April 27, 2015

NSA Whistleblower Identified as Edward Snowden – Says Capabilities Are Even More Horrifying Than We Realize and the NSA Is Actively Lying to Congress About Its Targeting of American Citizens

Major global news outlets, including The New York Times, are identifying 29-year old ex-CIA computer technician Edward Snowden as the whistleblower who leaked documents to international newspapers to illustrate the unconstitutional and illegal surveillance of American citizens.  He gave up a high income and powerful position to accepting the possibility of life imprisonment because he realized how out of control the central government has become and that the NSA was lying to even members of Congress during inquiries.  He said in an interview with The Guardian:

… the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”

Elsewhere he said why you should care very deeply whether or not you are watched, even if you have nothing to hide:

Why should people care about surveillance?

Because even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. The storage capability of the systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude where it’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion by somebody – even by a wrong call. Then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinise every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with and attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspision from an innocent life and paint anyone into context of a wrongdoer.

He said the capabilities that have not yet been disclosed are even more terrifying – that once a machine has been connected to the Internet, it can be specifically identified from that point forward.  

When asked why he was effectively risking his life and giving up everything he had ever known to bring the actions to light, he said:

The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.

One of the editors for The Atlantic is now claiming that he overheard, and recorded part, of a conversation in which four intelligence officers in Washington were discussing how Snowden and the reporter to whom he leaked the story need to be, “disappeared”.

Personally, I think the man is a hero.  If he ran for the Senate when he is eligible next year, I’d vote for him, even if I disagreed with him on most things.  A person who is willing to sacrifice his entire life to stop a great evil, falling on his sword to save others, is the type of person you want in a leadership position.  It’s time to take back the fourth amendment as well as pass a privacy amendment.

  • Richard

    This comment does a great job of explaining why everyone should care: http://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/comments/1fv4r6/i_believe_the_government_should_be_allowed_to/caeb3pl. Hopefully it is read by many more.

  • Charles Reeves

    Very much agreed.

  • FratMan

    Joshua, I am so glad you care about this issue. I keep seeing people on television say “I thought they were spying on us anyway” or “this program isn’t new” or “well, we haven’t had a terrorist attack since 9/11.” That stuff makes me so mad because it seems that we have stopped caring about freedom past the history class lip service we pay to it. The consequences of increased terror activity comes nowhere near the consequences of living with government espionage of our every move.

    Anyway, thank you so much for following this issue closely. I did not think it was possible for me to admire you any more than I already did, but you have impressed me yet again.


    • Scott McCarthy

      As someone who lives in Massachusetts – yes, we HAVE had a terrorist attack since 9/11…

      • FratMan

        Scott, one thing I want to clarify: I was characterizing what I have seen on TV, not offering my own editorial remarks.

        • Scott McCarthy

          Oh, I understood. There was no offense taken – sorry if that came off harsher than I intended it to, as it seems much harsher reading it back now than it did when I typed it. Just pointing out an error in the way people justify things: willing to overlook evidence that contradicts their opinions, even if that evidence is quite public, and even recent.

          Heck, I’d include things like people shooting up schools, movie theaters and shopping malls as “terrorists attacks” too. But for some reason, most people don’t think “terrorism” unless there’s a bomb involved.

        • Jason Spacek

          You ain’t living in Cincinnati? I had you pegged for a Big 4 associate who transferred to GE Aviation sometime in the early ’00s. But I suppose I pegged wrong.

        • Scott McCarthy

          In the early 2000s, I was still in high school…lol.

        • Jason Spacek


  • Matt N

    If you want to see something frustrating, have a look at this opinion piece in the Telegraph (British paper) – highly frustrating to see this sort of thinking getting prominent airtime:


    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that so completely missed the point; especially his ignorance of the fact that a law in direct violation of the Constitution has no authority. These are the sorts of seeds of ignorance that result in totalitarian regimes a couple of generations down the line. The thinking is foolish, and the author is short-sighted.

      • Matt N

        Couldn’t agree more!

