Edward Snowden spills details on NSA capabilities

June 17, 2013 | By | 10 Replies More

In a live interview sponsored by the Guardian, Edward Snowden provided more details regarding NSA spying. If 20% of his information is true, Congress should tear apart the NSA, piece by piece.

Snowden makes an important distinction between what the NSA policy requires and what really happens on the ground. This is an attack on NSA credibility, which is already highly suspect.


Category: Orwellian, Propaganda, Secrecy, Spying, Whistle-blowers

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Common Dreams presents the entire transcript from today’s Q & A. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/17-1

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Comment from ProPublica, regarding NSA claims that it’s massive surveillance has helped catch terrorists in Europe:

    The problem isn’t entirely that “we’ve gone too far,” though. It’s a huge part of it, of course. However…

    1. We’re taking these people at their word a week after they claimed that storing enormous amounts of information in a database wasn’t a “collection.” If they’re willing to lie so brazenly, why are these fifty classified data points valid. It’s the old Vaudeville routine. The banana in my ear is to scare away all the alligators. There aren’t any alligators in the city? It must be working, then.

    2. There’s an overwhelming asymmetry in response. Drunk driving kills more people every year than terrorists try to kill over multiple decades. But we would never re-enact Prohibition of alcohol, even though that would solve the problem cheaply, because that would violate our freedoms. But military surveillance to save a few hundred lives is acceptable, somehow.

    3. It’s a secret program, run by a secretive agency, approved by a secret court whose opinions are classified, and all contact must be approved by the Executive branch to isolate them. Kafka would be proud.

    4. The laws that permit this were passed by lying to the legislature, based on unofficial meetings of leaders conducted in secret, as Dick Cheney tells the story.

    5. Those laws chill expression, assembly, and the press. They are unreasonable searches and seizures. The searches occur without due process and without protection from self-incrimination. There is no trial by jury, you are not allowed to confront your accuser, and you aren’t given enough information to prepare a defense. That’s four, maybe five Amendments in the Bill of Rights stomped on, plus Posse Comitatus. Given that the people enacting these took an oath of office to protect the Constitution, I’d call these laws outright treasonous, if not a military coup.

    6. With all this information, plus the Russian government pointing out the suspect and warning us of a threat, we still couldn’t manage to stop the Boston Marathon bombings, again calling the entire premise of lives saved into question.

    7. The government presents no evidence whatsoever that what they’ve done here couldn’t have been done just as effectively by the civilian laws the rest of us live with. Sebastien himself pointed out one where police work is really what won the day.

    In other words, there is no good way of looking at this program except to assume that the government can do no wrong, no matter what its actions.


  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    For me, the most disturbing thing about the NSA spying is that there appears to be nearly free access to the database by workers at any one of the multinational corporations that has been subcontracted to maintain it. That leaves it open to being abused for political purposes.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    From The Nation, Jonathan Schell, “America’s Surveillance Net”:

    What should Americans do when all official channels are unresponsive or dysfunctional? Are we, as people used to say, in a revolutionary situation? Shall we man the barricades? The situation is a little more peculiar than that. There is a revolution afoot, but it is not one in the streets; it is one that is being carried out by the government against the fundamental law of the land. That this insurrection against the constitutional order by officials sworn to uphold it includes legal opinions and legislation only makes it the more radical and dangerous. In other words, the government is in stealthy insurrection against the letter and the spirit of the law.

    What’s needed is counterrevolution—an American restoration, returning to and reaffirming the principles on which the Republic was founded. Edward Snowden, for one, knew what to do. He saw that when government as a whole goes rogue, the only force with a chance of bringing it back into line is the public. He has helped make this possible by letting the public know the abuses that are being carried out in its name. Civil disobedients are of two kinds: those inspired by universal principles, and those inspired by national traditions. Each has its strengths. Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is the first kind; Snowden, the second. Asked why he had done what he did, Snowden replied, “I am neither traitor nor hero. I am an American.” He based his actions on the finest traditions of this country, which its current leaders have abandoned but which, he hopes, the current generation of Americans still share. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll find out whether he was right. Jonathan Schell


  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Mr. Snowden is but one of literally hundreds of thousands of private-sector intelligence workers, many of whom possess top-secret security clearances. His employer at the time of the leaks, Booz Allen Hamilton, is one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States, with nearly all of its recent $5.7 billion in annual revenue from contracts with one government department or another, and almost a fourth of it from intelligence work alone. Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors.

    It is highly doubtful, however, that American taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. . . .
    Security experts have pointed out that the proliferation of private sector employees with top-secret clearances, now estimated at up to 500,000, makes breaches more likely. And when senators asked at the hearing in 2011 whether the intelligence system was properly balanced between the public and private sectors, several witnesses raised concerns about the overreliance on contractors. These concerns included not only the risk of increased security breaches but also conflicts of interest, blurred lines of authority and diminished accountability.


  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Edward Snowden is THIS kind of coward:

    What kind of coward would willingly/consciously abandon:
    The comforts of a lifestyle afforded by a job paying roughly $200,000 a year?
    A home in Hawaii, shared by a girlfriend?
    All intimate relationships with family, friends, and loved ones (including the aforementioned girlfriend)?
    The stability/familiarity of living in the country of your birth, and native language?

    What kind of coward, at 29 years old, would consciously/willfully challenge arguably the most advanced intelligence agencies in the world to employ surveillance technology of unfathomable complexity in what’s sure to become a manhunt of epic proportions?

    What kind of coward would choose to invite that manhunt in a country or continent with which they were largely unfamiliar?

    What kind of coward would subject his life, accomplishments, and character to 24/7 scrutiny from the esteemed American media machine?

    What kind of coward would challenge an administration that has asserted, and acted on the assertion, that they have the authority to assassinate US citizens without regard for those rights past generations believed to be enshrined in our founding document, such as due process?

    What kind of coward would challenge an administration that has asserted the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens?

    What kind of coward would challenge a government that has, in the past decade, tortured people TO DEATH, with impunity?

    . . .


    • Erich Vieth says:

      David Sirota:

      Snowden’s decision to flee the United States has often been depicted as an act of treason unto itself. The idea is that whereas Daniel Ellsberg was a hero for blowing the whistle and remaining in the United States, Snowden is a coward for blowing the whistle and fleeing. Left largely unmentioned is the big change between the time of Ellsberg’s disclosures and today: this White House is waging an unprecedented campaign to criminalize whistleblowing; it sometimes tortures whistleblowers; and it claims the right to extra-judicially assassinate American citizens who criticize the government but haven’t even been formally charged for a single crime. In light of this, why have most media outlets not bothered to even ask whether Snowden’s location outside the United States is, unto itself, a response to these troubling changes in U.S. government policy?


  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Noam Chomsky:

    “They [governments and corporations] take whatever is available, and in no time it is being used against us, the population. Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich.”


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