Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snowden helped and harmed the US, so cut him a deal

(Could've sworn I blogged in the past that the Obama Admin had gone too far on the government surveillance, but can't find it. Oh well. (UPDATE:  stumbled on it here, from June last year.))

Not too much original to say here other than if a whistleblower reveals information that causes what passes for a consensus these days in Washington that the government's overreached on surveillance, that's clearly a great benefit to American society and others who've been snooped on.

Snowden also revealed info on how we've snooped on non-allies, which was unnecessary and harmful. Revealing our snooping on allies led to huge hypocrisy from said allies, although it might also help with reduced Orwellianness towards Jane Six-Pack Foreigner. Also worth noting that he apparently lied to a dozen or two fellow employees to persuade them to break protocol and give him their passwords, and they're now as unemployed as he is but minus the celebrity status.

I guess he'd have been more heroic had he stayed to take his punishment, but I don't see it as a requirement that one maximizes the price one pays for doing the right thing (given that a lot of what he did was right).

Assuming the claim he's a Russian spy are just bull, then cut him a deal:  he cooperates to limit any future damage, tells all he knows about where he's hid the information still out there, he forfeits all future book/movie royalties, and in return he comes home and gets probation for a few years.


The Old Man is back said...

It's more important than this, Eli. Every time someone steps out of the box and tells on authority, authority responds by applying the hammer to the kneecaps. The message of Snowden's treatment is the same as ever; don't embarrass us, or we'll screw you over big time. It's government as gangster. Nobody wants to threaten national security as such, but the biggest threat of the Snowden affair was the revelation that citizen's privacy and personal freedoms are being systematically abused.
That countries spy on one another is no shock, and the reaction to this is as you say, largely hypocritical. It is easy to overlook the fact that a huge machinery of counter-blame has been put into action to defer guilt from the real guilty parties - government agencies, back to the whistle-blower, who should be getting a medal for having the courage to speak out about injustice.

Daniel Wirt said...

Brian, you say "Snowden also revealed info on how we've snooped on non-allies, which was unnecessary and harmful. "

The US has chosen some pretty unsavory allies (Shah of Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc etc). Arguably some of the non-allies have been of higher moral character than the allies.

Maybe it is some NSA directors that should be prosecuted and trying to cut deals.

Mal Adapted said...


When you're calm, you actually make a good deal of sense.

Daniel Wirt said...

Edward Abbey: "I have no desire to simply soothe or please."

Graydon said...

I doubt Snowden would seriously consider a deal of any kind, because there isn't any way for the United States to make a credible one.

Even if a political decision gets made, the Permanent Government doesn't consider itself bound by those in any way. (The CIA has been defying presidential orders and laws and Congress for how long? NSA officials lied to Congress in ways certain to get caught over the Snowden leaks, too.)

I figure Snowden's more than smart enough to realize that, and that the only thing that might keep him alive is doubt among Permanent Government officials about what happens when he dies.

So far, that's working, which means nothing -- we don't have enough information -- but which might mean there's some seriously horrible secret that hasn't come out yet.

Me, I figure that whatever it is will come out and at that point Snowden's dead. I also figure he knows that.

Hank Roberts said...

Snowden brought the left wing of the left and the right wing of the right together in opposition to the government.

You think they'll forgive him that?

Anonymous said...

Anon-101a here:


Was there any point to your opening phrase other than to demean? What would have been lost if your post had been:

"you actually make a good deal of sense [here]."

other than the attack?

Unable to disassociate the idea from the person?

Very human. Very stupid.

Daniel Wirt said...

Juan Cole's recent take on the NSA and history of surveillance in the US.


"At Hoover’s urgent request, Bobby Kennedy permitted the FBI secretly to break into King’s premises and those of his associates and plant bugs. They also bugged meetings where he spoke and hotels he stayed in. Let me repeat that. The reaction of the head of the FBI and the attorney general of the US to King’s dream that little boys and girls of different races would play games with each other was to record his every word and action and those of his friends."

coby said...

"Also worth noting that he apparently lied to a dozen or two fellow employees to persuade them to break protocol and give him their passwords"

Is this really established? I think Snowden denies it and the "I'm a liar" track records for the US gov't and E. Snowden would pretty clearly indicate Snowden's word is preferable...