Thursday, January 5, 2017

You Have To Wonder How Much Snowden And Greenwald Contributed To The Election of Trump

I haven't read Edward Jay Epstein's book debunking the legend of Edward Snowden and I didn't read his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal until after I started writing this piece.   But, from what I've read about the book and the passages I've seen excerpted, he provides evidence to back up my long standing skepticism about Snowden's intentions from the beginning and my repeated warnings that he was a traitor to the United States and democracy who certainly was providing the enormous cache of documents he stole from the NSA to the dictatorial Chinese and Russian governments.   Far from the hero exposing government surveillance on private citizens in the United States and elsewhere, I said from the start he is the man who stole it to either try to sell it or to profit from giving it to some of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

That large parts of the alleged left took his word and that of his accomplices, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (later Oliver Stone),  and made him into a hero tells more about their shortsightedness and bad judgement and paranoia than it did to explain his course of conduct.   Now that we know more about what he stole and took to China and Russia, certainly to exchange for, at the very least, their protection and for his own profit, it is obvious that he was a traitor from the start, one who never deserved the blind faith of anyone.   The Snowden treason should also call into question the company he worked for, the very politically connected Booz Allen Hamilton, and the entire idea that for-profit corporations can be trusted in such matters.  Especially those connected to some of our most powerful political players.

After addressing the massive size of Snoweden's theft, he took so much there is no way he could have known what was in most of what he certainly gave to the Chinese and Putin governments, Epstine notes:

It was not the quantity of Mr. Snowden’s theft but the quality that was most telling. Mr. Snowden’s theft put documents at risk that could reveal the NSA’s Level 3 tool kit—a reference to documents containing the NSA’s most-important sources and methods. Since the agency was created in 1952, Russia and other adversary nations had been trying to penetrate its Level-3 secrets without great success.

Yet it was precisely these secrets that Mr. Snowden changed jobs to steal. In an interview in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on June 15, 2013, he said he sought to work on a Booz Allen contract at the CIA, even at a cut in pay, because it gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world.

If he was able to steal that and information like that, who knows what else he took with him and handed to the Chinese and Russian governments?   Who knows what role his stolen information has played in things like the Russian hacking of Democrats?  Who know who else they or others are able to access because the legendary Edward Snowden stole who knows what from the NSA?

If people are uneasy about the NSA under civilian control in a (former?) quasi-democracy doing that kind of spying making a hero of a man who stole that information and gave it to two of the most oppressive regimes in the world should certainly scare the crap out of them.

The hypocrisy of so many on the alleged left in regard to Snowden first occurred to me when I considered the likelihood of that cache of stolen intelligence having information about the domestic opposition of the Chinese and Russian regimes.   Exposing those who provided information on the criminal and other activities of those governments and their extensions.   Compared to that the idea that the NSA might be keeping track of who was calling whom overseas isn't even worth worrying about.  I would say that just about everything I've heard rattling out of the more paranoid and less bound to the discipline of reality on the left is less worth worrying about than that Vladimir Putin's criminal regime might, now, have the ability to hack what the NSA only theoretically could.  The NSA is answerable to the formerly quasi-democratic government of the United States and, theoretically, at least, our courts,  the Putin regime is a law unto itself, the same can be said of the Chinese intelligence services.

I haven't seen Oliver Stone's movie  supposedly about Edward Snowden but from what I've read of it, it is a load of crap in the typical Hollywood hagiographic-paranoic style.  Anything that holds Snowden up as any kind of idealist or hero is a lie  Show biz and realism seldom, very, very seldom intersect.  But such is the level of stupiding-down of American culture under the regime of entertainment that it probably is all that many even allegedly educated people will believe they know about it.  I will bet that on many a lefty comment thread arguments would be made from that as readily as they are other inaccurate Hollywood products.  Those who know something else will now what Greenwald or Poitras or some other highly unreliable source will have said about it.  One of the things I think is worth thinking about is how Snowden's treason might effect people who are at real risk from governments, warlords and criminal enterprises.  As I said, that was my first occasion for skepticism about what they were saying when those stories were breaking.   While I can't vouch for the veracity of it, this comment at Daily Kos might indicate that, for people on the ground, working in some of the most dangerous places on Earth, things were far less of a breeze than it was for pseud-journalists living in the comfort of a mansion in Rio or in Berlin.

ivorybill  Things Come Undone Jan 01 · 10:37:20 AM
Real whistle-blowers release information relevant to specific acts of government malfeasance, not enormous archives of secret information.  I have a lot of respect for whistle-blowers, and had Snowden only stolen and released materials relevant to illegal collection of domestic communications, I would agree with you.

