

Inspired by “Schindler’s List,” Meili removed several volumes of the documents from his employer’s possession. Instead of going directly to the authorities, he instead disclosed the documents to outside sources.

As a result, not only did Meili lose his job, but he was also under investigation by Swiss authorities for violating Swiss law.

Moreover, according to Meili’s testimony in a U.S. Senate hearing (available here), after Swiss police took possession of the documents, they told Meili that the Swiss government was treating the documents as “classified,” despite the fact that they were UBS documents, and that they “would never be seen by people ‘outside Switzerland.’”

U.S. Gave Asylum To A Guy Who Leaked Classified Documents

Snowden and Meli (Swiss whisleblower)
Staff on www.docexblog.composted this July 15th, 2013: “U.S. Gave Asylum To A Guy Who Leaked Classified Documents:
“Finally, while Meili believed he was exposing an act of destruction that was, or should have been, illegal, the Swiss police told him that they had concluded that UBS had done nothing wrong.

Meili testified

One of the things that I have learned in these last few months is that there are certain powers in Switzerland that do not want to see the Swiss Banks and our government exposed for what they did during the Holocaust and that they will do anything – including destroying documents, restricting and controlling Police investigations, hiding/burying evidence and lying publicly.

The reason why Meili gave testimony to the U.S. Congress was that while he was temporarily in the United States, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato organized a Senate hearing about, and including, Meili.  D’Amato expressly acknowledged that Meili ”today is under investigation for violating Swiss bank secrecy laws for disclosing the records” and that he had also received threats against him in Switzerland by individuals opposed to his actions (no doubt in the same vein as disturbing statements about what should happen to Snowden in the comments section of many articles about him).

The Senate hearing was designed to assess what actions the United States could take to protect Meili.  Congress determined that although Meili did “not meet the necessary criteria for permanent residency under any existing categories” under U.S. law, that Meili nevertheless deserved sanctuary in the United States.

Therefore Congress passed a special law, Private Law 105-1 that granted Meili, his wife, and his children permanent residency in the United States “Notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

Meli law

The law specifically cites the fact that Meili was “interrogated by the local Swiss authorities who tried to intimidate him by threatening prosecution for his heroic actions.”  President Clinton signed the law on July 29, 1997.  According to a spokesperson, President Clinton, after reviewing the case, decided that it was “appropriate” that Meili be given permanent residence in the United States.

The actions of the United States in the Meili affair could therefore provide a model for Venezuela, Nicaragua, or Bolivia in granting Snowden asylum.

On the issue of whether Snowden would technically qualify as a refugee under international law, for example, see “Snowden’s asylum case” by Jaya Ramji-Nogales here.

Regardless of the merits of Snowden’s case under current international or domestic law, however, one of those countries that have offered him asylum could simply follow the U.S. example and make Snowden’s asylum a special case.

As to the more substantive similarities between the actions of Snowden and Meili, to be absolutely clear, I am not drawing any comparison between the NSA surveillance programs and the Holocaust.  I am comparing, however, the decision to grant “asylum” in some form to a foreign citizen who was under active investigation for violating the laws of his country and violated his obligations to his employer in order

(1) to disclose ongoing NSA surveillance programs versus

(2) to disclose historical banking records that may have been relevant to individual ownership claims for property plundered by the Nazis a half a century earlier.

That comparison can cut in many different ways depending upon one’s perspective (e.g., how one weighs the severity of the crime v. the importance of the disclosure) and the two cases are distinguishable in many ways (e.g., despite the investigation, Switzerland had not cancelled Meili’s passport or sought extradition).

The point is that comparing Snowden with Meili is another illustration that the Snowden affair is clearly not as simple as upholding the “rule of law” as President Obama asserted.

The most striking example of the contrast is in the statements of Sen. Charles Grassley who has stated about Snowden that “I believe that whatever the law requires, just like anybody that breaks the law, [Snowden] needs to be prosecuted” and that “I suppose it gets down to – did he break a law? – I think it’s pretty obvious he did.”  

This very same Sen. Grassley, during the 1997 Senate hearing on Christoph Meili, gave this rather remarkable statement which deserves reprinting:

The situation we have here with Mr. Meili, albeit everything that he has brought to our attention has worldwide implications, but a person like him acted out of bravery, or maybe the bravery comes after he has acted because he has had to withstand the mental torture of what has gone on since then. But it reminds me of a lot of things that happen in our own Government, and I realize his is a private sector situation, but I like to think that we keep our Federal Government honest when we have people in our Government who, when something is wrong, will be willing to come forward and say what is wrong.

