Daily Archives: June 11, 2013

Surely the facts. . . yadda yadda yadda

WASHINGTON — The source had instructed his media contacts to come to Hong Kong, visit a particular out-of-the-way corner of a certain hotel, and ask — loudly — for directions to another part of the hotel. If all seemed well, the source would walk past holding a Rubik’s Cube.


So three people — Glenn Greenwald,


a civil-liberties writer who recently moved his blog to The Guardian; Laura Poitras,


a documentary filmmaker who specializes in surveillance; and Ewen MacAskill,


a Guardian reporter — flew from New York to Hong Kong about 12 days ago. They followed the directions. A man with a Rubik’s Cube appeared.

It was Edward J. Snowden,


who looked even younger than his 29 years — an appearance, Mr. Greenwald recalled in an interview from Hong Kong on Monday, that shocked him because he had been expecting, given the classified surveillance programs the man had access to, someone far more senior. Mr. Snowden has now turned over archives of “thousands” of documents, according to Mr. Greenwald, and “dozens” are newsworthy.
Mr. Snowden’s ability to burrow deep into America’s national security apparatus and emerge clutching some of its most closely guarded secrets is partly a story of the post-Sept. 11 era, when the government’s expanding surveillance Leviathan and complex computer systems have given network specialists with technical skills tremendous power.
While some lawmakers in Washington accuse Mr. Snowden of treason, he casts himself as a truth teller. Like Pfc. Bradley Manning


and Daniel Ellsberg,


whom he says he admires for disclosing troves of government secrets, Mr. Snowden explained his actions in a Guardian interview by saying the American people have a right to know about government abuses that were kept hidden from them.

Snowden also admires THIS DUDE


“Edward Snowden, who appears to have donated to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2012, has gotten some support from the former Texas congressman.
“We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk,” said Paul in a statement on the Web site of Campaign for Liberty, his nonprofit. “They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.” Glenn Greenwald is a reporter for the Guardian, which first published the story revealing the scope of the U.S. government’s surveillance programs.
Snowden revealed himself on Sunday as the leaker of top-secret documents from the National Security Agency. Campaign finance records show that an “Edward Snowden” who appears to be the man self-identified as the leaker contributed $250 to Paul’s presidential campaign twice in 2012.
In his statement, Paul condemned the secret collection of phone and Internet data that was exposed by Snowden’s leak. “The government does not need to know more about what we are doing,” he said. “We need to know more about what the government is doing.”
Paul’s son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also seized on the issue and says he plans to launch a class-action lawsuit against the NSA.”

He (Snowden) portrayed himself as carefully selecting what to release, seeking to avoid the attacks that accused Private Manning of recklessness. Private Manning, who confessed to leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents made public by WikiLeaks, faces a possible life sentence in a court-martial.
“He has no regret of any kind, no sense of, ‘Wow, what I have done here? I can’t go back,’ ” Mr. Greenwald said of Mr. Snowden. “He is so convinced that he did the right thing.”
He added: “It’s not like it’s delusional — he’s completely rational. He completely understands that more likely than not, he’s going to end up like Bradley Manning or worse. Yet he has tranquillity.”

It is not clear how Mr. Snowden extracted the secret documents, and the portrait of his transformation from a trusted National Security Agency contractor to a leaker is still impressionistic.
Last year, he donated money to the campaign of Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate who was long critical of government’s growing reach. People who knew Mr. Snowden as a teenager said he was enthralled by computers. Joyce Kinsey, who lived across from his apartment in Maryland a decade ago, said she would often see him through the window working at his computer at night.

Very Wong Kar Wai
Here’s the skinny on Mr. Snow(den)

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His father, a resident of Pennsylvania, was an officer in the United States Coast Guard;[ and his mother, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, is a clerk at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. He has one older sister, an attorney.
By 1999, Snowden had moved with his family to Ellicott City, Maryland, where he studied computing at Anne Arundel Community College in order to gain the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, but he didn’t complete the course On May 7, 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army with the hope of eventually joining the Special Forces. He said “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”,


but was discharged just months later on September 28 after breaking both of his legs in a training accident. His next employment was as an NSA security guard for a covert facility at the University of Maryland, before joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work on IT security.
In 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security. Snowden left the agency in 2009 for a private contractor inside an NSA facility on a United States military base in Japan.
At the time of his departure from the U.S. in May 2013, he had been working for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months as a system administrator inside the NSA in Hawaii. He described his life as “very comfortable,” earning a salary of “roughly US$200,000.”

