“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” –Benjamin Franklin
A friend of mine and I in a recent telephone conversation touched on the subject of Edward Snowden but it wasn’t the time or place to get into a long, political debate. So, I thought I would express my views on the subject in the form of an essay.
My friend said he understood why Snowden did what he did but that he disapproved of his doing it. I feel that the reasoning of why he did what he did, contains the justification of his actions.
There are several different perspectives on why it was wrong of him to release so much classified National Security information, some people argue from an ethical or moral stance, some from a pragmatic view, some from a patriotic perspective, and some from a military or national security viewpoint. There may be more perspectives but these are the ones that first came to me.
Now from everything that I’ve seen or read about or by Snowden, he comes across as a very humble guy & he definitely doesn’t brag about his skills unlike the braggart & national embarrassment in the White House at present. For instance, Snowden never tells us how much he was being paid by the government but it was clearly a significant amount. My guess is that it would’ve been probably somewhere around a couple hundred thousand dollars a year? Moreover, he was stationed in Hawaii which many consider paradise. Why would someone give all this up knowing that the full weight of the U.S. government would come down on him mercilessly?
My opinion is that he is a person with tremendous integrity & a strong moral compass. And personally speaking, I stood-up against the U.S. Army so-to-speak when I kept going AWOL because I didn’t want them to be able to send me to Vietnam and that was one of the most frightening times of my life.
Returning to the topic at hand, I believe him when he said that he was becoming more & more alarmed at what the NSA was up to. And he was well aware that they were violating the U.S. Constitution. Now some people like that moron behind the desk in the oval office, see the Constitution as little more than a quaint & amusing list of suggestions & feel that they are above the law. Obviously, Snowden’s superiors at the NSA felt this way too because they violated the laws daily & to such an extent that it was hard for Snowden to accept the degree of corruption in the intelligence community.
Moreover, Snowden because of his amazing level of expertise in computer systems, security, programming, etc. knew on a much deeper level than me or the average American citizen. He also knew what happened to other whistleblowers like Bill Binney & Thomas Drake who had followed the official chain of command & protocol for reporting misconduct, illegal spying on American citizens, etc. etc. etc.
Obama, the supposed champion of the people, had prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the other presidents combined since the Espionage Act was passed over a hundred years ago. It’s become very clear that anyone who dares to reveal the secrets of the temple so-to-speak, will be locked up most likely for the rest of their life. And you can forget about any semblance of a fair trial because you’re not allowed to present your argument from anything which may reveal state secrets i.e. anything they consider a matter of national security, is off limits in your defense. Step back for a second & reflect on that i.e. they are violating federal laws & Constitutional law on a massive scale & in effect, they get to claim the protection of the very laws they’re violating.
The prosecutors of these whistleblowers are de facto judges, jurors, & executioners if the accused can’t fully defend themselves in open court. Don’t worry, just trust us because we know what is right & wrong and we will protect you. Yeah right, how many times & ways have they, the powers that be, violated that trust?
Nope, I don’t blame Snowden one bit for not being willing to turn himself in to the legal authorities in this nation because he’d basically face a kangaroo court with a rubber-stamp of guilty guaranteed. If you think I’m going too far afield in these assertions, just consider the U.S. Patriot Act which was rammed through shortly after 9/11. It basically gutted our Bill of Rights. But hey, who cares? Americans in general don’t care about what the intelligence agencies are up to & believe them when they’re told that this surveillance of American citizens is necessary in order to protect us from terrorists. Yeah right!
One sentence from Snowden in the documentary; Citizen Four sent my mind into overdrive, he said it’s about control. I believe this is the central fact or the key truth in this whole convoluted & complex issue. And for the record, No, I’m not a fan of Alex Jones. I think he is a dangerous imbecile like his fan, Trump.
Mull this over if you will i.e. we are told now that all this information about us, what they call metadata, is not important & that we needn’t worry about their collecting it. Snowden has informed us that all this metadata can be easily connected to form a detailed profile of us & which can be used against us in the future if any legal authority wants to build a case against us.
And the typical brilliant response is; Hey, I got nothing to worry about because I’m doing anything wrong so let them collect all the metadata they want to. This is one of the most ignorant responses a person can spout. So, you wouldn’t mind if these “intelligence agencies” which are collecting a lot of their data with the help of good old Mark Zuckerberg, Google, Apple, etc. etc. etc. and they’re sharing our data with corporations so they can more effectively target perspective customers with their personally designed ads.
