Big Brother’s Liberal Friends

by Henry on October 27, 2014

I’ve an article in the new issue of The National Interest looking at various liberal critiques of Snowden and Greenwald, and finding them wanting. CT readers will have seen some of the arguments in earlier form; I think that they’re stronger when they are joined together (and certainly they should be better written; it’s nice to have the time to write a proper essay). I don’t imagine that the various people whom I take on will be happy, but they shouldn’t be; they’re guilty of some quite wretched writing and thinking. More than anything else, like Corey I’m dismayed at the current low quality of mainstream liberal thinking. A politician wishes for her adversaries to be stupid, that they will make blunders. An intellectual wishes for her adversaries to be brilliant, that they will find the holes in her own arguments and oblige her to remedy them. I aspire towards the latter, not the former, but I’m not getting my wish.

Over the last fifteen months, the columns and op-ed pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post have bulged with the compressed flatulence of commentators intent on dismissing warnings about encroachments on civil liberties. Indeed, in recent months soi-disant liberal intellectuals such as Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley have employed the Edward Snowden affair to mount a fresh series of attacks. They claim that Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and those associated with them neither respect democracy nor understand political responsibility.
These claims rest on willful misreading, quote clipping and the systematic evasion of crucial questions. Yet their problems go deeper than sloppy practice and shoddy logic.

{ 356 comments }

1

Brad DeLong 10.27.14 at 10:50 pm

Very well done…

2

Rich Puchalsky 10.27.14 at 11:03 pm

“Yet this does not disconcert much of the liberal media elite. Many writers who used to focus on bashing Bush for his transgressions now direct their energies against those who are sounding alarms about the pervasiveness of the national-security state.”

It’s not just the elite. I can’t wait for the Lawyers, Guns, and Money get-out-the-vote drive. We’ll have to see whether the slogan is “Vote, Stupid Purity Trolls” or “The Lesser Evil Commands”. Maybe just two-tone signs labeling their target voters “Dope” and “Deranged”.

3

Dr. Hilarius 10.27.14 at 11:44 pm

An excellent analysis and summation.

Any defense of the national security state requires the proponent to show, at a minimum, that the present apparatus is competent at its task. Having lived through Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention many smaller governmental adventures) I see no evidence of competence. Instead, it’s repetitive failures of analysis and imagination no matter how much raw intelligence is gathered.

Nor is there any evidence that existing oversight mechanisms function as intended. Recent revelations about the CIA spying on the Senate should be enough to dispel the idea that leakers have no role to play.

Kinsley is particularly loathsome. His position is little more than “your betters know best” and that the state’s critics are guttersnipes needing to be kicked to the curb. Kinsley doesn’t need a coherent position, his goal is to be a spokesman for the better sorts, nothing more.

4

Collin Street 10.27.14 at 11:53 pm

Any defense of the national security state requires the proponent to show, at a minimum, that the present apparatus is competent at its task

Dunning-Kruger, innit. There are actually pretty good reasons to believe that strategic intelligence-gathering is pretty much pointless (because your strategic limitations and abilities by-definition permeate your society and are thus clearly visible through open sources), so you’d expect in that case that the only people who’d support secret strategic intelligence-gathering would be people who don’t have a fucking clue.

[specifically, I suspect that secret strategic intelligence gathering is particularly attractive to people who lack the ability to discern people’s motivations and ability through normal face-to-face channels and the like…

… which is to say people with empathy problems. Which is something that crops up in other contexts and may help explain certain political tendencies intelligence agencies tend to share.]

5

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 12:03 am

This sentence is false and a willful distortion mixing legality and politics to elide the basic fact that the Justice Department has not prosecuted anyone who did not break the law:

The continued efforts of U.S. prosecutors to redefine the politics of leaking so as to indict journalists as well as their sources suggest that Greenwald had every right to be worried and angry.

Meanwhile, ever since Mark Felt blew the whistle on a psychopath and the result was the deification of Bob Woodward, the American elite has been utterly confused about the role of journalism in a democracy.

That your essay mixes Professor Wilentz with the father of #Slatepitch, and an archetypical “even the liberal New Republic…” journalist as if they all had the same job description is part and parcel of this ongoing inability to separate the job of selling newspapers from the job of public intellectual.

Glenn Greenwald is a “journalist” crank who is simply not in a category that overlaps with Daniel Ellsberg. Snowden is in the same category as Ellsberg, and Packer is right to note that he does not compare particularly well. But then Packer’s analysis failed to explain why Snowden needed the judgment and gravitas of Ellsburg. And it was a side point in any case, because Packer’s actual thesis was the sublimely stupid point that only “objective” journalism can be trusted to do leaks right.

The other unfortunate confusion I see in the essay is the mixing of domestic and foreign policy. There is not a single thing about the New Deal that informs opinion about Edward Snowden. Nothing. What does regulating poultry production have to do with killing Iraqis? What does the Civilian Conservation Core have to do with drone strikes in Pakistan? The Four Freedom speech was a pivot from domestic to foreign policy given in 1941. Freedom from Want was the New Deal. Freedom of Speech was about the looming conflict with fascism, not domestic policy.

Both confusions–the failure to recognize journalists as pawns selling newspapers and the failure to understand that foreign policy and liberalism do not have to be linked–result when the blind spots of the press and the academy overlap. In areas where journalists and the academy provide checks and balances to each other they tend to do well. Edward Snowden represents the apex of the overlap between academic and journalistic obsessions, and so no one is there to say: “Hey, the top freedom concerns of journalists and professors are not synonymous with freedom writ large or with liberalism.

6

Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 12:48 am

Liked the piece, even though we probably come down differently on some of the merits.

I wonder if the explanation isn’t simpler. A number of what you term “national security liberals” have served in government and held clearances. Many of them — and here I include myself — took seriously that obligation. And so there’s a certain degree of innate discomfort with the whole business of leaks, let alone those that don’t seem narrowly tailored. Wikileaks was not. Snowden’s leaks included par-for-the-course foreign-intelligence gathering (and this sets aside his escape to Hong Kong and subsequent decision to accept asylum from the Russia Federation).

I recognize that there’s a larger argument that you’ve made about how the trans-nationalization of intelligence gathering — centered on the US — changes the moral equation for some of these considerations. I don’t want to debate that claim here. The point is that you can be a civil-liberties liberal, believe that some of the disclosures have served the public interest, and still feel deeply discomforted with the cast of characters.

7

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 1:07 am

“still feel deeply discomforted with the cast of characters”

We need better leakers — leakers who honor their promises not to reveal inside information. Leakers who don’t leak.

Not like that unsavory character, Daniel Ellsberg, who I hear had to see a psychiatrist.

8

Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 1:08 am

“We need better leakers — leakers who honor their promises not to reveal inside information. Leakers who don’t leak”

That’s a nice misrepresentation of the argument I posited.

9

Barry 10.28.14 at 1:09 am

” Indeed, in recent months soi-disant liberal intellectuals such as Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley …”

Kinsley is a hack who occasionally coins a good term. At ‘Even the Liberal’ New Republic, he was a biddable wh*re for a vile man, Peretz. At Slate, he took the same attitude, preferring snark to truth, and built it into the foundations.

Packer is not an intellectual, either. He’s a cheerleader for war who has just enough give-a-sh*t to right a book explaining the problems, long after it was clear to others that things had failed.

I don’t know much about Sean Wilentz, except that he’s a long time ‘cultural editor’ at ‘Even the Liberal’ New Republic under Peretz, which is a strike against him. Heck, it’s two strikes.

BTW, after Watergate, the press did know its role in democracy – the elites are really against it. IIRC, Whatshername the owner of the WaPo actually praised ‘responsible journalism’ not too long afterwards.

10

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 1:12 am

#6 Daniel Nexon

The point is that you can be a civil-liberties liberal, believe that some of the disclosures have served the public interest, and still feel deeply discomforted with the cast of characters.

Isn’t that par for the course? Of course we all like to have civil liberties for people we think are the good guys, the nice guys, people like us. It’s much harder to accept civil liberties for people who make us uncomfortable.

11

Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 1:26 am

“Isn’t that par for the course? Of course we all like to have civil liberties for people we think are the good guys, the nice guys, people like us. It’s much harder to accept civil liberties for people who make us uncomfortable.”

Huh?

12

Watson Ladd 10.28.14 at 1:30 am

Collin: I’d love to know your best estimate of the number of nuclear weapons Russia actually has, or what it intends vis-a-vis Ukraine, based on open sources. I can easily imagine bribing Putin’s butler to be an easy and effective way to get good information on both of those, and I can imagine that doing so openly would be catastrophic.

Furthermore, plenty of information that isn’t strategic in nature can be very useful. Knowing that in event of war, your fighter planes can outmatch theirs, is useful. So is knowing that they are planning to invade a country, or are actively collaborating with terrorist organizations. Very little of this is likely to be reported openly, particularly from dictatorships.

13

Andrew F. 10.28.14 at 1:42 am

Kinsley wrote a book review, not an analysis of US law and policy on signals intelligence. The degree to which the author of a book on such a topic can be trusted, the extent to which the author offers worthy insights in a reasonable frame of mind, and the measure to which a reader will be exposed to arguments and information contradictory to the author’s analysis, are all things I personally would really like to know when I read a book review. This is because I use the book review to decide whether the book is worth spending my time on.

Kinsley has the space to spend time on only a few arguments that Greenwald raises. The question of the role of journalism and leakers is a big one, and certainly worth the space. And given that this is a realm Kinsley knows more about than signals intelligence, this is perhaps a wise choice of focus for him. You obviously would have focused on Greenwald’s claims about surveillance in a review, which is also a fine choice. Since his reporting on the material has been biased and completely unreliable, I suggest this might have required more space than The Times would have allowed.

As to Kinsley’s takedown of Greenwald’s view of the government’s approach to dissent, here is Kinsley quoting Greenwald in the review:

Greenwald writes about “the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: Pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you’ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing. This is a deal that invites passivity, obedience and conformity.”

Your response is that Poitras was repeatedly detained when re-entering the US, so therefore… what? Greenwald is right about this implicit bargain? Really? You also claim that Poitras was repeatedly detained because of “the high crime of annoying” US officials. It is remarkable to read such a sentence in an article that purports to be taking others to task for failing to do their research. We actually don’t know why Poitras was detained and questioned, but there has been ample reporting on a plausible reason that has very little do with “annoying” US officials.

Kinsley to his credit admitted that he didn’t have a clear answer to the question of how we should handle, legally, the issue of legitimate leakers (i.e. whistleblowers), but he at least outlined the difficulties of the problem. And that’s part of the point of his review: to Greenwald everything is black and white, nothing is complicated, and the facts all fit neatly into his closing arguments. That’s a big problem for someone who wants a fair overview of the issues raised in Greenwald’s book.

And are we really going to pretend that the issues raised by what Snowden did are limited to US policy on signals intelligence? He took a number of highly classified documents (we don’t know the exact number, but it ranges between around 100k to more than a million), many of which reveal what are indisputably foreign intelligence operations (portions of which he showed to Chinese journalists in Hong Kong, something even William Binney characterized as an act of treason), and handed them off to journalists, “trusting” them to do the right thing with them. He claimed that the CIA might hire Chinese gangsters to murder him, or journalists associated with him, among other things. So to say that he has a “teenager’s conspiratorial view of the world” is not to speak without some justification. To note that this is not someone I want deciding whether several hundred thousand classified documents ought be handed over to various journalists is entirely valid.

The reporting on US cooperation with other nations, closely with Five Eyes partners, less closely with others, has been much more flawed, and the questions much more open, than your article acknowledges. The draft MOU between the US and Israel actually referenced provisions to protecting the disclosure of information identifying so-called US Persons (we never learn what they are), and it also seems that the Five Eyes partners actually extend some protections to each other. It’s sometimes difficult to identify whether traffic originates with a US Person, but often not, and the article by Bart Gellman on transcripts of actual intercepts noted that US Person identifying information was quite extensively redacted.

The gritty policy side of the discussion (what does the NSA actually do, what are the contours of the protections provided, how is compliance ensured, what is the impact of int’l cooperation) has been extensively addressed by various persons who have more expertise in the matter than the three authors you focus upon. Those three authors have instead focused upon areas more squarely within their bailiwick. There are strengths and weaknesses in what they write – I think Packer’s recent article in The New Yorker is even-handed and superb (and revealing of the extent to which Snowden would prefer NOT to rely on decisions), and I’m frankly puzzled as to why you take some of Snowden’s more obvious talking-points at face value – but I don’t think these three are either deserving of the diatribe you unloaded nor do they encompass the significant universe of “national security liberals” (or establishment liberals, or whatever the hell we’re calling… what is this group exactly?) who have found much to criticize and question in the conduct and views of Greenwald and Snowden.

By the way, since your article doesn’t engage with any of those criticisms or questions substantially, ought it be castigated for ignoring the “real issues” and focusing on personalities and styles rather than policy arguments?

I may think differently about some of this later, as I’m writing it in my first, somewhat astonished, reaction to your article. Apologies in advance for anything intemperate in it, and I’ll be happy to admit any errors that are pointed out.

14

Ronan(rf) 10.28.14 at 1:48 am

Do you think Greenwald’s overall analysis is convincing/enlightening ? Lines like:

“To be sure, Greenwald is a bit of a bruiser, with a litigator’s eye for facts and arguments that promote his own cause while discrediting his opponent’s (which is another way of saying that, from a Weberian point of view, Greenwald is not a scholar but a politician).”

would lead me to think maybe not.
Kinsley et al might be making arguments that amount to little more than muck, but (present company excluded, and Id assume amongst specialists) I dont see where there’s *anyone* – from the furthest leftists to dogmatic libertarians- saying anything particularly insightful about the subject. (although Id accept perhaps I havent been following it closely enough)

15

John Quiggin 10.28.14 at 1:51 am

I find the US distinction between “liberal” and”left” to be one of the things that everyone within the culture finds so natural as to require no explanation, and which therefore never seems to be explained. I get that I want to be “left” and not “liberal”, but I don’t know how my preferred self-description as social-democratic fits into this.

Henry, you’re a relatively recent arrival there and you seem to have no trouble with this distinction. Is there a classic article or blog post I should be reading?

16

John Quiggin 10.28.14 at 1:57 am

As regards discomfort with leaks, the obvious question (raised many times by Greenwald) is how you feel about leaks (the vast majority) that are sprung by senior officials for the purpose of making themselves look good as against their rivals or to make the government look good as against its critics. If you favor jailing everyone who has done this, then your discomfort does indeed translate into a coherent position, but one which would close down most governments, including that of the US.

Otherwise, we’re back to Kinsley: the rules don’t apply right sort of people who can judiciously use leaks as part of the normal business of politics, but only to officious troublemakers like Ellsberg and Snowden. Similarly, journalists who grant anonymity and favorable coverage to their sources are part of the process, while those who embarrass the government by revealing wrongdoing are little better than traitors.

17

Sev 10.28.14 at 1:58 am

#4 From a different era, the NYT story on use of Nazis by US spy agencies:

“In Connecticut, the C.I.A. used an ex-Nazi guard to study Soviet-bloc postage stamps for hidden meanings.”

A certain skepticism, at least, than and now, seem fully justified.

18

gianni 10.28.14 at 2:07 am

@6, regarding ‘narrowly tailored’

What are the risks of the intelligence not being narrowly tailored?

Specifics would be nice, because if I want hand-waving and allusions to secret dangers I can just listen to some James Clapper testimony to get my fill. Presumably, this stuff is all out in the open now, so even if you don’t want to draw attention to the risks there has to be something to corroborate the charge.

I also do not see why the characters on one side have become an issue, but the continued lies and distortions by the characters on the other side of the drama are not remarked upon. Not to mention that it is this second group who are (ostensibly) in the public service, and therefore should be held to much higher standards.

19

Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:09 am

“As regards discomfort with leaks, the obvious question (raised many times by Greenwald) is how you feel about leaks (the vast majority) that are sprung by senior officials for the purpose of making themselves look good as against their rivals or to make the government look good as against its critics.”

This strikes me as a ‘when have you stopped beating your puppy’ kind of question. These sorts of leaks are rarely in the public interest and therefore serve no “whistleblower” justification. But most (although certainly not all) of them don’t, bloviating aside, compromise significant legitimate intelligence operations.

As I suggested above, albeit perhaps opaquely, it is perfectly possible to say “I can see C as potentially justified, but not D… G” and to say “I can see C as justified but not decamping to Hong Kong and Russia.”* These strike me as categorically distinct arguments from “Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange aren’t the ‘right sort of people,” even if those advancing that claim invoke some of the same warrants.

*Or even the countries that Snowden apparently set out to go to.

20

Cheryl Rofer 10.28.14 at 2:10 am

#12 Actually, the US and Russia share their numbers of nuclear weapons, subject to inspection by the other side. There is a certain degree of stylization in the counting rules and consequently in the inspection rules, but the numbers are as accurate as they need to be. No need to bribe anyone’s butler.

21

Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:12 am

“Narrowly tailored” means, among other things, not disclosing standard intelligence practices conducted overseas at Chinese and Jihadist interests, nor routine spying on allies of the kind that they also do. It certainly means not putting out documents (wikileaks) that name sources of information that, while not actually spies in any meaningful sense, inevitably got mistaken for such in autocratic regimes. And consequently imprisoned and sometimes tortured.

22

Daniel Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:14 am

#20, but delivery systems, capabilities, and additional layers of verification are another matter, no? ;-)

23

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 2:23 am

“Narrowly tailored” means, among other things, not disclosing standard intelligence practices conducted overseas at Chinese and Jihadist interests, nor routine spying on allies of the kind that they also do.

There’s an irony in one of those methods being stealing every last individual’s information as often as possible. That is, very wide tailoring.

24

gianni 10.28.14 at 2:31 am

@21 –

Sure, in the abstract those are possibilities, but I am asking if there were any specific instances of this actually occurring, as I have not heard of any despite hearing the general charge often. I am asking for examples, not potentialities.

25

A H 10.28.14 at 2:38 am

@15

That isn’t quite right. To the average, not particularly politically engaged person, liberal and leftwing basically mean the same thing, left of center politics. This can be seen clearly from the perspective of conservatives, who think things like a “liberal hunting permit” are funny. Liberal here refers to anyone to the left of the most conservative democrat.

Among people more knowledgable about left of center politics you get more nuance. Older democrats still refer to themselves as liberals, but progressive is taking over as the prefreed designation of political belief. People with an interest in radical leftism, will tend to use liberal to mean neo-liberal, and therefore a bad thing.

So as a social democrat in the US you would probably refer to yourself as a “progressive”, though if you had an anti democratic party bent, you might use “lefty” instead.

26

A H 10.28.14 at 2:42 am

@24

One of the very first things snowden released was details of NSA spying in China and Hong Kong that had nothing to do with domestic survellience.

27

Matt 10.28.14 at 2:48 am

I don’t think that even the most transparent, democratic, public decision making process among American citizens can legitimately decide that German or Indian citizens cannot have privacy. If in Bizarro World that makes me illiberal, then I will be illiberal.

Losing the capability to conduct mass electronic surveillance is akin to losing the capability to make nerve gas or weaponized anthrax spores. It’s a good thing no matter who loses the capability, or how loudly hawks cry about the looming Atrocity Gap with rival powers. It would be a better world if Russia and China also suffered massive, embarrassing leaks about their surveillance systems akin to the Snowden leaks. But a world where there’s only embarrassing leaks about the USA and allies is better than a world with no leaks at all. Better yet, the same technical and legal adaptations that can make spying by the USA more difficult will also make Americans safer against spying efforts originating from China and Russia. It’s upsides all the way down.

28

John Quiggin 10.28.14 at 2:57 am

““I can see C as justified but not decamping to Hong Kong and Russia.””

Again, given the fact that the “right” people are immune from prosecution for any crimes they commit in the course of politics (other than sexual indiscretations and individual, as opposed to corporate, financial wrongdoing) this seems like a pretty hypocritical distinction. Those involved in torture, from the actual waterboarders up to Bush and Cheney, don’t have to think about fleeing the US – indeed, the only (small) risk they face is in travelling to a jurisdiction where the rule of law applies to them.

For the wrong people on the other hand, there are no reliable legal protections at all. On recent precedent they could be declared “enemy combatants”, held incommunicado, tortured and, at least arguably, executed by military courts. This would require a reversal of stated policy by the Obama Administration, but that’s a pretty weak barrier.

29

gianni 10.28.14 at 2:58 am

@26

I’m talking about people being hurt, not institutional reputations or operating procedures.

30

A H 10.28.14 at 3:07 am

@29

We’ll just have to wait for the leaks from Chinese counter intelligence to know what happened then.

31

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 3:57 am

We’ll just have to wait for the leaks from Chinese counter intelligence to know what happened then.

Okay.

32

David J. Littleboy 10.28.14 at 4:17 am

Is it OK to say that Greenwald probably has it right about leaking, but that he’s such a completely obnoxious holier-than-thou jerk that reading him is unpleasant in the extreme, and he’s been wrong about a lot of things?

Having lived through Vietnam and everything since, I can only say that any and all leaking will make the US a better place. Every time something is kept secret, the wrong thing gets done. Ever.Single.Time. So counting angels on heads of pins over “good” leaks and “bad” leaks is silly. All leaks are good. Period. Foreign policy based on “trust me: I know something you don’t” is always bad policy.

By the way, is this article correct?

http://www.democraticunderground.com/100297462

33

Watson Ladd 10.28.14 at 4:21 am

@28: Huh? I don’t see how any of the crimes Snowden or Manning are accused of amount to capital crimes. One would have to stretch the espionage act quite far to encompass their actions within the sections punishable by death. (In particular, it’s not clear to me that “communicate to an enemy power” includes publication, and I expect most judges would look askance at sentencing Snowden more harshly than John Walker)

From my reading of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the offence would be level 42, with a sentence somewhere in the range of 27 years to life. The death penalty is pretty clearly not going to happen, even if you could eek out a conviction under a clause that permitted it.

I also don’t see how they could be considered enemy combatants. What power that the US was at war at did they serve? I disagree with the treatment of Jose Padilla, but I would be extremely surprised if the Department of Justice attempted to treat Snowden in a similar way: unlike the Padilla case (and ex parte Quinn), there is no obvious choice of enemy for Snowden to be a combatant for.

Is due process under threat in the US? Yes. But I think it would be extremely unlikely for any of the things you mentioned to happen.

34

Tony Lynch 10.28.14 at 4:30 am

The persoanl animosity towards GG from, presumably, people with no personal relationship to GG, is weird. Whence this incessant personalism – not only from Kinsley et. al., but from those who claim more genuine liberal and left convictions? Why does it seem important to approach things by venting this personal animosity?

35

bad Jim 10.28.14 at 4:31 am

It’s far from clear that the massive expansion of surveillance has actually been of any use. The West hasn’t faced any strategic threats since the end of the Cold War, and even the Soviet threat was almost certainly less than we feared. Someone once remarked of the intelligence-gathering efforts of that era, “It’s difficult to discover the intentions of a state which doesn’t know its own intentions.”

We seem to have been surprised by recent developments in the Middle East and by Russian actions in Crimea and Ukraine; more to the point, it’s not necessarily clear how we can or should respond. It may be that the massive apparatus in place is unable to acquire the information we desire. It’s not clear that better information would actually be useful.

36

dsquared 10.28.14 at 4:53 am

I always thought it would be instructive to compare the views of the “national security liberals” with a test case. What, for example, do they have to say about the other North American government which operates a grisly system of unregulated political prisons in the island of Cuba, but tries to portray itself as progressive because of its (admittedly excellent) record of providing healthcare to the poor?

37

William Timberman 10.28.14 at 5:34 am

I think one point could be made a little more explicitly. Beginning in the late Thirties, without a great deal of serious concern for the possible consequences, the machinery of the social welfare state in the U.S., such as it was, was gradually repurposed to serve the national security state, and from 1947 or so to the present, the pace of that repurposing has rarely slackened. One can argue about how much of it was attributable to intent, and how much to circumstance, how much or how little bad faith it took to complete the conversion, but there’s little doubt that it’s now largely over and done with, and that the consequences are there to see for anyone who cares to look.

George Packer may think that the national security state is a perfectly admirable creation, but if so, I’d question whether or not he’s really a liberal. By any definition of liberalism I’m aware of, it’s odd liberal indeed who doesn’t think Edward Snowden ought to be trusted with sensitive information, but doesn’t at all mind leaving it in the custody of Keith Alexander.

38

Ze Kraggash 10.28.14 at 7:22 am

One way to define a ‘liberal’ (or ‘social-democrat’) would be as a proponent of an orderly, well-managed, and humane capitalist system. In the minds of most of them, the US, albeit imperfect, more or less qualifies. Aside from natural patriotic/nationalistic feelings (not foreign to most people), weakening it (endangering its ‘national security’) would be ideologically counterproductive, especially to the benefit of Russia, China, and/or other despised boogeymen.

39

maidhc 10.28.14 at 8:03 am

The CIA produced the Pentagon Papers under orders from LBJ. They produced a document blaming everything on the stupid politicians while the CIA was always right. Unfortunately no one could read it because it was secret. Hence it was leaked to the New York Times.

Woodward and Bernstein had intelligence backgrounds. The Washington Post was known to have close CIA ties. Everyone involved in Watergate was tied to the CIA and the Bay of Pigs. Nixon was taken down from the right.

If you look at those Cold War days, almost everything that was considered to be highly secret, the world would have been better off if it had been public knowledge. Major policy decisions on both sides were based on false information provided by intelligence services.

That is not to say that things that happened back in those days are unimportant now. The career of Stepan Bandera, for example, is tied in very closely with today’s headlines.

40

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 8:43 am

#12 Watson Ladd

I can easily imagine bribing Putin’s butler to be an easy and effective way to get good information on both of those, and I can imagine that doing so openly would be catastrophic.

Whyever would you expect Putin’s butler to know either of those?

But I find this plausible — Putin’s butler goes to the secret police and tells them he’s had an offer. They say “OK, take the money and tell them this:” and they give him a cover story to tell the spies.

Continuing the story, a top general’s batman does the same thing, but the secret police do not coordinate well enough and he gets a different cover story.

Another top general’s mistress does it and gets a third cover story to tell. The stories do not add up at all.

So then somebody in the CIA looks at all the conflicting data, and MAKES UP a story which makes sense, concentrating on estimates of capabilities, and estimates about what choices are likely based on internal politics etc.

The report reaches various people in the military with a need-to-know, who discount it and who make their mostly-mundane decisions about preparation on the basis of path-of-least-resistance. The report may even reach the President, who also discounts it.

Furthermore, plenty of information that isn’t strategic in nature can be very useful. Knowing that in event of war, your fighter planes can outmatch theirs, is useful.

How would you find that out, except by testing it for real with their real pilots with real training, etc? Base it on the performance claims by US manufacturers versus the potential enemy’s manufacturing claims?

So is knowing that they are planning to invade a country, or are actively collaborating with terrorist organizations.

The USA makes plans to invade other countries *all the time*. Often we publicly threaten to invade them for a year or more ahead of time, while we slowly build up supply dumps in nearby areas. It usually isn’t hard to tell whether a nation is ready to invade some particular other nation. The hard part is predicting whether or when they actually do it. Chances are, they don’t know themselves and nobody in the world can accurately predict that until shortly before it happens.

The USA and Israel actively cooperate with terrorist organizations *all the time*. It doesn’t mean that much. Except we can use it for propaganda. “Our enemies actively collaborate with terrorist organizations! Our secret intelligence organizations have proof, but we can’t show it to you because that would compromise our sources. Trust us.”

Very little of this is likely to be reported openly, particularly from dictatorships.

Or from the USA. Or from anybody, really. We all like our surprises.

41

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 8:57 am

#19 Daniel Nexon

As I suggested above, albeit perhaps opaquely, it is perfectly possible to say “I can see C as potentially justified, but not D… G” and to say “I can see C as justified but not decamping to Hong Kong and Russia.”* These strike me as categorically distinct arguments from “Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange aren’t the ‘right sort of people,” even if those advancing that claim invoke some of the same warrants.

I don’t understand this sort of claim. Normally, US citizens have basicly no information about what our expensive secret-creating organizations do. The basic argument is “Trust us. We’re doing good, but it would be catastrophic if you knew.”.

Now we have a more-or-less-random samples from Snowden and Manning. So my questions about their personal character center around two themes:

1. Did they release false data, created by the US government to make cover stories to hide the real stuff that the US government does not want us to know?

2. Did they release false data, created by some foreign government and intended to discredit the US government?

3. Are there important discrepancies between them, that might indicate that at least one of them was doctored?

Apart from those, why are we talking about Snowden or Manning or Greenwald, instead of what we’ve found out about our government?

42

Barry 10.28.14 at 11:58 am

Daniel Nexon: “and this sets aside his escape to Hong Kong and subsequent decision to accept asylum from the Russia Federation).”

He was stranded there when his passport was revoked.

43

Barry 10.28.14 at 12:04 pm

Tony Lynch 10.28.14 at 4:30 am

“The persoanl animosity towards GG from, presumably, people with no personal relationship to GG, is weird. Whence this incessant personalism – not only from Kinsley et. al., but from those who claim more genuine liberal and left convictions? Why does it seem important to approach things by venting this personal animosity?”

