Snowden: Traitor or Hero?

In the spirit of fun friday, I thought we might have a debate here at AVC over the Snowden affair and particularly whether Snowden is a traitor or a hero.

My opinion is he's a bit of both, but more hero than traitor. 

What's yours?


Comments (Archived):

  1. John Revay

    Ditto Both – I just think more traitor than hero

  2. Dave W Baldwin

    Would be both. There are some things “revealed” that were already known, as pointed out by 60 Minutes fans, but the fact of just how far the reach is is now in the minds of everyone.I’m concerned over the lack of contingency plan that is obvious (you should always have a plan for whatever happens, including security breach) and lack of security.

  3. Tom Labus

    I would toss in naive too: Deficient in worldly wisdom and informed judgement.We may know more specifics today on NSA programs but they have been banging away (as their charter) at this in some form since the 1970’s.

  4. Trevor McKendrick

    Who is he betraying? As a citizen I now feel more empowered and better informed about my government and its powers thanks to Snowden.While he may have hurt the US government, he has protected its citizens. I think one’s opinion will depend on where your loyalty resides between the two.

    1. BillMcNeely

      Trevor in the United States these two things are not separate. If I remember correctly the 3 word words of the US Constitution are We the PeopleIf DC is is screwwed up its because you and I don’t care enough to do our part and get involved enough to write our representatives to express our desires.Remember Abraham Lincoln once said:Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the EarthRead more at… Abraham Lincoln once said :

      1. Trevor McKendrick

        True, we are ultimately responsible for our government.But that is why I consider Snowden a hero; he’s the one pushing the US government to better represent what “We the People” want.

      2. $28312048

        Thats fine, but didn’t you just say we don’t need to know everything? How can we make those kind of decisions if we are not informed of the decisions they are making? Your world view does not add up to a coherent and functioning narrative, let a lone political system.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          > political systemOkay, the US Constitution, in particularin this case the Fourth Amendment. Myview is that the NSA trashed the FourthAmendment.> we don’t need to know everything?Right, but we still need to follow theConstitution.What we need to do seems simple enough:Follow the Constitution and get the badguys. Of these two, not just zero (e.g.,trash the Constitution and fail to stopthe Boston Bomber) or one of these two butboth of them.So far a few wackos with a little sparecash and some box cutters have gotten usto throw about $3 T NPV into Iraq, throwbig bucks into more big government in theUS, and trash the US Constitution.Bummer.It’s dumb leadership and government out ofcontrol. It’s more dangerous to thefuture of the US than some wackos with boxcutters.

          1. SubstrateUndertow

            Pretty good ROI for the bad guys.If we’re predictable we’re controllable.We’ve been played !

      3. SubstrateUndertow

        Let’s not forget that many American families are up to their ass in alligators just trying to make end meet.That takes a lot of people out of play.Poor distribution of wealth, power, education and thus control is not so much immoral as it is destructive of middle-class driven democracy.

    2. kidmercury

      he def betrayed NSA, ATT, silicon valley

      1. Trevor McKendrick

        To a point, yes. My point is that ultimately loyalty should be directed at organizations who are helping US citizens.If you help the government more than its citizens, you don’t deserve loyalty.

        1. kidmercury


    3. Farhan Abbasi

      Amazing point

  5. jason wright

    there must be a lot of absolute loyalists working at the NSA, but loyal to what exactly?

    1. $28312048

      There are a lot of good folks at NSA, CIA, etc. who are very smart and very dedicated. We need to turn them back to the proper mission for what they were founded and not the pawns of powerful interests looking to stroke their egos.

  6. John Best

    I worry about your sense of fun sometimes, Fred! 🙂

    1. kidmercury

      hoping next week’s fun friday is about trayvon martin/george zimmerman

      1. Jeff Bodle

        lol – then we can cover israel/palestine the week after that.

      2. Brad

        That would be fascinating….

      3. LE


    2. fredwilson

      good point

      1. Vasudev Ram

        he he, good reply.@BestJohnD:disqus: you should worry if he doesn’t have a sense of humor.Fred can be sneaky sometimes … on this blog at least 🙂 Anyone remember Elf Yourself? Good one …

  7. pointsnfigures

    agree with you, a bit of both. when you are getting asylum in Russia, not feeling like all was kosher there.

    1. $28312048

      The enemy of your enemy is your friend. In this case the enemy is the US government (not the American people).

  8. LIAD

    What about if we ask the same question but replace ‘Snowden’ with ‘Obama’ or ‘NSA’

    1. pointsnfigures

      Obama and the NSA are no heroes. Just follow the IRS scandal that no one is reporting on. Now emails between the IRS and SEC. And, check out the immigration bill that is totally screwed up. E-verify will allow the govt to pry into your private life even more than it already can. People worry about sharing on Facebook-heh, The govt knows what you will like and say on Facebook before you even type it.

      1. MikeSchinkel

        If no one is reporting on the “IRS scandal”, how can you be sure you know all the facts?

      2. $28312048

        So if no one is reporting it, where are you getting your information? Red State? Drudge? Glenn Beck University? Infowars?

    2. David Music

      Take this one step further and ask the same question about the mainstream media. In my opinion they are the most lacking component of this entire event. Their reporting on the Manning trial has been generally non-existent and their discussions of Snowden haven’t included a focus on the government’s responsibility in everything.

  9. Anne Libby

    Agree on both, and currently lean more towards “hero”. Yet there has been so little time since this all came up. We’ll keep learning more as news.And then there’s what we’ll learn as history. Other not-so-proud moments in US government behavior are still being unwound, by historians and in the arts. (Has anyone read the Thomas Mallon novel on Watergate, just published last year? If so, how was it?)

  10. MikeSchinkel

    Definitely more hero, haven’t heard anything yet that would make me think he is a traitor (but then I don’t know all the facts.)

  11. BillMcNeely

    Snowden was looking like a hero until he received asylum in Russia. Especially in light of the Manning trail outcome yesterday .Now he looking is looking traitor .

    1. MikeSchinkel

      Why does asylum in Russia make him a traitor? Any port in a storm…

      1. BillMcNeely

        In this case not any port. Russia/Putin are our adversaries on many different levels and also have the capability to both exploit the information Snowden possesses and protect him from our intelligence service efforts either to retrieve him or eliminate him in order to mitigate the damage he could do.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          You are assuming that he is sharing said information with Russia. That has not been proven nor is it consistent with the actions of his that have been documented by The Guardian.

          1. BillMcNeely

            Mike,It’s possible (but not plausible) he did not share the information with the Russians but by romping around the globe with unsecured classified information within laptop/USBs it is leaving the door open for it simply to be taken.

          2. $28312048

            Its encrypted. It has been stated many time it has been encypted. Don’t let facts slip in through the tin foil though in your completely manufactured story line.

          3. BillMcNeely

            I worked on a project with a guy who was the Senior Enlisted Advisor at the NSA and the guy who started the FBI’s Cyber Security division who did a lot of counter espionage against the Russians during the Cold War. Based on my conversations with them I don’t take the Russians lightly.

          4. MikeSchinkel

            Given the US government’s canceling of Snowden’s passport and its bullying of other countries (like Iceland) not to accept his asylum requests, seems like the US government is more at fault for the Snowden’s choice of where the laptops reside than he is.

          5. BillMcNeely

            Interesting about his passport. I had not heard that. Has Russia said if they would issue him one?

          6. $28312048

            There is a lot Bill is assuming that has nothing to do with reality, that makes having these kinds of conversations in a civilized tone almost impossible because some people insist and revel in their ignorance of basic facts and think just making shit up is an appropriate point to argue from.

        2. Chris

          So if the US had a ‘solution’ to this problem that was not 1000+ years in jail after a kangaroo court, I’m sure he would have returned…

        3. $28312048

          Eliminate him? So you are advocating for the extrajudicial assassination of a US citizen because he exposed potentially illegal government programs? You are beyond the pale, Bill.

          1. BillMcNeely

            I am not advocating “extrajudicial assassination of a US citizen” I am just telling you how governments and intelligence services think and do in the real world.Snowden represents a clear and present danger because the information he is hauling around both physically and in his head. Its in the US interest to capture him. Baring that, the mindset is to stop him from distributing the information. If an cyber attack can accomplish this no problem, discrediting him like calling him a high school drop out or mis characterizing his military service ,even better.Trust me “extrajudicial assassination of a US citizen” is not out of the realm of possibility when the perceived good of the group outweighs the what’s best for the individual. A hard concept for we Americans to grasp when the exact opposite is true in our society.

          2. $28312048

            Alex Jones is coming on soon, hurry up!

          3. MikeSchinkel

            “… when the perceived good of the group outweighs the what’s best for the individual.”That’s exactly the problem; who decides what is good for the group, and who decides who comprises the “group?”As computers system and military weapons have increasingly concentrated intelligence and power having these types of decisions made without significant oversight driven by the will of the people is an ever increasing slippery slope to (dare I say it?) tyranny. And tyranny is exactly would our founding fathers sought to avoid.I get it, you are part of the machine that makes the decisions, which gives you insight that we do not have. And that’s exactly why your call for Snowden to be labeled a traitor or worse to be assassinated need to be viewed through the lens of extreme bias.

          4. BillMcNeely

            Mike your provide a good everyday perspective on the topic.I think most Americans were operating under the contract that as long as they were not the target of a criminal investigation everyday communication and electronics were not to be monitored.For better or worse, 9/11 changed that.

          5. MikeSchinkel

            “For better or worse, 9/11 changed that.”To that I have to completely agree with you.What I think the most important question now is “Should it have changed everything as it did?” My current belief — based on my limited understanding — is “No” (to be clear, we all have a limited understanding.)I do believe that change should have occurred, but not in the direction it did.

    2. $28312048

      Manning is facing 130 years in prison after spending several years in conditions that the UN has condemned as torture. What, exactly, are you seeing that would him come running back?

      1. BillMcNeely

        Manning was not convicted of Aiding the Enemy, the most serious charge. Releasing all the information he did, however informative and also at the same time irresponsible, was not a direct handover to an enemy of the United States.Now Snowden may be another story. If the US puts together plausible story (true or not) that he intended to turn this information over to a state intelligence service or terrorist group that is a completely different game.At that point a couple senior government officials and General Officers forgetting Army Values would be quickly forgotten.

        1. $28312048

          Manning is still facing 130 years in prison after being tortured by his fellow soldiers. Why did you completely glance over that fact to just go essentially “Well, he isn’t getting the death penalty!”Snowden did what he intended to do: spark a conversation about our 4th amendment rights when it comes to domestic surveillance by turning it over to journalists who vetted it and published responsibly… not state actors.Are you a writer for InfoWars or something, because your posts have almost nothing to do with reality,

          1. BillMcNeely

            I think we are going to have to respectfully disagree on the subject. As a former ( and soon to be again) Army officer and defense professional for the last 11+ years I have a unique perspective that shapes my point of view.I have had the opportunity to go to places mentioned in these two stories, meet some of the government officials involved and deal with the fallout at the tactical level when bad strategic errors occur.What shapes your point of view?

        2. MikeSchinkel

          “If the US puts together plausible story (true or not)…”So in your mind false propaganda is completely acceptable as long as it supports the powers that be?

          1. BillMcNeely

            I was just presenting that the US intelligence service would use false propaganda to further attack Snowden credibility. In the intelligence game the truth as well as right and wrong are the first casualties.Just take the search for Bin Laden. The female at the CIA who was very instrumental in synthesizing the information to catch him.Along the way she upset some people and kept pointing to the data until somebody listen we caught him. Her reward was a no promotion.The Commander of the Delta Force Troop who took on AQ in Tora Bora wanted to press the attack but was denied. He spoke out and declared persona non grata by the JSOC. That’s bad for operators looking for post retirement employment.In goverment its about the group, not the individual. It’s counter to our culture as whole but it is what is.

          2. MikeSchinkel

            Okay, I think I misunderstood. I thought you were condoning it rather than just describing it, as it now sounds to me you are doing the latter. Apologies

  12. Jeff Bodle

    Traitor. Citizens do not need to know everything. Our elected representatives knew exactly what was going on. He compromised our national interest and any doubts about his motivations were answered by his actions following his leaks. It does not seem to be a close call to me at all.

    1. kidmercury


      1. Jeff Bodle

        i am glad i made you laugh on fun friday.

        1. kidmercury

          i am too! thanks for the chuckles! 🙂

    2. MikeSchinkel

      “Citizens do not need to know everything” – I guess you are not familiar with the phrase “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Nor with the founder’s concept of checks and balances; you can’t check what you can’t know about.

    3. Chris

      You’ve hit the nail on the head – but this is why he’s more hero than traitor. I don’t think citizens do know what’s going on. As a Brit, for example, I had no idea the NSA was funding GCHQ to the tune of £30m pa and this information has serious implications about the moral independence of my country – a moral direction that I as a voter cannot influence if I don’t know about it. So I agree with you – citizens don’t need to know the detail of what’s going on, but there should be enough information about the framework that I can make informed judgements about what I think is an acceptable trade off in the inevitable freedom vs security debate.

    4. $28312048

      Jeff – we are a democracy and there is a giant gulf between knowing everything and knowing something. Since when are even the LAWS secret?

    5. LE

      “Citizens do not need to know everything.”Agree. It’s like the person who sues the physician for the bad outcome because they were not told of all the risks in detail. Same people who will take a drug without reading the drug insert which discloses in excruciating detail risks in the minutest details. Or smoke or take drugs fully knowing the risks.”He compromised our national interest”Agree.”Our elected representatives knew exactly what was going on.”One of the problems with how politicians get overloaded with the latest [affects minor group of people who are the squeaky wheels] instead of concentrating on the more important bigger fish issues. To many “one child harmed is one to many” type of thinking going on.Kinda like the Zimmerman debate which we will discuss next Friday. One guys gets killed and we are ready to rewrite the laws because “one is to many what if it was your son/daughter”. Ridiculous.

    6. SubstrateUndertow

      “Citizens do not need to know everything.”Will there never come a time when citizens knowing everything will not be problematic to optimal democratic governance or is that social-bedrock quantum mechanics ?

    7. Pete Griffiths

      “Our elected representatives knew exactly what was going on. “Hahahahahaha.They still don’t know and even the ones who are trying to find out are having all kinds of problems.

