Edward Snowden answers on Reddit February 23, 2015, I would have come forward sooner, Government power authority exponentially more difficult to roll back, If you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country you don’t care enough
“Edward Snowden should not be forced to choose between living in Russia or spending decades in a cage inside a high-security American prison.
DC officials and journalists are being extremely deceitful when they say: ‘if he thinks he did the right thing,he should come back and face trial and argue that.”
Under the Espionage Act, Snowden would be barred even from raising a defense of justification. The courts would not allow it. So he’d be barred from raising the defense they keep saying he should come back and raise.
The goal of the US government is to threaten, bully and intimidate all whistleblowers – which is what explains the mistreatment and oppression of the heroic Chelsea Manning – because they think that climate of fear is crucial to deterring future whistleblowers.
As long as they embrace that tactic, it’s hard to envision them letting Ed return to his country. But we as citizens should be much more interested in the question of why our government threatens and imprisons whistleblowers.”…Glenn Greenwald Reddit February 23, 2015
“The detentions have thankfully stopped, at least for now. Starting in 2006, after I came back from making a film about Iraq’s first election, I was stopped and detained at the US border over 40 times, often times for hours. After I went public with my experiences (Glenn broke the story in 2012), the harassment stopped. Unfortunately there are countless others who aren’t so lucky.”…Laura Poitras Reddit February 23, 2015
” My perspective is if you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don’t care enough.
“If this be treason, then let us make the most of it.””…Edward Snowden Reddit February 23, 2015
Here are many of the Edward Snowden responses from the February 23, 2015 Reddit question and answer session.
“Good question, thanks for asking.
The answer is “of course not.” You’ll notice in all of these articles, the assertions ultimately come down to speculation and suspicion. None of them claim to have any actual proof, they’re just so damned sure I’m a russian spy that it must be true.
And I get that. I really do. I mean come on – I used to teach “cyber counterintelligence” (their term) at DIA.
But when you look at in aggregate, what sense does that make? If I were a russian spy, why go to Hong Kong? It’s would have been an unacceptable risk. And further – why give any information to journalists at all, for that matter, much less so much and of such importance? Any intelligence value it would have to the russians would be immediately compromised.
If I were a spy for the russians, why the hell was I trapped in any airport for a month? I would have gotten a parade and a medal instead.
The reality is I spent so long in that damn airport because I wouldn’t play ball and nobody knew what to do with me. I refused to cooperate with Russian intelligence in any way (see my testimony to EU Parliament on this one if you’re interested), and that hasn’t changed.
At this point, I think the reason I get away with it is because of my public profile. What can they really do to me? If I show up with broken fingers, everybody will know what happened.”
“It is very realistic that in the realpolitik of great powers, this kind of thing could happen. I don’t like to think that it would happen, but it certainly could.
At the same time, I’m so incredibly blessed to have had an opportunity to give so much back to the people and internet that I love. I acted in accordance with my conscience and in so doing have enjoyed far more luck than any one person can ask for. If that luck should run out sooner rather than later, on balance I will still – and always – be satisfied.”
“I would have come forward sooner. I talked to Daniel Ellsberg about this at length, who has explained why more eloquently than I can.
Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers. This is something we see in almost every sector of government, not just in the national security space, but it’s very important:
Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back. Regardless of how little value a program or power has been shown to have (such as the Section 215 dragnet interception of call records in the United States, which the government’s own investigation found never stopped a single imminent terrorist attack despite a decade of operation), once it’s a sunk cost, once dollars and reputations have been invested in it, it’s hard to peel that back.
Don’t let it happen in your country.”
“To tag on to the Putin question: There’s not, and that’s part of the problem world-wide. We can’t just reform the laws in one country, wipe our hands, and call it a day. We have to ensure that our rights aren’t just being protected by letters on a sheet of paper somewhere, or those protections will evaporate the minute our communications get routed across a border. The only way to ensure the human rights of citizens around the world are being respected in the digital realm is to enforce them through systems and standards rather than policies and procedures.”
“Whistleblower protection laws, a strong defense of the right for someone charged with political crimes to make any defense they want (currently in the US, someone charged with revealing classified information is entirely prohibited from arguing before the jury that the programs were unlawful, immoral, or otherwise wrongful), and support for the development of technically and legally protected means of communications between sources and journalists.
The sad truth is that societies that demand whistleblowers be martyrs often find themselves without either, and always when it matters the most.”
“This is a good question, and there are some good traditional answers here. Organizing is important. Activism is important.
At the same time, we should remember that governments don’t often reform themselves. One of the arguments in a book I read recently (Bruce Schneier, “Data and Goliath”), is that perfect enforcement of the law sounds like a good thing, but that may not always be the case. The end of crime sounds pretty compelling, right, so how can that be?