Here are my thoughts:

1). Most of these elite journalists are leakers of classified information, and guilty of serious felonies. However, they are lapdogs of the establishment, and comparable more to Pravda than a free press. They don’t like unauthorized leaks.

2). All three liberals mentioned eat a lot of right-wing sh*t, for actual liberals. Again, they are lapdogs, who occasionally criticize, but in a limited fashion. Heck, Kinsley played Buchanon’s poodle on. TV show. They therefore don’t like people who actually oppose the establishment, moreso because it shows them up as the frauds that they are.

44

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 12:54 pm

Barry: I agree. See my footnote.

45

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 1:01 pm

@28. As I attempted to stipulate, although not as clearly as I should, I don’t accept that the “right sort of people” should get away with self-interested leaking when that activity serves no public interest. So I can certainly empathize with Snowden’s flight to authoritarian countries, but that doesn’t mean that I have to condone it or accept that it as something that someone with access to high-level US secrets is justified in doing.

We are talking about these people because the writings of “national security liberals” about these people is very much a focus of Henry’s piece.

46

lvlld 10.28.14 at 1:17 pm

@39

Not quite.

MacNamara (politician) ordered his staff (Office of the Secretary of Defense) to carry out the study (they got some material from the CIA and State), out of a concern that the whole thing might be a huge mistake on the part of US policymakers – politicians and otherwise – from World World 2 on down. That was July, 1967. He resigned a few months later, the report was completed in late 1968.

Dan Ellsberg (Rand, ex-OSD) was involved in producing it, and was dismayed by the scale of the official deceptions and thought that yes, this was probably material in the public interest. He leaked it to the Times and the Post, the latter of which’s decision to publish on June 18, 1971 was not made in consultation with its city beat reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

47

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 1:18 pm

Anyway, it seems to me that there’s a meta-argument at stake, and it has to do with cosmopolitan ethics. Henry had a very insightful post a while back in which he argued that the nature of US-centered transnational surveillance challenges standard assumptions about acceptable and proscribed behavior when it comes to leaks. The standard assumption — that leaking information about domestic surveillance constitutes a legitimate activity but leaking information about many forms of overseas surveillance does not — is pretty fundamental to the “national security liberal” critique of Snowden.

In this line of reasoning, even if (1) the NSA ‘domestic surveillance’ programs served national security interests and (2) involved efforts to intercept foreign civil-liberties and democratic-governance concerns still justified disclosure. On the other hand, some of the disclosures I’ve referenced, although violating a commitment to transcendental civil liberties, were legitimate activities of sovereign states seeking intelligence to pursue their interests. People who hold clearances should not disclose the latter. Of course, this isn’t just a matter of civil liberties. The Pentagon Papers revealed that the national-security state was misleading its own citizens about a war they were being asked to support. They did, for instance, not directly disclose or jeopardize US intelligence assets. So, as the argument goes, that’s fair game for whistleblowing leaks.

Henry argued that the distinction becomes difficult to make in, among other things, the context of US intelligence relationships with democratic and putatively sovereign states. I think that for “national security liberals” such as myself, this really complicates the issue. I consider this a much more important line of criticism than the ‘right sort of people’ argument that Henry advances in his National Interest piece — although that has its place as well given the specifics of the claims he’s going after.

And I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m still working through the implications.

48

Layman 10.28.14 at 1:19 pm

“As I suggested above, albeit perhaps opaquely, it is perfectly possible to say “I can see C as potentially justified, but not D… G” and to say “I can see C as justified but not decamping to Hong Kong and Russia.”* These strike me as categorically distinct arguments from “Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange aren’t the ‘right sort of people,” even if those advancing that claim invoke some of the same warrants.”

Actually, they aren’t distinct arguments, they’re the same argument. Judging Snowden by the fact that he fled is an attack on his character – a willful focus on the nature of the leaker rather than the import of the leak. It says that he’s not the right sort of person.

I don’t say that’s the entirety of your position – perhaps you appreciate the importance of some of his revelations – but you are here, in this case, defending a bit of excrement.

49

John Garrett 10.28.14 at 1:51 pm

Back to the left/liberal distinction in the US. I have an easy way out: if anyone asks, I tell them I’m a radical, which results in either a change of topic, vacating the room, or both.

JG

50

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:04 pm

@48 Layman, I think I’ve been clear that some of Snowden’s revelations served the public interest.

51

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:05 pm

@48. I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn’t that how we’re supposed to judge people?

52

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:08 pm

@48 (I keep on reflexively hitting “post”). What I mean to say is:

I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn’t that how we’re supposed to judge people? However, we can also judge individual actions on their own merits, and extend “the totality of actions” standard to indict, as Henry does, the three critics he savages in his article.

53

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 2:09 pm

Andrew F., perhaps you could supply a link to the ample reporting referred to in: “We actually don’t know why Poitras was detained and questioned, but there has been ample reporting on a plausible reason that has very little do with “annoying” US officials.” I think that this plausible reason was that they weren’t harassing her for reporting on this story: they were harassing her for reporting on another story.

Tony Lynch: “Why does it seem important to approach things by venting this personal animosity?”

Because the primary political value these days is comfort. Having someone actually do their job as a reporter makes people uncomfortable: it reminds them of the compromises that they’ve made in their own lives. For liberals, it takes this kind of leaking and whistleblowing out of the misty good old days when it brought down Nixon, and makes them confront the fact that they never really were principled defenders of civil liberties against the state: they simply liked it when a Republican administration could be criticized, and are not comfortable now that it’s a Democrat.

That’s why there’s so much no-true-scotsmaning about the people who HF picked out to criticize in the original article, so much insistence that these aren’t the real liberals, they’re lapdogs. Just as, in the recent threads about conservatism, where it turned out that no actually living conservative was good enough to be an avatar of the real, Platonic, rational conservatism, it turns out that there are no mainstream media liberal writers who are really liberals. The real liberals have to be better than that — right? It simply can’t be that if all of this had broken during the Bush administration, the response to it from liberals would have predictably been quite different.

54

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 2:15 pm

So the following points are uncontroverted:

-Glenn Greenwald is a clown, but this fact has nothing to do with anything.
-Edward Snowden is a bit dim on how the world works, and this has had consequences good bad and otherwise.
-When white elites are forced to consider the criminal justice system they are shocked, shocked to find that prosecutors are arbitrary and vindictive assholes.
-Our vocabulary of politics is hopelessly confused to the point where a political science professor will assert that a fellow professor’s support for the New Deal is in conflict with his position on the NSA.
-Elites insist on confusing the motives and morality of leakers with the motives and morality of journalists.

55

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 2:16 pm

#13 Andrew F

He claimed that the CIA might hire Chinese gangsters to murder him, or journalists associated with him, among other things. So to say that he has a “teenager’s conspiratorial view of the world” is not to speak without some justification.

This minor point deserves some thought.

Do you have more access to CIA secrets than Snowden did?

If not, why do you believe that your understanding of what the CIA might do is better informed than his was?

56

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 2:23 pm

I left off my first point:

Kinsley and Packer are not good examples of liberals or thinkers, let alone “liberal thinkers”.

57

Layman 10.28.14 at 2:23 pm

“I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn’t that how we’re supposed to judge people? “

Why judge him at all, in the context of discussing his revelations and what they mean for civil liberties? It’s perfectly clear that some people choose to judge Snowden in order to dismiss those revelations. Isn’t that the point of the OP? Do you agree that your personal distaste for Snowden is irrelevant to the larger question? And that people who seek to distract from that larger question by focusing on Snowden’s character are engaged in hackery?

58

jonnybutter 10.28.14 at 2:31 pm

I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn’t that how we’re supposed to judge people?

It’s a dodge to make the argument about the person, judging the person. In the scheme of things, Snowden himself is unimportant – he said so himself.

59

bianca steele 10.28.14 at 2:35 pm

Thinking about Daniel Nexon’s comment @

I think it’s interesting, though I’m not sure how important, that both Manning and Snowden themselves had security clearances.[1] (I may have said this before, I don’t remember.) Both of them became convinced that the people around them (in Manning’s case, the people asking for the data; in Snowden’s, the people providing it) were handling it improperly. (Assange’s background is very different.) I’m not sure Greenwald quite grasps this. I’m not sure how significant it is, either, but his writing would be easier to read, at times, if he did.

[1] I personally have never had a clearance and almost certainly never will, and I’ve only worked in one place where a significant proportion of my colleagues did. I’ve sworn for unrelated reasons to stop talking about that place in comments.

60

bianca steele 10.28.14 at 2:35 pm

Daniel Nexon’s comment @6

61

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 2:53 pm

“Do you agree that your personal distaste for Snowden is irrelevant to the larger question?”

It is irrelevant to a number of the larger questions, yes. But it legitimately comes up in the context of disaggregating some of those questions, e.g., the standing of the different leaks.

62

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 2:57 pm

The real crisis for the liberal hawks of the type Farrell criticizes is that Israel is on the verge of becoming an apartheid state.

I know we’re not supposed to talk about it, but Marty Peretz, the New Republic, Glenn Greenwald and other “liberals” supporting war and surveillance has a giant thread running through it that doesn’t get much discussion. Both Ezra Klein and Jon Chait have discussed this in recent months.

63

Layman 10.28.14 at 3:07 pm

Dan Nexon @ 61

Frankly, I think this is a bit muddled. You can discuss which revelations were in your view appropriate, and which not, without considering the degree of personal regard you have for Snowden; so it’s a bit hard for me to understand what you mean. But I begin to suspect you’re saying that there’s a connection between some of those revelations you find inappropriate, and Snowden’s choice of sanctuary – that Snowden was was either motivated to spy for China or Russia, or that he chose to reveal damaging information in order to smooth a path to exile there. Please tell me that’s not what you meant.

64

Pliggett Darcy 10.28.14 at 3:08 pm

@62: Glenn Greenwald supports “war and surveillance”?

65

bianca steele 10.28.14 at 3:18 pm

I think A H @ 15 is about right. I’d add that “liberal” has, in my experience, been about as far left as you can get without starting to take socialism seriously. (I don’t know what social democrat means. On the one hand it seems to be very close to welfare state liberalism, the leftmost range of the US consensus. On the other hand, it’s always used to indicate that one is farther to the left of anyone even close to the US center consensus.) Sometime around the 1990s “progressive” began to be used for people who were a little further to the left than “liberal.” (There was another term it replaced, I seem to remember, but I don’t remember what it was.) It indicated being kind of lefty but . . . not a socialist! Socialist was to the left of that.

When Bush I attacked Dukakis by using “the L word,” it was obvious what he meant.

66

Daragh McDowell 10.28.14 at 3:24 pm

While I recognise that the personalised attacks on Greenwald et al, often distract from the larger issues at play, I do think it is legitimate to critically evaluate Snowden’s actions and question his motivations, given that we’re also relying on HIS assessment of the scale of NSA operations, various safeguards in place etc. And in this regard, there’s plenty to question. In particular, since fleeing to Russia, Snowden has not only undoubtedly co-operated with Russian intelligence (which is far less cuddly than it’s Western counterparts) and done this.

Funnily enough, Snowden has an interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F Cohen at the Nation today</a< (those familiar with the latter's writing on the War in Ukraine will not find it particularly surprising that the Kremlin was willing to grant them access.) Here's what Snowden had to say about his Putin question –

Yeah, that was terrible! Oh, Jesus, that blew up in my face. I was hoping to catch Putin in a lie—like what happened to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper [in his congressional testimony]. So I asked Putin basically the same questions about Russian mass surveillance. I knew he’s doing the same thing, but he denied it. If a single Russian source would come forward, he would be in hot water. And in the United States, what I did appearing at that Putin press conference was not worth the price.

Now if Snowden was being honest, he’s displaying a level of ignorance and naivety regarding Russian politics that boggles the mind (the bit about a ‘single source’ landing Putin in ‘hot water’ is simply precious). It certainly suggests he is in no way equipped to evaluate the significance, risks, potential damage etc. of leaking sensitive information about US National Security.

The other explanation is that he was offering a lame excuse in the softest of soft-ball interviews as to why he willingly participated in a propaganda exercise for Vladimir Putin. And if he’s the kind of guy who willingly participates in propaganda exercises for Vladimir Putin, I think it is more than prudent to evaluate his actions with a cynical eye.

67

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 3:33 pm

“While I recognise that the personalised attacks on Greenwald et al, often distract from the larger issues at play”

No, the personalized attacks really are the issues at play, for most people. It’s not good enough that Snowden leaked documents that, once released, the government pretty much admitted were actual documents that described their programs. Instead the issues are whether Snowden was naive or not. You see, the documents are only true if the person who handled them at one time displayed the precisely correct degree of cynicism. Too little cynicism, and they never would be a leaker in the first place. But having decided to do this, their information isn’t credible unless they have the same exact degree of cynicism that a someone who would presumably never take this risk, evaluating them after the fact, agrees that they should have.

68

Daragh McDowell 10.28.14 at 3:34 pm

No Rich – what I’m saying is that certain documents were handed over for certain purposes at certain times. This could all be above board – it could also be that certain other key documents were omitted, or certain documents claimed to be more important than others. Context matters, and leakers have control over what they leak.

69

Layman 10.28.14 at 3:37 pm

“Funnily enough, Snowden has an interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F Cohen at the Nation today</a< (those familiar with the latter's writing on the War in Ukraine will not find it particularly surprising that the Kremlin was willing to grant them access.) "

I think you'll find Snowden's given a number of interviews over the past few months, and unless it's your thesis that in every case the interviewer was a secret Putinista, you should probably reconsider your musings about the motivations of the Kremlin in this case. The rest of your post sounds like the sort of character assassination pointed out in the OP.

70

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 3:38 pm

“This could all be above board – it could also be that certain other key documents were omitted, or certain documents claimed to be more important than others. “

The government can choose to release whatever additional documents it wants to release, if it judges that the ones that Snowden released don’t present the right context. But these other key documents must be in the same locked, hidden vault that contains all of the names of the innocent people who lost their lives because of the wikileaks leaks. If only the government could tell us the real story! Then we’d know that they aren’t lying.

71

Daragh McDowell 10.28.14 at 3:50 pm

“the same locked, hidden vault that contains all of the names of the innocent people who lost their lives because of the wikileaks leaks.”

Like <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/03/belarus-assange-lukashenko&quot;Oleg Bebenin?

72

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 3:51 pm

Dan Nexon @ 47

The apparatus of surveillance and the system of classification are both parts of a vast system of secrecy — aspects of the architecture of the secret state, the deep state.

I’ve had a security clearance, and so have some personal acquaintance with the system of classification and what is classified, why it is classified and so on, as well as experience with the effect classification has on people, their behavior and administration. I see people sometimes elaborate the claim that, of course the state must have the capacity to keep some information confidential, which is undoubtedly true, but sidesteps the central issue, which is, what does the system of classification do? what does the secrecy of the deep state do? What is the function of the system of classification?

From my personal acquaintance, I do not think it can be said that its function is to keep secrets. Real secrets are rarely classified. Information is classified so that it can be communicated, and in the present system operated by the U.S. military and intelligence establishment, broadcast. I suppose, without knowing as an historic fact, that the system of classification originated during WWII as a means to distribute information on a need-to-know basis, but that’s not what goes on now. The compartmentalization that the term, classification, implies, is largely absent. That Manning or Snowden could obtain and release the sheer volume of documents that they did — not the particular content of any of them — is the first and capital revelation concerning what the system is, and is not. The system is not keeping confidential information confidential, nor is it keeping secrets; it is broadcasting information.

The very idea that a system that broadcasts information in a way that allows someone at the level of a Manning or Snowden to accumulate vast numbers of documents has kept any secrets from the secret services of China or Russia is, on its face, absurd. The system revealed by the simple fact of the nature of Snowden’s and Manning’s breaches is not capable of keeping secrets. Snowden was a contractor at a peripheral location, Manning a soldier of very low rank.

73

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 3:57 pm

This comment thread is just as disgusting as the comment threads elsewhere, so I’ll direct people to what I think is one of the best articles on all this: Bruce Sterling’s.

74

William Timberman 10.28.14 at 4:00 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 72

Fox News for apparatchiks. Brilliant, especially since not even Keith Alexander in his specially-equipped war room had any idea how many apparatchiks there were, nor where they were, nor what they were up to when his panopticon was looking the other way.

75

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 4:02 pm

Rich Puchalsky : If only the government could tell us the real story! Then we’d know that they aren’t lying.

The system of classification is a system of censorship. It creates a system of privileged access to information that permits highly-placed officials to strategically leak information as a means to manipulate the political system.

It doesn’t keep secrets from the enemies of democracy abroad; it creates enemies of democracy at home, placing them in the highest reaches of government.

76

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 4:14 pm

357 Layman

“I think it is perfectly fair to judge Snowden based on the totality of his actions. Isn’t that how we’re supposed to judge people? “

Why judge him at all, in the context of discussing his revelations and what they mean for civil liberties?

Judging Snowden is a very serious matter for everybody who has a security clearance.

If you have a clearance, then you have to consider whether or not you ought to do the same thing. On the one hand you swore an oath not to. You would be breaking your word. And you can expect to be punished severely.

On the other hand, there are the things you know about, that have destroyed American democracy. Do you have an obligation to the public? But then, you probably know that it’s already too late and nothing can be done.

What should you do? In that context, deciding just how wrong Snowden was, is vitally important.

It’s perfectly clear that some people choose to judge Snowden in order to dismiss those revelations.

Well sure, of course. If it’s their job to patch things up, they have to use whatever handle is available.

But apart from the hacks, every single honest person who has a security clearance has to somehow find a way to justify that he has not done what Snowden did. If Snowden did it incompetently, he might have an obligation to do it better. Or maybe his obligation instead is to the power structure and not to the people.

Likely by now there is better technology in place to catch people who try to reveal secrets. We can’t know how many people have tried to reveal secrets since Snowden, who have failed and disappeared.

77

Layman 10.28.14 at 4:15 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 72

Bravo! This view of classification as a mechanism for broadcasting information is exactly right, and a revelation, at least to me.

78

Donald Johnson 10.28.14 at 4:20 pm

“Again, given the fact that the “right” people are immune from prosecution for any crimes they commit in the course of politics (other than sexual indiscretations and individual, as opposed to corporate, financial wrongdoing) this seems like a pretty hypocritical distinction.”

For me this is the important point. There’s vastly more interest in the alleged character flaws and crimes of Snowden and others than in the fact that US officials are guilty of massive war crimes and continue to cover up the details. This is a bipartisan problem, which is part of the reason why the attacks on Snowden and Greenwald are so vicious. It’s all distraction.

The same thing happened to Gary Webb.

79

Donald Johnson 10.28.14 at 4:27 pm

“But apart from the hacks, every single honest person who has a security clearance has to somehow find a way to justify that he has not done what Snowden did. “

Not quite every single person–I’m sure many or most people with security clearances don’t know anything particularly interesting. But we needed a Manning or a Snowden back during the runup to the Iraq War. Not that a Manning or Snowden in 2002 would have stopped the Iraq invasion–what we also need would be a political culture that embraced its whistleblowers and prosecuted its war criminals, rather than the other way around.

80

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 4:29 pm

“The same thing happened to Gary Webb.”

Scott Ritter. It’s really too bad that the people who reveal these things aren’t plastic saints.

81

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 4:44 pm

@63, that is not what I meant. My concern is limited to ‘given what Snowden had access to, and what he claims to still have access to, these were not great places to hang out.’ I realize that (1) he chose Russia because of a lack of alternatives consequent to US political maneuvers and (2) he claims to not have jeopardized other information.

82

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 4:45 pm

@79: “Not quite every single person–I’m sure many or most people with security clearances don’t know anything particularly interesting.”

Indeed.

83

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 4:52 pm

Who takes the political hit when a Very Bad Thing happens that nobody knows about and nobody is allowed to know about?

Such things seem to be on the taxation-without-representation continuum.

84

dn 10.28.14 at 4:56 pm

John Q – In my experience as an American, “left” and “liberal” are usually synonyms in mainstream discourse. Those who make the distinction are more or less exclusively left of center, and it usually implies something about a person’s self-identification as a skeptic of the Democratic Party mainstream, generally due to leftier-than-average views on big business and organized labor (and sometimes foreign policy). That is, to be “left” but not “liberal” is to self-identify as some distance to the left of the median Democrat.

Social democracy is a murky concept to most Americans, since the average American would fail to see any difference between it and what we call “liberalism”. The baseline for “liberalism” here is (at least nominal) support for the New Deal/Great Society welfare and regulatory state, plus support for civil rights; thus to call yourself a “social democrat” here usually just signals “I’m a liberal Democrat, only more so”, with overtones of “I’m a pretentious Eurosnob.” To be seen as standing outside US liberalism you’ve got to take a much more overtly radical line.

85

Layman 10.28.14 at 4:56 pm

Dan Nexon @ 81

Thanks for the response. I apologize for the inference.

86

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 4:58 pm

#79 Donald Johnson

“But apart from the hacks, every single honest person who has a security clearance has to somehow find a way to justify that he has not done what Snowden did. “

Not quite every single person–I’m sure many or most people with security clearances don’t know anything particularly interesting.

Every single one of them who *can find out* important facts has that issue.

87

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 4:59 pm

“The very idea that a system that broadcasts information in a way that allows someone at the level of a Manning or Snowden to accumulate vast numbers of documents has kept any secrets from the secret services of China or Russia is, on its face, absurd.”

Meh. Most of what Manning revealed in the “wikileaks dump” were s-level and FOUO-type cables. Most of this stuff no one even reads, and it isn’t a disaster if it gets into hands of foreign intel. It can be embarrassing, and it can make life difficult for foreign citizens who are treated as ‘sources’ but are really just having conversations with diplomats in bars — especially if the recipients don’t fully understand the language of cables. But this is the kind of material that bureaucrats are allowed to discuss in locations where not-terribly intrusive interception is possible.

Snowden’s materials seem to have been another level entirely. Mostly techniques and capabilities. Not all of this stuff is necessarily in the hands of the Russians and the Chinese. Nor should we assume that it was. Certainly, some of the espionage he disclosed seems to have taken Beijing by surprise. Sources. Techniques. Capabilities.

Now, this episode certainly revealed how FUBARed a lot of this is from the perspective of the national security state. Too many people with clearances. Totally inadequate vetting. And so forth. That’s fair. But I really wish we wouldn’t brush off the severity of the leaks (independent of whether they served the public interest, and whose).

88

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 5:02 pm

@85. Np. I’m sorry for conveying that impression. I really just wanted to make a case — whether I succeeded or not is another matter — that there’s some distance between the kinds of arguments Henry is trashing and ones that, while overlapping, try to draw finer distinctions.

89

bianca steele 10.28.14 at 5:08 pm

I’m not that impressed with the idea that anyone in particular has a security clearance. For one, it’s something that you don’t lose, even if you’re not working on sensitive material anymore (as long as you get periodic “checkups”). For another, my dad had one when he was in the National Guard. From what I understand, the secure stuff he knew was (I won’t say, in case the enemy still has some 50-year old problem this information would help them solve) very minimal. That wasn’t nothing, and it makes sense that he would need a clearance, or that someone submitting on a contract for a potentially classified project would, but it’s not the secret to the universe.

Breaking my promise, my impression is that people who think there are secrets tend to think things that are a matter of public record are secrets, as long as there’s anyone who’d be upset by them. They might get all hush-hush about the existence of something as simple as a pen register or (from today’s news) a mail cover. I suppose the papers’ printing of secrets, as far as I can tell somewhat randomly, doesn’t help matters, as you’d really never know whether you were supposed to be reading any given news item.

90

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 5:08 pm

@64 Pliggett Darcy 10.28.14 at 3:08 pm

Does Glenn Greenwald support war and surveillance?

According to the link @32, he was a supporter of the Iraq War. Nothing like the zealotry of a convert!

Here’s GG’s non denial denial (which mentions Henry Farrell! Small world.)
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/30/1182442/-Glenn-Greenwald-Responds-to-Widespread-Lies-About-Him-on-Cato-Iraq-War-and-more#

Nonetheless, because of the general faith I had in political and media institutions, I assumed – since both political parties and media outlets and journalists from across the ideological spectrum were united in support of the war – that there must be some valid basis to the claim that Saddam posed a threat. My basic trust in these institutions neutralized the objections I had and led me to passively acquiesce to what was being done (“I believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to, and to the extent that I was able to develop a definitive view, I accepted his judgment that American security really would be enhanced by the invasion of this sovereign country.”).

91

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 5:10 pm

@73 Thanks for the link. It’s a good piece.

92

marcel 10.28.14 at 5:11 pm

A H wrote:

“People with an interest in radical leftism, will tend to use liberal to mean neo-liberal, and therefore a bad thing.”

And those of us who recall Phil Ochs will tend to use liberal in a broader sense but still consider it something somewhat contemptible.

93

marcel 10.28.14 at 5:12 pm

The reference to Phil Ochs above was supposed to have the link that this comment does.

94

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 5:21 pm

Thornton Hall is so eager to smear Greenwald that he can’t even read the article he’s citing:

Ask anyone who claims that I “supported” the Iraq War to point to a single instance where I ever supported or defended it in any way. There is no such instance. It’s a pure fabrication.

That’s not a non-denial denial. It’s a denial. But note that even the accusation itself is wildly incoherent — it’s that Greenwald once supported the Iraq War, and was therefore a supporter of “war and surveillance”, and that this makes his writing *against* war and surveillance suspect now because it reflects the zealotry of a recent convert.

People really ought to be ashamed of this, whether it’s Thornton Hall’s clownish attempts or Dan Nexon’s moderate, genteel discomfort.

95

Daragh McDowell 10.28.14 at 5:24 pm

@Dan Nexon 87 –

“Snowden’s materials seem to have been another level entirely. Mostly techniques and capabilities. Not all of this stuff is necessarily in the hands of the Russians and the Chinese. Nor should we assume that it was. “

I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.

96

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 5:25 pm

Henry’s essay is really an object lesson in how the concept of ideology diverts the attention of our smartest and most educated into ever smaller eddies of of analysis off the river of reality.

Why are American Jews correct about so many things? Is it because they have the right ideology? No. It is caused by several contingent historical facts:

-American Jews know that war really is hell, they know that there is almost no human problem that isn’t made infinitely worse by going to war.
-American Jews know that nationalism is a seductive cure-all that always leaves misery in it’s wake.
-American Jews know that immigrants are filled with the energy that builds America.
-American Jews know that terrible misfortune often falls upon the best people and so know to reject the just desserts arguments of libertarians and other critics of the welfare state.
-American Jews know that you don’t cure racism by ignoring the concept of race.
-American Jews know that the present, not the afterlife, is what matters.

Only the last belief is “ideological” in the sense that it comes from the Torah. The rest is simply the obvious conclusions of personal experience in the 20th Century.

Does this collection of historical accidents make Jews “liberal”? Does it matter if the ideas form a coherent “system of ideas”?

A little bit. We see that because, along with all the other beliefs above, the 20th Century taught American Jews that the State of Israel is precious and must be defended.

At first this fit in the category of pure survival and therefore falling into the very narrow exception within the belief above about the consequences of war.

Somewhere along the line, Israel stopped fitting into the exception. Then came George W. Bush and the Iraq War.

Now we see that all it takes for American Jews to go from almost always right to Bill Kristol, the paragon of wrong, is to choose the defense of Israel part of their identity over the evidence of their own eyes about the realties of war and nationalism.

Trying to fit that story into a tale about “liberalism” is necessarily incoherent.

97

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 5:31 pm

#95 Daragh McDowell

I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.

Let’s suppose that’s true. What does it say about our technology?

Everything that they presumably learned from Snowden (that they didn’t already know) they would have learned in time. With Snowden we found out exactly when they did learn it, or at least the latest time they could have learned it. If they found out other ways, we might not find out that they know until later.

We need to have approaches to deal with that. We need to be able to change our methods at need, maybe quickly when we find out on short notice what has stopped working. If it’s true that our signals intelligence has stopped working against the USSR, and we have nothing to replace it still after 16 months, that’s bad.

We have to be careful not to get too dependent on this stuff, because it is not dependable.

98

Dan Nexon 10.28.14 at 5:32 pm

@94. Although I don’t particularly like Greenwald’s interwebs demeanor, I don’t recall specifically attacking him.

99

bianca steele 10.28.14 at 5:44 pm

My dad wasn’t actually in the National Guard, he was in the Reserves. Not that anybody really cares, except for him.

100

Ronan(rf) 10.28.14 at 5:54 pm

“No, the personalized attacks really are the issues at play, for most people. It’s not good enough that Snowden leaked documents that, once released, the government pretty much admitted were actual documents that described their programs. Instead the issues are whether Snowden was naive or not”

You argue constantly that people on the left should adopt an absolutist position on not engaging with certain individuals and even entire ‘ideologies’, solely on the premise that they are(by nature) always arguing in bad faith, or evil. This is just the mainstream liberal version of your position.

101

Layman 10.28.14 at 5:59 pm

“I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.”

Heck, why stop there? Let’s say Snowden’s a Martian. There’s about as much cause.

