Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who’s The Hero After All?

I like Michael Moore, I really do. But sometimes he acts like a mirror image of Glenn Beck.

And thanks to Bartcop, there is evidence, sad evidence, that, despite their ideological differences, they are twins separated at birth:

moore and beck

The reference, obviously, is to Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information to Glenn Greenwald and the Washington Post, who, naturally, leaked it to the world. Whether Snowden is a hero or a criminal has divided both the liberal and conservative camps.

At this point in time, when not many details are known, I tend to side with Jeffrey Toobin, who called Snowden “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.”

Time and details may change my opinion, but there is something narcissistic about the way Snowden has behaved, and there is certainly an element of grandiosity in this whole thing.

And I like Toobin’s cautious reasoning about the tension between knowing and not knowing what the government is up to:

What makes leak cases difficult is that some leaking—some interaction between reporters and sources who have access to classified information—is normal, even indispensable, in a society with a free press. It’s not easy to draw the line between those kinds of healthy encounters and the wholesale, reckless dumping of classified information by the likes of Snowden or Bradley Manning. Indeed, Snowden was so irresponsible in what he gave the Guardian and the Postthat even these institutions thought some of it should not be disseminated to the public. The Postdecided to publish only four of the forty-one slides that Snowden provided. Its exercise of judgment suggests the absence of Snowden’s.

I also like the way Toobin concluded his piece:

The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right.

This issue has caused me to separate myself from a lot of liberals I greatly respect. It’s not that sometimes Michael Moore and Glenn Beck, or for that matter, myself and Glenn Beck, shouldn’t have intersecting interests. As Americans, we should.

But before all the facts are known, when all we really know right now is that some 29-year-old employee of a private contractor leaked classified information he swore to keep secret, to label Edward Snowden a “hero” is ridiculous.

20 Comments

  1. I’m not so sure on this one, Duane. I submit that heroism is a quality reflected in the eye of the beholder. Benedict Arnold was a hero to England, and George Washington a traitor, but when it comes to heroes it is the victors who write the history.

    I agree with you and Toobin as to the narcissistic and grandiose nature of Snowden’s behavior, but at the same time I heard Snowden acknowledge the reality of his plight matter-of-factly, that the NSA, the most powerful intelligence-collecting agency in the world, will likely “get” him. He did what he did with full awareness of the consequences, and that puts him in a unique category, one of idealism. What really surprises me about this, however, is that he would sacrifice so dearly to expose programs that were, apparently, not being abused but instead carefully controlled to avoid snooping beyond the terrorism mission. He knowingly gave up a lucrative job and a lissome girlfriend. But there are many unanswered questions about this. I’m wondering for example where he got the money to flee to Hong Kong. Is this a conspiracy? Whatever the case, he’s in the soup now and the law must take its course. If it was attention this narcissist was after, he’s got it in spades.

    As a member in the employment of the federal government (retired Naval officers are technically subject to recall, given sufficient desperation) I can state that Toobin is being naive regarding the internal, legal, options of protest that would have been available to Snowden. Yes, there are whistle-blower laws and yes, Snowden could have written to his Congress person and he could have bitched to his boss, but any one of those actions would have instantly labeled him de facto and tacitly as unfit for the organization. When you join such a group you surrender your personal rights to disagree with policies, not legally but pragmatically.

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    • Jim,

      I think there are objective ways to evaluate heroism, even though overall the thing admits to some subjectivity, as in this case.

      Think about the soldier on the battlefield who belly-flops on a grenade to save others. I think I can confidently claim that in that case there is no rational beholder who would not consider such a man or woman a hero.

      I once went to see Arkady Shevchenko speak at Wichita State. He was a Soviet diplomat who eventually defected to the U.S., after he had given Soviet secrets to the CIA. I remember asking at the time: Is he a hero? Certainly he wasn’t a hero in the Soviet Union. Why should we, here in the U.S., consider him one? What we would we do to a man who sold out the United States? This is where the subjectivity in heroism comes in, in my view.