  • joe pierson

    Historically civil liberties in this country have always been calibrated according to the current threat, Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and free speech during the Civil War, Wilson free speech in WWI, Roosevelt ordered the Japanese internment in WWII just to name a few. When U2’s are torpedoing ships up and down the east coast I guess you have to restrict liberties to contain the threat. I suppose that is the ugly historic truth like it or not. Remember learn what great people or countries do, not what they say.

    The key is restoring the liberties after the threat is gone, and that thankfully has been our history (but not in countries like Russia even though it has a similar constitution as ours).

    • Matt N

      Interesting – wasn’t aware of that!

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Well said!

    • TheLonelyHumanist

      War is one thing. Wars can be won or lost. They begin and they end. But terrorism will never go away and we will always be under the threat of terrorism. That’s what we weren’t thinking 9/12/01. We were thinking war and we wanted to win. If we give up freedom for security when under threat of terrorism, we will never have those freedoms. And terrorism wins.

  • lokgp

    But isn’t this for the greater good of the nation? To take pre-emptive attack. To identify terrorist attack before they materialise? To stop mass killing before it happens. It was the same reason to bomb Iraq and Afghanistan. Why should we be exempted from pre-emptive checks? Something to think about.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      “Why should we be exempted from pre-emptive checks?”

      Because the highest legal document in the country, the one that supersedes all other legal documents, absolutely forbids it without due process in the 4th amendment. No law is powerful enough to overcome it. No President or Congress has the authority to ignore it. The entire legal framework of the United States is built upon that and has been for more than 220 years.

      Because the founding fathers were brought up in the tradition of the European Enlightenment and believed in certain rights being inalienable. This is one of those rights. The exact text is explicit: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      Saving lives isn’t a good enough justification. Reducing terrorism isn’t a good enough justification. The right isn’t for the government to take away; it doesn’t have the moral or legal authority to infringe upon it. It’s one of the principals that made the United States absolutely unique. We take these inalienable rights to be absolute. That is why you cannot have, for example, hate speech laws in the United States. You are absolutely free to be a horrible, racist, homophobic, anti-capitalist zealot and you cannot be arrested for what you say or print unless you are inducing, in that moment, targeted violence against a person. That is not the case in Canada. That is not the case in Great Britain.

      There is nothing new about terrorist attacks. They have existed almost as long as mankind. It is an incredibly stupid bargain to buy yourself a little security today only to slit your throat years from now, or worse, your childrens’ throats, by giving away your liberty. We have thousands upon thousands of years of recorded human history to witness what happens when that transaction is struck and it never ends well.

      I am telling you as clearly as I possibly can that there is almost no greater danger to the long-term happiness of the general population. Give up liberty for security and you are making a Faustian bargain with Satan himself. You cannot win. We are no exception. The only way to succeed is to refuse to play, even if the cost is high.

      • lokgp

        Which is the same reason why that it is ironic that the US citizens will allow pre-emptive bombing of other nations for the benefit of securing national interest.

        There any many fine line between greater good or committing to evil. Britain is one example where CCTV surrounds the whole area, and stations keeps on reminding people who impending terrorist attacks, so that all citizens should remain suspicious of any baggage left behind. The idea to commit and allow our privacy and freedom to be taken away for the sake of protection.
        This applies for the petro-dollar concept and in other forms as well.

        It does seem like the future ahead moves toward a camera device in every home in the form of a voice controlled TV, X-box, Motion controlled device etc. The idea to allow privacy intrusion for the sake of convenience and technology into the home will be gradually accepted and be the norm of the day. Even better: “Google Glass” ‘s popularity might just do even more of that. It is conceivable that media will play a major role in encouraging people to accept the coolness of being watched. So will the government legalise it sooner or later.

        When the trend or tide comes, we can’t help but get washed over. The world will gradually move into a sphere where privacy is becoming less and less of an issue. The change is so gradual that it will encourage acceptance. Facebook has played major role in that as well.

        That Batman movie with the megaphone is one interesting portrayal of that. It will always begin with for the sake of the greater good, and then it will be manipulated later on.

        Fight as we may, but concentrated and organised power of big corps, government agency, media will push it into acceptance.

        Isn’t it odd that NSA isn’t reportable to the Congress? Then who is the NSA reportable to? No one?

  • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon
  • FratMan

    I thought you might like this.

  • FratMan

    Might be worth skimming for ~15 minutes.