Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Edward Snowden: Patriot or Traitor?

For those who do not already know, let me give some brief background on my experience with UScryptologist in the Navy which meant that our ultimate reporting authority was the National Security Agency.  I'm fairly well versed in some of the laws governing signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection, which is the function of the NSA.  Obviously, I have been out of the loop for a while now, but I can imagine that the laws haven't changed much in the last seven years.
Intelligence.  I was a

So do we praise Edward Snowden or sentence him to die?  This is a tough scenario, and anyone who can say how they feel about this without taking at least 15 minutes to really, really think about the particulars of it all has not thought about it hard enough.

First off, Snowden has indeed violated the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) which he had to sign in order to obtain his clearance.  He has revealed the existence of a Top Secret SIGINT program, and doing so carries some heavy penalties.  But does that count him as a traitor?  I don't think so.

Although he revealed the existence of this program and its function, he did not reveal any details that would actually endanger our national security.  He did not reveal how the intelligence is collected, he did not reveal the persons responsible for creating and implementing the program, and he certainly did not damage the NSA's ability to collect valuable intelligence data from our enemies.

Also, Snowden did not reveal this information with the intent of aiding the enemies of the United States.  He wasn't paid for the information, and technically he did not engage in espionage.  He did not function as a spy, which is someone who knowingly deceives a nation's government in order to obtain intelligence to serve the purposes of his masters.

No, Edward Snowden had a crisis of conscience.  He revealed the existence of this program because he believed that it violated the law.  What law you might ask?  Well, SIGINT is governed by what is called the United States Signals Intelligence Directive, or USSID for short.  There is a particular USSID, USSID 18 to be exact, that details the restrictions placed on SIGINT collection against US citizens.

In my day--all of seven years ago--collecting intelligence off of a US citizen was strictly prohibited--like, you're taking-a-trip-to-Ft.-Leavenworth prohibited.  The *only* way we were ever allowed to collect on a US citizen--and this never, ever happened on my ship--was if we obtained a USSID 9 waiver.  The USSID 9 waiver is granted only in circumstances when it is believed that a particular US citizen has direct ties to the enemy, and that citizen poses a real national security risk/threat.  There are some other circumstances that warrant collection against a US citizen, but it's probably not legal for me to talk about it any further.

Suffice to say, the circumstances surrounding the permission of collection against a US citizen are extremely extenuating.  At no point were we allowed to collect anything against anyone without approval from NSA.

I think it would be reasonable to assume that Snowden knew about this, and this is likely why he had the crisis of conscience.  Sure, NSA is the authority that grants the waiver, but are we supposed to believe that the entire nation now gets the waiver?

I understand why the NSA thinks the program is a good idea.  They say that it's only "meta-data," and that this could potentially strengthen national security.  Let me remind everyone that there has not been a large scale terrorist attack on US soil at the hands of Al Qaeda since September 11, 2001.  Yes, the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon, but that was a result of the FBI completely dropping the ball--not a result of intelligence collection gaps at NSA.

The information gathered from this program may seem pointless.  We might think "who cares if they know I had a 20 minute phone conversation"?  This whole thing represents a larger problem to me than its actual practical application, because in all honesty, the information is too vast even for NSA to put it to proper use.

The problem that I have is that although we've all suspected this for some time, this is a clear indication that many people in government and its agencies don't give a damn for the law.  Their actions are indicative of individuals who believe themselves to be above the law.  Edward Snowden brought to light an affront to our privacy, and to me it is just a step towards a less-free society.

We as Americans should be thanking Snowden instead of condemning him.  He had the guts to follow his conscience and expose something he saw as a breech of moral and ethical standards.  But of course, if extradited he will disappear forever.  He will be punished for whistle blowing on the real law breakers, while the true perpetrators of injustice will continue on about their lives.  According to Albert Camus, a patriot is someone who wishes his country to live up to the highest standard of righteousness and justice.  If that's true, then I can only see Snowden as a patriot.

We shouldn't be asking whether or not Snowden should go to jail.  Instead, we should be asking how many congressmen should lose their seats in the mid-terms.  We should be asking who at the NSA should be prosecuted for violating their own damn directives. 

But these questions won't be asked because they are too difficult to answer, and quite frankly, the American people are too damn scared of the answers.  With a people so frightened and yet so apathetic, is it any wonder our government officials believe themselves to be above the law?


Anonymous said...

It is compounded by the fact that the NARUS systems are on-line already, ahead of "schedule."

The NSA has a long history of collection against Americans Jackie. I am sure your military authority was told whatever, and you were told whatever, but the truth is this is nothing new.

The real bullshit part about this is the FBI are the ones who really have the responsibility of collection and interception on American soil, but somehow the NSA has skirted this for decades, ever since I was first on the internet back in 88 the hacker scene heard rumblings of NSA interference.

The first instance I can really recall it being prominent is when the CM-5s were first built. There was absolutely ZERO reason to have a computer like that to decrypt overseas ciphers. The only country strong enough at the time computer wise was Japan, the Soviet Union had collapsed, South Korea was playing catchup, and China was just starting to play ball. No, it was obvious to anyone with a brain that the CM-5's were meant to break OUR ciphers and our encryption.