      And that’s where it comes in regarding this present case. Depending on your view of the privacy v. security issue, he is either Shevchenko the defecting hero, or Shevchenko the traitor. My problem with the whole thing is from what we know so far, his concerns, as you suggested, were not with abuse of the data collection but with the very existence of the capability. I find that a strange thing to for which to betray your country’s trust.

      My opinion of him would change considerably if he exposed the purposeful abuse of the data aggregation, say, Obama using it to expose his political enemies or some other such thing. Revealing that kind of stuff would make what he did heroic, even if ultimately he might still pay a steep price for his heroism.

      Duane

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      • As to the point about “heroism”, Duane, I think we are not far apart but perhaps LisaF below has the right take on it, that being the distinction between heroism and bravery. I think that puts “heroism” back in the context of my comment, one of morality-tinged politics. I submit that motive is critical to the issue and we don’t have all the evidence yet.

        However, thinking on the matter further: would it not make a difference in our conclusion if it should turn out, farfetched as it sounds, that Snowden as a lowly IT technician actually did have the ability, which he wrongly equates with “authority”, to hack into the private phone calls and emails of anybody in the country, “judges included”? What a temptation that would be!

        Finally, I agree with your observation that his stated motivation seems odd for a man of his age and background – but that is surely what Toobin considered in calling him a “grandiose narcissist”.

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  June 12, 2013

    Duane and Jim,

    I continue to “ponder” this issue. It is not an easy one, for sure, except……

    Snowden clearly broke a law, several of them probably. He should be arrested, tried and if found guilty in a court, then punished for violation of a law. MAYBE the punishment should be mitigated based on ………. But if we claim to live under the rule of law, then enforce the law as a first matter of concern.

    Frankly, and on a more fundamental level, I believe our “body of laws” dealing with classified material are a MESS. Government OVERCLASSIFIES damn near everything for starters. If I still had my security clearances I could create a mountain of overclassified material in my front yard, almost all of which should NEVER have been “stamped” with ANY classification. I once had a Navy textbook (nuclear power school in 1965) that was classified ‘CONFIDENTIAL-NOFORN-FORMERLY RESTRICTED DATA”, for Christ’s sake. If I took it home to study MATH, I would be in violation of a law!!!

    We are all in a lather today in America over Chinese spying (hacking) technical materials. Anyone here that does not think we have some “Top Secret” program doing the same thing to them?

    Now the details of how we spy on China, how we collect material, what material we are looking for, etc. SHOULD BE classified. But the fact that we actually “spy on China” using all sorts of “tools and people”, well why not just put out a vague press release and admit that we do such things to LOTS of people, overseas and in America as well.

    We have about 50 or so American nuclear submarines “lurking” in the oceans of the world today. What do you think they are doing out there? I assure you they are not just “running drills” on themselves, at least not all the time. But the details, forget it. It is none of your business. And yep, what they are doing, sometimes is sneaky, dangerous and very, very effective as well. Does that “shock” anyone?

    Anson

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  3. LisaF

     /  June 12, 2013

    I would not call Snowden’s behavior heroic but I do think it was brave. He is only 29, had a great job and knows that he may very likely end up hiding away in an embassy or in a jail for the rest of his life. And I do not find him narcissistic, although Glenn Greenwald looks a bit like the cat that ate the canary. I read an interview with the father of Snowden’s girlfriend who described him as a shy guy but very black and white. And I think that sums up his behavior. He truly believes that he is doing the right thing.

    On the positive side, there can now be a debate about outsourcing our security apparatus, what should the government’s responsibility, to private companies at a much higher cost to the citizens of America..As for legal options available to people who see abuses within the NSA, Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis would disagree with you.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/173521/obamas-crackdown-whistleblowers?page=full

    On the bright side, I love the fact that progressive opinions are all the map regarding Edward Snowden. It shows we are not like the right wing media complex which defends the party regardless of the facts.

