The Government Argues that Edward Snowden Is a Recruiting Tool

As I noted in my post on the superseding indictment against Julian Assange, the government stretched the timeline of the Conspiracy to Hack count to 2015 by describing how WikiLeaks helped Edward Snowden flee to Russia. DOJ seems to be conceiving of WikiLeaks’ role in helping Snowden as part of a continuing conspiracy designed to recruit more leakers.

Let me make clear from the onset: I am not endorsing this view, I am observing where I believe DOJ not only intends to head with this, but has already headed with it.

Using Snowden as a recruitment tool

After laying out how Chelsea Manning obtained and leaked files that were listed in the WikiLeaks Most Wanted list (the Iraq Rules of Engagement and Gitmo files, explicitly, and large databases more generally; here’s one version of the list as entered into evidence at Manning’s trial), then describing Assange’s links to LulzSec, the superseding Assange indictment lays out WikiLeaks’ overt post-leak ties and claimed ties to Edward Snowden.

83. In June 2013, media outlets reported that Edward J. Snowden had leaked numerous documents taken from the NSA and was located in Hong Kong. Later that month, an arrest warrant was issued in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, for the arrest of Snowden, on charges involving the theft of information from the United States government.

84. To encourage leakers and hackers to provide stolen materials to WikiLeaks in the future, ASSANGE and others at WikiLeaks openly displayed their attempts to assist Snowden in evading arrest.

85. In June 2013, a WikiLeaks association [Sarah Harrison, described as WLA-4 in the indictment] traveled with Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow.

86. On December 31, 2013, at the annual conference of the Chaos Computer Club (“CCC”) in Germany, ASSANGE, [Jacob Appelbaum] and [Harrison] gave a presentation titled “Sysadmins of the World, Unite! A Call to Resistance.” On its website, the CCC promoted the presentation by writing, “[t]here has never been a higher demand for a politically-engaged hackerdom” and that ASSANGE and [Appelbaum] would “discuss what needs to be done if we re going to win.” ASSANGE told the audience that “the famous leaks that WikiLeaks has done or the recent Edward Snowden revelations” showed that “it was possible now for even a single system administrator to … not merely wreck[] or disabl[e] [organizations] … but rather shift[] information from an information apartheid system … into the knowledge commons.” ASSANGE exhorted the audience to join the CIA in order to steal and provide information to WikiLeaks, stating, “I’m not saying doing join the CIA; no, go and join the CIA. Go in there, go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out.”

87. At the same presentation, in responding to the audience’s question as to what they could do, [Appelbaum] said “Edward Snowden did not save himself. … Specifically for source protection [Harrison] took actions to protect [Snowden] … [i]f we can succeed in saving Edward Snowden’s life and to keep him free, then the next Edward Snowden will have that to look forward to. And if look also to what has happened to Chelsea Manning, we see additionally that Snowden has clearly learned….”

The following section describes how, “ASSANGE and WikiLeaks Continue to Recruit,” including two more paragraphs about the Most Wanted Leaks:

89. On May 15, 2015, WikiLeaks tweeted a request for nominations for the 2015 “Most Wanted Leaks” list, and as an example, linked to one of the posts of a “Most Wanted Leaks” list from 2009 that remained on WikiLeaks’s website.

[snip]

92. In June 2015, to continue to encourage individuals to hack into computers and/or illegaly obtain and disclose classified information to WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks maintained on its website a list of “The Most Wanted Leaks of 2009,” which stated that documents or materials nominated to the list must “[b]e likely to have political, diplomatic, ethical or historical impact on release … and be plausibly obtainable to a well-motivated insider or outsider,” and must be “described in enough detail so that … a visiting outsider not already familiar with the material or its subject matter may be able to quickly locate it, and will be motivated to do so.”

Effectively, Snowden is included in this indictment not because the government is alleging any ties between Snowden and WikiLeaks in advance of his leaks (Snowden’s own book lays out reasons to think there was more contact between him and Appelbaum than is publicly known, but the superseding Assange indictment makes no mention of any contacts before Snowden’s first publications), but because WikiLeaks used their success at helping Snowden to flee as a recruiting pitch.

