A Plea to Senators Wyden and Udall: Become Whistleblowers

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have been outspoken critics of the recently revealed NSA surveillance programs for some time now. In fact, with few exceptions, they’ve been the only real critics of these secret programs within our entire government. While their willingness to vocalize their concerns is commendable, their criticism has been largely reduced to vague and cryptic sound bites. According to them, the information in question is classified and it’s illegal to publicly acknowledge the details. In lieu of explicit commentary on what they believe to be an egregious abuse of power, they have chosen instead to say what they can, when they can, without actually “breaking the law”.

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures, they have continued to ambiguously proclaim that what the public has learned is just the fringe, and that some of the statements the NSA have released in an effort to clarify its parameters and limitations are blatantly spurious. In spite of these remarks, the Senators continue to practice restraint, claiming they aren’t permitted to unequivocally decry the statements and programs because it would be criminal to expose them.

I am calling on Senators Wyden and Udall to dissent and openly criticize the government and NSA, with full disclosures concerning what they know about how these programs operate, and the ways in which the government has obscured the truth. It’s easy for me to espouse courage and justice in this scenario, that’s true; I’m ignorant of what these men know and am not threatened by the consequences of exposing classified secrets. I fully acknowledge the difference of opinion I might have if I was in their shoes. But in the interest of indulging this fiction, I’ll simply state that this is no time for pusillanimity.

Consider for a moment the power that revelations of government abuse- illuminated by Congressmen who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee- would have. Think about the uproar that would ensue, if in fact Wyden and Udall became whistleblowers. They would unquestionably become the most prominent expositors of government malfeasance in US history. Currently, they’ve been relegated to infrequent enigmatic declarations warning of an indiscernible breach of trust. But the breadth of the overreach remains opaque. Pertinacity is needed by those who possess the facts. Acts of conscience must be accompanied with the temerity necessary to endure the demonization efforts of the government and media that are inevitable.

Do we not deserve to know exactly what the scope and scale of the government’s capabilities are? Shouldn’t the debate about privacy and security be transparent, so that we may have a share in how our lives are monitored? What right does Wyden, Udall, or any other government official have, to withhold this information from those who have elected them? They’d shout “National Security” or that we need to protect ourselves from “The Terrorists”, but these are just stock responses, spewed thoughtlessly by government officials when they run out of ground to give. It’s the political equivalent of telling your children not to do something because you “said so”.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I’ll simply ask Senators Wyden and Udall: who do you stand with? Is it the government and their secrets, or the American people? Wyden and Udall swore to uphold the Constitution; but what if the government is subverting the ideals within? What if it is the NSA that is behaving unconstitutionally? Does that not mean that it is the government- not Wyden and Udall- that has betrayed its oath? What logic can be spun to justify the continued silence of these Senators, if in fact the government is perverting the Constitution?

This is what distinguishes genuine whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake, and Edward Snowden: the consequences of inaction frightened them more than what would result from civil disobedient acts of conscience. In all of the aforementioned cases, these men were willing to risk everything, and did. In the cases of Manning and Snowden, we don’t quite know how their stories will end. What we do know is that they are unflinchingly courageous, and that their integrity- which sells for so little in politics- is something our government officials should aspire to. I think Senators Wyden and Udall have a unique opportunity to make history for the right reasons. They should seize it.

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39 Responses to A Plea to Senators Wyden and Udall: Become Whistleblowers

  1. N. Friedman says:

    Call me a skeptic with regard to this matter but, frankly, it is far from proven that there is any further vast anything involved or, frankly, that what has been exposed is a vast travesty. A far more insightful analysis is provided by Lauren Weinstein here. As Mr. Weinstein writes:

    Despite some Congressional dissembling for political purposes now, it seems likely that everything revealed will be found to be legal under U.S. law as authorized by PATRIOT and other legislation, some of which reaches back far earlier than 9/11.

    The newer programs were all contemplated by and authorized by Congress, in many cases enthusiastically. Other issues, such as communications cable tapping, Internet Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), and other surveillance techniques — including militarized cyberattack functions — have long been known as practiced by all the major powers east and west, and probably by quite a few “smaller” powers as well. “Spy vs. Spy.”

    ****************

    Exaggerations (e.g., related to the so-called PRISM project) — which have already become oft-repeated memes associated with this saga — have done significant damage to Web firms who have been falsely accused of massive collusion with NSA. The accusations are ludicrous and illogical, but play into the hands of conspiracy buffs and tinfoil hat aficionados around the world.

    Perhaps there will be revelations of real wrongdoing and overzealousness or evil by government officials. Perhaps. So far, that is not what we have. Senators who play for the crowd are not authoritative on these matters, so I would not put too much faith in what they claim here.

