How do you feel about NSA monitoring and Edward Snowden's leaking of the same?

I think Snowden did his duty; this is about our freedom.
25% (4 votes)
I think he is a traitor and deserves to be prosecuted
50% (8 votes)
What he did is probably wrong, but Uncle Sam should be gracious
6% (1 vote)
Other
19% (3 votes)
Total votes: 16
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7693 reads

There are 27 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

What is your view of Edward Snowden's revelation that Uncle Sam is monitoring many of us?  Is he exposing a power-monger no-respect-for-privacy bureaucracy, or is he a traitor or somewhere in between?

"The Midrash Detective"

Matthew Eastland's picture

I have respect for and support "whistleblowers" when they expose some illegal or immoral action. They often bear a heavy price for doing things like that.

However, I don't see this being a case of whistleblowing at all.
Sure, we can argue about invasion of privacy and potential for abuse all we want, and my personal opinion on that is still rather undecided.

So, instead let's discuss the unimpeachable facts:
1. These have now been programs running through two Presidencies and for more than 5 years.
2. Congress has been informed of the programs, or has had the opportunity to be informed if they had taken the time (as is evidenced by the immediate release of the emails sent to Congress regarding it). The fact that many members of Congress have admitted to knowing about it and not considering it a problem further reinforces this.
3. The program was approved of as being legal by the relevant judicial process.

4. Even the so-called whistleblower will admit that the programs have never been abused or used in a way that would violate the civil rights of a US citizen. He claims that he took the action of outing the programs in fear for a potential abuse.

As far as looking at what should be done regarding punishment, that's more complicated for me. After a thorough investigation to ascertain the full motivations for his actions, I think we would then be better able to judge how to punish.
If we find that there were more sinister motives to exposing the programs (like a search for fame or some kind of political agenda), then he has committed an act of treason and should be treated accordingly.
If we find out that this is nothing more than a simple act of misguided patriotism with nothing more involved, then a measure of leniency is in order, but not a full pardon. The damage is too great for that.

Rob Fall's picture

but it wasn't treason.  Sorry folks but the Constitution's definition of treason is limited.  The Founders didn't want treason to be a catch all crime.

What he did was illegal and he should be prosecuted.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

christian cerna's picture

I always believed that the government needed a search warrant to search our belongings. Don't Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy? If the federal government can now monitor our phone calls, our emails, our facebook posts, bank accounts, etc., then have they not broken the law?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

christian cerna wrote:

I always believed that the government needed a search warrant to search our belongings. Don't Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy? If the federal government can now monitor our phone calls, our emails, our facebook posts, bank accounts, etc., then have they not broken the law?

They key word here is our. What is ours, as in personal possession, and what is public? Is facebook a private diary hidden under the mattress where privacy must be invaded to read, or a public expression? Notice, they are not monitoring the content of our phone calls, but the time, duration, origin and recipient - in other words stuff about our phone calls. Seems a lot like recording the information on the front of our mail as it passes through the post office without actually opening it or reading the contents, or the legally acceptable practice of going through our trash once it is set out on the street or picking up discarded items to check dna. It's all about what is ours and when our stuff ceases to be private and becomes public.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

christian cerna's picture

Chip, they have the technology in place to monitor all of our phone calls in real time. They are actually listening in to our conversations. They have voice recognition software that can detect certain key words.

You may wonder what the big deal is about them collecting our Facebook data. Well let's say I am a young man, and I send and receive questionable material when chatting with one of my girlfriends, or I post something on my timeline that is inappropriate.  Now let's say 10 years pass... I am now a mature man who has grown up, changed his ways, has worked his way through college, and now has an important government job. Now let's say I run for political office, and am actively against a certain hot issue. Then one day I see a news report about me, where somehow the media has a copy of some old messages I posted on Facebook that are being used to paint me as being a racist or sexist.

 

These things probably happen more often than not. 

 

http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/prism-the-big-brother-government-n...