We speak of these people in our Government as whistleblowers. Maybe, originally, that was to denigrate them, but as far as I am concerned the word “whistleblower” is a description of somebody who wants to seek the truth, who wants to make sure that all of the facts and circumstances are known so that a wrong can be corrected.”

Well there is a lesson to all of us in the Congress of the United States when we have an example like this before us that we should not be denegrating people who seek the truth. We should be helping them be protected, we should help them get their story out, and we should help them make sure that they are not harmed economically or physically, or even professionally, because of seeking the truth.

Now, I know in some instances not every whistleblower has a credible story, so you do have to be circumspect to the extent to which we investigate every complaint that comes to our attention. But it seems to me that we ought to be honoring people who seek the truth, as Mr. Meili has sought the truth, and to expose wrongdoing. That is my interest in this.

Besides helping Mr. Meili, it is my interest in also making sure that we are very consistent in the Congress of the United States in encouraging whistleblowers to come forth with information when something is wrong, because we do not have the time in the Congress to know where every skeleton is buried in every closet.

NSA admits: We listened to phone calls without warrants…

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls, a participant said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required. I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CNET, published on June 15, 2013:  “NSA spying flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls”

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

James Owens, a spokesman for Nadler, provided a statement on Sunday morning, a day after this article was published, saying: “I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant.” Owens said he couldn’t comment on what assurances from the Obama administration Nadler was referring to, and said Nadler was unavailable for an interview. (CNET had contacted Nadler for comment on Friday.)

NSA Director Keith Alexander says his agency's analysts, which until recently included Edward Snowden among their ranks, take protecting "civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day."
NSA Director Keith Alexander says his agency’s analysts, which until recently included Edward Snowden among their ranks, take protecting “civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day.” (Credit: Getty Images)

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, being able to listen to phone calls would mean the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

Nadler’s initial statement appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian.

Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”

There are serious “constitutional problems” with this approach, said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has litigated warrantless wiretapping cases. “It epitomizes the problem of secret laws.”

The NSA declined to comment to CNET. (This is unrelated to the disclosure that the NSA is currently collecting records of the metadata of all domestic Verizon calls, but not the actual contents of the conversations.)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement on Sunday saying: “The statement that a single analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was not briefed to Congress.” Clapper’s statement did not elaborate, however, on what “proper” authorization would be. Some reports have suggested that permission from a “shift supervisor” would also be required.

The Washington Post disclosed Saturday that the existence of a top-secret NSA program called NUCLEON, which “intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words” to a database. Top intelligence officials in the Obama administration, the Post said, “have resolutely refused to offer an estimate of the number of Americans whose calls or e-mails have thus made their way into content databases such as ­NUCLEON.”

A portion of the NSA's mammoth data center in Bluffdale, Utah, scheduled to open this fall.
A portion of the NSA’s mammoth data center in Bluffdale, Utah, scheduled to open this fall. (Credit: Getty Images)

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.

William Binney, a former NSA technical director who helped to modernize the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network, told the Daily Caller this week that the NSA records the phone calls of 500,000 to 1 million people who are on its so-called target list, and perhaps even more. “They look through these phone numbers and they target those and that’s what they record,” Binney said.

Brewster Kahle, a computer engineer who founded the Internet Archive, has vast experience storing large amounts of data. He created a spreadsheet this week estimating that the cost to store all domestic phone calls a year in cloud storage for data-mining purposes would be about $27 million per year, not counting the cost of extra security for a top-secret program and security clearances for the people involved.

NSA’s annual budget is classified but is estimated to be around $10 billion.

Documents that came to light in an EFF lawsuit provide some insight into how the spy agency vacuums up data from telecommunications companies. Mark Klein, who worked as an AT&T technician for over 22 years, disclosed in 2006 (PDF) that he witnessed domestic voice and Internet traffic being surreptitiously “diverted” through a “splitter cabinet” to secure room 641A in one of the company’s San Francisco facilities. The room was accessible only to NSA-cleared technicians.

AT&T and other telecommunications companies that allow the NSA to tap into their fiber links receive absolute immunity from civil liability or criminal prosecution, thanks to a law that Congress enacted in 2008 and renewed in 2012. It’s a series of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also known as the FISA Amendments Act.