    As for Mr. Snowden, I am reminded of Plato’s Crito and the distance of Snowden’s behavior from that of Socrates. Calling Snowden a hero, a man who broke his agreement with the government, who placed information in reach of foreign governments and who effectively fled, is mind boggling.

    • Terry Adams says:

      Surely everything called “legal” isn’t always just, moral, or in the public interest right? I won’t insult you by running through the lists of things that at one point or another in our history were deemed “legal”, but weren’t anywhere close to being morally upright.

      So as a technicality, sure, these programs are legal. But this is my point. Senators Wyden and Udall aren’t saying they’re illegal, they are saying that if the American people knew how the government has INTERPRETED these laws, they would be “stunned” (their word not mine). And more importantly, this government INTERPRETATION of the law, has been conducted in complete secrecy. Whether these programs are legal or not, don’t you think with something as invasive as this, it’s a discussion the public should be engaged in? How can we engage in a debate we don’t know exists?

      A common talking point from government officials is that there is sufficient oversight for these programs. That Congress is briefed on them (that’s misleading: only select members of Congress are briefed on them. Many, having finally been briefed as a result of these leaks, are coming away very concerned, having voiced their concern clearly, and are saying that what’s been revealed is only the tip of the iceberg.); that there is a secret FISA court okaying any actual “content collection” (also misleading: check the record of the number of times the FISA court has actually denied a government request for a warrant to obtain the collection of content…it’s zero. They are a rubber stamp at best. Not to mention, the approval they often grant isn’t followed up with an indepedent audit, ensuring that the NSA is conducting the programs the way they’re supposed to.)

      Senators playing for the crowd? I’m not sure how to even reply to that statement. The Senators “playing to the crowd” are the ones repeatedly screaming that these programs are necessary to protect us from harm, without offering concrete examples. They’ve cited a few instances where plots were thwarted, but there have been counterarguments made on every instance, suggesting that good old fashioned intelligence work did the job. The officials “playing to the crowd” are the ones demonizing Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, instead of focusing on the information they’ve disclosed.

      Look at Obama’s War on Whistleblowers; consider his efforts to keep ACLU and other civil liberty lawsuits concerning NSA spying, from being actually argued in a court of law, constantly claiming that it would endanger national security if the information was allowed to be argued openly. Obama says he welcomes the debate…but that’s not true…if it was, then he wouldn’t classify documents until 2038. If he welcomed the debate, he wouldn’t keep the information secret and block all court challenges.

      I’d urge you to read the link in my piece to Thomas Drake. It’s near the end of the post. He was a former NSA employee that tried to alert his superiors (using the proper channels available to Whistleblowers) to massive waist and illegality. Read what happened to him. Consider what happened to Bradley Manning. Read about the motivations of these men. Do you honestly not think that Snowden was aware of how men like this were treated? You don’t see how that could compel him to run and seek asylum?

      Your comparison to Socrates is an interesting one. You may be right insofar as assuming that Socrates might have chosen to stay and face the consequences of his actions. But if you don’t think he would have acted with the same integrity by sharing the information that Edward Snowden did, then I’d advise you to read any/all of the Socratic dialogues again. I believe Socrates would not have hesitated to make this information public. Integrity can work both ways if you want to play that game.

      According to Snowden, and the information he revealed, it was the government, and not him, that broke their oath. This is what drove him to come forward. You assume the government was doing everything it was supposed to. Why?

      He placed info in the reach of foreign governments? How? He could have gone to any enemy state and made millions of dollars while being lavished with any and every gift we could think of. But that’s not what he did. He went to American journalists and asked them to use discretion. He asked them to reveal only what was needed to incite the debate he felt like was lacking in this country concerning the NSA and national security. If you think revealing the fact that the NSA spies on other governments and people outside the US, was illuminating to terrorists and other governments, then in the interest of being polite, I’ll simply say that I think you’re wrong.

      Citing someone who justifies the legality of these programs by saying they were constructed under the Patriot Act, as if that means they are good, just, and wise laws, is laughable. One of the primary authors of the Patriot Act recently confessed (after learning of these programs) that how the US government is interpreting the Patriot Act, goes well beyond his wildest intentions. Again, just because something has been deemed legal by the government, doesn’t make it constitutional. Why should we trust what the government says? Bush lied constantly and so has Obama. Why should we simply assume that anything they are telling us about these programs is legitimate? The information suggests otherwise.

      At minimum, I’m staggered that, whether you think the programs are legal/justifiable, you don’t think we should at least know about them in order to debate whether or not the tradeoff of privacy and security is worth it.

