Snowden's Negative Writeup By The CIA Was For Whistleblowing; Taught Him Why Going Through Proper Channels Gets Punished

from the interesting dept

You may recall there was a bizarre story last week in the NY Times, in which CIA officials had "leaked" to the NY Times that while in Geneva, back in 2009, Ed Snowden had been written up for "trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access." The CIA, though, quickly denied the story, and the whole thing seemed odd. The way it was written, it certainly suggested that Snowden was "hacking" around for questionable documents for years. However, in his new interview with the NYT's James Risen, Snowden explains what really happened, which actually tells a far more interesting story. It's not so much a story about Snowden trying to hack into machines to access data, but more a story of his first clear lesson in finding out what the intelligence community does to whistleblowers: because that's what he had done:
Mr. Snowden said that in 2008 and 2009, he was working in Geneva as a telecommunications information systems officer, handling everything from information technology and computer networks to maintenance of the heating and air-conditioning systems. He began pushing for a promotion, but got into what he termed a “petty e-mail spat” in which he questioned a senior manager’s judgment.

Several months later, Mr. Snowden said, he was writing his annual self-evaluation when he discovered flaws in the software of the C.I.A.’s personnel Web applications that would make them vulnerable to hacking. He warned his supervisor, he said, but his boss advised him to drop the matter and not rock the boat. After a technical team also brushed him off, he said, his boss finally agreed to allow him to test the system to prove that it was flawed.

He did so by adding some code and text “in a nonmalicious manner” to his evaluation document that showed that the vulnerability existed, he said. His immediate supervisor signed off on it and sent it through the system, but a more senior manager — the man Mr. Snowden had challenged earlier — was furious and filed a critical comment in Mr. Snowden’s personnel file, he said.
This is kind of interesting. It sounds like some CIA folks had tried to "leak" the story about the early reprimand in an attempt to make Snowden look bad, but now that a more complete version of the story is out, you quickly realize that it actually reinforces the reasons why Snowden knew that going through "official channels" for whistleblowing wasn't effective, and would likely just lead to him getting in trouble.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 7:49am

    When I saw his advisor tell him "Don't rock the boat", I immediately heard the alarm bells going off.

    "Don't rock the boat" is code for "Don't do anything about it because we're planning to blame you later when it actually fails."

    Our knowledge of Snowden may not have been through his whistleblowing if that were the case, he would have been known as that guy in IT who knew about the security flaw but "didn't say anything" and caused hundreds of employees to lose their information.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 7:54am

    You discover it

    You own it... no you cant fix it, but thanks for giving us a way to fvck you over with it if/when we need to!

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    From the distraction dept.

    A slightly cynical view is that provides evidence Snowden is a self-promoter: "began pushing for a promotion". And this phrase: "maintenance of the heating and air-conditioning systems" may mean only that he changed the filters according to schedule.

    Now, you kids WANT to believe in Snowden, and that's exactly why you shouldn't. In any event, he's not the focus of the NSA scandal: it's a scandal because of CRIMES committed against the people. So forget him.

    BUT speaking of interesting: just when Greenwald should be publishing more "leaks", he's not. Instead, he's going to an entirely new company started by a billionaire. So we may never learn more of the alleged trove that Snowden had. We've got a few Powerpoint slides "proving" what I already knew, and that's it. -- And for you who just rolled your eyes: it's impossible to be too cynical where NSA is involved. The whole flap could have been planned by NSA for its own purposes. It has NOT been damaged or limited, just the public has become accustomed to it and is now getting bored with the story. Even the detention of Greenwald's pal could have been to plant the notion that they've got vital secrets. Greenwald doesn't have to be in on it, because in practice, that just chills journalists with visible evidence of the arbitrary and unaccountable power now exercised. And now Greenwald gets a "once-in-career" plum dropped into his lap. So, HMM.

    Don't believe anything of this "leak" until people are actually in JAIL for the known crimes. Otherwise, even if true, it's JUST theater.

    The Google-Borg. Assimilating your privacy since 1998.
    04:11:05[f-122-5]

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:26am

    And as usual with the NYTimes, I get to experience the comment section of the article! Joy!

    So, Mr. Snowden implicitly asserts that he's "smarter" than either the Russian or the Chinese analysts/spies. I think the appropriate word to describe his claim is "hubris".


    Doing your job as a security professional = hubris, remember kids!

    Such a heroic man. And he takes refuge in Russia where Greenpeace activists and dissidents are jailed, diplomats assaulted and gay people are oppressed, to name just a few examples. Oh, yes, he's a righteous hero.