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    • LisaF, I agree how satisfying it is that opinions about Snowden are “all over the map”. It at least gives the appearance of actual thinking that’s beyond ideology. But more important I want to use this comment to give a shout-out to all the other readers of this post about the revealing link you provided concerning the recent history of the NSA and top-level whistle-blowers. It’s a pretty long article, but it reads like a Tom Clancy novel and is very revealing in the context of the Snowden snafu. Given the politicization of the agency and the fiscal shenanigans that were enabled by 9/11 I am willing to believe almost anything, including that Snowden’s boasts of snooping powers might not be empty ones. Thanks, Lisa – you are an important contributor to these topics and I’m delighted you’ve joined us.

      Like

  4. Jane Reaction

     /  June 12, 2013

    I call it bravery and heroism. The thought that there was any other way to break such news, is naive. Do you and Toobin actually believe the national security apparatus would allow anyone to “bring their complaints to Congress; can try to protest within the institutions where they work”? That is idealistic.

    Snowden deserves a medal, not imprisonment.

    I have lost confidence in your ability to see the big picture.
    Gerald Malan

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  June 13, 2013

    Good link, Lisa, and I too like reading your views herein.

    Of course there is another link, an earlier and much more “basic” one. It is the book Top Secret America. Jim and I (and others) have used that as a reference a couple of years ago to opinion on advancing technology and how it is controlled (or not) to “protect” America or Americans.

    I occassionally travel to the DC area to visit family. My God, that place just bristles with antennas, almost on every “pole and building” all over the area. Just imagine the fiber opitic cables underneath the ground as well. Now go figure out how to “regulate that”???

    In terms of raw, brute force power, nuclear weapons take the cake for sure. We have learned over 60 or so years how to avoid a disaster from the use of such weapons, at least so far.

    Today “information” reigns supreme in terms of accumulating power. Advancing technoloy has been a tremendous boon to PEOPLE, using such technology to improve their lives and manner of living. But there is a downside to the explosion of such technology as well, just like nuclear power can provide some “good” for folks around the world, like lots of electricity for one thing.

    Our own NSA has a goal of developing the technology to detect and collect EVERY electronic signal produced any where, at any time, by any one. The “NSA” for other countries have the same goal.

    So how do we protect America yet still protect Americans from the misue of advancing technology? There is you “big picture” Mr. Gerald Mann, in my view.

    I also believe THAT is why this issue is “all over the map”, politically. There are NO pat answers to such difficult issues, suitable for “sound bite politics”.

    Anson

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  6. To Anyone,

    I really don’t care if Edward Snowden is a hero, a traitor, a patriot, a criminal. or a lover of Beethoven. If anything, he is a scapegoat and a red herring. He is a diversion – the proverbial messenger being shot over and over again.

    The real issue here is not about Snowden, it’s about the revelations he supplied to the public through the news media. Yes, he is a whistleblower. But see the article from The Nation in LisaF’s comment above to see how our paranoid government deals with whistleblowers.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Snowden and other whistleblowers have called out the government for spying on its citizens, for recording conversations, emails, tweets, texts, videos and documents, and for storing those trillions of records (metadata) in a huge facility in Utah.

    A country that spies on its citizens is usually called a totalitarian state and is the “mirror” image of a democratic state. And totalitarianism begets tyranny. And those in power will try to block the press from reporting their sometimes illegal activities and, of course, criminalize those who would provide such information, even if the information is completely accurate. Of course, that is just my opinion.

    I have submitted an Op-Ed piece to the Globe, but I don’t know if they’ll publish it or not. In any case, here is a portion of it:

    “With these secret spying programs being outed, president Obama tried to calm fears: “We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of safeguards. But my assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks.” Obama went on to say that, in spite of, “the modest encroachments on the privacy that are involved, it was worth us doing.”

    Modest encroachments? Worth the doing? You mean by playing fast and loose with the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution? You want to protect our liberty by, uh, suppressing our liberty? What?”

    “ . . . it would be accurate to say that there is no existential threat of a terrorist attack in the United States. And even if there were, the programs we have in place are grossly inefficient at detecting and stopping such threats. Exhibit 1 is the Boston Marathon bombers. We had to rely on Russia for intelligence on the two brothers and even that was after the fact.

    So it should be absolutely clear that the real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country is way overblown. The fear-mongers and the scare-mongers have won the day. They have facilitated hysteria and fabricated paranoia. Seems to me the sizable commitment of resources to these counterterrorism programs is like trying to put out a candle with a fire hose – and missing the candle!