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Let's say - what's your point? What you are describing happens all the time already in the private sector. My point remains that the issue is whether this is private or public communication. I argue it's public. And yes, they have the ability to listen to conversations, but that is not what this NSA flap is all about with PRISM. The current data mining, as approved by Congress and leaked by Snowden, is limited to gathering information about the phone calls in order to look for calling links and patterns. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

christian cerna's picture

What did Snowden do that is illegal? All he did was to inform the public that the government has an agency in place that monitors all electronic information. This is pretty much public knowledge. I doubt that there is any other nation that doesn't already know we are doing this. So what exactly is his crime? Did he sell secret information to our enemies? We have all known that the government is listening in on us and looking for patterns and links, long before we ever heard about Snowden and PRISM.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

He violated his confidentiality agreement.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Rob Fall's picture

He is accused of violating more than a few sections of the Federal Criminal Code dealing with the unauthorized release of classified material.  But sa I noted earlier, nothing he did rises to the Constitution's definition of treason.

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

He violated his confidentiality agreement.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I don't know Rob. The general understanding of the treason clause is attempting the subversion of the government. The common law understanding includes the breach of faith between a subject and his government. Seems like that all fits Snowden to a "T". 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Rob Fall's picture

Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt act, or on Confession in open Court.

To the best of my knowledge, the courts have found this definition so restrictive that less than twenty people have been convicted of treason against the US in the history of the Republic.  (Yeah, I know the officials and members of the CS government and military got off due to political decisions in Washington.)

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

christian cerna's picture

Regardless of our opinion about this person, we should remember that a man is found innocent or guilty by a court of law- and not by public opinion. It has become all too common in our day to condemn a man without having all the facts, and without letting the justice system do what it is there to do. I see this as one of the biggest threats to our republic. A man is innocent until proven guilty, in a court of law, by a jury of his peers. When the  government allows/uses the media to condemn a man or to slander his reputation before he is even arraigned, there can be little hope for justice.

Matthew Eastland's picture

christian cerna wrote:

Chip, they have the technology in place to monitor all of our phone calls in real time. They are actually listening in to our conversations. They have voice recognition software that can detect certain key words.

Do they have the technology to do this? You bet.
Are they actually doing what you are describing? Very unlikely.

Seriously, a man blows the whistle on two projects that don't even come close to what you are describing and the government goes into an uproar over it. Why would they be so concerned over the leaking of a far less powerful or invasive program when they use what you describe?
An interesting fact that has come out of this is that a large number of the people processing the information for agencies like the NSA and CIA are contractors, like Snowden. You're going to tell me that these massively illegal and intrusive programs are taking place and not a single one of those contractors has leaked that information, while these less significant ones have?
Sorry, just doesn't add up.

 

christian cerna wrote:
You may wonder what the big deal is about them collecting our Facebook data. Well let's say I am a young man, and I send and receive questionable material when chatting with one of my girlfriends, or I post something on my timeline that is inappropriate.  Now let's say 10 years pass... I am now a mature man who has grown up, changed his ways, has worked his way through college, and now has an important government job. Now let's say I run for political office, and am actively against a certain hot issue. Then one day I see a news report about me, where somehow the media has a copy of some old messages I posted on Facebook that are being used to paint me as being a racist or sexist.

These things probably happen more often than not. 

Just to be clear... you honestly think that the government looks for information to blackmail or destroy the career of someone by giving out information from their Facebook page to the media?
Again, that just doesn't add up.

What really happens is that a good investigative reporter wanting to make a name for themselves does some digging and finds out information like that on their own. Or the much more common way, the person in question manages to draw attention to their own mistakes and it resurfaces to hurt them.
Sounds a lot like "be sure your sin will find you out."

 

rob fall wrote:

Quote:
Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt act, or on Confession in open Court.

To the best of my knowledge, the courts have found this definition so restrictive that less than twenty people have been convicted of treason against the US in the history of the Republic.  (Yeah, I know the officials and members of the CS government and military got off due to political decisions in Washington.)

An excellent point that I hadn't thought about.
According to that definition provided, this isn't "treason," but it still is a crime.

christian cerna wrote:
What did Snowden do that is illegal? All he did was to inform the public that the government has an agency in place that monitors all electronic information. This is pretty much public knowledge. I doubt that there is any other nation that doesn't already know we are doing this. So what exactly is his crime? Did he sell secret information to our enemies? We have all known that the government is listening in on us and looking for patterns and links, long before we ever heard about Snowden and PRISM.