    Yes and I'm sure that's why America is all sparkles and rainbows when it comes to human rights. How long was this "Manning" fellow held in confinement again? I forgot.

    “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” Snowden said.
    Isn't this the same man who swore, in writing, that he'd never steal sensitive documents?
    Sorry Mr. Snowden but your word isn't worth a plug nickel these days.


    Egads! Mr Futuresight man here knows the exact circumstances of dealings which no one knows ever happened!

    I want to make a site that just trawls the comment section of these news sites and tears apart the brainless lemmings that inhabit it.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:31am

    Re: From the distraction dept.

    Now, you kids WANT to believe in Snowden, and that's exactly why you shouldn't. In any event, he's not the focus of the NSA scandal: it's a scandal because of CRIMES committed against the people. So forget him.


    Holy shit I agree with you on that: everyone wants to make the issue about Snowden but ignore the awful monster he uncovered.

    BUT speaking of interesting: just when Greenwald should be publishing more "leaks", he's not.


    Then we get back to where we disagree: exposing wrongdoing doesn't make that person obliged for the rest of his life to show wrongdoing. It is arguably not any of their job to fix it in the first place.

    You want him to shackle his life down while he just wants to go back to living a normal life. Great logic there Blue: He should never be allowed to work again because he exposed a severe flaw that put people's information in danger.

    Until people are jailed for it


    HA!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    If that is their general attitude to security, it is no wonder that the Chines and Russians were not interested in anything he may have been carrying, they probably have everything that they want from NSA systems.

     

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  7.  
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    any moose cow word, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:37am

    Re:

    "Don't rock the boat" is more of a code for "don't try to 'fix' things, you're going to make someone look bad." In this case, the choice of who was to design the website was probably based more on political favoritism than technical merit, just like what happened to the new Obamacare site, and showing the management it was broken would make one of them look bad in the eyes of their peers and superiors. Nope, can't have that, can't destroy the illusion that one's superior should be in the position make such decisions.

    It's all about protecting reputations and careers, not the country.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:39am

    keeping a tight rein on the underlings is the best way to keep those higher up the tree from being reprimanded or worse. if that situation arises, the underling gets splattered in whatever can be thrown at him/her. the stupidity of that situation is that people become more self conscious and dont pass on information when they should for fear of being jailed, as has happened many times already under Bush and Obama. even private companies have acted in this way towards employees, rather than being grateful and thankful it wasn't someone who wanted to use the info maliciously! ridiculous to be more concerned of not getting a bit of egg on the face than making sure some poor person loses his freedom!

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:40am

    Domestic propaganda

    US military has a propaganda division.

    http://www.theinsider.org/news/article.asp?id=2229

    They promised not to target US, but you know what... those are just words, and words have definitions and maybe we don't agree on the definition of 'target'.

    So now I see what looks like familiar astroturf targeting English language sites not forcussing on the US.

    See the propaganda is targetting 'English' not 'American English' so that's fine if you redefine 'target'.

    And while the CIA might be forbidden from doing PR propaganda, well, meh... one more law broken what the heck.

    When Andrew Parker at MI5 did his attack on the press, I noticed *some* site suddenly became heavily commented on by people wanted to kill editors, and Snowden. Only sites in English focussed on the UK, not the US. It looks like coordinated astroturf, a fake groundswell of hatred given the vague and implausible claim Parker made.

    And it sickens me. I can't prove Parkers involvement, but I can suspect it, and I can resent it.

     

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  10.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Re: From the distraction dept.

    ...just when Greenwald should be publishing more "leaks", he's not. Instead, he's going to an entirely new company started by a billionaire. So we may never learn more of the alleged trove that Snowden had.

    Huh? Moving to a new company that encourages "independent journalists" seems like it will more likely increase the amount of leaks coming from Greenwald as opposed to a MSM outlet.


    .... just the public has become accustomed to it and is now getting bored with the story.

    Also huh? Who is getting bored? The national networks are just now picking up on these stories since so much attention is being paid to them online. That doesn't sound like anyone is even approaching bored yet.

     

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  11.  
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    DOlz (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 8:47am

    Re: From the distraction dept.

    "Don't believe anything of this "leak" until people are actually in JAIL for the known crimes. Otherwise, even if true, it's JUST theater."

    So does that mean even though Alexander and Clapper have have admitted to lying under oath to Congress, I shouldn't believe they lied since they are not going to jail?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:01am

    Re:

    This is a note from your primary care physician: I've told you, AC, to stop reading the comments. You almost killed yourself last year when you read those foxnews.com comments; and just when we get your blood pressure under control again, you're back at it. Granted, it's only the Times; but still...