Snowden admits Harrison got involved to optimize his fate

This is something that Snowden lays out in his book. First, he addresses insinuations that Assange only helped Snowden out of selfish reasons.

People have long ascribed selfish motives to Assange’s desire to give me aid, but I believe he was genuinely invested in one thing above all—helping me evade capture. That doing so involved tweaking the US government was just a bonus for him, an ancillary benefit, not the goal. It’s true that Assange can be self-interested and vain, moody, and even bullying—after a sharp disagreement just a month after our first, text-based conversation, I never communicated with him again—but he also sincerely conceives of himself as a fighter in a historic battle for the public’s right to know, a battle he will do anything to win. It’s for this reason that I regard it as too reductive to interpret his assistance as merely an instance of scheming or self-promotion. More important to him, I believe, was the opportunity to establish a counterexample to the case of the organization’s most famous source, US Army Private Chelsea Manning, whose thirty-five-year prison sentence was historically unprecedented and a monstrous deterrent to whistleblowers everywhere. Though I never was, and never would be, a source for Assange, my situation gave him a chance to right a wrong. There was nothing he could have done to save Manning, but he seemed, through Sarah, determined to do everything he could to save me.

This passage is written to suggest Snowden believed these things at the time, describing what “seemed” to be true at the time. But it’s impossible to separate it from Appelbaum’s explicit comparison of Manning and Snowden at CCC in December 2013.

Snowden then describes what he thinks Harrison’s motive was.

By her own account, she was motivated to support me out of loyalty to her conscience more than to the ideological demands of her employer. Certainly her politics seemed shaped less by Assange’s feral opposition to central power than by her own conviction that too much of what passed for contemporary journalism served government interests rather than challenged them.

Again, this is written to suggest Snowden believed it at the time, though it’s likely what he has come to believe since.

Then Snowden describes believing, at that time, that Harrison might ask for something in exchange for her help — some endorsement of WikiLeaks or something.

As we hurtled to the airport, as we checked in, as we cleared passport control for the first of what should have been three flights, I kept waiting for her to ask me for something—anything, even just for me to make a statement on Assange’s, or the organization’s, behalf. But she never did, although she did cheerfully share her opinion that I was a fool for trusting media conglomerates to fairly guard the gate between the public and the truth. For that instance of straight talk, and for many others, I’ll always admire Sarah’s honesty.

Finally, though, Snowden describes — once the plane entered into Chinese airspace and so narratively at a time when there was no escaping whatever fate WikiLeaks had helped him pursue — asking Harrison why she was helping. He describes that she provided a version of the story that WikiLeaks would offer that December in Germany: WikiLeaks needed to be able to provide a better outcome than the one that Manning suffered.

It was only once we’d entered Chinese airspace that I realized I wouldn’t be able to get any rest until I asked Sarah this question explicitly: “Why are you helping me?” She flattened out her voice, as if trying to tamp down her passions, and told me that she wanted me to have a better outcome. She never said better than what outcome or whose, and I could only take that answer as a sign of her discretion and respect.

Whatever has been filtered through time and (novelist-assisted) narrative, Snowden effectively says the same thing the superseding indictment does: Assange and Harrison went to great lengths to help Snowden get out of Hong Kong to make it easier to encourage others to leak or hack documents to share with WikiLeaks. I wouldn’t be surprised if these excerpts from Snowden’s book show up in any Assange trial, if it ever happens.

Snowden’s own attempt to optimize outcomes

Curiously, Snowden did not say anything in his book about his own efforts to optimize his outcome, which is probably the most interesting new information in Bart Gellman’s new book, Dark Mirror (the book is a useful summary of some of the most important Snowden disclosures and a chilling description of how aggressively he and Askhan Soltani were targeted by foreign governments as they were reporting the stories). WaPo included the incident in an excerpt, though the excerpt below is from the book.

Early on in the process, Snowden had asked Gellman to publish the first PRISM document with a key, without specifying what key it was. When WaPo’s editors asked why Gellman’s source wanted them to publish a key, Gellman finally asked.