I’ve no doubt that’s true

Back to the NYT and that woman at the window, Joyce Kinsey

) “He was always on his computer over there — always,” she said. “He was just a quiet kid, really quiet.”
Mr. Snowden, who grew up in North Carolina, did not finish high school and sporadically attended classes at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md. Military records show he enlisted in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces recruit in May 2004 and was discharged less than four months later, reportedly after breaking his legs in a training accident.
Somewhere along the way, he acquired a top-secret clearance, which, with his computer expertise, was a ticket for admission to the national security establishment. For more than a decade, American intelligence agencies have been desperate for tech-savvy individuals who can run ever more complex computer networks — and who can pass rigorous and intrusive background checks.
Mr. Snowden bounced between jobs both inside the government and as a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency in Switzerland and for the National Security Agency in Japan, Maryland and Hawaii, according to his account. Eventually working for nearly $200,000 a year in classified facilities as a computer systems administrator, he had access to enormous amounts of secret information.
In a video interview conducted by Mr. Greenwald and taped by Ms. Poitras, Mr. Snowden recounted seeing “disturbing” things on a “frequent basis” and asking questions about what he saw as abuses, only to find that no one cared. Over time, he said, he decided his comfortable life was helping build up an “architecture of oppression.”
Mr. Snowden told The Guardian that it was during his time in Geneva working as a computer technician for the C.I.A. that he first thought about spilling government secrets. But he said he had held off, in part because he hoped that Senator Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008 might reverse the growth of the surveillance state.
But the fact that Mr. Obama embraced many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies “hardened” him, and he told The Guardian that he had decided one could not wait for others to act. “I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act,” he said.
Mr. Snowden, Mr. Greenwald said, had first reached out to Ms. Poitras in January. Her work has focused on national-security issues like surveillance, including a short documentary she made for The New York Times Op-Ed page in August. She and Mr. Greenwald, along with Mr. Ellsberg, are also helping with a new organization devoted to whistle-blowers and transparency, the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
The next month, Mr. Greenwald said, Mr. Snowden contacted him with an enigmatic e-mail identifying himself as a reader and saying he wanted to communicate about a potential story using encryption. Mr. Greenwald wrote back that he did not have such software. Mr. Snowden later sent him a homemade video with step-by-step instructions for installing it, which Mr. Greenwald watched but never completed.
Frustrated, Mr. Snowden is said to have told Ms. Poitras that he had a major story about the National Security Agency that required both technical and legal expertise, proposing that they work together with Mr. Greenwald. Ms. Poitras, who did not respond to an interview request, told Salon on Monday that she had contacted Barton Gellman, a former Washington Post reporter, around that time for his opinion of the whether the purported source seemed legitimate.
In early March, Mr. Greenwald said, Ms. Poitras called and said she needed to meet in person. At a New York hotel, she shared e-mails from Mr. Snowden recounting, in Mr. Greenwald’s words, that “he had come to see the surveillance state as out of control and an abuse, and that he felt ready to risk his own life and liberty to expose it.” At that point, neither knew his name yet.
In late April or early May, he and Mr. Snowden began to talk over an encrypted chat program.
“He sort of said, ‘My plan is, at some point, go somewhere far away, and I want you to come there and interview me and get the documents and go over them,’ ” Mr. Greenwald said.
About a week later, he said, Mr. Snowden sent a sample of about 20 documents, including slides for a presentation about a program called Prism under which the N.S.A. was collecting information about foreigners overseas from Internet companies like Google. Then, about two weeks ago, Mr. Snowden indicated that he was ready to meet.
Separately, in mid-May Mr. Snowden reached out to Mr. Gellman. Mr. Greenwald said Ms. Poitras had decided “it would be good to have The Washington Post invested in the leak, so it wasn’t just us — to tie in official Washington in the leak” — and picked Mr. Gellman. Mr. Snowden sent Mr. Gellman the same sample set of documents. In an account of his involvement, Mr. Gellman said Mr. Snowden had called himself “Verax” — truth teller in Latin — a pseudonym used by both a 17th- and a 19th-century British writer, one of whom died in the Tower of London, and the other much honored.


