WikiLeaks (unqualified) "lawyer" Sarah Harrison puts her hand up to block reporters from taking pictures of her client Edward Snowden. Doesn't that say it all about the transparency set?! (C) Polona Frelih
If there is any kind of majority of public opinion thinking that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower or a hero -- and there are multiple polls, and polls aren't always accurate or fair samples -- then it's because the general public doesn't really follow the back story much on the hacker movement and WikiLeaks and Anonymous in particular.
If they did, they might have a deeper context for understanding how these undemocratic nihilists hijacked the state secrecy issue at their own whim and aided and abetted our enemies. As I've pointed out from the beginning, the end of the road for Edward Snowden, given his politics and his online buddies, was always Moscow.
The method isn't really about reform; it's about making the US retaliate, and then pointing to the harsher policies and claiming the US is no longer its liberal self, true to its ideas, and then working to discredit and undermine both America and its liberal ideas as false. It is not about wishing the best for the US, as much as Snowden thinks he can mouth this platitude and have us believe it.
It's like the hackers who hack and disable and damage a website and then claim that all along they were really just "helping" a company to beef up its security. Baloney. If they really cared, they would quietly speak to their own IT colleagues and help them. If they really cared, they wouldn't need to bully and shame a corporation and portray it in an ill light -- and harm its customers. What happened with Snowden's hack of USA, Inc. is no different than Swartz taking down Jstor and MIT defiantly in the copyleftist cause, or Weev assaulting AT&T and running off with its customer lists in a supposed, um, helpful probe dedicated to a Better World. Poppycock. All of this is about radical nihilism and anarchism and most of all, taking power. After all, when anarchists thwart and disable and defeat power, where does it go? To them. WikiLeaks is about a war for power, not a campaign for freedom or rights.
There are too many liberals who think that there's some national conversation to be had here that is "better" than Snowden's coerced version -- they're willing to say they've been "lost" on the cause because he leaked to the Chinese but still think he "did some good".
Nonsense. The nature of the means by which you "start this national debate" matter -- if it is by crime, collusion, and coercion, then those are the results we will end up with when those hackers come into power. No thank you!
While Moscow ruled the world of leftists, socialists, communists, nihilists, liberal fellow-travellers for decades through foreign communist and socialist parties, the III International, the Komintern or through international front groups like the world peace committees, and "Moscow Gold" was a real factor for some organizations on the left who benefited, including the US Communist Party, after the August 1991 coup, the aspirations of the Kremlin's rulers had to be reduced due to budget constraints and a shrinking of their empire.
Even so, the Kremlin maintains a vast and well-funded propaganda empire, with RT (Kremlin-sponsored Internet TV) and other outlets and organizations, and still uses the old methods of "agents of influence" -- persons who wittingly or unwittingly can be persuaded to publish materials in the interest of Moscow -- and "active measures" -- various capers and incidents and plots that enact out scenarios to the advantage of the Kremlin.
Some people believe the entire Snowden story is an "active measure" of Russia's, and it could be; others think it's a CIA operation meant to retaliate for the arrest and expulsion of our own spy who was following the North Caucasus -- the one caught with funny wigs and awkward letters and maps as if he were in the 1970s -- and *that* expulsion was in turn tit-for-tat for an expulsion by the US of a dozen spies found to be living as moles for years in the US, run by Moscow.
Of course, those who believe Snowden is a CIA operation have to prove how the NSA could tell tales on itself and help the Chinese in the process of doing this and cause a riot in public opinion, but maybe they reasoned like that IRS lady who thought it was better to confess their sins at a professional conference of colleagues and then let the chips fall than have the media get to it first. Naturally, those who want to show Snowden and/or WikiLeaks are Moscow sock-puppets or worse have to prove their points as well, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to ask questions along these lines giving the pro-Moscow positions WikiLeaks has consistently taken for years, and the anarchist/nihilist perspective so similar to the Bolshevik line through the ages.
SKYDANCING CONNECTS THE DOTS
Boston Boomer at Skydancing has done an excellent job of rounding up the news and views on the issues of the connections between the former NSA hacker fugitive Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, so fortunately, I don't have to do this : )
She feels there are dots to be connected between Snowden-WikiLeaks and ultimately Moscow that are more than we see now, although she says she won't get into a conspiracy theory, and I respect that, especially given the pressure that critical bloggers -- especially critical *female* bloggers! -- feel when legions of unaccountable and anonymous geeks heckle them as not having "the facts" to back up their common sense and intuition about hacker thugs.
Boston Boomer notes the work of Walter Pincus, who has been heckled through his entire career by the left because he once spied on student groups in the 1950s for the CIA and has remained critical of communism.