But that’s not what he did.  That’s not what Manning did.

I work in Iraq.  When Chelsea Manning released her huge dump of classified information, I had to call a human rights attorney to tell him that the Shia’ militias likely had his identity.  He had been working on a project to prevent abuse of children in Iraq’s criminal justice system, and to defend victims of human trafficking.  This attorney has more courage than Manning and Snowden combined. He continued the work; another attorney fled the country.  It was not a fun phone call. 

I was never a defender of Snowden, Manning or Assange.  But seeing all that happened in 2016, I want even more strongly for all three to find themselves facing criminal prosecution in federal court.  Whistle-blowing is one thing.  This radical idea that secrets should be exposed as a matter of some sort of weird philosophy is dangerous and misguided.  The way Snowden and Assange have collaborated with Vladimir Putin is truly horrible and alleged progressives should think long and hard about exactly who these two serve and what they are. They don’t serve you, that’s for sure. 

Just for the contrast:

Image result for glenn greenwald house rio

While I am far more sympathetic to Chelsea Manning and think it's necessary to monitor her treatment in prison, she has my sympathy far more than I am anyone else in the story.  I'll remind you that the international scum ball, Trump supporter, Julian Assange also figures into it.  But even more so than Manning, I am far more worried about the people whose privacy and security and lives have been endangered by all of them.  I am far, far more worried for the real advocates of the poor and against the powerful in other places, those whose lives are or potentially are put in danger from this kind of irresponsibility.  A lot of them are real advocates for real rights, not people who profit from feeding the thrill-paranoia of would-be lefties with few but first-world problems.

I would really like to know if and who and how many may have had their lives endangered, destroyed or ended by the things that get the likes of Greenwald what he's gotten out of this.  I'd like to really know what the lifestyle Edward Snowden's treason, not only against the NSA or the United States government but to anyone whose work for and advocacy for real rights and even lives, allowed him to get from those who he traded secrets to.

To a great extent the game of paranoia and outrage about what the United States government does to endanger our rights is no less absurd on the left than it is on the far right.  That is especially true of the quite majority white, quite privileged play-left.   I think a lot of that was justifiable to some extent in the past, though I think even a lot of it was ginned up on behalf of communists and, even more so, anarchists who were not infrequently engaged in breaking the law or in some level of espionage or a lame-brained, pudding-headed attempt at subversion, not to mention, occasionally, actual violence.  I will hold back on the legend of the innocence of the Rosenbergs and the time and credibility wasted on that by the silly-left on behalf of the real left, for now.

I warned people that the adulation of Snowden could blow up in our faces because everything that was known about him from just about the start revealed that he was a liar whose actions spoke ever so much more to his betrayal of democracy than it revealed some kind of hero of civil liberties.   I also warned that the adulation of his accomplices and the trust put in them was as stupid, especially the libertarian phony Glenn Greenwald.  Now I am more certain of that than ever before.


  1. Well, you know, information wants to be free; so long as it's not Glenn Greenwald's information.

    He got pretty upset when he thought he was important enough for the NSA to "spy" on him. He got more upset (I suspect) when it turned out he wasn't Snowden-worthy, and the U.S. government let him travel freely to America from Brazil. He wants to traffic in illegally obtained property (classified information provided to him by thieves) but be held harmless for doing so, because "principles."

    As a lawyer, you'd think he'd understand it doesn't work that way. But Greenwald is a special snowflake who deserves to be free to do what he wants, because what he wants to do is so important; well, to Glenn Greenwald.

