President Obama has a chance to do one thing right in his administration: pardon Edward Snowden.
In the eyes of many, mine included, Snowden is a hero. Instead he faces 30 years in prison for leaking surveillance secrets. Among those secrets was the fact that US was spying on virtually everyone, including high ranking ally leaders like Angela Merkel.
Wikipedia provides a nice synopsis of Edward Snowden, his role at the CIA, and an of US spying on individuals and corporations. Here are a few excerpts.
Global Surveillance Disclosures
NSA Director Keith Alexander initially estimated that Snowden had copied anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 NSA documents. Later estimates provided by U.S. officials were on the order of 1.7 million, a number that originally came from Department of Defense talking points. In July 2014, The Washington Post reported on a cache previously provided by Snowden from domestic NSA operations consisting of “roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.” A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report declassified in June 2015 said that Snowden took 900,000 Department of Defense files, more than he downloaded from the NSA.
According to Snowden, he did not indiscriminately turn over documents to journalists, stating that “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over” and that “I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists … If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country.
The New York Times’ James Risen reported that Snowden’s decision to leak NSA documents “developed gradually, dating back at least to his time working as a technician in the Geneva station of the CIA.” Snowden first made contact with Glenn Greenwald, a journalist working at The Guardian, on December 1, 2012. Snowden then contacted documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in January 2013. Greenwald began working with Snowden in either February or April 2013, after Poitras asked Greenwald to meet her in New York City, at which point Snowden began providing documents to them.
On June 5, 2013, media reports documenting the existence and functions of classified surveillance programs and their scope began and continued throughout the entire year. The first program to be revealed was PRISM, which allows for court-approved direct access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts
The initial reports included details about NSA call database, Boundless Informant, and of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand the NSA millions of Americans’ phone records daily, the surveillance of French citizens’ phone and internet records, and those of “high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.”
Reports also revealed details of Tempora, a British black-ops surveillance program run by the NSA’s British partner, GCHQ.
XKeyscore, an analytical tool that allows for collection of “almost anything done on the internet,” was described by The Guardian as a program that “shed light” on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements: “I, sitting at my desk [could] wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”
It was revealed that the NSA was harvesting millions of email and instant messaging contact lists, searching email content, tracking and mapping the location of cell phones, undermining attempts at encryption via Bullrun and that the agency was using cookies to “piggyback” on the same tools used by internet advertisers “to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.”
The NSA was shown to be “secretly” tapping into Yahoo and Google data centers to collect information from “hundreds of millions” of account holders worldwide by tapping undersea cables using the MUSCULAR surveillance program.
By October 2013, Snowden’s disclosures had created tensions between the U.S. and some of its close allies after they revealed that the U.S. had spied on Brazil, France, Mexico, Britain, China, Germany, and Spain, as well as 35 world leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said “spying among friends” was “unacceptable” and compared the NSA with the Stasi. Leaked documents published by Der Spiegel in 2014 appeared to show that the NSA had targeted 122 “high ranking” leaders.
The NSA’s top-secret “black budget,” obtained from Snowden by The Washington Post, exposed the “successes and failures” of the 16 spy agencies comprising the U.S. intelligence community, and revealed that the NSA was paying U.S. private tech companies for “clandestine access” to their communications networks. The agencies were allotted $52 billion for the 2013 fiscal year.
nowden stated in a January 2014 interview with German television that the NSA does not limit its data collection to national security issues, accusing the agency of conducting industrial espionage. Using the example of German company Siemens, he stated, “If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interests—even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security—then they’ll take that information nevertheless.”
In March 2014, documents disclosed by Glenn Greenwald writing for The Intercept showed the NSA, in cooperation with the GCHQ, has plans to infect millions of computers with malware using a program called “Turbine.” Revelations included information about “QUANTUMHAND,” a program through which the NSA set up a fake Facebook server to intercept connections.
Snowden’s identity was made public by The Guardian at his request on June 9, 2013. He explained: “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” He added that by revealing his identity he hoped to protect his colleagues from being subjected to a hunt to determine who had been responsible for the leaks. According to Poitras, who filmed the interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, he had initially not wanted to be seen on camera, because “he didn’t want the story to be about him.” Poitras says she convinced him it was necessary to have him give an account of the leaked documents’ significance on film: “Not just because I knew that the mainstream media interpretation would be predictable and narrow, but because to have somebody who understands how this technology works, who is willing to risk their life to expose it to the public, and that we could hear that articulated, would reach people in ways that the documents themselves wouldn’t.”
Snowden explained his actions saying: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things [surveillance on its citizens] … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded … My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” In a later interview Snowden declared:
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed.”
Snowden said that in the past, whistleblowers had been “destroyed by the experience,” and that he wanted to “embolden others to step forward” by demonstrating that “they can win.” In October, Snowden spoke out again on his motivations for the leaks in an interview with The New York Times, saying that the system for reporting problems does not work. “You have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it,” Snowden explained, and pointed out the lack of whistleblower protection for government contractors, the use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers, and his belief that had he used internal mechanisms to “sound the alarm,” his revelations “would have been buried forever.”
In December 2013, upon learning that a U.S. federal judge had ruled the collection of U.S. phone metadata conducted by the NSA as likely unconstitutional, Snowden stated: “I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts … today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.”
