Edward Snowden is the NSA whistleblower who gave Top Secret documents to Glenn Greenwald. He’s hiding out in a hotel room in Hong Kong, and is now going public. You’ve got to read this extraordinary account from The Guardian. Excerpts:
Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.
“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.
“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”
He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.
He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”
The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”
Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”.
He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.
But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”
Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.
Read the whole thing. This is just remarkable. Meanwhile, from TV this morning:
This is the full clip of this morning’s appearance on This Week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Mike Rogers, her GOP counterpart in the House. They were there to defend, in that special bipartisan way, the NSA’s intelligence-gathering operations. Fast-forward to the 5:50 mark for a clip of past testimony that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave to the Senate, in which he flat-out denied that the NSA collected mass data on the American people. This, we now know, is not true.
Then watch Feinstein embarrass herself defending Clapper. “Well, I, I, this is very hard. There is no more direct or honest person than Jim Clapper, and I think Mike and I know that. You can misunderstand the question. Th, this” — et cetera.
Clapper pretty clearly lied. Maybe he lied because he felt Sen. Ron Wyden, who questioned him, had no right to an honest answer. That is, maybe he lied because, rightly or wrongly, he felt justified in deceiving the Senate in a public hearing, for national security reasons. But it is not credible to claim that the top spy in America didn’t understand a straightforward question by Sen. Wyden, or didn’t know what he was saying. The way Sen. Feinstein squirmed and got all shifty and mushmouthed undermines one’s confidence in the government. As George Will said later on the program, we really do live in a world in which the terroristic threat to America lives in the shadows, and our security agencies have to deal with that. That said (Will continued), we also live in a world in which the government has just been discovered using its tax agency to harass people for political reasons. Why is it reasonable to trust that the people who run this government would handle this massive data grab responsibly?
By the way, Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story, was on the program earlier, and he’s a badass. Says that more is coming. And on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul, weighing in on this issue, showed why he deserves to be at the front rank of 2016 GOP presidential prospects. You know Rand Paul will be the lone Republican taking the side of privacy and the Fourth Amendment on this issue, now that Snowden is out. Go, Rand Paul, go!