Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A thought for both the people upset by the character assassination of Snowden and the people spreading the character assassination

Grow up.

Did you think any of your heroes were paragons of human virtue or achievement?

Of course not - they were humans after all. Grow up.

That's not the point. There are bigger fish to fry here, namely what to think and do about the surveillance state.


  1. I don't care about Snowden's character (although he is almost certainly a narcissist). Snowden should be executed for treason. Just saying ...

    1. "You're kidding, right?"

      No. I am not kidding. The US government should seek the death penalty if they can.

    2. They would have to actually get him for treason first. I think that will be difficult for them, as Joseph Fetz points out. Treason requires either making war against the United States or "giving aid and comfort" to America's enemies. It also requires a courtroom confession or the testimony of two witnesses to an overt act. A treason charge, or Hell, even an espionage charge, would likely have to prove an intent to harm the USA. I don't think the chances of that are very good. Not to mention the fact that if they fry this guy for what he did, a scary precedent is set. If America becomes a country that murders people who expose things like this, I think she takes a page from the Orwellian playbook.

    3. The idiocracy (here represented by Abaslon) floats the idea of "treason" any time something like this happens. Just to give you an idea of what actions would bring about such a charge, the last effort to try someone for treason was against the guy who is the spokesman for Al Qaeda. Prior to that it was the Rosenbergs in the early 1950s I believe. They don't often charge people with it because what the state has to show to prove such is much more trouble than it is worth. There are lots more prosecutor friendly statutes on the books.

    4. "The US government should seek the death penalty if they can."

      If this ever happened, the libertarian revolution would truly be unleashed. Can you not see that?

    5. "the libertarian revolution would truly be unleashed"

      Oh please. Libertarians are children running around in men's bodies who are upset that the NSA might know about their porn collections. If there was any intellectual substance to the libertarians we would be having street marches protesting the killing of Ibragim Todashev.

  2. "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court." Art. III Section 3 US Constitution

    Since it is the people who make up the States and it was the people in general who were being spied upon by the Federal government, and Snowden merely made them aware of this, where exactly did he commit treason? Under what authority could the Federal government seek the death penalty?

    1. It ultimately does not really matter what we call Snowden's crime but in my view it was a serious one. The surveillance programs in question have as their intended purpose heading off attacks on the United States including attacks by Al Qaeda, an organization which has declared itself to be at war with the US and which has killed something over 3,000 Americans.

      Snowden's purpose was to make public the surveillance programs. He admits he did it. The newspaper reporter has identified Snowden as the source. It is a perfectly respectable argument to stand up in court and argue that disclosing PRISM gave aid to Al Qaeda: so there you have it, an enemy, two witnesses (with a confession) and aid to the enemy.

      I have not seen anything that says that the programs as exercised were illegal in anyway and I have not seen any examples of the fruits of the program being used against domestic "dissent".

  3. This is a false equivalency. Defending the guy against character assassination is quite different from the character assassination itself.

  4. No it's not. I'm not saying the two groups are equivalent in all things I'm only saying they share this particular point. And I didn't even say they were equally in need of the reminder.

    Do you just come here to make trouble?

    Anyway, I think it's an open question of whether a lot of it is "character assassination" anyway. Reporters always report the minute details of the subject of their reports. This is no different from reporting all the background details of the Boston bombers' lives or Obama's lives when he rocketed on the scene for that matter.

    So to repeat my advice - grow up LSB.

  5. I agree in that I don't really care about the guy's character one way or the other. Part of me wonders if his decision to come forward, in addition to the Guardian/WaPo's rollout sequence, was a tactical error, but I'm sure dozens of dissertations will be written asking that question in the future.

    Meanwhile in news about the actual issue at stake here the ACLU has filed a lawsuit.

  6. A dictum of Napoleons forbids me to pour oil on this fire, I won't talk about criticism of Snowden. ;)

    I work in a perfectly ordinary office. Two of my colleagues use the powerful PC the company has bought them, and company time to run stock-speculation software. If that's what happens in a normal business where the only temptation is available computing power and lack of supervision then I can't help wondering what those running PRISM are up to. I'm not as confident as Daniel seems to be in the intentions of our leaders or of normal people, especially when enormous temptation is put in front of them.