In January 2014, Snowden said his “breaking point” was “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress.” This referred to testimony on March 12, 2013—three months after Snowden first sought to share thousands of NSA documents with Greenwald, and nine months after the NSA says Snowden made his first illegal downloads during the summer of 2012 in which Clapper denied to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the NSA wittingly collects data on millions of Americans.
Snowden said, “There’s no saving an intelligence community that believes it can lie to the public and the legislators who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions. Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realization that no one else was going to do this.
Snowden applied for asylum in 21 countries, all rejected. Ecuador had initially offered Snowden a temporary travel document but later withdrew it. In a July 1 statement published by WikiLeaks, Snowden accused the U.S. government of “using citizenship as a weapon” and using what he described as “old, bad tools of political aggression.” Citing Obama’s promise to not allow “wheeling and dealing” over the case, Snowden commented, “This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile.” Several days later, WikiLeaks announced that Snowden had applied for asylum in six additional countries, which WikiLeaks declined to name “due to attempted U.S. interference.
Snowden has been in “temporary” asylum in Russia since 2013.
On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Snowden, charging him with theft of government property, and two counts of violating the Espionage Act through unauthorized communication of national defense information and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.” Each of the three charges carries a maximum possible prison term of ten years. The charge was initially secret and was unsealed a week later.
Snowden was asked in a January 2014 interview about returning to the U.S. to face the charges in court, as Obama had suggested a few days prior. Snowden explained why he rejected the request: “What he doesn’t say are that the crimes that he’s charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit. So it’s, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial.”
Snowden’s legal representative, Jesselyn Radack, wrote that “the Espionage Act effectively hinders a person from defending himself before a jury in an open court, as past examples show,” referring to Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou and Chelsea Manning.
Radack said that the “arcane World War I law” was never meant to prosecute whistleblowers, but rather spies who sold secrets to enemies for profit. Under this law, she states, “no prosecution of a non-spy can be fair or just.”
Norway Supreme Court Won’t Offer Snowden Safe Passage
Earlier today, The Hill reported Norway Supreme Court Won’t Offer Snowden Safe Passage.
The Norwegian supreme court rejected Edward Snowden’s bid to travel to Norway with a guarantee that he wouldn’t be extradited to the U.S.
The former National Security Agency contractor launched his push in April in an attempt to travel to the country and receive the Ossietzky Prize in Oslo for his “outstanding efforts for freedom of expression,” according to the BBC.
The ruling would mean that Snowden could be extradited to the U.S. if he chooses to travel to Oslo.
Three New NSA Scandals
On November 4, Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept reported Three New Scandals Show How Pervasive and Dangerous Mass Surveillance Is in the West, Vindicating Snowden.
The scandals Greenwald mentions relate to illegal data collection in the UK and Canada.
So just this month alone, two key members of the Five Eyes alliance have been found by courts and formal investigations to be engaged in mass surveillance that was both illegal and pervasive, as well as, in the case of Canada, abusing surveillance powers to track journalists to uncover their sources. When Snowden first spoke publicly, these were exactly the abuses and crimes he insisted were being committed by the mass surveillance regime these nations had secretly erected and installed, claims that were vehemently denied by the officials in charge of those systems.
Yet with each new investigation and judicial inquiry, and as more evidence is unearthed, Snowden’s core claims are increasingly vindicated. Western officials are indeed addicted to unaccountable, secretive, abusive systems of mass surveillance used against their own citizens and foreigners alike, and the more those systems take root, the more core liberties are eroded.
Trump’s CIA Pick Wants Snowden Dead
On November 18, The New York Times reported Mike Pompeo, Sharp Critic of Hillary Clinton, Is Trump’s Pick to Lead C.I.A.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Pompeo would become one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the C.I.A. — a spy agency that, at least publicly, is supposed to operate above politics and avoid a direct role in policy making.
At the same time, the C.I.A. has been central to America’s secret wars waged in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, giving the agency a shadow role in the counterterrorism policy of the past two presidents.
After a visit to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2013, he told a congressional committee that a hunger strike by detainees was a “political stunt.”
In an op-ed this summer on the Fox News website, Mr. Pompeo wrote that the United States should “walk away from this [Iran] deal.”
On Februrary 19, 2014, I reported Angela Merkel Backs EU Internet to Deter US Spying; Rand Paul’s Proposal vs. Merkel’s Proposal; NSA Wants Snowden Dead
Here is the key snip:
NSA Wants Snowden Dead
Just to show you how much above the law the NSA jackasses think they are, one Pentagon official told BuzzFeed “I would love to put a bullet in Snowden’s head“.
“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”
“I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. “I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.”
All Snowden ever wanted was for US constitutional protections to remain intact. For that, NSA and Pentagon jackasses want him killed. Who are the real traitors here?
Speaking on C-Span’s Washington Journal, watch Pompeo announce he wants Snowden dead.
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Who’s the Traitor?
For divulging illegal wiretaps on US citizens, illegal collection of data under our constitution, and illegal wiretapping of foreign leaders including Angela Merkel, Snowden has been branded as a traitor.
Trump’s pick to head up the CIA stated that he wants Snowden dead.
Meanwhile, no one has lifted a finger against Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who lied under oath to Congress.
Here’s an admittedly biased poll given I made my case upfront:
Mike “Mish” Shedlock