Furthermore, it’s even more sinister than this & if you’re curious about what I’m referring to, watch the documentary; The Great Hack which isn’t just a stupid conspiracy piece & is the product of a carefully researched & edited investigation of Cambridge Analytica.
This company is part of a larger corporation that was headquartered in England & in a nutshell, with the help of Zuckerberg who has no ethical standards when it comes to making money, sold Cambridge Analytica over 50 million of Facebook users’ personal data. By the way, having access to those 50 million Americans’ personal data, also gave them access to every friend those people had in their lists of friends.
I just realized that I’ve strayed off topic to some extent, so back to why you should be concerned about the metadata being collected about us. Here’s a list I came up with some time ago for another essay of possible things or scenarios that you might be embarrassed about the government & the corporate world having at their fingertips. This took about ten minutes to come up with, I’m sure someone could generate a list hundreds of pages long of private matters:
- Cheating on your wife or husband
- A homosexual experience
- You masturbating
- Making love to your spouse
- Shitting your pants
- A sexual disease you contracted
- A diagnosis of cancer
- Fights with your kids or your spouse
- Getting fired
- Losing your home
- Being obese
- Being homeless
- Your kids’ private lives
- Your spouse naked
- Porn you watch
- Paying a hooker for sex
- Funerals you attend
- Your breaking down emotionally
- Your spouse telling you they want a divorce
- Your dying in the hospital
- Being drunk & starting a fight and seriously hurting someone
- You drunk driving
- Whipping your child
- Beating your wife
- Threatening someone
- Cheating on your taxes
- Having sex with someone you’re embarrassed to have been with
- Your daughter’s period
- Your home burning down
- Stealing something
- Cheating on a test
And remember, it’s not just a matter of being embarrassed by this kind of data but anytime the government or the private corporate sector want to build a case against you so they could dismiss, ignore, or destroy you should they wish to. Do you still have nothing to hide?
Continuing with the monumental harm done to us by Facebook in selling our data to Cambridge Analytica, a very strong case could be built to charge Zuckerberg was largely responsible for Trump’s victory in 2016. You see, a lot of the data that proved to be so valuable to Cambridge Analytica came from those seemingly innocent tests on Facebook that asked; What kind of person are you? A pragmatist? A dreamer, An artist, etc. And with all this data, they were able to create detailed files on these 50 million Facebook users https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election
& all their friends & then zero in on those they considered persuadable i.e. easier to manipulate intellectually or emotionally like Trump fans. And under the tutelage & loving guidance of Steve Bannon the far-right’s Dr. Mengele who dreams of the American government in a big pile of rubble, and the White Supremacists taking over, they bombarded all those persuadable with thousands of anti-Hillary & pro-Trump propaganda ads & videos.
So, when the Democratic party raised so much hell & focused on the Russian interference in our election, I have to agree with my intellectual hero, Noam Chomsky. He pointed out the inconvenient truth that the U.S. has been interfering with other countries’ elections for decades. I’m sure the vast majority of Americans aren’t even aware of the hundreds of times our C.I.A. have funded coup d’états, trained people in guerilla warfare tactics & skills, assassinated democratically elected leaders, etc. around the globe. If you’d care to skim a brief list of these crimes against humanity, check out this link; http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/US_ThirdWorld/dictators.html
I share these ugly facts with you not because I take some perverse pleasure in criticizing America but because I sincerely believe that the American public needs to know what’s been done in our names & usually without our awareness if we are to ever put a stop to it. I have given-up hope that any real change will come about through the DNC. They are so corrupt & willfully blind to their own ignorance, lack of integrity, & desire to hold on to what power they have at any expense. And that includes losing the presidency & another four years of Donald of the Duck Dynasty Klan.
The Democratic party used to represent the working class & help defend us against the Republicans who are simply more brazen in their greed & lust for power. And both parties are soft on illegal surveillance & corporate crime. I agree with Gore Vidal when he said; “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
In short, we, the 99%, are at the mercy of some very powerful forces & we need every bit of help we can get. In the documentary; Citizen Four when Snowden was pressed on the issue of what he was most afraid of, he said; (my paraphrasing) That the public simply wouldn’t care & even after he’d released all this information, files, etc. on how & why the NSA was spying on us, they’d simply go back to the way they were & not care or do anything about it.
In the past, I felt that the government was guilty of benign neglect of the public’s interests or welfare but now, with this boastful, vile, naked thief in the White House, I’d say “our” government is guilty of criminal neglect!
Whistleblowers are every bit as important to a functioning democracy as the Free Press & Free Speech. And petty tyrants like Trump try to muzzle the press & whistleblowers because they want to go on draining the federal treasury in perpetuity. We need more Edward Snowdens & he should be honored as a true patriot of the highest order!