    Terrorism will never be zero, just as crime will never be zero. But given the strategy we have in place to deal with it, my concern is whether our country will devolve into a quasi-Orwellian dystopia where Big Brother is watching and listening, watching and listening, watching and listening . . . “

    Herb

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    • Actually, Herb, I haven’t read of Snowden or the other NSA whistleblowers accusing the agency of actually abusing its enormous data-mining capability, as in specific instances of voyeurism or blackmail for example. Nevertheless, I am in agreement with your concern that the capability itself is of major concern and must sooner or later lead to abuse. In that regard, I think the solution is more transparent oversight and given the kerfuffle, I think that’s going to happen. I also agree that the whole country and its demographic mirror, the U.S. Congress, over-reacted to 9/11, both in terms of regulation and of fiscal excess.

      I hope your letter is published and I applaud your effort, but I’m not sanguine about it being very effective. When the flight-attendants’ unions can stampede Washington over the issue of penknives as they just did, what hope is there of the pols dismissing the small stuff in favor of the big picture? I see this problem deriving from a lack of spine and leadership in the Congress, but its root cause, I submit, is vulnerability at the polls because of Tea Party partisan demagoguery. That’s the very issue at the heart of the Benghazi pseudo-flap, is it not? The merest hint that protection from terrorism is not 100% invites instant calumny.

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      • Jim,

        I agree with you totally. But this issue runs deeper than the current divide in the political environment of today. The primary issues to me are the fundamental rights that so many have fought and died for and that our founders thought were important protections from the government. I’m talking about the first amendment rights of free speech, of free press, and of assembly that is safe from police tasers and pepper spray. I’m talking about the freedom from the government invasion of privacy and of warrantless searches and of the lack of due process.

        I understand that all of our transactions these days are made via communications technology. And I realize that Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and others are constantly mining the information we keep putting out there in cyberspace to try and sell us stuff. I’m OK with that. But the government doesn’t offer me free viagra or the millions of dollars I won in the Zimbabwe lottery. Maybe they ought to try that. A little appeasement wouldn’t hurt.

        There are many constitutional and legal scholars out there who believe as I do that the so-called counterterrorism programs are patently unconstitutional. But all the challenges to the FISA court and to certain questionable provisions of the Patriot Act, including the amended version, plus the National Defense Reauthorization Act, and others, have all been rebuffed by the courts.

        For example, in 2006, Qwest Communications refused to cooperate with the FBI to turn over its customer records. When the matter went to court, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the government’s domestic eavesdropping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately. The decision was reversed on appeal.

        As a result, we the people are left with no remedy except what we can get with our voting power, which is not much.

        I think the entire country ought to be outraged at what’s going on in our so-called intelligence agencies. Remember that FISA, stands for “FORIEGN Intelligence Surveillance Act.” The minute the targets of that act switched from being foreign to domestic, that’s when the trouble started.

        Here’s what Frank Church of the famous, but not very creatively titled, Church Committee said about the NSA in 1975, thirty-eight years ago: “The [National Security Agency’s] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

        How prophetic.

        Herb

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  June 13, 2013

    OK, Herb, that is one side of the discussion.

    You don’t like the Patriot Act, the root of intelligence collection evil in America today. Do you suggest a complete and total repeal of that Act, a return to the status quo of pre 9/11 days? My guess is your answer would be a resounding YES, right?

    OK, go back to those days, the “Clinton days” if you will. So what if another US warship gets blown up in a “friendly harbor”, or another embassy bombed, right??? Go back to pre 9/11 intelligence collection days and how long before some more “towers” might come down around our ears?

    How does anyone protect America in a modern world yet leave all Americans completely alone, until they actually commit a criminal act? Cut off today’s intelligence collection efforts, significant advances in such collection since 9/11 and tell me how many more “Boston Bombings” might arise in our midst, in today’s real world, not some fictional one.

    The world has always been a dangerous place and advancing technology, in the hands of potential enemies, increases that danger all the time. Should we ignore it?

