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Ron Radosh

Turning to Edward Snowden, there are those who see him as a hero and martyr for free speech, and those who see him as a homegrown traitor. Writing at Contentions, Max Boot writes: “Far from striking a blow for political liberty and freedom of expression, he is unwittingly helping the most illiberal individuals in the world — jihadist terrorists — to more effectively attack us.” In the pages of the Los Angeles Times, Boot defends the NSA programs in their totality, arguing that the programs have safeguards to prevent our government from becoming Big Brother. Both the mining and PRISM were approved by Congress on a bi-partisan basis, have been effective in stopping terrorist attacks, and have not abused anyone’s civil liberties. Moreover, Boot is angry that the press, particularly the British Guardian and the Washington Post, are themselves harming our national security by letting terrorists know about our intelligence-gathering capabilities. What Boot fears is not any violations of our rights, but that curbing the existing programs would only embolden the terrorists and possibly allow them to become successful.

So, is Edward Snowden a whistleblower, or a traitor?

While the Left and Glenn Greenwald even defend Bradley Manning as a hero, most people view him as a traitor, given that he put his data on the internet, and did so while he was a soldier in the U.S. Army. Snowden was a civilian contractor working for Booz Allen when he leaked NSA secrets. Thus, even some who do not defend Manning view Snowden as a hero.

Predictably, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, also writing in the Guardian, calls Snowden’s material “the most important leak” in our nation’s history, more so than the Pentagon Papers he released during the Vietnam War. Ellsberg says the U.S. is not yet an Orwellian police state — on this he is more moderate than Rand Paul — but he writes: “Given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state.” Ellsberg argues that Snowden did not release any damaging data, and that the NSA program is both “unconstitutional in its breadth and potential abuse.” In his eyes, the U.S. intelligence agencies are worse than the old East German Stasi, an analogy that, if anything, shows how off-base Ellsberg is. In the eyes of the left, both in the old days and at present, the U.S. is the worst police state, more so than the most repressive of the old Stalinist regimes.

So, the NSA program is either dangerous and unconstitutional, or necessary and legal. Once again, leftists like Glenn Greenwald and Daniel Ellsberg join libertarians and conservatives like Rand Paul and a few others in making the same argument.

At Slate, William Saletan takes an in-between position. “Big Brother isn’t watching you,” Saletan writes, “but he does want your records in the database so that if any number you called later surfaces in a plot, he can look back through history, spot the connection, and check you out.” Yet Saletan worries that the checks other people cite, such as the FISA court, do not count for much. After all, he notes, the court always approves a government request, and does not in reality function as any kind of check on governmental power. So he suggests realistic, sensible restrictions that would prevent abuse and yet allow the NSA programs to continue. So, Saletan concludes, “if we can’t trust the government to manage surveillance data through publicly understood procedures that inhibit abuse, we won’t let it have the data to begin with.”

Also at Slate, technology columnist Farhad Manjoo has a witty and biting column about Snowden. Why in all heavens, he asks, did the NSA even trust this guy with access to all its top secrets? For that matter, why did Booz Allen hire him as an employee? After all, we’re talking about a 29-year-old high school drop-out with minimal computer expertise, and even a cursory examination of his record would have revealed him as a contributor to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. What he is, Manjoo writes, is a hardly accomplished IT person with little real experience. And for this he earned $200,000 a year!

And yet, Manjoo writes, “he was accorded the NSA’s top security clearance, which allowed him to see and to download the agency’s most sensitive documents. But he didn’t just know about the NSA’s surveillance systems — he says he had the ability to use them.”  The government that hired him gave him total access to the most classified programs and did so without any sound reason. He concludes: “The scandal isn’t just that the government is spying on us. It’s also that it’s giving guys like Snowden keys to the spying program. It suggests the worst combination of overreach and amateurishness, of power leveraged by incompetence.”

Jeffrey Goldberg writes at Bloomberg: “One reason I doubt these latest disclosures will move many people into the libertarian column is that the source, a former NSA contractor named Edward Snowden, has washed up in Hong Kong, where he has been railing against the ‘omniscient’ power of the U.S. government. Most Americans understand intuitively that a person who believes that a city-state under the ultimate authority of the Chinese Communist Party is superior to the U.S. in its protection of freedom isn’t fit to comment intelligently on the state of privacy in the post-Sept. 11 world.”

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
These are the same people that have allowed terrorists to visit the WH; pray in the special place built for Muslims, and given them tours of our national security facilities. So don't even begin to tell me that the WH gives a rat's hind end about "national security" unless it's politically expedient to bring it up.
There are people dedicated to this data mining effort; an organised and busy bunch of people. Their data collection is NOT for national securiity reasons; it is specifically being used to track citizens. That's a fact and it's damning.
The only question that needs to be asked is, "Who are the people that Obama put together to implement this effort to gather data on every one of us?"
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just how well does this system work? We get alerts from both the Russians and the Saudis about the Boston Bombers, yet they do their thing. Of course the possibility exists that we didn't do anything for reasons of political correctness. Although the common thread through recent acts of terrorism has been the Muslim connection it is forbidden to mention this lest we offend the great gods of multi-culturalism. What good is the knowledge if you aren't going to use it? Or at least, use it for the purpose for which it is supposedly intended. And if its being used for other purposes why can't we be told just what those purposes are?