  13. jason wright

    the bottom line is that you don’t know what you don’t know. some people would rather not know and continue to live a cloistered dream and hate on people like Snowden for shattering that dream. the truth hurts, but it also sets you free. Snowden is that mirror that we must all in to from time to time for a reality check on our true selves.

  14. kidmercury

    now this is my kinda fun friday! beef friday is more like might be a little complicated depending on what’s actually going on at the super secret levels, but definitely more hero than traitor. people who say he is unequivocally a traitor are way too young, apparently they all fell off the turnip truck yesterday. they probably think 9/11 was pulled by some magical dudes in a cave capable of defying physics and that jfk was killed by a magic bullet. if they believe that there’s no hope, they’ll fall for anything.ironically the real traitors are people who say he’s a traitor.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      They aren’t traitors. They just really like their soma.

    2. Brad

      I grew up knowing congressmen and governors (small state, fed judge for a dad) and I can tell you we put an awful lot of trust in these guys. Most are average intelligence and are more interested in what the public thinks of them than they are about what is doing right for the country.With that said, the politicians do not like that they were caught, so they call the whistle blowers traitors. The information gathered can benefit so many, an example may be that the current administration found out what the Romney campaign’s strategy was. If they can gather emails that easily, does it not behoove them to take a glimpse? This may be a far fetch, but maybe not.I do not know all the details so I can not say with certain, but it sure seems like the politicians got caught with their pants down and are now trying to make a ploy to stop the damage.

  15. howardlindzon

    Does he use an iphone or droid. If still a Blackberry, I assume Traitor.

    1. William Mougayar

      And is he still maintaining his Facebook & Twitter accounts?

      1. $28312048

        Just the Ars Technica one!

    2. fredwilson

      we can always count on howard to bring the needed comic relief!

      1. LE

        A way to avoid answering the question posed.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Thank you for this Howard. Brilliant.

    4. NoceraGrams


      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Love the name !

    5. jason wright

      why is that?George III should have hung the lot of ’em

  16. andyswan

    He’s the guy that tells you your kid isn’t yours….

    1. MikeSchinkel

      LOL! That probably describes it better than any other 1000 words could. 🙂

    2. $28312048

      And that he’s keeping the cat in the divorce.

  17. Scott Barnett

    he’s neither. He may have done some courageous (and stupid) things, but I don’t see what he did as being heroic or traitourous – but it certainly makes for a good story!

  18. Siminoff

    I think the more important question is pre-Snowden did anyone think that the US government was not doing this stuff? There were enough published facts from post 9/11 that show that the government had significant abilities to tap telephone/internet.Snowden is really only guilty of confirming what everyone should have already known, IMHO.

    1. Adam Kearney

      Of course, many people knew but there has been what Jay Rosen at Press Think is calling “The Snowden Effect.” Essentially, he has widened the circle of people who know, even if the knowledge has been available before. At the very least, Snowden has invoked a public conversation about privacy that has needed to occur for a very long time.

      1. Siminoff

        Agree100%. I think that the best thing that has happened here is that Snowden created a discussion that the country has needed to have for a very long time.

        1. Dendax

          Couldn’t agree more!

    2. Tyler Hayes

      When Lewinsky went down…”Every President’s gotten a little extra in the oval office. This isn’t news.”#shitmydadsays

  19. gorbachev

    Undoubtedly a hero.It’s sad Wyden couldn’t (or wouldn’t) talk about the spying when “our” representatives were briefed about the programs.

    1. $28312048

      Couldn’t. He is more useful operating in the system, which takes a certain courage of its own to poke the belly from within the beast.

  20. Derickvoo

    @fredsmithOff topic: since you’ve stated in the last that your always looking for blog post ideas, how about “question Sunday”.Where people can tweet you any question and you chose one to answer on Sunday (or any day for that matter).(Keeping it a tweet to 140 characters will help ensure people as concise & to the point).Just an idea and here’s your first 140 character question :)Q: “I’m 32, live within my means. Have $350k in savings. Where should I invest my savings? Stock market, bonds, etc.”

    1. kidmercury

      fred’s last name is wilson. unless you meant your comment for this guy, although he hasn’t been on twitter since 2007.

      1. Derickvoo

        Whoops, my iPhone auto completed incorrect.You’re correct. This is meant for @fredwilson

  21. Vineeth Kariappa

    Am waiting for Kathryn Bigelow’s movie. Will make up my mind after Michael Moore’s.

  22. MikeSchinkel

    Something I have not seen any media pundit mention is that I think the biggest damage done to the interests of the US government (vs. the interests of the US people, mind you) is the US government’s reaction to the Snowden leak:”Honestly, we don’t spy on American citizens; you have nothing to worry about.”What they (IMO stupidly) have said is this:”Hey you, the 95% of the rest of the world’s population, we spy on YOU. If you are NOT a US Citizen, you can’t trust us, NOT ONE IOTA.”So what does that tell our allies? The USA is their enemy. What happens when the entire rest of the world allies against the US? Unlikely? Maybe? Maybe not. But if so it’ll be like the fall of the Roman empire all over again.To me this is the most damning thing to occur because of Snowden’s actions, and it was not Snowden’s fault; it was the fault of our overreaching government.

    1. $28312048

      That, and could be crippling to US companies in the same way we demonize Huwai (spelling) for Chinese security concerns.

      1. MikeSchinkel

        Exactly.The USA is no longer acting like the shining light on the hill it once was viewed to be. That will have ramifications far greater and for decades longer than the fact Snowden released a few documents…

        1. $28312048

          Exactly. The only recourse these companies will have is to play serious hardball on privacy with the government instead of just paying lip service to the idea. These are global, multi-national companies and if they need to move elsewhere to survive, they will.

          1. MikeSchinkel

            If CEOs move their companies to other countries will then they not be considered traitors too? Chilling,…

          2. $28312048

            CEO’s mostly operate as amoral individuals and have been moving most of our companies overseas for decades leaving a sea of low wage jobs selling all the stuff they are shipping back that used to be made here. Where is that outrage?

          3. MikeSchinkel

            Should there be outrage?My comment was to imply that those who challenge others as traitors often escalate…

          4. $28312048

            Outrage is subjective. The factory workers shopping at Walmart, Amazon, etc. shouldn’t be outraged they lost their jobs when they essentially signed their death warrant. Computer programs should probably be outraged when tech companies want to start playing with immigration rules so they can bring in more employees to work at half the price. Where you sit is where you stand on the issue.

          5. MikeSchinkel

            “Where you sit is where you stand on the issue.”Usually, but not always. The people I respect the most are those whose principles demand change in ways that are counter to their own short-term personal interests. Although few and far between, those people exist and albeit in small ways I like to think of myself as one of them.

    2. christopolis

      the scariest reaction was when they justify the actions based on who they caught. hoping they dont find Japanese internment camps stopped any attacks on the motherand, I mean “homeland”

  23. Brandon Burns

    Snowden is a traitor. For the simple reason that, until he was sequestered at Sheremetyevo, he released his stolen information in such a way that created the most havoc possible and sought out zero more legitimate, sanctioned ways to whistle blow.Bradley Manning is a hero. He found information, sought out legitimate avenues for whistle blowing, and only when denied over and over again by his military, government and more reputable press sources, did he resort to a more drastic step — and even when he did, he was extremely sensitive about the information that was acquired and how / how much of it got leaked.Snowden is a diva with a martyr complex. Manning is an upstanding gentleman who tried to do what was right.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      So if you release hidden information that should be known by the public but put yourself in a position to be easily jailed and silenced you are a hero and an upstanding gentlemen but if you do similar yet do your best to ensure that you won’t be silenced so you can continue the education of the public you are a traitor and a diva with a martyr complex?And are you sure you are not confusing Snowden with the image of Snowden portrayed by a ratings hungry media?

      1. Brandon Burns

        My kind of heroes act with integrity and set a positive example for others to look up to. Snowden didn’t.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          I guess it’s a matter of perspective then. IMO Snowden did.

        2. $28312048

          How do you figure? You don’t even seem to have the basic facts of the case in your grasp to make that sort of judgement. An informed opinion is better than an ill-informed one.

        3. mcbeese

          Agreed. Running off with our confidential information to seek shelter from our enemies is not something that heroes do.

    2. Hershberg

      I consider both Snowden and Manning to be heroes, but you have your facts mixed up.The reality is that Snowden leaked all of his information to Glenn Greenwald, a journalist, and he and others at The Guardian, a publication, vetted everything before it was subsequently made available to the public. It was The Guardian that ultimately decided what information would be put out and when, not Snowden. That is tprecisely he way whistleblowers in this country have historically provided information about the government’s unconstitutional/criminal activity to the public.Manning tried a similar approach, but was forced to turn to Wikileaks for publication because the New York Times and The Washington Post didn’t take him seriously. Given that he ultimately leaked 700,000 documents (which caused no one any harm and I have no problem with), I can’t really see how you could make the case that he somehow took a more responsible approach to leaking than Snowden did.

    3. Ryan Frew

      I disagree, the nature of what Snowden released was not particularly dangerous – he took the care to show the public information they (we) needed that would not get anyone else hurt. That, in and of itself, is not “creating the most havoc possible”. If he wanted to simply create havoc, I think he could have released even more, more sensitive information.

    4. $28312048

      Snowden is a diva, but the crux of your argument doesn’t hold water. He went to the Washington Post and The Guardian to filter and disseminate and has taken great paints to minimize damage while acknowledging and provoking a needed conversation.

  24. tomasvdb

    I find it odd that people even use the word ‘traitor’ in this context. Who did he betray? The government? America? In a complex, global society the idea that it is ‘us’ vs ‘them’ is just ridiculously simplistic. He exposed what he thought needed exposing (and i agree with him on that) but that also doesn’t make him a hero. He just did what he thought was right. Sure, having asylum in Russia doesn’t aid his image, but you really think he has a choice? He pissed off the biggest bully in the world, and to keep him safe, he ran to another big bully. Neither traitor nor hero, but definitely an example to us all.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      The word “traitor” is needed because it allows those who feel their interests harmed to demonize in the mind of uncritical observers. Without such simplistic words how would it be possible to get such a large swath of population to instinctively knee-jerk in opposition to such a target of propaganda?

      1. abhisshack

        Could not agree more

      2. kidmercury

        it’s the political equivalent to how folks in the technology world use open/closed, or how fredlanders use the term anarchy

      3. JLM

        .Promises are simple things. You give them. You respect them. You break them.Snowden induced folks to employ him by offering promises contained in a security clearance application.The most basic promise was to keep secrets entrusted to him as part of his work.He broke that promise.It is not a complicated concept, and, yes, it is simple. However, it is also the truth.The rest of the saga falls under the notion of putting whipped cream on a cow patty and calling it birthday cake. At it’s core, it is still shit.Snowden broke freely given promises and no amount of whipped cream is going to convert that shit into a birthday cake.JLM.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          Some of the most revered men and women in history broke their promises to those whose malfeasance they exposed. Some promises are better off broken when the greater good is at stake.

          1. JLM

            .Mike, who would make your list of “…the most revered men and women in history [who] broke their promises…”?Not too many in the spook business that I can identify, but perhaps I am missing some? So, speak up. Who?The temptation to make such broad generalizations is high but the facts rarely support the assertions.It is not the province of 28 year olds to divine what is the greater good for either their country or those whose lives are held hostage by the secrets revealed.He was not a field operative. He was not even an analyst. He was a young, inexperienced, clueless, computer geek sitting in front of a computer who has now put at risk men in the field.Left to their values, he would have long since disappeared. He has undoubtedly let both the Chinese and the Russians access whatever is in those 4 laptops. The simple fact that he is alive speaks to this.JLM.

          2. MikeSchinkel

            “Mike, who would make your list of “…the most revered menand women in history [who] broke their promises…”?”Didn’t take much research:Joe Valachi, Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, Joseph “The Ear” Massino, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, Ken “Tokyo Joe” Eto, Tommaso Buscetta, Frank Lucas, Max Mermelstein and Henry Hill broke their promises to the mob.The Greeks lied to the Trojans about the horse.Harry Truman: “The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians.”John F. Kennedy: “I have previously stated and I repeat now that the United States intends no military intervention in Cuba.”Ronald Reagan: “We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages — nor will we.”George W. Bush: “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”Raoul Wallenberg: Lied to the Nazis to save thousands of Jewish lives in Hungary in 1944.LBJ lied to the US people about the Vietnam war.And if it were worth my time to research more I could find many men and women who throughout history lied for the greater good. It’s my current belief that Snowden has lied for the greater good, and I am not alone:- Former Senator Gordon J Humphrey- Former Senator Mike Gravel- Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers- to name a few.But your challenging my assertion is just subterfuge. The real issue is the question “Is it acceptable to allow US intelligence agencies to operate without any meaningful checks and balances just because, as you have said, they already have been doing so for years.” My position is that it is absolutely unacceptable; and please don’t be so condescending as to call me naive. The world has changed significantly since the Cold War and Cold War tactics are not even relevent today.”Not too many in the spook business that I can identify, but perhaps I am missing some? So, speak up. Who?”When did I say people in the spook business? I didn’t.”He has undoubtedly let both the Chinese and the Russians access whatever is in those 4 laptops. The simple fact that he is alive speaks to this.”What a bunch of tripe. Your bias don’t translate into guaranteed fact.

          3. Ed Cooke

            Poor old JLM. Didn’t see that coming!

          4. JLM

            .Mike, I guess our thresholds for “reverence” are a bit different?The Mafia guys you mentioned were all just thugs who bargained being an informant for their own freedom. They were not men of conscience, they were common criminals and murderers.Deserving of reverence? For what?I think you have conflated the telling of a lie and L’affaire Snowden.Snowden did not tell a lie.He broke a freely given promise he had made and revealed secrets which he had promised not to reveal. That is a big difference than the simple notion of telling a lie.The promise he had made was in the inducement to grant him a security clearance in order to be able to enter into an employment arrangement. Nobody asked or recruited Snowden to make these promises. He, in fact, induced the CIA and Booz Allen (NSA contractor) to consider him for employment by the representations he made in the applications for these clearances.In violating his promises, he did not stand and face the music, he fled and became a fugitive from the consequences of his actions. In this manner, his actions were those of a criminal fleeing from the consequences of his crimes.He fled into the arms of the Chinese and the Russians. This raises the logical considerations of why?You completely misapprehend my view as it relates to the conduct of domestic operations by the NSA. I am a huge critic of what has been revealed thus far — as an example that the NSA oversight of phone and email is a “three hop” process.The manner in which the NSA leaked this info on three different occasions at three different Congressional hearings was classic damage control. Nonetheless, they admitted to a three hop sweep which is literally the entire world.Much of what they have done is clearly in violation of the Constitution. My point is very simple — give guys who routinely break other countries’ laws on a daily basis hundreds of Cray computers and unlimited storage and it will only be a week or two before they design a “cool” experiment and with the ability to compartmentalize operations by using outside contractors.Who watches the watchers? NOBODYYour naivete is not your opinion but rather the notion that it is either new or novel. This stuff has been going on for decades. The cooperation among the telecoms, Internet companies and other digital Illuminati has been going on since the first code was written.Why would anyone be surprised, when the NSA is by its very charter authorized to do this. There is nobody who has ever rubbed up against the intelligence community who is even remotely surprised.JLM.