The big picture? This is the rationale or the “logic’ behind this massive spying on the American public, They couldn’t find or weren’t aware of the likelihood of the events of 9/11 even though Richard Clark, who was National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States between 1998 and 2003, had repeatedly reported the likelihood to his superiors.
And they, the men in the highest positions of our “intelligence agencies” & the overall structure of these 17 or better agencies who like children with fragile egos, wouldn”t communicate or cooperate with one another prior to 9/11, but now, we’re supposed to rest easy with many of the same players in charge? You see, they all jealously guard their turf because they fear losing even a fraction of their power & authority and most importantly, their funding.
Before the tragic events of 9/11, the truly valuable intel, the accurate intel was like a needle in a haystack even with the world’s most sophisticated information gathering programs & now, they are vacuuming up astronomical quantities of our metadata & we’re supposed to believe they’ll catch the next 9/11 before it happens?
They’ve basically increased the size of that haystack exponentially & I’m sure their “critical & analytical abilities” haven’t kept up even remotely to their new workload. No, what we need are far more individuals like John O’Neill who wined & dined his Middle East contacts in the finest restaurants in New York & Washington D.C. and made them feel respected & valued. We need people who speak the languages in this boiling cauldron of the Middle East that we bear a large part of the responsibility for creating.
Instead, our “power elite” prefer to send in our troops like blundering giants causing far more unnecessary deaths & hence sowing the seeds of greater & greater hatred towards America & spawning a never-ending crop of terrorists willing to sacrifice their lives in defence against the Great Satan!
Snowden & other courageous souls like him showed us that we don’t need to conduct this massive & indiscriminate collection of our data because they can do the necessary collection of data in a far less invasive manner & for far less money than is currently being wasted on these efforts. But, it’s the same old sad story of individuals with petty egos & agencies who fear losing out on the largesse, who continue to rule the day & meanwhile, we are less safe than we’d care to admit or face!
John O’Neill, was a counter-terrorism expert in the F.B.I. & eventually became the special agent in charge of counter-terrorism in the F.B.I. but because of personal clashes with some of his superiors in the F.B.I. his warnings of the likelihood of another attack on the World Trade Center were ignored & he was pushed out of the F.B.I. and the day after he left the F.B.I., he became the head of security at The World Trade Center and was killed on 9/11 as he was helping people evacuate the North Tower.
So for people to accuse Snowden of being a traitor is a gross travesty of justice & mind-boggling ignorance about what is actually happening behind the closed doors of the various intelligence agencies & the NSA in particular. The real traitors are all those who enable this corrupt system & all the morally bankrupt people who turn a blind eye to what’s being done in the name of National Security.
One last, perhaps insignificant point to some, Snowden clearly had the wherewithal to do considerably more damage to the NSA & the whole corrupted system of surveillance but he didn’t. He didn’t name any specific individuals who could be targeted for assassination or who could even lose their jobs. His actions were clearly not those of a person who was seeking fame or fortune. He simply wanted to ease his guilt at having participated & helped in this illegal & immoral program. And he simply gave his potentially serious treasure trove of classified material to two journalists he had immense respect for; Laura Poitras & Glenn Greenwald along with a newspaper he trusted, The Guardian.
He simply left it to them to decide on which stories to reveal to the public. He was again, clearly not seeking notoriety or fame. It was his heartfelt conviction that the truth needed to be told. And his critics have not been able to point to a single case of anyone mentioned in the files he gave to these trusted journalists, being harmed, let alone killed. I am reminded of a quote from the venerated John Milton;
“Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
[if you’d like to watch Part 2 of the Frontline story; “The United States of Secrets” which is even more pertinent to this whole issue i.e. of whether Snowden is a traitor or a national hero & the frightening state of affairs. today in Silicon Valley, you can watch it here https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/united-states-of-secrets/#video-2 It’s available for purchase on You Tube but you can’t find it there for viewing. Okay, two final points.
- the fact that they built the data storage facility in Utah that can store astronomical amounts of data proves that they i.e. the government, are storing every single thing about us (recall that they kept promising that they weren’t storing it?)
- Newsflash: terrorists aren’t retarded & know all this as well and they’ve simply gone back to the old fashioned way of plotting attacks i.e. they go off-grid & only meet & pass information along in person. So why do we need to spend trillions on this Orwellian spying apparatus that is being used to control us, sell us shit, & keep us afraid of one another & indifferent to the complete gutting of what used to be a Republic with a Democratic government???