After meeting with the Post editors, I remembered that I could do an elementary check of the signature on my own. The result was disappointing. I was slow to grasp what it implied.

gpg –verify PRISM.pptx.sig PRISM.pptx

gpg: Signature made Mon May 20 14:31:57 2013 EDT

using RSA key ID ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛

gpg: Good signature from “Verax”

Now I knew that Snowden, using his Verax alter ego, had signed the PowerPoint file himself. If I published the signature, all it would prove to a tech-savvy few was that a pseudonymous source had vouched for his own leak. What good would that do anyone?

In the Saturday night email, Snowden spelled it out. He had chosen to risk his freedom, he wrote, but he was not resigned to life in prison or worse. He preferred to set an example for “an entire class of potential whistleblowers” who might follow his lead. Ordinary citizens would not take impossible risks. They had to have some hope for a happy ending.

To effect this, I intend to apply for asylum (preferably somewhere with strong Internet and press freedoms, e.g. Iceland, though the strength of the reaction will determine how choosy I can be). Given how tightly the U.S. surveils diplomatic outposts (I should know, I used to work in our U.N. spying shop), I cannot risk this until you have already gone to press, as it would immediately tip our hand. It would also be futile without proof of my claims—they’d have me committed—and I have no desire to provide raw source material to a foreign government. Post publication, the source document and cryptographic signature will allow me to immediately substantiate both the truth of my claim and the danger I am in without having to give anything up. . . . Give me the bottom line: when do you expect to go to print?

Alarm gave way to vertigo. I forced myself to reread the passage slowly. Snowden planned to seek the protection of a foreign government. He would canvass diplomatic posts on an island under Chinese sovereign control. He might not have very good choices. The signature’s purpose, its only purpose, was to help him through the gates.

How could I have missed this? Poitras and I did not need the signature to know who sent us the PRISM file. Snowden wanted to prove his role in the story to someone else. That thought had never occurred to me. Confidential sources, in my experience, did not implicate themselves—irrevocably, mathematically—in a classified leak. As soon as Snowden laid it out, the strategic logic was obvious. If we did as he asked, Snowden could demonstrate that our copy of the NSA document came from him. His plea for asylum would assert a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” for an act of political dissent. The U.S. government would maintain that Snowden’s actions were criminal, not political. Under international law each nation could make that judgment for itself. The fulcrum of Snowden’s entire plan was the signature file, a few hundred characters of cryptographic text, about the length of this paragraph. And I was the one he expected to place it online for his use.

Gellman, Poitras, and the Post recognized this would make them complicit in Snowden’s flight and go beyond any journalistic role.

After some advice from WaPo’s lawyers, Gellman made it clear to Snowden he could not publish the key (and would not have, in any case, because the slide deck included information on legitimate targets he and the WaPo had no intent of publishing).

We hated the replies we sent to Snowden on May 26. We had lawyered up and it showed. “You were clear with me and I want to be equally clear with you,” I wrote. “There are a number of unwarranted assumptions in your email. My intentions and objectives are purely journalistic, and I will not tie them or time them to any other goal.” I was working hard and intended to publish, but “I cannot give you the bottom line you want.”

This led Snowden to withdraw his offer of exclusivity which — as Gellman tells the story — is what led Snowden to renew his efforts to work with Glenn Greenwald. The aftermath of that decision led to a very interesting spat between Gellman and Greenwald — to read that, you should buy the book.

To be clear, I don’t blame Snowden for planning his first releases in such a way as to optimize the chances he wouldn’t spend the rest of his life in prison. But his silence on the topic in his own account, even while he adopted the WikiLeaks line about their goal of optimizing his outcome, raises questions about any link between Harrison’s plans and Snowden’s.

The government is using Snowden as inspiration in other cases

The superseding Assange indictment is the first place I know of where the government has specifically argued that WikiLeaks’ assistance to Snowden amounted to part of a criminal conspiracy (though it is totally unsurprising and I argued that it was clear the government was going there based on what they had argued in the Joshua Schulte case).

But it’s not the first place they have argued a tie between Snowden as inspiration and further leaks.