    2. kidmercury


    3. SubstrateUndertow

      The poor fellow at some point had to look in the mirror and realize “oh-shit”I’m that guyThat guy – seriously trapped by history, fateful-circumstance and conscience.All I know is that I would not have the courage to step up to that plate and take on the burden of such thankless moral imperative !

    4. Salt Shaker

      Whether he’s a traitor or hero is clearly debatable, but what isn’t is the fact he’s unintentionally now become a political pawn. Foreign countries that have come to his aid do so not cause they truly believe in Snowden’s convictions and what he stands for, as much as they just love to stick it to the good ole USA!

    5. JLM

      .Our lives have been made safe by rough men who operate in the shadows and who break the laws of other countries to protect us while we sleep. This is an adaption of a famous saying but it also applies to the business of intelligence and espionage.To do this effectively, we have to create and maintain secrets. This is the fuel that allows us to foil a plot which would otherwise kill our countrymen. The keeping of secrets is the basic commitment that the participants make in the Great Game.Keeping secrets saves lives.Snowden applied for and agreed to the provisions of a security clearance which required him to keep secrets. He asked for this as a part of his job as a CIA contract guy and an employee of an NSA contractor.Nobody twisted Snowden’s arm. He applied for these clearances and agreed to their terms.Then, he broke his word. What happened and why is not as important as the fundamental fact that Snowden gave his word as a premise for employment and then broke that word.The fact that he trolled 4 laptops filled to overflowing with secrets he had no right to see, copy or reveal through China and Russia speaks for itself.He is a traitor to himself and his country but most importantly he is a traitor to the promises — inducements for employment — that he freely gave and equally freely broke.Men will die because of his revelations and our safety will be compromised.He is without a question a traitor.JLM.

  25. sbmiller5


  26. Roger Ellman

    “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”

  27. opoeian

    Hero. Obviously governments and their organisations spy on their own people and the world around them. And I think that’s kind of ok to some extent. But what matters is ‘how much’ spying is being done, and under what circumstances is this spying ok, and what sort of information is being kept? This is what Snowden has revealed.In the early 90’s when the Swiss found out their government was keeping a profile on everybody, the people were outraged. But not because the government was doing this, but because the government was going beyond their agreed mandate, and the people were not told of what was happening. In the end the people accepted that the government continue doing this practise, but people had the right view their own profile. Win win (to a degree)

  28. Raj

    “Information wants to be free”

  29. baba12

    What the framers of the Constitution wanted was a government that knew very little about the people while the people knew everything about their government.Unfortunately we have a country filled with nincompoops naive and lacking the capacity to connect the dots. Thus we the people having abdicated our responsibility have allowed the reverse of what the framers had in mind become reality.Today your government knows more about you the individual while you know little or nothing about your government.Mr. Edward Snowden can’t be framed as being a traitor nor a hero. There will be many who label him a traitor and would like to see him remanded indefinitely as he threatens their fiefdoms be it the contractors like Booz Allen, Halliburton, IBM, Northrop Grumman etc, so called elected representatives i.e. 535 members we have in the house and senate and their handlers. All these folks have a lot to loose if things get out so labelling him a traitor and prosecuting him for that thereby shutting him down is the best thing can do.On the other side those who would label him a hero are those happen to be progressive middle class ball-less folks who wish they could be the one standing up and challenging the status quo.I am waiting for the day when the shrinking middle class does finally wake up to how the nation is being shredded. Maybe then we shall have a revolution. FOr now the poor don’t have the energy nor capacity to organize and challenge. The rich have no need to revolt they have managed to get the government that works for them. But unfortunately greed has gotten them to throw the bone with any marrow in it, there used to be a time when the bone thrown had some meat on it, greed made sure that it is now meatless bones with a bit of marrow. When they suck it dry and just throw the bone then the middle class will revolt, at that point what the NSA knows will not be helpful as it would hopefully lead to a recalibration of how we want our society to be and possibly return to first principles.But for now let the lambs be led… Snowden is just pointing out what has been known to most folks even if they just watched Jerry Springer and updated their facebook page.

    1. Pete Griffiths

      “On the other side those who would label him a hero are those happen to be progressive middle class ball-less folks who wish they could be the one standing up and challenging the status quo.”??????

      1. baba12

        So you are bewildered by that statement. Let me clarify that possibly..So any change to come in the U.S. has to be spearheaded by the middle class. The RIch have no incentive to change they are fine and dandy with the status quo. The poor have no capacity to organize, become aware of what is happening to their lives nor have the ability to connect the dots. They are barely managing to stay alive.The burden of making change happen falls on the shrinking middle class.For the last 40 years that group has been in a quandary, stuck and unable to have significant change that changes things.Reason being they are afraid to loose what little they have. THus they have allowed to be pushed, eventually they will have nothing else but to push back. I refer to them as lacking courage (ball-less) to stand up and challenge he status quo, and when someone like a Snowden points out what is wrong they wish they could have been that person.It will take a critical mass of “Snowdens” to bring about effective change and that requires the middle class to be pushed to a point where they don’t fear anything and will stand up.Until then it will be just going about doing the basic routines of life, watching Jerry Springer and Housewives of ….and being comfortably numb.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          Absolutely, change must come from the middle class. That is strongly related to one of the main thesis of the very insightful book from 1951 titled “The True Believer”:

        2. Pete Griffiths

          Thanks for the explanation. In which case we are in dire straits indeed, because as you shrewdly observe, the middle class is being eviscerated.

          1. baba12

            Yes we are in dire straits, have been for at least 4 decades and there is no effort being made to challenge it. Most of us in this shrinking base fear that if we challenge the status quo we won’t be able to be the lucky ones to wiggle through the net and be amongst the 5%’ers or god forbid we dare become part of the 1%.Thus we continue to spin in our own crap, not able to see that it is time to organize, be smart and revolt.

          2. Pete Griffiths

            We’re doomed.

  30. vruz

    My opinion is that he’s neither. He’s only upholding the Constitution of the United States, pointing the finger at the government’s criminal activities.The fact that the exposed criminal activities are clumsily dissimulated behind a patchwork of legal doublethink doesn’t make them a lot better.Anyone in their right minds would do the same Snowden did, which goes to show the state of mental sanity of government and military officials and their corporate partners in crime, not content with destroying the US Constitution they now set out to cripple international law as well.The whole thing is utterly disgraceful.

    1. $28312048

      I don’t think you have to not be in the right mind, but you have to have a set of cahones bigger than most. That guy gave up EVERYTHING.

      1. vruz

        Wake up. EVERYBODY is giving up EVERYTHING.

        1. $28312048

          You just gave up your six figure job in paradise and reasonably attractive girlfriend to live in a South American shit hole forever at the mercy of whatever nut job dictator is having a coup that month? Your desire to be a martyr to the cause is far outweighing your contribution.

          1. vruz

            I live in South America, genius.Go back to learning something about who actually runs your country.

          2. $28312048

            I see all your bluster isn’t making up for your deficiency in actual knowledge and instead have chosen to ramble on accordingly. There is always one of your kind to try and derail a relatively civil thread.Bluster will never be a stand in for idiocy.

          3. vruz

            Yes, because “south american shithole” and I don’t know what about dictators (do you live in 1970?) was a stroke of brilliance.Read books. Go away.

  31. mark

    Diaspora created a distributed social networking service in part to make it more difficult for governments to do, well, exactly what they’re doing. What might a social, community owned wikileaks look like (or does one exist); a service without a high profile leader that can be left holed up in an embassy for over a year. If such a thing existed would it encourage more heros like Snowden and Manning to release information? What news organisations would carry the information? And who cares since no-one involved with torture, kidnapping or anything else has ever faced charges (except in Italy)?

    1. $28312048

      … and after finally tracking down the CIA station chief in Panama just the other week they sent him back to the US instead of Italy to face his sentence!

  32. mattbywayofnyc

    Traitor – he took the job with the express purpose of securing and leaking information (it almost doesn’t matter what type of information or the purpose). No one involuntary forced him to contribute the breaking of laws, he wasn’t drafted, nor had a gun to his head and told to spy on his citizens.It’s not so much what he released and why, but I would think we would all agree that there is some need for a US intelligence network (since every other country has one as well), and we have to trust certain people to run that network. His act undermines the very foundation of how you need to run that type of organization – at its heart, you have to trust that someone is making good decisions – otherwise anarchy is the rule of the day. Trust, but verify…but most of these policies evolve over time by iteration, not by wholesale destruction of the practice.Today he is leaking our online ‘snooping’ information, tomorrow someone is leaking our covert operatives (under the guise that they are breaking UN conventions – of course illegal!). So if some country were to arrest and execute one of our citizens based on these findings all of you who would label the leaker a hero would be ok with the result.I think we are all coming to grips with online/data monitoring (and of course are uncomfortable with it), but the high level details have been known for a while. Where is the outcry for the heroes in North Korea who are systematically tampering with our banking/government online systems (since of course the US is nothing but capitalists / imperialists who want to take over the world).I think many of you are taking a very limited view of this an online privacy issue, and ignoring the geopolitical ramifications.And to those who blame the President, c’mon – government is made up of people (many of whom are the same idiots that live next door to us). Every one of us makes bad decisions based on pressures, motivations, and plain bad luck. Not every endpoint in policy is the result of a vast conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of government – most times its some midlevel manager trying to protect his job or get promoted to the next pay grade. I may not love this President, but I am not going to hang this one on him. If you want to do so, fine, but please explain to me what he should have done differently on this matter during past 5 years (and how the opposing party wouldn’t have used it to against him).

  33. brgardner

    What would you call someone who leaked all your companies most confidential information and had agreed and promised never to do it? The answer seems pretty clear to me, whether or not you agree with what the government is doing.

    1. kidmercury

      if the company is engaged in criminal activity, in many instances one would have a legal obligation to disclose it.

    2. $28312048

      The government is not a company. It is not a business. It is an organ of the people. It can arrest. It can kill. Evidence of potential illegality is not the same as leaking the coke recipe.

    3. fltron

      If the company was doing something illegal, you’d label that person a hero. The person would be a key witness for the prosecution, and that person would be able to live in the comforts of their home.People have leaked studies about how smoking is harmful, and how the cigarette companies knew about it. This led to the government going after them, and changing the laws to make society safer-ish from smoking.

      1. brgardner

        What is all this talk about illegal. The only thing illegal is what he did. Now you might not agree with what the government is doing, but that doesn’t make it necessarily illegal. Unethical or immoral, yes, but there are a lot of things that people do that I think are unethcal and immoral that are not illegal.

        1. Pete Griffiths

          I think you have missed the entire significance of what happened. The whole point is about the very real possibility that the government has indeed acted illegally. It is not a matter of agreement or morality but of law. We do have a constitution and it would be nice to think that this legally binding framework was being respected by the government. It is precisely this framework that underwrites the rule of law and makes the difference between something passing for a democracy for the people and an autocratic tyranny.

        2. mcbeese

          Agreed. I await details of how the government acted *illegally*, because I haven’t seen anything of substance yet.

  34. Salt Shaker

    I find it hard to classify Snowden a hero. First, he was under an NDA. His first ethical misstep was breaching that trust. Suppose he worked for one of your start-ups and revealed some of the company’s secrets to a competitor cause he thought what they were doing was morally wrong. Is a hero then? Of course not. Snowden recognized a wrong and tried to right it. His motives were in the right place, his actions weren’t. Yes, our gov’t isn’t transparent and is engaging in illicit activities. There are more productive ways to address those issues then doing what Snowden did. It’s a shame some of the media outlets he initially contacted weren’t responsive to his outreach. There were more responsible ways to deal w/ the gov’ts irresponsible behaviors. Snowden and Bradley have both set dangerous precedents that in my opinion are ethically no different than the Rosenbergs. Actions have consequences and Snowden and Manning will both rightfully suffer. The end doesn’t justify the means.

    1. $28312048

      What start up A.) works for the people and b.) can arrest people?The comparison to a start up and thinking the NDA is some kind of shield in the face of potentially massive illegality that erodes the very core of a super power is on a bit of shaky ground.Considering the governments war on whistle blowers and tendency to sweep its problems under the rug if the public isn’t watching, what do you suggest he do?

      1. Salt Shaker

        First, Snowden was a contract employee w/ Booz Allen Hamilton, not “the people.” His engaging in illicit activity to out another illicit activity (the gov’ts) is still morally and criminally wrong. His motives were sound, his actions weren’t.

        1. $28312048

          He was explicitly working for a GOVERNMENT contractor, thus doing the work of “the people”. Who do you think was paying Booz that made his paychecks clear the bank? Almost all of Booz’s budget comes from the government. He was at an NSA facility in MD when he had access to the documents. There is no amount of tap dancing in the world to get around that he didn’t work for the people.You can argue it was morally wrong, as it is subjective, but don’t be surprised when I and others find that stance morally repulsive.

          1. Guest

            The USA’s founding fathers were violating the laws of the crown. Were they then morally repulsive?

          2. $28312048

            They were violating it with the support of the populace. If the government has the support of the populace and the proper legal framework in place that is a different discussion and is different from the one we are currently facing.

          3. MikeSchinkel

            Between 1/3rd to 1/2 of colonists were “Loyalists” to the British crown[1] and the crown had a legal framework in place too. Recent surveys say ~55% of US believe Snowden a hero, ~35% a traitor. Is this really so different?[1]

          4. kidmercury

            you’re absolutely right, and just like what happened with the colonists, history will show who was right. revolutionaries are first branded as terrorists/traitors — all the way up until they’re proven right, then humorously they become icons of patriotism.

