This is smelling more and more like the Cold War all over again. Massive suspicion, emphasis on cloak-and-daggar tactics, and a new round of spy toys that would make Q proud. The really sad thing is that the techniques that the NSA is pioneering here will feed into the next generation of malware that we will be cleaning out of our systems over the next few years. Is this the R&D that we want our tax dollars to be sponsoring?
@junko.yashida >> Yes, my head hurts too! These ongoing "Bit-Wars" are just going to continue escalating with no stop in sight. And they cannot and should not and will not stop. "Net Neutrality" issues are such small potatoes compared with these ongoing events. Some mornings, I feel like Snowden was a public hero, but other mornings I wake up thinking that he may be pushing the envelop a bit too far. Even if I could only use 10% of my brain power to make sense out of the current world around us, buying aspirin by the crate-full is not going to stop the thumping inside my cranial! Argh!
Regarding Snowden, in my mind it is very clear. He took a legally and morally binding oath and he broke it. He is a criminal under the laws of the U.S. Even if you accept extenuating circumstances (i.e. the government was doing evil things) he had the option to report from within rather than go public. My opinion is that he is a self-aggrandizing jerk, but there is no law against that.
Hi Junko, I personally think that to tell everybody what is going on is a national service, not unlike what newspapers and television do, but the one thing I wouldn't have revealed is what leader 'A' thinks about leader 'B' behind close doors. That's something they as individuals are entitled to as a personal opinion and broadcasting it belittles the other "good" he has done while jeapodising relationships between world leaders. Is sharing the cloak and dagger exposays of the NSA the same thing? I don't think so because it's not opinion, but rather illegal activity. Anyway, a long and difficult subject, let him lose his job over it ok, but treason etc?? I think not.
@Junko, thanks for your kind words. I agree Snowden isn't a journalist and I have a great deal of respect for those journalists that do navigate the tightrope that divides essential information from moral dilemma.
Snowden is maybe a disgruntled employee (I don't believe this) or a man on a miission to right the wrongs he sees, or he could be some other type of idealist.
There is probably no doubt that he's broken several laws, for which some may entail fines and maybe jail time (I don't know the law that well) but I don't see treason as being on the list. A reporter somewhere (can't remember) made the point that he hadn't done much more than an investigative reporter might have (given access of course) but either way I read somewhere that The US was structually one of the weakest democracies on the globe and if it weren't for strong freedom of the press laws would have long disappeared.
I wish I could remember where I read it so that kudos may go to the deserving, but it's stuck in my mind and prevents me from supporting any laws that might curtail the next "watergate" story. I put Snowden's over zealous release of the information he had available into the same "unfortunate collateral damage" basket that so many other unfortunate bad reporting.
At the end of the day yes the media (and whistle blowers) need ethical controls but power and authority need it much more dearly if we are to remain free.
Sorry for rambling on a bit. I do respect other's desires to disagree with what I've stated.
@Etmax, the key piece of information is that Snowden signed a security agreement. Violation of that agreement is an act of treason. What he did was an obvious and gross violation, so the government really has no choice but to charge him as such. If he discovered that the government was involved in things that he found unconscionable, he had every right to quit his job and spend the rest of his life campaigning against that type of actions. This is very different from a reporter who has signed no such agreement. In that case they have typically been either self-censored by ethics understandings or screened by editors. The advent of blogs and wikileaks have largely bypassed those controls. Governments have been doing nasty things as long as there have been governments, but often it is a grey area. I have actually been heartened by most of what I have read of the Snowden leaks. Much of it is actually remarkably mundane or commonsense. It's nice to know that the government recognizes situations for what they are, even if admitting that is problematic in some foreign relations situations.
@Larry, Thanks, I see your point. I still think his actions were based on the best of intentions and the death penalty or extended imprisonment is not what I would advocate. Certainly no career move on his part. I do think tax payers have a right to know the morals of their elected officials and agencies.
@Pseudoid: Some mornings, I feel like Snowden was a public hero, but other mornings I wake up thinking that he may be pushing the envelop a bit too far.
I simply don't know what to think. On the one hand I worry about the "big brother" scenario. On the other hand I really don't care if the NSA has the ability to see who I've called and when I called them.
Similarly, on the one hand I think it's useful to know what one's government is doing. On the other hand i think it's a stupid idea to (a) tell the naughty people what we are capable of and (b) tell our friends that we are spying on them. With regard to the latter, they are also spying on us -- their "outrage" is mostly for their own people -- they had to be "outraged" once this was made public.
I would have been more impressed with Snowdon if he had stayed here and said "I did what I thought was right" -- but that's easy for me to say.
As they say, don't judge someone unless you've walked a mile in their shoes (by which time you are a mile away and you have their shoes!)
@Max, I agree with you, I don't care too much if people stick their nose in my private emails etc. They'll be hard pressed to find anything that is amoral let alone illegal, but the real worry is that scenarios like Chile's secret police and the KGB, the Nazi informers etc. etc. can at the wrong election result remove all opposition. They won't get value out of yours or mine, but anyone involved in the political process may just "disappear" That's why information on the extent of state intrusion into private information needs to be governed by strict oversite and (illegal) trangressions made public (sometimes by illegal means). Pre WWII Germany was being turned into a parliamentary democracy and the means by which it was brought down was amongst other things by manipulation of the press by the Nazis. History needs to be a lesson to us and those that martyr themselves in this cause even if they get a few things wrong deserve some understanding if not respect. As I've meantioned elsewhere in this blog I don't agree with all of Snowden's actions, but I do believe he had his heart in the right place and the public debate that is coming out of it all may well prove invaluable in improving things. (love the bit about the shoes, I'll remember that :-) )
@Junko, none of the governments is going to come out with truth especially when the stakes are high. There are news about US spying on others vice versa (however small or large). This is truely cold war days revisited with the only difference is that China is slowly replacing Russia.
