Back in June I video blogged a piece titled “Snowed Snowden Snowed Greenwald On His Voyage To Treason” in which I said,
Many lefties have been jumping onto the Snowden bandwagon without any thought that this is a setup using someone’s own vanity against them. Make no mistake, I am a proud lefty Liberal as we are the ones responsible for an American middle class and expanded access to equality for all (I include both Liberal Republicans, Liberal Democrats, and Liberal others.)
After seeing Snowden for the first time I was extremely doubtful of him, not that the surveillance program isn’t real, — hell, we knew this since 2006 — but the messenger and the statements he was making were problematic. I am a software developer and knew immediately part of his statement showed a severe lack of actual software knowledge.
Are our civil rights being violated? Absolutely. Is it the same as under Bush? Absolutely not since now two branches of the government effect the decisions with the third being informed.
On Friday Joy Ann Reid, Ryan Grim, and Karen Finney had an interesting interchange that provided reality based perspective to the NSA Surveillance dilemma. Joy Ann Reid had a simple question for Ryan Grim. She said that Americans ask for two things of the government. They ask to be kept perfectly safe. And they ask that their privacy is protected. How does people on the civil liberty side believe the NSA should proceed?
Grim had an interesting response.He disagreed with Reid’s framing. He said we do not demand things of our government. We are our government. He said that is what Snowden was saying. Unfortunately that is the answer to the wrong question. Grim later gives the ideological and constitutional response. He said we have a fourth amendment and if we want it to mean something we must abide by it. That still did not answer Reid’s question. Specificity what actions are required if there is going to be some type of surveillance tools to aid in keeping Americans safe.
Finney’s answer was much more nuanced and humble.She said the duality of safety and security is a hard problem to resolve but we must find a way to do so. She however touches on a hypocrisy on this issue. Private companies from Google to Facebook to Microsoft capture more of our information than the government. Americans volunteer this information willingly for no reward. These companies are not answerable to the public. Our government is. Yet many act as if the government is aspirating data as if it were big brother. One would think that we should fear the private sector, the Plutocracy, more so than the government, “we the people”. The government can be voted out of office to effect policy changes unlike the private sector.
Snowden is an egotist not a hero.
Snowden is not a hero. He brought little more than what was known since 2006. As a software developer that programmed in machine language, assembly language, many high level languages, and one who worked on TCPIP as well as internetworking, I can state categorically that many of his technical statements are simply false. His statement about children growing up in a world without privacy and that being wrong is presumptuous. There has been a culture change with respect to privacy. Mr. Snowden may not like it. However, the Facebook generation is happy to lay it out. That is their choice.
A balance must be found. The NSA Surveillance program must be tweaked to protect us from as much intrusion as possible while providing the necessary tools to keep the country as safe as possible. Snowden reopened the debate with a stunt because for all practical purposes, right or wrong, it was a sleeper issue for most Americans. He could have leaked to DailyKOS or many other lefty sites that would have gotten the story traction. The rudderless traditional media would have eventually picked it up. Instead it is likely Russia, China, and many other countries that have our data. There is nothing patriotic about that.
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John T. Young says
Facebook, Google, and Microsoft do not employ men in balaclavas who carry sub-machine guns. Our government does. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft do not have a history of illegal detention, torture, and persecution. Our government does. Send my information to General Mills so they can try to sell me Apple Jacks – meh. Send my information to the CIA, the FBI, or Homeland Security so they can detain me – Hell no.
That is the difference Mr Willies.
Well said, sir, well said.
Egberto Willies says
John I really get your point. Unfortunately I think our Plutocracy is more dangerous than our military as they currently run it all. That said we differ less than you think. I think once I disagree with Snowden, many believe I am automatically am endorsing a surveillance state. That is not the case at all. The problem is the procedure Snowden used that I think damages our government in its entirety overseas and also potentially risked us providing whatever information he has to “bad states.” So please please, please read between my lines.
JB Abbott says
While I agree with your description of Snowden. I have to believe his actions were necessary, even if his motives were horribly flawed. Would I have done the same? Not on your life.
Doing the right thing, even if for what others might consider the wrong reason, is still doing the right thing.
Gotta disagree with you on this one, Egberto. “He brought little more than what was known since 2006” may be correct, but the way he did it exposed those facts to many more Americans, and woke them up to what their government was up to.
Criticizing Snowden for his actual knowledge of software and programming is something of a straw man argument – the validity of his disclosures isn’t dependent on his programming skills.
As for Snowden harming the country – no government official I’ve heard has come up with any real benefit that the US has gained from these programs – no attacks thwarted, no terrorists captured, nothing. The most I’ve heard is “If these programs had been in place prior to 9/11, we MIGHT HAVE been able to stop the WTC attacks.” Not “would have,” not “probably would have,” just “might have.”
You haven’t convinced me, Egberto. But keep trying, maybe you will.
In closing, I will quote Ben Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And that is exactly what we’ve done with these NSA programs.
Egberto Willies says
It is important to discuss this. There are various opinions. I understand your point. Having Snowden in Russia and China with NSA data is very problematic to me.
I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that he’s in foreign countries, and I wish he’d made the disclosures, then stuck around to face the music (much as I have more respect for Vietnam-era draft dodgers who stayed and went to jail than I do for the ones who ran to Canada). However, criticizing him is tantamount to shooting the messenger, in my opinion.
I also take issue with Joy Ann Reid’s statement that “Americans ask for two things of the government. They ask to be kept perfectly safe. And they ask that their privacy is protected.” I don’t believe we ask to be perfectly safe, and we also realize that our privacy has limits. The NSA program doesn’t appear to have kept us safe, and it does appear to have violated our privacy, so it seems like a bad deal all around.
And as for your statement “The government can be voted out of office to effect policy changes unlike the private sector” – for that to happen, candidate selection has to offer real alternatives, not just two stooges who are slightly different shades of bland. They all fall under the thrall of of the Plutocracy, because they dance with whoever pays them.
When you enter into a contract that states you cannot divulge any information…but you later find out the scuzbags employing you –even the U.S. Govt– are behaving unconstitutionally, illegally, or committing human rights violations, you have a moral obligation to betray that prior contract. The President should have recognized it, but he bowed out (naturally). Really expected more from you, though.