          5. Salt Shaker

            His employment contract was with Booz, not the gov’t or with “the people.” If you work for a non-profit that is underwritten by tax dollars, do you consider yourself a gov’t employee? Likely not. Our tax dollars underwrite many a biz but employees of those companies don’t necessarily consider themselves gov’t employees. They are bound by company policies and procedures and hired ideally to help the company fulfill its mission statement or core biz objectives. Now am I glad this has all lead to a public discourse on NSA activity. Yes. But the Q on the table is whether Snowden is a hero? I don’t believe how he went about this and the channels he chose to begin that discourse qualifies him as a hero. Just cause the gov’t engaged in illicit behavior doesn’t give Snowden the right to do the same, even if his breach was considerably less severe.

        2. MikeSchinkel

          The founding fathers of the USA were violating the laws of the crown. Were they then morally wrong?

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            I thought separation between morality and state was enshrined in the constitution. There is no such thing as for the “Good” of America. There is such a thing as in the interests of the American Peoples.These are both constitutionally distinct from moral rectitude, which amounts to opinions based on absolutes which are subject to belief.So from a true-blooded American perspective “wronging a state (including your own)” is mute regards morality if not law!

          2. MikeSchinkel

            In case it’s not clear, I agree with all you’ve said above.

          3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Mike – Thanks but is was clear – I was merely re-inforcing your point 🙂

          4. Jeff Bodle

            They were not. But they were traitors under the law and would have been hung if they lost the war. I don’t equate snowden with the founding fathers though and the founding fathers didn’t flee to russia.

          5. MikeSchinkel

            No, the founding fathers “fled” to the new USA. Snowden left the country, our Founding Fathers forcibly took the land and the tax revenues previously claimed by the Crown. Snowden has done much less morally wrong IMO then the Founding Fathers did from the perspective of the Crown.If you view Snowden as a traitor simply put you are the equivalent of a Crown Loyalist in the revolutionary war days.Nothing wrong with that if that’s your view, but it helps to see it in perspective. When you look back you don’t see our Founding Fathers as morally wrong, but the Loyalists did.

          6. LE

            You’d also have to bring the Indians into this discussion as well I’m sure they weren’t to happy as far as what went down which ended up benefiting all of us.

          7. hubbdubb

            James Madison, the implicit author of the Constitution, was born in Virginia. Had it been as simple an issue as depriving the Crown there would have been no need for our constitution. The founding of the United States of America, as quaint and delusional as it may seem today, was much more radical than anything Mr. Snowden could possibly offer.

          8. MikeSchinkel

            “James Madison, the implicit author of the Constitution, was born in Virginia.”You must have missed my quotes around the word “fled.””The founding of the United States of America … was much more radical than anything Mr. Snowden could possibly offer.”Absolutely. Which is a shame for (almost) all of us when we consider the vitriol directed at Snowden.

          9. SubstrateUndertow

            But they did visit France.

          10. kidmercury

            right, the colonists only roped the french, britain’s biggest rival, into a full-blown war. without the french the colonists probably lose.

          11. Cam MacRae

            You forgot the part where they reneged on their debts which ultimately cost the king his head.

          12. LE

            Oh please. Everyone wants to bring up that argument in order to someone compare the two things as if that even matters. Why not talk about what Castro did in Cuba overthrowing a government and how that didn’t exactly work out well for the people in that country?

          13. MikeSchinkel

            So are you saying that you can only learn from historical precedents when 100% of the factors are identical? IOW, never?

          14. LE

            Of course not.

          15. MikeSchinkel

            Then by what rules are we allowed to equate moral dilemmas of today with those of our past? Is there some objective market that indicates that comparing and contrasting what our Founding Fathers did with Snowden’s actions are off limits?

        3. SubstrateUndertow

          Don’t historical pivots necessitate judgement calls byThat Guy

    2. Ryan Frew

      He didn’t go to the competition, he went to the board of directors.

      1. Farhan Abbasi

        Boom shakalaka!

    3. geehosefat

      I wonder what you think might have been some of the “more productive ways to address those issues.” His actions started a global conversation about privacy issues that most of the affected global citizens were unaware of.

    4. LE

      “Snowden recognized a wrong and tried to right it. His motives were in the right place, his actions weren’t. Yes, our gov’t isn’t transparent”Wondering how many people are in a position to fully understand the pros and cons that the government does in order to protect us? Fully considering the drawbacks vs. the benefits of said actions that the government takes?People don’t have complete information consequently they can’t make those decisions by reading shit on the internet or seeing only part of the picture (like watching part of a video of a police beating w/o seeing what happened before the police beating).Judgement (which to be sure can be wrong) comes into play with these things. One thing you can’t do though is have judgement without complete information.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Yes you can.a) nobody has perfect information and that includes the governmentb) you don’t need perfect information to know if some things are morally wrong. Would you need perfect information to know that it is wrong to hunt people down like animals because of their race, religion or creed?

    5. M. Cole Chilton

      ” There are more productive ways to address those issues then doing what Snowden did.”Name 3 (more productive ways to address those issues then doing what Snowden did), please:1. ____2. ____3. ____The only way to tattle tale on the teacher is to talk to your classmates.

    6. Pete Griffiths

      Good Lord – a lot of things I disagree with here.a) An NDA is not and never can be a gag order precluding someone from speaking out if they discover something illegal or wrong. Surely this is blindingly obvious. Take an extreme case – you discover the company is defrauding its investors – is it wrong to break an NDA and speak out? It would be brave if you know what happens to most whistleblowers but surely the fact of an NDA isn’t anything like as blanket a lip sealer as you suggest.b) You say his actions weren’t in the right place when he tried to right a wrong. But surely this can only be rightly assessed when you explore what his realistic options were. One of the most disturbing aspects of this whole business is precisely the fact that it has become very clear just how totally useless the nominal avenues of complaint/protest/whatever really are. Had we a reliable means by which someone could have safely raised concerns about wrongdoing we might well be in a very different place today.And for those who find it hard to imagine quite how effectively large government bureaucracies muzzle protest take a look at the terrible record the services have at dealing with instances of sexual assault. If you know of a ‘more responsble’ channel that he could have used, let’s hear about it. Because all the evidence I have seen on this has led me to believe that such channels don’t exist.c) No different from the Rosenbergs! This makes absolutely no sense. You can’t meaningfully argue that his intent was sound and compare him to people who were flat out spies. There is no moral equivalence here and it is shocking to me that you would suggest there is given your earlier points.d) Actions do indeed have consequences and the track record of the consequences for whistleblowers is that those consequences for them are typically dire. Let’s be very clear about this – there is a lot of evidence on this score. People who blow the whistle, even on things for which the overwhelming majority of people would support their cause whole heartedly are frequent seriously damaged by their actions. This is widely recognized and is precisely whey we have the (admittedly ineffective) legal provisions to protect whistle blowers.I should point out that our democracy has throughout its history frequently been held true by whistle blowers. Without whistle blowers there would have been, for example, no “Pentagon Papers.’ And yet these documents were critical inthe public coming to understand supressed realities of the Vietnam War.’The end doesn’t justify the means.’ ???? This is way to general a statement. Surely ti is blindingly obvious that the truth or falsity of this is in the eye of the beholder. If you believe that our democracy and its freedoms rest on the protections of the Constitution, the rule of law and and informed populace then you are suspicious of secret rulings and programs with a gigantic potential for abuse. In such a case you may well feel that in this instance Snowden, most especially in the light of the lack of meaningful alternative ways to protest what he saw as blatant abuse, acted in accordance with important principles that underly out democracy and at great cost to himself. If however you feel that our freedoms can be hobbled by the powerful in the interests of security and that the masses are best kept in ignorance then you will doubtless feel he should have kept his mouth shut and not be disturbed about the fact that had he done so there would be no debate about these issues – even though Obama is now affecting to welcome it. Sometimes, the end does justify the means.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Great arguments /discussion.

      2. Salt Shaker

        “Had we a reliable means by which someone could have safely raised concerns about wrongdoing we might well be in a very different place today.”There is a system, as imperfect as it may be. To suggest Snowden had no options other than the path he chose, is a bit short-sighted.There are many whistle-blower laws on our books, dating back as far as 1778 and 1863. The Lloyd-La Follette Act of 1912 guaranteed the right of federal employees to furnish information to the U.S. Congress. I don’t know, maybe it’s just a hunch, but I think a few U.S. Senators or Representatives would be mildly outraged by what Snowden had to offer. (Insert sarcasm here). Do you think if Snowden’s claims were channeled through his legal counsel to the NYT or WSJ they would have published an investigative piece, with no direct attribution to him? I’m sure Rupert Murdoch’s hair would have turned several shades of black if his media empire was afforded such an opportunity. Of course, the primary reason most prospective whistle-blowers don’t come forward, is fear of reprisal. Yes, there would be no guarantees with this approach, but Snowden would have some legal insulation. Now he’s nothing but a fugitive, a political pawn, separated from friends, family, etc., with little change of repatriation. He’s a criminal in the eyes of the law. Again, my beef isn’t with the reveal it’s how the reveal was done. Last week Snowden said he “missed his girlfriend.” Next week it will be his Mommy. He naively chose a criminal path and he must reap what he sows. If he isn’t yet regretful, I’m sure he will be in the not too distant future. The probability of Mr. Snowden living even a semi-normal life on the run, isn’t particularly high…and he did have options, again as imperfect as they be.

        1. Pete Griffiths

          The real issue is not whether he had apparent options – he had. Nor is it a question of whether there are whistle blower laws – there are. It is not even a question of whether there would have been Senators or Representatives who would have been outraged – there were and are. And whilst we are on the topic of avenues to protest let’s not forget his superiors, immediate and more senior. He had such superiors not only in the NSA but also in Booz Allen. So it would indeed seem he had plenty of viable ways to register his concerns.The problem however is that despite the existence of these apparently viable options the reality is that they are weak or downright dangerous. How do we know this to be true? We just look at the track record of what has happened when people in situations similar to Snowden have tried to raise their concerns.a) immediate and proximate superiors have proven to be a terrible channel. It is precisely because of this that we have whistle blower laws! This problem is not restricted to the NSA. One thinks for example of the Services and the way they have (not) dealt with cases of sexual abuse.b) whistle blower laws have succeeded in enshrining the notion of a whistleblower but not in protecting whistleblowers. There are many cases of people revealing things that are contrary to the law or to policy and suffering massive retaliation – losing seniority, losing job and pension, being subjected to smear campaigns etc. Bear in mind that blowing the whistle is normally a matter of an individual with a sense of right and wrong but wiht very limited resources finding him/herself up against an extremely wealthy lawyered up organization determined to discredit them. The sheer cost and mental pressure of this can break people. Any remotely high profile whistleblower who has been interviewed makes this cost very plain. Furthermore, if anything like national security can be evoked, no matter how worthy the cause the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used to prosecute in ways that were never originally intended.…c) It would have been illegal for him to have told a member of Congress. The fact that they are representatives does not give them free access to the secrets to which he was privy. And he knew this!d) The idea that someone like Snowden can blow the whistle anonymously is ridiculous. They WILL find out who it is.It is extremely easy to assume that there must have been viable avenues for him to launch his protest, but the evidence strongly suggests that it isn’t the case. This is a sad fact, but it is the case and we have to accept it.

    7. JLM

      .He was not under just an NDA, he held a security clearance likely that the name of the very clearance was classified.The NDA element of that agreement — the security clearance which BTW must be applied for as a petition to grant — is like a thimble to the Atlantic Ocean.Remember this guy was a CIA contract employee before he was a contract employee for an NSA contractor (Booz Allen Hamilton), so he knew the obligations he had undertaken.JLM.

  35. christopolis

    maybe a better question, if someone (like the Commandor in Chief) is aiding the taliban in syria are they a a traitor or hero?

    1. $28312048

      Or prosecuting whistle blowers under the espionage act with ridiculous charges like aiding the enemy, killing American citizens via drone extra judicially, the massive domestic spying operation, etc…

  36. Ryan Frew

    Snowden is aptly described as a Useful Idiot.-Stolen from someone on this blog…LE?…JLM?…Andy?

    1. $28312048

      Are you ignorant of the history of the term or can you reasonable argue it applies to him?

      1. Ryan Frew

        Ignorant. Using the Google machine now to do some learnin’ 😉

      2. Ryan Frew

        Okay, looked into it. and I retract that thought. What I meant was simply that he is useful, in that he provided information that the public needed to know. But an idiot, because it cost him his life as he knew it (which is a heroic act). Was unaware that it was such an established expression for something else.

        1. $28312048

          I don’t think he was idiotic at all. He would be an idiot if he released it and thought all would be dandy but he knew what he was giving up beforehand.

  37. Ryan Frew

    I understand that this is Fun Friday, but I’m a little bit disappointed in how frequently the discussion of what Manning “is” comes up. Almost every discussion or debate I’ve had about the leaks come down to this. It disturbs me because, for the time being, I don’t think anyone should care. Frankly, it’s the kind of answer that will become clear with hindsight. For now the focus should be on the NSA itself, our role in Syria, the IRS debacle, Benghazi, gerrymandering, gun laws, gay rights…feel free to take your own pick on the collection of messes our government is currently involved in.Like I said, I know that these conversations can be fun sometimes, but a few, such as this one, are so frequent that it feels as if the wool is being pulled over our eyes. Even the media would rather discuss whether Manning is a hero rather than face the more challenging investigations.

    1. mark

      Absolutely, the amount of media regarding Snowden dwarfs the amount of media on what snowden exposed. The government votes to keep funding NSA activity with relatively little debate. Governments keep removing rights and freedoms saying they’re keeping us safe (a ridiculous statement, if they you really want to keep people safe, ban the peanut).

    2. deancollins

      Yep I find it difficult to swallow that the man releasing the footage of the shooting of the Reuters staff is going to jail……the people who shot and killed the Reuters staff are still free.I find it even more difficult to swallow that my taxes are paying for this to happen……. 🙁

      1. $28312048

        Because this country fetishizes the image of the soldier, even when he is behaving poorly and committing war crimes.