@wilber_xbox, exactly. And that greatly worries me. When we know a lot of things are not exactly black and white, it is so easy to paint the other just plain evil. Did we learn anything from the Cold War?
Actually, I'm pretty confident that the China is not strictly the innocent victim here. There is a very comprehensive report at http://intelreport.mandiant.com/ that details what has been coming from that side. The point is that more effort needs to be expended in terms of defense from these kinds of intrusions rather than inventing new ones. As Susan pointed out, these kinds of exploits make it hard to lecture authoritatively on morality.
@LarryM99, I am not here to change your mind or even to sway you one way or another.
If life and the world we lived in was simply in the digital domain and things could be either a "1" or a "0". my head would not hurt so much. Even if both were tri-state devices, I would still need that crate of Aspirins I referenced in my previous post.
I did start to watch the video until it locked up. If I were truly paranoid I would read something into that...
I appreciate that the world is sometimes depressingly analog, and that governments do bad things (I went through all of this with Watergate back when things really did seem much simpler). Be that as it may, the facts that I stated unambiguously are uncontested. He signed an oath. He broke that oath. He is a criminal. That is as binary as you can get.
Regarding my opinion of him ('jerk' was not my first choice, by the way), when someone argues that his actions are the best for everybody and they just happen to coincide with his own self-interest that is a huge red flag for me and strike one. When someone decides unilaterally what is best for everyone that is strike two. When they hide from the consequences and milk it for all it is worth then they are out as far as I am concerned.
"He signed an oath. He broke that oath. He is a criminal. That is as binary as you can get."
Didn't a British Imperial Officer, named George Washington, break his oath to The King? Would you prefer he didn't? The world is always analog, even when it appears digital.
Snowden's act of taking the oath was done under reasonable assumption that his employment will not require breaking the law. In the course of employment, he uncovered criminal activity. If he didn't break his oath, he would have been partner in crime.
Why are we not concerned with those that didn't see or want to see the problem (still collecting their hefty and safe gov't paychecks)?
"He signed an oath. He broke that oath. He is a criminal. That is as binary as you can get."
There are a lot of gray areas in all of this and at times exceptions do apply. If one goes by your above statement, do you feel the same about people within Nazi Germany that secretly assisted the Allies in WWII? These people also took an oath to their Country/Hitler, but felt it was against their moral compass and felt compelled to assist the Allies even though being caught meant certain death for themselves and most likely their families. Granted I am using an extreme comparison, but the point is that at times there are always exceptions.
In both of these examples (George Washington and anti-Nazi fighters - it's not too often that that is a combination) they were in fact criminals based on the prevailing law of the land at the time. That is the point that I am asserting is binary and indisputable in the Snowden case. The argument as to whether or not the U.S. government is a corrupt regime that does not have the right to do what it has apparently done is a very different and much murkier one. If you go back to my original post you will see that I am not very happy about that myself, and as even Snowden says it should be argued on its own merits rather than as represented by him.
The difference between Snowden and both of your examples is that he fled and hid behind much more corrupt regimes before doing anything, while in both of your examples the people stayed in place and fought for their principles at great risk to themselves. That is the difference between a jerk and a hero.
I understand what you are saying, but my point was that Snowden (or Washington, etc) being a criminal is a matter of perspective. In Snowden's case from the NSA, etc perspective is that he is a Criminal, but to others he is not. I say this, as Whistle blowers in general have a very difficult decision to make... do they keep quiet about nefarious activity and abide by the Law, Oath, employment contract, etc ... which is probably the easiest and less risky thing to do... or do they blow the whistle and potentially face serious and potentially life threathening consequences? It is a very difficult decision and it has far reaching consequences. I have never been given the authority to judge anyone nor have I walked in the Snowden's or anyone else shoes in simialr situations, so I canot simply say they are criminals because of this. One of the Societal rights is to be judged fairly and I believe that Snowden will never been given this opportunity given the magnitude and material of what was disclosed. Fleeing to the countries he has is indeed strnge, but at the same time I cannot judge this either, as I have no clue what stress, anguish, fear, etc one would feel under a similar situation. Many a "perfect" person has cracked under severe situations and so this may be the case here. Without all the facts being presented and the lack of a fair trial I am inclined to see things less binary.
>>>he fled and hid behind much more corrupt regimes before doing anything ... That is the difference between a jerk and a hero. <<<
Well said. I, being a less kind person than you, might have said "that's the difference between being a whistleblower and a traitor".
If he was even half as much the "extraordinary man"/hero that he wants us to believe, he would have released the relevant intelligence that he had (about illegal NSA/government actions) and destroyed the other 90% of the classified material that he stole.
Instead, he chose to hide behind the skirts of first, China (HK) and then Russia, with the explicit threat that he would release the rest of the info that he stole if threatened. Since the number of documents he stole numbers in the 100s of thousands if not millions of documents, it is inconceivable that he even knows what is included in his treasure trove. So his threat to release these documents (which could not only damage the US but get a number of US agents and friendly actors killed) is the most crass and base action of a cowardly -- pick your adjective: (Clueless amateur/putz/weasel-richard/child/coward.)
Ironic that he's holed up in Russia. I wonder if anyone has loaned him a copy of "Crime and Punishment"?
Unlike in the 3rd worlds, we can completely be confident that no big company big share holder or owner or board member will pay big donations (or official bribe) to govt. to extract the information NSA has. whew!! rest assured that will not happen.
Example No competitor of Huiwei will pay up the ogovt. officials. We are a law abiding, truthful nation