By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Snowden has a self-serving and duplicitous op-ed piece in the New York Times today.
I put in a comment I had to shorten -- here's the longer version:
Snowden is always so duplicitous -- and the Times is always so uncritical of him.
First of all, what a distortion to say he is charged with "World War I espionage laws." The age of a law doesn't matter because the Internet is not special or exempt from law, as we saw recently in the heavy sentence given to the Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.
But as you can see from the criminal charges filed against Snowden online, they are not "archaic" or illegitimate but normal: "theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person."
There is nothing archaic or unreasonable about these charges regarding his actual stealing of documents and disclosure of them.
Only a portion of Snowden's hacking was about "privacy" -- this issue is a distraction from his other exposure of national security of the US and its allies, in Russia's favor, often at key international events or political developments.
I'd give #Snowden a pass on what he stole about domestic SIGINT ops. The other 98% of what he stole & compromised, however, demands trial.— John Schindler (@20committee) June 5, 2015
If Snowden offered China, German and Brazil information about how they were monitored by the NSA as a quid pro quo for asylum, it's reasonable to ask what he offered Russia. And there are so many unanswered questions in his story. Where was he from May 1 to May 20, if in Hawaii, and what did he do in the first 11 days in Hong Kong? Why Hong Kong, really? And why aren't all the documents given to the journalists? What kind of visa did Sarah Harrison have to go to Russia and stay there and was her travel there in past years for work on a movie for WikiLeaks a cover to prepare for the Snowden operation?
And note the entirely duplicitous description of the NSA activity as "mass surveillance of private phone calls." There isn't any such thing of the content of phone calls; it's the caller data that is used to match with existing legitimate targets. Turning that hysterical hypothetical into a battering ram against the US effort to stop hacking, terrorism and other crime is the hallmark of the Snowden mass hysteria hoax.
Snowden has never produced a single actual case of an American wrongfully targeted or exposed; Greenwald has exposed more about such persons than the NSA has, and in every case, they appeared legitimate. The girlfriend of a Taliban fighter deserves surveillance.
So apparently there was a dust-up with Max Boot writing about this in Commentary -- it's rare anyone does.
I realize people have "issues" with Max Boot -- I'm not sufficiently familiar with his work to get into all that, I will address just the column on Snowden.
Greenwald claimed Boot lied because he wrote:
Oddly enough nowhere in his article — which is datelined Moscow — does he mention the surveillance apparatus of his host, Vladimir Putin, which far exceeds in scope anything created by any Western country. . . .That would be the same FSB that has taken Snowden into its bosom as it has previously done (in its earlier incarnation as the KGB) with previous turncoats such as Kim Philby. . . .
But of course Ed Snowden is not courageous enough, or stupid enough, to criticize the dictatorship that he has defected to. It’s much easier and safer to criticize the country he betrayed from behind the protection provided by the FSB’s thugs. The only mystery is why the Times is giving this traitor a platform.
Greenwald is in a huff because Snowden had a puny little line -- easily overlooked -- in his op-ed piece meant to bullet-proof him from that sort of criticism, as follows:
Basic technical safeguards such as encryption — once considered esoteric and unnecessary — are now enabled by default in the products of pioneering companies like Apple, ensuring that even if your phone is stolen, your private life remains private. Such structural technological changes can ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders, insulating ordinary citizens from the arbitrary passage of anti privacy laws, such as those now descending upon Russia.
Except, these aren't new, they were passed last year, and we never heard from Snowden last year about this, except in his two ridiculous and cringe-worthy "interventions" with Putin -- one in the form of a softball question on a pre-fabricated call-in TV show, and another in an op-ed piece which even his ACLU lawyer was face-palming over.
Remember this? Greenwald must not have gotten the memo. Here's Noah Shachtman:
Even the NSA leaker’s closest advisers now say his appearance on a Kremlin call-in show, which touched off yet another international firestorm, was a mistake.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden instantly regretted asking Russian President Vladimir Putin a softball question on live television about the Kremlin’s mass surveillance effort, two sources close to the leaker tell The Daily Beast.
“It certainly didn’t go as he would’ve hoped,” one of these sources said. “I don’t think there’s any shame in saying that he made an error in judgment.”
“He basically viewed the question as his first foray into criticizing Russia. He was genuinely surprised that in reasonable corridors it was seen as the opposite,” added Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who serves as one of Snowden’s closest advisers.
According to Wizner and others, Snowden hadn’t realized how much last week’s Q&A—with Putin blithely assuring Snowden that Moscow had no such eavesdropping programs—would appear to be a Kremlin propaganda victory to Western eyes. And so the leaker quickly decided to write an op-ed for the Guardian to explain his actions and to all but label Putin a liar for his televised response.
But the Guardian piece was even worse. Imagine, Snowden writes this total witless nonsense:
The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden's question and mine here.)