    The rest of us have yet to see much benefit from it.

    Interesting how much of the right wing is now (report from NPR on the right wing in France and Britain says) supportive of Putin. FoxNews has decided they love Assange. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, indeed. But it's all so predictable.

  2. "I haven't seen Oliver Stone's movie supposedly about Edward Snowden but from what I've read of it, it is a load of crap in the typical Hollywood hagiographic-paranoic style. "

    You're criticizing a movie you haven't seen? Why am I not surprised? Incidentally, Sparky, another Oliver Stone movie you haven't seen -- NATURAL BORN KILLERS -- has as its theme the idea that killing Steve Dunleavy is something that actually should be done. I dont see how you can argue with that.

  3. My big issue is knowing what the end game of Snowden and Manning was. I want to be able to believe what these guys did was in the best interest of protecting the individual from significant intrusions into their lives/more bad foreign policy decisions. I've never felt particular animus towards them (particularly Manning, whose mental health situation prior to joining the Army was quite tenuous). I think everyone should be concerned about the way the NSA collects data on citizens and the decisions of our leaders to say, invade a sovereign nation using poor intelligence. My issue with the Greenwalds/Amy Goodmans of the world is that they seem to always work from the perspective that America sucks and they enjoy reveling in its embarrassments. Perhaps a gross oversimplification, but not far off in the case of Goodman, who seemed positively effusive about Hugo Chavez at one point. Not a fan of either of them. As for Julian Assange, it is interesting how this man who was touted by some on the left as heroic is now being praised by the likes of Sean Hannity. I don't know if he's in the bag for the Russian Federation, but it's not an insane thing to wonder. He seems quite narcissistic and desperate. As for Russia, I am scratching my head that this is NOW an issue. The current and previous administrations have meddled in the Middle East while Russia's influence and meddling have increased. I feel that President Obama paid more attention to Russia's influence in Syria, which I would argue they have a more legitimate claim to than the aggressive "annexing" of the Crimean region. That could have been Russia's Sudetenland moment. As detestable as Bashir Assad is, our decision to support his opposition has been a major catastrophe of foreign interference. We have unwittingly armed war criminals and jihadists to take out an enemy we at least were familiar with. I don't think much of Donald Trump nor his grasp for how much of a threat Russia will pose if we placate her. These next four years will be an interesting ride. Perhaps this is how it all ends!

    1. I agree entirely about the reflexive anti-Americanism of some of the worst of the play-left, and it isn't just on behalf of some allegedly leftist character. In her great essay, Mother Country, Marilynne Robinson points out how many in the United States will present the most skimpy and stingy measure of British welfare as some great example of socialism while ignoring things like land-grant universities, the GI bill and other such American distributions of wealth, far greater in size and far more radical in their conception.

      I have no use for Amy Goodman. If you want to see a real eye opener, look at the antics, internal politics and activities of Pacifica. Anyone who considers such things as their enthrallment to snake oil peddlers and their pathetic power struggles something worthy of comprising a "left" has something wrong with them.

      I think that the Obama administration made some major errors in foreign policy. Every American administration does. Americans have to learn that the United States can't fix or even assert its will all over the world. As many sins as the Assad are, the results of the attempt to overthrow him have been far worse. You'd think they'd realize that considering what happened in Iraq.

      Putin is a horrible dictator and his attempts to control the countries Russia borders is bad. He, himself, is probably the greatest thief in all of history, at least recent history. That is if the estimated size of his personal fortune, amassed in office, is accurate. I do have to say that, having watched the Republican Party selling the United States down the river to Putin's puppet, I am eager to see them pay a huge price for it. The Trump regime is the greatest act of treason in our history since the Confederacy. That it was brought to us by American style, unregulated, TV and hate-talk radio is absolute proof that those, when their owners can profit, will betray democracy.

      I hate to say it but if Julian Assange and his Wikileaks happened to meet with an unfortunate accident, I'd have a lot of trouble feeling bad about it. I am also far less enamored of the Ecuadorian government for harboring the sleazy, bottle blonde creep.