      • N. Friedman says:

        Again, I am skeptical about everything coming from Snowden. Heroes don’t run to places like China and Russia, where almost certainly anything he had, secret or otherwise has been pilfored by those countries. The typical refuge of a scoundrel is the flag, so the fact that he blames the government does not move me.

        Our system of government is not perfect; far from it. However, an elaborate procedure was set up and, so far as I know, followed. 3 seperate groups of people were involved. You say there was a rubber stamp. That is nonsense. That would only be true if no changes were required to requested activities. It is well known that changes, requiring the narrowing of investigative reach, were routinely required. That was reported om NPR. You say that legislators were shocked. I doubt anyone there was shocked. You site to Greenwald. He is a person who suggested that 9/11/01 was not that big a deal. 3,000 dead bystanders is a big deal. I have no respect for him. He has terrible judgment and despicable, anti-liberal values.

      • Terry Adams says:

        I’d urge you to watch this speech from Glenn Greenwald…

        http://wearemany.org/v/2013/06/glenn-greenwald-speaks-out

    • Terry Adams says:

      From yesterday’s New York Times:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/opinion/the-criminal-nsa.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

      Wyden and 25 other Senators have some questions about these programs. But I guess they’re all just “playing to the crowd” right?

      http://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/press-releases/bipartisan-group-of-26-senators-seek-answers-from-dni-clapper-on-bulk-data-collection-program

      • Neil says:

        I agree with you on this point, and I know that if *I* were in their position, I would be incapable of silence. I would put my faith in the constitution and speak up. At least I would be confident that history would judge my actions to be morally correct.

        Perhaps, the type of person who might be able to get elected is just not compatible with the type of person who is compelled to reveal lies, and can’t rest until he has.

        Either way, you are wasting your time with this Friedman guy. He lives in a cartoon world without shades of grey, everything he wants to be true *is* true, and anything he doesn’t like is just ignored as if it didn’t exist. At this point his comments are there for comedic value only, which is diminished if you take them seriously and reply.

      • Terry Adams says:

        I agree. The kind of person that runs for office might very well not be the kind of person that could become adversarial, if in fact they were to learn of highly questionable and even morally egregious practices. It would be an interesting psychological study.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. N. Friedman says:

    Terry,
    You seem to think I do not know about Greenwald.
    Your faith in him is misplaced.
    He denies the role of ideology driving terrorism, which is disqualifying for a supposed intellectual. Instead, he only sees blowback from alleged US misdeeds. He does not consider the role of the religious elite who want to dominate society. On his telling, this is ALL our doing, which is simply dishonest. Denying any real dispute exists, he sees the cure to terrorism in appeasing whatever demands terrorists make. Hence, there is , to him, no need for government spying. Hence, whatever the government is doing is too much. I have no respect for that viewpoint.

  3. N. Friedman says:

    Further, there is evidence that Snowden was acting as part of a concerted effort to steal information from the government. See this article. This is the opposite of a real whistle blower. What we have here is a committed ideologue working with other ideologues. Rather shameful behavior, if Mr. Epstein is correct.

    • Brian says:

      HAHAHA! Nice speculative article that isn’t grounded in one single piece of evidence. Articles like this are meant to do one thing: distract you from considering the actual revelations that have been disclosed.

      • Brian says:

        My comment was meant for N. Friedman, btw.

      • N. Friedman says:

        The article most certainly is rooted in facts, from which it does speculate. That Snowden did take consult with other ideologues long before he ran off is a fact. That he took the job only recently is a fact. His quoted words are facts to the extent that he said what he is quoted as saying.

        The speculation is not unreasonable. Which is to say, he does appear to have taken his position for purposes of stealing. He does appear to have acted from the outset with outside assistance.

        If the speculation is correct, then he has committed actual espionage, not merely the stretching of a legal definition to fit an allegation. That is something which either is or is not true. However, there are certainly sufficient facts contradicting his and his friends irenic account of his actions to warrant serious consideration, not blithe dismissal as if such things had no basis in fact.

  4. Brian says:

    N. Friedman- everyone knows the facts presented in this article. What’s purportedly relevatory are the speculative assumptions the author asserts. If you’re speculating, no matter how “reasonable” it might be, there is no reason to even write something like this. It’s a waste of space. As I said, all it does is distract from what the facts are and most importantly, what’s been revealed.

    • N. Friedman says:

      But, thus far, very little has been revealed. What we know is pretty much what has always been known. That was the point of the first article I noted, by Lauren Weinstein. What we have seen, thus far, are exaggerated claims about facts which have been known of for years.