This is where a knowledge of history is very significant.
The most protected thing in the intelligence community is "sources and methods." How the information about a thing is obtained is critical.
While it may be public knowledge that we have the capability to do lots of things, the fact that we do actually pursue those avenues and how we use those sources is very significant in being able to avoid said measures.
The fact that one of these programs has demonstrated an ability to finally track down formerly untraceable "burner phones" is a huge development that can't be understated in it's value. Now, though, those trying to use such things to hurt us know that they no longer can trust such a network.

For a historical context of how important information like this can be and how much it is prized would be the Coventry Raid in World War II.
The Allies had broken the German codes and were able to know where the Germans were going to attack before the attacks came in. The British intercepted the orders for a massive air strike on the city of Coventry. The problem was that if they attempted to evacuate the city before the attack, German agents would see it and realize that the Allies were able to break the codes. The German air force proceeded to completely destroy the center of Coventry and killed a number of British citizens.
However, the choice to not do anything to reveal the sources and methods in that case resulted in the eventual British victory in the Battle of Britain and the saving of thousands of lives. The British used that information to intercept multiple German attacks and to destroy massive numbers of German bombers.

Jeffrey Dean's picture

This topic should be reserved for a year from now.  My guess is that as more is revealed we will be shocked at how much Big Brother is watching.  We may be living in the modern equivalent of East Germany where everyone spied on each other and everyone was spied on.  

I'm shocked that we so easily trade in freedom for the perception of safety.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I watched the testimony of the NSA Director and a few other officials a week or two back. I thought it was refreshingly candid and very different from the headline-generating spin we keep seeing on this story from media outlets.

  • The real extent of this "spying" is rather less diabolical, nefarious and sinister than pop culture has led us to believe
  • The NSA and other agencies had authorization to conduct it
  • This "spying" is not an exclusive creature of the Obama administration, despite the attempts of some to paint it that way
  • Those who oppose it must stop framing their objections in so juvenile a fashion. Their issue is with the intelligence community in general, not the NSA or the current administration in particular

Snowden is a fool and I will be glad when his pathetic charade in Moscow is over. He is in clear violation of the law. If he were a true martyr, he would return to the US and face the consequences rather than skulking about abroad in a naive, pathetic attempt to avoid capture.

Can the media not find a different picture of him? There has to be more than the single still shot they keep using . . . 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Rob Fall's picture

Matthew Eastland wrote:
SNIP
rob fall wrote:

Quote:
Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt act, or on Confession in open Court.

To the best of my knowledge, the courts have found this definition so restrictive that less than twenty people have been convicted of treason against the US in the history of the Republic.  (Yeah, I know the officials and members of the CS government and military got off due to political decisions in Washington.)

An excellent point that I hadn't thought about.
According to that definition provided, this isn't "treason," but it still is a crime.SNIP

I agree.  He's been charged with multiple violations of the US Criminal Code dealing with the unauthorized release of classified material. 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Matthew Eastland's picture

Jeffrey Dean wrote:

This topic should be reserved for a year from now.  My guess is that as more is revealed we will be shocked at how much Big Brother is watching.  We may be living in the modern equivalent of East Germany where everyone spied on each other and everyone was spied on.  

I'm shocked that we so easily trade in freedom for the perception of safety.

I'm saddened to see this kind of thinking in so many people today.
An attempt to compare the US in any way to East Germany is so much of a stretch as to be ridiculous.

I'll just point out how in 2006 there was a long and drawn-out discussion on some new government act regarding the interrogation of prisoners in US custody. Articles were cited regarding what the act could mean and the idea of the US using horrible interrogation techniques - right up to cannibalism (which still makes me laugh) - were given as future results of such. Then it was stated how that same act could be used against American citizens eventually for the same thing.
The motivations for the passage of that act (as stated by the person here on SI) was because the Republicans in 2006 were trying to make a power grab to take over the country, since they were closet Nazis (yes, he called them Nazis).

