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Snowden’s double-edged sword

Snowden’s double-edged sword

Was Edward Snowden just protecting the privacy — of Russian and Chinese intelligence services?

Edward Snowden is the hero of those seeking to protect privacy of Americans.

He’s also certainly the hero of the Russian and Chinese military and intelligence services, who don’t exactly speak on camera.

The New York Times and Spiegel revealed, based on Snowden leaks, how the NSA managed to penetrate a Chinese computer equipment company’s source code and obtain an ability to monitor communications through that equipment. That fact, plus revelations as to how it was done, will help Chinese intellegence agencies tremendously.

There’s also question as to whether Russian intelligence obtained materials allowing it to evade NSA surveillance with regard to it’s Ukraine operations, reports Michael Kelley at Business Insider (emphasis in original):

U.S. officials think that that Russia recently obtained the ability to evade U.S. eavesdropping equipment while commandeering Crimea and amassing troops near Ukraine’s border.

The revelation reportedly has the White House “very nervous,” especially because it’s unclear how the Kremlin hid its plans from the National Security Agency’s snooping on digital and electronic communications.

One interesting fact involved is the presence of Edward Snowden in Russia, where he has been living since flying to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.

In August, primary Snowden source Glenn Greenwald told The Associated Press that Snowden “is in possession of literally thousands of documents … that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

So it’s either a crazy coincidence that the Russians figured out how to evade NSA surveillance while hosting the NSA-trained hacker, or else it implies that Snowden provided the Russians with access to the NSA’s blueprint.

My position hasn’t changed since the Snowden story originally broke:

…. I’ve been uncomfortable how this has gone down. We shouldn’t be kowtowed into silence just because some of the consequences of this espionage and theft are good from a privacy perspective….

Is “whistleblowing” the reason Snowden took and disclosed the intelligence information, or the cover story to engender sympathy from people — like me — concerned about privacy rights which, by the way, don’t exist in China or Russia.

That Greenwald chooses to call people who question the Snowden narrative “anti-transparency journalists” and to lay the responsibility for disclosure on the publishers of the information not Snowden, seems like a desire to protect Snowden at all costs, including the cost of the truth.  That Greenwald terms the differentiation between protection of American and foreign privacy a “jingoistic view” confirms how astute Snowden was at choosing Greenwald as his primary contact and de facto spokesman.

When will we know whether this was a Snowden job or a legitimate attempt to protect civilian privacy?

We may never know.  Until it’s too late.


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When Snowden gets a job with Russian intelligence and then absconds with thousands of documents revealing how they operate and hands them over to a U.S. agency — then I’ll believe he’s really a principled actor.

Sir, nothing is more helpful to our enemies than our freedom.

This is a price we pay, willfully and knowingly.

I repeat, nothing is more helpful to our enemies than our freedom.

Snowden is not a traitor. He is a bona fide American hero. He is a whistle blower.

The NSA read everybody’s emails for years and still did not predict the war against Georgia.

Just because they missed the war against Ukraine, don’t let them blame it on Snowden.

In the end it really doesn’t matter if Snowden acted out of some form of altruism or revenge. The bottom line remains: When the government abuses the rights of citizens, bad things happen.

I think they way in which he ended up in Russia makes it likely, but far from certain, that he was not an agent from the start. Too many odd steps. If I am Russia, I wouldn’t trust that he wouldn’t end in Chinese hands by going through HK.

On the other hand, he is not pure hero, and what he releases and the way he releases focuses not just on spying on US citizens and internal issues, but around the world, into areas that are arguably genuine intelligence functions.

Like most complex, real-world figures, there is a lot more gray than black-or-white.

Civil disobedience against the increasing encroachment on our rights by the power of government – that this country needs.

But, in order to keep his head above water, it is likely that he is earning his keep now, e.g. he may not have been a Russian agent on Day 1, but today he has new masters to please.

That’s a very dirty shade of gray indeed.

    MarlaHughes in reply to PrincetonAl. | March 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    He wasn’t just in Hong Kong, but the Russian consulate during his time there. Apparently pre-arranged before he left Hawaii.

Kelley’s article is short of evidence – either that the NSA/etc truly didn’t know about Russians, or that this would be due to new info from Snowden. (To some of us, the former claim is hilarious if true — basically everyone knew who the insignia-free soldiers were, from day 0. There was no shortage of open-source information, only shortage of willingness to do anything about it.)

Kelley’s speculation is from the same guy who’s been slagging Snowden for ages — of course he’s going to blame whatever supposedly goes wrong on Snowden. His “crazy coincidence …” paragraph is guilty of the excluded middle fallacy.

Snowden has stuff that would cripple this and probably the next administration, so to cast Snowden as the bad guy in the Ukraine is to misjudge the size of his bullets.

The intel community “screwed the pooch” on Crimea, the Russian didn’t act like they expected, but that is the nature of successful military operations. They are casting around for somebody to blame in the time honored effort to cover their asses.

When the NSA decided to violate the 4th amendment rights of the American citizen, it automatically spread itself too thin. It can’t spy on citizens and spy on the rest of the world and do it all well. If the NSA domestic spying makes the US citizen a problem then why would there need to be any additional spying? If we’re the enemy then why would the NSA want to protect the American public from any outside enemies? Sorry, the NSA did this to itself and the American public will suffer for it.

Greenwald is well known as a liar who is willing to deceive his own readers and an anti-American zealot.

Snowden is a traitor. So is anyone who defends him.

If he was “protesting” the loss of “privacy,” why would he flee to the largest remaining police states on earth?

    Sanddog in reply to Estragon. | March 24, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    A traitor to whom? The government or to the United States?

    RickCaird in reply to Estragon. | March 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Gee, someone who disagrees with you is now a traitor? Some analysis you got there. Here is a hint, though. Many of us value the constitution and our privacy over our safety. That must be a foreign concept to you.

    RickCaird in reply to Estragon. | March 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Oh, and as to why he fled to Russia. There is no extradition and any attempt to get to Ecuador or Brazil would result in the airplane being forced to land by the US. But, you probably did not know that either.

Snowden made it clear who my biggest enemy is: my own government.

For this he has earned my gratitude; whether his motives were pure is incidental.

PersonFromPorlock | March 24, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Estragon | March 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Snowden is a traitor. So is anyone who defends him.

So, tell us how you feel about Washington and Jefferson.

Live by selling out. Die by selling out.

Snowden is a traitor as is any one who spies on me.

Snowden first flew to Hong Kong then off to Russia. I think it’s possible, if not obvious, he dropped off his cache of electronic media at each stop. Just like the US engages in joint intel ops with other countries, it certainly is possible that Snowden was a agent run by a joint Russian and Chinese operation.

The killer in all of this isn’t the fact that Snowden betrayed his country it’s that our NSA management was so stupid and derelict in the duty to allow a numb-nut like Snowden to have access to our family jewels. That is the killer. The betrayal of duty from these people is worse yet because we’ve seen only arrogance and denial from the NSA and other black orgs in the Obama Admin. Denial is all we get.

I’m still on the fence as to whether Snowden is a double agent and/or a dupe. It’s pretty obvious that he could not have accessed some of the information he stole w/o someone higher up the food chain giving him access. One example is that FICA court order on Verizon Business Solutions. Verizon isn’t even allowed to keep a copy of that order and access is limited to (I think) 53 people total. At least one of those 53 was/is an accomplice of Snowden’s, willingly or unwillingly and Snowden just doesn’t impress me as having the mental acumen to be able to fool someone that high up the food chain long enough to acquire their passwords nefariously.