Because yeah, a pre-scripted call-in show with a tyrant is just like a democratically-elected parliament in which a freely-elected senator asks a question of a intelligence director appointed by a democratically and freely-elected president. You know, Obama and Putin and Wyden and Zhirinovsky and Bortnikov and Clapper, why, they are all such exact counterparts. Snort.
Snowden added insult to injury by quoting Andrei Soldatov, who had very much over-stated the significance of Snowden's question as some kind of "national conversation starter":
The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia's surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticised me in the past year), described my question as "extremely important for Russia". According to the Daily Beast, Soldatov said it could lift a de facto ban on public conversations about state eavesdropping.
This was all bollocks because no taboo was lifted, nothing got done, nothing changed, there was no debate, and Snowden was merely letting himself be used to make Putin look good. Eli Lake trounced him.
No, those don't count, guys.
And they were inserted into "the narrative" last year merely because there was too much static about Snowden's great gift to Putin in the form of his very presence if not collaboration (which we can never know about because PS, Snowden and his supporters lie. They lie about very basic things like the stay in the hotel in Hong Kong.)
And at the end of the day, speaking vaguely about "anti-privacy laws" isn't the same as forthrightly explaining about the surveillance apparatus, which is considerable. Snowden has not done that.
So what Snowden writes in the Times is vague, too late, and doesn't even begin to describe the invasion of privacy and level of surveillance in Russia.
Hence my response, in the moderation queue at The Intercept:
I wondered why Max Boot missed that comment, because it stood out -- it was one of exactly three times when Snowden ever said anything about Russia, albeit mild and terribly insufficiently. And that is likely why Boot missed it.
In fact, there aren't any "new" privacy laws -- they were passed last May, a year ago. It's not clear what Snowden means, and we missed him last year when they were being passed, hello. Under news laws passed last year, all Internet Service Providers with Russian users have to maintain servers with customer data on Russian territory, so that the FSB, the intelligence agency, can access them easily. This law will go into effect in September but some ISPs already comply. This may lead to the shutting down of Twitter and Facebook for Russia if they don't comply.
Before that the FSB had access to Russian Internet and social media accounts anyway and maintains a program called SORM to filter the Internet anyway. It has invaded Tor and handily monitors nodes to capture communications -- the Tor managers, among their many heinous acts, allow nodes to be operated in Russia despite the obvious problem.
There's lies in Snowden's own piece, namely that he is being charged under some supposedly archaic old World War I legislation for espionage -- as if this is the only charge against him. His charges are known and online, even with a sealed part and they involve theft of government documents and communicating classified documents to unauthorized persons. These are absolutely appropriate given his crimes.
Unlike the NSA, which doesn't in fact intrude on people's privacy unless they are a suspect in a criminal case -- one of the major points of hysteria from Greenwald is this false claim -- the FSB constantly exposes people's private cell phone calls, meetings with people, emails, etc. in the state run media. So the opposition leaders including figures like Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in February, had their cell phone conversations published to embarrass them. The nightly news runs intercepts of their calls and footage of their private meetings to try to frame them as "foreign agents" or "fifth columnists". It goes way, way beyond anything the Snowdenistas hysterically claim about the US. Yet Snowden has never cared a whit, before he fled to Russia or after.
So there is the entirely duplicitous description of the NSA activity as "mass surveillance of private phone calls." There isn't any such thing of the content of phone calls; it's the caller data that is used to match with existing legitimate targets. Turning that hysterical hypothetical into a battering ram against the US effort to stop hacking, terrorism and other crime is the hallmark of the Snowden mass hysteria hoax.
Snowden's lie that actual phone conversations of "everybody" are bugged is really outrageous and the Times shouldn't have published it, but then they are "snowed" like so many others. I suppose Greenwald thinks if he hollers enough about other people lying each time Snowden tells whoppers everyone will be intimidated from stating the obvious.
Greenwald had this fake dialogue as well:
MAX BOOT: Snowden is a coward who lacks the courage ever to criticize Putin or Russia.
ME: Actually, he’s done exactly that, clearly and repeatedly.
What arrant horseshit.
Snowden has not repeatedly done anything at all -- the call-in show was utter bullshit -- it was a softball question that set Putin up in order to maker a bland prevarication himself that would mollify 90% of TV viewers in a country where most people get their news from TV, even if they have Internet connections.
Again, his op-ed piece is in the Guardian, not Russia, and doesn't count.
Snowden has never bit the hand that feeds him, and we don't know how much he himself has fed that hand. Why? Because of the obvious which the Snowdenistas always hysterically deny, but which stands nonetheless: his likely cooperation with Russian intelligence. You can't offer to give NSA secrets and documents about how the NSA spies on China, Brazil, and Germany -- which Snowden has openly and repeatedly done! -- and not have the question BEGGED about doing the exact same thing in Russia, in exchange for asylum. Please, do not take us for children.