  38. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    A European perspective. (Graphic – No apologies)If you find the favourite Uncle of your children looking at them innappropriately in the bathtub – would you want to know?It seems Uncle Sam has been doing just that – perverse, disgusting, unethical practices. But they argue its all OK to look at my kids because they aren’t American. – Sick.So Snowden told us something we would rather was not true and will pay the price.If Uncle Sam does not like the cleansing effect of honesty perhaps he should stop his grubby business, before he cries foul!In the meantime if he gets a good kicking from international commerce – so be it.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      Exactly. I’ve been wondering when someone else would finally state that perspective. Saying: “Don’t worry, we’re only spying on everyone else” isn’t an ethical defense and those who study game theory should know it will have serious long term ramifications.

    2. ZekeV

      American exceptionalism does not scale well

      1. $28312048

        Mostly because it doesn’t and most likely never has existed. What is exception about America? Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our kids are starving and rank low on math and reading. We can’t take care of our sick. Our maternal mortality rate occasionally resembles that of a third world country. Most of the folks that cheer lead American exceptionalism are the same yahoo’s in red states that are dirt poor, uneducated and repeatedly vote for Tea Party nut jobs against their own interests while sucking down tons of government money… too stupid to even realize the massive contradiction in their existence.As a country we have a lot to offer, but it doesn’t mean we come even close to living up to those ideals.

        1. hubbdubb

          A case for American exceptionalism is valid. The USA is the only country founded upon the principles of the enlightenment.

          1. $28312048

            Principles and ideals are worthless when not acted upon.

          2. MikeSchinkel

            You are ignoring 237 years of mission creep.

        2. Pete Griffiths

          Well said.It is a sad fact that exceptionalizm has been preached by the powerful to the underprivileged by every hegemonic society.

        3. Vanilla

          And why do so many people from other countries want to get citizenship here?

          1. $28312048

            “As a country we have a lot to offer, but it doesn’t mean we come even close to living up to those ideals.”Reading is a valuable skill set. They probably won’t even take you at McDonald’s without it.

          2. MikeSchinkel

            One reason might be that as US citizens they are slightly less likely to be treated as humans without any rights by the US government.

    3. JxS

      and what if Uncle was also keeping them from drowning?

    4. JLM

      .There is nothing even remotely perverse, disgusting or unethical about espionage. Espionage is by definition a matter of disregarding every moral or legal stricture of your enemies or host countries in order to obtain any and all possible advantages in the conduct of current and future operations of any kind whatsoever.This is the way the game is played and there are no rules to this game. Where it becomes sticky for Americans is that, by law, the CIA is not supposed to operate in the US — that is the exclusive domain of the FBI and FBI CI.This is also one of the reasons why the NSA is so difficult to understand. There are no real boundaries and they are more likely to share their take with the CIA.Why? Because the CIA is not part of domestic law enforcement and will not rat them out to the FBI. In this manner, the NSA can run wild and not fear being caught.The Americans have been a great source of information for our allies since the beginning of the Great Game. The Brits, in particular, were the beneficiaries of our “take” for half a century or more.America is not always well served by this sharing and generous manner — KIm Philby being the first Exhibit for the prosecution. The Americans were on to someone like Philby given the info they obtained when they “walked the cat backwards” from some unfortunate disclosures. The Brits would not believe it. The Americans were right all along and when he defected to Russia, the game was up.The American ability to listen to every possible communication in the world will tamp down any possible international outrage plus American foreign aid is just crack to many countries — a habit they cannot kick.JLM.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Dear @JLM:disqus We agree on much, and knowledge of the enemy is undoubtedly valuable and *may* be morally justifiable (as you have alluded).But it is not automatically so !At an individual level spying on friends is perverse, disgusting and unethical in the view of many (which does not make them right – but defines a norm). Since it seems the US cannot or chooses not to distinguish between nation states, companies or individuals in its espionage, or between friend or foe it has descended to an antagonistic personal level. I fear that drone killings risk the same illegitimacy.So my response is necessarily personal – Since if I (or my company) is to be subjected to espionage by any other party I must treat them as someone who I cannot trust and who is prepared to breach my defences against my will.That makes this other party an enemy, and an enemy of my friends.Given my positive relations to date with US citizens and companies I am saddened by this perversion of trust, disgusted by the wanton ignorance of obvious problems this engenders and I consider it as unethical as any other betrayal of trust. It also divides my friends.So either you know me better than I know myself (unlikely you will admit) or you are mistaken when you claim “There is nothing even remotely perverse, disgusting or unethical about espionage.”I enjoy our discourse and both the common ground we share and in other areas the opportunity for debate – but I am afraid on this subject your use of English is not simply a little “gung-ho” but simply incompatible with normal usage.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          Dear @kwiqly:disqus,Well said.

        2. JLM

          .I think you are confusing the reality of how things truly are as opposed to some measure of how they should or otherwise might be.Clearly you have inserted the qualification of “…spying on friends…” which is not what I was addressing.Having said that, nations do not have friends, they have interests in common which lead to fleeting and very situational alliances.WWI — Italy ally of the US.WWII — Italy foe of the US.The reality has so far and deeply overshot the notion of morality or ethics or justification to make those discussions to be quaint and obsolete.What I am reporting is simply that there are no such dilemmas being debated in the intelligence community.The fact that I give voice to that reality makes me only the bearer of unwelcome news. The messenger, not the message.The crafting of the message may be mine in the context of our exchange but the words themselves are from the voice of reality.The message has been vouchsafed and validated ad nauseam by the practice on all sides. We are working against folks who are literally murderers and we are being held to standards that are tantamount to serving red wine with fish.This is simply not the way the game is being played. This is very clear in the debate about the use of drones as a application of deadly force justified by the war on terror. A justification I am not even slightly uncomfortable with.In addition, relations are very complex and nations may overlook some things in the interest of a bigger concern.The Swiss in WWII banked, financed and supported the Nazis including hosting Nazi R & R facilities and allowing Nazi troop trains to navigate to Italy through Switzerland. When the Second World War was over, the Allies did not seek retribution or penance from the Swiss because their wealth was needed to rebuild England and France. A trade made with the devil.Similarly, the Swiss banking laws have been used to assist Americans in tax evasion while the Swiss conducted illegal banking operations in the US.There are many who believe that the Swiss have been huge providers to the US of intelligence information to root out Arab wealth in support of terror funding and thus have earned a quid pro quo in relation to other crimes.Espionage and morality rarely sleep well together.JLM.

  39. mikenolan99

    Was Mark Felt (Deep Throat) a hero or a traitor? How will history view Snowden?

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Important point.

    2. Mark Gannon

      This is a great parallel. One question about the information Felt passed that was never been answered (to my knowledge) was how the information was gathered? Felt was convicted of bunch of illegal tactics against 60s radicals and the FBI in those days routinely conducted illegal surveillance. Would people view Watergate differently if they knew the information was the result of illegally obtained information?

  40. deancollins

    I’ll put it this way……..can you imagine how Americans would react if they learnt that the Russian government had been collecting All emails, All voice calls, All web clicks of every USA senators and congressmen for the last few years.Yep it would blow their minds.Look at how they reacted just a few months ago about the Chinese commercial hacking into a few USA companies…….America has lost the high road.

    1. $28312048

      Russia probably already is doing all that, but that is not the core problem with he exposed. It is the domestic spying, or the paying of foreign entities to exchange information on our citizens, that is the crux of the problem. The NSA, CIA, etc. exist solely to collect this kind of information. That is fine. It is the turning inward that is the outrage.

    2. btrautsc

      My question to you is: Do you really think they are not?

    1. Patrick Campi

      The article’s Title is “Edward Snowden is not the story, the fate of the internet is.”

  41. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’m too jaded to know how to answer. I no longer believe my own eyes.But I am amused as I watch the seed planted and then grow of, “He’s been a Russian spy all along.” Even my cat is laughing at that.

    1. $28312048

      If you don’t believe your own eyes, I have a pair of Google Glass to sell you. I’m not responsible if someone is listening in though.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen


  42. Blake's Cafe

    What would we say if he were working for Google, Microsoft, Samsung or other company and he gave up IP secrets? If the companies were not breaking the law – they he would be doing something we all would consider an unethical business practice. (Even break IP Laws) If the companies were breaking laws – then he would be a witness.I put forth that he has broken laws – but that of being a petty thief. The “secrets” that he divulged were not that secret – yet now the practices are in the public view. Homeland Security and the companies involved will adjust and deal with public information in another way.Yet Snowdon’s name will forever remain associated with a person willing to ruin their life in order to say what everyone else was thinking. (But he is still a common thief!)

    1. $28312048

      Please stop conflating private companies with the government. The moment you do the more your thoughts and arguments will make more sense to you and others.The two functions and entire reason for existence are completely different.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen


      2. Pete Griffiths

        They are however similar in one extremely important and directly relevant regard – they are both subject to the law of the land. They are subject to different laws to be sure, but the government is subject (thank God) to some legal constraints and such constraints are to be respected and not just ridden over rough shod when it suits the interests of one policy maker or another.

        1. $28312048

          That is a pretty low bar to set similarities on, as even hanging out in the tribal lands of Afghanistan a person is subject to laws of the land. Me and a roach have a lot in common because we are organism. I appreciate where you are going with it, but its one of the broadest strokes you can paint and not really useful as a result.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            I’m sorry but I completely disagree with you. The constitution and the rule of law are not incidental to our democracy, they are fundamental to it. It is precisely the supposed universal nature of our rights and responsibilities that define us (and other democracies.). To suggest that our significance of our constitution is on a par with some aspect of a roach is, imho, a very very very deep misunderstanding.

          2. $28312048

            I’m not saying its on par, I am saying it is too broad a brush to reasonably argue from. Everyone, everywhere at any time is subject to laws – but government and business exist for reasons that are philosophically different at their very core. They also operate under different sets of standards and expectations. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

  43. ZekeV

    Mark Ames of NSFWCorp (and formerly of eXile fame) wrote this up very eloquently, to the effect that Snowden’s leak is beneficial but his method of leaking is lame. If Snowden were motivated by heroism, or civil disobedience, he would do his leaking and then face down the American police state like a man. Instead, he goes running to China and then Russia. Anyone who really knows what the Russian government is about would not see this as an honorable act.

    1. $28312048

      NSFW does some decent reporting on its face but its convoluted by a bunch of wanna-be tough guy wankers. Internet trolls with a better vocabulary and put their name to it. Diminishes a lot of what they do. Considering the silencing and subsequent treatment of Manning, I’d get out of dodge too until the powers that be are sufficiently reigned in as a result of the leak.

      1. ZekeV

        Snowden had a choice — he deliberately sought out the job that he had, for whatever reasons. Then when he grew uncomfortable (at some point after his famous forum post about cutting off the balls of “traitors” like Manning) rather than quit, he decided to milk this opportunity for fame and glory. I’m glad he did, b/c we all benefit by the outing of this crazy police state apparatus growing around us. But if I were in Snowden’s shoes, and not being a hero myself, I would’ve bailed long before I was in a position to leak top secret powerpoints.

        1. $28312048

          Whatever fame and glory is irrelevant to the story. Whatever his motivation is is ultimately irrelevant to the bigger picture.

          1. ZekeV

            Irrelevant to the bigger picture, true, but directly relevant to Fred’s question

          2. $28312048

            No, its not. The motivation is not really important to the action itself. There are plenty of accidental heroes (although I wouldn’t call Snowden a hero, more patriotic).

          3. ZekeV

            Motivation is essential. Accidental heroism occurs where someone is confronted, unexpectedly, with a moral dilemma and makes a selfless / altruistic choice. My impression is that this Snowden fellow sought out an opportunity to play the hero, but opted to do so in a way that I find to be un-heroic. Nevertheless, I would agree with you that accidental heroism is the noblest kind, and if I ever meet this dude I am willing to be persuaded by his explanation that he in fact had honorable intentions.

  44. Hershberg

    This was published by the ACLU earlier today:”Edward Snowden is a Whistleblower”

  45. btrautsc

    I wonder the scale at which the ripples from Snowden’s actions will actually continue to make waves. I’ve asked a number of my “non-startup/ non-tech” network friends, and this is almost not news to them. Why? Because most of the uproar in our tech circles is over the betrayal (not Apple!) and privacy concerns (remember how few “normal users” spoke out about Facebook privacy debacles?). Deep down, we all kind of knew this was happening.Remember Enemy of the State? Will Smith! That was pre-web 2.0 – the mass majority of citizens now *voluntarily* make their info to be (at some level) accessible. User generated content.I believe in transparency, and I strongly believe in checks and balances. I also believe Snowden’s actions may risk a number of lives either of men and women in the field who have take no part in the politics or misuse of power at the top as well as innocent citizens. Many here may think that is naive, but I think making a media spectacle of confidential information was not the best answer.

