risking his life to tell you about NSA surveillance [ot]


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Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 10, 2013 - 02:33am PT
edward snowden just gave up a $100k+ job, his family, a girlfriend, a house in hawaii and most importantly physical security to inform the american [and global] public of what he has seen the NSA already implement and continue to expand. [edited pay down as initial reports of $200k/yr are likely exaggerated]

he appears to have risked all of this and followed his conscience as a public service. if you haven't seen this already, i hope you'll take twelve and a half minutes of your relatively comfortable life to listen to what he is saying: Edward Snowden: the whistle blower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

this is a leak that, if true, makes watergate look like a childhood prank. rather than being about some stupid political dirty trick, this is about the fundamental structure underlying almost the entirety of our contemporary and still emerging networked globe.

this is about confirming that the NSA is already very far along in implementing a previously secret, informational dragnet. a dragnet which, if one believes what snowden is telling us, harnesses archival capabilities that are mind-boggling in scope and breadth. using snowden's words, regardless of current intention, this informational construct has the potential to quickly be converted into an "architecture of oppression" and a "turnkey tyranny."

while it's easy to stick our heads under rocks and tell ourselves "why should i care, i have nothing to hide?" or to paraphrase obama "i'm not worried because i know the people behind the scenes and we can trust them" history has repeatedly shown that to take on this attitude is to be dangerously and self-destructively naive.

"may you live in interesting times", indeed...

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Jun 10, 2013 - 02:43am PT
this is a leak, that if true, makes watergate look like a childhood prank.

The government has already admitted that it is true, and has been going on for years. It started under Bush and Obama kept and expanded it.

Trad climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 07:50am PT
michael feldman

Mountain climber
millburn, nj
Jun 10, 2013 - 11:41am PT
While you may be angry and not like what the government is doing, the initial post here misses the point and creates a fallacy. Let's start with the following which is not legally in dispute:

(1) The program, whether you like it or not, was based upon a law passed by Congress, executed by the Executive and approved by a Federal Court. Congress admits that it had oversight as required by law (even if some in Congress did not like the program).

(2) Based upon the foregoing, the program was, by definition, legal. Watergate was not legal. It was a crime. There is no comparison here. The only crime here was by the guy who leaked the information. He admits he did so to start public debate on what was previously a private debate (i.e., within the confines of confidential Congressional hearings, etc.).

(3) The NSA has a Whistleblower program and set of procedures. This leaker chose to not even attempt to follow those procedures. While it is possible the procedures would not have resulted in anything - indeed, it is likely nothing would have happened since the NSA program complied with the law - it is the obligation of the leaker to at least follow the very procedures that he lawfully and legally agreed to follow.

(4) If people do not like this program, the solution lies in a new law to be passed by Congress since they passed the applicable laws in the first place - creating the FISA court and passing the Patriot Act (doing so again in December 2012). This is why we have elected officials. Now to be clear, I think Congress as a whole is horrible, but the solution is to elect new officials, not violate the law. Alternatively, you should work to convince your Congressperson/people that the law needs to change.

(5) What this leaker did was an extreme act of civil disobedience, NOT whistleblowing (look up the definition - the government was not breaking the law, they were following a law that some people now do not like). Sometimes civil disobedience works out great (think the origin of the Civil Rights Act). Sometimes, it is merely criminal activity. While I am a strong privacy advocate, I believe this case appears to be one of criminal activity.

(6) Bin Laden used to communicate via cell phone. He then learned that we could and were tracking all of his calls. He then switched to couriers and other methods, thus making it more difficult to track him. Every time there is a leak of our intelligence methods, it makes it easier for the bad guys to do what they do. I wonder if people who claim to be against this program would continue to be against it if the program was cancelled, and as a result, we failed to stop a terrorist attack like 9/11.

(7) People need to understand what the government was gaining access to (metadata from phone records, etc.) and what they were not (individual names, addresses, etc.). The idea is that if the government already had information on an individual, they were permitted (and indeed required by law) to go back and get a specific warrant to then get that individual's information - which pursuant to the program, was already being stored.

Again, it is critical that people realize that there does not appear to be any law broken by our government. They were following the law. The problem, if any, is in the law itself.

Gym climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 12:03pm PT
Kind of a fishy story.
According to Slate, this guy's attempt to take refuge in Hong Kong is a terrible plan. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/06/10/edward_snowden_leak_investigation_justice_department_announces_probe_of.html
That may seem like a detail, but it strongly suggests to me that he isn't a careful or competent guy, and I'm suspicious of his motivations and candor.

