The Guardian today released additional excerpts from Glenn Greenwald’s videotaped (by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras) interview conducted in Hong Kong with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before he outed himself last month. He accurately predicted the government’s response to his revelations and explains clearly why he felt it necessary to do what he’s done.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Guardian photo)
He is a very principled man of great courage troubled by what his government has become, as am I.
Are you listening, Uncle Sam?
Uncle Sam BW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On Thursday night Charlie Rose interviewed London Guardian editors Alan Rusbridger and Janine Gibson, who are responsible for the release of the materials Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency.
It is an in-depth discussion of how the Guardian is dealing with the materials Snowden has disclosed to them, of which there is more coming. While both British and US officials told the Guardian they would rather none were published, they were given an opportunity to argue the case if publication of any specific document would truly endanger national security. Neither government offered any such argument!
There is also a good exploration of Snowden’s motives and his understanding of the consequences of his actions—excellent interview.
The Johnson Post today has an excellent look back at the work of the (Idaho US Sen Frank) Church committee, which revealed the ugly underbelly of the US “intelligence” apparatus in the 1970s.
The Johnson Post is the blog of my mentor at Idaho public TV, Marc Johnson. In the early 1980s, we produced the nightly “Idaho Reports”
Marc, in his blog, quotes a recent article in Harper’s magazine’s online Stream, On the NSA’s “That ’70s Show” Rerun:
“The Snowden Affair is a ‘rerun’ of issues first uncovered during the 1970s, though these problems trace back to the earliest American efforts at espionage,” says [Pat] Shea. Between 1975 and 1976, the Church committees produced more than a dozen reports detailing the illegal activities of the NSA, CIA, and FBI, which included opening mail, intercepting telegrams, planting bugs, wiretapping, and attempting to break up marriages, foment rivalries and destroy careers of private citizens. “We thought we put a stop to this wholesale collection of information on Americans forty years ago,” says Peter Fenn, another former Church staffer.
Looks like we’re condemned to repeat some history here. Marc notes in his blog, as I did a few days ago, that the polling data show a lot of ambivalence on the part of our fellow citizens “and perhaps as a result poll-sensitive elected officials, with the exception of Wyden and Udall, are laying low. Again, I suspect, Church would be stunned.” I sure am!
The situation is much worse now than then. The nation has bought into an omnipresent danger of terror in the land. It’s one way of keeping a fragile polity united.
Be sure to check out The Johnson Post
“NSA surveillance may be legal — but it’s unconstitutional” by Laura K Donohue, Georgetown law professor and director of the Center on National Security and the Law, in the June 21, 2013, Washington Post. NSA surveillance programs undermine purpose of FISA, which was established to prevent this kind of overreach
“The top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant” by Glenn Greenwald and James Ball in the June 20, 2013, London Guardian. FISA court submissions show broad scope of procedures governing NSA’s surveillance of Americans’ communication; documents show that discretion as to who is actually targeted lies directly with the NSA analysts.
According to former NSA analyst Russell B Tice, in the summer of 2004,”a 40-some-year-old wanna-be senator from Illinois” was a target of NSA surveillance. The target lives in “a big, white house in Washington, DC…the President of the United States, now.” [full Russ Tice interview]
In an unprecedented bow to citizen journalism, for about an hour and a half this morning, Edward Snowden answered 18 questions submitted online. The questions and answers are republished in full at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/edward-snowden-nsa-files-whistleblower?commentpage=6
While he did not get to my specific questions, Snowden provided useful clarification about the difference between policy restrictions and technical capabilities for accessing communication content.
While he made it clear that he was divulging information only to journalists, not governments, the mainstream media did not fare well:
Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.
I loved his witty response to the question of whether he was supplying China with information in exchange for asylum:
Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.
You don’t have to have done something wrong; you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call. Then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone into the context of a wrongdoer. —Edward Snowden
Lest you doubt Edward Snowden’s explanation of how the NSA’s dragnet might ensnare the innocent, Gail Collins’ column in today’s New York Times, “The Other Side of the Story” cites the Kafkaesque example of Brandon Mayfield of Portland, WA:
Based on a database mismatch of a suspicious fingerprint on a plastic bag tied to the Madrid bombing in Spain, where Mayfield had never set foot, agents obtained a secret warrant, broke into and searched his home. His 12-year-old daughter was terrified; she noticed someone had been in her room and had messed with her computer. The family became paranoid—for good reason. FBI agents walked into Mayfield’s office one day, handcuffed and took him away. He spent weeks in jail, imagining the worst. Spanish authorities, doubtful of the US fingerprint match, found the culprit who was the real match, and Mayfield was released.
What could possibly be more compelling than the fact that no one in the family had been to Spain? Well, the sophisticated government database that mismatched his fingerprint, correctly showed that Mayfield, who grew up in Kansas, after graduating from college, law school and serving in the Army, married an Egyptian immigrant and converted to Islam. He eventually got a rare FBI apology and $2 million for his trouble. “But you never quite get over these things,” Mayfield said. “It was a harrowing ordeal. It was terrifying.”
For more on the Brandon Mayfield case:
Here are a couple links to more info:
…a New York Times piece about Ed Snowden’s daring adventures in Hong Kong and what we might call the Chinese gambit:
…and the week-old Guardian story detailing the NSA PRISM program, which goes much further than the metadata surveillance described in Snowden’s first revelations. NSA began directly accessing Microsoft servers in 2007 and has expanded the program to include all of the major Internet service providers—Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Apple and probably whatever servers this connection we’re sharing right now is going through:
The Guradian yesterday released a survey by Public Policy Polling which indicates that Ameircans may be more concerned about the National Security Agencies digital dragnet than polling results reported earlier suggest. PPP polls are generally reliable and target voters, which may explain some of the variations in attitudes. Of course different questions were being answered, too.
Two-thirds of the voters surveyed want NSA surveillance activities reviewed; 56 percent want greater congressional oversight. Sixty percent want the government to open up about its data collection programs to understand what’s going on; 61 percent welcome fresh debate about the balance between security and privacy.
PPP also found a major (58%) concern about the role of private contractors’ access to state secrets. Voters are pretty evenly split on whether they approve of the government’s collection of their personal phone and internet data.
Clearly, Mr. Snowden has stirred the pot. The Guardian reported:
The poll suggests that his stated ambition has, at least for now, been achieved: some 90% of those surveyed said they had heard about the recent news involving the NSA’s collecting and storing of Verizon phone records and gaining access to data from major internet companies…
Other reports, in the Guardian and elsewhere, show Snowden playing a skillful yet very dangerous game. Some have questioned his choice of Hong Kong to make his stand. He seems to have the US government in a Catch 22: If he is charged and extradited, Hong Kong police must arrest him, seize his files and computers; and hand them over to the Chinese government, which the US may want to avoid.
If the Brits were to get involved, it would make one heck of an MI5 episode! But it looks like the Brits do definitely not want to be involved. The Home Office has alerted the world’s airlines that Mr. Snowden is persona non grata; dropping him on British soil will cost—£2,000 + cost of housing and/or disposing of Snowden. The Brits don’t want to become entangled in another secret documents leak scandal. Last year, facing extradition to Sweden WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London,