Quotes of the day

posted at 10:31 pm on December 16, 2013 by Allahpundit

National Security Agency officials are considering a controversial amnesty that would return Edward Snowden to the United States, in exchange for the extensive document trove the whistleblower took from the agency…

The NSA official in charge of assessing the alleged damage caused by Snowden’s leaks, Richard Ledgett, told CBS News an amnesty still remains controversial within the agency, which has spent the past six months defending itself against a global outcry and legislative and executive proposals to restrain its broad surveillance activities.

“My personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,” Ledgett, who is under consideration to become the agency’s top civilian, said in an interview slated to air Sunday evening on 60 Minutes. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

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The White House echoed a long-held position Monday: There will be no amnesty for Edward Snowden.

“Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the National Security Council. “He should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process and protections.”

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American intelligence and law enforcement investigators have concluded that they may never know the entirety of what the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden extracted from classified government computers before leaving the United States, according to senior government officials.

Investigators remain in the dark about the extent of the data breach partly because the N.S.A. facility in Hawaii where Mr. Snowden worked — unlike other N.S.A. facilities — was not equipped with up-to-date software that allows the spy agency to monitor which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time…

“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” a senior administration official said. “I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.”

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Amnesty? Have they lost their minds? Snowden is a traitor to his country, who is responsible for the most damaging theft and release of classified information in American history. His actions have exposed not only the NSA terrorist surveillance programs, but our intelligence collection efforts against foreign governments, including Russia and China. He has aided our enemies, shared intelligence with potential adversaries, and has damaged our ability to defend against future terrorist attacks. Maybe we offer him life in prison instead of a firing squad, but amnesty? That would be insanity…

If Edward Snowden can get amnesty after what he has done, then who could ever be prosecuted for any intelligence leak? How could we possibly pursue charges against leakers for individual disclosures, however damaging, when someone like Snowden is allowed to get away with the largest disclosure of critical intelligence in our history?

If anything, amnesty would encourage leakers to share more information. The lesson will be: if you leak, leak big and you can get away with it. The more damaging the disclosure the better your chances to get off scott free.

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“That kid was a genius among geniuses,” says the NSA staffer. “NSA is full of smart people, but anybody who sat in a meeting with Ed will tell you he was in a class of his own…I’ve never seen anything like it.”…

Snowden had been brought to Hawaii as a cybersecurity expert working for Dell’s services division but due to a problem with the contract was reassigned to become an administrator for the Microsoft intranet management system known as Sharepoint. Impressed with his technical abilities, Snowden’s managers decided that he was the most qualified candidate to build a new web front-end for one of its projects, despite his contractor status. As his coworker tells it, he was given full administrator privileges, with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. “Big mistake in hindsight,” says Snowden’s former colleague. “But if you had a guy who could do things nobody else could, and the only problem was that his badge was green instead of blue, what would you do?”…

Snowden’s superiors were so impressed with his skills that he was at one point offered a position on the elite team of NSA hackers known as Tailored Access Operations. He unexpectedly turned it down and instead joined Booz Allen to work at NSA’s Threat Operation Center…

Snowden’s former colleague says that he or she has slowly come to understand Snowden’s decision to leak the NSA’s files. “I was shocked and betrayed when I first learned the news, but as more time passes I’m inclined to believe he really is trying to do the right thing and it’s not out of character for him. I don’t agree with his methods, but I understand why he did it,” he or she says. “I won’t call him a hero, but he’s sure as hell no traitor.”

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Edward Snowden, the former security contractor who leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents, welcomed a court ruling on Monday that declared the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records to be a likely violation of the US constitution.

Snowden said the ruling, by a US district judge, justified his disclosures. “I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts,” he said in comments released through Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who received the documents from Snowden.

“Today, a secret program authorised by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many,” said Snowden, whose statement was first reported by the New York Times.

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