Echoes of Julian Assange in Edward Snowden’s Latest Comments

Both men suggest that much, if not all, American spying abroad is wrong, including the spying on allies and foreign leaders that perhaps every government has practiced for decades, if not centuries.

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Glenn Greenwald / Laura Poitras / The Guardian / Reuters

NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden in a still image taken from video during an interview by the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong on June 6, 2013

In a 90-minute question and answer session on the Guardian‘s website Monday, self-professed NSA leaker Edward Snowden defended his disclosure of highly classified details of secret U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden’s answers to 18 questions from readers demonstrated that he is not simply concerned about potential government monitoring of American citizens; he is an extreme skeptic of government surveillance of all sorts. In that sense, Snowden is emerging as an heir to Julian Assange.

The Wikileaks founder Assange, 41, became famous—or infamous—three years ago when his website roiled Washington with the release of thousands of classified State Department cables describing developments, and sometimes secret U.S. action, in foreign countries. Assange, currently seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, defended the document dump on the broad grounds that information should be free and that government spying is assumed to be always wrong.

Snowden’s comments today make clear his agenda goes beyond protecting Americans from snooping by their own government. “Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%,” Snowden, 29, wrote Monday, referring to documents he leaked showing that the NSA has spied on foreign leaders and citizens. Snowden has also revealed details of NSA hacking into Chinese computer systems. “Our founders did not write that ‘We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.’”

Snowden also clarified one of his most explosive claims—that even a single low-level intelligence analyst could pull up records on any American at a whim, a claim top current and former intelligence officials have strongly denied. Snowden said there was no technical impediment to such an action, merely a policy one. “It’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection—policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens,” he said, voicing another tenet of the free-information movement for which he has become an avatar.

Asked about WikiLeaks, Snowden explicitly defended Assange and his group’s massive disclosure, allegedly facilitated by Army private Bradley Manning, who is currently being tried on charges that the leaks aided American enemies.

“Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet and they carefully redacted all of their releases in accordance with a judgment of public interest,” Snowden said. Unredacted documents released into the public domain had not been the fault of WikiLeaks, but “was due to the failure of a partner journalist to control a passphrase.”

There were other clear echoes of Assange’s past remarks in Snowden’s responses Monday. Both men suggest that much, if not all, American spying abroad is wrong, including the spying on allies and foreign leaders that perhaps every government has practiced for decades, if not centuries.

“Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people,” Snowden said. “[T]he public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.”

Snowden’s decision to branch out from simple whistleblower on controversial domestic surveillance programs to being a whistleblower on the entire intelligence community puts him at odds with most Americans, who question the need for the massive domestic surveillance programs but are more than fine with spying on other countries.

Defenders of the government’s surveillance programs have seized on his recent revelations of American espionage abroad to undermine Snowden’s broader case about the modern surveillance state. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein quickly branded the latest leaks as “an act of treason.” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on CBS Face The Nation that the disclosure “in effect, gives a playbook to those who would like to get around our techniques and our practices.” “I think he’s a traitor,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Sunday.

“I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had,” Cheney added. “I think it’s one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States.”

Cheney even raised concerns circulating among conservatives in recent days that Snowden might be a Chinese spy. On Monday Snowden called that charge a “predictably smear” and said he’s had no contact with the Chinese government. “If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now,” he said.

“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and [Rep. Peter] King, the better off we all are,” Snowden added. “If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”

Snowden didn’t offer details about his future plans, though he suggested that he faces grave personal peril. “All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” he added. “Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”

22 comments
FrithiofHellgren
FrithiofHellgren

fall of society, how easy it was all along. Boy I wish I was the mastermind behind this, then again, I'd probably not want to be alive to find out whether it worked or not.

ElizabethWoodworth
ElizabethWoodworth

Yes, truth is coming, and there are over a million Snowden supporters trying to protect him with the petition, "Stand with Edward Snowden," https://secure.avaaz.org/en/stop_prism_global/?bodPLdb&v=25882

Clearly Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, and Edward Snowden are all on the same page.