Yet, here we are, seven years later and none of that has happened. The Republicans, who were supposedly trying to grab power, were voted into a minority shortly thereafter. Not a single US prisoner has been cannibalized to get information.

Some people really seem to like finding evil conspiracies to fixate on. Snowden seems to be such a person, and so I pity him for his warped world view.

christian cerna wrote:
Regardless of our opinion about this person, we should remember that a man is found innocent or guilty by a court of law- and not by public opinion. It has become all too common in our day to condemn a man without having all the facts, and without letting the justice system do what it is there to do. I see this as one of the biggest threats to our republic. A man is innocent until proven guilty, in a court of law, by a jury of his peers. When the  government allows/uses the media to condemn a man or to slander his reputation before he is even arraigned, there can be little hope for justice.

Strange... I thought that Snowden openly confessed, without any force or coercion, to doing what he is accused of.
In fact, it wasn't even a confession so much as a person taking credit for doing it.

The question is not if he did what he said, but if the act itself was criminal (I would say yes), and what his motivation for doing what he did is (that only matters to me in the level of punishment he should get).

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler (who has the coolest Yosemite Sam icon!) said:

 

The real extent of this "spying" is rather less diabolical, nefarious and sinister than pop culture has led us to believe
The NSA and other agencies had authorization to conduct it
This "spying" is not an exclusive creature of the Obama administration, despite the attempts of some to paint it that way
Those who oppose it must stop framing their objections in so juvenile a fashion. Their issue is with the intelligence community in general, not the NSA or the current administration in particular

I would like to make a few comment.  It doesn't matter if it is the Obama administration or the Bush-Obama administrations doing this.  That point is moot.

The original intent of this spying may not be diabolical.  That does not mean it cannot easily and quickly turn to something diabolical.  Government spy agencies use all sorts of tricks to coerce and manipulate people.  If it were diabolical, it would take a long time for this to come out.  It might be sinister.  How would we know?  With the selective auditing of conservative groups by the IRS, things have ALREADY turned diabolical.

The NSA has authorization from the powers that be.  So, unless the powers that be are infallible, why do we assume such authorization is in tune with the intent of our Founding Fathers?  Several states have authorized gay marriage, and that has held up in court, too.

The NSA is not a boogey man. It is the intelligence community at large. But this does not exclude the NSA.

During the Truman and Eisenhower  years, for example, the CIA had an agreement with the Mafia. The Mafia performed assassinations and did other unpleasant tasks for Uncle Sam in exchange for officials looking the other way, as documented by Paul Johnson in "A History of the American People."  It is not as though we do not have a track record.

Personally, I think we are entering an area of increased vindictiveness (e.g., Paula Deen) and punishing uncooperative people.  We are not only headed downhill morally, but we are being coerced to conform and co-operate through various means.  The healthcare bill is an example of the direction we are heading. The balance between individual freedom and the good of society is leaning more toward the good of society with the current government determining that balance.

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

Regarding my comment on the NSA not being "evil" or "diabolical," I'm just reacting against the media spin we keep seeing. The headlines we have been seeing would lead somebody to believe the NSA is an evil, rogue agency off on it's own. It's just not at all like that.  However, it's not sensational to report the candid facts about a situation. Hype and hyperbole always sell better.

I'm not saying there are no grounds to be outraged by what is going on. I just wish people in general would take the time to be outraged about the facts of the case, rather than the media spin.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Matthew Eastland's picture

I honestly don't see anything to be outraged about.

My civil liberties and right to privacy haven't been the least bit infringed or abused, and that's according to Snowden's own testimony.

Am I upset by what these programs were doing in the name of national security? Not really. I can see how such programs can be very useful (or would have been if not for them now being public), and I can see how they have been limited in scope by the government.

Really, those afraid of the government need to think things through just a little bit more.
Every time the government puts out the number of tanks they have in service, you should be frightened, since the government can use those tanks against you just as easily as against the enemies of our nation. Every time they buy more barbed wire, you should be frightened since they might be building secret internment camps to hold Christians.

