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MONDAY MORNING SKEPTIC: Is Snowden the Criminal—or is it the System?

Lindsay-mills-cupcakes

Establishment urges: Focus on Edward Snowden’s girlfriend—Please!

The late, great scientist and author Carl Sagan once observed that

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Thus, after the highly disturbing revelations from Edward Snowden about the extent to which our government is totally out of control, monitoring us like right out of Orwell’s 1984, we get….an effort to shift news coverage away from the outrages themselves, to the messengers who warn us.

For example, watch ABC’s George Stephanopoulos spend almost his entire time in this interview with Julian Assange and Jesselyn Radack trying to demonize whistleblowers—rather than focus on the things they’re blowing whistles about.

As Stephanopoulos might have said, who cares about tyranny when you have a great (and, frankly, easy) job, earn around $10 million dollars a year and live in a $6 million apartment? What sorts of complaints could you possibly have that would risk bringing the iron fist down on you?

Notwithstanding this, GS gets credit for even allowing these alternative voices to be heard. The rest of the media is generally worse. They’re apparently happy to go to their creator having generated decades of inconsequential blather—rather than do the right thing and make the powerful (and their own bosses) uncomfortable.

Who’s the Traitor?

Around the mediascape, we hear a lot of talk about Edward Snowden being a criminal, and needing to return home to face “justice.” But what about the possibility that people like Snowden actually are the forces of justice, while the criminals are the ones in charge of the system?

Not criminals, you say? How about creating or exacerbating “security threats,” then cruelly panicking the public into approving increasingly intrusive measures to bolster security? Isn’t that something like mobsters who throw a brick through a store window, then offer to provide “protection” against future brick-throwers?

No one wants to be at ground zero for another 9/11. But if we are to believe that those who expose the mega-surveillance system are themselves creating harm, then why not ask the government to document just how all this spying on us is making us safer?

If we are to accept the declamations of various agitated senators and congressmembers about how they’re effectively monitoring the monitors and everything was just fine until Snowden came along—well, how about asking them to prove to us exactly how effective they have been at keeping the keepers of the secrets in line?

What about asking the government to tote up all the great successes from spying on Americans, but first to subtract all those “terrorism cases” where participants were FBI informants or CIA assets or had other connections to the state? What about asking them to show us, plain and simple, an accounting of what the civil- liberties sacrifices and billions upon billions spent on “security” get us.

What about an open discussion of this proposition: The protectors, having created a vast, self-perpetuating bureaucracy, are not really protecting us so much as they are protecting themselves, their paychecks, their own power.

Facts.

Let’s consider some (shudder) facts:

-Long before Edward Snowden, others were warning us about surveillance state excesses, abuses, and crimes—from James Bamford, a prolific author of books on the NSA, to insider whistleblowers like Thomas Drake, who faced lengthy jail time for daring to tell us the truth.

– 1.4 million Americans hold Top Secret clearances—is that because there are so many things that need to be kept secret, or because it’s handy to have a huge chunk of your smartest people signing away their freedom to level with us about unconstitutional acts by our own government?

-Spying on us is big business. We’re so stupid that we actually pay our tax dollars to have the surveillance contracted out to private companies that are getting rich off of sticking their noses in our business. Fully 60 percent of “intelligence” work is now subcontracted to the “private sector.”  Do you have any idea where all that money goes or what it buys? I don’t. And neither, based on reports of massive waste, corruption and incompetence, do the “insiders.”

-As many a DC journalist knows but does not say, key legislators we trust to “investigate” or provide “oversight” on the spy agencies have, over the years, historically been subject to blackmail on things that would destroyed their political careers. Others are compromised on a more banal basis—they and their spouses profit tremendously from the surveillance state and its ever-open wallet (as well as from all other manner of possibility.)