  46. WA

    If you thought of it, it has already been thought of…so kudos to tomasvdb. The word ” “Traitor” would need a charge of treason. Though semantically his actions may(or may not) be considered both a bit of Hero and Traitor, as Fred points out, they were not treasonous. So no Treason…no Traitor…semantically speaking. He was not even found to be giving aid to the enemy. Seeking asylum in Russia however and possible further disclosure of national security secrets in exchange for a qulaity of living does set the future stage for defining him as a traitor. The argument is fraught with peril. Hero? Only in the vague sense he may have been illustrating the grander concept of “Nothing is what it appears to be” and yet we are asked by the gate keepers of our greater national good to believe in all the government and media’s finely construed appearances. However the disclosure of specifics, names, times and actual events for many may diminish the brand of Hero significantly in regard to the amount of careers, lives and work destroyed. Take it step further and monetize it: How many billions in tax dollars of each of ours were just compromised and wasted….I ask for a moment here to forget the argument of whether they were rightfully spent to begin with, since that is a matter preceding the debate of hero vs traitor. In eliminating the semantics perhaps he is neither, as tomasvdb points out. Maybe it is an example of how difficult it becomes in screening the proper “behavioral/character-attribute fits” for the careers, missions and jobs needed in protecting the best interests of the our national security/The State. Snowden’s case may serve as an operational definition of the essay generations of political science students have been asked to write at some point ( I remember this one well around 1983) in comparing the Hobbes and Machiavellian dialectics. Suffice it to say both Hobbes and Machiavelli are pragmatic realists. It seems that the state would take the Machiavellian justification of its actions -“Machiavelli argued that the Prince must be ruthless for no man can ultimately be trusted. Division among the people leads to a weaker state, and the weaker state will be eventually devoured by a stronger one. In that the Prince is the one figurehead of the state; his interests to keep power and order are directly tied to the interests of the state and the welfare of his citizens” (Gardner). Is this the premise which Snowden felt it was his duty to disclose? If the state is Machiavellian on this perhaps Snowden is a complex mix of the the Hobbian stance ->How does a society function without rules? And in the case of what the men/women of our government had done proved, to Snowden, Hobbes belief that people inherently have no morality…and therefore…Snowden felt duty in the misguided belief of some Utopian outcome by his disclosures in order to set rules for the State to function by, going forward. In the end we may never know if it was a sizable unproven promise of compensation from interests outside our borders…in which case the point of Traitor and the charge of Treason could be sound…and would serve to negate my past 25 minutes of academic thought, keyboard pounding and edited rant….I have here a link to a recent short, well thought out & poignant essay comparing Hobbes and Machiavelli by a studen in 2010:

  47. Tracey Jackson

    I don’t think he falls into either category. I think Americans do want to know things. I think we have a right to some information. But I don’t think a GOVT can tell the entire population everything. It’s a Utopian concept that can’t play out in the modern globalized society we live in. Every one knows the govt. snoops, is often covert, sometimes for our good, sometimes for theirs, sometimes for the not so good. Always has been always will be no matter who is in the Oval Office. I think people felt Obama would be above this. Guess not. If you look at history often times when information comes from credible people it is taken seriously and the rules change. Daniel Ellsberg was not punished for releasing the Pentagon Papers, though much of Nixon’s administration was put away for awhile for spying. Nixon was forced to leave office.For me it’s who has the information and who is doing the whistle blowing.This was sloppy from the get-go. Snowdon lied on his resume. They let it slide. He was a sub contractor. The fact there are 48,000 people with access to sensitive govt data who are not being cleared properly does not make me feel so safe. He was over in Hawaii with this info living with a pole dancer. He then skips over to our two biggest foes China and Russia. Hong Kong tosses him so he heads to Russia. Putin liked the idea of him, but not that much. So he wanders around the airport like Tom Hanks in that mediocre film. What was his goal? Was it to help the average American get more information about shady govt practices or get to work for the Russians and Chinese? Was it to be perceived as hero? If you start saying anyone who works for the govt can leak anything you introduce a vigilante type current into what does need some regulation. He really is more of a George Zimmerman type character – A player wannabe who was given access to something that could do harm. And without the savvy or brains to really know what he was doing with it, he did more harm than good. He eventually made a fool of himself, and us at the same time. He didn’t put an end to anything. Are they going to stop because of Snowden? Please. I say he’s a dopey character and the Govt is even dopier for making it possible for him to be hired.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Whether or not Snowden is a hero isn’t determined by whether he is a saint or even that smart. Some heroes are made in a moment. Sure it’s more satisfying when our heroes are actually heroic.

    2. $28312048

      I don’t think we need to know about the stealth helicopter that crashed in the Bin Laden raid. We don’t even really need to know if we have weapons in space, etc., etc… but we do need to know at the very least the LAWS that govern us. When even the LAW is secret, let a lone the activity it sanctions, we cease to be a democracy.

    3. Pete Griffiths

      The question is not whether the government tells the public everything. The question is whether the are acting legally.Some bending of the rules – I’ll go with it. But wholesale spying on the whole population????

  48. Donna Brewington White

    This is a case of two wrongs.Not sure I’m ready to call Snowden a hero. Not sure I’m ready to call betraying the “U.S. government” the right thing to do.I’m grateful that he did it. I’m disturbed by the idea that we have a government that I can’t champion. Are we in a situation where the good of the government and the good of the people are not fully aligned? Something intrinsically wrong with that.As long as this is the case or even potentially the case then I think we need Snowdens. But not without consequences.

  49. Salt Shaker

    A related issue. The state dept shut down today numerous embassies based on terrorist threats allegedly coming from Al Qaeda. The source of those threats is unknown, although they likely came from “chatter” picked up by NSA, CIA or other operative orgs. The legality of those eavesdropping techniques/operations is questionable, but if they ultimately lead to the saving of American lives are they justified? People try and make all this into black and white issues, including whether Snowden is a traitor/hero, but it’s far more complex than that. If Bengazi had ultimately been prevented by illegal eavesdropping, would there have been domestic outrage? I sincerely doubt it. Again, these are hardly black/issues, but when public safety is at risk, the playing field no longer is level.

    1. $28312048

      The big point is just sailing over your head. That is all OVERSEAS, not DOMESTIC spying. There is no 4th amendment issue at stake there.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        What????Evidently you haven’t been keeping up.

        1. $28312048

          Evidently you can’t read, Pete. He is trying to conflate the traditional work of the NSA in overseas operation with what is causing the current controversy: domestic spying.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            Evidently I can’t.

  50. Paul Ottaviano

    I’m not sure if he is a hero or traitor. By calling him one or the other, it makes it easier for people to rationalize doing evil to him or easier to give him undue praise. He is a man who blew the whistle and in doing so didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know or at least suspect. Similar to Assange or Manning, I’m trying to avoid the personality cult aspect to this. To me the bigger issue is whether our government has any value for our legal and moral rights, which has been a topic of conversation long before Snowden.

  51. ErikSchwartz

    Neither. I think he is a publicity seeker, he wanted to become famous.He could have leaked the information in a way that no one would ever know his name. But the whole point was everyone knowing his name.

    1. Jason Kelly

      The keep it quiet approach didn’t work out well for Bradley Manning though. I think there is some strategy to becoming a big enough name that it’s harder to get stomped out.

    2. ZekeV

      Agree. Compare to more principled leakers in the Nixon – Reagan years, who did not seek to become the center of the story, and did not immediately run off to shelter in a repressive authoritarian regime that makes the US security state look like a model of transparency and due process.

    3. LE

      “I think he is a publicity seeker, he wanted to become famous.”I think there is a certainly a component to this angle but I think it’s a lower level action like some meglomania actually.Megalomania is characterized by an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation by persons of their powers and beliefsAs if somehow the immortality he achieves is just going to float his boat or something.”But the whole point was everyone knowing his name.”Yeah what’s really sad is all the people out there that are impressionable that are reading all the rah rah’s and thinking “yeah I can also make a difference in this world just like he did”. Copycat crimes.

    4. Hershberg

      There is zero chance Snowden would have been able to leak anonymously. He knew the government had records of all the correspondence Greenwald had with him and that it would only be a matter of time before they figured out who he was.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Of course he knew. That understanding of the extent of surveillance more than anything else would allow him to communicate in a way that he would not be discovered.

        1. Pete Griffiths


    5. kidmercury

      nobody would believe it without a visible identity behind it. his position and willingness to show his face add credibility to his accusations. also, this is not the kind of publicity most folks, those who seek adulation, are really going for.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        I don’t think he got the type of publicity he was expecting.I also don’t think he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer either. After all he researched extradition little enough that he thought HK law would protect him. If you are a proponent of openness fleeing to Russia under the heel of an ex KGB guy seems an odd choice. Putin is going to take him and stick him in some far corner of Siberia.

        1. $28312048

          If he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed it is even more proof these programs need to be reigned in so those of lesser intellect can’t run amok within the system. I don’t need Johnny 3rd Grade Dropout reading my email because he is bored.

    6. Pete Griffiths

      No. That is not an option. Look into the history of ‘anonymous’ whistle blowers. The record is pretty clear. They get outed. Do you really think the US security apparatus couldn’t have figured him out????

  52. Lucas_Cioffi

    On a proactive note, what actions/organization do y’all recommend for fellow readers of this blog who believe that citizens should play a stronger role in governance, regardless of what side they take in this Snowden debate?I’d recommend exploring the local and federal OpenGov movement whether you are in the US or abroad (see Open Gov Partnership). Here are some ways to do that:For plugging into a network of civic innovators who experiment with in-person and online large-group dialogue and meaningful public participation in government decision-making: (I serve on the board– they are great). Personally, my dream is to see a national, distributed infrastructure for robust online dialogue; the high quality of this discussion is so rare elsewhere on the Web, but there is much potential.For those with technical skills, see Code for America which helps city governments use tech to serve their citizens better, or The Madison Project for citizen participation in commenting on and drafting national legislation http://opengovfoundation.or…What others do you folks recommend?

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      Distributively Causal Governance ?Waiting for all the Apps !

  53. MOSECON_Su

    I argue that it does not matter whether he’s seen as a traitor or a hero, but rather whether he’ll be able to escape:

  54. tomwatson

    Fred, wrong question! Here’s my piece in Forbes on this exact issue – in my view, “pioneer” fits better even if you don’t admire the ethics of the situation.

    1. LE

      “should be rightly be regarded as the first arrivals of the wave still to come.”Agree with what you are saying.The only good news is similar to the fact that anyone with a gun can commit a horrible crime only a small subset of the population that has access to important information is willing to put themselves at personal risk to disclose that information. (Not to mention that the disclosing reporter has a target on his back as well.)Remember in the movie the Insider?Protagonist prior to disclosure did all sorts of things to keep up the lifestyle that his wife and kids wanted. Luckily that’s the norm. I say luckily because I am not in favor of people deciding to take the law into their own hands which is an example of what Snowden has done.

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      YUP!Digitally Networked Secrecy = OxymoronOnce again”The medium is the message”and the message carried by ubiquitously networked everything is”secrecy is counterproductive, it dead, it’s done, stick a fork in it”Collaborative imagination and remix that’s the new ticket under networked conditions.We are the Borg.We and only we shall decide how to assimilate ourselves!Resistance to the self-organizing complexity-gradient of history is futile!:-))

  55. LE

    A better question would be if you were Snowden how would you have handled the disclosure of the information?Anyone with their head screwed on right (yes I am implying something here) could have found a much safer way to achieve whatever goal they wanted to achieve by not releasing the way Snowden did. If, in fact, they even agreed with what Snowden found.There was nothing imminent happening that meant you had to pull the trigger the way he did in order to bring about the change you wanted to do. Other than impulsiveness and delusions of grandeur. What’s the rush? Train leaving or something?Great way to get your 15 minutes of fame (to the 100th power to be sure).But is that the goal?To go down in the history books?What’s the reason for needing to bring personal harm to yourself?I love the way everyone is egging on this whole thing and wonder how many people would have advised someone close to them to do the same thing. [1]Like any parent who knows that their child is going overseas on a mission which is suicide “yes go and defend your country it’s the honorable thing to do”. Give me a break.[1] Of course that’s the old “I’d let my child ride the carnival ride it’s so safe” doesn’t mean the ride is safe because the ride operator will risk the life of his own child.

    1. Pete Griffiths

      How would have recommended he went about it?

      1. LE

        No way I can answer that in a blog comment. I would have to give it extensive thought and figure out a way to investigate what could possibly happen given the different scenarios pro and con.At the very least there should be a way to get an attorney with government connections as a go between but even before doing that I would have to think it through.The point of my comment was to simply say that there most certainly is a safer way to achieve his goals without subjecting yourself to prison time.

        1. Pete Griffiths

          I completely understand and sympathize with your feeling that it must surely be possible, but sadly it is unlikely that you are right.There are proscribed channels – and these have proven to be ineffective and seem to lead inexorably to dismissal and smears that blunt the message. But once you step beyond the official channels then no matter what you do you are on dangerous ground. There simply isn’t an easy way. You are going to be identified. Moves will be made by very powerful forces to neutralize you and your message.There is a lot of material out there on this. It’s a real problem. And what makes it worse is that whilst ‘whistleblower’ is a term of art with legal force that doesn’t mean that the status can stick against the kind of power likely to be arrayed against you.

  56. paulmg

    Snowden’s a common crook. Stole from his employer who happen to be people of the USA (who hired his employer). Unfortunately the US is one company that is responsible for life/death issues so there are greater consequences than if he stole the superuser password for Twitter or the formula for Coke.If he were a hero he wouldn’t have run away but stood to regret that he had “but one life to live for his country.” The documents have been/are being released by Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian whom apparently we trust with our secrets more than our own government. Supposedly he has a nuclear option if/when he is brought to justice.Ironic how often we hear that the government is not keeping up with technology, regulations, the pace of change. Here’s a group that’s doing highly advanced analysis on one of the biggest data sets imaginable yet we can only find the harm.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      “Snowden’s a common crook.”as distinct from those classy crooks running the Wall Street investment banks, who do little if any harm to the citizenry !

    2. mcbeese

      “If he were a hero he wouldn’t have run away but stood to regret that he had “but one life to live for his country.” The documents have been/are being released by Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian whom apparently we trust with our secrets more than our own government. Supposedly he has a nuclear option if/when he is brought to justice.”This is what seals the deal on Traitor for me. Note that he didn’t just run away, he ran to the Chinese and the Russians for shelter. That would be like Manning running to Iran… How would you feel about that?We have a process for whistleblowers. Would have been nice to know if it is effective or not.

  57. LE

    “but more hero than traitor”If one of your children had come to you wanting to do the same thing how would you view it?Or what would you say to them?Or how would you encourage or prevent them from doing what Snowden did?

    1. MikeSchinkel

      I would say “Do you really want to become one for the history books and give up your freedom and probably your life, or instead toil in obscurity and have a nice life?” And if they said “The former!” I would say “I’m pained to hear it, but I’m proud of you.”

      1. LE

        How old are these kids that you think are mature and worldly enough to make decisions of that magnitude?And by the way if you would do that then I would expect you would also educate them and encourage them to proactively go about doing things like this as well?Young people are often idealistic and haven’t been around the block. They often think they know something that older people don’t and have it all figured out. (emphasis on “all”)Let me give you an example (un related but timely).Brian Williams (NBC news anchor) has been having excruciating knee pain since he played high school football. Keeps him up at night. He has (was on last nights broadcast) suffered his entire life with this. All because he played high school football which is generally acknowledged to having a high danger factor. My question is is a high school student in the best position to make a decision as far as something like this that might cause them pain the rest of their lives? Just because they want the thrill and excitement now? Brian has paid for this decision every day “never a day I haven’t been in pain”. He’s going for his 4th knee operation.The truth is kids often don’t know what is best for them. It’s up to the parent to do what (they feel) is best for the child by any reasonable means they have.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          In my case they are hypothetical kids.So in my hypothetical world they would be post college (as is Snowden.) And I would expect by the time they make it to their late 20’s they’d be no longer in the category of “kids often don’t know what is best for them.”Or at least the law that states that a 21 year old is legally an adult says so.