Mountain climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 12:53pm PT
He's one of many, who will continue to expose, and eventually destroy, this threat to privacy and freedom.

a couple of slides he released on the PRISM data collection program:
from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/prism-collection-documents/

Credit: washingtonpost.com

Credit: washingtonpost.com

see http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:05pm PT
(4) If people do not like this program, the solution lies in a new law to be passed by Congress since they passed the applicable laws in the first place - creating the FISA court and passing the Patriot Act (doing so again in December 2012). This is why we have elected officials. Now to be clear, I think Congress as a whole is horrible, but the solution is to elect new officials, not violate the law. Alternatively, you should work to convince your Congressperson/people that the law needs to change.

Congress passes a law, when everyone is scared and ready to give up their rights, and then the law is abused to collect information on everyone, not just foreigners, and the people don't even really know what the government is collecting on them.

If they did, this guy wouldn't be divulging any secrets rights?

So kudos to him and FU to the government who collects everything on everyone under the pretense of preventing a few bad guys from doing a few bad things.

Franklin said those who give up their freedom for security deserve neither. We are too far down the slippery slope already



Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:05pm PT
^^^^ I don't cheat on my wife or do anything too illegal so I don't feel
any less private or free. We have no idea of how many threats or terrorist
attacks have been thwarted by this legal operation. I'm happy they're doing it.


Trad climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:17pm PT
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet rights group, calls for a "new Church committee" to investigate potential government infringements on privacy and to write new rules protecting the public.

In the mid-70s a Senate investigation led by Idaho Senator Frank Church uncovered decades of serious, systemic abuse by the US government of its eavesdropping powers, an episode Glenn Greenwald has written frequently about. The Church Committee report led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and set up the Fisa courts that today secretly approve surveillance requests.

A statement from EFF reads in part:

Congress now has a responsibility to the American people to conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities, whether done directly or in concert with the FBI. And it then has a duty to make changes in the law to stop the spying and ensure that it does not happen again.

In short, we need a new Church Committee.

Read the full statement here. There's support for such a new push inside Congress, too. On Sunday Senator Rand Paul said he would try to challenge the NSA surveillance programs in court, and Senator Mark Udall said he wanted to "reopen" the Patriot Act, to clarify limits on what it allows. Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner recently wrote an editorial for the Guardian saying "I authored the Patriot Act, and this is an abuse of that law."


The Desert Oven
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
I am shocked and saddened by the responses here.

For those that say that we shouldn't be worried if we do not have anything to hide, at what point does price for "security" become too high? What other civil liberties are you willing to sacrifice at the alter of "safety?" How many more wars, civilian casualties in drone strikes, torture sessions and executions are you willing to endure? Do you REALLY think that we are winning the war on terror when the biggest casualties are the freedoms we give away?

I do not expect to change anyones mind with my post. America is in its final death throes, and I see a dark road ahead for Imperial Amerika Inc.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:19pm PT
How did he "risk his life" again?

Gym climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:21pm PT
(1) The program, whether you like it or not, was based upon a law passed by Congress, executed by the Executive and approved by a Federal Court.

My emphasis.

Perhaps the program was based on law. However, the program went way beyond the law that was passed (the Patriot Act). Don't try to whitewash this, what the NSA is doing is ILLEGAL, pure and simple.

Whistleblower procedure my butt. You know as well as I do how far a complaint through the NSA protocols would go. Nowhere, and at light speed.

Congress admits that it had oversight as required by law (even if some in Congress did not like the program).

Tell me, how do you provide oversight if those providing details of their actions tell bald-faced lies about their programs?

Pathetic that you are trying to defend the NSA's actions here.

