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Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Featured, Law | 14 comments

Washington has an Edward Snowden problem


Imagine a heaping plate of spaghetti teetering on the edge of a table. A few strands of pasta have already fallen to the floor, and now the whole darn thing seems a breath away from toppling. This is basically the situation faced by the intelligence and political communities in dealing with Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old National Security Agency contractor responsible for what some call one of the biggest intelligence leaks in American history.

Snowden revealed that the NSA collects data from millions of Americans, and has the cooperation of several of the country’s largest internet and telecom companies. He also disclosed that during the 2009 G-20 summit, Great Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ monitored delegates’ phones and tried to get their passwords.

And Snowden now, in effect, says you ain’t seen nothing yet: “All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he said in a Q&A.

But these truths are not exactly unnerving Washington. Indeed, as The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Green notes, consensus has at long last come to Congress.

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  • slamfu

    I hardly call this “one of the biggest leaks”of all time. Perhaps the most well advertised one, but I’m pretty sure past leaks of thermonuclear designs to Russia and China, lists of covert operatives, and any number of other leaks in reality were/are far greater in impact to the world than Mr. Snowden informing the world(terrorists) that phone data is being collected, which even most of us on some level was pretty sure was happening. All Snowden did was confirm it publicly.

    This is good, I like the govt having to explain its actions. Go ahead, hunt terrorists, but don’t think you can do whatever you want and think none of us are going to mind, just because you guys buried your own authorization to do it in a 2000 page law you passed. Terrorists will NEVER bring this nation to its knees. They simply don’t have the means to do so, not even if they snuck a nuclear bomb into a major city. As horrific as that would be, it would only piss us off. The only people who can destroy this nation is us, by forsaking the ideals of the enlightenment and tossing aside the laws that make this country what it is. Right to expression, right to trial, right to privacy and freedom of religion, right to vote, all that. This nation isn’t the land, or the people, it is a document that embodies and guarantees those values I just mentioned and many more. Without THAT, we are just another dictatorship, sheep being dominated by our leaders. So lets not forget that in our hunt for a bunch of bad guys who are no more than saboteurs when you get down to it.

  • sheknows

    This is looking more and more like a parallel to the Pentagon Papers in that both show what the government will hide from the American people. In the former, it was the extent to which 4 administrations would go to continually lie to the people and the commission of human rights violations.
    In this it is just 2 administrations and the commission of civil rights violations. Well, they were better at hiding things back then.

    This isn’t about Snowden, as much as everyone would like it to be. It is about what’s going on. We can never put the genie back in the bottle. Some things I think are best left unknown. Others, are not.
    IMO, as citizens we need to know what kind of surveillance is going on, but not necessarily the content of that surveillance. In other words, we do not need to know the particulars of a top secret surveillance, but we DO need to know that all of us are subjected to this type of surveillance and be given the chance to challenge that in court IF we so desire.

    If we all knew that every movement we made was being documented in some form, but also knew that any information about us that was NOT directly related to the security of our nation was released for OTHER purposes,( think politics or finances etc) we would have the right to file a lawsuit against the govt for improper use of that information.

  • Rambie

    The more Snowden talks, the more he sounds like an attention wh**re. Like Slamflu, I like the government having to justify it’s actions instead of hiding and saying “trust us”.

  • yoopermoose

    For me, a part of this IS about Snowdon. I already guessed long ago that this type of surveillance was going on. What I am horrified about is that the information is not secure. Secret government information was accessed by a disgruntled employee, stolen, taken out of the country and disseminated. I would like to see hearings what is being done to rectify that situation.

    As far as our movements being documented, our smart phones have GPS, our debit/credit cards leave a trail on all our purchases and locations, cars have black boxes that record driving, servers record our emails, grocery stores record our purchases. Corporations are monitoring us just as much, or more, as our government.

