Snowden: I acted because Domestic Spying actually worsened under Obama

The Guardian has released part two of the Hong Kong interview with Edward Snowden, in which he clarifies his reasons for going public. He talks about how the warrantless demand for Verizon phone records was the misuse of a USA Patriot Act provision intended to allow monitoring of an individual, but which was applied to a whole society.

Toward the end of the interview Snowden said that his instinct was to let the system correct itself, but he watched in horror as it did not do so. In fact, he said, the abuses were growing over time, and were worse than in the previous administration.

Although Snowden did not name Obama specifically, it seems clear from what he said that disappointment with the president’s refusal to step back from Bush-era domestic spying, and, indeed, the ways in which the Obama administration was extending it, drove him to blow the whistle. He also expressed disappointment that NSA officials were lying to Congress about what they are doing. He clearly has concluded that it is a sneaky and manipulative government agency that is not subject to sufficient oversight, in part because it misrepresents its actions to the overseers.

The general disappointment with the Obama administration on issues of surveillance, drone warfare, the surge in Afghanistan, extension of the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich, labor issues and the environment felt by anyone to the left of David Brooks appears to be a factor in Snowden’s whistleblowing. He must also have been frustrated to see Senators such as Ron Wyden (D-OR) muzzled and unable to tell the American people forthrightly what was troubling him about the secret interpretation of the USA Patriot Act (which is of course the most unpatriotic piece of legislation ever passed). Muzzling a sitting senator about an issue of clear public concern surely is unconstitutional. You can’t have a democracy that way. Snowden knew this and is trying to restore what we lost to the National Security Super-State.

The Guardian video is here:

11 Responses

  1. Juan: Is there any evidence the NSA is accountable to anyone?
    (I think the 1977 investigation suggested it was already pretty much doing anything it wanted.) The ‘media’ may be in the bag for Obama but I can’t see where any Republican candidate would have done anything different with regard to the wars being waged by the NSA. (except R.Paul who was easily erased by the media.) If things get bad enough in the US the next couple years (maybe some stuxnet-like disaster) the top candidate for president might be a former NSA DIRECTOR with ‘Big Sis’ for Veep?

    • One former NSA director who had been discussed for possible high public office was retired Navy Adm. Bobby Inman. Bill Clinton wanted him as his secretary of defense but his appointment was opposed by the Israel Lobby. Inman did not believe the Israelis were trustworthy enough to share intelligence with and he blamed Israel for intentional misconduct in the USS Liberty attack of 1967 during the Six Day War.

      Veterans of the U.S. intelligence community, especially retired CIA Associate Deputy Director of Operations Ted Shackley, backed the 1980 presidential candidacy of former Director of Intelligence George H.W. Bush due to Jimmy Carter’s massive personnel reductions at the CIA beginning in 1977 in which hundreds of employees lost their jobs.

      The Reagan-Bush years were a glory period for U.S. intelligence veterans of the anti-Castro projects, as many came back to work in the Contra War in Nicaragua. These include Shackley, Luis Posada Carilles, and Felix Rodriguez. Dr. Orlando Bosch, one of the most violent of the Cuban anti-Castro exiles of Miami, received a pardon from President Bush in 1989 during protracted parole violation proceedings in federal court.

      Many Americans see the “alphabet agencies” as bastions of democracy in the world.

      • Many Americans see the “alphabet agencies” as bastions of democracy in the world.

        Is that “alphabet,” or “alphaBENT?”

        And many fellow US-ans know dang well what those collections of too-often-corruptniks actually do, but go on to give them praise and cover for bad acts and reassure the rest of us that all that stuff, all that fiddling and Fudd-ling with the other nations of the world or many of our own under-the-Constitutional fellow citizens, is not only “legal” but also mandatorily “necessary” if Freedom’n’Democracy ™, New! and Improved! and Wait! There’s More! is to spread and prosper and “mature” among the Wogs…

  2. The negative, haughty know-nothing criticisms of Snowden strongly remind me of the family member who exposes the abuse, sexual and otherwise, going on in a family, whom the abuser and the abuser’s active and tacit allies attack mercilessly because their abuse and their silence are exposed. Even a victim in denial will attack the messenger.

    With journalists, it is professional jealousy and resentment. They are willingly in denial about the meaning of the abuse. With average citizens, they are the family members subsumed into silence in denial and don’t want to know or think about it; it doesn’t have anything to do with them, they implore.