The indictment for Daniel Everette Hale, the guy accused of sharing documents on the drone program with Jeremy Scahill, makes it clear how Hale’s relationship with Scahill blossomed just as the Snowden leaks were coming out (and this detail makes it clear he’s the one referred to in Citizenfour as another source coming forward).

15. On or about June 9, 2013, the Reporter sent HALE an email with a link to an article about Edward Snowden in an online publication. That same day. Hale texted a friend that the previous night he had been hanging out with journalists who were focused on his story. Hale wrote that the evening’s events might provide him with “life long connections with people who publish work like this.”

Hale launched a fairly aggressive (and if it weren’t in EDVA, potentially an interesting) challenge to the Espionage Act charges against him. It included (but was not limited to) a Constitutional motion to dismiss as well as a motion to dismiss for selective prosecution. After his first motions, however, both the government’s response and Hale’s reply on selective prosecution were (and remain, nine months later) sealed.

But Hale’s reply on the Constitutional motion to dismiss was not sealed. In it, he makes reference to what remains sealed in the selective prosecution filings. That reference makes it clear that the government described searching for leakers who had been inspired “by a specific individual” who — given the mention of Snowden in Hale’s indictment — has to be Snowden.

Moreover, as argued in more detail in Defendant’s Reply in support of his Motion to Dismiss for Selective or Vindictive Prosecution (filed provisionally as classified), it appears that arbitrary enforcement – one of the risks of a vague criminal prohibition – is exactly what occurred here. Specifically, the FBI repeatedly characterized its investigation in this case as an attempt to identify leakers who had been “inspired” by a specific individual – one whose activity was designed to criticize the government by shedding light on perceived illegalities on the part of the Intelligence Community. In approximately the same timeframe, other leakers reportedly divulged classified information to make the government look good – by, for example, unlawfully divulging classified information about the search for Osama Bin Laden to the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty, resulting in two separate Inspector General investigations.3 Yet the investigation in this case was not described as a search for leakers generally, or as a search for leakers who tried to glorify the work of the Intelligence Community. Rather, it was described as a search for those who disclosed classified information because they had been “inspired” to divulge improprieties in the intelligence community.

Hale argued, then, that the only reason he got prosecuted after some delay was because the FBI had a theory about Snowden’s role in inspiring further leaks.

Judge Liam O’Grady denied both those motions (and most of Hale’s other motions), though without further reference to Snowden as an inspiration. But I’m fairly sure this is not the only case where they’re making this argument.

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25 replies
  1. Barb says:

    John Kiriakou talks about this new indictment with Joe Lauria in this recent podcast
    ht tps://www.spreaker.com/user/radiosputnik/us-indicts-julian-assange-again-but-why_1

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Barb.” You have used
    “Barb D” and another name previously. Pick one and stick to it. URL shared has been ‘broken’ with a blank space to prevent accidental clickthrough; as that site hasn’t been validated, community members should use with caution. Thanks. /~Rayne
    ]

    Reply
    • bmaz says:

      What??? These are three dopes literally on the payroll of Sputnik News, a Russian propaganda effort. Talking on Sputnik News, a Russian propaganda effort. You know that, right? And not a one of them knows jack shit about criminal law or how conspiracy indictments are commonly framed, much less eventually proved up at trial.

      Spare me, and everybody here, the Sputnik Propaganda please.

      Also, I do not recommend anybody clicking on that link, not at all, so I am breaking it. Do so at your own risk. Ooops, somebody (maybe Rayne) already has. Jeebus.

      Reply
      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, I was slow to check that comment, whizzed by it when I saw the name “Barb” thinking it was another person by that name. Oops.

        Reply
  2. Silly but True says:

    Wikileaks lost its way in that it could no longer define what it wanted to be.

    If it sought to just be a publisher, then it needed to firewall itself off from the “aiding and abetting” conduct, directing Manning to specific areas to target, assisting in cracking codes, etc. and in this case chaperoning Snowden on his escape. It would at least have had more legitimacy in maintaining such a position, even if it increasingly began assuming specific political positions.

    In crossing the line into espionage, it all but forces US to come down hard.