102

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 6:03 pm

Dan Nexon: I really wish we wouldn’t brush off the severity of the leaks

And, I wish you wouldn’t brush off the severity of the incompetence and corruption practically designed into the architecture of the system.

Look at what you are saying here:

Most of this stuff no one even reads, and it isn’t a disaster if it gets into hands of foreign intel. It can be embarrassing, and it can make life difficult for foreign citizens who are treated as ‘sources’ but are really just having conversations with diplomats in bars — especially if the recipients don’t fully understand the language of cables. But this is the kind of material that bureaucrats are allowed to discuss in locations where not-terribly intrusive interception is possible.

What you are describing is “confidential” information: information obtained or shared in confidence. It is not “secret” and should not be treated as “secret”. But, we have a system that insists on treating it as if it were secret, with elaborate and arcane rules and sometimes draconian penalties for disclosure. “Knowing” secrets — and the information may be public knowledge, but in the system it is classified due to its source or merely its means of transmission (I’ve seen the State Department “classify” articles from newspapers by transmitting them in cables.) — restricts the ability of the official knowing the information to use it. Treating it as if it were secret, when clearly it is not secret — certainly not a “state secret” that must be concealed lest great harm be done to the public interest — does considerable damage to the ability of both administrative bureaucracies and democratic institutions to function efficiently. That it lends any credence at all to the political desire to enact an Official Secrets Act on the British model, which would enable censorship, is evidence of the degeneracy of reason involved in the search for finer and finer distinctions, which will allow us to finally find the elusive snipe, which is the damage done by the leaks, while ignoring the enormous and plainly manifest damage to the national security by the deranged and decrepit system of secrecy and surveillance itself.

Are we to ignore the history of the last ten, twenty, or thirty years? The invasion of Iraq, say, or the spectacle of Guantanamo? How many of the “worst of the worst” identified by our vaunted intelligence services and shipped off to Guantanamo to be living evidence of American moral degeneracy were guilty of anything at all? What does that tell us about the efficiency of our secret state?

There’s a lot of completely groundless counterfactual speculation put out in support of the default to trust in government, which is the core of the arguments put forth by the likes of Kinsley, Packer and Wilentz. In this comment thread, we are asked why Snowden should fear being disappeared? Was Manning not tortured, for disclosing a bunch of stuff no one even reads? Tortured! Did that escape our attention? Some one mentioned the value of subverting Putin’s butler. Every Soviet subverted by the CIA was killed. Because the CIA and FBI were incompetent and untrustworthy. Is that not part of our common base of knowledge? The U.S. cannot be bothered to keep its promises to the translators it hired in Afghanistan. The U.S. decided to use a polio vaccination campaign as a cover operation in the wilds of Pakistan, but couldn’t be bothered to get and use an actual polio vaccine. And, we’re worried about the cosmopolitan ethics of Laura Poitras? Are you kidding me?

103

Matt 10.28.14 at 6:11 pm

I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.

Nor did US intelligence agencies raise the alarm that the USSR was about to collapse, when it was about to collapse. They also didn’t raise the alarm that Iraq had no operational chemical/biological weapons manufacturing at the time of occupation, nor even the early stages of a nuclear weapons capability. I understand that even the Iranian revolution took US intel agencies by surprise. Who knows how long Snowden or his pre-incorporeal essence has been hobbling US intelligence agencies?!

104

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 6:16 pm

#100 Ronan

“No, the personalized attacks really are the issues at play, for most people. It’s not good enough that Snowden leaked documents that, once released, the government pretty much admitted were actual documents that described their programs. Instead the issues are whether Snowden was naive or not”

You argue constantly that people on the left should adopt an absolutist position on not engaging with certain individuals and even entire ‘ideologies’, solely on the premise that they are(by nature) always arguing in bad faith, or evil. This is just the mainstream liberal version of your position.

OK, let’s say that Snowden has something wrong with him and he’s arguing in bad faith. Let’s not listen to what he says. When he tells us what we ought to think, ignore him.

So, how about those leaks, huh?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/01/27/darrell-issa-james-clapper-lied-to-congress-about-nsa-and-should-be-fired/

What did you think about the various stories that the NSA lied to Congress about what they were doing? They said various things that the leaks gave evidence against, and they didn’t deny it. Like they hadn’t really thought about what their cover story ought to be, they just thought it would stay secret and then when it didn’t they made up stuff on the spot.

Does it seem that way to you, or was it just one of those amusing misunderstandings?

Whatever they were doing then, now they’re 16 months further along. Nothing has happened to persuade them to change course from whatever it is they have planned. Nothing has happened to persuade them to actually tell anybody what they have planned.

What do you think about that?

105

Anderson 10.28.14 at 6:18 pm

I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.

Oh please. The NSA is not a crystal ball, and Crimea is Russia’s back yard. And “apparently” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.

106

Ronan(rf) 10.28.14 at 6:23 pm

@104 – im not sure what you’re saying, i couldnt care less about Greenwald or Snowdens ‘character’ or politics. The evidence is the evidence.
I dont know enough about the specifics to answer the questions in the second part of your comment, but dont see its relevance as a response to what i said.

107

Layman 10.28.14 at 6:26 pm

“Who knows how long Snowden or his pre-incorporeal essence has been hobbling US intelligence agencies?!”

He’s a Martian, I tell you! My God, can no one else see it?!

108

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 6:39 pm

Martian?

The new theory of everything.

I like it.

109

TM 10.28.14 at 6:45 pm

“I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.”

That howler illustrates perfectly well what fantasy world fans of the national security state live in.

Thanks BW 102. Time to get outraged. What ridiculous red herrings we are being treated to precisely to distract from the monstrous incompetence, and sheer, well, monstrosity of those in power.

110

js. 10.28.14 at 6:46 pm

dn @84 strikes me as about right on the distinction between “liberal” and “left” in US discourse, tho I think foreign policy is more important than dn seems to be making it out to be (and I suspect that labor rights, at least in one sense is not—being pro-union is rhetorically pretty clsoe to a mainstream Democratic position). But e.g. thinking that the essential goodness of American aims in its foreign policy is not a thing that exists makes you definitely not a liberal. Also, how people came down about Afghanistan back in 2001 is a decent if rough marker of whether they consider themselves left or liberal.

111

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 6:49 pm

You argue constantly that people on the left should adopt an absolutist position on not engaging with certain individuals and even entire ‘ideologies’, solely on the premise that they are(by nature) always arguing in bad faith, or evil. This is just the mainstream liberal version of your position.

“OK, let’s say that Snowden has something wrong with him and he’s arguing in bad faith. Let’s not listen to what he says.”

I dont know enough about the specifics to answer the questions in the second part of your comment, but dont see its relevance as a response to what i said.

OK, we have various people who say to ignore the arguments of various crackpot reactionaries because there’s no good outcome from trying to discuss stuff with them.

And it looked like you were putting Snowden in that category. People say to ignore his opinions because he’s arguing in bad faith so don’t even argue with him. Same argument, same approach.

And I say, I don’t care what Snowden thinks. I don’t care what his arguments are. If his leaks are true — and none of them have been denied by the secret-keepers he stole them from — then that’s what I’m interested in.

Hey, maybe the NSA has been lying to the public and lying to Congress about what they were doing! Maybe they’ve in fact been spying on Congress, which if true might easily give them blackmail material which could go a long way toward keeping Congress off their backs. Assuming there was ever any threat of that.

There’s an old tradition of “kill the bearer of bad news”. Somebody brings something people don’t want to hear and they kill the messenger.

This seems like an great big extension of that. “Bad, bad messenger! We’re going to pretend we didn’t get the message at all, until we get a new messenger to come give it to us again, a fine, perfect messenger who is worthy of the message. He will carefully think about every document he might release, and make sure there is nothing in it that hurts national security. And he won’t run away, he’ll turn himself in to be tortured and maybe killed. That’s the kind of messenger who can carry a message like this.”

So OK, we can talk about how bad the messenger is, but what about the message itself? Isn’t that a lot more important? It’s OK that you don’t know enough about it. I don’t either. Most people don’t. It’s mostly still secret, after all.

112

William Timberman 10.28.14 at 6:50 pm

It really does amaze me that there are commenters here who want us to believe that Glenn Greenwald is a clown, and that Edward Snowden is an inexperienced young man who thinks too highly of himself, yet seriously expect us not to notice that the managers of our national security state are sadistic morons. I should bookmark this thread, just in case I might someday be called upon to explain what’s meant by the term concern troll.

113

Ronan(rf) 10.28.14 at 7:00 pm

J Thomas – i wasn’t supporting Rich’s position, or it’s mainstream liberal equivalent, just noting the similarities.
I would say more broadly my only real ‘issue’ with the OP linked article is it seems to assume that there *are* intelligent arguments about the NSA out there, coming from non ‘national security liberals’ (whether from Greenwald, from libertarian factions, or from those further on the left) , which I dont see much evidence off.

114

bystander 10.28.14 at 7:05 pm

@ WT 112

Precisely.

115

dn 10.28.14 at 7:12 pm

js. – good point. I guess I’d paraphrase it by saying that US “left” skepticism on foreign policy is generally intimately linked to anti-big business attitudes. A US “liberal” is more likely to take Wilsonian ideology at face value, where a US “leftist” sees it as a front for corporate interests.

116

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 7:18 pm

Ronan (rf): “I wasn’t supporting Rich’s position, or it’s mainstream liberal equivalent, just noting the similarities.”

These similarities apparently are as follows: whenever conservatives bring governmental documents about massive domestic spying operations to light, I apparently say that we should ignore them because the documents were brought to light by conservatives. And then I apparently spend lots of time picking over the personal lives of the conservatives in question, saying that their various personal failings — not the incoherence of their arguments — are reasons not to listen to them.

117

jonnybutter 10.28.14 at 7:21 pm

I wish you wouldn’t brush off the severity of the incompetence and corruption practically designed into the architecture of the system.

I had a long comment but glad I tossed it waited for Bruce.

Shorter version: apparently we are to blindly trust a large, very well funded establishment of inveterate and professional liars – an establishment which routinely lies to its own public and its own government – which also happens to have a mind-boggling legacy of world-historical fck-ups; but we are to automatically mistrust a couple of whistleblowers because it’s possible they might be too cynical or too naive – or both! Wow.

Three organizational sins are bound to each other by symbiosis: fetish-secrecy, incompetence, and tyranny. Dog bites man.

118

Anderson 10.28.14 at 7:29 pm

I apparently am happy and unusual in being able to accept that GG, Snowden, and the people running our military-surveillance complex are *all* assholes.

Both/and, grasshoppers, not either/or.

119

Ze Kraggash 10.28.14 at 7:41 pm

“a mind-boggling legacy of world-historical fck-ups”

How do you know they were fuck-ups? You have no idea what their plans and the strategy are: it’s classified.

120

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 7:49 pm

Here, though, on this thread, we’re all cool right? I’d totally trust all y’all with info about who was torturing who, baseless invasion plans, my credit history, and my fetish involving the you-know-what.

121

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 7:54 pm

Bruce Wilder @102:

Yes. But there’s another side of this that people should understand, although they persistently don’t, that goes all the way back to that “discomfort” up in comment #6. Here’s a quote from Daniel Ellsberg:

And he said this very calmly. I hadn’t known that he was about to be sentenced for draft resistance. It hit me as a total surprise and shock, because I heard his words in the midst of actually feeling proud of my country listening to him. And then I heard he was going to prison. It wasn’t what he said exactly that changed my worldview. It was the example he was setting with his life. How his words in general showed that he was a stellar American, and that he was going to jail as a very deliberate choice—because he thought it was the right thing to do. There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger. Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men’s room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing. The only time in my life I’ve reacted to something like that.

Leakers aren’t like you. Well-adjusted people do not leak government documents in this way, pretty much by definition. There has to be something odd about their risk tolerance, if nothing else, in order to do this. You can’t examine the life of anyone who does this and not find something that can be characterized as too naive, or too attention-seeking, or too emotional, or too this or too that. That’s because the people who look perfectly normal don’t leak in the first place.

So if you’re going to say “What about how Snowden fled to Russia? I think he should have instead done X” what you’re really saying is that you think that these leaks should never occur, that these secrets should never have been revealed to the public, and dressing it up as a concern with personality that you’re sure to find. There’s a reason that Nixon’s plumbers first choice of target was Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. If you want someone who would never dare to look bad or do anything wrong, then you want someone who would never come to our attention by leaking.

I shouldn’t have to write this; it should be obvious. But instead of focussing on what was revealed, people persistently import these kinds of concerns. (For instance: “Although I don’t particularly like Greenwald’s interwebs demeanor, I don’t recall specifically attacking him.”) They want perfect people: people just like the hundreds of thousands who had the same access and didn’t rock the boat. People like the ones who could be trusted to never reveal this in the first place.

122

Collin Street 10.28.14 at 8:32 pm

I shouldn’t have to write this; it should be obvious.

“Reactionary” is a subset of “person with autism-spectrum condition”: empathy problems dramatically reduce the scope of “obvious”.

123

Marc 10.28.14 at 8:33 pm

Is there any criticism of the leakers that is acceptable?

124

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 8:40 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 121 (7:54 pm)

Very useful observations.

125

Anderson 10.28.14 at 8:49 pm

“Is there any criticism of the leakers that is acceptable?”

Shacking up with Putin in Russia.

I’m not up on the details of what Snowden revealed, but I would think if he was going to do that, he should’ve gotten the stuff disseminated and then turned himself in for detention and trial (if that’s even a necessary sequence in USA these days ..).

126

Anderson 10.28.14 at 8:50 pm

“So if you’re going to say ‘What about how Snowden fled to Russia? I think he should have instead done X’ what you’re really saying is that you think that these leaks should never occur”

… This has been another edition of Rich Telling You What You’re Really Saying/Thinking/Voting For.

127

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 8:52 pm

@112 I believe all three.

128

William Berry 10.28.14 at 8:55 pm

Seconding BW @124.

And right on to Rich P through pretty much the entire thread.

129

William Berry 10.28.14 at 9:00 pm

TH @ 112:

Ding, ding, ding!

I think you just might be WT’s star exemplar!

130

William Berry 10.28.14 at 9:00 pm

TH @127, I mean.

131

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 9:03 pm

The thing that gets my dander up is the notion that the surveillance state is unprecedented in its badness. It is almost certainly true that there is no intelligence agency in the world that has done more good than harm. The CIA could be a force for justice for 1,000 years and never balance the ledger from Central America.

The other thing is that before urbanization, no one had any privacy. The notion of living ones life without the watchful gaze of the powers that be is a thoroughly modern one.

It has always been the case that spies and spy craft make the world a worse place, are not worth the expense in money or privacy, and generally employ bullies and perverts. And yet, in this democracy, that is not the majority view. The majority have other things on their minds.

You wanna know how not to reach the majority? Keep lecturing them on the meaning of liberalism.

132

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 9:05 pm

Uhhm. Now I’m lost. I was agreeing with the sadistic morons bit. That was number 3 by my count.

133

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 9:06 pm

The thing that gets my dander up is the notion that the surveillance state is unprecedented in its badness.

I don’t think anybody’s said this. Do you mean “new in its badness”?

134

Ronan(rf) 10.28.14 at 9:23 pm

“I shouldn’t have to write this; it should be obvious. But instead of focussing on what was revealed, people persistently import these kinds of concerns. (For instance: “Although I don’t particularly like Greenwald’s interwebs demeanor, I don’t recall specifically attacking him.”) They want perfect people: people just like the hundreds of thousands who had the same access and didn’t rock the boat. People like the ones who could be trusted to never reveal this in the first place.”

Oh bullshit. Nexon specifically said he has an issue with *some* of the leaks in and of themselves (and more vaguely with Snowdens post leak behaviour) You’ve consistently misrepresented his position from your first comment.

135

gianni 10.28.14 at 9:24 pm

@125

Why does he have an obligation to turn himself in? The US justice system is obscene, devoid of justice and devoid of legitimacy. For your demand to be anything other than absurd, you have the burden of proof to demonstrate that there is something to be gained by Snowden getting locked up.

Look at what they did to Chelsea Manning. Locked her away in solitary for long enough to break their mental state in half. That, to me, is torture, and torture for no other reason than to punish the leak-er and set an example. This is disgusting.

I can’t blame someone from fleeing the injustice that is the US justice system. I cannot, and you should be ashamed of demanding such. Until the sentencing patterns and forms of punishment/imprisonment are up to the standards of a first-world, human-rights respecting democracy, asking someone to voluntarily submit themselves to imprisonment is asking for the aggregate amount of evil and pain in the world to increase.

Elsewhere on this thread, we have seen various people wring their hands and voice concern about the dangers that Snowden’s leaks have created for various people. When pressed, asked to name specific cases of harm being done due to his leaks, these hand-wringing concerned liberals have not been able to muster up any evidence.

So then the case has to retreat back on to more solid ground: Snowden has hurt the capacity of the intelligence agencies to do their job! But then, what is the value of these agencies? How often do they really supply us with solid intelligence. The answer, of course, cannot ever be known. But as many have shown upthread, their failures over the past generation or so are remarkable in their consistency. They have failed us on many of the most pressing issues – the fall of the USSR, the Iraq War, etc etc – so what, exactly, is their value? Is there a way of demonstrating that they are providing us a valuable service that does not rely on their own self-assessments (because all of the evidence is, of course, classified)? Maybe this strong defense of these agencies is forthcoming, but I am not holding my breath.

All things considered, it appears that the objections reduce back to what the OP was contending in the first place: it is all about the characters. This is a form of political analysis that is great for the evening TV, talking about good guys and bad guys and spies and fleeing the country and firebrand partisans. This is not a form of political analysis that addresses the actual issue at stake here: the growth of the security and surveillance state and the constraints/protections due to sensitive information in a globalized age.

Finally – I might add that everyone who is saying that they ‘do not trust Snowden with the information’ – guess what? When he worked for the NSA, he had a massive amount of information in his hands. The way that the NSA is set up now, a very large number of Snowden-types have access to this information. If you have a problem with Snowden, you should reflect for a moment on the system that created the possibility for Snowden to do what he has done. I could very easily understand someone deeply opposed to what Snowden has done who then concludes that the NSA is in need of a major institution-wide overhaul. But blaming Snowden or questioning his character? Yeah, that is barely scratching the surface of the issues at stake here.

136

Ronan(rf) 10.28.14 at 9:31 pm

“So if you’re going to say “What about how Snowden fled to Russia? I think he should have instead done X” what you’re really saying is that you think that these leaks should never occur, that these secrets should never have been revealed to the public, and dressing it up as a concern with personality “

No you’re not. You don’t have to engage in an overwrought in-depth reading if the words are right in front of your face, and X is something specific and reasonable. What you are saying is precisely, “What about how Snowden fled to Russia? I think he should have instead done X” .

137

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 9:45 pm

@133 This is the second time in recent weeks I’ve been hit with the no one said that routine. When I summarize the comments that I intend to criticize, that summary is often curt and uncharitable.

Also, I am also bringing in my memory of other similar threads, where the basic thesis of Timberman and others is: it’s the end of the world as we know it and you feel fine.

And the think is, I *don’t* feel fine about it.

Nonetheless, it remains the case that when J. Edgar Hoover was trying to get MLK to commit suicide, it was possible for a boy of 9 or 10 to wander in the woods of Mississippi and stumble upon the 3 dead black bodies hanging from a tree. Now, some guy on the internet is mad that James Clapper knows he prank calls Moe’s bar? Give me a break.

In other threads it has been suggested that the National Security State is already controlling us. When I ask “how?” I am ignored. Again, give me a break.

And I am supposed to view journalists as public intellectuals above the law? They sell newspapers for a living. George Packer writes the way he does because he needs an angle.

Watergate is the single worst thing that ever happened to the cause of intelligent debate in this country. Not because of Nixon, nor because of the declining faith in government (although that’s a problem in a world where climate change is an existential threat and the best and brightest want to solve it with clever Pigouvian maneuvers instead of laws), but because it led to the idea that Bob Woodward and his brand access based “objective” reporting were somehow crucial parts of democratic society. If it isn’t clear by now that the man is an idiot selling newspapers, then we truly are doomed in the way Timberman would have us believe.

138

john in california 10.28.14 at 9:58 pm

For those critics of Snowden, given the example of Manning ( and the persecution of journalists) , in his shoes ,would you have stayed and faced the music? Even if you had only leaked info about domestic surveillance? You are either braver or more foolish than I. Perhaps, As Snowden has oft said, He didn’t want to be a hero and didn’t want it to be about him. He saw, on a daily basis something illegal, immoral and unconstitutional and felt compelled to act. He has lost his real life by his actions and been forced into another sort of prison, the prison of exile and always looking over his shoulder. He has given up his anonymity so that we might regain ours (if we have the guts to demand it). I admire him greatly. So, if you want to make it about him, tell me you would have done it differently and stayed around to be locked up for the rest of your life.

139

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 10:09 pm

and, and….

While white dudes on the web worry that NSA employees are reading their sexts, the real threat to freedom comes from the same place it always has: the cops.

It wasn’t the NSA, it was the NYPD who decided that a good way to fight terrorism would be to seek out brown people living hand to mouth and offer them $20,000 to play a role in a bombing plot. Surprise! Brown people living hand to mouth will do bad things when offered an easy $20,000. In white people land, we call that Wall Street.

140

Layman 10.28.14 at 10:12 pm

“While white dudes on the web worry that NSA employees are reading their sexts, the real threat to freedom comes from the same place it always has: the cops.”

False dichotomy.

141

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 10:12 pm

This is the second time in recent weeks I’ve been hit with the no one said that routine. When I summarize the comments that I intend to criticize, that summary is often curt and uncharitable.

Also, I am also bringing in my memory of other similar threads, where the basic thesis of Timberman and others is: it’s the end of the world as we know it and you feel fine.

I can only speak for myself, but when you start making comments that might include me – I think the leaks are generally a good thing! – or might not – I am a very lucky person in a very lucky time and place and will say so! – I’m going to try to get you to narrow down what you mean. If I care.

Note that there’s a Snowden documentary making the rounds.
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/harvey-weinstein-edward-snowdens-citizenfour-744007

142

Ze Kraggash 10.28.14 at 10:22 pm

What’s so unreasonable about fleeing to Russia, especially for an indoors kind? Certainly preferable to getting stuck in Ecuadorian embassy in London. Plenty of people to hang out with in Moscow, and you can always go see a ballet or something.

143

Matt 10.28.14 at 10:27 pm

While white dudes on the web worry that NSA employees are reading their sexts, the real threat to freedom comes from the same place it always has: the cops.

Yeah, this blog has never critically discussed American cops. Pull the other one.

This is like the desperate distractors who come into a Gaza thread and demand that everyone talk about the even worse atrocities in Syria. By transitivity nobody should waste time talking about the threat to freedom from the NSA or American cops because Syria. As long as there’s a full blown civil war somewhere in the world it’s white dude navel gazing to worry over any other current events.

144

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 10:28 pm

Thornton Hall: This is the second time in recent weeks I’ve been hit with the no one said that routine. When I summarize the comments that I intend to criticize, that summary is often curt and uncharitable.

Here’s a wild and crazy idea: when you summarize comments you intend to criticize, make sure the summary is accurate. Curt and uncharitable are not means to effective parody.

145

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 10:44 pm

Marc: “Is there any criticism of the leakers that is acceptable?”

People can criticize whatever they like, obviously.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.” Those who want leakers without wanting questionable decisions are wanting a contradiction. Of course there’s nothing contradictory in not wanting either.

Perhaps the real scandal is: why did it take a leak to bring this to the public. Or perhaps the real scandal is that Snowden must be a traitor. Priorities.

146

gianni 10.28.14 at 10:46 pm

Thornton Hall

People can be concerned about more than 1 thing at the same time, and some might argue that the struggle to address the (un)accountability of our domestic police force and the struggle to address the (un)accountability of our intelligence services can learn from each other. Perhaps they can work in tandem to develop mechanisms for extending democratic oversight over insular bureaucracies that regularly resist not only popular accountability, but also resist public scrutiny and availability of information concerning their activities. There certainly seem to be some overlapping concerns here, which you have flippantly cast off by characterizing opponents of the NSA as merely pranksters of one ethnicity.

147

heckblazer 10.28.14 at 11:13 pm

Whatever Snowden’s motives were, revealing details about NSA’s mass surveillance have been damn useful. I also don’t blame him for leaving the country.

What I don’t care for is how Snowden leaked information about targeted surveillance about foreign targets. Spying on China, for example, is exactly the job NSA is supposed to be doing. When Snowden says he did not give any documents to foreign governments, is he telling the truth? When he says his tradecraft was good enough to prevent Russia and China from getting a hold of his data is, he correct? Snowden’s word is not enough to stop me from wondering.

148

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 11:26 pm

@143 Quick googling reveals that, aside from a couple “here’s the news from Ferguson” posts, no one has posted anything about “cops” since 2011. I wasn’t here then.

149

Andrew F. 10.28.14 at 11:31 pm

Wilder @72: From my personal acquaintance, I do not think it can be said that its function is to keep secrets. Real secrets are rarely classified. Information is classified so that it can be communicated, and in the present system operated by the U.S. military and intelligence establishment, broadcast. I suppose, without knowing as an historic fact, that the system of classification originated during WWII as a means to distribute information on a need-to-know basis, but that’s not what goes on now. The compartmentalization that the term, classification, implies, is largely absent. That Manning or Snowden could obtain and release the sheer volume of documents that they did — not the particular content of any of them — is the first and capital revelation concerning what the system is, and is not. The system is not keeping confidential information confidential, nor is it keeping secrets; it is broadcasting information.

Well, but there are actually lots of compartments, of varying sizes with varying amounts of protection. Snowden accessed so much information in part because of his position as a systems administrator, and in part because he conned (social engineered, to use a ludicrous term) his co-workers into exposing their credentials to him. And the information he compromised certainly constituted “real secrets.” He compromised sources and methods ranging from those used to intercept communications among groups ranging from militant and terrorist organizations in the Middle East and elsewhere to those used to collect intelligence against sophisticated, non-democratic, states.

There is an arguable defense for the exposure of a portion, a small portion, of what he leaked. But you’re kidding yourself if you think he didn’t compromise any “real secrets.”

Rich @53: Andrew F., perhaps you could supply a link to the ample reporting referred to in: “We actually don’t know why Poitras was detained and questioned, but there has been ample reporting on a plausible reason that has very little do with “annoying” US officials.” I think that this plausible reason was that they weren’t harassing her for reporting on this story: they were harassing her for reporting on another story.

George Packer’s most recent article in The New Yorker discusses it, though it’s been mentioned elsewhere.

The short of it is that while Poitras was filming a documentary in Iraq she developed a friendship with an Iraqi family, with whom she spent a fair amount of time. She also maintained contacts with US military units in the area. On a particular day, a US unit was ambushed while on patrol, and some claimed that they spotted her filming from a nearby rooftop. They also alleged that the local population was well aware of an impending ambush. Given Poitras’s alleged presence and her relationship with the Iraqi family, they alleged that Poitras must have been aware of the ambush in advance and had decided not to inform the US military unit.

Obviously, those who think this were furious, though just as importantly they could not prove the suspicion and quite frankly I have no idea whether it’s true or false. But, I also don’t doubt that someone included her name in a report with a narrative, noting their suspicions, and that her name would have ended up on (I’d guess) several databases. One of those would likely flag her for questioning whenever she crossed the US border.

It’s also worth noting, by the way, that the documentary she filmed in Iraq was shown at, among other places, the US Air Command and Staff College.

So, I’d chalk up her selection for more extensive questioning at int’l entry/exit points to a combination of bureaucracy and a real incident, rather than “annoying” US officials.

As to the three authors that are the subject of what still appears to me as a hatchet job, I continue to be surprised at the level of venom in the critique, and the degree of credulity that has been accorded to Snowden regarding his motivations and political beliefs and to Greenwald regarding what the material reported upon actually reveals. Snowden speaks as a politician might, with clear talking points that he sticks to even when the facts tarnish them, and Greenwald reports on material as might a lawyer sifting the record for facts to support arguments already prepared.

Each of the three authors wrote from different perspectives, some quite interesting, all connected in obvious ways to the backgrounds of each of the authors, on this affair, and it’s simply a gross error to read them narrowly as either supporting or opposing a critique of American intelligence activities.

150

J Thomas 10.28.14 at 11:35 pm

#137 TH

Nonetheless, it remains the case that when J. Edgar Hoover was trying to get MLK to commit suicide, it was possible for a boy of 9 or 10 to wander in the woods of Mississippi and stumble upon the 3 dead black bodies hanging from a tree. Now, some guy on the internet is mad that James Clapper knows he prank calls Moe’s bar? Give me a break.

It appears you have not thought this out.

Do you know how big the NSA budget is? Probably not, but you could look it up online. Except part of the budget is black, you can’t look it up online. It’s a secret. Does your congressman know how big the NSA budget is? Probably not, that information is restricted to a few key legislators.

Let’s say your Senator is on the committee and does know the NSA budget. He can’t tell you, but he does represent you. Is he getting blackmailed by NSA? If there is a big scandal and he is arrested for some crime, then maybe he did not go along with blackmail by somebody. Otherwise you will probably get no evidence about that question.