-Once the spook bureaus capture our information, we are counting on highly fallible computers and human beings to be able to analyze it all and identify meaningful connections. Oh brother! Or should I say Big Brother! I recall arriving at JFK airport, and being pulled into a room without explanation. After I sweated this out for a while, someone let me know that my name had triggered an alert. Maybe I was mistaken for Ras al-Bakr, sinister individual. Or maybe someone is just messing with me. Whatever, at least I didn’t end up at Guantanamo, held without charges in unspeakable isolation.

-Those who vilify the Edward Snowdens are often the same people re-enacting battles from the American Revolution or otherwise paying tribute to those who rocked the system. What constitutes a troublemaker? Don’t expect consistency on that.

-Bad things happen all the time in this country and we never get the real story. As we’ve shown here, there’s something wrong with that whole Boston Bombing story; there is something wrong (obviously!) with the FBI hiding the fact of an operation to assassinate Occupy leaders; there is something wrong with the current and recent harassment of cyber activists; there is something wrong with covering up Saudi ties to the 9/11 hijackers—and there are reasons to believe that even in this country, if you ask too many questions you may be venturing into dangerous territory (see the death of Michael Hastings.)

There is…something wrong.

One thing that constantly amazes me is how almost nobody is talking about this. Things get worse and worse and what do we hear people discussing? They are making small talk. People are more upset about the prospects of their sports team not making it to the championships or about the gender of Kate and William’s unborn royal baby than they are about becoming slaves in some Orwellian society that may be just around the corner.

Perhaps we get what we deserve. But perhaps we can change that equation.

If people can get all worked up about fictional horror stories on Netflix, maybe they can be made to care about the Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue, Reality Version.

Maybe we can all demand the truth about what’s being done in our name. To the Edward Snowdens. And to the democracy we revere.

 

 

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GRAPHIC: http://dailycaller.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Lindsay-mills-cupcakes.jpg


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  • gogetem1

    Does anyone else find it a little odd that Michael Hastings was married to a former Condi Rice speechwriter and loyal Bushie? Maybe they were just another James Carville/Mary Matalin-type couple just doing their jobs. But this fact along with the entire crash scenario is downright strange.

    • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

      Hollywood couples get married for image reasons, etc.

  • Charlie Primero

    Other facts to consider:

    * Snowden was a CIA employee before “going rouge”.

    * Snowden revealed nothing.

    * Pew Research shows a majority of Americans now support reducing 4th Amendment protections. Congress already has the legislation written and waiting.

    It’s obvious now that Snowden is a Limited Hangout operation just like fellow CIA employee Daniel Ellsberg.

    • Russ

      *not* obvious at all. If it was “obvious,” then everyone would obviously agree with you. We don’t know what to make of this yet, and to say he revealed “nothing” is just the kind of inaccurate statement that we do not care for in these parts.

      • Charlie Primero

        What did Snowden reveal that we did not already know?

        • Russ

          C’mon. What exactly “did we already know”? Exactly. Be specific. Even the NSA expert and author Bamford acknowledges that there was new material. Lots of argumentative types come here but make generalizations like this and then ask us to prove them wrong. Tiresome.

        • Charlie Primero

          What specifically did Snowden reveal that we did not already know?

        • lofty1

          What specifically did Snowden reveal that we already know?

        • Corey

          “Prove that Snowden isn’t really working for the Vatican. Prove it to me, Russ!”

          lol

          Primero: no one has ever come forward with real documents before. It has been easy to dismiss previous leakers because they didn’t have concrete evidence. Snowden had the goods. Nuff said. Leave it alone.

        • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

          Obviously you don’t keep up with Le Carre.

        • Carine Clary

          You know because you read this website, but the average person doesn’t read it, and therefore doesn’t know.

        • Charlie Primero

          What did Snowden reveal that we did not already know?

        • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

          Baudrillard: People know the facts to be true but they don’t BELIEVE them to be true. That is the difference. When someone sacrifices his life then it is obvious that person believes. That is powerful. The terroristic act MUST be paired with the sacrifice. Why 9-11 was so successful.Why we can’t respond to it the way we need to. Killing Bin Laden doesn’t do it. and many wonder if BL was really killed. is body dropped at sea so it can’t be seen?Now why would they do that?

        • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

          But now everything the govt says becomes laughable. When someone says something serious to you about what the govt said about anything at all and you just laugh at your friend for believing in Santa Claus, that changes the Discourse. I mean to have a President’s plane refused airspace because a “hacker” might be on board? This is laughable and the South Americans while angry were also laughing. The PR person for Bolivia described it as Imperialist kidnapping. Now that’s just as good as Timberlake’s “wardrobe malfunction” isn’t it?

        • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

          Of course we all knew it, at least those of us who care about knowing such things. The difference is the sacrifice of his life in giving us “PROOF” which some people need, thinking they are always in a court of law.Like Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart fans want them to stand in front of a mic and say,”We are a couple.” Only then will it be believed they are because those folks cannot see that they are unless they say it. Unfortunately most Americans are in this latter category. The “proof” is not going to help either. But changing the DISCOURSE is going to help. What is the best thing about all this is that the govt lies are so obvious now and are generalizing out to everything they say. Their credibility is approaching ground zero on everything. This is a good thing.

    • Carine Clary

      I don’t think we should infer that someone’s former association with the CIA necessarily negates the value of the information that they make public, or their motive in doing so. Honorable people everywhere join their respective nations military & civil organizations for the best of reasons. The really brave ones, when they find out that the leaders of those organizations are perverting the goals of those orgs, stick their necks way out, and call them on their hypocrisy and illegalities.

      It’s easy to think that anyone who’s worked for an agency with a tarnished reputation like the CIA is likewise soiled, but that’s not how things usually work in the real world.

      • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

        Want to smear Le Carre for being in M16?

    • Westcoastliberal

      While it’s true that what Snowden revealed had been hinted at by others, what he revealed is documented proof the NSA cannot now deny; all this spying is now not just rumor, it’s fact. He embarrassed the NSA for their lying and the executive branch of government for letting them get away with it. That’s why they want to hunt him down like a pack of wolves.

    • aware

      I completely agree….Snowden revealed nothing new.
      Amazing that they just couldn’t “find” him, if he did so much damage. Reason being…he most likely is still linked with the CIA. How do you go from being a security guard for the NSA, to a computer genius, after just a few computer classes. It’s ve
      ry obvious, to those not bamboozled.

      • sgtdoom

        In case you haven’t figured it out yet, nimrod, there is no meritocratic hiring process in America!

        No, with the vast majority of the intelligence establishment privatized, it is indeed very easy for what happened in Mr. Snowden’s life!

        The reason he is safest in Russia, for now, is that the American interests have long run counter to Russian interests (especially Putin’s) and they recall how they may have been royally screwed in the late 1990s!

        Plus, they control the major portions of gas and oil to Euroland!

        Also, as you appear to never pay attention, Snowden was involved with uncovering offshore tax haven data, and said data somehow made its way to the IRS, which announced at its web site on May 9th, the largest tax investigation in history, into offshore tax havens thanks to said data from anon. sources. Seven days later the IRS commissioner was fired!

  • Jakey Lee

    Snowden and Greenwald looks like a Underground Reich operation to destabilize the Obama and the U.S.A. Look at the timing and who Obama was meeting with.

    • Carine Clary

      Are you saying that Snowden permanently risked his career and freedom to embarrass Obama for the two day news cycle comprising the visit of the Chinese leader? That’s a hell of a stretch.

      • Jakey Lee

        What about all the nazis Greenwald represented as a lawyer. And Booz Allen Itself?

        • Corey

          Why does Godwin’s Law have to be real??

  • Contrarianism

    Almost as disturbing as the NSA spying revelations is that an article like this has to be written in the first place.

    When our government breaks its own laws rendering our founding documents inert, the outrage should spill into the streets with citizens calling for those individuals who broke the law to be brought to justice while demanding the government return to the confines of the constitution.

    But no. Instead, what we have is the average American who either doesn’t care, or worse, doesn’t even know that our government has gone rouge.