    I don't believe that this type of intelligences is particularly important either. There are simple solutions to terrorist problems that haven't been properly explored. The first, that would help enormously, is to stop fighting wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, or where-ever. I have no idea why anyone still thinks this is a productive activity. The second is to prevent anyone (except perhaps very thoroughly vetted people) from entering western countries from places where radical Islam is prevalent. This should include western natives who travel to these places and attempt to return. (Most of the native British Muslim terrorists have been totally incompetent and their plots have failed, the only major exceptions have been those that had training abroad). It's a far smaller infringement of the liberty of a man to refuse him travel out of his country than it is to start a war in his country, what the west needs is a policy of containment. Once we that that the problem will burn itself out just as Communism did.

    I read David Brooks' article, and what interested me most was this part:
    "Anybody who worked with him will be suspect. Young people in positions like that will no longer be trusted with responsibility for fear that they will turn into another Snowden."

    To me this is an enormous plus point for what Snowden has done. Now the die is cast and one person has leaked security will have to be much tighter within PRISM. Naturally, there will have been considerable security around PRISM before. But, what this means is that things must get more serious. The number of people who know important things must be kept very short. Since abuse is inevitable everyone with significant knowledge would be able to do what Snowden has done. The next obvious step would be to reveal the actual abuses. Everyone involved must be paid extremely well to avoid this from happening, it seems Snowden was already paid a very high rate. Part of everyones' salary must be hush-money. Perhaps the more intelligent way of doing this is to give the staff a short stint in PRISM and offer to pay them a large sum several years later, by which time their knowledge will be uninteresting to the press.

    Another inevitable problem is knowledge that can be used for financial gain. I'm sure one reason we haven't heard of abuses of systems like this is because the main abuse is to use them for insider trading. Now financiers know these systems exist the more enterprising amongst them may attempt to recruit spies within them to spy on other businesses. The "Paul Revere" article described social network graphs, a graph of Fortune 100 board members, mutual fund managers and senior politicians would be very useful. There's very little logic to use systems like this for paying back grudges or petty crime when you can do stuff like that.

    1. If you think I am confident in the intentions of our leaders than you must be truly paranoid because I don't think of my self as especially confident in their intentions.

      It's true I don't think Obama is Big Brother, but that's an awfully low bar. I'm sure they're doing an awful lot with it that they shouldn't be. As your co-workers demonstrate, people are self-interested. Most are not sadistic or megalomaniacal (some are, of course). The administration is almost certainly doing objectionable, unconstitutional stuff with this data but I'm not sure I'd chalk them up as fascist just yet - that's all.

      I do have a fair degree of faith in American institutions.

    2. Well, you did write "We live in a society where most people and most leaders have good intentions...". The next part about institutions I could agree with, the part about people and leader, not so much.

      I don't have the same faith in British, Irish or European institutions. I think it's more than likely that the populous will be spied on this way for the rest of my life, no matter how many abuses of it there are. As Tyler Cowen said recently the thing that could really improve things is the self-interest of politicians. It was found years ago that the returns on Senator's investment portfolios were much higher than those of CEOs, financiers or anyone else. Clearly that's because they use their insider knowledge of future legislation to direct their investments. What could really stop these kind of intrusions is if politicians are worried about these kind of activities being monitored.

    3. "The administration is almost certainly doing objectionable, unconstitutional stuff with this data"

      You have no basis for that conclusion other than your own deeply alienated (Libertarian) day dreams. Where is a single example of an American being wrongly targeted or prosecuted as a result of the use of this data?

  7. "There are bigger fish to fry here, namely what to think and do about the surveillance state."

    I think the question of thought and action is so personal that dialogue on all aspects is necessary so far as we are uncertain to what aspect of this story may inspire another to action individually defined -- studying through one's own prism the actions of Edward Snowden's action in relation to his view on the surveillance state as well as all others available actions in relation to his actions is to actively in my opinion fry the Bigger fish

    -- more specifically I think the question of character assassination is not separate or unimportant to the surveillance question

    “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. …it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life.” E Snowden

    I do not see people holding on to a notion of hero perfection as much as I think you do -- I may be misinterpreting you or people so far as you see it but I think most people are big boys and girls and realize that with different people come different perspectives on everything and everyone -- I think more than ever before a large amount of the population seems to be evolving beyond good and evil (Game of Thrones vs Lord of the Rings)

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