    2. mcbeese

      I would encourage him/her to use proper process (first) so that his/her motivations and loyalty would never be in question. I would advise him/her to release everything at once so as not to be perceived as an extortionist. Lastly, I would advise them to stay and face the music. If they couldn’t agree to any of those points, I would advise them to question their motivation and commitment.

  58. Brad

    If he was a traitor, why is congress now trying to pass laws that sound better to the people? In fact the Congressman (cant remember his name) that wrote the Patriot Act has said that the Administration is using the Act to justify what they are doing. Nowhere in the Act does it give them permission to do it.The biggest problem is that we have a press that does not investigate what is really happening, they are in protection mode of the current administration. The newest news on Benghazi is terribly troubling about the CIA possibly trafficking guns…Snowden should not have had to be a whistle blower if we had a good press core wanting to report instead of pontificating their opinions. What happened to investigative journalists and political morals?I love the United States, but I am worried that every time the government wants to do something, they claim it is in the best interest of our safety. Then we all get behind it like sheep.

    1. LaVonne Reimer

      Huge observation. Lax media is the problem IMO and I don’t know why it isn’t covered more. Oh wait. It’s the media that would normally cover it!

    2. sigmaalgebra

      The US mainstream media (MSM) is a trainwreck for essentially everyone:First, they are losing ad revenue andeyeballs.Second, they are often losing money andare usually shrinking staff.Third, their old techniques of ‘story’telling don’t work well now, and theydon’t really know what else to do. E.g.,your “investigative journalists” aremostly in one’s imagination.The main source of ‘information’ for “aninformed citizenry” now has to be theInternet.Then the main means of US ‘coursecorrection’ is just to have a LOT ofcitizens raise hell with their electedofficials, in this case, primarily Membersof Congress. Have about 60% of thecitizens raise hell with Congress and havethem start to listen to Senator Wyden, andthe NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. will startbehaving again.In…I gave many more details.The US voters are just awash in power.For now at least, before a dictator takesover, all the voters have to do is raisehell.

      1. Brad

        Agreed. The only problem is that the general citizen does not know enough to make a difference. I believe we are all blinded by social issues: Someone that is for gay rights can not be a republican because of that one issue, and someone for gun rights cant be a democrat because of one issue. So the politicians create wedge issues to distract us from what they are doing elsewhere.

  59. John Revay

    Wondering what the 85 yr. old Fred Wilson thinks

  60. arustgi

    This may seem far fetched in the beginning, but could his actions be equated to his right to bear arms.. like in second ammendment. He did not bear arms in a literal sense, but the underlying ethos behind 2nd ammendment is that it a right citizens have to defend themselves against an oppressive govt.Thoughts?

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      information as weaponis along standing tradition, No?

  61. Hershberg

    The bigger issue here is whether we’re going to continue to have a free press in this country. The government has proven that it will track down and silence anyone who would dare disclose to the press any illegal/unconstitutional behavior it’s engaged in. By labeling the Snowden’s and Manning’s of the world as traitors, and by discouraging people who would otherwise have the courage to come forward to talk to reporters from doing so, we lose the ability to have an independent institution investigate the inner workings of power.

    1. kidmercury

      we lost the free press a long time ago…..anyone who tries to offer real journalism is dismissed as a crazy loon….assuming they have the means and finances to craft and distribute their message in the first place

      1. $28312048

        Not really. Its not the conspiracy nuts, its the corporate consolidation that shuts up 95% of it and the new rule of the land of reporters being charged with espionage, aiding the enemy, conspiracy, etc. when working with sources providing the chilling effect for the remaining 5%.As annoying as Greenwald is as a human being, it takes that big an a-hole to still want to go ahead with it.

        1. kidmercury

          i think it is a demand issue. people want to be lied to and hate the truth. this makes corporate consolidation easy and makes independent media an under-financed game.

          1. $28312048

            Yup. Democracy Now! should be a household name.

  62. hypermark

    Clearly a bit of both. Anyone who leaves the US for the “freedom” of Russia clearly has complex values, and definitely aint getting invited to my Christmas party.That stated, my litmus test is to look at things in terms of the OUTCOMES that we want, not the attributes that got us there. Consider that in law, for a statute like Miranda rights, the test cases are by default the worst offenders, not the easy, no brainer ones.I’d put Snowden in the same bucket. Do we fundamentally want whistle-blowers when our government, business leaders are CLEARLY changing the definition of the situation, or would we rather shoot the messenger…especially, when we don’t like the tactics of the messenger?Let’s face it. There is a Yin/Yang that has seeped into our society such that the only way that behavior will change and adult conversations will happen is if these things get the antiseptic of the light of day — and even then, the odds are extremely low that the behavior will change.If anything, the prevailing sentiment of the social contract has become “Act, don’t ask. Apologize if caught. If it’s illegal, pay your fines. If it’s REALLY illegal, hire those whose jobs it is to police you.”Oh, and if the morality of your behavior is ever questioned, remind people that (PICK ONE): 1) 911 was a game changer; 2) It takes one nuclear bomb to permanently change the narrative; and 3) Your exclusive responsibility is to deliver profits to shareholders, er, I mean lobbyists.

    1. PrometheeFeu

      While the USA is freer than Russia, I would imagine you have more liberty living in Russia than in American prisons…

      1. hypermark

        True up, but that still seems like a “Sophie’s Choice” type of bargain.

        1. PrometheeFeu

          I agree. I was responding to your point that Snowden appeared to find Russia freer than the United States. I don’t think he does. I think he just finds Russia freer than decades in American prisons.

          1. hypermark

            Makes sense.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      He was so eager to save the FourthAmendment that he was willing tolive in Russia to do it. Sounds nobleto me.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Maybe it’s just me, but I thought he was on his way thru Russia but got stranded there when we revoked his passport and pressured the hell out of countries he tried to get to.If we didn’t want him in Russia we sure had a funny way of going about it.

    3. $28312048

      Who says he loves the freedom of Russia? Freedom I guess in the sense that he himself isn’t in prison, but I doubt he has any love for Putin’s motherland.

  63. andrewmaguire

    The opposite of a traitor is a patriot, I believe. Snowden is a patriot. His actions have been heroic, especially considering the element of sacrifice required. The disruption to his life and family is almost unthinkable.Nothing is more paramount to democracy than a well informed citizenry. We don’t have that in the US, or anything close. We need to know the truth in order to make responsible decisions as an electorate and to protect our freedom.

  64. Tim Laughlin

    What other secret operation is the NSA running? Hold a national referendum to close NSA down,woud government listen? Non-related, but the “Department of Homeland Security” should change their name, always reminds me of goose stepping soldiers with black arm bands….

    1. $28312048

      Why would you want the NSA shut down? They perform a valuable service when it actually sticks to its mission.

  65. Guest

    Hero 100%. A better way to describe him would be “Hacker”.

    1. $28312048

      Or “Disruption Ninja!”… start up term of the mega-mash of the week!

  66. Sam Jacobs

    1. The disappointing issue for me is all of the indignation and uproar directed at the NSA when private companies engage in very similar spying behaviors all the time, not for the purposes of preventing crime or stopping terrorism but for the purposes of manipulating us to purchase things from their advertisers.2. There is some discussion about the fact that not only did Google and Facebook largely provide access for the NSA but, again, spying behavior is at the very heart of Google’s business model. They would argue it’s for the exact opposite ends – to make information available and accessible. But there are ethical considerations there as well. First, that they get to decide how and what information is surfaced while keeping their code and algorithms veiled and hidden (ie “we don’t need to know). Second, that making information accessible isn’t de facto a positive thing just as the NSA accumulating all this information about us isn’t de facto a negative thing if it allows them to prevent mass acts of terrorism.3. It seems to me to be the mark of a childish society that projects zero tolerance for security threats but is also up in arms when the police and the gov’t use modern technology to prosecute that zero tolerance.4. Put more specifically, video cameras, cell phone footage, and modern surveillance techniques were used to capture the bombers from the Boston marathon within a few short days of that heinous act yet there doesn’t seem to be much self-awareness that surveillance like that enacted by the NSA is adopting exactly those techniques and potentially preventing attacks like that beforehand. Are we glad that we were able to use modern technology to capture the Boston bombers? Are we regretful? Should we have let them run wild?It’s complicated. If we’re going to attack the NSA and our gov’t, who, while having secret courts and tribunals, is still largely elected, why don’t we equivalently attack the entire business model of the web whose means are to spy on every action we take online in the hopes of selling us credit cards, mortgages, insurance policies, and 50% coupons to tanning salons? Is Larry Page a hero but our law enforcement officials villains?It’s complicated.

    1. $28312048

      Many of this is complicated, but your first two points are moot. Google and Facebook are private companies, mostly up front with their behavior and most important… VOLUNTARY. The NSA reading your email isn’t an opt-in system.

  67. Youssef Rahoui

    I would not frame the topic this way because what really matters to me is not Snowden (although I hope he will find a safe place to live) but what he is revealing. And we already see that what he is revealing matters not only to millions of US citizens but to tens of millions of foreign citizens, raising a critical debate about modern democracies.

  68. sigmaalgebra

    For the question, “Traitor or Hero?”, for anargument that would stand up to public scrutiny, Iwould need some definitions of these two.I seem to recall that recently Generals JamesClapper and Keith Alexander and others in thecurrent administration have claimed that what theNSA did was ‘legal’.Then looking in more detail, it appears that thelegality was from some double secret, triple cryptosecret, Batman encoder ring encrypted, etc. courts,arguments, laws, rules, etc., in other words, toquote ‘All the President’s Men’, “total BS”. Right,IANAL, but I can detect the unique odor of BS.And it looks like with such legal acrobaticcontortions and magic show prestidigitation,everything Heinrich Himmler and Lavrentiy Beria didwould have been similarly ‘legal’.As it is, with such ‘legal’ interpretations, theNSA, CIA, FBI, TSA, DEA, IRS, etc. have tools ofcontrol that the Stasi, Hitler, and Stalin wouldhave dreamed of. Or just read ‘1984’.Really, at present, some of the main pillars of thestrength of our 200+ year old democracy are gone;our democracy is at risk; and terrible tyranny isjust a few steps away, say, another Nixon and aninternational, economic, etc. crisis. A hurricanemight be enough; riots from another Rodney Kingevent might do it. A false flag job might send usinto tyranny in a matter of hours. We got to wherewe are from essentially just a few wackos withairline tickets and box cutters. What could be doneexploiting a serious threat?What Hitler had and used to gain power in and near1933 was much less strong than what a US presidentnow has with NSA, CIA, FBI, TSA, DEA, IRS, etc.While the Internet is new, a ‘surveillance state’,grabbing information on the private lives ofcitizens, and the slide to tyranny are all quiteold. The situation is simple, dirt simple, eighthgrade civics simple:Jefferson’s “The price of liberty is eternalvigilance.”.Franklin’s “They who can give up essential libertyto obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neitherliberty nor safety.”Or just the wisdom of the Fourth Amendment. Sincethe US seems to have forgotten it, here it is:”Amendment IV”The right of the people to be secure in theirpersons, houses, papers, and effects, againstunreasonable searches and seizures, shall not beviolated, and no Warrants shall issue, but uponprobable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,and particularly describing the place to besearched, and the persons or things to be seized.”Apparently, as for nearly all US citizens, from theInternet the NSA has a lot of data on me, and Inever saw a warrant. So, the NSA trashed the FourthAmendment. Done.Although we could peruse ‘The Federalist Papers’, onthis amendment, I don’t think that the foundingfathers were joking or just trying to protectprivate collections of satirical cartoons ofpoliticians. Instead, this amendment is to blockthe ubiquitous OCD of government to grab, grabinformation, money, and power and establish tyranny.That’s what governments and politicians do; to drawfrom the movie ‘Big Sky Country’, they have the”grabs” — they grab at everything they can gettheir hands on. If we do nothing, then they will doso and take us to tyranny. Instead we have to pushback continually. Did I mention the need for”eternal vigilance”.?Q. But you seem to be assuming that the NSA, CIA,FBI, etc. are fundamentally out for tyranny?A. I should assume something else? Given apparentlywhat they’ve done, how can I assume something else?They are a much bigger threat to the US than wackoswith box cutters. Did I mention the need for”eternal vigilance”.?We live constantly on a slippery slope: Just donothing and we will have another Hitler.For the needed vigilance, we have from Justice LouisD. Brandeis,”The most important political office is that of theprivate citizen.”And for the dangers of secrecy in government and fordefense against secrecy, also from Brandeis we havethe importance of sunlight,”Publicity is justly commended as a remedy forsocial and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said tobe the best of disinfectants; electric light themost efficient policeman.”In simple, blunt terms, the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. havetrashed the US Constitution, in particular theFourth Amendment.Scenario: Some guy has a wife, a child, a house, acar, a boat, a dog, and a cat, is active inpolitics, and also has a girlfriend. So, looking athis cell phone records, can see when he called her,how long they talked, when he made calls from hercondo. If the IRS gets his bank records, then theymight discover that he has been paying for thecondo. With data from license plate scanners, cantell when he drove to the condo. Now anyone withthat information can make the guy “an offer he can’trefuse”.The means are new but the stuff is old — blackmail,shakedown. The NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. could ‘turn’ theguy and make him an ‘asset’.Ah, heck: It turned out the ‘girlfriend’ was hissister and he had been trying to help her. Toughluck spooks. Better luck next time. Find someother windows to mash your nose against.NSA, CIA, FBI, listen up! Got one just for you!Yes, we know; it’s tough for a spook to get a realgirlfriend. So, you guys will LOVE this! Theselittle cameras have high quality audio and great lowlight HD video and can be hidden out of sight in anybedroom! IR models also! Use two for the mostfantastic 3-D! Better videos than all the ones onyour favorite XXX Web sites! We know you will thinkof lots of other places you can put these littlepuppies! Much better than all those SnapChatintercepts you getting daily from Sweden! Yes,we’re GSA approved!The only way the NSA, CIA, FBI, …, can do theirdirty work to destroy the US is usually to hide inthe darkness of secrecy, protected from the sunlightBrandeis noted.Guys, this stuff is not new, deep, difficult, orsubtle and, instead, is just some PBS shows onhistory and some eighth grade civics.Generals Clapper and Alexander, really bad cases ofthe ‘grabs’.Why? To them, why not? They are getting paid; inboth cases, for them it’s a good gig. The more theygrab, the more they spend, the better chances theyhave of stopping another Boston Bomber, and whatthey are grabbing and spending isn’t theirs. So, bygrabbing and spending, they are covering their assesand protecting their gig. For the laws, they claimwhat they are doing is legal; besides, they didn’tpass or sign those laws. For the Constitution, theyjust note that they are not the SCOTUS. Easy enoughand SOP for bureaucrats everywhere forever.But cross them, and they can start making offerspeople can’t refuse, and we can be back to theStasi, Beria, Himmler, ‘geheimnis stats polizei'(Gestapo), ‘ein Führer’, and tyranny.They already have a big carrot: As at…”House Members Voting to Continue NSA’s DragnetSurveillance Received Twice as Much From DefenseContractors”Submitted by Donny Shaw on Jul 23, 2013So, the big ‘national security’ industry is its ownconstituency and self-perpetuating. Reminds me of abiological cancer.Money? A recent report held that the richest partof the US is Silicon Valley; second is the hedgefund area in SW CT; third is, right, the DC area.Whose paying for it in money, privacy, andconstitutional rights? The citizens are.So, given the above, what was Snowden to do?As it is, I’m glad for myself and the US that he didwhat he did.Traitor? That in some technical sense, in terms ofwhat appear to me to be a lot of totally messed up’laws’ (does anyone get reminded of Nuremberg andits laws, trials, ‘legal’ test “hare, hunter,field”, etc.?), what he did was ‘treason’, impressesme not at all, and I won’t call it ‘treason’ or him a’traitor’. If I were on a jury, then I’d just votenot guilty. The judge could give any instructionshe wanted; the government, DOJ, and prosecutioncould talk for days about all their ‘legal’ this andthat and could yell and scream; but that would be myvote, and I wouldn’t have to explain it. Lawyersmight call such a vote “jury nullification”; I justcall it my vote.Hero? Maybe. That attribute is mostly by publicacclimation; if the public wants to go along with’hero’, so will I. Basically he laid down his lifeto protect the Fourth Amendment and may yet lose hislife and prove to have been successful protectingthe Fourth Amendment. Did I mention I’m glad he didwhat he did?To me Snowden’s done much more to protect and defendthe US than W, Obama, the weasels Clapper andAlexander, etc.At Nuremberg we found some people guilty who, maybe,just followed orders and the laws of the ThirdReich; by this standard, looks like we should tryand then lock up Generals Clapper and Alexander.Sleep well, guys!But it should be true, and maybe is partly true,that we should have ways to handle such ExecutiveBranch overreach and Congressional total BS lawswithout ‘leaks’. In particular, any person ororganization asked for data can say “see you incourt” and take the case all the way to the SCOTUS.Apparently Google is in the process of doing justthis. Maybe in a technical, legal sense the Snowdenleaks have enabled such legal cases, e.g., provided’standing’ to sue.Still, going to the SCOTUS is not a very directremedy so that as a practical matter we should beback to, say, Brandeis and his”The most important political office is that of theprivate citizen.”which can include Snowden and, now, all citizenstelling their elected ones in DC to open the doorsand windows, turn on the lights, and shovel out thatbarn. There was plenty of reason to have done soyears ago and long before Snowden.In the end, as we have to conclude from Jefferson,Franklin, and Brandeis, the real blame should be onthe citizens who kept quiet.There should be a new category of startups:Internet users will want a lot more in specialprotocols, proxy servers, and strong encryption.ISPs, colocation sites, peering centers, etc. willstart advertising that they keep all data secure.Maybe we will have some data security auditingfirms! And some organizations will set up ‘honeypots’ to see if the dirt bag spooks are listening.I have to believe that anything like those ‘nationalsecurity letters’ will be struck down by the SCOTUSor just repealed by Congress.The US economy will be making Congress some offersit can’t refuse: Quit dumping BS on the USinformation technology industry, or a lot of thatindustry will move to Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand,or some such.We need to call the Patriot Act, etc. just atemporary lapse in judgment, correct it, respect theConstitution, otherwise clean up our act, and moveon.Much of the best of the US is the Constitution. So,it’s logically impossible at one time both toprotect the US and trash the Constitution. So, weneed to stop the bad guys and protect theConstitution, both at the same time. As it is, thebiggest threat to the US is the threat to theConstitution from the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc.And, finally, yes, the Internet sword has two edges,the one used by the NSA, etc. and the one used bySnowden and, now, irate citizens.