Poor Walter got himself into a wringer because he made some factual errors which he was then forced to correct, in an effort to try to document his hunch -- certainly a valid one! -- that Edward Snowden didn't just hook up with Laura Poitras in January 2013 and Jacob Appelbaum in May 2013 and that there was likely a previous connection between this entire Snowden leak and flight and WikiLeaks and Assange that goes further back, possibly indicating a real conspiracy.
BRADLEY MANNING AND ASSANGE WERE IN CONTACT; WHY NOT SNOWDEN?
That was an eminently reasonable assumption because -- although Pincus doesn't mention this -- Bradley Manning was in contact directly with Assange multiple times, and essentially admitted this in his chat with the FBI informer Adrian Lamo published by Wired in 2010. Lamo even said basically -- why do you bow to him? Assange lied about this repeatedly, and his lawyers repeatedly denied that he ever had direct contact with Manning as lawyers will do when they have clients like this. Assange lied. Pincus didn't reference this; he could have. This all became moot when the trial of Manning brought out abundant evidence -- forensic evidence beyond Lamo's chat in Wired -- that he was directly in touch with Assange's pseudonymous account. Now you don't notice Assange lying about this anymore; he just says nothing. He hopes no one will notice. But it's been established in court that Bradley Manning not only made contact with Assange, but was guided by him.
I submit that he was heavily guided -- and we can see that indirectly by the details in his court statement about the Collateral Murder video in which -- during his years of confinement in jail he's had time to refine and hone with the help of his lawyers and their research -- he decided he was outraged by a partial reading (Google-style) of a book he just happened to read on the subject. There's some details that don't quite square in the way he renders this -- he's read a slice of the book, likely on Google or Amazon and not studied the context, as tendentious nerds are wont to do.
GLENN GREENWALD NITPICKS -- BUT WITH A GUILTY CONSCIENCE?
In any event, it's funny how much the WikiLeaks kids work overtime both to champion hackers and then pretend they have nothing to do with them. Funny, but understanding, because as whiny edge-casing legal nihilists the one thing they love to do is cite the law in their favour to get off the hook. Better call Saul!
Walter Pincus should pick himself up and keep researching, and get computer forensic help if he needs it. Glenn Greenwald has only nit-picked on some technical issues -- for example Pincus' error in stating that Appelbaum previewed the NSA surveillance issue for Greenwald and Snowden last year on Democracy Now. That's a distinction without a difference because while he didn't specifically mention Snowden, he mentioned the issue of NSA surveillance and the theories of encroachment on privacy and insiders' knowledge about this.
Gosh, believing that WikiLeaks isn't the Spontaneous Me that it seems. You know, I can see how this so easily happens. The other day I noticed that Vedomosti, the Russian state media outlet, was quoting WikiLeaks on Snowden. But when I went to @wikileaks, I couldn't see that originate statement quoted. Huh? How could this be? How could they be quoted before they said anything by a Russian outlet?
But then I rubbed my eyes, refreshed the page and saw finally that yes, @wikileaks *did* have the statement and that Vedomosti had a time-stamp that showed it ran an hour *later*. Whew! Otherwise you might think that the Russian government and WikiLeaks were working hand in glove or something!
Pincus could have -- but didn't -- throw up in Greenwald's face the entire debacle of him falsely and erroneously reporting that NSA had "direct access" -- something that by now, even lefty and prog geeks have set him straight about and which he tacitly acknowledges by saying things like, "But it was still important I started a national conversation, no?" Sigh.
Yes, while Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras on June 6 claimed falsely that the government had "direct access" to platforms like Facebook, the Washington Post was ultimately forced to retract that claim under the pressue of the facts of what the relationship and mechanics actually were, which involved both script-scraping of open sources and agreements to receive metadata captures that involved an exchange via a lock-box, but not a direct tap -- as well as some transactions with warrants.
Naturally, none of those screaming about "direct access" that in fact was more complicated cared a whit that the Obama Campaign scraped data from social media and that Facebook monitored and reported on political expression and ultimately helped the campaign. Former Googler Dan Siroker and Harper Reed could do all this sort of surveillance and it never bothered any of the screamers about the NSA one whit. They never were bothered by Obama even making use of a "dream team" of sociologists in order to profile and extract data from social media users better and win.
Pincus, as a good journalist who is thorough, printed a lengthy refutation and correction of his mistakes, the kind Greenwald has never done that I've ever seen. It's hard, when you're dealing with a figure who isn't really a journalist and not even just a blogger, but an unlicensed lawyer for criminalized hackers and an extremist activist himself (do sue me if it turns out that Greenwald is licensed currently to practice law in North Carolina or Maryland or wherever they will conveniently place Snowden's domicle -- or maybe he has a dopusk to practice in the Moscow airport lounge).