To Whit

“Henry Dunckley (December 24, 1823 – June 29, 1896), English journalist, was born at Warwick.
Educated at the Baptist college at Accrington, Lancashire, and at the University of Glasgow, he became in 1848 minister of the Baptist church at Salford, Lancashire. Here he closely investigated the educational needs of the working-classes, embodying the results of his inquiries in an essay, The Glory and the Shame of Britain (1851), which gained a prize offered by the Religious Tract Society. In 1852 he won the Anti-Corn-law Leagues prize with an essay on the results of the free-trade policy, published in 1854 under the title The Charter of the Nations. In 1855 he abandoned the ministry to edit the Manchester Examiner and Times, a prominent Liberal newspaper, in charge of which he remained till 1889. For twenty years he wrote, over the signature Verax, weekly letters to the Manchester papers; those on The Crown and the Cabinet (1877) and The Crown and the Constitution (1878) evoked so much enthusiasm that a public subscription was set on foot to present the writer with a handsome testimonial for his public services. In 1878 Dunckley, who had often declined to stand for parliament, was elected a member of the Reform Club in recognition of his services to the Liberal party, and in 1883 he was made an LL.D. by Glasgow University. He died at Manchester on the 29th of June 1896.”

In the last week of May, Mr. Greenwald flew from Brazil, where he lives, to New York to meet with editors of The Guardian and review the preliminary documents. The next day, he, Ms. Poitras and Mr. MacAskill left for Hong Kong.
After the Rubik’s Cube meeting, the three followed Mr. Snowden to his hotel room and spent six hours “going over his life from start to finish, sort of like I was conducting a deposition,” recalled Mr. Greenwald, who formerly practiced law. By the end, he was persuaded that Mr. Snowden was who he claimed to be.
John Schindler, a former N.S.A. counterintelligence officer and now a professor at the Naval War College, said that in the post-Sept. 11 age, the computer “systems administrators” had access to enormous amounts of classified information.
“They can be a critical security gap because they see everything,” he said. “They’re like code clerks were in the 20th century. If a smart systems administrator went rogue, you’d be in trouble.”

And indeed he is.

To my mind he’s best described by Jeffrey Toobin, a “Mainstream” legal pundit/hack I rarely reference.


But on this occasion is right on the money.

Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former C.I.A. employee and current government contractor, has leaked news of National Security Agency programs that collect vast amounts of information about the telephone calls made by millions of Americans, as well as e-mails and other files of foreign targets and their American connections. For this, some, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.
What, one wonders, did Snowden think the N.S.A. did? Any marginally attentive citizen, much less N.S.A. employee or contractor, knows that the entire mission of the agency is to intercept electronic communications. Perhaps he thought that the N.S.A. operated only outside the United States; in that case, he hadn’t been paying very close attention. In any event, Snowden decided that he does not “want to live in a society” that intercepts private communications. His latter-day conversion is dubious.
And what of his decision to leak the documents? Doing so was, as he more or less acknowledges, a crime. Any government employee or contractor is warned repeatedly that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a crime. But Snowden, apparently, was answering to a higher calling. “When you see everything you realize that some of these things are abusive,” he said. “The awareness of wrongdoing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up. It was a natural process.” These were legally authorized programs; in the case of Verizon Business’s phone records, Snowden certainly knew this, because he leaked the very court order that approved the continuation of the project. So he wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done.
What makes leak cases difficult is that some leaking—some interaction between reporters and sources who have access to classified information—is normal, even indispensable, in a society with a free press. It’s not easy to draw the line between those kinds of healthy encounters and the wholesale, reckless dumping of classified information by the likes of Snowden or Bradley Manning. Indeed, Snowden was so irresponsible in what he gave the Guardian and the Post that even these institutions thought some of it should not be disseminated to the public. The Post decided to publish only four of the forty-one slides that Snowden provided. Its exercise of judgment suggests the absence of Snowden’s.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent. In his interview, he said he went there because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” This may be true, in some limited way, but the overriding fact is that Hong Kong is part of China, which is, as Snowden knows, a stalwart adversary of the United States in intelligence matters. (Evan Osnos has more on that.) Snowden is now at the mercy of the Chinese leaders who run Hong Kong. As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government—which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?
The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right.

Now don’t turn sob sister Toob — especially as regards a devoted fan of THIS DUDE

Southern racist nostalgia is a many-splendored thing. Right Boys?

As for Glennzilla – once again cue Wong Kar Wai