Does the Senate have the technology required to know whether they are being bugged by NSA? No, they don’t.

Does NSA have a culture in which national security is considered more important than reporting accurately to Congress? Yes, they do. If Congress establishes rules that NSA is required to follow, there is no actual oversight and NSA is not required to follow those rules unless they are unwilling to lie about it.

When Congress does “oversight” of a federal agency, they call members of the agency to talk to them, particularly senior members. They ask questions and the agency members answer them, talking in english. Congressmen tend to be lawyers with no practical experience of any kind, though that is not always the case. But when NSA does oversight of a federal agency, they actually observe what the agency is doing. It is a different kind of thing entirely.

It’s possible that what we used to think of as a republican form of government has been abandoned, leaving behind an empty shell of trappings where legislators argue about abortion and gun control.

In other threads it has been suggested that the National Security State is already controlling us. When I ask “how?” I am ignored.

If it’s happening it’s pretty much secret, so you wouldn’t have to notice it. Maybe if they had more control it would be a good thing some ways. If the Security State required you to get adequate exercise each day and a good night’s sleep, it would probably do you good. But in the short run, they might have control over their own budget and they might have control over Congress and the President and the Supreme Court, when they care to bother about those. Can you think of a way to test whether they do or not?

If you can’t tell one way or another, that does not at all make it unimportant. What you don’t know can hurt you bad.

151

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 11:37 pm

@143 Quick googling reveals that, aside from a couple “here’s the news from Ferguson” posts, no one has posted anything about “cops” since 2011. I wasn’t here then.

Do slower googling. You are wrong.

152

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 11:47 pm

@141 I seem to have misremembered my antagonists in this thread: http://crookedtimber.org/2014/05/28/george-packer-and-his-problems/

@146 I end up making these flippant comments whenever someone seems to characterize one of my comments as: unlimited domestic surveillance is good. Which is exactly what happened @130. I’m looking at you William Berry. No one likes to have their comments mischaracterized, including me.

@146 & @143 The post was about whether or not the critics of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald were sufficiently liberal. That is a dumb question in my opinion. As usual in threads about the NSA, it starts to sound like the surveillance state represents the end of the world. Perhaps no one in particular actually says as much, but that tends to be the tone. Government workers get called things like “sadistic morons”.

Is calling a bunch of public servants “sadistic morons” the exact same as saying “it’s the end of the world”? No, they are not the same words. Is it not “accurate” as Bruce Wilder says @144?

But then somebody comes in and says that “we talk about the cops all the time” (not identical with @143, but accurate? fair?) and that’s just not true. The fact of the matter is that the “surveillance state” is a particular hobbyhorse of the Crooked Timber community. That, no doubt, reflects the concerns of the far flung academics who make up the bulk of the contributors.

That perspective, the view from the vague academic aether, is, in my opinion, the source of the confusion in the article linked in the OP. So that’s what I’m aiming at in my comments.

As far as I know, I am the only person here who has practiced criminal defense law. That’s where the freedom rubber hits the jail cell road. That’s what the false statement that I pointed to @5 was about. Lots of people have gone to jail since the last criminal justice post here in 2011. Not a single one of them was jailed for national security journalism. Not a single one. (Now, criminal justice journalism and being black? That is punishable by jail in Ferguson MO.)

153

Rich Puchalsky 10.28.14 at 11:49 pm

Andrew F.: “So, I’d chalk up her selection for more extensive questioning at int’l entry/exit points to a combination of bureaucracy and a real incident, rather than “annoying” US officials.”

So I was wrong when I wrote that “this plausible reason was that they weren’t harassing her for reporting on this story: they were harassing her for reporting on another story”?

The problem that I have with apologetics of the form that Andrew provides is that they are stated as if they contradict what was said, but when they’re chased down, they don’t. She annoyed U.S. officials while working on a news story, so she is stopped and searched every time. Presumably she doesn’t have incriminating evidence about that Iraqi family on her, so the stop-and-searches are pointless except as harassment.

154

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 11:53 pm

Oh. And then I get to the bottom of J Thomas’s latest and find that my claim that the NSA does not have control of my actions is unsupportable because:

If it’s happening it’s pretty much secret, so you wouldn’t have to notice it.

But no one is saying that it’s the end of the world!

@151 Feel free to enlighten me with your superior search skills. In all seriousness, I am legitimately curious what this crowd has to say about criminal justice.

155

The Temporary Name 10.28.14 at 11:54 pm

Lots of people have gone to jail since the last criminal justice post here in 2011.

This is still wrong. Just leave it alone.

156

Bruce Wilder 10.28.14 at 11:56 pm

Andrew F. @ 149: . . . you’re kidding yourself if you think he didn’t compromise any “real secrets.”

Oooh, “real secrets”!!!

The special kind. With super-secret bad consequences.

157

gianni 10.28.14 at 11:57 pm

Relevant:

http://www.thenation.com/article/186129/snowden-exile-exclusive-interview

skip down to the bottom to see Snowden argue for a UBI, which is relevant to something I read in this thread but i can’t recall what (probably just the OP and its argument with one of those 3)

158

Thornton Hall 10.28.14 at 11:59 pm

@155 The Temporary Name

Uhm, speaking of sadistic morons, you’re going to tell me I’m wrong then walk away. Why am I wrong? Because The Temporary Name said so, now eat your vegetables?

Really?

159

The Temporary Name 10.29.14 at 12:03 am

Because The Temporary Name said so, now eat your vegetables?

Yes. It’s very much like a Thornton Hall argument isn’t it?

160

The Temporary Name 10.29.14 at 12:04 am

Just to be nice, here is some super-secret wisdom the NSA does not want you to know:

https://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en&fg=1

161

J Thomas 10.29.14 at 12:04 am

#154 TH

And then I get to the bottom of J Thomas’s latest and find that my claim that the NSA does not have control of my actions is unsupportable because:

“If it’s happening it’s pretty much secret, so you wouldn’t have to notice it.”

But no one is saying that it’s the end of the world!

I did my best to explain it as if you might have misunderstood, and you blew it off completely. I’m done with you on this, unless you say something that might inspire a response I think would interest somebody else.

162

geo 10.29.14 at 12:23 am

Anderson @125:

1) Snowden never intended to stay in Russia. He was on a flight from Hong Kong to Latin America when the US pulled his passport, preventing him from boarding the last leg of the flight. “Shack up with Putin” is completely unfair.

2) He had and has far too much valuable work to do outside prison to turn himself in. For a glimpse of what’s he’s busy with these days, and which would have been impossible in a US prison, see his just-published Nation interview: http://www.thenation.com/article/186129/snowden-exile-exclusive-interview.

163

William Timberman 10.29.14 at 12:30 am

Thornton Hall @ 152

Living in AZ as I do, I guess I qualify as being far-flung, but I’m not now, nor have I ever been an academic. I could cop to being one of bob mcmanus’s academic manqués I suppose, but only as a matter of occasionally sharing a perspective or two, not as a matter of failed ambition, my ambitions being of another kind altogether, and none relevant to this thread in any case. As for being numbered among your antagonists, my ambition doesn’t stretch that far either, although should the honor be thrust upon me, it would probably be ungracious of me to refuse it.

Finally, what DO you call someone who operates an Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, executes signature strikes on defenseless peasant villagers, and can’t prevent a young narcissist who, you claim, hasn’t a clue how the world really works from running off with 10 years worth of his dirty laundry and airing it on the Intertubes? Sadistic moron is close enough, at least for government work, no?

164

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 12:44 am

@160 That is exactly what I did.” site:crooked timber dot org, police or cops” Nothing since 2011 except for a couple of one paragraph bits about Ferguson quoting someone else and focusing on the narrow issue of SWAT militarization.

I could go through the comments to those, I suppose, to find out if, say, “Matt @143” shows some deep concern for the folks who actually get tossed in jail in this country, but my point was really about the blog posts themselves. And I’ve done a couple of different site specific searches. Now Holbo had something to say about cop shows on TV, and I’m sure I agree, but…

I think it is perfectly fair to say that the people who write this blog are focused on a narrow set of issues, and the way our criminal justice system works is not one of them. Which is fine, right up until the point where they start saying that something other than that system is taking away all our freedom. Then it becomes relevant.

165

Happy Jack 10.29.14 at 12:49 am

I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.

I can’t speak to signals outfits, but I would think someone watching satellite pics might have been hit with a cluestick. Then again, maybe not.

166

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 12:54 am

@163 Well, there is no evidence that Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were (or are) run by morons. And the torture that went on at both places was done by the CIA and the military, standard School of the Americas stuff that they taught to pretty much every bad guy in the Western Hemisphere before just going for it themselves, not the NSA.

And the killing of civilians is exactly what happens in war. That’s been more or less the point of war since at least WWII. If you go to war you kill civilians on purpose. It’s evil and it’s awful and it’s exactly what W. decided was a good idea. To say that Obama kept killing innocent civilians is simply to say that Obama prosecuted a war.

That’s what war is. You better have a good reason for it. If you are in the NSA or the Army, you kind of have to assume that we do, or else get another job. There’s a lot of rationalization that goes on, but it’s that rationalization that is the difference between a normal person doing evil things and a psychopath. It’s a fine line and a total mess.

Which is why both wars were terrible ideas. But the fact that Americans steadfastly refuse to connect the dots between going to war and doing what gets done in war is not evidence that the average guy at the NSA is either evil or incompetent.

Make no mistake, someone who has the perspective to know exactly what is going on and still does it, that person is either sadistic or a moron. Rumsfeld is not a moron. I had the chance to push him into traffic a few months back. I still don’t know if I made the right decision.

167

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 10.29.14 at 1:08 am

Rich Puchalsky @ 2:

Don’t forget “Green Lanternism” – Our President can’t do good things for us because of the conservative Dems in Congress, *eyeroll*, silly emoproggies!

Please ignore the facts that he filled his cabinet with conservaDems, campaigned for them, got rid of Howard Dean’s 50 State Strategy, and selected the execrable Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chair.
~

168

John Quiggin 10.29.14 at 1:14 am

Thornton Hall, just wondering

1. Is this 2014 post about criminal justice? http://crookedtimber.org/2014/05/20/stalinism-on-the-installment-plan/

2. Is there a finite number of examples that would cause you to admit your claim was bogus, or will you just keep shifting the goalposts?

169

LFC 10.29.14 at 1:16 am

TH @152
The fact of the matter is that the “surveillance state” is a particular hobbyhorse of the Crooked Timber community.

Not really. The individual Crooked Timber bloggers have different particular interests, and one of Henry Farrell’s particular interests is digital technology and its interaction with political and social issues, and his writing about Snowden and other “surveillance state” matters flows from that. Or such is my sense of the matter. Bloggers are human, after all, and no one can be in practice interested in everything. We all specialize, we all have our particular interests and, to use your word, ‘hobbyhorses’.

And, you should pause before making broad-brush statements such as the “point of all wars since WW2 has been deliberately to kill civilians” (paraphrasing, not verbatim). That’s simply wrong.

170

Sebastian H 10.29.14 at 1:19 am

He didn’t seek refuge in Russia. Any presupposition about his motives based on the idea that he sought out Russia is ill informed. Obama stranded him in Russia because he thought we might be able to get a hold of Snowden better by doing so.

171

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 1:26 am

@169 Total war is what it is.

I’m not saying I don’t paint with too broad a brush sometimes, but you’re crazy if you think the decision to go to war is not necessarily the decision to kill innocent civilians. The individuals involved have their rationalizations, and god bless em for it. If and when we have a good reason to go to war, those rationalizations save our American lives. But the people in charge know exactly what they are doing. And may God have mercy on their souls, when we don’t have a good reason.

172

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 1:29 am

@169 Say what you will about Howard Zinn but his description of the accuracy of being a bombardier in WWII at a Politics and Prose talk is always what I think about when I hear about “smart bombs” and “collateral damage.” And we didn’t even try to use euphemisms during “Shock and Awe.”

173

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 1:34 am

@168 I guess the shifting the goalposts line is about going from “the blog” to focusing on posts and not comments? I guess that’s fair.

And, yeah, Corey talking about user fees in court as Stalinism is about the criminal justice system in the same way that Diff’rent Strokes was about race relations. I mean, when you write about ideology, you write about ideology, and sitcoms aren’t documentaries.

I know, I know.

I am curious about the comments and will give them a perusal.

174

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 1:38 am

@168 Also, my claim was “bogus”? I mean, right there in the comment itself I admitted it was straight out of my ass. Or maybe “quick googling” changed meanings while I wasn’t looking?

Seriously, the piece you linked to is about criminal justice. I was wrong. That’s why I kept googling and asked The Temporary Name to point me to a post, I was not lying about being “honestly curious”. At least I don’t think I was.

175

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 1:43 am

@JQ Sample comments out of the thread you pointed me to:

David 05.22.14 at 2:28 pm
Are we uncritically using the term “totalitarianism” now? Gross.

50
Bruce Wilder 05.22.14 at 3:00 pm
No, we’re critically examining the inverted totalitarianism rapidly emerging in the United States.

176

dsquared 10.29.14 at 1:51 am

I think the fact that Russia was able to rapidly storm the Crimean peninsula with apparently next to no alarms going off in US and NATO signals intelligence outfits is a pretty strong indicator that Russia gained some pretty useful information out of Snowden.

Oh good heavens. Well, if I ever find myself owning a spare Hudson River crossing and poor liquidity in the secondary market, I know where to go to find a buyer.

177

heckblazer 10.29.14 at 1:56 am

Geo @ 162:
Snowden himself admits that interview that calling in to that Putin press conference was a bad idea that made him look like he was palling around with Putin.

According to the Associated Press Snowden’s passport was suspended shortly before he left Hong Kong, which makes me think the US’s goal was to prevent him from leaving there. Not having a passport shouldn’t have stopped Snowden from boarding the flight Equador, seeing as that’s the sort of thing that normally gets you deported, and Russia itself claimed to have no authority to detain him. He didn’t become truly stuck in Moscow though until three days later when, president Correa revoked Snowden’s travel pass after getting pissed off at Julian Assange for trying to run Equador’s foreign policy.

178

js. 10.29.14 at 3:30 am

I’m not up on the details of what Snowden revealed, but I would think if he was going to do that, he should’ve gotten the stuff disseminated and then turned himself in for detention and trial (if that’s even a necessary sequence in USA these days ..).

Other people have commented on this, but your own parenthetical gives the lie to the rest of the comment. Sure: if a fair and speedy trial is a reasonable expectation, then that ES turn himself in is perhaps a reasonable demand. But you yourself seem to recognize that the first isn’t on offer. So how the fuck is the second still reasonable?

179

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 3:30 am

@JQ if anyone is still reading my comments at this point, I’m going to reverse myself now. The fact that several open threads introduced by blurbs about Ferguson did not lead to comment streams representing a thorough back and forth over criminal justice in America is not evidence that people here don’t care about the issue. Everybody has their areas of focus. This platform should focus on what it wants to.

My moving the goal posts was to judge those blurbs as insufficient. It took a second for that to dawn on me.

180

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 3:35 am

Figured out the botched link in @71: as I expected, it did not actually contain the name of anyone killed because of wikileaks. I should have saved my time since it was from the “storm the Crimean peninsula” guy.

181

PatrickinIowa 10.29.14 at 3:59 am

This: “If you have a problem with Snowden, you should reflect for a moment on the system that created the possibility for Snowden to do what he has done. I could very easily understand someone deeply opposed to what Snowden has done who then concludes that the NSA is in need of a major institution-wide overhaul.”

If Snowden is an asshole (I have no idea, and I don’t care), then the NSA is running a system that regularly delivers people’s private information to assholes, and they use it the way they want, up to and including treason.

If Snowden isn’t an asshole, then the NSA is running a system that regularly delivers people’s private information to assholes and they use it the way they want, up to and including war crimes.

I don’t know: I suspect that someone who, trying to avoid being tortured in the US criminal justice system (look, I mentioned the cops!) winds up in Putin’s Russia probably isn’t all that naive. A tad unlucky maybe, but he could have wound up in worse places, that we don’t know about, because, you know secrecy.

Just to round the thing off–we are remembering that a few years ago the US security apparatus was shipping innocent people off to Syria to be tortured. Right?

182

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 4:07 am

js: “Other people have commented on this, but your own parenthetical gives the lie to the rest of the comment. Sure: if a fair and speedy trial is a reasonable expectation, then that ES turn himself in is perhaps a reasonable demand. But you yourself seem to recognize that the first isn’t on offer. So how the fuck is the second still reasonable?”

Because there’s no one who insists that you have to conform to the classic model for civil disobedience like someone who doesn’t believe in civil disobedience. People can diss Thoreau, and even the guy who wanted to hang all women who got abortions had some kind of delusional idea that he was influenced by Gandhi, but it’s been drummed in in America that MLK Jr. was like one of the Founders and many people have an idea that he turned civil disobedience into a kind of rule book. Step 1: have a loving heart, step 2: break unjust law, step 3: go directly to jail. If you don’t do step 3, you’re not doing it right.

183

gianni 10.29.14 at 7:59 am

@182 – you don’t even get to pass go and collect your 200$. (if anything, you probably end up paying your court fees. it’s as if America was run by a bunch of old monopolists wearing top hats and monocles…)

184

Brett Bellmore 10.29.14 at 10:32 am

“Just to round the thing off–we are remembering that a few years ago the US security apparatus was shipping innocent people off to Syria to be tortured. Right?”

And wants us to believe that nobody is being shipped off anywhere to be tortured anymore. But they weren’t really admitting to it back then, either. Seriously, you believe a government that thinks it’s entitled to extra-judicially assassinate citizens shrinks from torture?

185

Neel Krishnaswami 10.29.14 at 10:49 am

One of the very first things snowden released was details of NSA spying in China and Hong Kong that had nothing to do with domestic survellience.

Yes, he revealed that the NSA was hacking into Chinese hospitals and taking over their computers. If the US and China were at war, this would be a war crime — hospitals are inviolate under the Geneva conventions.

Sure, call Snowden a libertarian tool, but at least he had the minimal moral awareness that you don’t fucking mess with the life support systems of the critically ill.

186

Z 10.29.14 at 10:51 am

The article is really excellent, Henry. This paragraph, in particular, perfectly captures in my mind a crucial problem in the articulation between radical notions and moderate center-left politics

Each apparently believes that Greenwald’s and Snowden’s radical political beliefs show them to be paranoid demagogues, while their paranoid demagoguery demonstrates the worthlessness of their radical beliefs. This circular reasoning allows them to circumnavigate the difficult question of whether Snowden and Greenwald might be largely right, and what this might mean for liberalism.

187

heckblazer 10.29.14 at 11:42 am

Rich Puchalsky @ 180:

You must’ve figured out a different solution to the botched link than I did. The article I found (hopefully my link works) alleges that via Israel Shamir Wikileaks provided names of American “agents” to Belarus, and that this resulted in the death of Oleg Bebenin and the imprisonment of political dissidents like Andrei Sannikov and Vladimir Neklyayev.

Neel Krishnaswami @ 185:
I haven’t heard any allegations more specific than NSA hacking hospitals, which is something the Chinese Army itself has been known to do. If you have a reference for NSA sabotaging medical equipment I definitely would want to read it.

188

Ze Kraggash 10.29.14 at 12:53 pm

187 “alleges that via Israel Shamir Wikileaks provided names of American “agents” to Belarus, and that this resulted in the death of Oleg Bebenin and the imprisonment of political dissidents like Andrei Sannikov and Vladimir Neklyayev.”

This is utterly illogical. The names mentioned have been, for a long time, leaders of the anti-Lukashenko opposition; outright celebrities. Therefore:

If Lukashenko is such as terrible despot as he’s painted by the US imperial propaganda, then he didn’t need any cables to learn their names and imprison or assassinate them.

But if there was (as the newstatesman.com piece implies) indeed some important super-secret info about these people in the cables, then it could be only one thing: some sort of evidence that they were indeed CIA agents.

What gives?

189

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 1:03 pm

heckblazer: “The article I found (hopefully my link works) alleges that via Israel Shamir Wikileaks provided names of American “agents” to Belarus, and that this resulted in the death of Oleg Bebenin and the imprisonment of political dissidents like Andrei Sannikov and Vladimir Neklyayev.”

The article claims that a cache of unredacted documents was handed over in December 2010 and that the person who handed them over stayed to observe the elections in that month. It also says that Oleg Bebenin was found dead in suspicious circumstances months before the elections. Lukashenko’s dictatorship has committed many crimes, but that one was not even alleged to have been informed by wikileaks.

Andrei Sannikov was imprisoned after the elections for engaging in peaceful protest. It did not take wikileaks to bring him to the attention of the regime, since he ran in the elections in December 2010 and had the second highest number of votes after Lukashenko. Vladimir Neklyayev also ran in that election, and was put under arrest for post-election protests. Lukashenko’s regime, according to the article, used information from the wikileaks cables as propaganda against both men. But this information did not “result in their imprisonment”.

All of this is from that same article: I haven’t even attempted to find other sources impeaching the article itself. I think that we owe it to the victims of crimes in these kinds of dictatorships to read more carefully than you have rather than using their deaths or imprisonment as an easy source of propaganda.

190

Neel Krishnaswami 10.29.14 at 1:12 pm

heckblazer @187

I haven’t heard any allegations more specific than NSA hacking hospitals, which is something the Chinese Army itself has been known to do. If you have a reference for NSA sabotaging medical equipment I definitely would want to read it.

Edward Snowden made the accusation in his Guardian interview last year:

[Glenn Greenwald] Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities? […]

[Snowden] […] I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. […]

191

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 1:57 pm

“I think that we owe it to the victims of crimes in these kinds of dictatorships to read more carefully than you have”

Parenthetically, this is the second time in this thread that someone has tried to prove a point by linking to a source that directly contradicts the point. (The first being Thornton Hall’s link to a “non denial denial” that was actually a denial.) The first time I encountered this kind of thing was as a link to postal law in the old “Make Money Fast” letters once they went to the Web. As wiki says:

The text of the letter originally claimed this practice is “perfectly legal”, citing Title 18, Sections 1302 & 1341 of the postal lottery laws.[1] The U.S. Postal Inspection Service cites Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302 when it asserts the illegality of chain letters, including the “Make Money Fast” scheme

Is there a general name, yet, for this practice of linking to a source that directly contradicts what you’re saying and claiming that source as proof, in the hope that if anyone checks the source they won’t actually read it but instead just see that it says something about the topic? It’s a particularly well suited technique to the contemporary age (references to information expected to be easily available, short attention spans).

192

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 2:00 pm

Oh, and I even forgot about Andew F.’s claim that the alternate plausible reason that Poitras was being harassed wasn’t because she’d annoyed U.S. officials while doing journalism, supported by reference to an article that said that she annoyed U.S. officials while doing journalism.

193

Robert 10.29.14 at 3:03 pm

Thornton, search on Aaron Swartz up above. The brokenness of the U.S. criminal justice system is a personal matter for some here.

As I understand it, many defense lawyers these days operate with cell phones like drug dealers presumably do. They assume the NSA is tracking their calls, and so they buy disposable cell phones. Same goes for journalists.

As I understand it, the NSA or maybe the CIA or maybe the FBI – I obviously forget the details – is turning findings over to local police to initiate investigations. This evidence is not presented in courts – the cops and DAs, I guess, refuse to do their jobs – and so defense lawyers do not get to examine the evidence. Holder’s justice department, I gather, found out about this through the newspaper after they had assured the Supreme Court that if the clients in some case were being monitored by the NSA, they would say so. Whoops.

So the brokenness of the national security state and the brokenness of the criminal justice system are intertwined.

194

Andrew F. 10.29.14 at 3:11 pm

Rich @153: So I was wrong when I wrote that “this plausible reason was that they weren’t harassing her for reporting on this story: they were harassing her for reporting on another story”?

Yes. There was no problem with her reporting – as I said, they showed her film at military colleges, and not for the purpose of tearing it down.

Nor was the issue, as Henry stated, you repeated, and which is what I disagreed with, that Poitras “annoyed” US officials.

The issue was that military personnel suspected her of having advance knowledge of an attack on US forces, of having a close relationship to individuals who may have been involved in the attack, and of not only failing to warn US forces of the impending ambush but of setting up her camera to record the attack.

That’s not “being annoyed” nor is that an issue with her reporting. You see that, right? This isn’t “apologetics” on my part Rich, as you accused me of; this is simply stating facts.

I have little doubt that those sort of allegations, particularly given the sources, would have resulted in the checking of all kinds of boxes on forms that get filled out when a person’s name is added to a database either in the course of intelligence analysis or in the course of a criminal investigation – and those allegations would probably have triggered both.

Those checked boxes can result in a person being flagged at entry/exit points for varying levels of secondary screening for various intelligence and security purposes – and not because the individual is intended to be harassed.

Having those checkboxes removed is difficult – far too difficult, and there have been cases where an individual was barred from flying due to a box being checked in error (as told to me, though I haven’t read the reporting on it, the investigating special agent quite literally just checked a box that he did not intend to check – and this had deeply harmful consequences for her and took years of litigation to resolve).

So the issue was never “annoyance” nor was it a problem with her reporting. It was the combination of some truly serious allegations about a failure to warn the US of an impending attack and her relationship with those behind the attack, and an absolutely wretched bureaucratic apparatus for screening persons entering the US.

Let me be absolutely clear: I’m not defending either the allegations or that unwieldy monster of a bureaucratic apparatus. I’m noting that Poitras’s being flagged had nothing to do with Greenwald’s feverish descriptions of a surveillance state that seeks to intimidate dissent, and therefore that Henry’s use of Poitras as a counterexample to Kinsley’s (justified) shredding of Greenwald’s claims falls short of the mark.

And by the way, even if you didn’t know any of the above, your BS detector should be off the charts when someone tells you that documentary film-maker is being detained for hours by personnel (who are inundated with threat reporting) because officials were simply annoyed at her critical reporting (about the Iraq War in 2006 – when critical reporting about Iraq was oh-so-unusual).

Bruce @156: Oooh, “real secrets”!!!

The special kind. With super-secret bad consequences.

“Real secrets” was your phrase, not mine. And yeah, exposing them can have grave consequences. Are we really in disagreement about this?

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Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 3:36 pm

Andrew F.: “That’s not “being annoyed” nor is that an issue with her reporting. You see that, right? This isn’t “apologetics” on my part Rich, as you accused me of; this is simply stating facts.”

I see you restating lies, if that’s what you mean by “stating facts”. Assuming that she was harassed because of the Iraq incident rather than because of Snowden:

1. She was, indeed, working on a documentary (i.e. reporting) at the time she took the actions or inactions that annoyed U.S. officials. When they said that she should have used her journalistic contacts to warn U.S. troops rather than to do journalism, that was indeed a problem with her reporting, in the same exact sense as Greenwald claimed that she was being harassed because of her journalistic contacts with Snowden.

2. Despite the attempt to make the incident of her filming during wartime super-duper serious by claiming that she might have had pre-knowledge of an attack and failed to warn people, she was evidently never charged with a crime, let alone convicted.

3. The rest of your claim is verbiage that attempts to re-state facts as if they are different facts. The officials weren’t “annoyed” when they checked all those boxes that signed her up for unending harassment, they were super duper annoyed. And checking the boxes that resulted in her being stop-andsearched every time wasn’t harassment, it was an absolutely wretched bureaucratic apparatus that I guess just happened to predictably function as harassment.

Have you had legal training, Andrew? I would guess that you have.

196

J Thomas 10.29.14 at 3:46 pm

So, she consorted with Afghans, who were assumed to be the enemy. She did not spy on them for our forces, and she was suspected of spying on our forces for them.

If it was my job to do something about that, I would want to quietly watch her in case more evidence showed up. That means not warning her, of course.

And I would look for ways to give her false evidence she could pass on to the enemy, preferably false evidence that would kill them if they acted on it. Then if they do we get another small win, and we get confirmation of her actions, and it turns into a question whether to arrest her or try to use her again to mislead them. If too many of them get killed following her tips they’ll stop trusting her.

But apparently that wasn’t how they did it. They instead subjected her to treatment that has to be extremely annoying for her, and collects no evidence.

So it seems to me quite plausible that the airline checks really have nothing to do with what happened in afghanistan, but perhaps instead reflect somebody’s annoyance with her.

Or possibly the intention is to intimidate other journalists. “We can make your life much harder, on a whim. Don’t annoy us.”

Or possibly as you propose it was an accident, or just the normal blundering process of a system that mostly malfunctions. Maybe they weren’t actually annoyed enough to make trouble for her, maybe they were just too stupid to see how to avoid it.

It might not mean anything at all. “…a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.”

197

Earwig 10.29.14 at 3:53 pm

“People sometimes say I broke an oath of secrecy—one of the early charges leveled against me. But it’s a fundamental misunderstanding, because there is no oath of secrecy for people who work in the intelligence community. You are asked to sign a civil agreement, called a Standard Form 312, which basically says if you disclose classified information, they can sue you; they can do this, that and the other. And you risk going to jail. But you are also asked to take an oath, and that’s the oath of service. The oath of service is not to secrecy, but to the Constitution—to protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s the oath that I kept, that James Clapper and former NSA director Keith Alexander did not.”

