Snowden: Federal Spying makes us Less Secure

Supporters of massive National Security Agency domestic and international electronic surveillance of millions of innocent civilians justify it on the grounds that it makes us safer. It does not.

Edward Snowden makes the opposite point, which is that intense government surveillance harms our security. He revealed the secret warrantless monitoring of Americans (which goes beyond metadata — who you call or email, what websites you visit, how often, and where you are in real time– to actually scooping up email texts and telephone voice calls by TEMPORA, a program of GCHQ & the NSA)

Snowden said this week of surveillance techniques:

“They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and to associate freely…”

Wikileaks put out the video:

17 Responses

  1. I regard my emails, communications and files as my intellectual property. The US government demands I respect the intellectual property of US corporations – while rifling through my intellectual property at will. The spying in Brazil shows a strong suspicion of commercial espionage, using the NSA to favour US commercial interests – so the NSA is not just about protection from terrorism.

    Why should I respect the property rights of US corporations while the US government blatantly steals my property?

  2. “Snowden said this week of surveillance techniques: ‘They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and to associate freely…'”

    The usual Snowden babble. Easy to make sweeping statements that one does not even bother to justify with evidence. Hurt our economy? How, and by how much, Mr. Snowden? Limit our ability to speak and think? Risible, as I see no evidence that anyone contributing to this blog has had his ability to think and speak or write limited. I know of no one who has had relationships and associations limited, unless, of course, they were with terrorists who would do the US harm. The only limits are those that are a result of the self-limiting actions of those paranoid conspiracy theorists who are convinced that the US Government is “after them.”

    • Conspiracy theorists?

      Remember Eric Harroun, the Jabhat al-Nusra fighter and U.S. citizen who was indicted by the Department of Justice and whose father leaked to the press he was really a Central Intelligence Agency operative?

      Last month, Harroun entered into a “secret plea agreement” with the prosecution that dropped all charges in exchange to a plea of illicit munitions transport with three years of probation and a $100.00 fine.

      This favorable disposition, when compared to the harsh John Walker Lindh sentence, suggests that Harroun indeed likely had some intelligence relationship with the U.S. government pursuant to which he justified to the government for such a sweet plea deal.

      It makes one wonder the extent the U.S. intelligence community has penetrated the Syrian rebel forces and control and monitor its movements. How many more apparent American operatives are operating in Syria like Harroun who may be acting on behalf of our government? Should Syrians be suspicious?

    • Self-censorship is a nightmare to prove given that it’s defined by the things we don’t say, or do, to avoid potential unpleasantness.

      Given that you only seem willing to credit self-censorship to the lunatic fringe, you probably won’t be swayed by the observation that the people most likely to be driven to censor themselves… are the people who would otherwise be inclined to say something that could potentially inspire consequences.

      As for not knowing of anyone who’s had their ability to associate freely limited? I wonder how anyone could read of the way Muslim communities in the United States have been surveilled, infiltrated and occasionally entrapped over the last 12 years and still not comprehend the potential impact that those revelations could have on the targeted communities.

    • Harm to US economy: a major source of US export revenue is digital services, including outsourced database management and cloud storage. The initial reaction of the Brazilian government (entirely understandable, mind you) was to insist that, hereafter, all Brazilian data would be stored on computers physically located in Brazil.

      Other forms of harm: telecom & information technology (TCIT) innovation has been practically the only globally competitive sector of the civilian US economy. That is definitely not going to be the case in the future.

      RE: “…I know of no one who has had relationships and associations limited, unless, of course, they were with terrorists who would do the US harm.”

      Just because you don’t know of anyone doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

      Please see the following story in _Forbes_:

      link to forbes.com

      Also, please consider the following: in the vast majority of cases where people acquire this sort of power, they have all manner of incentives to link whistleblowers (to corruption, ethics violations, violations of international law in regards to friendly powers) to terrorists.

      link to utsandiego.com

      In the above-linked case, the FBI evidently was seeking to revive COINTELPRO-style activities by blackmailing an American-born US citizen (whose parents are from Iran and who is a peace activist). They put him of the no-fly list and insisted he become an informant on anti-war groups (he has no links to jihadist groups).

      As you may be aware, COINTELPRO was highly secret when it was in force thirty years ago. People who were aware of it were routinely accused of being insane conspiracy theorists if they complained in public.