    Maybe these people live in a world of rainbows and unicorns where the government would never abuse their power and everything broadcast from the major media outlets is the gospel truth and without bias; or perhaps we live during a unique time in history where corruption and deceit is so pervasive that we have a hard time holding our focus on any one scandal before we are interrupted and shocked the next one.

    Regardless, we are witnessing a perfect storm of apathy, cognitive dissonance, distraction, and an intentional misinformation campaign waged by our government and their complicit partners in the media, which appears to have had the same effect on the population as a date-rape cocktail would have on its victim, that is, leaving the people numb, in a semi-comotose state, completely unaware that they are getting fucked.

  • MRando250

    I love the conclusion about people getting worked up by Netflix horror movies and how hopefully we can get them to care about the much scarier reality of what is actually taking place. So true.

    One other item I at least want to bring up is a suspicion I have regarding Snowden. While he was supposedly still in Hong Kong about to board a flight to Russia, the US DOJ served extradition papers to prevent him from boarding the flight. According to HK authorities, the papers had the wrong middle name and did not include a passport number. HK reached out to DOJ repeatedly for clarification without a response and eventually he left for Russia. It seems unlikely that this is how the US would deal with public enemy #1, but maybe I’m reading too much into this, but maybe not….

    • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

      HK stonewalled them. The Chinese bureaucracy will outdo Western bureaucracy any time. The US can no longer connect dots while at the same time they connect trivia dots in detail.

  • Westcoastliberal

    Great piece, Russ. I talk about this topic quite a bit and those I run into generally fall into two categories, they’re either suffering from cognitive dissonance or they’re generally uninformed. A few people I know have some inkling of what’s being done to them, but their viewpoint is politically skewed (“that damn Obama”). These are most Fox news viewers; they don’t realize or won’t admit the house came down with the Coup d’etat that assumed power in 2001.

    Guys like Snowden and Manning are our modern versions of Paul Revere. They’ve risked it all for the truth and I honor both Men.

    • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

      The Coup D’Etat was the JFK assassination.

      • Westcoastliberal

        Yes Abbey I agree, but I didn’t say it was the first Coup d’Etat we’ve seen here in the U.S.

        • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

          Feels like to me that they have just been consolidating their hold on us.They are an institution and we are just passing generations with forgetting built into us like hardware.

        • Westcoastliberal

          They count on our complacency. Please call your Rep in the House &
          ask them to vote FOR the Amash-Conyers Amendment to the defense funding
          bill. It’s written in an attempt to stop the NSA spying by removing
          their funding

  • Zack B

    Investigative journalist Greg Palast wrote:

    Snowden has been called a “traitor” and charged with crimes regarding the revelation of a private contractor analyzing “metadata” from internet traffic.

    As a former professor of statistics, I should explain that “metadata” is defined by experts as, “A big load of bullshit used by consulting firms to get hundred-million-dollar no-bid contracts from government pinheads.”

    What Snowden uncovered is not some massive spying operation that could expose terrorist plots, but a massive invasion of the taxpayer’s wallet by connected consultants.

    • Corey

      What?

    • fishsquad

      Greg Palast did a great job uncovering the rigged 2000 Florida election, but since then I haven’t seen him (un)cover anything really that important.

      But that quote of his is the stupidest, most uninformed thing I’ve heard to date about the NSA scandal (and the amount of stupid things said has been legion).

      For a more realistic and fascinating look at what metadata is and can reveal, check out:

      Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere
      http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/09/using-metadata-to-find-paul-revere/

  • Mc

    Russ, great article. I agree with all your points. Was the gratuitous titty shot really necessary? We all know the stripper girlfriend back story at this point. A less salacious pic could have worked. Your journalism does not need the…um…”support” offered by cupcake girl.

    • Russ

      Vote? Our editors all liked it. Next time: Obama scantily clad.

      • gogetem1

        Or the readily available scantily-clad Geraldo.

      • http://twilightirruption.blogspot.com/ abbeysbooks

        Obama as Oreo Cookie. Dressed in one with his face and stick legs. Like heard it on the grapevine.