This attitude of fear and distrust is harmful to just living a normal life, and even more so to your Christian testimony.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree with what you said. I appreciate and understand the need for these programs. My personal concern with this issue is the almost rabid way Christians are coming out of the woodwork to condemn the "government" once again. It's almost as if Christians enjoy playing the "victim" card sometimes.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Matthew and Tyler, yes, but....

I am not an anti-government type.  At least I don't think I am.  I am for a lot of government programs and am far from a Civil Libertarian.  I am for the government keeping track of persons who, evidence suggests, are up to no good.  These individuals, however, if citizens, need to be at least cleared by a judge, much like a search warrant (only perhaps with a lesser degree of evidence).  But a general monitoring of massive numbers of Americans seems much.

I have a friend, who, whenever he shares confidential information, said, "I don't want to tell you over the phone."  I used to think, "Why not?"  Now I know he was right.

We do not know what is really going on behind the scenes. Whether we are there or not, it is frightening that we are only a step away from losing much of our privacy.  And, when we do, we will probably not know it.

Of course much information is conveyed already by our purchases, tracking cookies, etc.  If you search to purchase an item on Google, for example, you may find ads for that or similar items on your Facebook page.  That is an argument against my concern, I suppose.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

The testimony of the NSA Director made it very clear that they intercept phone numbers, not voices. If they want to intercept a specific phone call in the US, they have to go through procedures to get it. There is oversight. 

Your concerns about potential invasion of privacy are warranted, but hardly new. When I was a police officer I could run a criminal history on anybody I wanted. In the military, I routinely investigated silly incidents where Corpsmen illegally accessed women's medical histories to verify they were free of STD's before they slept with them. The is always potential for sinful men to exploit the trust given them. There always will be. 

We do not know what is really going on behind the scenes. Whether we are there or not, it is frightening that we are only a step away from losing much of our privacy.  And, when we do, we will probably not know it.

The level of potential exploitation has grown exponentially with the technology in recent years. The threat is not going away, but I also don't believe it is prudent to back off. What do we do about it? Not sure. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Matthew Eastland's picture

It's so nice to have such reasonable and good responses on here.
Every time I get into a political discussion on SI, I worry about what will be coming my way shortly thereafter.

The discussion I referenced above did take place on SI, and can be found here: http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=3706
As you can see, some previous discussions on matters not too different from this turned very ugly.

To be perfectly honest, I happen to be a fan of conspiracy theories and things like that. I like to look for the potentials of a situation. I took the "strategic planning" course at Bob Jones in the school of business, which was taught by the Dean of the school of business, who was previously a government military contractor with an equivalent rank of Colonel.
I say that to point out that I see the same things that you do on this. The thing is that my response to the situation is moderated by my trust.

I have nothing to fear in the invasion of my privacy, why should I be afraid. They won't find anything to accuse me of.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Matthew Eastland wrote:

I have nothing to fear in the invasion of my privacy, why should I be afraid. They won't find anything to accuse me of.

 

Those of us who work with people in counseling and advising discuss many confidential things over email or telephone.  People have told me many, many things I would not want others to know.

"The Midrash Detective"

dgszweda's picture

I am not sure he is a traitor, but he definitely broke laws, which he must be made accountable for.  The fact is, that in 3-4 months this will be a non-story.  What the NSA has been doing, has been going on for a long time, under two presidents and two administrations.  The appropriate individuals in Congress (our duly elected representatives) are aware of it and approve it, our judges and court system are monitoring it.  I think what Snowden did, just shows the total lack of understanding he had about this and a lack of maturity.  He feels he is a martyr, but in the end he is just a plain old criminal who signed paperwork with the his employer and the government saying he would not reveal information and he turned around to break the law, his ethics and his reputation on something that in the end he had no understanding really about.

In addition, he gave up the fact of ever returning to the most free country in the world and his homeland with family and friends, to go live in a dictatorship led and repressive regime.  The irony of this story is laughable.  He is going to spend the rest of his life, with this totally distorted sense of reality that he stood up for justice and righted wrongs, yet be protected by regimes that spy on their citizens, torture and kill people who speak out and leaders who pillage their citizens to support their lifestyle.

All I can say is that he must really be thinking that he screwed this one up big time.