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:10am

    Re: Re:

    The purpose of all this security theater isn't to keep classified information away from other governments. Governments know what other governments are up to, they are all in the scam against the public together and most governments pretty much do the same things and so have little to hide from each other. It's like a criminal trying to keep his crimes hidden from his accomplice, another criminal that does the same things. The point is to keep information that embarrasses government out of the hands of the public just like criminals want to keep their crimes hidden from police.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:36am

    Re: From the distraction dept.

    For someone who says she's been paying attention to what Greenwald said, you must not have heard him respond to these exact "points."

    BUT speaking of interesting: just when Greenwald should be publishing more "leaks", he's not. Instead, he's going to an entirely new company started by a billionaire.

    "So I have to stop everything I'm doing in the world and only work on these documents? That's absurd: there are many reasons why documents aren't published more quickly than they are - none of them has to do with my inability to churn out articles based on them.

    Let me ask you this: do you have any idea how much time elapsed between the time that (a) WikiLeaks received the diplomatic cables and (b) WikiLeaks published the first diplomatic cable?

    Do you have any idea how much time elapsed between the time that (a) WikiLeaks received the Iraq & Afghanistan war logs and (b) WikiLeaks published the first such wars logs?

    The answer to both question is: much longer than the total amount of time that we've had the NSA documents.

    I think there are important and interesting topics to discuss beyond just publishing NSA documents, including how journalists view their functions. So I'll write about that. But the reality is that getting institutions like the Guardian to publish top secret documents is a slow process- it involves editors, lawyers, and lots of other processes. Whatever the cause of the delays are, it has nothing to do with my lack of work ethic in producing articles.

    Finally, much of the complaint about excessively slow publication comes from nationalistic blindness. I have been working on and publishing NSA articles in many different countries in the world, as has Laura Poitras. The US and UK are not the only countries that exist."

    -From The Guardian, 10/14/13


    So we may never learn more of the alleged trove that Snowden had...It has NOT been damaged or limited, just the public has become accustomed to it and is now getting bored with the story.

    "As you said, you've been spending months reading through these documents. What percentage of these documents have you been able to actually reveal so far? I mean, how much more information is there out there that will make headlines, that will surprise people?"

    "You know, genuinely a small percentage. I've been saying from the beginning whenever I'm asked that question the same thing: that there's still a lot of stories to come in many, many countries around the world including in the United States and it's always been true and still is true. These documents are very complicated. You have to piece them together. A lot of them take reporting. So the process isn't fast. When Wikileaks got their diplomatic cables, it took them almost ten months to even begin publishing the first one, because you have to go through them and vet them and understand them. But there are genuinely very significant stories, ones that I think will surprise people. The problem, of course, is that I think people know by now is that the NSA is trying to collect everything, and so it's sort of hard to generate shock. That's not our goal. Our goal is to inform people of things they don't know and there's definitely a lot of that stuff still coming."


    -CNN interview, 10/17/13: 1:58-3:03

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Of course, Mr. Snowden is an admitted traitor, so anything he says probably should be taken with a grain of salt.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re:

    When I was in college there was a fundamentalist christian tv show on late at night. I watched it a couple of times. It always had a weird effect on me.

    After watching the show on the evils of abortion, I was convinced every woman should be required to have at least one abortion in their lifetime, and lots of money should go into figuring out how to give men abortions.

    The show on how rock and roll music is really devil worship, convinced me that devil worship must be a good thing. After that, I decided I really had to stop watching that show.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:44am

    Clearly one of the first things the government did is try to compile the most detailed dossier of Snowden possible and then try to smear him at all costs.

    He has stepped all over each of their attempts. He has won this chess match highhandedly against one of the biggest and most corrupt governments on the planet.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:45am

    Re:

    Admitted traitor?

    By who? Clapper and Alexander (aka the CONFIRMED liars)?

    I certainly hope that was sarcasm...

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re:

    Just like Bradley Manning, Snowden will spend a very long time in prison for crimes against his country.

    Definition of 'traitor': "a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.."

    Snowden may be a hero to you but he unquestionably meets the definition of a traitor!

     

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  20.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Definition of 'traitor': "a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.."


    He doesn't meet that definition. It's not betrayal to prove those in positions of authority are abusing their power. It's patriotic, plain and simple.

    If Snowden had handed over the documents to an enemy of the US, you might have a point. He didn't. He gave them to the press and to the citizens, neither of which are enemies of the state, no matter how much those in power would like to treat them that way. What he did was the exact definition of whistleblowing.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Depends on how you define his country. To me the United States is defined by the constitution, not by a bunch of old men and women who really only care about themselves.