      • MC

        Fair enough. I’ll take it. Just no more Geraldo.

      • Veritas

        Any women in that group “our editors”?

    • Alice

      Fear? Oh no, I am not afraid…I am snowed in and I have large taters. After all, now I can write some really wild stories and no one will read them.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    just stopped by to see the pic

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  • Strawman411

    “What about an open discussion of this proposition: The protectors,
    having created a vast, self-perpetuating bureaucracy, are not really
    protecting us so much as they are protecting themselves, their
    paychecks, their own power.”

    An excellent question. Too bad the incurious “bamboozlees” about which Sagan wrote constitute a majority of the electorate.

    • SO

      The problem with democracy is that that masses do need to be led. The vast majority will not spend the time and make the effort necessary to understand how this country is ruled. And if somebody starts to lead them, they end up dead. So, the trick is to murder their leaders and keep them in enough bread and circuses that they don’t grab their pitchforks and do something on their own. And, of course, to co-opt the more able among them, buy them off with money. It seems to work very well, even when the truth is hidden very well.

      • fishsquad

        I would add: It seems to work very well, even when the truth is plainly visible to anyone who bothers to look.

  • dan

    the system has been corrupted by evil politicians and their criminal minions…no matter how hard they try to hide ..when the end nears..they will all be put to task…and then in the final judgement of which there is no escape, ALL of the evil doers will be cast to rot in the fires of hell forever….and that my fellow patriots, is a very comforting thought….Semper Fi ….imho

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  • BaDiTuP

    Yuck, that chick needs to eat a sammich or twelve… also, thank you, Edward Snowden, for, well, YOU know… ;)

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  • sgtdoom

    Brilliant article and thinking, Mr. B., but too many Americans have been too well doctrinated, and believe whatever they see on the boob tube (TV, Cable, movies, videos) to be sacrosanct.

    Too many Americans believe those incredibly highly paid teleprompter readers when they robotically repeat their lines about “everyone is talking about” (royals, actors, actressess, rock stars, sports thugs, etc.) when point of fact no one is, but the sheeple then respond, “everyone is talking about” or “why is everyone talking about” ! ! !

    Zero thought equals zero action…..

  • rmagnano

    Thank you for your efforts to print the truth. That is a rare thing today. The public has been SNOWED, no pun intended, for so long they wouldn’t accept the truth if it hit them in the face. I guess it is part of human nature. It seems easier to crusify the messenger.

  • james warren

    Thanks, Russ, for the metaphor of “gangsters and the protection racket.” Sometimes I think the rational, logical ways of collaborative problem-solving are leftover debris from the 19th Century. Clearly, these old ways are becoming no longer effective in my opinion. That’s why I appreciate a deft, pithy metaphor. Especially when it subverts conventional wisdom.
    And convention these days needs that.

  • edwardrynearson

    My two cents. The Edward Snowden narrative being broadcast by the mainstream media is completely synthetic. The narrative teaches us that whistleblowers will be chased across the globe risking never seeing their families again. No new information is revealed that I’m aware of. I was aware that the NSA was intercepting everything back in 2006. What work is the narrative trying to achieve? “Resistance is futile?”

  • Wisest One

    Highly disturbing revelations?

    Where were you/ what you doing during the Bush era of warrantless wire tapping?

    • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

      I laugh at this comment.

      Either at the magnitude of the ignorance, or at the skillfullness of the troll… I do laugh.

      Thanks! :)

  • Wisest One

    More Fake outage…

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  • http://www.stirringtroubleinternationally.com/ Stirring Trouble International

    Just found this trending on Chime.In well done.

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  • So

    X-Girlfriend, I would’ve left her too, seems a little too narcissistic and otherwise vain…

    Take a chick who knows she’s not God’s gift any-day, 10 X times better in the sack, and isn’t looking for the bigger-better-D….

    Sadly Snowden has revealed NOTHING that wasn’t common knowledge, albeit nitty-gritty details weren’t known, to everyone in infosec…

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