“He’s sure as hell no traitor”

Fortune has an interview with a former colleague of Edward Snowden’s in Hawaii (some have questioned its provenance, but details in the interview accord with other stories about Snowden at NSA; even Keith Alexander said he was very good at his job).

One of my favorite details describes how Snowden repeatedly alerted NSA to security problems in their code, but they didn’t always fix it.

He also frequently reported security vulnerabilities in NSA software. Many of the bugs were never patched.

This is consistent with a story describing him trying to fix a CIA security problem when he was in Europe, so it rings true. But it also reveals the NSA’s own lax concern for security.

But I’m most interested in this paragraph:

Snowden’s former colleague says that he or she has slowly come to understand Snowden’s decision to leak the NSA’s files. “I was shocked and betrayed when I first learned the news, but as more time passes I’m inclined to believe he really is trying to do the right thing and it’s not out of character for him. I don’t agree with his methods, but I understand why he did it,” he or she says. “I won’t call him a hero, but he’s sure as hell no traitor.”

I have been tracking the apparent concern on the part of top NSA officials that employees will learn something that disturbs them. This is — if authentic — one of the first descriptions we have of an NSA employee reacting to Snowden’s leaks (albeit from one who seemed to admire him).

But it describes this employee beginning to understand Snowden’s underlying point, though not his methods (and perhaps not his ultimate judgement it was unconstitutional).

This is the battle Keith Alexander seems most afraid of, the battle over the belief of NSA insiders.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. klynn says:

    “…but as more time passes I’m inclined to believe he really is trying to do the right thing and it’s not out of character for him. I don’t agree with his methods, but I understand why he did it,” he or she says.”

    One of the discussions that I tend to hear is centered around, “What other methods,” could have been used by Snowden? It’s the NSA afterall.

  2. bloodypitchfork says:

    quote:”This is the battle Keith Alexander seems most afraid of, the battle over the belief of NSA insiders.”unquote

    Mutiny on the bridge of the USS Starship NSA youbetcha. Sounds good to me. Great movie fodder too. I can see it now…the opening scene..the Hawaiian music background..swaying palms and beautiful women..reverse zoom into Snowdens living room…perfect. Then..segue to Alexander sittin in his commanders chair on the startrek bridge of goodship NSA. It’ll make millions I tell ya. yesireebob..millions. ‘Murica will eat it up. I should be a producer. right. Alexander’s head would explode….DOH!! I gave away the ending…crap.

    btw, this is the third time I’ve had to log in here..and every other site including the Guardian in the last two days. I wonder why. right.
    Dear NSA..eat me.

  3. gmoke says:

    Another defection is Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia. His speech at MIT last week on a panel with Joel Brenner, former NSA counsel, Susan Chira, NYTimes editor (who barely spoke), and moderated by William “Fox” Fallon, former head of CENTCOM, was an eloquent argument against the security state.

    The speech can be read at http://chasfreeman.net/snowden-and-snooping/

    Wednesday is Bruce Schneier at Harvard.

  4. Stephen says:

    From the “Fortune article: “Another hint of his whistleblower conscience, aside from the telltale hoodie: Snowden kept a copy of the constitution on his desk to cite when arguing against NSA activities he thought might violate it.”

    Does this mean that any NSA staffer or contractor who keeps a copy of (or reveals a familarity with) the US Constitution is now regarded as a potential whistleblower?

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