If you had any doubts about that and felt it must be debated in the name of saving free speech for journalists, maybe you could revisit that now that Glenn is hysterically threatening everyone that the US will be brought to its knees if anything happens to Snowden because with a "dead man's switch," the rest of his damning files will be released - just like Assange was going around telling the script kiddies to download his zipped files at the time of Cablegate and warning that if something happened to him, they'd dump them all into the open. (As it happend, his colleagues did this anyway even as he sat in refuge).
So...Glenn says "Touch my client and America gets it." That's legal defense and journalism? Really? Not blackmail and terrorism? I see what we're dealing with here. But naturally Glenn spins even this and despite the fact that his client is freaking out that anyone is taking his picture and implying it's because of the fear of being killed by a US drone or something, he pretends that now his client doesn't think that.
In any event, it's enough to intimidate even the most determined journalists not to keep looking for connections between the e-thugs at WikiLeaks and Edward, the e-thug who hacked our nation's secrets and spilled them to our enemies.
HACKERS, WIKILEAKS AND NSA DEFECTORS
Why am I, too, convinced that there was a connection between WikiLeaks and Snowden in the past, and that Assange is directly involved orchestrating this?
Answer: because not only have I spent years following WikiLeaks and its precursors, and not only did I see the same Democracy Now video and blog that Walter did (here's a written summary if you don't want to sit through them), I visited the "performance" at the Whitney of Laura Poitras, Jacob Appelbaum and William Binney, which I wrote about on this blog. (I've long been a critic of Jacob Appelbaum and his machinations with Tor and also have stood up to the bully Glenn Greenwald).
At the Whitney, they all spouted conspiracy stuff about the NSA reading all our online stuff; they called on citizens to destroy NSA cables they said they could locate at various locations (!); and they said that if they were ever found to have committed suicide, they hadn't really done it.
At the time of the performance I made a judgement of the entire show and found it a failure on its own terms (and certainly I reject everything about it as a form of radical direct action and anarchist idiocy in any event). That's because I could see they really had a problem with Binney. Binney looks like a middle-aged pocket-protector guy with shifty eyes. The problem is that he is very dated in his inside knowledge of NSA -- 10 years out. The other bigger problem is that he says he left as a matter of conscience and horror at what the NSA was doing post 9-11, but then he proceeded to consult for the government for years after that which sort of undid the claims of moral horror, you know? He was very late getting to Amy Goodman.
So while not dropping Binney who is still part of their circuit, they had to find someone else more dramatic, fresh, and compelling. There was Thomas Drake -- and BTW, he was the one who was wheeled out to replace the Laura-Jake show at PS1 that was supposed to have two weeks ago and got cancelled suddenly -- did they fear too much scrutiny post-Snowden, and not only from little bloggers like me?
But what they really needed was someone as young and hip and savvy as they are, and who also wore expensive Prada glasses instead of looking like he shopped on the rack at Rite-Aid.
Enter Snowden, who I believe they'd have to invent if they didn't find him!
But...how did they find him?
CHAOS COMMUNICATIONS CLUB
I don't for a moment believe that he pursued them himself only, without any "pull" from their part. But what was that pull?
Well, when Jacob Appelbaum holds keynote speeches at the aptly-named Chaos Communications Club Conference like "Not My Department," and calls on all IT workers employed by the US government and any related private firms to essentially sabotage us and leave their jobs "on the dark side" and come over to the crypto kids with Jake, it's more than fine to wonder if Edward was sitting in the audience. Or maybe watching the livestream or watching the Youtube later. Snowden travelled to Europe a lot -- can anyone place him at CCC possibly? That's one place to look. Or check out any of his other travels that might coincide with the schedules of other hacker conferences. Hackers, as much as they love to live online and hate meat-world, do love to go to RL conferences and party and gab and talk shop. This is a vital part of their existence. So what conferences like that did Edward go to? Was he ever at DefCon?
On every occasion, Jacob openly recruits and urges government computer experts to abandon ship -- and by implication and even by open incitement, hack and sabotage. That's clear. Was Edward Snowden one of them?
Did he first find Jake in the IRC channel or in real life or how? Likely it was online, as the chances of meeting at a conference are far less. Where and how?