198

TM 10.29.14 at 4:09 pm

JT 196, convincingly put. (Except the story was about Iraq, not Afghanistan.)

199

Ze Kraggash 10.29.14 at 4:14 pm

J Edgar Hoover didn’t do to Jane Fonda what they do to this Poitras person now. Back then, they monitored but didn’t harass. They are more aggressive now, compared to J Edgar.

200

The Temporary Name 10.29.14 at 4:15 pm

Israel Shamir’s website is worth looking at if you’re interested in discrediting Julian Assange, or interested in crazy people.

http://www.israelshamir.net

201

LFC 10.29.14 at 4:46 pm

Ze Kraggash 199:
J Edgar Hoover didn’t do to Jane Fonda what they do to this Poitras person now. Back then, they monitored but didn’t harass.

The idea that J. Edgar Hoover didn’t harass people is nonsense.

202

Corey Robin 10.29.14 at 4:50 pm

LFC: “The idea that J. Edgar Hoover didn’t harass people is nonsense.”

Seriously. Just read a few snippets from The Cointelpro Papers. Or google Martin Luther King and J. Edgar Hoover or the phrases “bad jacketing” and FBI.

That claim that they didn’t do harassment back then is historical amnesia of the highest order.

203

mattski 10.29.14 at 4:54 pm

J Edgar Hoover didn’t do to Jane Fonda what they do to this Poitras person now. Back then, they monitored but didn’t harass. They are more aggressive now, compared to J Edgar.

WTF?

http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/king/d1.html

http://forgottenhistoryblog.com/fbi-agents-once-secretly-tried-to-convince-rev-martin-luther-king-to-kill-himself/

204

Ze Kraggash 10.29.14 at 4:55 pm

My idea is (not sure how justified) that those he wouldn’t harass are now harassed.
And those he would harass, are probably jailed these days. And so on. IOW: escalation.

205

Roger Gathmann 10.29.14 at 4:57 pm

Snowden is not only a hero, in my opinion, but also entirely right. To set up a system in which a governmental agency can block completely any view of its doings, allowing it to trumpet its successes and black out its failures, is simply the road to disaster. We would have been infinitely better off if, in the summer of 2001, the NYT were reporting about the failures of the FBI and the CIA to communicate, and the CIA’s odd hoarding of information about various Al qaeda operatives. In fact, it is hard to see any foreign policy decision involving the intelligence agencies that would not have been better, or even blocked, by whistleblowers leaking “secrecy”. Secrecy does not guard us, it guards the guardians, and keeps them from facing responsibility.

206

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 5:19 pm

It amounts to this: Andrew F. wrote:

“You also claim that Poitras was repeatedly detained because of “the high crime of annoying” US officials. It is remarkable to read such a sentence in an article that purports to be taking others to task for failing to do their research. We actually don’t know why Poitras was detained and questioned, but there has been ample reporting on a plausible reason that has very little do with “annoying” US officials.”

He then described a plausible reason for Poitras to be detained and questioned: that she had committed the high crime of annoying US officials. He can’t say that she committed the actual crime of getting US troops killed by not warning them, or something like that, because he knows that this is an unsubstantiated story and that she was never charged with a crime.

HF originally wrote that “These claims rest on willful misreading, quote clipping and the systematic evasion of crucial questions. ” And Andrew F. has proved his claim by his own example.

207

Jeffrey Boyer 10.29.14 at 5:20 pm

I find the discourse about the politics, rather inane and mostly beside the point. At the core, what disturbs me the most, and what I would like to see discussed and rectified, is the mostly eradicated U.S. democracy and foundational law because I think the country started with fairly sound ideas for government and citizen representation.

I’m convinced that the droning (pun intended) conversations and debates about state secrets, the leaks, etc. is mere theater; the exclamations of atrocity and horror is feigned and undoubtedly most of the actors proclaiming such likely don’t really care. Granted, I’m sure there are some that truly believe that their well-intentioned government has been undermined, but I surmise these are merely the duly diligent, subservient authoritarians in the crowd. A glance at the evidence shown by the broader picture demonstrates that the upper reaches of U.S. bureaucracy could hardly care less of its unimport. Any such bellowing, likely serves a different purpose than a benevolent motive to protect the sanctity of the country’s purported mission of peace, good will and worldwide liberty for all.

There is far too much evidence to fully illustrate the futility of U.S. representative democracy and the charade of the leak scandals, but a summation of some examples gets us on the path toward that larger picture, illustrating the disparity between the theater and the opposing reality I see.

Everything recently revealed about the NSA was already spelled out in explicit and excruciating detail in Bamford’s 2008 book, The Shadow Factory. Bamford specifically recounts the trunk line tapping, the specific software and hardware techniques used, the conspiring with ISPs and cloud vendors, he elaborates the wholesale intrusion into foreign, domestic and world communications. Official outcries evincing foul for a 2012 leak that merely reiterated that same information is laughably disingenuous.

In Klayman v. Obama, Judge Leon frequently berates the NSA’s willful disobedience and outright lies, both in his court, and the secret FISA courts.

Judge Leon also evaluates that despite the NSA’s transgressions, offer null efficacy as they were unable to present any evidence their programs provide their purported benefits. The NSA’s massive budget funneled to a multitude of corporate contractors and ware suppliers provides nothing but business riches for the entitled corporations.

Implementation of formal Executive power to execute U.S. citizens without trial, without presented evidence. A lone individual, thousands of miles away, without an aircraft or force, a person without command of military, without effective means or weaponry to threaten, a person without power influence can be deemed a national threat and summarily terminated without recourse or knowledge of their supposed crimes.

Though not a lawyer, no amount of legal spaghetti logic can ever adequately reconcile this “policy’s” contradiction to the easily understood Bill of Rights.

Senator Wyden, and a few others, have continually decried and flailed against secret laws to no avail. How can any rational representative democracy even possess secret, unknowable law?

Thousands of arbitrary, non-law, policies that essentially contain force of law, enacted by the bureaucrats, not the people, yet cost the people trillions in DoD corporate contracts…corporations where these bureaucrats usually wind up serving after their ‘public service,’ thus luxuriously lining their own pockets with the policies they implement.

How can any rational representative democracy even possess policies, formed in closed rooms, that retain force of law if they cannot be seen and read by the people so they can ascertain their representatives are legislating desirable law, worthy of the people’s further vote and support?

An inability for the most expensive, most expansive, mightiest military force in the world, with the highest technology and advanced training, fails decade after decade to suppress a small force of far outnumbered Taliban ensemble that has no air force, no navy and no advanced weaponry. Yet the ‘experts’ continually advise the necessity of the effort, we continue to fail eradication year after year, and these ‘experts’ further espouse the necessity of another Iraq incursion, and Syria, and whatever country is next on the demonized list, and they will also continue to draw out for decades, and the experts continue to draw taxpayer money into the DoD corporate contractors that these experts currently work for.

There are countless, blatant corporate shenanigans and conflicts of interest that remain ignored as the people’s money flows by the trillions into the pockets of what can only be construed as a deliberate conspiracy:

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was drafted by Wellpoint insurance personnel, mandating private insurance as law, and by June 2014, Wellpoint stock hits its highest peak in 30 years.

The barrage of experts in the media, decrying Snowden, advising of action, such as: Chris Inglis, Bobby Inman, Crowell, William Black, Dave Aitel, Chertoff, have all revolved from director/ranking posts in government intelligence agencies, to corporate gigs, and in many cases volleyed back and forth a few times. In each of their intelligence roles, the fact that any policy that granted DoD contracts would directly benefit the same corporations they ultimately adhered to in the private sector. A perusal of many other touted experts reveals similar circumstance where their advisements will line their pockets.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, DODIG, DOJ and DDTC extensively document criminal ITAR proceedings against many DoD contractors. These contractors are charged and convicted of literally thousands of counts of illegal activity ranging from outright fraud, deliberate falsifications, illegally selling restricted/classified source code, hardware, specifications and techniques to a host of prohibited parties. These parties include: China, Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and in many cases, undocumented and unspecified brokers that can then sell to anyone without U.S. knowledge of the recipient or transaction.

A prime example of the most egregious crimes can be found in the cases and thousands of counts/convictions against Northrop-Grumman, yet Northrop continues to enjoy sitting at the top of the U.S. DoD contractor list, siphoning hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year. They are not terminated as a contractor and none of the guilty executive parties are imprisoned.

Seeking further, one finds overwhelming amounts of corroboration, from a vast array of arenas, that U.S. government by the people is fallacy; the people are craftily circumvented and swindled. So much so, that I can only conclude that the typical media noise is mock, politics is moot, and the entire scene played before the public is just that…a scene to distract from the complete scam that is U.S. government. To argue that the sheer magnitude of consequence for the repeated hypocrisy, repeated omissions, repeated lies, repeated aggressions, repeated transgressions, repeated lack of common sense, are all just unfortunate bureaucratic failures, unfortunate oversights, unfortunate human failings, the repetitive onslaught of similar ‘failures’ merely a coincidental happenstance, is weak and delusional when considering these are highly educated people, from top-flight universities and experienced, considered experts.

I grow weary of tracing nuance to the degree necessary to tease out valid, plausible justification for one point or another. Why not simplify, draw backward and if a root flaw presents to explain the illogic, contradiction and fallacy, then perhaps a hypothesis of complete rot and self-serving corruption is warranted when it more simply supports the symptoms and antics?

Cynical, or sensical?

208

mud man 10.29.14 at 6:21 pm

@John #15

The view from here, the Liberals are those who want things to be better but don’t want to change. Consequently it’s all about justification … rich people are necessary for a functional economy, we only support just wars, “peace will come when men of good will sit down together” and so on. They are the inertial force for ‘conserving’ the present, actually. I think ‘progressive’ is mostly just the new word.

The Left actually promotes change (as do the Neoliberals and other right-wingers). Lefties seem to want to achieve change through mass movements, and that won’t work in the present deconstructed environment either.

209

J Thomas 10.29.14 at 6:35 pm

Mattski #203

“J Edgar Hoover didn’t do to Jane Fonda what they do to this Poitras person now. Back then, they monitored but didn’t harass. They are more aggressive now, compared to J Edgar.”

WTF?

They didn’t have the expensive mechanisms in place to routinely harrass people every time they took an airline flight. It just wasn’t done.

They did do some other extremely bad things, but it’s like it was more done retail and not wholesale.

210

heckblazer 10.29.14 at 6:52 pm

Ze Kraggash @ 188:
“But if there was (as the newstatesman.com piece implies) indeed some important super-secret info about these people in the cables, then it could be only one thing: some sort of evidence that they were indeed CIA agents.”

I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what would have been in them, with the caveat that to someone like Lukashenko “evidence that they were indeed CIA agents” would be ” any sort of contact with or acceptance of money from a US government official or agency”. This article by Israel Shamirhimself would seem to confirm that US funding was indeed the damning info in the cables:

The dollars pour in from the State Department, the NED, from Soros and the CIA in an effort to undermine the last socialist regime in Europe. All this money keeps the opposition leaders in the style they are accustomed to, but once in a while they are expected to show their mettle.
Wikileaks has now revealed how this undeclared cash flows from US coffers to the Belarus “opposition”.

Former Wikileaks member James Ball confirms that Shamir had access to the cables:

Introduced to WikiLeaks staff and supporters under a false name, Shamir was given direct access to more than 90,000 of the U.S. Embassy cables, covering Russia, all of Eastern Europe, parts of the Middle East, and Israel. This was, for quite some time, denied by WikiLeaks. But that’s never a denial I’ve found convincing: the reason I know he has them is that I gave them to him, at Assange’s orders, not knowing who he was.

Neel Krishnaswami @ 190:
Thanks, but, uh, that’s still a general charge of hacking that doesn’t say NSA is targeting people’s life support or doing anything different than the Chinese did in the link I provided (they could well be, but Snowden is too vague to say) . I’d add that I disagree with Snowden that universities and businesses are categorically illegitimate targets; the military-industrial complex is not an uniquely American phenomenon.

Robert @ 193:
I don’t know about local police, but NSA has secretly given DEA and other federal law enforcement access to mass surveillance.

211

TM 10.29.14 at 7:17 pm

“Thanks, but, uh, that’s still a general charge of hacking that doesn’t say NSA is targeting people’s life support or doing anything different than the Chinese did in the link I provided (they could well be, but Snowden is too vague to say) .”

So if a Chinese Snowden had come, say, to the US to reveal the extent of Chinese spying on targets such as, say American hospitals, your opinion would be that this revelation was a massive breach of his duties toward the Chinese state, that such a breach of secrecy was utterly unjustifiable (since Chinese spy agencies were simply doing their job and engaging in the same kind of spying as their US counterparts were) and that the Chinese government was entirely in its right to seek the extradition and trial for high treason and life-long incarceration of such a traitor, and that the mere fact that he came to the US to elude Chinese prosecution was proof of his naivety or untrustworthiness or worse?

212

Donald Johnson 10.29.14 at 7:31 pm

“I apparently am happy and unusual in being able to accept that GG, Snowden, and the people running our military-surveillance complex are *all* assholes. “

I have a problem with this. GG is an obnoxious person, though no more so than some of the regular commenters (and many of his critics). Snowden is a person who might have revealed some “legitimate” secrets. (I don’t care, but maybe some do). The people who run our military-surveillance complex are in some cases war criminals or people who cover up for war crimes. It doesn’t seem to me to make much sense to lump them all into the same camp.

213

Matt 10.29.14 at 7:39 pm

“The NSA isn’t doing anything worse than China” is an absurdly low standard in the first place. This is parallel to those times in Gaza threads where Israel supporters damn it with the faintest praise — “behaving no worse than dictatorships or American war criminals.”

If Americans want protection against Chinese hacking, they need better computer security. The NSA hacking Chinese companies does nothing to protect American companies being compromised by Chinese hackers. What would help protect American companies is the NSA applying their expertise to hardening defenses and enabling best practices for security in systems widely used by Americans. That is actually supposed to be one of their missions. But they have neglected or actively undermined the defensive mission in favor of the offensive mission. They’re like a guy who moves into a neighborhood plagued by theft and instead of installing better locks and stronger doors, starts breaking into nearby houses to find out who the criminals are.

214

J Thomas 10.29.14 at 7:41 pm

GG is an obnoxious person, though no more so than some of the regular commenters (and many of his critics). Snowden is a person who might have revealed some “legitimate” secrets. (I don’t care, but maybe some do). The people who run our military-surveillance complex are in some cases war criminals or people who cover up for war crimes. It doesn’t seem to me to make much sense to lump them all into the same camp.

All, all are assholes and fall short of the glory of God.

215

Rich Puchalsky 10.29.14 at 7:43 pm

heckblazer “I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what would have been in them, with the caveat that to someone like Lukashenko “evidence that they were indeed CIA agents” would be ” any sort of contact with or acceptance of money from a US government official or agency”.”

So, as you continue on about this topic, you’re not going to apologize for accusing wikileaks of getting Oleg Bebenin killed, now that you’re presumably realized that Bebenin died months before Shamir handed the wikileaks cables over?

216

Ze Kraggash 10.29.14 at 7:49 pm

heckblazer 209, “with the caveat that to someone like Lukashenko “evidence that they were indeed CIA agents” would be ” any sort of contact with or acceptance of money from a US government official or agency””

When politicians and/or major media figures (or any other anti-government activists for that matter) of a small country are secretly – secretly – financed by government agencies of the unfriendly super-power – I’d call them American agents, not American “agents”. The evidence is rock-solid – to someone like Lukashenko, and to someone like me, and, I’m sure, to anyone who’d bother to think about it for a moment.

If these facts are revealed, it may endanger these agents – although, as Rich said (and I agree): in reality it didn’t matter a bit.

But if these facts are concealed, the followers of these foreign agents are unaware, and then, chances are, you’ll see another maidan/colored revolution with its likely, predictable consequences: cities burn, tens of thousands die, millions of refugees, the world comes closer to a nuclear war.

I believe Assange (and his friend, the enraged guy) made the obvious choice.

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Doug Weinfield 10.29.14 at 7:52 pm

About the cops: A quick search on Google yields 14 pages of links. Is your search technique the only thing you’re doing wrong?

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=site:crookedtimber.org+cops&safe=off&start=130

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Donald Johnson 10.29.14 at 7:56 pm

I’m not sure if someone has linked to this already, but here is an interview with Snowden at the Nation.

lin k

Actually, someone did mention it upthread–blaming Snowden for the oh-so-horrible crime of being naive when he asked Putin that question in the press conference.

Anyway, I found it interesting that Snowden admires the Occupy movement because it highlighted the issue of inequality. And here I thought he was supposed to be some far right libertarian type.

219

gianni 10.29.14 at 8:30 pm

I find it odd that some people here are ok with our intelligence agencies actively engaging in cyber-attacks on China, as if it were only natural that they were our enemy. Their espionage against us is not a reason to respond aggressively – that is an escalatory logic, and ignores the historical fact that the hegemon is always the target of espionage (think of all the industrial secrets stolen from England in early America).

I also find it odd that some people here are assuming that L. Poitras is naturally a participant in the wars of the US military. I always understood her to be a journalist/filmmaker type, not a soldier. And waving off the watch list as something obviously objectionable does not take away from the point that she is being continually harassed by the US government in a way that directly interferes with her work, and that agents of the US intelligence community could immediately change this but choose not to.

220

gianni 10.29.14 at 8:32 pm

also, the ‘Rich P. plays Whack-a-Mole’ sub-thread here is great.

221

The Temporary Name 10.29.14 at 9:10 pm

This article by Israel Shamir himself would seem to confirm that US funding was indeed the damning info in the cables: The dollars pour in from the State Department, the NED, from Soros and the CIA

I’d note the use of Soros here, as when you string the name together with a bunch of other things you don’t like it tends to just be an anti-left/anti-semitic tell, which is somewhat ironic as the cash begging at the top of the page mentions Soros in a less conspiratorial light. Whatever’s going on in Shamir’s head, I don’t know that I’d rely on him to confirm anything about anything.

That’s not to pile on to heckblazer, who I think is honestly posting things worth arguing about.

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Bruce Wilder 10.29.14 at 9:40 pm

Rich Puchalsky is really good at Whack-a-Mole and that’s been very useful in this comment thread. Thanks to him.

223

Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 9:58 pm

@216 Your search pulled up a couple of links that mine didn’t, like one from Belle about George Zimmerman. But if you look at it again, I think you’ll see that my basic point was at least arguably true: nothing particularly substantial since 2011.

Then I changed my mind and realized it’s fine that there’s been nothing particularly substantial since 2011. It’s not the area of focus for any of the bloggers. Why would somebody who is the Internet like Henry not focus on the NSA?

What I was really frustrated about is out is the OP itself, actually. And that morphed into something unjustified.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 9:59 pm

@Willliam Timberman
In case it’s not already clear, I was directing frustration your way that wasn’t justified. I had mixed you and Bruce up in my mind. Basically because he has agreed with me on some things, I forgot he was the one calling the NSA the end of the world.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 10:05 pm

@191 Whoa. Glenn Greenwald can say his support for the Iraq war was because he trusted the government and that makes it false to accuse Glenn Greenwald of supporting the Iraq war? As they say, WTF?

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 10:07 pm

@205 AS I remember, in 2001 it was the Nation that reported that the FBI has successfully derailed 131 terror plots before one slipped thru on 9/11.

227

PatrickinIowa 10.29.14 at 10:07 pm

Brett, I think you’re right about this, and I hope to Moloch someone leaks proof:

“And wants us to believe that nobody is being shipped off anywhere to be tortured anymore. But they weren’t really admitting to it back then, either. Seriously, you believe a government that thinks it’s entitled to extra-judicially assassinate citizens shrinks from torture?”

If I were a member of the House of Representatives, and a bill of impeachment were presented to me based on the president’s proven complicity in torture, I’d vote for impeachment. If I were in the Senate, I’d vote to convict. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and all the rest of the bastards.

A fantasy, of course, but hey, I’d do it.

That’s probably one of the multitude of reasons I’ll never be elected to either body. That and the socialism thing.

228

Andrew F. 10.29.14 at 10:19 pm

Rich @206: He then described a plausible reason for Poitras to be detained and questioned: that she had committed the high crime of annoying US officials. He can’t say that she committed the actual crime of getting US troops killed by not warning them, or something like that, because he knows that this is an unsubstantiated story and that she was never charged with a crime.

I have a comment stuck in moderation from earlier today, but I’ll respond here with an abbreviated version.

Greenwald’s argument: omnipresent surveillance state silences criticism by deliberately targeting, threatening, and harassing dissidents.

Henry cites Poitras’s treatment as evidence.

Problem: Poitras’s addition to a watchlist had nothing to do with any criticism she made of the United States. Instead it derived from allegations that she was given foreknowledge of an attack on US troops, and set up her camera in advance to film the attack. This would potentially implicate her in a criminal act, and certainly would make her of interest to intelligence agencies.

The purpose of these watchlists is, in part, to push intelligence out to personnel in the field. They aggregate intelligence from numerous sources, combine it in some manner, and provide certain indicators when a person presents her passport for re-entry (or identification to board a flight, etc).

So in the course of whatever investigation those allegations prompted, someone filled out a form, and checked some boxes, and Poitras ended up on a list. That’s all it would have taken.

My negative view of the current system should be clear from the comments I’ve already made.

Rich’s comments range from the irrelevant (claiming that she was placed on the watchlist because of her reporting, under a broad definition of reporting not relevant to the issue at hand) to the rude (numerous examples above) to the stupifying (soldiers reporting that Poitras not only let them walk into a kill-zone, but set her camera up to capture the moment, were simply annoyed).

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 10:24 pm

@227 Don’t you get it? If you try to understand how the government, er, regime, actually works, then you must support it.

If you don’t support the surveillance state then you must always suspect the worst. Or else you do support it. QED

230

Roger Gathmann 10.29.14 at 10:27 pm

225 – you think you remember?
Here’s a link from ABC news about what the CIA knew that it wasn’t informing the FBI about: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=129563
If in the summer of 2001 a story had leaked that the CIA suspected that terrorists involved in the attack on the US Cole, Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Al-Midhar, had been tracked to San Diego, California but had refused to inform other US agencies, no doubt the CIA would have had a fit, and have announced that the leak had spoiled seventy five current operations and put 410 people’s lives in danger, yadda yadda yadda. Of course, it would have prevented 9/11. And since it would have, everybody would be arguing about whether the leaker had endangered US lives and should be persecuted, without any consciousness of the benefit deriving from that leak.
I think we have to go on what we know, and what we know is that our intelligence agencies are both terrible bunglers and responsible for involving the US in foreign policy crisis after crisis. To give them the power to decide what information we have about them is not a good idea.

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Andrew F. 10.29.14 at 10:29 pm

gianni @218: And waving off the watch list as something obviously objectionable does not take away from the point that she is being continually harassed by the US government in a way that directly interferes with her work, and that agents of the US intelligence community could immediately change this but choose not to.

Actually once an article (by Greenwald I believe) was published about her continued selection at border re-entry points, her status was altered. Oh, the crushing malevolence of that diabolical surveillance state.

In any event, far too much space in this thread has been devoted to discussing unproven allegations about someone who, while I disagree with many of the judgments she’s made on this story and this issue, does appear to be a good and decent human being.

There are better things to discuss and better ways to discuss them.

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The Temporary Name 10.29.14 at 10:29 pm

Your search pulled up a couple of links that mine didn’t

As will more searches using words like “police” or “criminal” or “justice” or string ’em all together with a properly capitalized OR.

Bruce Wilder said the NSA was the end of the world where?

233

Donald Johnson 10.29.14 at 10:53 pm

“If you try to understand how the government, er, regime, actually works, then you must support it.”

Whether it’s the US in the Mekong Delta or Israel in Gaza or petty harassment of journalists at airports , you can generally count on Andrew F to rationalize it.

As for your position, Thornton, it seems to be that GG and Snowden are terrible people because the government has done worse things than anything Snowden has revealed.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 10:59 pm

@231 Does it make you feel good about yourself to go into detail about my use of Boolean search logic last night a 1AM? Because I can’t imagine what other purpose your obtuse literalism is serving.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 11:01 pm

@232 Actually, my position is this:

Trying to figure out why a bunch of Jewish guys became “national security liberals” in 2001 and what it means for the left is dumb.

The security state is a waste that intrudes on our privacy for no good reason.

People who think the worst about everyone who serves in the government are jerks.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 11:06 pm

@232 Also, dancing around in intellectual circles when you could just realize that journalists are idiots selling newspapers (usually) is silly.

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Donald Johnson 10.29.14 at 11:12 pm

“Trying to figure out why a bunch of Jewish guys became “national security liberals” in 2001 and what it means for the left is dumb”

WTF? You know what is dumb? Typing comments that cover virtually every random thought you’ve ever had on political issues and expecting people not to be annoyed.

“People who think the worst about everyone who serves in the government are jerks.”

Who said that? And more important, who cares? We’ve got a government that has committed war crimes, covers up for its war crimes, and prosecutes whistleblowers and you in your utterly weird sense of moral purity or whatever the hell it is think it is really important to make a point about some hyperbolic statement that someone somewhere might have said about government workers.

I don’t know how to block your posts–I guess I’ll go the low tech way and just skim past them.

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The Temporary Name 10.29.14 at 11:12 pm

@231 Does it make you feel good about yourself to go into detail about my use of Boolean search logic last night a 1AM? Because I can’t imagine what other purpose your obtuse literalism is serving.

Countering bullshit is a reasonable thing to do, yes? It’s like bullshit bingo.

This may help: http://www.stoa.org.uk/topics/bullshit/

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 11:15 pm

@237 Thanks. I think I’m getting better now. You’re a helpful guy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 11:19 pm

@236 Who cares? I think the guy @232. But I’m bad with bullshit. Ask The Temporary Name. He’ll help you out. He’s a swell guy.

Yes, I am well aware that no one said “everyone”. In fact, I am aware that no one even thinks that. But I typed it anyway. And economists think we’re rational.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 11:21 pm

And you don’t like war crimes. Me neither. See @166.

242

Matt 10.29.14 at 11:43 pm

@TH I think you did well at 179. Few people in the midst of a heated discussion will actually reconsider their position, or admit it after the fact. I have tried to include myself in the ranks of those few. If you are feeling unfairly beleaguered at this point, well, I noticed the change at least.

243

heckblazer 10.29.14 at 11:46 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 191:
In my case I believe it would be called “sloppy citation”. I include links so you can read things yourself and call me out if I screw up.

Rich Puchalsky @ 214:
I will apologize right here: I fucked up by skimming without re-reading, and wrongfully said Wikileaks was responsible for the murder of Beibinin. Furthermore a more accurate summary would be that the cables bolstered already active persecution of opposition leaders and did not trigger it.

That said, I find the idea that Lukashenko can make up an excuse to persecute someone, therefore handing him an excuse doesn’t matter a weak defense at best. That’s especially true since the allegation is that Wikileaks leaked secret cables to a dictator in advance of publication.

Unredacted cables should not have been made available to anyone. To quote former Wikileaks staffer James Ball:

These cables contain details of activists, opposition politicians, bloggers in autocratic regimes and their real identities, victims of crime and political coercion, and others driven by conscience to speak to the US government. They should never have had to fear being exposed by a self-proclaimed human rights organisation.

TM @ 210:
No, I wouldn’t demand a Chinese Snowden be sent back to China, but then again I’m not demanding the American Snowden return to America either. I would expect the Chinese to not be terribly happy about the defection though, and that they would ask Chinese Snowden to quiet down in the name of patriotism :).

Matt @ 212:
“The NSA isn’t doing anything worse than China” is an absurdly low standard in the first place”

I was thinking more “China is at least as bad as the US” and “people hack hospitals for data not sabotage”, but yeah we should aim a bit higher, and in particular not engage in mass surveillance like the Chinese did in their hospital data grab.
I also won’t disagree with sentiment that NSA should do more defensive stuff. However, I think that hacking information is legitimate and that accessing business and research university computers can provide useful intelligence, such as info on weapons research, manufacturing capabilities, and counter-industrial espionage, to pick a few possibilities off the top of my head. The devil, of course, is in the redacted details.

The Temporary Name @ 220:
You’re right about the “tell”, he’s a raging anti-Semite. I briefly perused his website and in a response to one of his critics (charmingly entitled “A Boston Bitch”) he wrote “ACLU is run by Jews for Jews and being supported by rich Jews to the tune of 85 million dollar a year”. I decided to stop reading the site once I got to that. If you read Shamir’s article in Counterpunch that I quoted above it paints Lukashenko as a benevolent ruler who won a free and fair election and put down the subsequent protests with minimal violence, so I agree that in general he isn’t a reliable source. However, as he is the person alleged to have delivered the cables from Wikileaks to Lukashenko I think we can trust him when he says that Lukashenko did receive cables from Wikileaks, and that Shanir’s opinion of their import reflects that of the regime.

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Thornton Hall 10.29.14 at 11:55 pm

@242 Thanks.

245

Rich Puchalsky 10.30.14 at 12:33 am

heckblazer @ 243:

I have no trouble with “Unredacted cables should not have been made available to anyone.” That’s arguable, but it’s a much different kind of claim than saying that the cables got a person killed who they could not possibly have gotten killed.