    There is no reason or goal that the messenger can have that will satisfy the addictive urgency to suppress the denial by all means felt necessary. There is ONLY denial in these self-interested, compromised, and conflicted critics, and it is ascendant. It’s always the cover-up! And the ‘tell’ is the intensity with which the cover-up is pursued.

  3. “Muzzling a sitting senator about an issue of clear public concern surely is unconstitutional.”

    Sen. Dick Durbin in a senate speech revealed (after the Iraq war was underway) that the senators on the intelligence committee knew from what they were told in closed hearings that the Bush Administration was lying to get the nation in a war on Iraq. The committee members used their oaths to secrecy to justify their silence in public and so the nation went to war with all its crimes against humanity.

    Now the current members of the intelligence (?) committee under the leadership of Dianne Feinstein are mute at our democracy’s 11th hour.

    Where are the profiles in courage when the nation needs them?

  4. The general disappointment with the Obama administration on issues of surveillance, drone warfare, the surge in Afghanistan, extension of the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich, labor issues and the environment felt by anyone to the left of David Brooks appears to be a factor in Snowden’s whistleblowing.

    This is the Karl Rove/Scooter Libby definition of whistle blowinig: divulging classified information to punish people over political disagreements.

    Congratulations.

    • You’ve gone two steps ahead of us through the looking glass there, Joe. Whistleblowing is divulging what you feel is wrong, so yes, it’s a “political disagreement” in that sense. There is no comparison with leaks used as a tool of power by those in power.

      • Again, the Karl Rove definition of whistle-blowing: if I don’t like it, I get to publicize it.

        Under actual whistle-blowing law, one needs to uncover illegal activity, not merely policy with which one disagrees. I can’t believe I actually have to explain this, but apparently, I’m so far through the looking glass that I actually think there is a difference there.

  5. Well, since we are one nation, under Snowden, I guess what he concludes ( He has clearly concluded that it is a sneaky and manipulative government agency that is not subject to sufficient oversight, in part because it misrepresents its actions to the overseers.) should, therefore be definitive. One question, if government spying was so all pervasive how is it that these agencies were not aware, even after they did background checks on him, that Edward Snowden had been in contact with Glen Greenwald, well before being hired by Booz Allen Hamilton.

    He seeks asylum in China because he’s worried about human rights and transparency and privacy and soon ends up on the propaganda video by North Korea slamming the South for being puppets of America. The Chinese don’t really want much to do with him and once they have extracted all they could, show him the door. He’s worried about drone strikes but he is hiding out in Russia. The Russia that decimated Grozny and all of Chechyna. The trouble with the left in America, and it is a long standing problem, is that they seem to see themselves as somehow above politics. Everyone is just supposed to recognize their moral superiority and bow down and agree with them. This does not and never had worked in the real world or in real democracies and their results are, how shall we say, mixed. They claim to have ended the war in Vietnam. Here is what they did not do, end the war in Vietnam. What ended the war in Vietnam, as the Pentagon Papers demonstrate, was that no one could find a way to win it. Johnson was at the peace talks in Paris for a reason. He was aware of what was in the Pentagon Papers, certainly, and was therefore trying to achieve a negotiated end to the war. This would have been bad news for Richard Nixon, who was riding discontent over the war right into the Presidency. He and Henry Kissinger, through their emissary Anna Chenault, sent a message to the South Vietnamese that if they walked away from the talks, Nixon would get them a better deal as President. ( See Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger.) They did walk away. The left made a hissey fit at the Democratic Convention. The reaction in the country basically made president of the United States the man most responsible for the war not ending in a negotiated settlement as it should have in 1968. Please don’t wave your moral rectitude at me. It is disgusting.

    • “One question, if government spying was so all pervasive how is it that these agencies were not aware, even after they did background checks on him, that Edward Snowden had been in contact with Glen (sic) Greenwald, well before being hired by Booz Allen Hamilton.”

      Your timeline is screwed up along with the rest of your fiction. Snowden worked at BZH long before he contacted Glenn Greenwald. It was after he discovered the excesses of surveillance that Snowden contacted Glenn Greenwald as one of the few people he could trust.

      You are badly in need of a good history of the Vietnam war when, for instance, you write that Johnson was at the Paris peace talks.

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