    Politically, progressives will defend ACA to the extreme. Just look at all the good ACA will provide and ignore the bad parts of it. Essentially progressives will claim there are not many bad parts at all and thus the common good requires ACA. Does that not sound like some conservative’s (and democrat’s as well) arguments to keep the Patriot Act alive and well in its entirety and even pile on some more intelligence collection as well?

    Like I said before. No sound bite answers to such arguments, in my view.

    But I will ask one question back at you. Is there any single American citizen that has really suffered harm as a result of the Patriot Act. Has some American citizen been unjustly prosecuted and jailed because that Act infringed on their reasonable liberties? Note I am NOT talking about “creeps” trying to do harm to America and simply trying to “hide behind the law” to get away with trying to do harm to America.

    I would suggest that Lisa’s linked article showed some harmed by government prosecution for breaking some current laws associated with handling classified material. Solution, change the laws related to handling such material should be the argument, one way or the other to prevent recurrence. And those laws have been around “forever”, not the result of the Patriot Act.

    Anson

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  8. ansonburlingame

     /  June 14, 2013

    Jim and Herb,

    First, Herb wrote, “I’m talking about the freedom from the government invasion of privacy and of warrantless searches and of the lack of due process.”

    WHAT warrantless searches is Herb talking about? What lack of due process as well for prosecution and convictions? As far as I know EVERY seach under the Patriot Act has a warrant attached, provided by FISA. Don’t like the justification for warrants then go put new judges on FISA is a first step. What prosecutions and convictions have happened when “warrantless searches” of American citizens were used to prosecute?

    Want to make all FISA warrants public knowledge? Well do you want a warrant to wire tap a “mobster” public knowledge?

    Remember, please, that “data aggregation” by NSA requires a warrant in the first place. But NO further investigation into illegal activity using that data is authorized without a different and more heavily substantiated warrant, by FISA or some other court. At least that is what the former head of NSA said publicly last Sunday. Was he lying?

    Furthermore, just today DEMOCRATS AND GOPers coming from the classifed briefing by the current head of NSA said there was “proof” that NSA data aggregation led to further legal seaches, more detailed individual searches with warrants that did in fact prevent terrorist activities in America. Were they too lying or purposefully trying to mislead Americans.

    Show me REAL abuse of power against individuals on a broad scale as a result of data aggregation alone and I will join the crusade. But before I try to “kill” something that is shown to prevent more “killings of Americans here in the USA”, well I want to see or hear MORE FACTS, please.

    I believe the Obama administration is doing the best that it can and still protect legitimate classified material as to real names, sources and law enforcement use of technology designed ONLY to catch “bad guys”. Tough job for sure but I believe they are doing the best they can and I “trust them” for now at least.

    Show me a single “good guy” an AMERICAN “good guy” an innocent man or woman caught up in that “net” and I might change my tune herein. But please, no hypotheticals. I can dream such up on my own. Note, Lisa’s link did NOT show such misuse of power under NSA data aggregation rules. It was violation of classified material handling laws that caused that misuse of power by government, maybe.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      The warrantless searches I’m talking about are those conducted by the FBI against AP and Fox News and who knows how many others through “National Security Letters.” These “letters” are issued by a FISA court and give the FBI the power to compel disclosure of customer records held by banks, telephone companies, Internet Service Providers, and others; all without a warrant. There are a couple of good and timely articles on this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_warrantless_surveillance_controversy and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/technology/secret-court-ruling-put-tech-companies-in-data-bind.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      By the way, the FBI (and maybe the NSA) have been listening in on your cell phone calls and have tracked your every move ever since cell phones come equipped with GPS chips – without a warrant.

      The lack of due process comes from the fact that the NSL’s come with a gag order. More detail on that can be found at https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2013/05/08/googles-national-security-letter-suit-what-it-confirms-about-due-process, and on the highly conservative web site “Reason” at http://reason.com/blog/2013/03/15/national-security-letters-with-gag-order

      As to how many have been innocent Americans have been harmed by these spy programs, I have no idea. But there is a class action lawsuit – Jewell vs. NSA – winding through the courts now that is worth reviewing on this point. A good starting place is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewel_v._NSA.