The reason it’s arguable is that the unredacted cables were already being distributed, as Bruce Wilder wrote upthread, to a huge number of people. (If I remember rightly, something like 5 million people have the required security clearance.) He also mentioned that every Soviet subverted by the CIA was killed. Perhaps we shouldn’t be producing this dangerous database in the first place since our system is demonstrably incompetent to protect it. Perhaps wikileaks saved lives by warning people that the U.S. government wasn’t going to preserve secrets that could get them killed.

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The Temporary Name 10.30.14 at 12:33 am

However, as he is the person alleged to have delivered the cables from Wikileaks to Lukashenko I think we can trust him when he says that Lukashenko did receive cables from Wikileaks, and that Shanir’s opinion of their import reflects that of the regime.

It’s still difficult for me to think he’s doing anything coherent and that he can speak honestly about his own motivations. He’s a right-wing and left-wing maniac at once. However he seems like the proverbial bomb in the first act that must go off by the last. If he was in Belarus at the time why wouldn’t he cause trouble?

247

J Thomas 10.30.14 at 12:34 am

[Snowden] […] I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. […]

I think if you can actually get hospital data without harming anybody, that’s potentially very useful.

Like for chemical attacks, and nuclear accidents etc. If we could get hospital data from Ukraine after Chernobyl, from Syria after alleged chemical attacks, from Japan after Fukushima, that’s truthful data at times when we can’t necessarily trust governments to tell us the truth if they even know it.

On the other hand, mistakes that crash hospital systems would be war crimes if we were at war. When we aren’t at war that makes them something worse…. In some ways it doesn’t count if it’s an accident. But the consequences are just exactly as bad, and at some point people who’re accident-prone have a responsibility not to attempt daring exploits.

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J Thomas 10.30.14 at 12:38 am

I’m getting the general impression that we are mostly agreed on the important things, and we tend to get upset about minor unimportant things. Opinions about Snowden and GG are minor and unimportant, despite the OP being about them.

Here is a more important question:

Are there people here who believe that the US intelligence-and-security organization deserves our trust?

249

ZM 10.30.14 at 12:45 am

I am wondering if we could have less surveillance of the Internet by having more regulation and informal oversight of the Internet instead?

In Elizabethan times they did not have such a lot of laws and regulations as we have now, but they had much more spying in place. People rightly do not like spying – one because it is unpleasant to be spied upon, two because information can be fabricated, and three because of too much discretionary authority given to spying bodies and information being withheld from the public.

From Elizabethan times until now we have increased laws and regulation and also voluntary civic bodies such as neighborhood watch or techniques of passive surveillance or ‘eyes on the street’ to increase safety and discourage untoward actions. So until this internet spying, spying was on a downward trajectory.

Why can’t we regulate the Internet in a similar way to increase safety and decrease the utility to government of spying?

There would be some resistance , but possibly workaround solutions could be found. Such as poor people now have more access to knowledge sometimes including through irregular downloading – but you could make it a part of giving out a license to have an Internet site (likewise give out a license to have a liquor selling venue) that special conditions apply to poor people and they can download the book at a much discounted rate, or something like that.

If the internet is more regulated, spying is not going to have the utility it has presently. But you would need international regulations.

250

The Temporary Name 10.30.14 at 12:46 am

A relevant link in the Shamir subtopic:

http://charter97.org/en/news/2010/12/19/34798/?1

251

christian_h 10.30.14 at 12:52 am

Henry: thanks. As to the discussion in this thread in general I am with Rich – it is bordering on shameful. We have all the usual stuff – drive by ad hominems aimed at Snowden and Greenwald, paired with whining about Greenwalds allegedly vicious style of arguing; defenses of supposedly “legitimate” intelligence gathering. (News flash: there is no such thing, period, outside tactical intelligence during war maybe.) Insinuations that Snowden (or The Nation or whoever else) secretly works for Putin (likely by the same people sneering at the conspiracy theories on RT). Etc.

252

christian_h 10.30.14 at 12:59 am

Also seriously – Israel Shamir? How does an absolutely blatant anti-Semitic nutcase nobody in the left will touch with a barge poll make its appearance here as some kind of witness for the character prosecution? Christ.

253

christian_h 10.30.14 at 12:59 am

Barge pole obviously. I blame autocomplete.

254

The Temporary Name 10.30.14 at 1:01 am

Also seriously – Israel Shamir?

He’s an interesting story to me, not a case against Greenwald or Snowden. I think Henry’s article is good.

255

christian_h 10.30.14 at 1:05 am

I see – sorry The Tempoarary Name.

256

The Temporary Name 10.30.14 at 1:26 am

No offence taken Christian.

257

TM 10.30.14 at 2:20 am

heck 243: “I think that hacking information is legitimate and that accessing business and research university computers can provide useful intelligence, such as info on weapons research, manufacturing capabilities, and counter-industrial espionage, to pick a few possibilities off the top of my head.”

I didn’t expect such a blunt statement but at least we have clarified that…
Of course you will agree that if “hacking is legitimate” for the reasons you stated, you cannot avoid concluding that Chinese hacking of US targets is exactly as legitimate. You can’t have it both ways. To attack Snowden from that perspective is an … interesting position to hold.

258

The Temporary Name 10.30.14 at 2:52 am

Snowden showed people that a crime was committed against them and everyone they knew, apparently in their name (as voters). I would view a fishing expedition into a university server as less legitimate than that.

259

gianni 10.30.14 at 3:01 am

@256 ‘you can’t have it both ways’

Unless, of course, you assume from the outset that *they are the enemy*, which is probably what is going on, either admittedly or just implicitly. Once this is assumed, our hacking is a proportional response, theirs an aggression and violation. Once this is assumed, Snowden telling China that the NSA is screwing with hospital and university computers is obviously treason, as he is fraternizing with the enemy.

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Thornton Hall 10.30.14 at 3:22 am

@256 There are two different arguments that aren’t really speaking the same language. Nor can they.

If we live in a world of shared humanity, all struggling to get to mutual well-being, then in makes sense to have normative rules that apply equally, everywhere, to everyone, in the same way across contexts.

If, however, we live in a world of competing nation-states, which is not zero-sum but not everybody wins, then words like “legitimate” don’t mean the same thing when applied by members of one nation-state against the other.

To work at the NSA or defend their existence, you have to at least partially live in the second world. The first world is better, and most people here view the world that way, but, obviously, the NSA exists, so we don’t live in that world.

I’d personally like to move from the second to the first.

261

Rich Puchalsky 10.30.14 at 3:49 am

Andrew F.: “In any event, far too much space in this thread has been devoted to discussing unproven allegations about someone who, while I disagree with many of the judgments she’s made on this story and this issue, does appear to be a good and decent human being.”

Andrew F. thinks we’ve spent too much space discussing the unproven allegations that he brought up about this good and decent human being.

A comedy to those who feel, a tragedy to those who think. What did Greenwald really say about this? One article is here. Let’s see the first graph:

One of the more extreme government abuses of the post-9/11 era targets U.S. citizens re-entering their own country, and it has received far too little attention. With no oversight or legal framework whatsoever, the Department of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return to the U.S. after an international trip, and then copies and even seizes their electronic devices (laptops, cameras, cellphones) and other papers (notebooks, journals, credit card receipts), forever storing their contents in government files. No search warrant is needed for any of this. No oversight exists. And there are no apparent constraints on what the U.S. Government can do with regard to whom it decides to target or why.

Note: Andrew F. agrees, factually, that all of this happens. That’s what all of his bit about the checkboxes is about. Here’s a much later paragraph:

But Poitras’ work has been hampered, and continues to be hampered, by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimidation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country. Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” [the Iraq documentary] Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents

Andrew F. also agrees, factually, that all of this happened. It stopped happening to Poitras after Greenwald made it into a scandal, yes. Andrew F. apparently thinks that this indicates something good about our system.

So what’s Andrew F.’s story about the unproven allegations? That soldiers saw a woman filming from a rooftop, assumed that this was Poitras and that she hadn’t warned them of the ambush that caused several casualties, got very angry, and checked various boxes that signed her up for harassment from then on. Andrew F. says it’s “stupefying [to say that] (soldiers reporting that Poitras not only let them walk into a kill-zone, but set her camera up to capture the moment, were simply annoyed).”

But Andrew F. seems to have added some color of his own to these allegations. Here’s a reported story about them. It says that “For several months after the attack in Adhamiya, Poitras continued to live in the Green Zone and work as an embedded journalist with the U.S. military.” That’s a verifiable fact. So, in fact, whatever boxes were checked were not checked by soldiers angry about the ambush. She continued on with those same soldiers, supposed security threat and all, for months afterwards.

So who did check the harassment boxes? The harassment seems to have started around an investigation of these events, years later. This investigation found nothing of note, as far as we know, and no charges were filed. There is no particular reason to think that repeated searches of whatever Poitras carries onto a plane would turn up anything about this. But that’s when it started.

Now, according to Andrew F., we can’t say that Poitras was being harassed because U.S. officials were annoyed at her journalism. I don’t know how she was supposed to do her journalism without being in close contact with the Iraqi she was in close contact with, who (for all I know) may well have been connected to the insurgents. No doubt she could have gotten some compelling journalistic insight into the war if she’d always stayed within the Green Zone, right? Wrong. So she had to be out there, quite possibly on that rooftop, close to that Iraqi family, and getting suspected of being a criminal as a result.

Now, what would you think of a cop who did an investigation of a murder suspect, found no evidence sufficient even to charge them, but brought them in to the station and searched them on every opportunity forevermore? Would you say that this person was being harassed because they annoyed this official? Yes, I think you would.

But Andrew F. says that we can’t say this. Why? Because although we’re in agreement about every matter of fact — except the one that Andrew introduced about the angry soldiers on the spot, which seems to be a teensy little bit wrong — we can’t say it.

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The Temporary Name 10.30.14 at 4:37 am

If, however, we live in a world of competing nation-states, which is not zero-sum but not everybody wins, then words like “legitimate” don’t mean the same thing when applied by members of one nation-state against the other.

Part of the point, though, must be that the populace is part of the American nation-state, and supposedly has some say in what is done in their name, and in legitimacy. It’s a pretty safe bet that nobody wants the NSA going through their stuff in the name of going through stuff in China.

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Andrew F. 10.30.14 at 6:29 am

Rich – the very article you cite makes it clear that she was investigated because of those allegations. If you think investigators from a JTTF would be merely “annoyed” by the allegations (which were not simply that she was close to an Iraqi), you’re mistaken; if you think the soldiers who reported the allegations were merely “annoyed” you’re mistaken. The allegations are deeply serious, and everyone involved would have taken them as such.

You also don’t seem to grasp that once a person is placed on a watchlist it is extremely difficult to have her removed. There is no conscious decision to keep a name on the list, as in your analogy of a sheriff repeatedly hauling someone into a police station for questioning.

Finally, you don’t seem to understand that the purpose of being on the watchlist is not so that she can be searched for evidence pertaining to the original allegations. In fact there seems to be very little about this that you understand at all.

The bottom line here Rich is that her detainment at airports (in one case for the brutal length of two hours) had zero to do with any criticism she may have made about the United States. That’s it. That ends this ridiculous drawn out action of yours to somehow preserve her as an instance of Greenwald’s absurd argument.

All of this background aside, it surpasses my understanding that anyone could buy such an utterly ridiculous argument. Criticism of the Iraq War was and is rampant, and the notion of US officials seeking to silence critics by having them selected for secondary screening at airports is so far-fetched and absurd that it is almost depressing that such a theory could receive column inches outside a tabloid or a conspiracy rag.

Now, if you wish to adhere to such a belief yourself, it’s your mind and you may populate it as you wish. But this detour is wrecking the thread, and if you wish to indulge in fantasy and conspiracy theories there are more suitable sites.

264

Asteele 10.30.14 at 7:03 am

There is not a single person alive that does not grasp: once you are put on a watch list, it is difficult to remove you, oh so, so difficult.

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J Thomas 10.30.14 at 7:18 am

#263 Andrew F

You also don’t seem to grasp that once a person is placed on a watchlist it is extremely difficult to have her removed. There is no conscious decision to keep a name on the list, as in your analogy of a sheriff repeatedly hauling someone into a police station for questioning.

So the argument here is that it was not intended as harrassment because it’s set up by accident to harrass people more or less at random, with no real intentionality on anybody’s part. They weren’t trying to harrass her because the system is set up to automatically harrass pretty much anybody who has ever been investigated.

The bottom line here Rich is that her detainment at airports … had zero to do with any criticism she may have made about the United States.

How do you know? Did the people who made the decision publicly claim the reasons they had for it? Or did you assume you knew their reasons by looking at the circumstances around them?

I could make up reasons why you are arguing the point, from my study of your psychology in your posts on CT, and looking at the circumstances around you, plus making reasonable assumptions about the ways reasonable people who aren’t you would think and applying them to you. I think it would be kind of insulting to do that, though. Aren’t you making assumptions about the anonymous individuals who investigated her, and who made a secret report about her?

I think you could reasonably argue that nobody knows why they did whatever they did, though people who have the right security clearance could look at the records they left behind and make better guesses from that. You could say

“You have no right to assume that it happened because somebody was annoyed, because there is no way for anybody to know what happened or why it happened. It’s basicly secret. They can decide to do things that have the effect of harrassing anybody they want to, and they are not responsible to anybody except their secret supervisors. So if you say that it was done for revenge, or because they were annoyed, or on a whim, you have no basis for that claim. You don’t know why it happened. Nobody knows why it happened. They have no obligation to tell anybody why it happened. It’s secret.”

I think that claim would be defensible. But when you say you know why it happened, and you can prove that it wasn’t the reason somebody else thinks it happened, then you’re going beyond the evidence.

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Bruce Wilder 10.30.14 at 7:19 am

There is not a single person alive that does not grasp . . .

Oh please, of course, there are plenty of people, who don’t grasp the implications, including apparently intelligent, accomplished, college-educated people. It’s authoritarianism — not a political philosophy, but a cluster of psychological attitudes associated with fear and subordination.

Make people feel fearful and dependent enough and they won’t get it. Just like they won’t understand why the rights of criminal suspects should be respected, and they will tell themselves if only the Czar knew how the Cossacks were treating people, he would intervene . . .

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J Thomas 10.30.14 at 7:44 am

#260 Thornton Hall

If we live in a world of shared humanity, all struggling to get to mutual well-being, then in makes sense to have normative rules that apply equally, everywhere, to everyone, in the same way across contexts.

In that world, governments might still lie sometimes to avoid embarrassment etc. And those lies could have bad consequences. Nations have a bad habit of lying about nuclear accidents in the early stages, for example. They quite reasonably feel their jobs will be harder to do if there is a panic. But then the rumors start, and people who believe that their government would lie to them start a panic.

In that circumstance anybody who can look at the real records and tell people the truth, is doing the world a service. Probably. Maybe the truth would cause a panic which would be worse than the lies. My guess is that we would be better off having truth to base our choices on, though, rather than lies.

In a good world where people lie a lot, and where the lies sometimes have a great big impact, we might design our systems to deal with that. So for example, hospitals might arrange that it’s much easier to get statistical evidence about what they are doing, than individual patient data. Make public the data which is most generally useful. The data which is not that important for privacy purposes but which is useful for special purposes should be harder to get but available with a lot of effort, and the things which are nobody’s business (particularly patient identity and credit card numbers etc) should be protected as well as possible.

If there are rumors about a nuclear accident in the USA, then it’s not shameful for the Canadian government and the Chinese government and the Mexican government to snoop hospital records etc. Or for that matter any private individuals who have the capability. If it was a false alarm they can apologize later for doubting the US government.

On the other hand if they are looking through patient records to help them insert spies in the USA, or falsifying records for the same purpose, or trying to do sabotage, that would require an apology of a different order.

In a good world where people lied a lot, it would make sense to think out ahead of time distinctions among kinds of data.

1. Things the public has a right to know.
2. Things people might reasonably want to know sometimes.
3. Things that are none of anybody’s business.

The third should be as private as we can make them. The second should get some protection — since we have some right to have our lies undiscovered unless it’s important not to. The first should be public.

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Andrew F. 10.30.14 at 11:28 am

J Thomas, my conclusion derives from what we do know about the purpose of watch lists, how persons are added, and the sheer number of critics, some far more vociferous than Poitras was in 2006 (again, whose film was shown by the US military as part of some of its graduate courses). In Poitras’s case there is an immensely obvious explanation for her addition that fits perfectly with everything we know about them.

The alternative, that she was added because she was critical of the US, does not fit with those facts and frankly does not make much sense given the number of other critics, very few of whom are on any watchlists at all. Adopting this alternative, imho, indicates a lack of familiarity with what we know about watchlists. I’m tempted to add that those who view themselves as in some manner anti-establishment tend to have an exaggerated sense of how important/threatening they and their views are to anyone else, leading them to give credence to explanations that are not justified by the facts, but that might be a speculation too far.

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The Dark Avenger 10.30.14 at 11:44 am

Also, Andrew, because of a single incident years ago, you conclude that not only was it the basis of Laura being put on the watchlist, it justifies her harassment every tine she travels to this country?

If stupid were dirt, your argument would cover 7 acres.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.30.14 at 11:48 am

Andrew F.: “But this detour is wrecking the thread […]”

Andrew F. thinks that the detour that he introduced is wrecking the thread. The projection never stops.

“The allegations are deeply serious, and everyone involved would have taken them as such.”

Actually, I think that the allegations are ridiculous. To quote the article I linked to upthread: “An officer who interacted with Poitras in Baghdad, Maj. Tom Mowle, retired, said Poitras was always filming and it “completely makes sense” she would film on a violent day. “I think it’s a pretty ridiculous allegation,” he said.” I understand why soldiers on the spot might have believed it: I think that the only reason that you expect us to believe that investigators years later treated the allegations as deeply, deeply serious is because you brought this up, from the start, as a way to smear Poitras and by extension anyone who would refer to the harassment story.

That’s what your verbiage about “Poitras not only let them walk into a kill-zone, but set her camera up to capture the moment” is about, as if she set up a planned filming zone for purposes of her documentary rather than (as the soldiers alleged) knowing that something was going to happen that day. At the same time, you’ve suddenly discovered that Poitras is a good and decent person because you’ve realized how bad this smear makes you look. And you want to stop talking about it so that it can just be this unexamined allegation, so that people always have to keep it in their minds that maybe Poitras was harassed for her journalism, or maybe it’s the fallout from a deeply serious investigation of her possible crimes — the same objection about two possibilities that could never be resolved that you were at pains to set up in your original response to the article.

Now you’re into the usual bit about fantasy and conspiracy theories. But note that you’re the one who introduced them! The point of my quoting two paragraphs out of Greenwald’s article was to show that he never claimed what you said he claimed. He never wrote that there was some fantasy government program of critics picked out for extra searches. You claimed that he wrote that, because of course it makes people look bad. Greenwald stated facts: Poitras was a journalist; in response to her journalism she was stop-and-searched in this way; there was no warrant or other legal means of controlling the government’s decision to do this.

Lastly, this:
“You also don’t seem to grasp that once a person is placed on a watchlist it is extremely difficult to have her removed. There is no conscious decision to keep a name on the list, as in your analogy of a sheriff repeatedly hauling someone into a police station for questioning.”

But of course Poitras was removed from the list. You admitted that yourself, remember? Here you go:

“Actually once an article (by Greenwald I believe) was published about her continued selection at border re-entry points, her status was altered. Oh, the crushing malevolence of that diabolical surveillance state.”

So it was easy enough to de-check those checkboxes after all, once there was some reason to. Normally people might have to go through years of litigation, but if them being on the list embarrasses anyone, it turns out that it’s quite possible to just do it. This is exactly what Greenwald and people like him tend to complain about about our justice system. Justice for the wealthy and / or cause celebre , and everyone else has to accept that “You also don’t seem to grasp that once a person is placed on a watchlist it is extremely difficult to have her removed”, as if that’s some kind of natural law of how things work rather than a scandal.

You made your usual performance on this thread, Andrew F.

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J Thomas 10.30.14 at 11:48 am

Andrew F, I think your explanation is somewhat plausible. Why is it that of the many thousands of important reporters who have reported from Iraq and/or Afghanistan and who are highly critical of US policy, only this one is on a watch list? That’s a powerful argument for coincidence.

That her film is shown as part of a US military grad course says nothing. The academics who try to improve military tactics in the long run, have nothing to do with the people who handle security in the short run.

So if we assume that homeland security is done on an efficient rational basis, you have provided an alternative explanation, provided we also assume that it is done on an arbitrary unthinking basis. She got investigated and somebody marked the wrong checkbox, and it’s very hard for that checkbox to ever get unmarked. They had a perfectly good reason to investigate her and find nothing, but she accidentally got onto the watchlist like so many others, and once on it there is no way off, so every time she flies the inspectors have to waste their time investigating her over again. But luckily it doesn’t matter that they’re wasting their time because there are no actual terrorists getting ignored while they do that.

What I want to point out is that this is only another somewhat-plausible explanation. A second plausible explanation is that somebody got annoyed and put her on the watchlist. You argue that this can’t be true because there are so many other annoying people who aren’t on the watchlist, but that is not a compelling argument because when we assume there is somebody who does that because he’s annoyed, we don’t have to further assume he’s consistent and does it to everybody who annoys him, much less everybody who criticizes the government.

Whatever explanations we make up and decide for ourselves are plausible, there is no actual evidence. I bet none of us knows the name of the person who made the decision. We have no statement from him why he did it. All the details are secret, and we have no right to know about them. You can get put on that watchlist for any reason, or for none, and DHS is not responsible to you about it. You don’t get a trial, you don’t get to face your accusers, you don’t get a report about what happened, you just find out that it did happen after the fact.

We can make up all the explanations we want, and those explanations are not testable.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.30.14 at 1:38 pm

J Thomas: “What I want to point out is that this is only another somewhat-plausible explanation. A second plausible explanation is that somebody got annoyed and put her on the watch list.”

Yes. Given that the internal details of this are secret, it’s just as plausible that someone doing the investigation checked all those boxes not because they seriously thought they had to for bureaucratic reasons, but knowing full well that it would sign her up for endless harassment. That was why I made the analogy to the cop who decides that he doesn’t like a suspect and keeps hauling them in. It would be even better for him if he could just a check a box and have other people do the hauling in for him, knowing full well that once the box is checked it takes something unusual to get it unchecked.

But let’s bring this back to the rest of the thread, so that poor Andrew F. won’t be distressed that we’re derailing it. What else did the person who checked that box sign Poitras up for? It seems that Snowden heard of her in the first place in part because of this harassment. Without her involvement, and without her feeling like she had to learn electronic security because of this, he’d never have been able to make contact with Greenwald — Greenwald hadn’t been made security-conscious by being harassed. Whoever set up the security theatre of the useless watch list and the way that people never got removed from it set up the some of the necessary conditions for Snowden’s leak.

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The Raven 10.30.14 at 5:01 pm

So far as I am concerned, these people are not and never were liberals; they’re centrists – moderate conservatives – claiming to be liberals. Centrists don’t call themselves conservatives any more because conservatives in the USA have, well, gone insane. Or perhaps they always were.

“Liberal” is a fine old word, but since the crazies now seem to think it means Communist, US liberals now call themselves “progressives.” They all mean social democrat, anyway. Honestly, my countrymen are a bunch of intellectual cowards. Enough, already, with the name changing; the crazies will be tarring us as closet Soviets no matter what what we call ourselves.

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The Raven 10.30.14 at 5:04 pm

In more depressing news, Assange seems to have tweeted in support of G*m*rg*t*. Hmmm, maybe the sexual abuse charges are true.

Still doesn’t make a case for extraditing him to the USA.

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Andrew F. 10.30.14 at 6:36 pm

Dark Avenger @269: Also, Andrew, because of a single incident years ago, you conclude that not only was it the basis of Laura being put on the watchlist, it justifies her harassment every tine she travels to this country?

First of all, I believe that Poitras herself thinks that’s why she was put on a watchlist, on the basis of what a source told her.

Second, I understand that it’s a long comment thread, but I was pretty clear that I disapprove of the system, and mentioned a far more egregious case than Poitras’s to make the point.

J Thomas @271: I’d disagree with your characterization of the reason that I gave. The hurdle for being placed on one of these lists isn’t a finding of evidence sufficient to sustain a criminal conviction. Here the investigators probably had some eyewitness reports from the soldiers, some intelligence on the person she associated with, and maybe other information concerning the circumstances of the ambush. Probably all inconclusive, but that’s some seriously derogatory information, and enough to raise a cautionary flag. So, they don’t nominate her to the no fly list, but instead she’s placed on a list to be selected for additional screening at int’l transit points.

In other words, I don’t think the investigators, from their perspective, given the information they would have had, thought they were making a mistake (the other case I referenced involved an actual mistake in the filling of a form, resulting in a person being placed on the no fly list, among other things). I think they would have thought, at the time, that the information presented merited paying close attention when she transited the country.

The other possibility is that they did it simply because they were “annoyed” at her criticism of the US. Do I think it likely that FBI, or whoever looked into this, would knowingly choose to waste the time and energy that personnel would spend in the future interviewing Poitras and then filling out lots of paperwork afterward simply because they were annoyed? Time and energy that would not be spent on better selectees for attention? It would be a remarkable dereliction of duty and a criminal abuse of power. While such things happen, there’s no reason to assume it did here, especially when there is a legitimate (under the probable standards of the system, not mine) reason to have placed her on a watchlist.

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Thornton Hall 10.30.14 at 6:58 pm

@Andrew F
I get it. @263 is as straight forward as you can get. I’m not sure why a Rich is so defensive about it. His general position does not require GG tone right about the incident. In fact, Rich’s General position is consistent with my contention that GG is a clown.

The NSA can be an illegitimate and unjustified agent of creeping totalitarianism revealed as such by clowns and weirdos. I don’t agree, but there is absolutely no logical reason togethung up on GG or his detractors. Which, of course, is one of the problems with the OP.
I can tell you first hand that even paid up dues paying members of Big Brother can find themselves singled out by TSA watch lists and have a hard time getting off.

@The Temporary Name
I totally agree that even in the first language game, the legitimacy of the NSA depends on the will of those within our nation-state. I am on the side of disapproving of what is done in our name

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rea 10.30.14 at 7:00 pm

Still doesn’t make a case for extraditing him [Assange] to the USA

It’s Sweden that’s trying to extradite him, not the US.

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Andrew F. 10.30.14 at 7:02 pm

Rich @270: …At the same time, you’ve suddenly discovered that Poitras is a good and decent person because you’ve realized how bad this smear makes you look. And you want to stop talking about it so that it can just be this unexamined allegation…

You’ve at least achieved a regular level of quality in your analysis, very much like a person who eats enough fiber every day. Well done, though you still seem to be straining in your comments.

Rich, your continued pattern of insults and invective directed at me causes me to wonder what role I’m playing in whatever internal, psychological drama you’re re-enacting here. But some mysteries are better left unsolved. Before I sign off our discussion though, one last clarification for you.

You write:

The point of my quoting two paragraphs out of Greenwald’s article was to show that he never claimed what you said he claimed.

It’s normal for miscommunications to occur, but you’ve been so consistently rude that I no longer see any reason to extend you the courtesy of correcting your error with any spirit of charity.

The argument Greenwald made in his book published this year, from which I quoted (secondhand, via Kinsley’s review), is what is at issue.

You cite the fact that he didn’t make the argument in an article two years ago, which proves nothing but your own confusion as to what we’re discussing. And please, Rich, by all means have the last word, though it’s unlikely I’ll read it.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.30.14 at 7:46 pm

Oh, dear, Anthony F. keeps writing dishonestly, I keep saying so, and that’s supposed to be my problem.

Andrew F.: “The argument Greenwald made in his book published this year, from which I quoted (secondhand, via Kinsley’s review), is what is at issue.”

Perhaps if you’d quoted it first hand you would have seen that the lead-in to that paragraph wasn’t about Poitras. Here’s a longer quote. If we’re going to go back to what Greenwald thought about Poitras, perhaps we should quote him when he actually wrote about Poitras. Or, I know, perhaps not.

But you want to go to whether Henry Farrell was wrong to bring up both Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum in response to one of Kinsley’s contentions. Unlike Greenwald, he’s here, so he can speak for himself if he chooses to. I notice that Appelbaum didn’t have this ready-made distraction in the form of you being able to go on about how maybe he once let U.S. troops walk into a kill-zone, so you haven’t said anything about him.

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Barry 10.30.14 at 9:04 pm

Rich: “Perhaps if you’d quoted it first hand you would have seen that the lead-in to that paragraph wasn’t about Poitras. Here’s a longer quote. If we’re going to go back to what Greenwald thought about Poitras, perhaps we should quote him when he actually wrote about Poitras. Or, I know, perhaps not.”

You mean that quoting a hostile reviewer’ quotes (to give Kinsley credit) is not a good idea? :)

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Rich Puchalsky 10.30.14 at 11:42 pm

Barry, no it isn’t a good idea. For additional fun, let’s look at Kinsley’s piece that Andrew picked out to requote as Greenwald’s view of the government’s approach to dissent. I’ll quote the first half of the paragraph (the rest consists of the rest of the Greenwald quote):

Here’s Kinsley:

And Greenwald? In his mind, he is not a reformer but a ruthless revolutionary — Robespierre, or Trotsky. The ancien régime is corrupt through and through, and he is the man who will topple it. Sounding now like Herbert Marcuse with his once fashionable theory of “repressive tolerance,” Greenwald writes about “the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: Pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about.