    Reply
  3. TomA says:

    Our species has been evolving for a couple of hundred thousand years, and during most of that time, the natural environment was, by far, the most significant factor in our progression to present form and behaviors. And now, in less than half a century, we have crossed a seminal threshold into an artificial technological environment in which ubiquitous EC (in all its forms) is changing us in fundamental ways. Some of this is still (hopefully) within the sphere of personal choice and control, but the man-made EC environment is largely being shaped at the mercy of governments and large corporations. The surveillance state is real, it is an enormous leviathan, it is growing exponentially in all respects, and its growth is a ratchet which cannot shrink. And it will not go away, because it is (in an analogous sense) alive and thriving. And it possesses unprecedented power, and that power can be abused, because humans are fallible. And it has been abused, and will continue to be abused in the future. No one individual is exempt from this abuse, and laws have never stopped criminals. When you kill off all the Snowdens, all that is left are the vacuous promises of politicians and bureaucrats.

    Reply
  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    David Shimer’s new book, Rigged, is about US and Soviet/Russian competition and their “100 Years of Covert Electoral Interference.” My comments relate to Luke Harding’s review. Harding is regarded by his critics as the UK intelligence services’ man at the Guardian. His writing certainly reflects standard elite versions of American vs. Russian conduct.

    As Harding describes it, Shimer’s history is ambitious and well-received by major news media and western intelligence services. An earned accolade by an author from Yale (once, the CIA’s principal recruitment depot) pursuing his D.Phil. at Oxford. His sources appear voluminous, his interviews include the usual members of the great and good: Bill Clinton, David Petraeus, various CIA hands, Germans, and a few Russians. But this exculpatory description by Harding does Shimer no favors:

    Rigged….says the modern CIA has basically given up on covert electoral interference. The US still promotes democracy, but openly, via not-for-profit organisations. In 2004, George W Bush contemplated meddling in Iraq’s post-Saddam poll but didn’t follow through.

    That could have been drafted by the Chamber of Commerce. Harding’s claim that George W. Bush merely failed to “follow through” in his attempts to “meddle” in Iraq’s politics – after invading, occupying, and largely destroying it – is laughable. Harding talks about CIA interference “Beginning in 1947.” (He means, “Since its inception in 1947;” its intent was present at its creation.) It interfered that year in a pivotal Italian election. Its methods, per Harding, were 1) supplying cash, 2) getting “Italian Americans to write letters home,” and 3) working with the church. Harding must have missed the lecture about corrupting unions, paying off political parties, killing, organized crime, and mob violence. Shorn of its worst features by Harding, that template was supposedly used for decades by the CIA.

    Reply
    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Harding mentions in passing CIA-orchestrated coups in Iran and Guatemala, and calls the overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende the CIA’s “ugliest moment.” It’s a competitor. Cuba also stands out, as does all of Central America, Greece, the Congo, the French Connection, and the 1965 massacres in Indonesia. Harding avoids mention of Operation Gladio other operations in Japan and against major western allies, Operation Phoenix, the KUBARK manual and the School of the Americas. In Harding’s green and pleasant land, the American rationale for its interference “was simple – moulding voters’ minds meant protecting democracy.” That implies that corporate, banking, and investor interests can take care of themselves, a conclusion at odds with the careers of Allen and John Foster Dulles, John J. McCloy, and a host of other American intelligence luminaries.

      Before and under Putin, though, Russia was a meany. It “funnelled cash to Allende and to other Latin American and African leftists. It gave large, under-the-table sums to communist parties in Italy, France and around the world. The USSR extinguished non-communists wherever it could, turning postwar eastern Europe into a zone of junior clone states. And it stuffed ballot boxes, something Shimer says the CIA didn’t do.” Russian actions – and its new imperial aims in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and America – were and are violent and offensive. They should be vigorously defended against. The most violent and offensive may be sitting in the Oval Office and it means to stay there. David Shimer’s work is probably worth a read. Luke Harding’s, maybe not.

      https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/29/rigged-america-russia-and-100-years-of-covert-electoral-interference-by-david-shimer-review

      Reply
      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A description of the CIA’s template would not be complete without mention of the Mighty Wurlitzer. That refers to an extensive influence campaign that allowed the CIA for decades to play domestic and foreign media like a grand theater organ, once used to complement silent films.