      Of course, my view is that any American citizen whose constitutional rights are being violated by the United States government through one or more of its counterterrorism programs is a victim. So, I guess the answer to your question about how many “good guys” are being harmed is 315 million, give or take.

      Of course, I could take the counter-argument to show that these programs have failed us in the past such that American citizens have suffered as a result. The failure to act on intelligence available before the 9/11 attacks is a good example. The CIA had been spying all over the Middle East looking for terrorists who might attack the U.S., the FISA program had been up and running since 1979, looking for potential “foreign” threats here in the states, Clinton and Bush both ignored the warnings that started as early as 1998 and continued up until August 2001, the FBI higher-ups ignored reports from their field offices of some Middle-Eastern men learning to fly jetliners, and Richard Clarke was running around the White House with his hair on fire and was ignored. As a result, 3,000 Americans died.

      In the meantime, FISA and other surveillance programs (Trailblazer, PRISM) are grossly inefficient at detecting and stopping such threats. I mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We had their phone records. We eavesdropped on their emails and visits to YouTube where they learned how to make pressure cooker bombs. In fact, we had to rely on Russia to flesh out the intelligence on these two brothers, but then it was too late! There are three dead Americans as a result of that failure.

      Now we all want to be safe and secure, but at what price? Of course, none of our elected officials want to have another 9/11 happen on their watch. But that is no excuse for trampling over the rights of American citizens. And our courts should be ashamed of aiding and abetting such actions. I for one am not willing to subject my personal information to the whims of an analyst who may not like me. Not without probable cause. Not without a warrant.

      Herb

      p.s., Sorry about all the web links. But these issues are very complicated, as well as controversial. So, rather than me spending hours trying to condense that information down to a few paragraphs, I’ll let you do whatever research you wish to become more informed..

      Like

      • You are probably aware, Herb, that the Globe published your op-ed this morning. It makes a good counter-point to Gene Lyons’ column on the same subject. In fact, he seemed to be talking about you – this is the way he ended:

        Fourth Amendment purists are living in a dream world. Neither cellphones nor lunatics using airliners as weapons existed in Ben Franklin’s day. If you want privacy as defined in the 18th century, it’s easy: no phones, no Internet (and certainly no Facebook or Twitter) no credit cards or bank accounts, no EZ-pass, no nothing.

        But if you want government to have any chance to defeat mass-casualty terror attacks, surrendering raw phone data isn’t much of a concession. Besides, there are far more efficient ways of targeting enemies of the state than trying to make something of who they’ve talked to on the phone.

        Of course, Lyons’ assessment ignores what to me is an essential point, the sheer cost of what he concedes is the NSA’s inefficient methodology. I’m thinking that maybe we should be grateful to Snowden because only sunshine can rein in what clearly is unchecked bureaucratic excess, and as LisaF’s link showed, the job can be done much more cheaply and efficiently if they would listen to the NSA Four of LisaF’s link. And anyway, there will be even less fertile ground to plow now because the bad guys will be more careful in their communications.

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        • Jim,

          Actually, I wasn’t aware of those Op-Ed’s. I use the freebie online version of the Globe, so the editorials usually come out a few days later. I did read the Gene Lyons piece though, thanks to the link you provided.

          Overall, I’d say this is one of the best discussions I’ve been engaged in on any blog. So, kudos to Duane for making that possible. With all of us coming from a slightly different points of view, I have learned and continue to learn a lot.

          I suppose what informs my viewpoint most on this subject are all the illegal activities carried out by the Bush administration after 9/11. He flat out lied to the American people. He and many in his administration broke any number of laws, including fraud statutes and, of course, the anti-torture laws, and virtually all of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Then there was General Powell being set up at the U.N. to perpetuate those lies. And there was the Valerie Plame affair, GITMO, legal opinions made from whole cloth, and on and on. In fact, I actually wrote to then Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007 asking for impeachment proceedings to commence A.S.A.P.