1. Ad homs galore. Greenwald is a “ruthless revolutionary” and also delusional — he’s one “in his mind”. He’s a megalomanic too (“he is the man who will topple” etc.) None of this is supported in any way by the quote that follows.

2. Greenwald’s quote has essentially nothing to do with Marcuse’s idea of repressive tolerance except that both use the word tolerate, and both concern repression in some way. To crib a one-sentence summary from wikipedia, “Marcuse believes that under such conditions [of liberal, democratic society] tolerance as traditionally understood serves the cause of domination and that a new kind of tolerance is therefore needed: tolerance of the Left, subversion, and revolutionary violence, combined with intolerance of the Right, existing institutions, and opposition to socialism.”

3. Uh oh, Kinsley is starting his quote in the middle of a sentence. I wonder was at the beginning of that sentence? It was “All of the evidence highlights”, as in “All of the evidence highlights the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about.” If Kinsley had included that, someone might wonder what the evidence was.

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heckblazer 10.30.14 at 11:43 pm

TM @ 257:

I say it’s legitimate because National Security Council Intelligence Directive 9 Sec. 2.b. states

The COMINT mission of the National Security Agency (NSA) shall be to provide an effective, unified organization and control of the communications intelligence activities of the United States conducted against foreign governments

In practice this properly includes non-government entities . In the US Boeing builds fighters and the University of California designed nuclear warheads; it would be silly to say foreign equivalents are off-limits to spying because they technically aren’t the (central) government. That goes double in a country like China where the line between public and private is often very blurry. As far as I’m concerned Snowden here is criticizing NSA for doing its job.

Furthermore, Snowden swore an oath , one he is by all accounts very serious about following, that says:

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Revealing intelligence sources and methods damages the defense of the United States, so unless there’s a pressing need for the people of the United States know those details shouldn’t be publicized. I don’t think the China spying meets that test, so I think Snowden should probably not talk about it.

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Matt 10.31.14 at 12:19 am

I guess Boeing and the University of California and their Chinese equivalents are all legitimate targets of hacking by the NSA, Russia, Canada, whoever. But American nuclear weapons are more advanced than Chinese nuclear weapons and Boeing’s planes are more advanced than Chinese planes. While the USA maintains a technological advantage over potential adversaries it would be prudent for the NSA to focus on its defensive role.

The NSA’s own mission statement:
The Information Assurance mission confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. The Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations. This Agency also enables Network Warfare operations to defeat terrorists and their organizations at home and abroad, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

They can’t effectively pursue all these roles at once. Any systematic improvements to the information security of Boeing and the University of California will necessarily spread overseas, because Boeing and the UC system both rely on the same basic computing systems that everyone else uses. But in my opinion there’s a serious failure when the NSA is prioritizing information offensives over defense, given that the USA leads in military technology and mutually assured insecurity shrinks that lead. The problem is that the NSA like its parent Department of “Defense” has been tasked for aggression so long that it’s institutionally forgetful about when or how to defend Americans.

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The Temporary Name 10.31.14 at 2:54 am

Heckblazer: I don’t see the communications control mission as what is now effectively burglary/vandalism, inconsistent with US laws, privacy protection, yadda yadda.

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Peter T 10.31.14 at 3:21 am

I managed an area that produced and maintained watch-lists. We had a process that included both the need for a documented reason for inclusion and for deletion, a public number for people to contact and standards for the specific information required. It really was not too hard, we did not get too many complaints, and almost all were resolved quickly. But that’s in Australia. The US has a different history – a plethora of agencies (I heard 30,000 police forces, most with 10-20 officers or fewer), a heavily politicized bureaucracy, a creaky federal structure, elected officials (would you tell Joe Arpaio anything?). It’s a wonder it works at all, and a minor miracle that it works as well as it does. From collegiate acquaintance, it looks a lot like a somewhat more ordered version of Russia: high level confusion, detailed prescription in the service of politics, multiple local interpretation, loosely controlled. As we get more into the Soviet archives, it becomes evident that a lot of the atrocity was the unintended but inevitable consequence of a combination of zeal and incompetence – for which the lower levels were then duly harshly punished (so exacerbating the problems). In the US case, even a modest competence is probably the most that can be hoped for.

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The Raven 10.31.14 at 11:19 am

rea@277: but the Swedish government will not promise not to extradite him to the USA, nor the British not to apprehend him as soon as he is outside embassy walls. As far as anyone can tell, once Assange is outside of that embassy, he will be apprehended and rendered to the USA, probably to spend a very long time in a very small room. Stalkers really don’t like it when the tables are turned and it is their secrets who are revealed. (Which makes me wonder about the psychological kinks of Jeremy Bentham.) Assange’s enemies, after all, are the people who diverted the plane of Bolivian President Morales, causing an international incident, on just the suspicion that Edward Snowden was aboard. There is no reason to believe they will act with any restraint in Assange’s case.

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rea 10.31.14 at 11:51 am

Raven @286–he faces facially legitimate charges in Sweden, and no pending charges in the UK or the United States. His victims in Sweden aren’t entitled to justice, simply because he’s got several other countries annoyed with him? Sweden will doubtless carry out its obligations under the US-Swedish extradition treaty, under which he cannot be extradited to the US unless charges are field against him, and probably not for any plausible charge that could be filed arising out of Wikileaks–see here:

http://internationalextraditionblog.com/2011/06/15/sweden-extradition-treaty-with-the-united-states/

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Ze Kraggash 10.31.14 at 12:36 pm

“and no pending charges in the UK or the United States.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden#Criminal_charges

What am I missing?

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ZM 10.31.14 at 12:44 pm

Ze Kraggash,

You have gotten mixed about about which personage is being written about. The comment above referred to Assange not Snowden

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Ze Kraggash 10.31.14 at 12:50 pm

Damn. Of course. Assange is the one they want assassinated, not jailed.

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kidneystones 10.31.14 at 12:59 pm

I’ll jump in. I visited the thread shortly after Henry’s initial post. Henry does a good job of unpacking the main part of the problem: few “liberals” are ready to rally to the cause of the whistle-blowers. Fair enough. The resulting 200 odd comments pretty much make Henry’s case. I’ve been waiting for some liberal site to express some serious concern about the silencing of Sheryl Atkinson and have yet to see much/any. I’ll admit I haven’t spent a great deal of time looking because liberal bias is so predictable these days. Atkinson isn’t on team blue, her investigative work doesn’t confirm Koch conspiracies, so therefore the bugging of her computer and the planting of classified information on the device for possible prosecution should she become a true ‘threat’ is an issue of no concern.

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rea 10.31.14 at 1:18 pm

Ze Kraggash @ 288–Sweden is trying to extradite Assange, not Snowden, on sexual assault charges. Whistleblowing is not a general get-out-of-jail-free card for unrelated charges.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.31.14 at 1:33 pm

“Henry does a good job of unpacking the main part of the problem: few “liberals” are ready to rally to the cause of the whistle-blowers. “

Let me guess, kidneystones: you’re a conservative. That’s a highly conservative way of translating what Henry wrote. He complained about the “current low quality of mainstream liberal thinking”, and you say that this means that the main part of the problem is that people aren’t ready to rally to a cause. I’ve sometimes wanted people to rally to causes as well, but it’s basically an authoritarian kind of activity: someone defines a cause, and everyone else is supposedly to rally to it communally and serve it.

As an individual, I’m willing to say that of course no journalist’s computer should be bugged. But the problem with writing about Sheryl Atkinson is she seems to have some trouble coming up with a coherent and documented story. I’ll look for a Google hit. OK, here’s TMP Oct 23. That says that her computer was accessed by an outside entity, but it says that no know really knows who that entity was, “She told Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz in April that there were “a number of investigations going on right now,” but she demurred when asked if she thought the “NSA or some outside organization” was responsible.” So… what would you like people to write about this?

Parenthetically, now that you’ve brought up the concept of “the main problem”, I’d say that the main problem is that mainstream American society has a low quality of thinking in just about every area, and that this has a lot to do with America’s status as a declining empire. The conservatives (sorry, kidneystones) are unable to put together a coherent argument of any kind, and the liberals really are not much better — look at the thread above, in which people are completely unable to talk about the challenge of the leaks associated with Manning / Assange / Snowden and the governmental programs that have been revealed without making it all about whether Snowden is a traitor shacking up with Putin, or whether a filmmaker wasn’t really harassed for her work because she was harassed because of an investigation into her work, or whether Assange is really guilty of sexual assault.

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 1:35 pm

I thought mud man @ 208 was overstated when I first read it, but it occurs to me that it’s exactly right.

Activists are on the left. People who just vote, and occasionally deplore, are liberals. The boundary, as far as I can tell, is policed from both sides of the divide.

Further confusion is raised by the novelty of, for example, the British “Liberal” Party and the idea that liberalism constitutes a new, “third way.” IMHO. I’m happy to call liberals who make radical critiques of liberalism, which they try to put into practice, neoliberals, I guess.

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kidneystones 10.31.14 at 1:46 pm

Hi Rich, I’m not “a conservative,” nor do I identify as a “liberal,” although I have voted for a real live socialist party. My point is that you and the rest of the self-professed enlightened souls aren’t remotely interested in Atkinson, her readers, her supporters, or her critics. TPM might be your idea of a reputable site, but I seem them as partisan democrats bent on crafting a narrative to keep one party in power. It wouldn’t be honest or fair to paint Marshall as anything but a Democratic party hack.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.31.14 at 1:47 pm

bianca steele: “Activists are on the left. People who just vote, and occasionally deplore, are liberals. The boundary, as far as I can tell, is policed from both sides of the divide.”

But that’s not really what he wrote, about liberals wanting to conserve and justify, and leftists wanting change. Activism is an activity, not a belief. There are plenty of liberal activists, and they do political actions intended to conserve and justify (if you want to look at it that way).

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 1:54 pm

Rich: I think I said the same thing you’re saying. I’m a liberal, and I think environmental issues are important. But I’m not doing anything about it. If I were, I think, I’d shift somehow and would have to start thinking about myself as being on the left, in a way I think I can’t do as someone who’s only “worried” about the environment. (If I weren’t a left-liberal, but a centrist or right-centrist, maybe I could be an activist without feeling that way.) People like you (sorry, that sounds rude, but it’s concise) police the boundary by saying what mud man said: liberals are people who pretend to care but don’t want to make an effort. And that’s unflattering to people like me, but I admit it’s to a large extent true. Other liberals police the boundary by saying, “But people like us don’t do that sort of thing,” if the question of taking action beyond a certain point comes up.

The second part of what you said, that liberals want to “conserve and justify,” just isn’t true on my understanding of who liberals in the US are. Your ideas about it seem to me to come from boundary policing and attempts to make left-liberals move either closer to your position or to define themselves in opposition to you, or from some external, I don’t know, maybe theoretical or foreign, idea about what liberals are supposed to be.

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 1:56 pm

And someone on Corey’s blog wondered how Wilentz stopped being on the left. I wondered that, too. I suppose it has something to do with his becoming a Clinton partisan, but to say he’s spent his career fighting the New Left seems overblown.

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rea 10.31.14 at 1:59 pm

As for Sheryl Attkisson, journalist and teapartier, Wikipedia tells me her claim is: “she alleges that her personal computer was hacked with spyware that included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts.” That’s awful, but of course, that sort of thing happens a lot without any government involvement

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Rich Puchalsky 10.31.14 at 2:06 pm

bianca steele: “The second part of what you said, that liberals want to “conserve and justify,” just isn’t true on my understanding of who liberals in the US are. “

But I was trying to summarize what mud man @208 said, since you wrote that you agreed with that. He wrote “The view from here, the Liberals are those who want things to be better but don’t want to change. Consequently it’s all about justification … […] They are the inertial force for ‘conserving’ the present, actually.” I shortened this to “conserve and justify”, perhaps wrongly, but I meant it to be a reference back to what he wrote.

I was in the Occupy movement. I saw huge numbers of liberals. I don’t think that there’s any sense in which liberals are not generally activists, or are activists in a different way than leftists or conservatives are. For instance, a liberal in the Occupy movement might be taking political actions out of a sense that they want to preserve the gains made in the New Deal or Great Society eras, or that they have a vision of a future society that is based on current progressive values (which in part serve to justify elements of society that most leftists want to change).

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dn 10.31.14 at 2:47 pm

I don’t agree with what mud man said either. There are a lot of liberal activists out there. What was Barack Obama back in his community-organizing days if not a liberal activist? No, the “left” is something else – it’s “progressives” who don’t like the Democrats and don’t care who knows it. (Scare quotes because I hate with a fiery passion the use of “progressive” as an ideological label, not because I doubt the sincerity of the people who use it.)

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kidneystones 10.31.14 at 2:51 pm

Rhea, Thank very much for this. First, Rich cites TPM to propagate the dizzy dame meme, and you follow up with a Wiki citation. You both make my point. The partisanship of both sides is seriously eroding any serious effort to mount a defense of whistle-blowers of any kind.

Principle is not the issue for you, defending your own partisan prejudices trumps all. Were principle an issue for you, you might admit your biases, but then stress that the intrusions into the computer of a member of the press, especially one critical of the state, should be treated with something other than your disdain and desire to discredit her concerns, which you do by citing Wiki, of all sources.

Here’s a Wapo link that may bring those in the TPM bubble up to speed:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/10/27/sharyl-attkissons-computer-intrusions-worse-than-anything-nixon-ever-did/

Thanks, again, for making my point.

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rea 10.31.14 at 3:09 pm

Goodness, Kidneystones–it’s actually quite the reverse of what you say. Wikipedia and TPM may be pro-mainstream Democratic, I don’t know (or at least, I don’t know about Wikipedia). But the TPM article and Wikipedia do nothing more than quote her claims. And her claims don’t sound much different than the malware attack blocked by my computer’s security program last week–you need more than a malware attack to conclude that the government is after you. And if anyone is noncredible due to partisan affiliation, it’s the woman who is spreading all the Benghazi! conspiracy theories.

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Thornton Hall 10.31.14 at 3:21 pm

Wouldn’t it be great to live in the America where whistleblowers used to be protected, where policy discussion was at a higher level and every child has a pony?

When your underlying assumption is that everything used to be better, don’t be surprised when your conclusion is that everything is getting worse.

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J Thomas 10.31.14 at 3:27 pm

First, Rich cites TPM to propagate the dizzy dame meme, and you follow up with a Wiki citation. You both make my point. The partisanship of both sides is seriously eroding any serious effort to mount a defense of whistle-blowers of any kind.

Lots of people get malware. Journalists can get the same stuff everybody else gets. It’s hard to be sure about specific cases.

But that aside, do we disagree that we all need better information security generally?

I’m not up to date on this, but the last time I looked the big problem was buffer overflows. A programmer sets up a buffer that can overflow, and somebody finds out about it and they carefully arrange that it overflows just the right amount that they profit from it.

It’s possible to mostly avoid buffer overflows. When you allot a buffer, actually label it a buffer and call it in ways that will never overflow. You can throw away all the latest data, or throw away all but the latest bufferful of data, either is a problem but no as bad as an actual buffer overflow. Or if you care, arrange what to do so you don’t lose data.

This is not so hard, but it keeps not getting done. If the NSA came out with a proposal to fix that in common languages, would it help? I dunno. Maybe.

One problem is that when the NSA suggests something people naturally get suspicious. They look for ways the NSA could have booby-trapped the suggestion.

But somebody needs to be doing more than patch individual bugs as they are found.

As a start, we could try to get a lot of publicity for some simple browser that is as exploit-free as possible. People would at least switch to it when they did business transactions etc.

And it might help if the director of the NSA would dress up in a uniform like Koop did when he was Surgeon General, and make some simple announcements.

“Using javascript is like handing your wallet to every criminal you meet and telling them to help themselves.”

“Using Flash is like putting a big ‘Kick me, I like it!’ sign on your back.”

Data security is potentially a serious problem, and it isn’t getting nearly the public attention it deserves.

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The Temporary Name 10.31.14 at 3:28 pm

The WaPo articles suggests someone Attkinson’s kinda nuts. On the one hand, “Patel” finds evidence of hacking far beyond what any nongovernment hacker can do. On the other, her computer starts making funny noises and her TV and phone go on the fritz and there’s an extra wire poking out of things. The trope is the evil mastermind who can never get anything done…and over Benghazi? What could the worst story about Benghazi possibly be?

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Rich Puchalsky 10.31.14 at 3:31 pm

Oh dear. “Which you do by citing Wiki, of all sources.” Should have cited the WaPo apparently.

I’ll admit to everything that kidneystones wants me to admit. You see, I’m a partisan liberal. I often comment here and chide people for not being sufficiently loyal to the Democratic Party and to Obama. For instance, up at comment #2 I even came up with some slogans for liberals to use in the next Presidential election, which I really and actually hope do get used. (All right, the rest of this paragraph was me having a laugh, but the one about comment #2 is true.)

But kidneystones, what was literally the first thing I wrote about the case you brought up? I wrote: “As an individual, I’m willing to say that of course no journalist’s computer should be bugged.” Instead you want me to “stress that the intrusions into the computer of a member of the press, especially one critical of the state, should be treated with something other than your disdain and desire to discredit her concerns”. I don’t understand, kidneystones. Is it a desire to discredit her concerns to note, accurately, that she hasn’t said who bugged her computer and that we don’t really know who it was? One of the big, big differences between this and other cases is that in other cases we have clear documentation or other forms of proof that the government was doing it.

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J Thomas 10.31.14 at 3:38 pm

#303 Rhea

And her claims don’t sound much different than the malware attack blocked by my computer’s security program last week–you need more than a malware attack to conclude that the government is after you.

Yes, but we need to take steps to protect people who are too clueless to handle mundane malware attacks. Otherwise they become resources for bad guys.

Arguing about which particular journalists really get atatcked by the NSA is not useful.

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Ze Kraggash 10.31.14 at 3:59 pm

Regarding the Benghazi woman: do people really get viruses and mysterious wires growing out of their Apple computers? I’m surprised, I thought iOS is always safe and sound, all the bad things only happen to PCs… What gives?..

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 4:07 pm

Rich @ 300: The short version, which is all I’ll probably have time for today: You’re illustrating my point perfectly. You don’t say what your values are, only that they’re really, really different from this person’s, and that one’s, and the other one’s over there.

For instance, a liberal in the Occupy movement might be taking political actions out of a sense that they want to preserve the gains made in the New Deal or Great Society eras, or that they have a vision of a future society that is based on current progressive values (which in part serve to justify elements of society that most leftists want to change).

So: What you have to say to a liberal is either (1) you’re upset about Citizens United? well, I’ll bet the Czar cares about the Cossacks!, or (2) your values are different from mine, and wrong. You don’t see yourself having anything else to say to them, and you generally don’t say anything else, substantive, in these threads.

(I’m assuming we’re not talking about left in the sense of: “I think socialism is, in theory, the best possible form the state could take, but I don’t believe in violent revolution, I don’t want to resurrect the Communist International, and I don’t believe in heightening the contradictions.” In the real world, what the left seems like to me is a bunch of separate single issues with SPECIAL LEFTIST SAUCE. And each issue that begins on the left quickly separate itself from it. That’s inherent to the need for boundary policing. IOW, a progressive is someone who periodically agrees with The Nation; a leftist is someone who never, ever disagrees with it; a liberal is someone who’s somewhat suspicious. — On the Internet, it’s true, there are the Bible Marxists, as well.)

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rea 10.31.14 at 4:25 pm

Arguing about which particular journalists really get atatcked by the NSA is not useful.

well, maybe, except that the thread is about NSA abuses, not the need for everyone to use virus and malware protection software.

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Matt 10.31.14 at 4:56 pm

Everyone could use better computer security. Almost everyone says they want better computer security when they’re asked. But in practice people tend to prioritize spending money to get more/newer features rather than more security. It’s also hard for ordinary users to tell what’s really more secure. It’s a classic market failure.

Most US government agencies are using mainstream, commercial operating systems and office software. Even the NSA puts its top secret presentations in PowerPoint. The federal government could do a great deal to correct the computer security market failure simply by using its own purchasing power to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of secure products supply and demand. Make Microsoft raise the security bar on products it sells to agencies handling classified data and millions of Americans will get better protection as a free side effect. Or when existing solutions have too serious shortcomings for iterative improvement, as in the woeful vacuum of secure and easy-to-use email solutions, the government could offer development bounties or fund its own internal development teams to develop open source software filling that niche. And the government does have internal experts who know how to test software for security, so the delivered solutions could be verified and not just blindly trusted.

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A H 10.31.14 at 5:10 pm

@306

From the WaPo article,

“The expert explains to Attkisson: “This ISP address is better evidence of the government being in your computer than the government had when it accused China of hacking into computers in the U.S.””

LOL, it’s an expert government hacker but he can’t hide his “ISP address”?

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Roger Gathmann 10.31.14 at 5:16 pm

I find it totally absurd to say that Laura Poitras was put on the watch list for potentially “endangering American lives.” You know who endangered American lives? The CIA, when its head assured Bush that it was a slam dunk that there were WMD in Iraq. The intelligence agencies have been in the business of endangering American lives – and countless other lives – for over sixty years. There’s not a single war, covert action, or “success” that has not resulted in long term damage to US security – which damage is then used as an excuse for more security. Wikileaks, by showing how US troops could randomly fire upon Iraqi civilians during an incident, made US troops less likely, infinitessimally less likely, to do that in the future. Which means that in the future, an occupied population will have that much less reason to want to place IED in the way of American troops. I haven’t seen a security leak yet that hasn’t actually enhanced the long range security of Americans. The problem of course is the opposite. The recent film, Kill The Messenger, was a good retrospective on the media’s automatic deference to the intelligence agencies, making the intelligence agencies that much more irresponsible. If in fact, in 1996, the media had seized on Webb’s scoop and questioned the agency, perhaps it would have stopped the CIA from refusing to cooperate with the FBI pre-9/11, and some of the hijackers would have been arrested in the summer of 2001.
Letting the intelligence agencies devise their own level of transparency is not only bad for liberty, it is bad for national security. The establishment insistance that liberty and security are opposites is simply false.

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A H 10.31.14 at 5:21 pm

Ha I missed the best scene,

““That very night, with [White House spokesman Eric] Schultz, [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney and company freshly steaming over my Benghazi reporting, I’m home doing final research and crafting questions for the next day’s interview with [Thomas] Pickering. Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my very eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone.” Attkisson grabbed her iPhone to record the madness.”

This is literally a scene in ever bad techno thriller from around 2000.

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 5:32 pm

@309 I expect the idea is that Jobs had an LSD flashback and decided to use his tendencies to micromanagement in order to secretly insert special surveillance devices into every computer. I’m sure LSD in involved in this somehow.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.31.14 at 5:43 pm

bianca steele: “You don’t say what your values are, only that they’re really, really different from this person’s, and that one’s, and the other one’s over there.”

You want me to go on about myself? Why? This thread is about the liberal response to recent governmental leaks. If it helps you to understand where I’m coming from, I’m a left anarchist. I think that we should oppose NSA surveillance, and I also think that we should give up on the Constitution and the state entirely. I don’t say much about that because it’s really kind of outside of your worldview, and has no immediate prospect of actually happening (unlike, conceivably, something being done about the NSA).

“You don’t see yourself having anything else to say to them, and you generally don’t say anything else, substantive, in these threads.”

Thanks! But really, I work as a sort of environmental activist (well, as part of my work) and I work with liberal activists all the time. It’s impossible to do significant left-leaning (for any meaning of “left”) political work in the U.S. and not work alongside liberals, because the large majority of people to the left of center in the U.S. are liberals. I really think that it’s weird that you think they definitively don’t exist.

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 6:02 pm

I will add “left anarchism” to my taxonomy, above. Thanks for the detailed answer. (I knew you worked on environmental issues because you’ve mentioned them before, here or on your blog.)

A question, though: Would you tell the liberal activists you work with to their face that you believe their activism is intended to “conserve and justify” the status quo, as you said above @296? And that’s how they describe their activism to themselves and to you? (FWIW here’s my own opinion on this: I know people who probably think of themselves as liberal activists, and I think if they were in more politicized communities, they would be forced to question whether they want to be on the left or somewhere else. But I don’t think they think of themselves as among those who “conserve and justify.” I can imagine others who really are single-issue people who would very immediately answer “no, I do not want to be in opposition to the status quo, I do not want to be on the left.”)

Another question: Have you ever worked with someone on the left, to the left of liberalism, who was to your right?

I ask because traditionally there has been a left that doesn’t actually aspire to anarchism. (Moreover, I suspect a lot of anarchists want to keep religion, and just don’t think there need to be government employees in addition to that. I suspect a lot of leftists are trying to work out a politics in line with their religious sensibility, which I think is fine. Wanting to get rid of governments but keep churches is something else.) If you identify any beliefs that don’t aspire to anarchism as “liberalism,” then that answers a lot of my questions, and there’s really no point in continuing the discussion.

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The Temporary Name 10.31.14 at 6:35 pm

well, maybe, except that the thread is about NSA abuses, not the need for everyone to use virus and malware protection software.

The specific example that’s better than Attkinson must exist.

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Barry 10.31.14 at 6:35 pm

rea 10.31.14 at 11:51 am
“Raven @286–he faces facially legitimate charges in Sweden, and no pending charges in the UK or the United States. His victims in Sweden aren’t entitled to justice, simply because he’s got several other countries annoyed with him?”

Wow, so now you’re concerned about justice. Tell you what – when we’ve seen members of the US government face justice, then its opposition can.

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Barry 10.31.14 at 6:39 pm

kidneystones 10.31.14 at 1:46 pm
“Hi Rich, I’m not “a conservative,” nor do I identify as a “liberal,” although I have voted for a real live socialist party. My point is that you and the rest of the self-professed enlightened souls aren’t remotely interested in Atkinson, her readers, her supporters, or her critics. TPM might be your idea of a reputable site, but I seem them as partisan democrats bent on crafting a narrative to keep one party in power. It wouldn’t be honest or fair to paint Marshall as anything but a Democratic party hack.”

Shorter: ‘hey – here’s a thing – you must all drop everything else and pay attention to it, right now!’.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.31.14 at 6:46 pm

“Would you tell the liberal activists you work with to their face that you believe their activism is intended to “conserve and justify” the status quo, as you said above @296? “

Work conversations are about work. Even outside of work, it would be complicated by the fact that “conservation” has a different meaning within the environmental community. But let me phrase it a different way: I really think that there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by something like the New Deal, any more than an anarchist might be inspired by reading something by Bakunin even though he had lots of problems. If someone said “I want to preserve what the New Deal did for this country! My grandparents had better lives because of Social Security, and I want my kids to have better lives too” I would not think that that was in any way shameful or something to be apologized for or particularly wrong. That person is expressing the idea that there should be broad social provision for people. They want to do it within a state: well, in theory that could be a disagreement but I’m not going to hold out for something that isn’t going to happen within my lifetime.

But yes, in addition, there are a lot of people — those who work out of DC, especially — who really don’t see themselves as being countercultural, which is I think what you’re getting at. They aren’t in opposition to the status quo in some broad sense.

“Have you ever worked with someone on the left, to the left of liberalism, who was to your right?”

It depends on how you define “right”, which gets less helpful at the stage where you’re talking about relatively tiny numbers of people. Social democrats might be “to my right”. I generally have a good deal of trouble working with some kinds of Marxists who favor what I consider to be authoritarian socialism, but they consider themselves to be to my left. In general, there’s a broad stream of leftism — most socialists, social democrats, etc. — who are on the left, but who are not anarchists in any way.

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bianca steele 10.31.14 at 7:24 pm

As far as Attkinson goes, this is how it looks to me, for whatever that’s worth: She’s sitting on her own story until her book comes out and is referring questions to her lawyer, besides. She works in broadcasting, which I’ll just say the “interesting” friend of my parents who told me, one night in 2001, that the people who put ads on your computer are actually capturing all your keystrokes and sending them to the government, also worked in (the same night, he gave me a serious and sober lecture on how young Russian women are lured far from their homes for what appear to be legitimate jobs, only to find they’re working for the Russian Mob). She’s given a story in which a tipster volunteered to her that her reporting would get her in trouble, and then volunteered to do hacker stuff on her computer for her. She’s had who knows how many hands on that computer, before she even hired someone professional. Apparently we’ll have to buy the book next week to find out the exact story of how these people suggested she let them have admin access to her computer. It doesn’t add up.

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The Raven 10.31.14 at 8:17 pm

rea@287: oh, they’ll find some reason to bring him in. Whoever is in charge of these spooks feels they are above the law. This is “about ethics in videogame journalism,” where all the high-minded ideals become an excuse for all manner of mayhem.

At this point I am inclined to believe Assange is guilty as charged, but I think the chances of seeing justice done, should he turn himself in to Swedish authorities, are slim to none.

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rea 10.31.14 at 9:53 pm

Tell you what – when we’ve seen members of the US government face justice, then its opposition can.