      • Brian says:

        I strongly disagree…for reasons the author makes clear above. I was aware that the NSA spied on communications. I had no knowledge of the specifics. You’re suggestion that very little has been revealed is utterly fatuous.

  5. N. Friedman says:

    Brian says:
    July 3, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I strongly disagree…for reasons the author makes clear above. I was aware that the NSA spied on communications. I had no knowledge of the specifics. You’re suggestion that very little has been revealed is utterly fatuous.

    That you were unaware does not mean that you could not have made yourself aware. I should add, one of the main reasons that the press has not reacted all that strongly to this entire story is that the information you believe was unknown to the public was, in fact, available and well known.

    • Serenity Now says:

      Let me ask you this…James Clapper lying under oath to Senate Intelligence Committee members about whether the NSA is collecting data of US citizens: is that a big deal or not? If the programs are all legit, legal, and being run properly, why would he lie?

      • N. Friedman says:

        No. It is not OK to lie to Congress. It is not ok, moreover, to provide false statements to Congress, even if the falsehoods are not lies (i.e., are not knowingly false statements). Congress is entitled to receive accurate information, which is important to good governance.

        The issue with Clapper speaking accurately is not exactly new. Clapper has been saying all sorts of stuff over the years. He not so long ago testified that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely a secular organization. I like to believe he did not believe such obvious idiocy but, all things considered, the Obama administration has acted as if the stuff it makes up is true – so, perhaps, he was not lying and, instead, merely ignorant.

        The Obama administration lives in a fantasy world, where it creates its own reality and then testifies as if what it fantasizes is true. In that regard, the Obama administration is a replay of the Bush administration. And, its mistakes are as bad or, perhaps, even worse than those of the Bush administration – which is saying something.

        On the other hand, the spying being done has been known of for many years. The extent of the spying has also been known for many years. It is surprising that no one in Congress chose to call Clapper out at the time for misspeaking, for surely many Congressman had a pretty good idea that he was not testifying accurately.

  6. Serenity Now says:

    N. Friedman,

    But if the extent to which the spying on Americans has been known for years (i.e. the specificity of these programs- what they store, how they store it, what legal rationales they use, etc.), by certain members of Congress, then why would Senator Wyden ask Clapper whether or not the NSA collects data on American citizens? The answer…because they didn’t know.

    See, everyone who has been paying attention knows that the NSA has been spying on Americans. It began under Bush, illegally, and then was legalized- even though I’d suggest, like some of the other commenters, that something being legal doesn’t make it constitutional- and has continued under Obama. But how can you possibly say that the specifics of these programs- what they are collecting and what that data can tell them- has been known if in fact members of the Senate Intelligence Committee- you know, the group responsible for oversight of these programs- didn’t know the details?

    • N. Friedman says:

      Fair questions, Serenity Now.

      I assume that politicians and bureaucrats, whether in Congress or the Executive branch, do not always tell the truth. Those politicians who claim to have been deceived are no more likely to be telling the truth – and, note, they are not under oath – than those who are lying or misstating facts.

      Now, the fact remains that, thus far, everything revealed – other than information falsely stated – has had the blessing of all 3 branches of the government. That not only makes it legal but, in the system that exists, Constitutional. And, it is not merely reactionaries in the judiciary who have seen stood with the program. The program has had the blessing of the entire political spectrum of those who are elected. Which is to say, the issue here is not a Constitutional one, as a matter of definition.

      Now, you might claim that the fact of misstatements or lies means that there was someone to be deceived. I do not think that is true. When Mr. Clapper said that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely a secular group – perhaps the dumbest statement of all time by a government official -, no one anywhere (much less the MB itself, which sees itself as doing God’s work, after all) believed him. So, the aim of making misstatements is not always to deceive the public. There are many possible reasons for misstatements.

      Perhaps, the concern with statements about government spying is that public testimony on the matter would get into revelation of technical methodology or personnel or specific incidents, any of which might actually be revelations and which might actually endanger people. Perhaps. Perhaps, Clapper is simply incompetent.

      I think the larger issue is one of government fantasy, where it projects its notions about the world into facts and then testifies about those “facts” as if they were true – as appears to have occurred with the testimony about the MB, which is among the least secular groups on the planet.

      • Serenity Now says:

        So, if I’m understanding you…1.) We shouldn’t assume that any politician is telling the truth in this context, even the minority running counter to the ubiquitous government narrative about these programs, because politicians misstate and lie sometimes.

        2.) But our government officials- the same ones that you assume lie at times- are telling us that they have essentially INTERPRETED a law in a certain way- IN SECRET- and that there is transparency and oversight and that all three branches are doing what they are supposed to do, even though it’s all being done in SECRET, then it appears to you that everything is constitutional.