Trad climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:22pm PT
Credit: off of Facebook

Social climber
Jun 10, 2013 - 01:29pm PT
This man is going to rot in a box like Madden, and for nothing. Nothing will be done, the machine's wheels have been turning long before and will long after.

michael feldman

Mountain climber
millburn, nj
Jun 10, 2013 - 02:01pm PT
I find it interesting that I agree with many comments on both sides of this argument. However, for those who claim the program is "illegal" - that is currently an impossibility. The program was approved by a Federal Court. Therefore, by definition, it is legal. The Court's determine what is and is not legal. While an individual can certainly believe the Court got it wrong (being a lawyer, I often believe that to be the case), when the Court approves an action, that action by definition is legal. On the other hand, there is a clear argument that the law is being interpreted more broadly than initially intended - as often happens. As is always the case in such a scenario, the solution is within the legislature to pass a new law, particularly where the average citizen lacks standing to challenge the law. As for the Franklin quote, that is ALWAYS a battle that is going on with our lives on a daily basis. We allow all kinds of laws that impact our liberty in the name of safety. It's a slippery slope. We have speed limits, limits on weapons, license requirements for all types of behaviors and professions, seatbelt laws, security at airports, etc. The real question is where do we, as a society, draw the line? It's simply a cost-benefit analysis where there is no clear correct answer. However, I believe the correct answer requires that we follow the correct procedure. If one person dies as a result of this act of civil disobedience, there should be a murder charge against the leaker. That was the risk he took in making this unilateral decision. In the long run, perhaps he will turn out to have made the right decision, but it is a decision with real consequences that he has to accept.

With a warrant, the executive branch (cops, FBI, DEA, etc.) could ALWAYS search anything they wanted. The key was getting judicial approval. This current program obtained judicial approval. It is no different procedurally than any other warrant situation. If anything, this is less harmful since this information is not being used for criminal prosecution so as to invoke the protections of the 4th Amendment.

Again, the key here is do we want one individual to have the ability to override a decision made together by our 3 branches of government? If you are an anarchist, the answer is yes. If not, the answer should be no.

All of this being said, the cat is clearly out of the bag. Thus, people - namely, our government - now have to decide what liberty they are willing to give up for safety. Are you willing to have a computer view your Google searches if it saves one life? What is that life is someone you know? Perhaps, on the other hand, society is better off as a whole with more liberty and less safety - after all, we, as climbers, are generally willing to take personal risks to have a more thorough enjoyment of life when we go climbing. Maybe the balance between liberty and safety should be viewed the same way.
The Wedge

Boulder climber
Santa Rosa & Bishop, CA
Jun 10, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
I believe the high school drop-out, over some congressmen.

Jun 10, 2013 - 02:36pm PT
The ONLY solution I can see if to reduce funding to the government. As this kind of empire building and expansion is routine for even benign programs, we need to reduce all funding to all programs.

In case anyone cares, when you look at your paycheck and see how much they are pulling out for federal taxes, realize that your employer also pays a shitload, and that between the amount that they get from both of you: THEY ARE BORROWING 40% MORE AS THEY CANNOT BALANCE THE CHECKBOOK. You gonna let your children be on the hook for this?

Current debt per taxpayer is $148,212 (ie, YOU) - and that number is increasing daily.


Jun 10, 2013 - 02:38pm PT
I don't cheat on my wife

I wonder if they would rat u out if you were?
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Jun 10, 2013 - 02:44pm PT
The prism program was not "approved by a federal court." Someone did try to make a constitutional challenge to one of the NSAs programs about a year ago, but was thrown out for reasons of standing. You can't file a lawsuit without evidence under Rule 11. So if you can't prove you were spied on, you can't challenge the spying program.

I think if a case were properly presented to a court, this kind of spying would be unconstitutional. Their idea is that they can build a database of every communication of every US citizen, and have a detailed dossier ready to go if they need it. It's not a search until they use it. It doesnt target Americans because it doens't target anyone, at least the collection side. It's like the Bush-era arguments about torture. Absolutely nonsensical.

Trad climber
Sh#t Hole, Brooklyn, NY
Jun 10, 2013 - 02:53pm PT
I'm ignorant of most of the policies that this event exposes. In that respect, what Snowden did is constructive as now the dialogue will hopefully be made in the public so it can be understood by the citizenry.

Precisely what, where, and when was the law passed that permitted the USA government to collect, search (i.e. scanning for words, phrases, ideas, people, thoughts, opinions, beliefs, etc) and store (indefinitely), every private electronic communication of every USA citizen to the degree that it is now being practiced by the NSA?

Precisely what, where, and when was the public notified in no uncertain terms that this spying (invasion and violation of individual rights, surveillance, intelligence gathering .... however you wish to phrase it [and the way that you phrase it is itself up for debate as it defines the nature of the activity]) was being conducted on this scale and scope?

A vital conversation to have for the country.
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