    • Bill, maybe you do not have a problem. Your views are mainstream. But ask Ms. Poitras how hard it is for her to catch a plane. There are blacklists out there limiting employment opportunities for dissenters. It is OK to differ with the POTUS and his ilk, right?

    • How well do you think the Cisco salesmen are doing in Brazil these days? Do you think that American cloud services are getting a welcome reception? How about other places around the world?

      I will bet that Siemens will be making a big push in the switch market. Why? The German privacy laws are much stricter and the designers would risk legal action if they put nice convenient backdoors in their products. This is where strong privacy laws make good business sense. Solid secure products will sell. If you were buying a top level switch for your national infrastructure would you buy one with a backdoor or one without?

      Why the Germans? They have firsthand experience with the type of spying that you are so sanguine about.

      • That many of the posts on this blog are so critical of almost every move made by the US Government, without the poster experiencing the Midnight Knock on the Door, is evidence that whatever NSA might be doing, it certainly is not adversely affecting those who freely comment here.

        Again, Snowden’s comment about NSA’s activities “hurting the economy” is not borne out by the evidence. The economy is doing fine in spite of NSA’s activities; there is no evidence that they have caused harm to the economy.

  3. If they have the technology there is nothing to stop the NSA. All congressional oversight (yes it’s an oxymoron) is in secret committees and even then NSA lies to congress.

    Every keystroke recorded, every phone call monitored. Remember it and act accordingly.

  4. Bill _ you want a very quick and simple case of economic harm? Microsodts “365” cloud service looked a helluva lot more appealing to businesses around the world before we discovered that Microsoft has built in backdoors for the new, who consider “economic intelligence” to be part of their mandate. How keen do you think we are to put our email in there now..?

    • The example you give has not made a dent in the US economy, Huskynut. You might as well say that 60 percent of new restaurant startups fail within their second year of operation. Such failures are part of the economic equation and do not affect the overall economy, anymore than your example does.

      • Interesting how the burden of proof is dropped so glibly and primly and heavily on the backs of anyone pointing out that the Surveillance State is, on its face and as applied, a very bad idea. One would think that this kind of blanket and covert “adhesion” revision to the social contract ought to be justified, with massive proofs of utility, by those who are forcing it on us…

  5. I continue to maintain that the intent of the 4th amendment is to protect the population of the USA from the inconvience of random searches, except at borders becasue at borders everyone is a suspected smuggler, because that is what Thomas Jefferson tells me every time we play Hookem.
    Therefore the collection of meta data is certainly a legitimate government function. The reading of our emails is with out a warrant or for that matter even with a warrant is clearly impolite behavior. It should be frowned upon by any well meaning citizen. But there is an upside to government employees of the national security state reading our emails and intercepting our telephone calls. They might actually figure out that a huge percent of the US population considers members of the military industrial complex A–holes. No they are not A–holes because they snoop on our emails that are A–holes because in the best of times they spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trying to solve problems that are either make believe or would be make believe were it not for the stupidity of US foriegn policy which then diverts huge amounts of resources away from solving problems that actually do exist and need to be urgently solves and in the worst of times they invade foreign countries causing tens of thousands of needless deaths for the net benifit of a few intrest groups.
    The members of the military industrial complex clearly lack the intellegence to read juancole.com and if they were to accidently do so would not have the sense to learn from it.
    There is no other way they can learn what a waste of humanity they are with out reading our emails.

  6. State’s OIG released back in February or March, a report on Diplomatic Security in the spring that mentions, in the middle of the report, ‘potential’ for abuse because of the use of DS to settle what are HR issues at State.

    It has happened (the OIG know it) where State employees suddenly had clearances pulled, without any notice, just because of a HR issue — usually where the employee him or herself had filed a complaint involving local supervisors.

    This in effect abrogates State employees’ right to due process. No clearance, no job and no hearing that the employee had requested. This means no problem ever occurred except of course, the employee is declared deficient in their work per the official story

    No surveillance agency should be used to settle government HR matters. Period

    • When our president says there are ‘internal’ mechanisms for addressing serious issues, unfortunately these ‘internal’ mechanisms are broken. See something, say something, lose your job is the real reality.

      The EEO and civil complaint process for civil service is utterly broken. Alot of attention has been paid to military and defense contractors, who do face an even worse battle, but do not think civil service is really any better off. It’s not. These problems are the reason why people who raise allegations of sexual harrassment in the military have been drummed out of their jobs after going to HR offices. If the “internal” mechanisms cant manage the serious matters, how the heck are they doing with daily governance issues??

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