Since the mid 90's when soft-switching became the norm, the NSA has been slowly gaining more and more dominion on spying on us. They will vehemently deny it of course, but those of us who were around for the beginning of it know it's a fact.

This new menace goes way beyond number stations or ECHELON, this is mainline taps in the core networks.

Micky said...

Nice to see an objective presentation without all the blind contempt weve been hearing.
I myself kept asking what exactly it was he let out of the bag that was so damaging.

Tell Jersey I said blow me.
Were old freinds

Jersey McJones said...

Jack, you need to understand what is happening here is legal. You may not like it, but the congress made the relevant laws, the executive has executed them, and the courts have enforced them. There is a long legislative, judicial, and executive history here. If anything illegal is discovered, then something can be done about it, but so far nothing illegal has been shown here. And that's what should most concern Americans. We need to see the forest from the scandal trees.

The congress, meanwhile, who created all this, is pissing on their own fire. They could, theoretically, change all this. That's how the Constitution works, or at least is supposed to work. But I see very little action on this from the Hill, from either side of the aisle. Just demagogues chasing ideological hallucinations.

Hey Micky! How ya' doin?


KP said...

I was initially torn about Snowden's first leak. I can like the leaked message, but dislikie the man and the way he did it.

But the second leak, about American spying on Hong Kong or China, is more an attempt to be part of an anti-American public relations battle.

Everyone knows we spy on one another. The only motive was to move the needle against America vs China, and that sucks donkey balls.

Using an old Twilighgt Zone theme, I wouldn't mind if Snowden sends himself to the cornfield.

Micky said...

I’m still waiting to hear what kind of damage Snowden has done.
Call me naive, I just dont see what all the scuffle is about, yet.
Months ago we all saw the news covering the facility being built in Utah.
Us spying on China is no big revelation.
So, for anyone to think the NSA or any other security dept is not storing info they’d have to be pretty ignorant.
Before Snowden “hit the market” it was no secret that our government was looking at and in communications of all forms everywhere.
The problem is that this huge addition to our storage facilities has been built on the back of The Patriot Act,(which I favored til its expansion) while we were lied to about its potential and capabilities and how it has huge potential to skirt FISA.
These huge programs built on the greatest intentions need to start being read a little closer so they can have limitations put on just how far they can go.
We saw this with the EPA first designed to attack direct causes of pollution in the 60s to an operation today that dictates what kind of commerce can open (or needs to be shut down/curbed) along with the when and where while being a tool for political gain.
This all of course ties into the ultimate problems brought by the last scandals showing invasion/stopping free speech.
The government is just too freaking big.

Is it constitutional ?
I dont think so.
But good luck getting past the morons who've made it a lifestyle translating it.


Where ya been Jersey ?
Theres no one at your blog anymore, even you !
Eric outsources all his stuff to the Washington Communities now. I'm there about half the time.
Did you know we had lunch together here in Hawaii ?

I kinda missed ya, a little bit.

Take care buddy, good to see you again.

FreeThinke said...


Normally, I would be dead set against any American who wasn't strictly on "OUR SIDE," but when when "our side" isn't really ON "our side" anymore, I feel we ought to hail anyone who dares to expose the hideous fraud which administers "our" affairs in ways contrary to "our" best interests as somethng of a HERO.

That said, Ed Snowden's prison pallor and nerdy, geeky personality (sort of like that of Jack Loo!) marks him as a loser –– no one I'd want to meet for lunch or dinner.

I admit this is just a snap judgment on my part based on very little reading –– and as always in matters of this sort, "it all depends on who ox is being gored," –– I guess.

I still hate Daniel Ellsberg's and the “Winter Soldier’s” effin’ guts, but I still believed in my country in those bygone days. Sadly, I no longer do, and if there were still a "New World" to escape to, I'd go there in a heartbeat.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm with KP on this one.

It's one thing to tell the American people about the mining of data by their own government, but it is quite another thing when he tipped off Communist China about what the N.S.A. is collecting on them.

He did this while in a foreign country and revealed information that could harm the U.S.A.

Why isn't anyone appalled over that fact?

He told the Communist government, while in China, about secret information he stole from his own country.

That, as KP rightly said, sucks donkey balls. Ptooey!

As bad as what Jane Fonda did during the Vietnam war, she did not give away secrets to the North Vietnamese.

This guy did exactly that. He gave away secrets to the Communist Chinese.

Where's the outrage? Double standard?

Yes. It would appear so.

Jack Camwell said...

As far as we know, Snowden has not revealed anything that has actually diminished our ability to collect signals intelligence against our enemies.

The shitty thing about all of this is that yes, government officials can tout the effectiveness of the program as much as they want, but we'll never know for sure until they can present us proof that it works, and they can't do this because it's all classified.

I heard something on the radio that was unsettling. Apparently, some congressman is calling for the prosecution of the JOURNALIST who published the material given to him. This congressman went so far as to accuse the journalist of threatening to release the names of CIA operatives.