Well, when we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.
But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?
Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?
Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing thour futures.
How does this relate to politics? Well, I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens’ discontent.
How do we make that work for us? We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights.
You can see the beginnings of this dynamic today in the statements of government officials complaining about the adoption of encryption by major technology providers. The idea here isn’t to fling ourselves into anarchy and do away with government, but to remind the government that there must always be a balance of power between the governing and the governed, and that as the progress of science increasingly empowers communities and individuals, there will be more and more areas of our lives where — if government insists on behaving poorly and with a callous disregard for the citizen — we can find ways to reduce or remove their powers on a new — and permanent — basis.
Our rights are not granted by governments. They are inherent to our nature. But it’s entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy.
We haven’t had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we’ll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they “can” do rather than what they “should” do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral.
In such times, we’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.”
“Wow the questions really blew up on this one. Let me start digging in…
To be honest, I laughed at NPH. I don’t think it was meant as a political statement, but even if it was, that’s not so bad. My perspective is if you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don’t care enough.
“If this be treason, then let us make the most of it.””
“So when you work at NSA, you get sent what are called “Agency-All” emails. They’re what they sound like: messages that go to everybody in the workforce.
In addition to normal bureaucratic communications, they’re used frequently for opinion-shaping internally, and are often classified at least in part. They assert (frequently without evidence) what is true or false about cases and controversies in the public news that might influence the thinking about the Intelligence Community workforce, while at the same time reminding them how totally screwed they’ll be if they talk to a journalist (while helpfully reminding them to refer people to the public affairs office).
Think about what it does to a person to come into their special top-secret office every day and get a special secret email from “The Director of NSA” (actually drafted by totally different people, of course, because senior officials don’t have time to write PR emails) explaining to you why everything you heard in the news is wrong, and how only the brave, patriotic, and hard-working team of cleared professionals in the IC know the truth.
Think about how badly you want to believe that. Everybody wants to be valued and special, and nobody wants to think they’ve perhaps contributed to a huge mistake. It’s not evil, it’s human.
Tell your friend I was just like they are. But there’s a reason the government has — now almost two years out — never shown me to have told a lie. I don’t ask anybody to believe me. I don’t want anybody to believe me. I want you to look around and decide for yourself what you believe, independent of what people says, indepedent of what’s on TV, and independent of what your classified emails might claim.”
“One of the biggest problems in governance today is the difficulty faced by citizens looking to hold officials to account when they cross the line. We can develop new tools and traditions to protect our rights, and we can do our best to elect new and better representatives, but if we cannot enforce consequences on powerful officials for abusive behavior, we end up in a system where the incentives reward bad behavior post-election.
That’s how we end up with candidates who say one thing but, once in power, do something radically different. How do you fix that? Good question.”
“To answer the question, I don’t. Poll after poll is confirming that, contrary to what we tend to think, people not only care, they care a lot. The problem is we feel disempowered. We feel like we can’t do anything about it, so we may as well not try.
It’s going to be a long process, but that’s starting to change. The technical community (and a special shoutout to every underpaid and overworked student out there working on this — you are the noble Atlas lifting up the globe in our wildly inequitable current system) is in a lot of way left holding the bag on this one by virtue of the nature of the problems, but that’s not all bad. 2013, for a lot of engineers and researchers, was a kind of atomic moment for computer science. Much like physics post-Manhattan project, an entire field of research that was broadly apolitical realized that work intended to improve the human condition could also be subverted to degrade it.
Politicians and the powerful have indeed got a hell of a head start on us, but equality of awareness is a powerful equalizer. In almost every jurisdiction you see officials scrambling to grab for new surveillance powers now not because they think they’re necessary — even government reports say mass surveillance doesn’t work — but because they think it’s their last chance.
Maybe I’m an idealist, but I think they’re right. In twenty years’ time, the paradigm of digital communications will have changed entirely, and so too with the norms of mass surveillance.”
“To dogpile on to this, many of the changes that are happening are invisible because they’re happening at the engineering level. Google encrypted the backhaul communications between their data centers to prevent passive monitoring. Apple was the first forward with an FDE-by-default smartphone (kudos!). Grad students around the world are trying to come up with ways to solve the metadata problem (the opportunity to monitor everyone’s associations — who you talk to, who you sleep with, who you vote for — even in encrypted communications).
The biggest change has been in awareness. Before 2013, if you said the NSA was making records of everybody’s phonecalls and the GCHQ was monitoring lawyers and journalists, people raised eyebrows and called you a conspiracy theorist.
Those days are over. Facts allow us to stop speculating and start building, and that’s the foundation we need to fix the internet. We just happened to be the generation stuck with fighting these fires.”
Any of this remind you of the past 7 years, Obama campaigns and administration?