This monumental snooping started right after 9/11, when NSA whistle-blower William Binney resigned in protest to the new reality that virtually everyone in the US was being recorded, including judges.  This meant to Binney that everyone could be levered by the deep state:http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2013/6/10/inside_the_nsas_domestic_surveillance_apparatus_whistleblower_william_binney_speaks_out

These four men have, at great expense to themselves, done a responsible thing for democracy, because the public, while paying taxes to have itself snooped on, has been kept in the dark.

The spying was ushered in by the lengthy Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress while the anthrax attacks (using spores from a US military laboratory) were scaring people to death in Washington.No one in Congress had time to read the 342-page Act properly, and "surveillance," as it is so nicely euphemized, has grown into an all-consuming obsession.

And indeed much of the 9/11 story is not based on solid evidence.Numbers ofhigh-ranking people support the newly emerging evidence from the academic 24-member 9/11 Consensus Panel.See: "Eminent New Honorary Members Join 9/11 Consensus Panel: Italian Judge Ferdinando Imposimato, French Director Mathieu Kassovitz, and Author James W. Douglass," http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130608-901635.html      @consensus911             

WithRespect
WithRespect

This article reads as propaganda. Let me point out some of the features. 

Paragraph 1. The thesis is vaguely stated and thus can only serve the purpose of associating Snowden with Assange, who has previously been painted as an evil doer to the public. The paragraph. also includes alarmist words like "extreme".

Paragraph 2.  Contains a statement about what Assange believes which is probably false.

Paragraph 3. Scary language "agenda". As if Snowden is up to something that he isn't revealing when his whole point is to reveal not conceal. The quotation that the author uses as his evidence is taken out of context in my view. Snowden is easy to misinterpret since he uses concise sentences, but I take it that he was addressing privacy as a moral concept rather than privacy as a legal/political concept.  Hence the 95% vs 100% comment.

Paragraph 4.  Reports a very important point that Snowden makes (the only current obstacles to total lack of privacy are policy based not technologically based) but then attempt so undermine what is actually straightforward information by calling it a "tenet".  Information is what it is, while tenets can be debated. Then the author further undermines his statement using the guilt by association ploy, by saying the "tenet" belongs to  a certain "movement".   

Oh, there is loads more.  But no more time.



alexvallas6
alexvallas6

The more he opens his mouth, the more he confirms that he is a traitor who is severely harming the security of the US.  He pretends to be smart but he is coming up dumb as hell.  The Chinese are not only spying on our government, they are spying on government contractors and American companies to learn our latest technologies and steal them.  He mentioned that we spied on Russia.  WOW!  If he were better informed he would know that Russia (USSR then) placed a bug in the Seal of the United States located in the Ambassador's Office in Moscow.  Was he not aware that we had to completely destroy our new Embassy because there were so many bugs in the walls.  We finally rebuilt with American labor.  Once he gains asylum in another country -- how he is going to support himself?  Probably by spying on the US.  I haver nothing but disgust for this man.

chaokai60
chaokai60

Could the tri-state logic in integrated circuit be applied to the defense concept such as that, " Be faithful, abstinent, or use condom?"

JeffMartino
JeffMartino

How many other private contractors know that the government is watching U.S. citizens? Snowden will not be the last person to talk. Who hired this kid? How many other questionable hires are out there? Everyone is stating that Snowden did harm to the U.S. When will Snowden be recognized for revealing the sad state of affairs. Chilling is not a strong enough word for the cultural impact. Does all this make anyone else paranoid or more cautious?

HypatiaLeigh1
HypatiaLeigh1

there are much more facts separating Assange and Snowden, than any implication which tries to equate them.    This article is severely lacking in factual basis.    Pathetic, Time.    If you want to join the moronic media propeganda and refuse to report facts, you'll lose your readers.    Get to WORK and stop the games.

JeffMartino
JeffMartino

Joe Biden:  "Harry, I don't have to listen to your phone calls to know what you're doing.  If I know every single phone call you made, I'm able to determine every single person you talked to. I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive." Then Senator Biden.

