June 17, 2013

#Snowden, snooping and Dear Leader

Note: This post will be regularly updated as we get more information about NSA whistleblower (or whatever) Edward Snowden, the accuracy of his statements, reporting on them by media and opinionators, especially Glenn Greenwald, and more.

First issue: Per a Facebook friend, he says that some of the things Edward Snowden has claimed, in his leaking so far, that some big communications/data companies have done simply isn't true. This guy is a strong civil libertarian himself, and has an IT background, so I'm not dismissing him.

That said, per this Slate story, if the National Security Agency really trusted Snowden with this  much information access, we really shouldn't trust it, for other reasons. So, let's turn that rhetorical statement on its head. Per my Facebook friend, maybe Snowden, a high-school dropout, didn't have that much access.

And, per this post about what Snowden is doing in his refuge in the supposedly freedom-loving Hong Kong, one must wonder if he's altogether "there" mentally. More on that below.

But, but, Glenn Greenwald said!

Look, I like a lot of Greenwald's writing, but he can occasionally "bite" on stuff. And, on the First Amendment, I'm not sure that he would even accept Justice Holmes' dictum about yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater.

At the same time, Dear Leader's gummint will not reveal any details of Prism to prove Snowden mistaken, wrong, or lying, if he is. So, it's up to people who care about this issue, but don't want to be played by the government, or an egotistical idealist, or all sorts of other things.

That said, per Emily Bazelon at Slate, such secretiveness, combined with our Constitututional Lawyer in Chief's previous legalese that "we're not listening to your phone conversations," means that Dear Leader still shouldn't be trusted, even if Snowden is lying or exaggerating.

Anyway, Snowden may wind up as the perfect "foil" for Dear Leader tut-tutting his opposition. Maybe he's a deliberate CIA plant, Per my FB friend, I'm almost as ready to believe that, upon further reading, as his claims in their entirety.

Update, June 10:

First, per this "10 things to know list" about Snowden, compiled by Tiger Beat on the Potomac, Snowden may have lied about his Army service. If he lied about receiving awards, I'll give 50-50 odds he's also lying about paratrooper training, and breaking both legs in so doing. And, in turn, that means he may have had a non-honorable discharge. Now, that doesn't mean that it was "dishonorable." If he's telling the truth about his legs, it could have been medical. But, even in the Reserves, I believe, there's yet other non-honorable, non-dishonorable discharges.

Based on that, even if he started at the NSA as "just" a security guard, I'll venture he lied about his military service on applications there and elsewhere.

Jeff Toobin has an interesting rhetorical question: Why the hell did he go to the NSA in the first place? Given that Politico says, in the link above, that he donated money to Ron Paul in 2012, voted for some third party presidential candidate in 2008, and that he appears to have some level of activity on Reddit, did he see himself as a "mole" from the start? More circumstantial proof of that here.

And, The Nation (with multiple links) has now joined the list of progressive sites saying Glenn got some stuff wrong. In my opinion, assuming what I've read in stories like this, what I've heard from IT friends on Facebook and more, Glenn did get wrong at least the server issue. Especially given that Snowden may may have mild credibility issues, and that the MSM is going to work to magnify them, I think it behooves Glenn and the story line to address this in a follow-up.

The infamous "PowerPoint Slide 5."
Via the NSA and my taxpayer dollars.
The "servers" issue, per a copy of the one PowerPoint slide Snowden gave to Greenwald, at left, is a big one. As I said on a friend's Facebook page, in a comment to him posting the link from The Nation:
I run a weekly newspaper, and keep eye on another. Here at the larger paper, we have a server for our office. We regularly use two FTP servers w/corporate, one for downloading ads designed at HQ, the other for uploading pages we build. It's not that hard to understand that there's different types of servers.
It's very plausible that companies in question with Prism have set up a separate server to address NSA requests for information.

Nobody's perfect. And even if one is a First Amendment absolutist, let's get all the facts squared down. Glenn can still address this server issue, while also discussing other details in the future.

And, if Glenn is that tech-clueless, then, since Snowden's the leaker and claims to be so IT-smart,  then he either needs to provide the approp riate corroboration, if this is what Glenn claims it is, or else, via the New York Times (if Glenn sticks by his story) make clear what this is NOT as well as with this is.

Besides, assuming there is no "back door," but that there may be, per Al Gore, a lockboxed server denoted to government data requests, there's still plenty of follow-up questions and details to ask about:

Details such as:
1. What does Booz Allen do in its contracting?
2. How much information can it access?
3. How vulnerable is it to Chinese hacking?
4. Who else besides Booz Allen has contracts specifically related to this, and how do questions 1-3 apply to them?

For right now, though, Greenwald is focusing on attacking Perlstein (Nation) and other critics of the "servers" issue. We'll see how he responds to Charles Pierce's take, since Pierce is bulldog enough himself. Oh, and Glenn, just because tech companies cooperated with the NSA, that doesn't mean they cooperated in the way you and Snowden claim they did. Red herring. Finally, your appearance on Chris Hayes' show does NOT address the "server" issue. In the text transcript, the word only appears twice, and in both cases, you do NOT distinguish between different types of servers.

Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? Not at all. Via a connection, as well as bits of blog interaction with him on my "More Glenn Greenwald is not a liberal" post, which followed my original "Why Glenn Greenwald is no liberal" post, I'm not at all surprised.

Glenn will not just double down on his stance while digging in his heels, he'll triple down and more.

Update, June 17: Snowden had an online Q&A with Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian, along with selected outsider questions. Neither GG or SA straight-out asked Snowden exactly what he meant by "servers."

This all said, I'll spin these issues off into a separate post soon enough.

Barton Gellman (l) and Glenn Greenwald (r). Politico pictures
At the same time, per the picture shown at left from this Tiger Beat story, I wouldn't trust Barton Gellman very far. Why not?

The Navy ship cap he's wearing? If you're any sort of whistleblower against the government, would you trust someone who looks like he's on "their team"? Not I. So, in his contretemps with Greenwald, I wouldn't trust his version of the story, either.

That said, this too reflects less-than-well on Snowden. Why would somebody who allegedly mistrusts the "mainstream media" that much approach somebody like Gellmann? Seeing that he contributed to Ron Paul, and voted third-party in 2008, pretty well scratches my earlier idea that he was a CIA plant. Instead, he just looks like ... well, like an idealistic, sometimes clueless, high-school dropout.

Finally, it looks like Al Franken has officially become a sellout. Getting a big "tout" on fake-liberalland Democratic Underground would be a "tell," but all we have to do is look at the quote DU lifted from a video interviev via another blog:
To summarize, he points out that as a member of the Judiciary Committee - he has availed himself of the briefings about NSA and nothing that was made public lately surprised him. He said, "There's certain things that its appropriate for me to know that its not appropriate for the 'bad guys' to know...So anything the American people know, the 'bad guys' know...I can assure you that this isn't about spying on the American people. This is about having the data available so that if there are suspicions about foreign persons or persons that have connections with terrorist organizations that we can connect the dots."
I tried to comment there, but DU, like Kos many a year ago, has suspended/blocked my account, I guess for some truly liberal nefarity (I can invent words, I'm an editor) that I wrote in the past.

And, per polls showing that a majority of Americans now favor such snooping, the IOKIYAO factor appears to be part of it. Thank doorknob I didn't vote for him, either time. And right-or-wrong Democrats who spew vitriol at me will only drive me further away, not convert me.

Update, June 13: Snowden's now changing his story (yes you are) on why he went to China. Dude, as successful as China is with hacking, it probably doesn't need you to "expose criminality." Besides, if it does really think you have things to share, you can be a hostage against your own possible extradition.

Now Snowden is starting to sound more like Julian Assange. Tinges of idealism — and tinges of a big, fat ego, too.

Another way he's sounding like Assange? This, in GG's follow-up story:
"He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them."
Like the NSA couldn't use a keystroke recognition software program or something?  I mean, if Snowden really thinks a red hood is going to stop the National Security Agency, he's got problems indeed. Let me go back to my one original idea. Maybe he is a CIA plant, designed to attack the credibility of the likes of Glenn Greenwald.

And, that's not at all unrealistic. A New York Times Opinionator column reminds us that this exact idea was discussed by a consortium of national security contractor companies, including HBGary Richard, just a couple of years ago, after a 2010 hack by LulzSec, and Greenwald's coverage of that:
Team Themis (a group that included HBGary and the private intelligence and security firms Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and Endgame Systems) was effectively brought in to find a way to undermine the credibility of WikiLeaks and the journalist Glenn Greenwald (who recently broke the story of Edward Snowden’s leak of the N.S.A.’s Prism program),  because of Greenwald’s support for WikiLeaks. Specifically, the plan called for actions to “sabotage or discredit the opposing organization” including a plan to submit fake documents and then call out the error. As for Greenwald, it was argued that he would cave “if pushed” because he would “choose professional preservation over cause.” 
Of course, Greenwald didn't "cave."

That said, suppose the contractors said to themselves, "We're on the right general trail, but some of the details are wrong," and they then talked about a new idea, of feeding false documents, expecting Greenwald to double down, and then attacking his credibility.

Far-fetched? Not at all. Snowden has more to release. Suppose there are more things that are incorrect in them?

Update, June 19: Meanwhile, just because Greenwald may be digging himself a Snowden-specific hole, there's simply no call for alleged civil libertarians to go far beyond Perlstein and say "nothing to see," but David Simon decided to do just that. Even worse, since then, he's doubled down on the stupid with an abundance of self-righteousness that probably could put even Greenwald to shame. Implying that nobody's been more out in front than you in fighting against all the problems of the War on Drugs is bad enough. Using a blog post title like "The 'Nigger Wake-Up Call'" is worse. Claiming that that title wasn't gratuitous is the trifecta.

Hell, with "friends" like you, the NSA or Booz Allen Hamilton had no need to give Snowden bogus information, or let him think things that aren't true, if that is the case, per my earlier hypothesis.

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