        Are these not contradictory claims? Why would you assume that they don’t always tell the truth, but the also assume that because they say so, these programs are being conducted constitutionally, even though it’s all been done in secret?

  7. N. Friedman says:

    In reply to Serenity Now, at July 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm.

    No. You have not got me right on this. The opinions making things Constitutional are public. The Court itself makes secret findings. However, the existence of the Court has the blessing of all 3 branches of government, without regard to party.

    As for the findings, I do not expect to see the findings on individual cases. I do understand that the law provides for oversight on this, by the Executive branch and by the legislature. The legislature, has, according to what the law permits, delegated oversight to selected members of the legislature.

    This law was passed in order to end unregulated activity. Now, we have regulated activity.

    I do not trust politicians to tell the truth. I note that the founders of our Constitution assumed that politicians were corrupt liars. That is why they created a system by which there is oversight.

    We live in a dangerous world, all the more so as a result of turmoil in the Muslim regions. Does the spying help in this? I do not know. It might. However, it did not stop the Boston bombing. It did not stop the Times Square bombing (which an alert citizen averted). It did not stop the Fort Hood massacre. So, whether the government is doing one of its most important jobs – maintaining people’s lives – is an open question.

    None of that was my point in this. My point is that none of what is being asserted here was unknown to the public, at least not so far.

    • Serenity Now says:

      I don’t see how you can possibly claim that this stuff was was not unknown to the public, if in fact members of the Senate Intelligece Committee- the group responsible for the oversight of these programs- were asking Clapper to explain what the NSA was doing. How does that translate? In fact, going back a few years, Senator Wyden asked the NSA if they knew the number of American citizens that were being spied on, and the NSA said they had no idea. Some of the documents recently released shows that they very much know exactly how many Americans are being spied on. The public didn’t know that. Again, we know general things that the government has been doing…what these leaks have revealed is specifics on how it’s done, what is collected, and what that can reveal. At best, you’re being dishonest here. But what’s most frightening, is that you’re claiming that this info isn’t that big a deal, that Snowden is a possible enemy because of the way he went about handling all this, but you’re rebuking Clapper more on his comments and opinions on the MB, than you are about his blantant lie to conceal FACTS; not his opinions or commentary on a political group, actual FACTS about NSA spying.

      • N. Friedman says:

        Where did you see me providing a moral judgment on any of this. I have not.

        We do not, at this point, know whether he was lying. Falsehoods are not always lies.

        I am not excusing anything. I am noting that the nature of the spying has been known throughout. The degree of spying has been known throughout. Details are not publicly known but the fact, for example, that your email is open season for the government has been known for many years. I am rather surprised that there are limits placed on what is actually examined in the emails. I assumed that key words were used but now see that public information – e.g., addresses listed, which, legally speaking, are not public, are instead used.

        The fact that the government goes to great length to state this or that at a public hearing tells me very little. As I have noted with the Clapper incident with the so-called secular Muslim Brothers, no one could have believed his testimony. He, to note, is not an idiot so he did not believe it either. The public, moreover, knows better as well. So, the question is, whenever someone from the government speaks: why was a statement made? And, that question requires consideration of the context. There obviously was a reason to sell the idea of a secular MB.

        Now, it was not to deceive the public or Congress. It was not to deceive Arabs. Rather, it was likely to state that the government wanted to do business with the MB. And, that was their signal, namely, that they would do business with the MB under certain conditions. Which is to say, the purpose was one of diplomacy.

        In the case of lying about spying, it is unseemingly, most especially to European allies, to admit what all involved do – after all, all of the European states spy on the US and on each other. So, Clapper was likely appeasing the European public opinion.

        I rather doubt anyone in Congress believes anything Clapper says in public. Would you believe a man who said the Muslim Brotherhood is largely a secular movement? I ask this as a serious question. Please consider it if you choose to reply to this posting.

    • Serenity Now says:

      You are giving the government the benefit of the doubt, when Clapper has been caught lying outright, while assuming the worst of Edward Snowden without anything he revealed being revealed as lie.

      • N. Friedman says:

        I am not arguing to give the government the benefit of the doubt. I am arguing that the program set up is legal and Constitutional, in the only way that something can be legal and Constitutional: it has the blessing of all 3 branches of government and, to note, both political parties.

        I do argue that Snowden is not a hero. If he were for real, he would not have fled to China and then Russia. In Plato’s Crito, Socrates is given the option to flee in order to escape the death sentence issued by the court where he was convicted. He refused to flee and made a point of the matter, accepting death – hemlock poisoning. He provides rather important reasons for not running, at least if you believe in the rule of law and hold that you live in a legitimate country. Snowden has rejected that and, on top of the matter, lied about it. He indicated he was willing to accept justice and then fled to Russia.