Snowden only confirmed what we knew. News reports about the Utah data center aired weeks before the Snowden story. Snowden has not stated anything juicy like Obama is really a Muslim that wants to bring down the U.S.  Now that would be some news. Jeff Martino

J-Yo77
J-Yo77

I don't think he's a traitor for raising awareness of how American citizens' own privacy is being invaded. Cheney claims that this leak is "doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States," but that just proves that the government does not trust its own citizens. 

If any of you are interested in continuing an in-depth, civilized, and educated discussion on this matter, Only Honest (onlyhonest.com) is an un-biased website with a virtual public square that is a wonderful environment for political debate. However, it was malevolently hacked recently and is seeking donations through RocketHub to bring it back online. If anyone reading this would like to have an interesting discussion on any sort of politics or current events away from these little comments below these articles, Only Honest would be the place. 

http://www.prlog.org/12158239.html

http://www.rockethub.com/projects/27426-hack-proof-our-virtual-public-square-only-honest



destor23
destor23

All this flipping out over him telling the world that we, gasp, hack into computers in China and Hong Kong is pretty funny, given that our government is presently obsessed with facilitating mergers between China's state owned companies and companies in the U.S.  China is a rival, not an enemy.  I was just a kid for the latter years of the Cold War but, you know, we refused to sell wheat to the Soviet Union when their people were starving.  We wouldn't play Olympic games if they got to host.  In a lot of ways, maybe China should be considered an enemy.  But our current stance is, "you people are awful.  Now, please tell your oppressed worker slaves to make us iPads.

boguseconomist
boguseconomist

Being caled a traitor by one of the most despicable cowards in American history is indeed an honor. Armed with his five military deferments, Cheney didn't hesitate to send thousands into harm's way and begin the shredding of the Constitution that continues as I write. I would far prefer to see a thousand Snowdens than another Cheney.

AlanMacDonald
AlanMacDonald

The Key question is ---- Can Snowden (or his thumb-drive, if he somehow  'disappears') confirm that the NSA is using IBM's
'Watson' AI system for analytics --- to review all we global 'subjects' stolen data
for evaluation of threats or value to the disguised Secret Global
Empire ?????????

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Instead of asking whether governments are 'justified' in using these tools to spy on each other, lets be more specific. Google has defended it's participation in the NSA program by specifying that they only provide information as required by law based on specific requests. But they also operate in all countries worldwide. Are we to assume then they only cooperate with the Chinese to the extent that is required by Chinese law and do we really expect Chinese law to be mindful of the privacy rights of Americans or Brits? 

The ISP's have a lot to answer for and the programs themselves are only as benign as the trust we have in the Chinese to do the right thing with OUR e-mails.


S_Deemer
S_Deemer

“Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet..." A major blow to Snowden's credibility. 

WithRespect
WithRespect

@alexvallas6

You aren't paying attention, Alexvallas.  The issue is about the constitutionality of the American government spying on Americans.

You say:  "The Chinese are not only spying on our government, they are spying on government contractors and American companies to learn our latest technologies and steal them. "  Yes, various economic entities around the world, including, famously, the Chinese, are spying and stealing for economic power and this is something we should do something about. I totally agree.  SOMETHING.  That could be a lot of different things.  I don't agree the solution is to infringe fundamental constitutional rights that define America as a nation. 

WithRespect
WithRespect

@JeffMartino 

Yes, what concerns me is all the people out there who are NOT speaking up. Snowden shows great integrity in doing so. What of all those (thousands) who are in position to access every bit of private information in the history of an individual and use it to their own ends.  Not everyone out there is a person of integrity. 

WithRespect
WithRespect

@HypatiaLeigh1 

Yes, unfortunately this writer/editor of this article does not appear to be very well informed at all.  

Or perhaps it is an attempt to besmirch Snowden by associating him with Assange. Millions have been spent in marketing to undermine Assange.  Perhaps the thought is that some mileage could be made of this.  Apologies if instead the writer really is trying to locate underlying similarities in their philosophical views about the nature and value of knowledge. But if you want to do philosophy, I really recommend you do much much more thinking and researching first. 


WithRespect
WithRespect

@S_Deemer 

I don't think so. But if it is so, it is only so because millions, 10s of millions if not more, have been spent on marketing in an attempt to undermine wikileaks reputation.