        Its campaigns were mostly through unattributed subsidies to a host of newspapers and magazines from across the political spectrum. It used a long line of cooperating owners and journalists, some of them publicly associated with the intelligence community. Others cooperated for under-the-table payments or other favors, such as the occasional scoop. When some of those ties became known, it flabbergasted countless journalists and news organizations, many of whom apologized for their role.

        There were also extensive CIA connections to foundations, research institutes, think tanks, and major and minor colleges and universities. These were used variously for research, influencing opinion, recruitment and training of potential staff, and counter-espionage (keeping tabs on suspected or potential foreign agents).

        Reply
        • Silly but True says:

          Certainly there is no greater meddler in foreign elections than the U.S., and Harding is wrong in observing we quit doing it since 2004.

          OOH, it’s us and we’re the good guys. So the US gets to do it. OTOH, it _still_ _always_ bites us in the ass every. Single. Time.

          The best recent examples since 2004 are trying to rig 2006 Palestinian election to install the worse corrupt crook instead of the worse terrorist. And of course, meddling in 2014 Ukraine election — the Nuland- Pyat “fuck the EU” call — to install anti-Putin corrupt crook whom Ukrainians quickly tossed.

          The cycle repeats: we do it to them and they’re going to do it to us.

          I’ve resolved to embrace the cynicism of this and expect the US to maintain better espionage and counter-espionage spycraft than all our allies, enemies, and frenemies. I recognize this is not the ideal solution but until things change on all sides, it’s the best practical one we have.

          It’s only going to get more complicated the more we indict in US criminal court GRU Russian intel operatives in Moscow rather than just EMP bombing their digital operations center, and the more other countries fo same by indicting Presidents on military strikes.

          I suspect the end extreme to this will resolve itself once Russians indict in Russian criminal court all SAC/NORAD airman and any US soldiers involved in US nuclear program on conspiracy charges to commit mass murder of 144m Russians, and we respond in kind to theirs.

          Reply
          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Trump and those like him excepted, individually and some of the time, we can be very good people. That gives us cause for optimism. As a matter of foreign policy, though, we are Not the good guys.

            We don’t do simple things to “mould” the minds of voters, foreign or domestic, or to promote democracy. (Heaven forbid – that makes resource extraction troublesome and expensive). We do some very nasty things to our friends (imagine Billy Bob Thornton’s boorish American president in Love, Actually, or fast forward to how the US will treat the UK after Brexit), as well as our enemies. We do them largely to promote the interests of America’s wealth elite, and to compete with those we regard as competing with us.

            The latter can be nasty characters, too. Putin is no Father Christmas, nor is Duterte or Xi (nor were De Gaule and Thatcher). Trump’s problem in dealing with them and in defending US interests is the one he carries with him everywhere. He is the interest he defends, nothing else matters. If he personally owes Putin – he shows every sign of owing him big time – he will kowtow lower than a blade of grass in order to protect himself. America be damned. That’s one reason he has to go.

            Reply
        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The CIA’s budget has never been audited or even accounted for. It is said to have been at various times among the world’s great money launderers. Sometimes, it doesn’t need to be. Its backers arranged for it to secretly take a cut of the vast sums devoted to post-WWII recovery under the highly regarded Marshall Plan. (Because of conditions on how the Europeans could spent that money, much of it was an indirect subsidy to US exporters.)

          Reply
  5. viget says:

    Is it ok to say that I am very ambivalent about Snowden, given what we now know about WikiLeaks, Assange, the Schulte trial, and Russian intelligence infiltration? And look, I’m not trying to stir up a hornet’s nest here, just asking a legit question. I know “it’s complicated” is the likely answer, but I think we need to examine why that might be.

    At best, I feel, he was a useful idiot. At worst…. well I hope he’s no Schulte. From what I’ve read about Snowden, he sounded like the type that would be very susceptible to MICE-type recruitment (Money, Ideology, Coercision/Compromise, Ego/Excitement). Certainly from the Schulte trial that was abundantly clear in Schulte’s case.