Great–let the rapists go until they prosecute Obama for war crimes. Splendid idea.

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J Thomas 10.31.14 at 11:15 pm

#312 Matt

Everyone could use better computer security. Almost everyone says they want better computer security when they’re asked. But in practice people tend to prioritize spending money to get more/newer features rather than more security. It’s also hard for ordinary users to tell what’s really more secure. It’s a classic market failure.

This seems like something where a little bit of government interference might be useful.

Like, we could have the government do some sort of minimal testing on websites, and if a website requires users to do something that can’t be secure, then require them to start with an semi-transparent overlay that has a picture of a grinning red devil and a text that goes “INHERENTLY UNSAFE” that lasts until they click something.

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J Thomas 10.31.14 at 11:23 pm

#325 rea

At this point I am inclined to believe Assange is guilty as charged, but I think the chances of seeing justice done, should he turn himself in to Swedish authorities, are slim to none.

I confess I haven’t followed that story in much detail. Where I left off, some women who could have been CIA agents announced that after they invited him into their homes in circumstances where they might plausibly have wanted to have sex with him, he raped them.

I don’t think they were obligated to have sex with him if they had previously said they wanted to, even if they had previously said two minutes earlier that they wanted to. But the possibility that they might be untruthful CIA agents concerns me.

It makes the rape he-said/she-said problem worse than usual.

Of course when he was doing something that governments disapprove, it makes sense he should not get into situations where he could possibly be charged with something illegal, with anybody he does not completely know and trust. He should have known better than to be in private with any woman or child who might possibly be a plant.

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The Temporary Name 10.31.14 at 11:37 pm

J Thomas, rea did not say that, and consider what an unbelievable shitstorm it is for one woman to step forward with an accusation like that, then double it.

Couldn’t the CIA simply kill him and leave him in front of a stack of kiddie porn with a needle sticking out of his arm? I mean really…riding herd on the entire Swedish justice system seems inefficient.

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kidneystones 10.31.14 at 11:41 pm

Re: Rich, “I’m a this, I’m a that.” Good for you! Your link to TPM, a hack Democratic meme shop says otherwise, I’m afraid.

Re: Rea, Barry, and others. Henry puts it well.
“These claims rest on willful misreading, quote clipping and the systematic evasion of crucial questions. Yet their problems go deeper than sloppy practice and shoddy logic.”

As for Attkinson, she wasn’t a nut when she won five Emmy Awards and the 2012 Edward R. Murrow Award. As a career CBS reporter, hardly a bastion of the right, Attkinson produced at least one serious report of Republican fundraising. So what? Attkinson may have inadvertently stumbled on the malware that planted classified documents deep in her computer. She may feel the Rhodes brothers are as much of a threat to the First Amendment as the Kochs.

All this is moot. Henry’s point is that “liberals” do not protect whistle-blowers because personal/partisan priorities make doing so impractical or impossible. Attkinson is a reputable critic of the permanent security state. Let’s not forget the lengths Snowden and GG had to go to get their stuff to the public. Free societies need press people willing to ask difficult questions of the state , and these press people, few as they are, deserve some level of support.

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gianni 10.31.14 at 11:47 pm

^ especially when we have (leaked) admissions by these agencies that they use these very tactics to discredit oppositional figures. It is a fairly ugly situation, where these women might be actual victims but their credibility is in extreme doubt because of how notoriously ethically bankruptcy our intelligence agencies are.

J Thomas – I also agree with you conviction here that we need a better commitment to data security in general. This is the sort of task that the NSA and the like could be devoting their efforts towards, but apparently meddling with China and chasing some computer nerds around the world is more important.

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J Thomas 11.01.14 at 12:13 am

#328 tTN

J Thomas, rea did not say that, and consider what an unbelievable shitstorm it is for one woman to step forward with an accusation like that, then double it.

What is it she did not say? I agree with you that it’s very hard for women to make this accusation, which raises the Bayesian likelihood that it was done by professionals.

Couldn’t the CIA simply kill him and leave him in front of a stack of kiddie porn with a needle sticking out of his arm? I mean really…riding herd on the entire Swedish justice system seems inefficient.

Yes, they probably could have just killed him under suspicious circumstances. I want to believe that they chose not to do that, and my evidence is that he is still alive. I want to believe that they did not choose to kill him and then they were so utterly incompetent that they failed with every attempt.

So remaining choices include:

The CIA or some other spooky entity of some nation chose to frame him, and succeeded. They did a whole lot of damage to his organization, as the members started arguing along with everybody else about whether he was really a rapist or not. If that’s what happened, it was pretty effective.

Or he was just a bad guy, and he let his fame go to his head and he thought he could do whatever he wanted. If he hadn’t been famous he would have just been a random bad guy caught in the criminal justice system, but under the circumstances people make a big deal of it.

I don’t see any good way to choose between those at this point. It’s like Zimmerman/Martin where people chose what they wanted to believe and then argued back and forth, where there was no good evidence about the important things except Zimmerman’s own testimony. Except this one hasn’t gone to court and there’s nothing except what the media has reported.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.01.14 at 12:30 am

Since kidneystones has apparently given up on the attempt to persuade anyone of anything, I can give up trying to be polite and say that Attkinson is a loony anti-vaxer whose laughable and paranoid-sounding book begins with “Reeeeeeeeee.”

This administration has been so lucky in its enemies. Whenever you try to talk about the war or whistleblowers, someone will add that they’re never seen Obama’s long-form birth certificate. If you talk about how Obama is the first President to decide that he has the power to run an assassination program, some GOP hack will be sure to add that he’s a Kenyan and a Muslim too. There’s basically no way for anyone but the most high-information people to distinguish between the Snowden leaks and the “OMG my computer got a virus so Obama did it.”

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kidneystones 11.01.14 at 1:07 am

Hi Rich,

You do such a good job of making my arguments that I really don’t feel compelled to add much more. I’m pleased to see you boil down the discussion so quickly to the ridiculous, a bit like kicking over the chess board. By your own admission, you know virtually nothing of Attkinson. Her decades long career in the (liberal) press disappears in an eruption of smears.

My point, and one that has been made by others, is that history is not going to be particularly kind to this administration and its defenders, such as you, Marshall, et al. Attkinson is not an “enemy” of the administration anymore than she is an enemy of the state. Attkinson is a career reporter silenced in her efforts to expose corruption, lies, and illegalities in the current government. Her producers at CBS killed her stories, perhaps because of the ties binding CBS to the WH at the highest levels, or because CBS culture only likes stories that put the administration in the best possible light. Rather than get paid for doing nothing, Attkinson left CBS. That in itself should be news.

Attkinson can begin her book however she likes, Rich, her credibility is certainly superior to that of TPM and Wiki. CBS has battened down the hatches. C-Span just today corroborated Attkinson’s account of WH efforts to censor C-Span. Identifying yourself as one of the “high-information people” may not be the most effective appeal to authority.

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Thornton Hall 11.01.14 at 1:09 am

@312 The government can’t get Microsoft or Oracle to even build software that works. Now you want them to make it secure!

If the government actually wants secure software the only way to do it is to stop contracting it out. People think the private market is so great, but in the world of security, the private market gave us Fallujah.

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J Thomas 11.01.14 at 1:42 am

#334 Thornton Hall

@312 The government can’t get Microsoft or Oracle to even build software that works. Now you want them to make it secure!

People have mostly given up. And yet, it isn’t sustainable to give up on software security.

So for example, in a reasonable world nobody would ever use Flash except to study the history of the internet. OK, I have Flash turned off by default and I probably turn it on five times an hour, because I want to look at web sites that require it. The web sites require it because it’s convenient for them or something. I really ought to set up a form letter to send to them about it — if even five million people sent them email every time it happened, maybe they’d do less of that sort of thing. But….

Likewise javascript. Javascript is insecure by design. It isn’t worth patching, it needs to be banned. But a whole lot of stuff gets done with it, and increasing amount, because it is the main language that is guaranteed to be available on browsers. This is a self-escalating problem. The longer we put off banning javascript the more painful it will be.

I used to run off a liveCD. Every time you reboot, your OS is restored from a pristine state, so you only have to worry about malware that installs itself apart from the OS. When I switched to Ubuntu I couldn’t keep that up. It’s slow to load from CD and it provides upgrades so fast I can’t keep burning them. I did well with a small, fast OS that didn’t upgrade very often, but for security mostly what that gave me was security by obscurity — people didn’t bother to attack a system that hardly anybody used. That wouldn’t help if everybody did it.

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Andrew F. 11.01.14 at 5:40 am

Barry @280: You mean that quoting a hostile reviewer’ quotes (to give Kinsley credit) is not a good idea? :)

Kinsley’s quote is fine – Rich still doesn’t follow the argument. I sketched it @228, but will give it here, yet again.

Kinsley quotes an argument Greenwald makes in his book. This argument concerns the actions and intentions of the “surveillance state” generally against its critics.

Kinsley concisely shreds this argument.

Henry introduces Poitras as an example of what Greenwald describes by way of countering Kinsley. I disagree, and describe why.

Rich then triumphantly introduces an article by Greenwald from two years ago, in which he does not make the general argument he makes in the book – which is the one under discussion.

When this is pointed out to him, he then triumphantly notes that Greenwald did not mention Poitras in his general argument – which is of course true, as Henry did, which is what began the present discussion.

I have a few general comments on the post itself, and the subject, but they’ll have to wait until later in the day. Peter T. makes some interesting points above.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.01.14 at 1:04 pm

Andrew F. in high dudgeon said that I must have psychological problems, that he wasn’t going to read what I wrote, and that he was going to let me have the last word. But here he is again.

“Kinsley quotes an argument Greenwald makes in his book. This argument concerns the actions and intentions of the “surveillance state” generally against its critics.”

No, Kinsley quotes the concluding paragraph after a long description of particular evidence from Greenwald’s book, after truncating it a bit to remove the mention of evidence.

That you think that Kinsley’s article “shreds” Greenwald’s argument is perhaps the most risible thing about it. I really haven’t read a worse article by a paid writer in some time.

And in the list of my triumphs, you forgot to mention that I pointed out that you didn’t examine the timing of the Poitras /Iraq incident. Therefore, when you “described why” you created a story about soldiers, angry that some of their own had just been killed, quite understandably putting Poitras on some watch lists. In fact, it appears that she was put on the watch lists by investigators years later when they investigated this incident, even though as you agree putting her on the watch lists would turn up no evidence about it — in other words *she was harassed because of her journalism*.

The rest of your argument is one long, tawdry equivocation in which you deplore the watch list system but think that the investigators were justified in following it.

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The Raven 11.01.14 at 2:14 pm

kidneystones@291: Media Matters, a conscientious liberal media criticism site, has debunked Attkison’s claims. Seems the video she has shared was shot nearly a year after the claimed date of the hack.

She claims a PC and her personal Mac were hacked, and the media has accepted this claim with no skepticism. Mediaite went with the assumption that she shot it in December, 2012. […] Attkisson shot this video on or sometime after September 16, 2013. The episode of “Dancing with the Stars” that is playing in the background features Valerie Harper dancing a Foxtrot to “Some Kind of Wonderful” and first aired live on the evening of that date. […] According to Attkisson’s own timeline her computer was ‘hacked’ in October 2012, she came forward with this allegation in May 2013, but then waited until September 2013 to take video ‘evidence.’

I await your acknowledgement that Attkison is not credible.

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J Thomas 11.01.14 at 2:28 pm

#338 The Raven

kidneystones@291: Media Matters, a conscientious liberal media criticism site, has debunked Attkison’s claims. Seems the video she has shared was shot nearly a year after the claimed date of the hack.
….

I await your acknowledgement that Attkison is not credible.

Why are we arguing about this?

The fundamental claim is that the NSA etc are secret and are not responsible to the governed. We should look at what can be done about that.

Individual claims that the NSA etc have done bad things, are only useful to persuade people who do not understand that the fundamental claim matters. People who figure that they can trust the government to secretly do the right thing, because they trust and like the individual people they know who are doing secret things, or because they like the way the president smiles on TV, or something.

If there are people who believe the NSA etc are doing bad things because of inadequate evidence, *who cares*? Let them believe that. It doesn’t matter why they have come to understand that they can’t trust their government to secretly do the right thing.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.01.14 at 3:04 pm

J Thomas: “Why are we arguing about this?”

Because the truth matters. And secondarily, because people already generally think that “the government is monitoring everyone” is a sign of nuttiness. If people who really are kind of nutty are uncritically accepted as further evidence, then it devalues the actual evidence of what people treat as an extraordinary claim.

The Raven: “I await your acknowledgement that Attkison is not credible.”

The Raven, if you’re going to discredit someone’s timeline, you need a certain minimum degree of carefulness. Attkisson herself claims that the video was made in September. So finding out that it was made in September discredits whatever media outlet claimed that it was made earlier than that, but it doesn’t discredit Attkisson. There are all sorts of questions that do, but you’ve decided to pursue the one question that doesn’t.

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J Thomas 11.01.14 at 9:43 pm

#340 Rich Puchalsky

J Thomas: “Why are we arguing about this?”

Because the truth matters. And secondarily, because people already generally think that “the government is monitoring everyone” is a sign of nuttiness. If people who really are kind of nutty are uncritically accepted as further evidence, then it devalues the actual evidence of what people treat as an extraordinary claim.

OK, that makes sense. Particularly when you argue against it in places where the people who believe in it will not participate, so it does no harm.

The Raven: “I await your acknowledgement that Attkison is not credible.”

The Raven, if you’re going to discredit someone’s timeline, you need a certain minimum degree of carefulness.

So you really do try for the truth, rather than pick a side. Lots of people hate that. I like it.

I want to note, though, that when you hope to convince people who don’t much pay attention, your current strategy will not help much. They start out thinking that the government is not really spying on them, and people who think so are crazy conspiracy theorists. The time you spend attacking crazy conspiracy theorists with just exactly the truth, will not impress them. It won’t make them think that you are somebody reliable so they should pay attention to your true examples of government spying on citizens. They don’t pay that much attention, it just confirms that crazy conspiracy theorists think the government is spying on them. It discredits your actual evidence in their minds.

It’s very hard to get sloppy thinkers to think better. Easy for them to believe that there are gullible 9/11 truthers, so all conspiracy evidence must be false. There are charity scams where all the contributions are stolen, so all charities are scams. There are examples of stupid government projects so all government projects are stupid. Etc etc etc. I don’t know what to do about these people, but letting them have too much influence on what I post is probably not good. If I waste time discrediting stuff they won’t believe anyway, I’ve probably wasted my time.

Oh well. If I had a plan of action that I was sure was the best use of my time, I’d share it with you.

I don’t, so I shouldn’t criticize yours.

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kidneystones 11.01.14 at 11:06 pm

Raven,

Your single source is a David Brock-run meme shop. Will you next cite the Daily Show?

C-Span has corroborated Attkinson’s account of WH attempts to censor C-Span reporting. CBS refuses to comment on any of Attkinson’s statements, most likely because CBS understands very well how Attkinson works – that Attkinson didn’t win the 5 Emmys and the Murrow for Brock-shop level “fact-checking.” CBS paid Attkinson well for her Emmy winning reporting, and eventually stopped producing her stories, precisely because Attkinson is credible.

Attkinson is not working in a vacuum. She leaves CBS because she won’t produce Koch conspiracy tales, and instead investigates government malfunction/malfeasance. She starts working on a book. Her computer is tampered with. She hires experts to investigate. These experts discover classified documents buried deep in her computer. The consultants mention three-letter security agency expertise levels. Attkinson reports that.

Attkinson must be a nut.

Your response is incredible.

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gianni 11.01.14 at 11:57 pm

kidneystones – I am pretty sure that it is Attkisson, not ‘Attkinson’

I watched the video of the ‘hacking’ in action… and was quite underwhelemed. We don’t even get a look at her own backspace key while things are being deleted.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/10/sharyl-attkisson-releases-video-of-apparent-computer-197961.html

Is there more substance to the allegations than this video?

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kidneystones 11.02.14 at 12:09 am

Hi Gianni,

Thanks for this and the typo correction. I won’t be buying Attkisson’s book, but I do think her allegations: both of tampering, and of the general pressure to tailor news coverage to reflect the agenda of the state to be part of the larger discussion on free speech and government intrusions. As we can see from some of the responses, team blue cheerleaders reflexively reach-out to team blue meme-shops to further advance the state talking points. That, too, must be part of the discussion, especially when many here are charged with asking students to consider events in context, sourcing, and confirmation biases. Thanks, again. That’s it for me on the topic.

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Brett Bellmore 11.02.14 at 1:32 pm

” where there was no good evidence about the important things except Zimmerman’s own testimony. “

Allow me to demonstrate that I can refrain from thread-jacking.

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J Thomas 11.02.14 at 2:17 pm

#345 BB

Allow me to demonstrate that I can refrain from thread-jacking.

Thank you! That is an impressive display of self-control!

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Andrew F. 11.03.14 at 1:06 am

Looking at this post again, and leaving aside the details of the criticism of the three targeted in the article, what I find most problematic is:

the implicit claim that stories and discussions about Snowden, Greenwald, et al, must be about one thing. Viewed with that claim in mind, the venomous tone in the article becomes easier to understand. Now the fault isn’t simply that the three authors were wrong in their actual critiques, but that the three authors are distracting us from the real story. Never mind the implications of Greenwald’s view of leakers in a democracy; never mind the degree of total institutional distrust manifest in some of Snowden’s remarks and statements; either discuss the civil liberties implications or be silent.

But this isn’t a story about one issue. For example the relationship in the United States between laws protecting the secrecy of classified information, and the role of a free press as itself a check upon the power of government, is really important. It’s an issue raised by Snowden’s actions, raised repeatedly by Greenwald, and a fair subject for discussion in any review of his book.

Reading the article, one is given the impression that the “liberal media elite” (the article’s phrase, not mine) are acting as rabid attack dogs for the Obama Administration.

Yet the same pages of the liberal media elite (I’m not sure what that is exactly, either, to be honest, but I get the vague idea of it) have also been filled with arguments that Snowden should be granted clemency as a whisteblower, lauding him as a hero, proposing him as person of the year, and so on.

In other words, Snowden does not lack for defenders among the “liberal media elite” (the article’s phrase, not mine) – nor of course does he lack for detractors. But between hagiography and calumny, there lies a large and rich field of issues which Snowden’s actions, and the views of those most responsible for publicizing those actions, have opened for discussion.

It would be better, though, were those issues discussed fairly and directly, neither treated as mere distractions from the real issue nor as convenient ground on which to insult those who dared not focus on the particular issue closest to one’s heart.

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heckblazer 11.03.14 at 7:53 am

Matt @ 283

That NSA has focused on offense at the expense of defense is a perfectly valid argument, especially in light of NSA wanting to stick backdoors into everything. However, it’s completely unnecessary to expose offensive sources and methods when taking up that issue.

The Raven @ 286

The prosecutor in Sweden doesn’t have the authority to promise Assange that Sweden won’t extradite him to the US, That goes double when the extradition request is a hypothetical future one. I don’t get the fear of going to Sweden either; if the worry is a snatch and grab or extradition to the US being in the UK was far, far riskier given its close diplomatic and intelligence ties.

I’d also note that a major source for the “Assange’s accusers have CIA ties” claim is our old friend Israel Shamir. Rawstory repeated the charge, as did Keith Olbermann when he tweeted a link to a blog post that sources that Shamir article. Shamir is also the father of Johannes Wahlström. Wahlström also happens to be the Wikileaks gatekeeper for the Nordic countries [link is in Norwegian] , one of Assange’s defense witnesses and the director of Mediastan, Wikileaks’ response to the film The Fifth Estate.

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Brett Bellmore 11.03.14 at 10:51 am

Andrew, what you’re talking about, I think, is the narrative. The Procrustian approach to the news, where all the bits of the truth that don’t fit get chopped off, and if necessary the truth gets stretched to match the predetermined theme.

It has taken over to the point where you can practically write for yourself the story you’ll read in any media outlet, on any given topic, just from knowing where they stand on the ideological spectrum.

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J Thomas 11.03.14 at 12:48 pm

#347 Andrew F

Now the fault isn’t simply that the three authors were wrong in their actual critiques, but that the three authors are distracting us from the real story. Never mind the implications of Greenwald’s view of leakers in a democracy; never mind the degree of total institutional distrust manifest in some of Snowden’s remarks and statements; either discuss the civil liberties implications or be silent.

That’s been my view. To the extent that argument about Snowden is designed to distract from the important issue of the NSA, it is a tactic that should be opposed.

But if we want to talk about Snowden, the first question is, is he really an NSA agent providing a cover story to hide something they don’t want to reveal? My guess is no. He would have to be tremendously dedicated, it would be a complicated Rube-Goldberg sort of plan, and what sort of secret would they be covering up that *this* would be the cover story?

The second question is, is he an agent of some other nation, revealing false information to mislead us? Again I guess no. The NSA has not denied anything. (But then, it would be even more embarrassing to reveal he was a foreign agent with a real US security clearance looking through our secrets and telling lies, than that he actually was who he said he was.) And it’s another Rube-Goldberg plan, wouldn’t he be more useful continuing to give them our secrets? Unless they had multiple other sources just as good, which they surely do.) If he is a foreign agent following a plan to embarrass the US government, it makes sense that he would be mostly telling the truth. It’s less effort, and the truth is bad enough. But there is some possibility that something still hidden might come out, that’s a lie and which people will tend to believe since they’ve believed so much before.

So if we want to talk about Snowden, we should notice that we don’t know much about him. It doesn’t seem that likely that he’s working for somebody else, but it’s possible. What we think about him is mostly made up from little bits of stuff reported by the media.

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J Thomas 11.03.14 at 12:52 pm

Apart from Snowden himself, there’s the question how a whistleblower ought to behave. Never mind the particular example, how should it be done?

First there’s the question whether revealing secrets helps US enemies. Anything that gives them a hint how we collect information, helps them hide information from us. So if AQ and ISIS are giant threats that are far more important than holding to the Constitution, then any leaks are bad unless they are misleading leaks. But the US government is the world’s only superpower. It is far more dangerous than any other entity on the planet. The question is whether it is operating for us, or for itself. (It’s like, a farmer works hard to benefit his cows. He feeds them, protects them from predators, calls a vet when they get sick, etc. But he isn’t doing it for *them*.) Can we trust that the US government is secretly on our side when we can’t check up on it? Can we trust a secret branch of the US government with all our own secrets? Is AQ a big enough threat to justify that bet?

Second there’s the question of revealing data about foreign governments. Those secrets caused our government problems with friendly governments it had been spying on. Of course they knew that we *could* spy on them, but they couldn’t do anything about it so they pretended they thought we wouldn’t do it, so they could get on with life. Then they got evidence that sure enough, we had been spying on them about negotiations with them, we were finding out what they considered their minimal demands so we could offer just that much and nothing more, and they were upset. All we could do about it was promise that we’d stop, just like we’d promised we wouldn’t do it in the first place. All they could do was accept the new promise just like they’d accepted the previous broken promise, because there was no way they could stop us. It made them feel bad. The leaks did that. But then, the result is that some friendly foreign governments might put some money into data security, and they might get results that will help everybody.

A third question is the foreigners we paid or blackmailed into being our spies. They are likely to be killed. But why were their names put in places where Snowden could get them? That was incredibly irresponsible. Surely large foreign governments have dozens of spies who have as much access as Snowden did. If our spies in those countries are still in place, they are double agents who tell us what their governments want them to. Large foreign governments will trade spy info with other governments and terrorist groups, in exchange for things they want, or give it away to build trust. We give all our info to Israel (or we look the other way when they spy on us), and they surely trade it to everybody but their enemies.

People die if those secrets get out, and we *broadcast* it to everybody who has the right security clearance? To people like Snowden? The whistleblowers are not the problem here.

The fourth question is masses of data. These last two leakers revealed a whole lot of stuff. They couldn’t possibly have thought carefully about every detail to make sure it was OK. Should a whistleblower be careful to reveal only the particular facts that need to be revealed to stop something awful from happening, and leave everything else secret?

I don’t know. If you release a whole lot of information, somebody might use big data techniques to figure out things nobody knew before including the people who created the secrets. That’s the new world we’re living in. Should the government be exempt from that? Nobody else is. But I can’t tell where it will lead and I expect nobody else can either.

The extreme of that argument is to say that whenever you are considering revealing any secret, you should contact the FBI and get a few of their agents to go over it with you and see if you all agree that it should be released. Then if they convince you it shouldn’t, don’t. If you are not convinced then let them arrest you before you release it. I’m sure the extreme argument is wrong.

Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. So if you’re thinking about releasing 100 terabytes of secrets, maybe you should consider releasing only 50 terabytes instead. Split the difference. ;-)

It just occurred to me, anybody who says anything interesting about this question will probably never get a security clearance. If you have one, or if you want one, you had better not say anything that deviates in any way from what the US counter-intelligence guy who will review your case would say.

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ezra abrams 11.03.14 at 3:52 pm

two points
1
A liberal is someone who wants to abolish the CIA
as far as i can tell, the CIA does nothing one couldn’t find out from reading the morning papers (or the modern equivalent)

Isn’t there a anecdote early in The Best and The Brightest, this new high level official is telling his friend about all the information he is getting from super secret sources, and how his friend, not having access to gov’t intel, doesn’t know what is really going on ?

Next day, the Friend gets all the morning papers (NB in the 60s this mean’t foreign to) and goes to the high level officials office
Find me one fact in your intel that isn’t in the papers

It is really not clear that our multi deka billion dollar intel estab is doing *anything* to help us that good old fashioned police work couldn’t do

2
Given the scale of the crimes of Kissinger (still feted) and Obama (all those kids killed by drones – if Obama was a republican, every single person on this blog would call him a child killer) why on earth do we care about snowden and manning ?
seriously ? like havn’t any of you read this:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/06/afghanistan-shocking-indictment/?insrc=whc

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Donald Johnson 11.03.14 at 4:32 pm

“Viewed with that claim in mind, the venomous tone in the article becomes easier to understand. Now the fault isn’t simply that the three authors were wrong in their actual critiques, but that the three authors are distracting us from the real story”

The “venomous tone” in the OP is in large part a response to the venomous tone of at least two of the people (Kinsley and Wilentz) in their hatchet jobs. This isn’t hard to understand, unless one doesn’t wish to understand it.

I don’t recall the tone of Packer.

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The Temporary Name 11.03.14 at 6:52 pm

That NSA has focused on offense at the expense of defense is a perfectly valid argument, especially in light of NSA wanting to stick backdoors into everything. However, it’s completely unnecessary to expose offensive sources and methods when taking up that issue.

It’s certainly necessary to expose method: it’s about knowing what they’re doing, and protecting yourself against it, for instance.

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Andrew F. 11.03.14 at 8:38 pm

Donald @353: Your explanation would be sufficient if the article were a hatchet job focused squarely on the three authors. But the article goes beyond them to discuss a substantive issue – the “real issue” which the three targeted authors are, in the article’s storyline, ignoring.

Brett @349: When it comes to editorials and op-eds and writings of that genus, I agree that the focus is often and lamentably some misguided attempt to “control the narrative.” It’s incredibly irritating to desire good analysis and instead find mere partisanship.

It also occurs to me that some want this story to be about more than it really is.

For some, including me, the only arguably line-crossing program exposed by Snowden’s dump is the telephone metadata collection program. The rest, and that’s 99% of it, is legal and legitimate intelligence work.

Separately from that, there is a different question, which is whether the ability of the government to aggregate legally collected information has, with the progress of computational power and networked systems, grown to the point where additional protections are needed to prevent that ability from being abused.

This different question is the more important and pressing question to me – though in part perhaps because I view 99% of what Snowden absconded with to be documentation of legal and legitimate programs and policies.

While some of the Snowden documents have been useful to exploring that question (in particular, those concerning the FISC), most have not. In fact, the President’s PCLOB reports have been much more useful, though not nearly as widely read as the hyperventilating cyber-partisans who want Snowden canonized (preferably while alive) and the NSA abolished or those who want Snowden disappeared and journalists prosecuted.

But to return to the three authors targeted in Henry’s article, I view Kinsley’s brief critique of Greenwald’s operatic and simplistic declamations as both useful to a prospective buyer of the book and a decent rebuke to such nonsense.

I also view Wilentz’s exploration of the possible underpinnings of Snowden’s political philosophy, and its implications for the liberal state, as a useful warning signal to beware of libertarians who are using the noise generated by Snowden’s leaks for their own purposes.

As to Packer, I’m still genuinely puzzled as to why any fire was aimed at him, but perhaps I’m not remembering his article correctly. I do recall that his reporting is part of what inspired Poitras’s first documentary (first one that I know of, anyway), and that his most recent article was quite fair, if not sympathetic.

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Brett Bellmore 11.03.14 at 9:53 pm

“Brett @349: When it comes to editorials and op-eds and writings of that genus, I agree that the focus is often and lamentably some misguided attempt to “control the narrative.””

I’d say the effort to control the narrative is at it’s least offensive in editorials and op-eds. Everybody expects those to have a viewpoint, that’s their express purpose.

It’s when you encounter it in supposedly straight news reporting that the narrative becomes a real problem, and it is endemic there.

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