        So, I have no respect for him. Does that color my opinion of his “revelations”? Perhaps. However, as I noted, he has not really exposed anything that has not been widely known before. Minor details have been revealed but, to note, they are unimportant ones, at least so far.

  8. Serenity Now says:

    First…do you think you are obsessed with the Muslim Brotherhood? I think yes. Nothing about this conversation pertains to the Muslim Brotherhood yet somehow, you continue to make it so.

    Second…you’re okay with what Snowden leaked, you just don’t like the way he leaked it. Is that accurate?

    When did Snowden lie? I must have missed that. If you could pull up that statement I would appreciate it. I’m asking sincerely.

    Government officials saying untrue things in government hearings don’t mean much to you, but Snowden allegedly saying he would accept justice and then fleeing to Russia (which wasn’t his final destination by the way) causes you to have no respect for him. Got it.

    So the public knew that every single Verizon customer in America has their metadata stored? Are you saying that Verizon customers knew, when they signed their contract, that the company they just signed with was going to be giving the governent access to their info? Are you also saying that pre-existing Verizon customers were contacted by Verizon and notified that their info would be accessed at will by the government, even if they weren’t suspected of illegality? Show me where the pubic opinions on this, prior to the law being enacted, were debated openly.

    Once again, a government’s interpretation of the law does not mean it is constitutional, much less moral, just, fair, or wise. Socrates fell victim to this very thing. There is such a thing as the 4th Amendment in this country, and I’d argue that these programs have destroyed it.

    Answer this question: you may not approve of the leaks, and you may even believe that they aren’t really that revealing. But let’s pretend for a moment that the American public didn’t really know about these programs; that what was revealed really was news to them; if that’s true, do you think disclosures like this belong in the public forum to be discussed, debated, and criticized? In other words, if it’s true the public was largely in the dark on this, do you think it’s good that they now know more about these programs than they did before?

    • Neil says:

      I gave up replying to anything Mr Friedman posts after only 5 or 6 attempts to engage him. He is immune to reason or evidence, and his responses are often nonsensical.

      He might be a dedicated and creative troll. He could very well be Terry Adams’ sock-puppet, trying to draw enraged commenters 🙂

      The reality might be more sinister. We have already seen the details of the contracts awarded for sock-puppet management systems that would let each NSA analyst control 50 or more ‘identities’ online. Online discussions are growing exponentially so the NSA will need analysts to control thousands or millions of personas each in the next decade or two.

      This implies that the software will be responsible for ‘writing’ and posting thousands of comments without human intervention. The analysts will give them broad characteristics, selecting a ‘personality type’ and ‘ideology type’ and other traits. Then the little bots run off and pretend to ‘be’ a real person of that type.

      I think this may be what N. Friedman really is.

      Perhaps he’s a prototype that escaped the lab somehow. The FriedBot, as I call him, isn’t quite up to scratch yet. As you must have noticed, his arguments are often self-contradictory, and others just make no sense. The fact that the FriedBot is immune to correction means that the humans get more and more tired of the nonsense, and eventually walk away.

      I’m sure those are just teething troubles; the new versions are probably much better.

      • Terry Adams says:

        An interesting theory.

        But I can’t take credit for Mr. Friedman’s remarks.

        I’m glad this debate is happening with people other than myself though.

    • N. Friedman says:

      A number of points.

      First, you claim that something violates the 4th Amendment. But, once again, the Courts, the Executive branch and the lLegislative branch – i.e., the entire government including the part which rules on Constitutionality – disagrees. Both major political parties disagree with you. Moreover, there are rather specific case decisions which hold, for example, that the address on an envelope is not protected by the 4th Amendment. Please explain how the address on an email, which is provided by every user of email to another party, is more confidential than the address on a letter. It’s not. It is a nonsense argument.

      As for Mr. Snowden, you have no way to know what he really intended. He stated specifically that he would stand for prosecution. Then he left China. That makes him a liar. The only destination where he might be tried is the US. If he were like Socrates, he would stand trial and live with the consequences. Then you could say he is a man of principle rather than a man who thinks he is entirely above the rule of law.

      Rather than stand by the consequences, he, after signing an agreement with the government, breached the agreement and stole. Then, he took the stolen material to a foreign country, where that information was accessed – as reported in the paper – by that foreign country, in this case China. Now, he claims that he is a patriot. Patriots don’t take secrets to foreign countries. Patriots stand up for what is right and, like Martin Luther King, go to jail for their beliefs. Mr. Snowden thinks he is above that.