    1. Brian Crain

      Agree completely.

  69. jas

    A few hundred years ago some guys named Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were labeled as traitors by the British. Now their names have become synonymous with the ideals that this great country was built upon: freedom and liberty.James Madison, the “father of our constitution”, once said that the the concentration of gov’t powers (executive, judicial and legislative) into the hands of any faction is by definition tyranny. He then went on to assure the nation that the Constitution protected us from that fate. So by allowing the executive branch to secretly follow a secret interpretation of the law under the supervision of a secret, kangaroo court and occasional secret congressional hearings, how close are we coming to James Madison’s definition of tyranny? Is the guy who exposed this tyranny a hero or a traitor? Up to you I guess. Maybe we’ll know in a few hundred more years.

  70. rikardlinde

    Fred, a bit surprised you ask this before questions about your government’s conduct and the behavior of the companies involved. The leaks help clarify a lot of things and the Public need to know more to make informed decisions.I think it would be good to find out how much the companies get paid for participating and how the money has affected their behavior. It would also be helpful to know if the companies have pushed the governments limits to make another dollar. Or have the companies tried to stop the whole thing and the government is the sole perpetrator? Anyone convinced that that is the case? These questions feel a LOT more important than whether a man is this or that.

  71. george

    I’m not sure, no one really knows all the details or motives. Maybe he was just angry at the agency or maybe he just wanted fame and thought a book or movie deal would be forthcoming. He’s not a hero, more like somewhere in between a rat and a purist!

  72. Pete Griffiths

    Pretty ironic that Obama is welcoming the debate and simultaneously hounding the man who instigated it.

  73. enygmatic

    I’d call him a Traitor, since it seems he went into all this with the express aim of deceiving his employers and revealing “secrets”. As opposed to a Manning who found out what he did while working there and chose to reveal what he did. All said and done, don’t think the ends justify the means in Snowden’s case.

  74. Bala

    Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always,[1][2] defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance. In one view (in India, known as ahimsa or satyagraha) it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement.… enough said

    1. MikeSchinkel

      Well said.

  75. Guest

    I have been reading this blog for a long time

  76. Youssef Rahoui

    I would put my previous comment (… in another way.Snowden has told the truth: the NSA does not even deny it. This truth matters to hundreds of millions of persons because it endangers the principles of the society they live in.So, technically speaking he may be a traitor (say those who define the rules and feel free to break them) but ethically, he acts as every citizen should and, considering the risks he now faces, he is a hero in my book.

    1. mcbeese

      A hero does not seek shelter with China and Russia. A hero does not threaten to release a significant amount of additional damaging confidential material if he is made to face indictment for the laws he knowingly broke.

      1. Youssef Rahoui

        As I say, my focus is not on Snowden, the law or my opinion about him ; my focus is on what he is revealing. Not the finger: the moon.

  77. Claudio Gallo

    PS. An IP owned by the U.S. Senate just edited Snowden on Wikipedia to label him a traitor. So he MUST be a traitor, right? :)…

  78. mcbeese

    I realize I’m late to the discussion, but if anyone is still listening, I have a serious question for those who are so passionately against PRISM:If you HAD to choose between PRISM and another 9/11, which would you choose?While you think about your answer, realize that the question might be a fair question about a realistic scenario, despite old Ben’s cute quote.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      “Tyranny emerges when a population is made to believe the only viable options are binary when there is actually a plethora of real options.” – me

      1. mcbeese

        That’s ducking the question – a non-answer. Yes, something less than PRISM would protect us to some degree, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that something as comprehensive as PRISM might be required to head off the next 9/11, hence my question.

        1. MikeSchinkel

          I didn’t answer because your question itself is dishonest, it presents a set of binary options when the choice is not black-and-white and is a well-known propaganda technique as I referenced in another comment, but here again:…As for a police state, it’s always possible to rationalize the need for one by focusing on perceived threats rather than on efforts to make peace with those who may be threatening, especially when the spoils of war profiteers are on the line. History is replete with examples of failed empires taking action with these types of rationale.

          1. mcbeese

            It’s not a dishonest question, it’s just a question. Nobody has to answer. I’m not trying to rationalize anything, I’m just curious about how people feel.

          2. MikeSchinkel

            Fair point. Your motivations may well be honest, but hopefully you can see how binary questions are great tools for propagandists?Still, a real world scenario for your question could never occur because we wouldn’t have a single point in time where we could choose PRISM or another 9/11; it’s all just (hopefully educated) guesses as to what could happen. Also the problem with PRISM isn’t PRISM itself, it’s a governing culture of that allows PRISM to exist in the first place.Getting rid of PRISM w/o changing the culture is curing the symptom, not the disease.

  79. leigh

    And how ironic that he ends up living in Russia. Home of the crazy anti-gay laws and the country that puts a rock band in jail for two years for making fun of it’s president. Somewhere, Putin is having a good laugh over a cold vodka.

  80. JLM

    .The most basic promise that folks in the “great game” make is to keep secrets. If something is of a specific classification then one’s oath precludes them from revealing it. Ever. This is a “to the grave” promise.In that context, it is a pretty simple binary determination — Snowden is a traitor because he revealed secrets having promised to safeguard any and all such secrets entrusted to him or that he inadvertently came into contact with.His betrayal is a bit more damning given that he apparently sought out, copied and removed secrets that he had no “need to know”. On this second basis, he is also a traitor. But perhaps a worst kind of traitor in that there is clear and convincing evidence of intent and knowledge. These are criminal standards of proof.As to folks who express admiration that some of the secrets that Snowden revealed are of use to us as a society and a citizenry as to what our government is actually doing — sure, count me amongst those folks — I would say that one can be a useful idiot while also being a traitor.In that manner, Snowden was a traitor who, as a useful idiot, has provided interesting information however the revelation of places, means, methods, people, conduct and a number of things which WILL get field operatives killed and will knock our “take” back 20 years are as bad as it gets.Make no mistake — Snowden has done more damage to US espionage activities than any other single person. This is a business that is only 75 years old. He has revealed the crown jewels.Anyone who has ever been even on the periphery of the intel world knows something very simple — we are well served by men who operate in the shadows and who routinely break every law of every country on a daily basis. We seek advantage in any corner of the world under any set of circumstances that we can possibly conjure up.If you think that waterboarding is the worst thing that America has done you are supremely naive and should simply imagine the potential of pharmaceuticals of all types taken together with the ability to use physical conditions over extended periods of time.Did you actually think for a second that Russia was NOT going to give asylum to a guy carrying 4 lap tops filled to overflowing with American secrets? Really?Based on the damage done to US interests, Snowden should be executed. If you apply a bit of lip balm to suggest that there is some good that has come from his revelations, then you are really grasping at straws.There were a myriad of other ways — including whistleblower provisions — that Snowden could have achieved his objectives.What is on display that is truly alarming is that the intel community allowed a 28 year old dweeb to wander out of his compartment to look at and capture docs while simultaneously allowing transfer software and storage devices to be used without any adult supervision. The idea that a flash drive could be brought into and removed from such a facility is breathtaking. The idea that 28 year olds were working computers capable of accessing such info and were not under continuous camera surveillance is similarly breathtaking.This was one very sloppy operation.You will know the truth of this when the first hearings are initiated about who did the background investigation on this guy’s security clearance.JLM.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      Members of the Mafia have a similar oath against revelation.But you make a great point; Snowden is definitely a “traitor” in the eyes of the US government for betraying it’s interests. Which is increasingly different from the interests of the US people, especially since the ruling in the Citizens United case.

    2. ZekeV

      I generally agree. More happy than not that some of this info is now public, disapprove of the method of disclosure. Snowden should have chosen the specific objectionable bits — say, lack of proper oversight of junior analysts / ind’t contractors with access to US citizens’ e-mails — and approached as a whistle-blower. His decision to run first to China, then to Russia indicates to me that his desire was to inflict harm on the US, or at least to give a middle finger to the Man. Still, didn’t we all assume that this was going on, that the nat’l security community had its fingers in ever data pipe? The release of some classified PPTs and surrounding press frenzy has done a lot more to compromise some bullshit PR strategy than it has any operational methods, as far as I can tell.

      1. JLM

        .There is little doubt that the revelations have revealed individuals, means, methods and take. This has resulted in folks being put in danger.The folks who were in a position to undertake these assignments were compromised not by name but by logical proximity.A simple matter was the revelation that the US had completely penetrated the EU headquarters and had been able to plant a bug in the “secure” fax machine. This was obviously done at the time of manufacture and was energized some time after installation. After the EU folks had been lulled to sleep and thought their communications were secure.In addition, it was revealed that there were multiple levels of listening devices planted in the building and secure areas. This included “sacrificial” units which were energized during logical time periods of counter measure sweeps.In this way, the CIA gave up some obvious tools in order to create a false sense of confidence in the sweepers that they had found ALL the bugs.The US likely employed tools of a signature that could not have been conclusively traced to US tradecraft.This also revealed that the US had developed devices that only emitted an electromagnetic field when they were transmitting but not when they were recording.This EU example would undoubtedly have alerted Russia, China and any of a number of other shitheads to look for these same type of measures thereby compromising our means and methods.This is a very serious setback for a 25+ year effort.JLM.

        1. ZekeV

          I see your point. Hopefully the good guys will learn something from this experience…

  81. gregorylent

    hero, 100%

  82. Tony Schy

    Is it possible to be a “little bit” of a traitor? Feels binary to me.

  83. Scoowhoop

    neither, he is a criminal

  84. marketing Rochester NY

    can’t say much about that.. cause lack of knowledge on related thing

  85. Pete Griffiths

    Why should he serve time? The idea the you should do time for being a whistle blower (which is absolutely is as defined in law) is anathema. You want to imprison the messenger? And you expect to keep getting messengers?I’m disappointed.

  86. Pete Griffiths

    Sadly the evidence is pretty plain that the channels are (a) ineffective, and what is worse (b) had he used them he would have been shut down.I’ll see if I can dig up a link to a previous whistleblower who went through precisely this agonizing path and who, in consequence, believed that given Snowden’s objective was indeed to get his message out and stimulate debate, he had little choice.