    If this is too controversial a comment, Rayne/bmaz/whoever please delete it.

    Reply
    • milestogo says:

      I think there might be a better “at best” but I just do not know enough either to be certain on his judgement. I know there are strong feelings among the better informed however.

      Reply
    • Rayne says:

      I think you feel what many people feel — a lot of ambivalence. Snowden did a service for the greater good by revealing government abuses and overreach, but doing so in the manner that he did also put him in a vulnerable position where he and/or his reputation could be compromised. The question is whether he fully understood all the risks he faced once he began disclosure.

      Reply
      • Ken Muldrew says:

        Another question is whether there was any other way to reveal these government abuses (convincingly and undeniably). Even with hindsight I haven’t seen any reasonable proposal for accomplishing this goal without either the revelation or the revealer being discredited.

        Reply
        • Rayne says:

          That’s the tricky part. How to leak without being caught in the leak process. Look at poor Reality Winner, still in jail.

          And yet how to allow such massive abuse and overreach to continue until one’s personal interests are covered? Grasping that is easier with age because we’ve seen it, lived it, watched Deep Throat’s efforts pay off and had the luxury of time and space to analyze what happened. But to a twenty-something time is a wholly different creature.

          Reply
          • Silly but True says:

            This is exactly the problem and the solution.

            It’s easy for me to say than for Snowden to have done and others to do:

            Snowden made his case, so live with it. Leak in the open, and make your case in the open.

            It is the very act of concealment that defeats for them their shield.

            I don’t doubt it would have made for a 1 or 3 year hard life as the full weight of a pissed off US government comes down on you. But I would expect a Snowden who remained in US to ultimately have been fully exonerated directly by US court, political pressure of our democratic process, or by Presidential pardon.

            I think everyone accepts that Snowden did good for all Americans, and that would have been rewarded.

            But it’s his life that he has to live, and that’s a pretty big gamble to take. But I guess in doing it his way, I hope he likes vodka.

            Reply
            • Ken Muldrew says:

              You’re dreaming. There’s a better chance of Bush & Cheney being frogmarched before a court in the Hague than of any exoneration for someone who does a Snowden-calibre leak.

              Reply
            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              I have to agree with Ken. The concept of protected whistleblowing is as frightful to the elite as any particular disclosures. It is an existential threat to the status quo, because it upends the structure of who gets to decide what to disclose and for what purposes.

              In the business world, it would be like a manager allowing her manufacturing plant to go union. She would be promptly fired and blackballed from the managerial ranks.

              But whistleblowers do it because what they see alarmingly upsets their sense of purpose and right and wrong, to the point that they are willing to disclose, whatever the cost to themselves. (That’s what worries the elite about people taking to the streets in protest.) That cost is almost universally severe.

              Reply
              • Silly but True says:

                I don’t disagree it’s frought.

                I disagree that that principled manager won’t find a better home at a better organization more aligned with her values.

                To bring it back to Snowden, I bave faith and trust in us — Americans — that we would have gotten his case right had he gone more Ellsberg and less Rosenberg.

                Reply
      • viget says:

        That’s a good way to put it, Rayne (and PJ Evans). Naivete. I could buy that. Still think that ego, though, was (and still is) his major weakness. Ego plus naivete is a dangerous combination for someone with a high level security clearance.

        I also wonder if someone else wasn’t encouraging him. Maybe someone close to him?

        Reply
        • Rayne says:

          I don’t think ego as much as hubris born of excess confidence in the system. Naivete definitely if he ever believed the doing the right thing would protect him.

          Good gravy there are so many graves of people who did the right thing but died at the hands of the system.

          Reply
          • Chetnolian says:

            I have never seen any evidence Snowden was naive. The fact that he took steps to put off for as long as possible the bad things that would happen to him doesn’t mean he did not know they would eventually happen.

            One area where I think he may have been in error is that he got so outraged by what he found out his own country was doing that he started to believe the others were not equally rotten. He would not have been the first to do that; read up on the Cambridge spies and what motivated them.

            Reply

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