    So in my book, Snowden his a patriot and a hero. He stood up for his country when those who were elected to take care of the country would not.

     

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  22.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I presume you're focusing on his supposed betrayal of "country", since neither you nor I know that he's betrayed a personal friend or not; and of his stated principles (such as starting a national/international debate about government practices) he has kept to them.
    So first tell me: what is your definition of "country"? Is it the government currently in power? The Obama Administration?
    Or is it the PEOPLE who live in the country?
    If you go for the government, then...yes, if I squint my eyes, I can see how you might interpret Snowden's actions as betrayal. He didn't follow orders.
    If you go for the people...then how? How is it betrayal to reveal to the people of the USA, and also the world, that the US government is watching all electronic forms of communication, despite such watching being against many laws and the US Constitution itself?

     

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  23.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Definition of 'traitor': "a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.."


    That's funny, because Snowden has done the exact opposite of this. In fact, what he's done is to reveal the actions of people who fit this very definition.

     

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  24.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    you know, my grandmother once said to me ' you should never 'hate' anyone, you can intensely dislike them, but never hate them...'

    fuck that shit, grandma, i HATES me some authoritarians like the non-thinking, human-shaped POS who calls manning and snowden traitors...

    in fact, THEY are the ONLY ones to be acting honorably and PATRIOTICALLY in this whole mess...

    as far as i'm concerned, YOU and your butt buddies feinstein, clapper, alexander, et al are the traitors to the constitution and american ideals...
    please go back to england, royalist...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

    art guerrilla at windstream dot net
    eof

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Erik Grant, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Whistleblowing?

    I'm not sure I see the comparison between whistleblowing and this. This is a spat between a guy and his boss. I'm guessing Snowden found a flaw in the website, which admittedly ought to get fixed. But it probably wasn't his job, or even his team, that was responsible for the website, so it would have created a headache for his boss to follow it through to get fixed. In cases like this, I usually extend Hanlon's razor: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by laziness.

    I think the claim that this issue jaded Snowden about the "proper channels" is like saying you shouldn't call the cops when you witness a murder because they give you attitude when you report noise complaints. It's comparing apples and zebras.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2013 @ 3:26pm

    Bad management at the CIA caused the worst leak in history. Give those managers at the CIA a cookie, they deserve one.

     

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  27.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 9:54pm

    Not sure if ignorant or troll.

    Of course, Mr. Snowden is an admitted traitor...

    Admitted by whom?

     

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  28.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Oct 18th, 2013 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Whistleblowing?

    I think the claim that this issue jaded Snowden about the "proper channels" is like saying you shouldn't call the cops when you witness a murder because they give you attitude when you report noise complaints.

    You're disinclined to call the cops about a murder you witnessed because when you last called them over a noise complaint, they beat the snot out of your family and killed your dog.

    But I would wager that Snowden considered "proper" channels, and knew they were bogus before he decided to go public with the data. He seems the sort that doesn't take a dump without a plan.

    As of this posting I have not received a US National Security Letter or any classified gag order from an agent of the United States
    Encrypted with Morbius-Cochrane Perfect Steganographic Codec 1.2.001
    Friday, October 18, 2013 10:03:16 PM
    smoke locust seal joke roses lawyer boots promotion

     

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  29.  
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    Jeff_Davis (profile), Oct 19th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Zombie neutralizer and re-education website

    Email Omidyar and Greenwald with your idea. I for one would not only visit your site, but enthusiastically contribute as well. Mention me: Jeff Davis: jrd31415@yahoo.com

    The corporatist MSM have mind-raped hundreds of millions. Stripped them of their souls, poisoned their minds, and left them zombie tools of the ruling class. Undoing that damage will no doubt take generations. But it could be mucho fun. Leave us not shrink from the task. Bring on the zombie hordes! We will cleanse their minds and restore their souls!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:07am

    Typical labor relations. Point flaws, boss gets mad because he/she wasn't the one to find them, get bad evaluations. Once people that can really manage people are in these key positions we might start seeing change.

     

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  31.  
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    tqk (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:48pm

    Anyone who's read Dilbert know the sort of "management" we IT folk have to ... deal with, or work around, or hide behind, & etc. I've had a few very good ones, and a lot who were deer in the headlights clueless constantly.

    Add "Authoritay" (TLAs) to the mix, and Snowden rises even further in stature in my eyes every day.

    I spit on what these people do, and have always done, to the USA. The USA was intended to be the opposite of what it's become. Sic semper tyrannis.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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