Its costs a great deal of money, it can be used for corrupt purposes which are antithetical to the ideals of a free and open society, and it seems to be ineffective for the purposes which the government claims it exists. What's not to like about it? /s

And the government says "trust us." The government obviously doesn't trust all those subversives who have an account with Verizon, all 121 million of them. Why should we subversives trust them?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
There would be a whole lot less need to spy on folks in America if the government was a whole lot more careful who they let into America.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (27)
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PoliticaL correctness is causing much brouhaha about "rights" Unfortunately the rights of the tred-upon are seldom considered. I Muslims are committing the terroriwm, they should expect to be profiled. As should young black men if they are attacking and robbing. Those "goofing off" in schools should be singled out for expulsion or extra work. Along with austerity should be a return to common sense..
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Time and time again throughout history, its been proven that government cannot restrain itself. So how can we expect an element of government that is shielded from significant oversight not to abuse its powers? According to reports, the FISA "court" has NEVER turned down a request for surveillance. Who is even on this so-called "court?" In the quest for illusory "safety" our country has taken a dark turn in the post-911 era. We have created new powerful, unaccountable bureaucracies via the Patriot Act that cannot be undone.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Having sufficient data to allow the vaunted "connecting of the dots" doesn't guarantee jack in terms of whether the picture that emerges will be acted on responsibly.

If we aren't willing to "connect the dots" that were shoved in our military's faces by Nidal Hasan's behavior why bother with some high powered algorithm applied to all of our phone records.

If we couldn't or wouldn't "connect the dots" based on the intel we had collected and with what Russia spoon fed us on the Tsarnaev a'holes, why bother setting up the apparatus to warehouse everything we do?

We can't even deal with the simple and obvious - and we are supposed to be good with collection and storage of an electronic record of all citizens' communication??

What arrogance to think that system itself won't be terrorized by being hacked and its data tampered with, or worse - by having some bad actor - foreign or domestic -use it to "connect a few dots" of their own against us? Perhaps maybe using that data more effectively to greater and more horrifying effect than our own protectors?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" -- the 4th Amendment. Today we are not at all secure in our EFFECTS, and the searches are unreasonable, except to courts drunk on the intoxicant of stare decisis -- the judicial version of FUBU.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I stand where I have always stood and will always stand, on the side of freedom and liberty.

I don't care much for Snowden, but that doesn't matter, he did the right thing.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The NSA is the wrong thing doing the wrong thing for the wrong thing. Snowden is as wrong. In this modern Lie Algebra two wrongs do not a right make.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
What we need is more profiling, like is successfully used in the data mining operations. This should be standard operating procedure at airport security as well.

Furthermore, we wouldnt have the dire need of these measures if we focused policy on Islam and it's adherents, mosques, and other organizations. Ending all Muslim immigration, ending foreign funding of mosques and Islamic centers, encouraging repatriation of Muslims that have immigrated here over the last 50 years, thus correcting a huge policy mistake, severe travel restrictions on Muslims wishing to enter our territories, policy of containment.

But instead we get huge dragnets on ourselves, and indiscriminate, costly security measures applied brainlessly to all passengers at airports. References to Islam, mosques, and Muslims being scrubbed from our security training, and replaced by references to Evangelical and Catholic Christians, former US military servicemen, and Tea Partiers.

The choice is yours America, does Islam so contribute to your enjoyment of life, that you are willing to put yourselves through this?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"So where, dear readers, do you stand?"

Well, IF the government could be trusted . . .
uh..uh..well that's a problem right there.
So Assume the people who hold positions of power in the government could be trusted...uh how would we know they can be trusted?
Wait. if the government could be trusted and demonstrated that by applying all laws equally to everyone regardless of social class, status, ethnic group, political affiliation, and if the law were 'fair' laws.

..ah hell, forget it. It was all a myth anyway.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another rule of thumb:

Because humans who are given power will be corrupted by that power more often than not, give fewer people less power. And I'm not even talking about small government at this point, as much as I'd like to. We have such a collossaly huge government now, that it is going to be a long climb down that will have to be done in stages, but it has to be done if we are to restore our freedoms.

Remember:
"There are more people who want power than there are people who deserve power."

Don't ever forget that adage. It has been the cause of human misery and strife since time immemorial.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Truth, Snowden and the Surveillance State [http://www.dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/2545/Truth-Snowden-and-the-Surveillance-State.aspx]

Islam rises alongside our collectivist Superstate. Mosques prolierate in this country, sharia advances, the superstate flexes, freedom of speech constricts, policing becomes more thuggish, the superstate stockpiles bullets, crowd control becomes more restrictive, fear grows, privacy is extinct, the superstate imposes, requires, invades, provides, rewards, punishes, socializes medicine, targets individuals, covers up everything, ramps up the IRS for your "health," tracks your electronic life, your phone calls, your travel, your mail.

Snowden strikes, grabs our attention about what we should have known was happening.

It was a gigantic act of courage, it has struck me so far, seemingly from idealism, seemingly to unmask the machine secretly grinding away any remaining semblance of the American republic. Then again, as others have noted, this is a young man who seems to consider himself a citizen of the world. Then again, given that he is a creature of his time, how could he not? What school system in America teaches youngsters pride in the founding of this country?

Is Snowden real? Was he duped? Is he dead? We don't know. Is he a hero? I think so, but if it turns out he is working for China or takes refuge in Russia -- both totalitarian enemies of liberty -- then I will think again.

What I do know for sure is that Edward Snowden has thrown down the gauntlet.

The heroism is up to us.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's a good rule of thumb on the issue of "national security:"
Don't "spread the guilt around." It has become endemic in modern America that when some transgress, all are made to share the burden. The gun-control hysteria is always Exhibit A. Profiling possible criminals has been nixed, and now the same has happened with profiling terrorists. There really is no good reason for the blanket everyone's-a-suspect ordeals at our airports.
If the focus in both national security and crime-fighting are narrowed considerably, then most of us can be left alone.
We are not allowed by our current idiocy-infested establishment to have such rational policies.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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