And if he didn't meet him in cyberspace or meatspace, Snowden could still have come into contact with other WikiLeaks operatives and sympathizers -- was January 2013 really his first contact with Laura Poitras? And so on. And do we need to show some contact to make the point that Edward Snowden was influenced by the hackers' milieu -- which is amply shown by his known online chat on Ars Technica. And we should take a look at the Youtube picks and favourites of "Michael Vario" who might or might not be him. What geek isn't sympathetic to WikiLeaks and even donating to it? Those who are skeptical or even critical are in a distinct minority.
As Boston Boomer points out, there is an earlier link obviously between Greenwald, Poitras and WikiLeaks because they formed the Freedom of the Press Foundation to aid investigative journalism and prominently among their grantees you can find WikiLeaks. No surprise there. And we know that Poitras was in Iraq at the same time as Appelbaum in the past.
The formal founding of Free Press was in December 2012 but of course all these characters from John Perry Barlow, a frequent past subject of this blog, to Poitras and Greenwald supported WikiLeaks and had some interaction with it. It's just a question of following the networks and finding where they contacted Assange and his current lieutenants and possibly plotted the Snowden caper more than they are letting on.
As Boomer and others have pointed out, Snowden makes no effort to hide that he deliberately joined Booz, Allen, Hamilton for about three months to be able to access NSA files better and extract them and leak them, and this was done in discussion with WikiLeaks. So if you find one plot, maybe you find more, going back in time.
Greenwald has been a very big booster and champion of Assange against his detractors -- but at what point did he lose track and control of his own sensational scoop with Snowden, and have to cede it to a) WikiLeaks tweeting and such and the decision by whomever to have him go to Moscow and b) Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras who got their interview in Der Spiegel, without Greenwald's involvement. Do they fight about things like this?
WIKILEAKS AND THE MOSCOW LINE
I think most people who want to show the WikiLeaks/Snowden earlier connection want to prove that it was WikiLeaks who set him up to go to Moscow. That seems likely, but we don't have proof. Even so, when you take a person who started in Hong Kong, sort of plausibly reasoning that it had a history of free speech and was somewhat independent although that was over now with China taking it back from England, and then that person winds up in Moscow, which is so much less connected and free -- what's up?
I shouldn't have to prove that WikiLeaks is pro-Kremlin and even has as its East European region representative a pro-Kremlin hack Israel Shamir who is an antisemitic provocateur who leaked WikiLeaks cables on the opposition in Belarus to the dictator Lukashenka to help him crackdown on them in 2010 and later. That was pretty despicable, and all of this is well known, on the record, and not disputed anymore. As James Ball writes:
When questions were asked about Shamir's involvement with WikiLeaks, given his controversial background and unorthodox requests, we were told in no uncertain terms that Assange would not condone criticism of his friend. Instead, a mealy-mouthed statement distancing WikiLeaks from its freelancers was issued. Still later, when damning evidence emerged that Shamir had handed cables material to the dictator of Belarus – a man he holds in high esteem – to assist his persecution of opposition activists, Assange shamefully refused to investigate
The writing on Shamir generally portrays him negatively, but refuses to name what he feels and smells like: a secret police informant or agent of influence. Certainly a Jew being able to leave the Soviet Union in 1969 raises one red flag, as the Soviet Union generally tended to deny Jews the right to leave, although, of course, there were some exceptions unrelated to intelligence. Even so -- red flag. Then his career following the Soviet line on Palestine in his writings is another red flag -- that is very odd for a Soviet Jew abroad, even one who converted to Christianity, as most tend to be supportive of Israel even if they do not chose to live there. His cooperation with Lukashenka is yet another red flag -- even a journalist who happened to be fortunate enough to leave the Soviet Union in 1969; even a journalist who tended to stick with his Soviet propaganda upbringing and become pro-Palestinian by some natural process in Israel would be unlikely then to do the third thing and cross the street to support the tyrant Lukashenka. Mind you, he doesn't have to be some paid agent to serve as an "agent of influence"; that's what the entire system of "agents of influence" is all about. And until some defector gives testimony, or files are opened, we may never know, it's impossible to prove. There are simply red flags and his body of work which let us know that he tracked perfectly with the Soviet line, then and now.
The persistent presence of Shamir in the WikiLeaks operation; Assange's joyous cooperation with the Kremlin-sponsored RT and his own show; the failure of WikiLeaks to publish any cables or materials that expose any Russian government sins; and the flight of Snowden to Moscow are all pieces in a puzzle that seem to show a KGB-style operation. But naturally the organizers, if they are FSB or GRU related, are careful to keep their fingerprints off it and big on expressing outraged indignation if anyone so much as voice the thought. That the leftist anarchist hacker Assange found a home with Russia and dragged his fellow traveller Snowden there isn't anything odd at all, given their profiles. But does it indicate actual scripting and execution and control by the hand of Moscow? We may never know -- again, until you get defectors or files opened, as we have so many times before when people who were said to be "framed" or "smeared" in fact did turn out to be Moscow agents.
