Quotes of the day

posted at 10:41 pm on June 10, 2013 by Allahpundit

The impact of the leak inside the NSA has been enormous. “There is complete freakout mode at the agency right now,” one former intelligence officer tells The Daily Beast. “There has never been anything like this in terms of the speed of referral of a crime report to the Justice Department. Normally this kind of thing takes weeks and weeks.”…

Hayden dismissed the criticism that terrorists already knew the NSA was collecting vast amounts of telephone metadata before Snowden’s leak.

“Let me get this right: I got a religious fanatic in the cave in the Hindu Kush, yet this is a front-page, above-the-fold story and he already knew this?” he asked rhetorically. “That does not make sense. It will teach guys to be far more cautious in the future.”

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday said the 29-year-old man who leaked information about two national security programs is guilty of treason…

“I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason,” the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters…

“He violated the oath, he violated the law. It’s treason.”

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In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an “executive coup” against the US constitution

Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous…

[W]ith Edward Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage – in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself – I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss.

Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate the revelations by Snowden and, I hope, others to come might lead us to bring NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the bill of rights.

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Edward Snowden should go to jail, as quickly and for as long as possible. This is a leak case that should be difficult for even Eric Holder to bungle. Snowden has already confessed in public to the crime of leaking classified information. He has said in public how he did it, that he did it with intent, and that he knowingly harmed our national security. Holder will finally find a leaker that he can prosecute. But given the Holder Justice Department’s record on the other leak cases, who wants to take a bet that Snowden gets a generous plea bargain or even walks?

Snowden might be guilty of espionage, or even treason. If he is telling the truth that he leaked the existence of the PRISM program to inform the American public, then he should turn himself in. A trial would give him the opportunity to explain in public why he broke the law. If he is a spy — it is amazing that someone with such little education and background was given such extensive security clearance — he may well continue running abroad. It is telling that he immediately fled to Hong Kong; one wonders whether he will offer his services and knowledge to the Chinese security services next.

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As I have argued in other contexts, the best weapon against the paralysis of technologically induced present shock is human intervention. Just as we the people stood against the structural tyranny of an overreaching monarchy, it is we the people who must stand against the structural tyranny of runaway technology.

Snowden is a hero because he realized that our very humanity was being compromised by the blind implementation of machines in the name of making us safe. Unlike those around him, who were too absorbed in their task to reflect on their actions and pause in their pursuit of digital omniscience, Snowden allowed himself to be “disturbed” by what he was doing.

More in the midst of technology than most of us will ever be, Snowden disengaged for long enough to be human and to consider the impact of what he was helping build. He pressed pause.

Thank heavens our intelligence agencies are staffed by people like Snowden, not robots. People can still think.

***

Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected…

Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell…

Real damage was done last week by Edward Snowden, who on Sunday claimed credit for leaking the secrets he learned while working for NSA contractors. Every time we tell terrorists how we can detect them, we encourage them to find ways to avoid detection…

If the current imbroglio opens an honest discussion of the legitimate need for secrecy in a fight against seventh-century primitives equipped with 21st-century technology, it may eventually prove to have been worth the cost, but I’m not laying down any bets.

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Monitoring the records of as many as a billion phone calls, as some news reports have suggested, is no modest invasion of privacy. It is an extraordinary invasion of privacy. We fought a revolution over issues like generalized warrants, where soldiers would go from house to house, searching anything they liked. Our lives are now so digitized that the government going from computer to computer or phone to phone is the modern equivalent of the same type of tyranny that our Founders rebelled against…

The administration has responded to the public uproar by simply claiming that it is allowed to have unlimited access to all Americans’ private information. This response is a clear indication that the president views our Constitutional “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” as null and void.

If this is the new normal in America, then Big Brother certainly is watching and it’s not hyperbolic or extreme to say so. Nor is it unreasonable to fear which parts of the Constitution this government will next consider negotiable or negligible.

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There is an instinct, indulged by journalists and activists, to reflexively anoint the leaker—or the whistleblower, depending on your point of view—saintly status. And the braying mobs of Snowden supporters, who nicely overlap with the passionate Julian Assange fans and Ron Paul devotees (Snowden himself donated $500 to Paul’s campaign in 2012), will doubtless dismiss any incertitude as the grumblings of Obama administration flunkies or Bush nostalgics.

Well, no. Even a generous reading of the programs exposed by Snowden should deeply trouble those of us who are skeptical of the ever-growing American security state. And even if the administration’s explanations and justifications of the NSA’s snooping programs are to be trusted—the program foiled terror attacks, was focused only on foreign nationals, and no calls were listened to, etc.—it nevertheless raises ethical and moral issues that demand further public debate, as Snowden said an interview with The Guardian…

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, the indefatigable writer who broke the NSA story, has hinted that more documents are to come, and it’s possible that further evidence could clarify the story and add much-needed detail to the growing outrage. But until we know more, let’s take a few breaths and resist the insta-consecration of Edward Snowden.

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Via Mediaite.

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Via Reddit.


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