    That is why I always were my tin foil hat. 🙂

  • Willwright

    I have to pretty much agree with earlier comments. It’s not clear to me exactly what secrets Snowden has exposed. He was only in his last job for a few months so I don’t know if he has any real detailed knownledge of what was going on or he has just surmised it. I would think there would some compartmentalizion at NSA so that one person like Snowden couldn’t get a complete picture. If (and that’s a big if) he was able to gleam the whole picture in a few months that to me would be shocking. It’s not shocking to me that our government is intercepting Internet traffic and phone calls, I kind of assumed this is what they were doing. I’m not quite sure to make of Snowden. I think there’s a lot to know about his motivations. It may end up that his main contribution was simply to stimulate public debate and interest in the subject which should be a good thing.

  • KP

    Objectivelym the difference between some so called “right wing conspiracy theorists” (say Beck) and some of their critics is that the wing nuts already knew collected data was not secure. Perhaps some credit to them.

  • SteveK

    … the wing nuts already knew collected data was not secure.

    Kevin, The wing-nuts (and neocons) are the ones that created the collected data system! And now you want to credit them for ‘knowing’ that it wasn’t secure. We sure live in a funny, though not haha funny, world.

    Up is Down… Blue is Green… Right is Wrong.

  • KP

    If we were talking about the same people we would agree. But I was referring to people not in government. I am talking about people who have been whistling for attention on this issue for years. There are plenty of them; from the far left and far right.

    I have to admit, I love the discussion, because I enjoy pointing out (over years time) where the far left and far right are not that different!

  • SteveK

    Kevin, I do partially agree with what you’re saying, and I too do enjoy our conversations, but… but comes with a caveat, or at least with a question.

    When was the last time that anyone from “the far left” had any sway over what the Democrats, or the left in general, are doing?

    For that matter would (could?) you name a few that you think are currently representing the “far left”?

    The reason I ask is because, IMO, the “far left” simply doesn’t exist and I don’t care how many times the “far right” tries to tell us it does or how many times they (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc., etc., etc.) try to convince those who are already convinced otherwise.

  • slamfu

    What SteveK said. Those on the “far left” are relegated to the fringes of political power and influence. The “Far Right” on the other hand is steering the ship.

  • KP

    Sorry to Joe and readers for getting off topic.
    Let me try and reel myself back to Joe’s article.

    Being reminded of the gravity of the Snowden situation, I am reminded that people at opposite ends of the political spectrum in America have more in common than not.

    People from all along the spectrum may suffer from Snowden’s actions.

  • sheknows

    KP, I am curious to know what you think of Daniel Ellsberg and the lies by 4 administrations of our political leadership?

    My suspicions come from an already bad track record of our Govt’s behavior. That and the information released with the FOIA that was completely blacked out and a nasty, inappropriate and ILLEGAL response of ” so SUE us” when given that destroyed information.

    We all have our viewpoints in this matter because of our prior knowledge and/or experiences with trust in our government.

  • KP

    Hi sheknows, I have long believed our Presidents are not honest with us and I am never disappointed. I don’t see one party as better or worse; I just see consistency.

    Ellsberg has said: “The public is lied to every day by the President, by his spokespeople, by his officers. If you can’t handle the thought that the President lies to the public for all kinds of reasons, you couldn’t stay in the government at that level … The fact is Presidents rarely say the whole truth, essentially, never say the whole truth’ of what they expect and what they’re doing and what they believe and why they’re doing it and rarely refrain from lying, actually, about these matters.”

    As you know, Ellsberg had an extensive career prior to the leaks. He is fortunate not to have spent a long time in jail; and probably did not only because of gross governmental actions against him. Snowden likely won’t have the benefit of the same mistakes.

    In the end, I fear that Snowden leaks will be far more hurtful. Ellsburg’s were the result of deep anti-war experience, I think he was trying to save lives. Snowden’s leaks may result in a loss national security and _cost_ lives while trying to preserve civil liberties.

    Two different people.

  • epiphyte


    The only people who can destroy this nation is us, by forsaking the ideals of the enlightenment and tossing aside the laws that make this country what it is.

    Hear, Here.

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