KTO/KOGO OR WHO'S USING WHOM?
Having seen how people with these kinds of leftist radical views behave over the years, I know that many of them don't see themselves as "agents of influence" whatsoever, even if the Kremlin books them as such. They feel if anything, they outsmart stodgy Russians and their grumblings about Russian bureaucracy or militarism are a substitute for actually condemning the autocrats. They think they are smarter than any intelligence force that tries to coopt them, and frankly, they are gravely mistaken.
I have always been taught by my elders in the vocation of human rights work that "they are professionals; we are amateurs". You don't attempt to outsmart them, and in fact your best defense is to be open, straightforward, and legal in your work. As Sakharov said, 20 years before Gorbachev, "Glasnost [publicity, giving voice] is the best weapon" for opposing human rights violations and oppression. Not secrecy; not clandestine movements; not fake names and masks. But openness.
SCARED OF HIS OWN SHADOW
Snowden, as an NSA employer and crypto kid, however, has a very different view. Right now he is spreading fear and panic by claiming that anyone who tries to photograph him is in fact going to lead him to being killed.
"The more photographed I am understanding the technical capability that the US services have, the more dangerous my situation becomes," he said.
The theory is that facial recognition technology, which relies on having lots of photographs, will do that, and that the CIA or whatever is chasing him will be able to see his disguises better and hone in on him. Um, okay. So I guess he'll blame the human rights worker who came and took a picture of him -- as any normal person would if they found themselves at a media circus surrounded by a zillion journalists even if the event was claimed to be a "meeting with lawyers and human rights groups.
I'm intrigued by something he said in the Der Spiegel interview with Poitras and Appelbaum. First, in the introduction, Appelbaum swears he only met him in May:
I had no knowledge of Edward Snowden's identity before he was revealed to the world in Hong Kong. He also didn't know who I was. I expected that when the anonymity was removed, we would find a man in his sixties."
Of course Appelbaum is capable of lying, because he lies about the nature of the Collateral Murder facts, but that may not even be what it's about -- he may be cleverly wording his phrases to indicate that he didn't know that the anonymous account he interacted with on line was Edward Snowden, and visa versa. That's all. Obviously, everybody's got a nick in the IRC channel or whatever other "secure communication" is arranged.
WHO IS THE HACKER SUSPECT'S GIRLFRIEND?
Interestingly, Appelbaum reports on something that he may have brought to WikiLeaks to be "useful to the movement," or in fact learned from WikiLeaks:
Snowden: Yes, of course. We're 1 in bed together with the Germans the same as with most other Western countries. For example, we 2 tip them off when someone we want is flying through their airports (that we for example, have learned from the cell phone of a suspected hacker's girlfriend in a totally unrelated third country -- and they hand them over to us.
When he says "we," he means the NSA, while he worked there. So...who is this "suspected hacker's girlfriend in a totally unrelated third country"? Interesting. Is that Quinn Norton, the late Aaron Swartz's ex-girlfriend? There aren't *that* many suspected hackers -- and with girlfriends -- that we can't narrow down that list and figure it out. Norton was interrogated by the grand jury about Swartz. I believe she has been searched at borders as well. Is it she?
Because that's a clue. In his routine work for the CIA/NSA/Booz, Allen, was Snowden charged with tracking suspected hacker's girlfriends? That seems unlikely and I think it's a story that needs probing. Did WikiLeaks tell him to go and look at what was happening to that suspected leaker's girlfriend because she felt she was being watched or compromised?
Remember how secret police always work, the world over, but particularly the KGB. They start by asking you to do something to help their cause, or maybe they convince you that it helps your own movement better. They ask you to do something for them. This might be something innocuous like finding them a newspaper clipping or somebody's name that they could get anyway -- they just want to have you in their clutches, working for them, saying you performed a favour for them. They get their hook in because people often rationalize these first favours by saying they are not serious, and the KGB could get it anyway.
This favour-banking can work both ways as new recruits try to get in good with the movement by doing a favour and proving their use. One of the things Manning himself seemed to offer to get in good with Assange was to pull the WikiLeaks reports on Assange's surveillance in Iceland and the details of the story that supposedly only Assange and his trackers would know. That would prove he had the access he did.
So did someone ask Snowden to look up what was happening to the hacker's girlfriend? Or did he read about it and see if he could be helpful?