The journalist denied the claim, saying that he had never received such information in the first place, and affirmed that had he received that information, he never would even threaten to release it as he would not endanger the lives of others.

Smear campaign much?

Giving the information to China is irrelevant, because the program is designed to spy on private citizens as well as known enemies. He wasn't doing it to harm the United States or to diminish our ability to collect actionable intelligence: he was doing it to right a wrong.

This brings to mind the "Atom Spy," the man who leaked our nuclear secrets to the Soviets because he thought it was too much power for one nation to hold. But the difference between these situations is that my leaking this information, he was doing so to protect the privacy of normal, every day citizens. Such an act will not put anyone in any real danger. The Atom Spy had good intentions, but his actions put more people at danger.

Micky said...

What secret ?
That were spying on them ?

Now, if he told the Chinese exactly how, so as to give them an advantage, thats a game changer.
So far all it seems is he mentioned a program that actually wasnt all that secret.
Sure, you can call it "Prism" or whatever title you like, the practice of spying on China by various means has never been secret.
Hes a pathetic weasel, I just cant figure what real harm hes done yet.

Micky said...

Come to think of it.

This morning some pundit on FOX mentioned that Snowden had thrown a wrench in the works, diminished the effectiveness, of Obamas recent meeting with Chinas PM to discuss Chinas hacking of our public and private defense sites.
The only problem with that is that Snowdens mentioning of our spying on China means little since we just announced a few days ago we were recruiting computer geeks/hackers to counter Chinas efforts.
But I do agree on one thing.
Bailing to and saying all this from Hong Kong instead of right here to one of our better media is pretty chickenshit.
Which could mean that maybe he truly does have something to say that would get him hung, or has insight that his revelations may bring some black helicopter action him.
Heh, Ron Paul (for what hes worth) is worried Obama might fly a drone over his ass and blow it up.
I'm sure that would bring us and China to a much better understanding and cooperation.

Jack Camwell said...

It's not being chicken-shit, it's being smart.

If you think the government has never made anyone "disappear," then you think way too highly of our government.

How long has Guantanamo existed? It's clear that the government is not afraid to circumvent human rights (ehem, the right to a fair trial) in order to serve their purposes.

Micky said...

Yeah, you'll get to know me in a while and discover I'm no big fan of government. My ideology rests mostly upon capitalism, national security, individualism and private property.
But I really dont care too much how America treats non citizens that want to kill us all.
If its proven Snowden is giving China vital secrets that could result in immediate harm to Americans I say blow his ass up before he pulls the trigger.
But, I digress, as I've said; I just dont know enough yet to lay down an absolute verdict.

If hes truly smart and knows so much about our capabilities then he'd know that if we really wanted to get to him because the terms were so urgent, we'd get him.
Shit, I dont think we know the whole truth about SEAL team 6.

But thats just me and my distrust of this administration and our reputation for nefarious antics under the guise of only God knows what.

Jack Camwell said...

I'm pretty sure that not every Chinese citizen wants to kill us all. In fact, there are likely few who actually want to harm the US.

If it's wrong to invade the privacy of private American citizens, then it's wrong to invade the privacy of any private citizen of any nation.

Considering China has been accusing us of hacking them for a while now, it's likely they already know about the Prism program or whatever.

Jersey McJones said...

Hey Micky! I bet that lunch was a hoot. I've been following Eric's career, and it's very interesting. I visit his columns once in a while, but it's obvious he has no choice but to amplify base Republican rhetoric and not much else.

I should start posting again, but I haven't had the want. It's good to see you here though!

Back to Snowden, I think he's a little nuts, and should knock it off now. He accomplished enough.


Micky said...


I was talking about the guys being held in Gitmo getting a fair trial.
I'm not too concerned with their rights as I am Americans.
And yes, Snowden should receive a fair trial but its only fair to ask if anyone thinks he'll get one here in the states after the exposure.

This is simply one of those deals where I just dont know enough.

It happens to me all the time




The problem with Erics new format is there's a character limit and the fucking page refreshes itself whenever it feels like it.
No longer can you carry on a serious debate with any fluent or substantial content.

The lunch was cool. He kinda got lost and it almost never happened. Turned out he was about 50 ft. away from me behind some kiosk in a mall.
A very nice man. Maybe a little too busy for his own good.

Hows your health ?
Ya fall over anymore coffee tables ?

Jersey McJones said...

Yeah, I always felt a kinship with him. Italian and Jewish guys from there are a pretty similar bunch.

I just visit his columns and not his site. Same issues with it you have.

I've been doing okay. Just working hard and trying to take care of a lot of really crazy business. How've you been? How's your's?


Micky said...

Alls good.
You know you're gettin old when you opt to have all your pain in the ass teeth yanked for implants.
I got a whole brand new grill.
All I need now is the red sports car and some hair on my shiny forehead.
Still beating up moonbats.

Remember the Antisocialist ?
That marathon one week gerbil warming debate ?

Hes here now.

Jack might get a kick out of him as well, hes quite the author, writing books and shit now.

Micky said...

By the Way Jack.
I've been poking around.
Your blog is most excellent bro.

Jack Camwell said...

Thank you Micky! I appreciate your approval =)

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