          It is my opinion, and strictly my opinion, that Bush did more to damage our country’s reputation around the world than any single individual since, ah, you know, some other bad guy. In fact, it may be fair to say that at least some of the terrorist threats and attacks are blowback from Bush’s foreign policy Now I find out Obama doing the same damn stuff that Bush did!

          So, my cynicism continues unabated. Government officials lie to us and then expect us to “trust” them? And they’ve created a neat paradox. Since all of these surveillance programs are secret, any evidence of abusing them is also secret and therefore can’t be used in court because it’s secret! And everybody in Congress is sworn to secrecy, so they can’t expose any wrongdoing. And any investigations they do is behind closed doors. That puts the whistleblowers in the untenable position of being declared criminals for reporting a crime!

          I join with the experts on the Constitution who argue that the rights of the people are being compromised by the paranoia to be safe and the unrealistic expectation of zero attacks. If we don’t like the 4th Amendment, then the founders gave us a way to change it. And it wasn’t through fabricated mass hysteria.

          Herb

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          • Good summary, Herb. My own view of the war on terror and its methodologies has also evolved through this blog. At the outset I was thinking that surveillance was a necessary evil, as does Lyons, but your arguments are persuasive. What would the landscape look like now if the NSA had been, say, 10% of its present size since 9/11? Probably not much different than it does.

            When you look at the billions spent and the paltry results obtained, the attacks thwarted pale in comparison to the ravages of other perils: waste, fraud, accidents, global warming, inefficient IRS agents. Distracted driving, forest fires, floods, crumbling bridges, cyber attacks, hell, children sickening and dying because of inadequate vaccination. We’re sure not getting the bang for the buck that we could. You are right to point to “mass hysteria” – cracks in bridge supports can’t compete with the mental picture of a plane-full of people plunging into a building. More people should read Duane’s blog. And take a refresher course on the Constitution.

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  9. ansonburlingame

     /  June 17, 2013

    I tried to post a reply this AM but something went amiss and it did not show up. I will try again, briefly.

    All three branches of government, Congress, Executive and Judicial are deeply imbedding in “data aggregation” issues and have been since they began around 2006 or maybe earlier. In terms of “constitutionality” all three branches say so far those programs meet the test for such. Are they all wrong? Maybe and for sure Herb thinks they are along with a lot of libertarians as well.

    Just consider the front page article in Sunday’s Globe as well as the THREE columns on this subject. According to the news report less than 300 of the “data’s” (out of some 3 billion so aggregated last year) were INVESTIGATED (with legal subpoenas). That is around the chances of misuse of DNA “data”, the chances of error in such matters.

    That is “good enough for me” for sure. I have a pending column in the Globe, pointing out such things along with a few more to discount Herb’s column.

    Anson

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  10. My initial reaction to Mr. Snowden was admiration, but I’ve rethought to an extent. He would have been more admirable, if he had stayed in the country ready to take the legal consequences. He didn’t; he went to a potenital rival nation. Is he sharing information of value to an enemy. I don’t think we know for sure. I’m uncomfortable with the data being gathered. Even with safeguards I think it could be abused, and I’d rather take a chance of terrorism in exchange for less intrusion into my affairs.

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    • Bruce,

      I am one liberal who believes that the blessings of liberty cannot remain with us if the United States does not robustly defend itself and its interests, particularly from those who mean us physical harm.

      My initial reaction to Snowden was to wait and see just what kind of character he was. Would he have the courage of his supposed convictions and face the U.S. justice system? Or would he slink away into hiding? I think we all see now just what kind of character he is.

      As for the “revelations” he has unleashed upon us, I don’t find them too revealing. I suspected all along that the U.S. was doing the very thing that Snowden told us the government was doing. In fact, I am among those who expect them to do such things, so long as there is critical oversight going on, as there appears to be.

      Unlike you, I am not “uncomfortable with the date being gathered.” Gathering it is one thing, using it is another. So long as it is used as it is supposed to be used—to ultimately thwart terrorist plots—then I am more than comfortable with what is going on. Should it be used for other purposes, I will get, as you are now, very uncomfortable. Ultimately, we have to trust the system of checks and balances we have—including a robust, but honest, press—or else throw up our hands in anarchic despair.

      Duane

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