      The reason I mentioned the Brotherhood is that you brought up Clapper. I noted that he had stated preposterous things under oath in the past, things he had to have known to be false and that the entire audience listening to him had to have known to be false and that, most of all, the party about which he was testifying knew to be false.

      I am not an advocate for false testimony. I merely note that you are bent out of shape by Clapper’s false statement about spying, something which his audience also knew (or should have known) to be false. Are you also concerned about the fantasy world the government devices in which the Brotherhood – the group which essentially created the ideology which led to people flying planes in the US buildings (killing thousands of civilians), which led to people blowing up US embassies (killing hundreds of civilians), which led to the Boston massacre, which led to the Fort Hood massacre, which led to the shoe bomber, which led to the London subway/bus bomber, which led to the Madrid train bombing (killing nearly 200 civilians), which led to countless dead civilians throughout the world – is a mostly secular group, in which our government forbids its analysts to note either publicly or in internal documents that the insane ideology (which is not secular) that every one of these massacres has in common? You are more bothered about a program that gains access to information which, for more than a century’s worth of legal jurisprudence, has been considered unprotected, not private, is legally obtained but unconcerned that your government lives in a fantasy world.

      I do not like my private information accessed. But, I do not believe – as nothing has been shown me which makes me believe otherwise – that we have a rogue program here. I believe the actors are acting in good faith and are being properly supervised. I have no idea if the program serves any useful purpose. I tend to think that terrorists already knew that the email was tapped. But, then again, they may not have known that the means employed – i.e., looking at addresses as opposed to information.

      • Terry Adams says:

        I’m not going to get in the middle of this argument, but I’m curious…Serenity Now asked you to provide links that support some of your claims. Particularly the claims involving Snowden. I’d second Serenity Now’s request. I don’t recall reading where Snowden said he was “giving himself up” so to speak, nor do I recall reading a newspaper factually reporting that other governments have accessed his information. I’ve read newspapers speculating that this has happened, but I don’t recall it being reported that he- of his own volition- and with sinister motivations- handed over information to foreign governments. Implicit in this speculation, is the notion that Snowden’s rationale is nefarious. This is contradictory to what his stated intentions are.

        Please provide this material if possible.

      • N. Friedman says:

        I did not say he voluntarily gave information. Multiple sources state that China accessed his materials. I believe that includes the New York Times.

        I did not claim he would give himself up. He stated he was willing to accept the consequences for what he did. His actions contradict that claim. This claim is, if I recall correctly, in The Guardian.

        Be that all as it may, do you actually believe that China let him go for free, without giving them access? And do you believe he did not know when he went to a police state that it would not access his stuff? He is supposed to be a computer wizz -a bright guy. He went to a police where there was no way for him to keep anything private. So, if my memory is wrong, what I am claiming still has to be true.

      • Terry Adams says:

        Just because he is attempting to seek asylum doesn’t mean that he’s not open to facing the consequences of his actions. He has stated that he’d be willing to face the consequences if in fact he felt like the US would give him a fair trial. Based on the evidence, the fact is the Obama administration has aggressively gone after whistleblowers: John Kiriakou, Bill Binney, Thomas Drake, and Bradley Manning (just to name a few). Snowden has astutely noted this, and in his determination, he believes receiving a fair trial is impossible. Why should he give himself up if he believes that he won’t receive a fair shake?

        And no, multiple sources have speculated that China accessed materials. Just because they stated it, doesn’t make it true. This is an important distinction.

        Is it possibly true? Certainly. But it’s important to understand that this wasn’t Snowden’s intent. If he felt he could have received a fair trial I don’t think he would have ever left the US. He would have made his disclosures right here, as he should be able to do. I think it’s important that we ask ourselves why he felt he needed to disclose this information from outside the supposed bastion of democracy and freedom in the world?

  9. N. Friedman says:

    He has stated that he’d be willing to face the consequences if in fact he felt like the US would give him a fair trial.

    So far as I know, the US provides pretty fair trials. Where is the evidence that the US Court system does not provide fair trials? When he says things like that and then goes to a country which never gives a fair trial to anyone, how is his claim to be taken seriously?

    Perhaps you do not know much about the US court system. What he is claiming is, straight out, a untrue. When he makes that sort of statement and claims that he is willing to face the consequences of his action, while being on the run to a police state like China and, now deplaned in another police state en route to an authoritarian state, such as Ecuador, which does not provide fair trials, he belies any justice there might be in his actions.

