Steven Aftergood: Sorting Out Snowden…

Cultural Intelligence, Ethics, Government
Steven Aftergood
Steven Aftergood

Sorting Through the Snowden Aftermath

Public discussion of the Edward Snowden case has mostly been a dialog of the deaf, with defenders and critics largely talking past each other at increasing volume. But the disagreements became sharper and more interesting over the past week.   . . . .   In an interesting response to Jack Goldsmith, Marcy Wheeler wrote that it is possible to comprehend — if not to reconcile — the sharply opposing views of the Snowden case if they are understood as a clash between professed American values (such as openness, privacy, and internet freedom) and American interests and actions (such as global surveillance and projection of military power). The former, “cosmopolitan” view presumes, however, that the favored values transcend, and can be sustained apart from, their national and institutional roots.

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Phi Beta Iota: The possibility of Snowden being a presidentially-protected action intended to slam down on NSA after it went one blackmail too far, cannot be excluded. No one goes from high-school graduate security guard at NSA to CIA technical specialist in Geneva to Booz Allen plant with NSA in Hawaii, unless a) the system is totally stupid or b) there is a plan. Augmenting our skeptical view is the cancellation of Snowden’s passport when it was known he was in Russia, forcing him to stay there.It is also highly unlikely that Snowden, on his own, collected all of the alleged documents, the bulk of which may not exist — the journalists appear to have been “played” very expertly to achieve a major perceptual outcome at minimalist cost. The US Department of State can certainly be stupid, but that stupid? Lost in all the focus on Snowden as a traitor is the plain fact that most of what NSA does for the public is worthless — NSA has gone from precision collection against foreign targets to mass surveillance of US citizens, processes less than 1% of what it collection, and has never actually helped prevent a terrorist incident. A baseline review — an independent honest baseline review — is needed of the entire so-called “intelligence” enterprise.

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Snowden @ Phi Beta Iota