That law says surveillance may be authorized by the attorney general and director of national intelligence without prior approval by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as long as minimization requirements and general procedures blessed by the court are followed.

A requirement of the 2008 law is that the NSA “may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.” A possible interpretation of that language, some legal experts said, is that the agency may vacuum up everything it can domestically — on the theory that indiscriminate data acquisition was not intended to “target” a specific American citizen.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, an attorney and member of the House Judiciary committee, who said he was "startled" to learn that NSA analysts could eavesdrop on domestic calls without court authorization.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, an attorney and member of the House Judiciary committee, who said he was “startled” to learn that NSA analysts could eavesdrop on domestic calls without court authorization.(Credit: Getty Images)

Rep. Nadler’s statement that NSA analysts can listen to calls without court orders came during a House Judiciary hearing on June 13 that included FBI director Robert Mueller as a witness.

Mueller initially sought to downplay concerns about NSA surveillance by claiming that, to listen to a phone call, the government would need to seek “a special, a particularized order from the FISA court directed at that particular phone of that particular individual.”

Is information about that procedure “classified in any way?” Nadler asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mueller replied.

“Then I can say the following,” Nadler said. “We heard precisely the opposite at the briefing the other day. We heard precisely that you could get the specific information from that telephone simply based on an analyst deciding that…In other words, what you just said is incorrect. So there’s a conflict.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence committee, separately acknowledged that the agency’s analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the head of the House Intelligence committee, told CNN on Sunday that the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls” or monitoring their e-mails, and any statements to the contrary are “misinformation.” It would be “illegal” for the NSA to do that, Rogers said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, acknowledged this week that NSA analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell indicated during a House Intelligence hearing in 2007 that the NSA’s surveillance process involves “billions” of bulk communications being intercepted, analyzed, and incorporated into a database.

They can be accessed by an analyst who’s part of the NSA’s “workforce of thousands of people” who are “trained” annually in minimization procedures, he said. (McConnell, who had previously worked as the director of the NSA, is now vice chairman at Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer.)

If it were “a U.S. person inside the United States, now that would stimulate the system to get a warrant,” McConnell told the committee. “And that is how the process would work. Now, if you have foreign intelligence data, you publish it [inside the federal government]. Because it has foreign intelligence value.”

McConnell said during a separate congressional appearance around the same time that he believed the president had the constitutional authority, no matter what the law actually says, to order domestic spying without warrants.

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN last month that, in national security investigations, the bureau can access records of a previously made telephone call. “All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not,” he said. Clemente added in an appearance the next day that, thanks to the “intelligence community” — an apparent reference to the NSA — “there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.”

NSA Director Keith Alexander said on June 12 that his agency’s analysts abide by the law: “They do this lawfully. They take compliance oversight, protecting civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day.”

But that’s not always the case. A New York Times article in 2009 revealed the NSA engaged in significant and systemic “overcollection” of Americans’ domestic communications that alarmed intelligence officials. The Justice Department said in a statement at the time that it “took comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance” with the law.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, says he was surprised to see the 2008 FISA Amendments Act be used to vacuum up information on American citizens. “Everyone who voted for the statute thought it was about international communications,” he said.

Updated 6/16 at 11:15 a.m. PT The original headline when the story was published on Saturday was “NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants,” which was changed to “NSA spying flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls,” to better match the story. The first paragraph was changed to add attribution to Rep. Nadler. Also added was an additional statement that the congressman’s aide sent this morning, an excerpt from a Washington Post story on NSA phone call content surveillance that appeared Saturday, and remarks that Rep. Rogers made on CNN this morning. Updated 6/16 at 10:45 p.m. PT We added one paragraph with a statement provided by DNI James Clapper.]

Edward Snowden: former CIA man behind the NSA intelligence leak

Edward Snowden is responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history . Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, has been working at the National Security Agency for the last 4 years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

, and in Hong Kong published on June 10, 2013 in  the guardian.co.uk,

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “Hong Kong has a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him.

The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

‘You can’t wait around for someone else to act’

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.

By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.

He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”.

Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them”.

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy“, he said.

A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it?

Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”

For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.

Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.

He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.

Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.

I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”.

He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

Note 1: Darth asked followers to contribute titles for #NSAKidsBooks

Note 2: Link to video: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2022
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