    Do you really think that the US provides unfair trials? You can say that jurors might be biased against African Americans. You might say we have bad laws on this or that subject, but, frankly, there is no country that provides truly fairer trials than the US. That, Sir, is a fact. There are countries with legal systems which are also fair, perhaps as fair as the US system. However, his claim is garbage, and, unless you are dishonest – and I believe you to be honest – you know full well that his claim about the US system is false.

    Mr. Manning is in the military and, unlike a civilian, is not subject to the same legal system as a civilian. However, I know JAG advocates and I know that our military courts are, while not perfect, rather high caliber, so far as getting to the truth. And, they, not the civilian courts, were the origin of the idea of providing the accused with attorneys, with many other innovations that accused expect from civilian courts. So, bringing him up – the fact that a guy who publishes thousands of documents because he disagrees with policy or whatever while serving in the military – as having anything to do with Snowden is pretty outrageous. Manning is receiving a fair trial within the meaning of military justice.

    One aspect of breaking a law is that you might be found guilty. Real patriots – e.g., like Dr. King – admitted their guilt and accepted the sentences meted out. That is what real heroes do. Persons who believe they are above the law, that they and their judgment is all that matters, do what Snowden has done, which is run away. And, running to a place like China – a police state with no human rights protections – speaks volumes about him.

    • N. Friedman says:

      A further comment on the topic …

      There is a saying. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I believe we owe that saying to Samuel Johnson.

      Be that as it may, we have a man, Mr. Snowden, who has wrapped himself in patriotic assertions about privacy, about the 4th Amendment, etc. Yet, the very thing he claims about privacy is not, under the 4th Amendment, private. See, Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979). Addresses on envelope are public. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on addresses.

      That is all common knowledge. So, I take Mr. Snowden to be wrapping his policy disagreement in patriotism. However, as I noted, were he a real patriot, he would stand before his own people, US citizens, and make his claim. Instead, he ran to an oppressive state, China. It is for that reason that the saying “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” applies to him. A real patriot – as opposed to a scoundrel who values only his own superiority -, even if he believed (which I doubt) that the court system would not provide a fair trial, would stand before his own people. In fact, he would, were he not a scoundrel proudly admit guilt and claim that the government is up to no good.

      Then, I would respect him. As things stand, I cannot imagine how anyone who believes in justice or morality can side with him. One can say, OK, he has uncovered something important (if that were, in fact, so, which it is not). But no one can call him a decent person. One term form him is narcissist. Another is scoundrel.

    • Serenity Now says:

      Fairness by comparison? Okay, I’ll play along…

      You can get a fair trial in this country if you’re not a Muslim, or if the government doesn’t think ill of you…how about that?

      Guantanamo Bay- there are a plethora inmates there that have been indefinitely detained and have been declared too difficult to prosecute, but too dangerous to set free. That squares with the Magna Carta how exactly?

      There are also over 50 inmates at GITMO that have been cleared for release, but have remained in detention- many for years. Smacks of liberty doesn’t it?

      Bradley Manning was kept in solitary confinement, and in many human rights groups opinions, tortured, for three years before his trial was set to begin. Please educate yourself on the specifics of his case before you claim to know that he is receiving a fair trial. Guilty until proven innocent is not how our court system operates.

      Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou both followed whistleblower protocol and alerted their superiors to massive abuse, torture, etc., and were essentially stiff armed. They were effectively demoted and ignored until they decided to leak info to the public. This led them being prosectued under the Espionage Act…Kiriakou is now in prison for exposing the fact that the US engaged in torture, and Drake’s life has been turned upside down for revealing that the NSA was spending billions of dollars on a program that already existed in a much less expensive form, but was now being used to spy on American citizens illegally. For that he was charged with 35 years in prison…lost his job…accrued thousands of dollars in attorney fees, and eventually pled guilty to a minor charge in order for the government to drop all of the major charges. His career is finished.

      • Serenity Now says:

        So yes, if you want to compare the US to other nations, you’re absolutely right, our court system is far better. But should we be comparing ourselves to anyone? Isn’t that a weak defense? The fact is, there is a set of legal parameters for one group of people that does not apply to another. Bankers and government officials on the one hand, and everyone else, especially Muslims, African Americans, and people who object to government practices, on the other. The measure of a democracy, and their judicial system in particular, is defined by how it handles its most noxious and most controversial citizens, not by how it handles the routine.

  10. Brian says:

    Good article today by one of the journalists that’s been working on these stories, on the rampant speculation about Snowden as they relate to his giving foreign governments the information he possesses.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/05/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-spy

  11. N. Friedman says:

    Serenity Now,

    You have not raised any issue with the conduct of trials in the US. Asserting that Muslims do not receive fair trials is not proof. Please name individuals who have not received fair trials, when brought to Court.

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