Former Bush Speechwriter: Ed Snowden Is A 'Shameless Espionage Pornographer'

from the ignoring-the-facts-to-hang-a-moniker dept

Marc Thiessen, contributor to the American Enterprise Institute's blog and, perhaps more relevantly, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has issues with the New York Times' latest NSA leak. As he sees it, there's no "public interest" angle to justify revealing the NSA's ability to compromise computers not connected to the internet.

The Times reports, “There is no evidence that the N.S.A. has implanted its software or used its radio frequency technology inside the United States.” And an NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, says, “N.S.A.’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”

So what is the redeeming social value of the story? What “abuse” is being revealed? What threat to American civil liberties has been exposed here? Why is this something the public needs to know?

The answers are: None. None. None. And it isn’t.
As he sees it, revealing this allows terrorists to alter their hardware habits to further avoid surveillance. The American public, however, is supposedly completely unaffected, at least according to the New York Times' conclusions and an NSA spokeswoman's statement. Whether or not one agrees with Thiessen's claim that there's nothing here that warrants exposure to the general public, where he goes next is just completely wrong.
As one former senior intelligence official told me recently, stories like this are nothing more than “espionage porn.” They serve no greater social purpose than to titillate.

And the man behind so many of these revelations, Edward Snowden, is nothing more than the Larry Flynt of the intelligence world – a shameless espionage pornographer.

Except for one big difference: pornography is legal. Sharing America’s espionage secrets is a crime.
"Espionage porn" is a nifty catchphrase and some leaks have been less "revealing" than others. But to label Snowden an "espionage pornographer" makes two assumptions -- one of them questionable and the other laughable. To call Snowden's leaks "espionage" rather than whistleblowing is to buy into the NSA's and the administration's stance. There's plenty of gray area between those two terms and sometimes what the government pursues as "illegal" is nothing more than inconvenient. (See also: the panic proceeding Manning's leaks and the multiple deaths and diplomatic fallout that failed to occur.)

Pinning this particular release on Snowden and painting him as a "pornographer" is willful ignorance in search of a tantalizing pull quote. Snowden isn't guiding the release of these leaks. The entities he turned the documents over to are. If anyone's a "espionage pornographer," it's the New York Times -- the outlet that decided to publish these documents. If Thiessen wants to argue this release serves no greater interest than "titillating" the public, fine. But don't pin it on the guy who isn't making editorial decisions.

But this is just more of Thiessen's ongoing antipathy towards the former NSA analyst. He responded to the NSA's supposed consideration of granting Snowden amnesty for the return of the documents (as if that were possible) with this:
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.
Almost everything Thiessen says here is debatable, at best. "Aided our enemies" is just a talking point used to justify espionage charges. Little evidence exists that our enemies are in a better position to harm us than they were pre-leaks.

"Sharing" documents with "potential adversaries" sounds worse than it is. Any public release of these documents would "share" with "potential adversaries." That's the nature of publication. Anyone (excluding certain government employees) can read it. And that's a whole lot of speculation to pack into one short sentence. How can anyone logically worry about "potential" adversaries, especially when the US seems to have plenty of existent adversaries.

And the last part -- "damaged our ability to defend against future terrorist attacks" -- is just ridiculous. Even the NSA itself is having trouble coming up with examples of how its programs have averted attacks. The longer this goes on, the weaker these arguments become.

Thiessen doesn't care for Snowden or his leaks. That's fine. He disagrees with others about what is or isn't "public interest." Again, that's a matter of opinion. (Although, given his general stance on Snowden, I'm of the opinion that no document that has been released meets his standard for "public interest," at least not if weighed against all the speculative "damage" it does to national security.) But when he blames Snowden for a New York Times' editorial decision, he's just taking a cheap swing at the target he likes least.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    Liars

    An NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, says, “N.S.A.’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.
    -
    Funny... isn't that what they said about the bulk collection of Phone and internet traffic when the guy from AT&T outed them?
    -
    The NSA has proven many times they are liars and cannot be trusted to follow the law of the land. - Why should we believe them now, or ever again?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:21am

    As a former speech writer he should know more about immoral practices, since he was a pimp

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Ambivalent

    He's being unnecessarily insulting, but I do see his underlying point. This was something that didn't really need revealing.

    On the other hand, this was also an activity that was already widely known, due to the devices getting discovered every so often.

    So, I'm ambivalent. It was an unnecessary disclosure, but I don't see the actual harm it did.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:37am

    Re: Ambivalent

    Why unnecessary? If they are subverting security on hardware without the users knowledge or companies making the equipments knowledge AND with no court order... then its totally illegal.
    -
    The harm is in user trust. After this fiasco, our server team now has to spend more time setting up servers and monitoring the outgoing traffic. We have implemented radio frequency detection to monitor our servers before they get near our data center. Like Google and others we had to waste the resources to set up encryption between our sites. Its been a nightmare, but we have to do all we can to make sure our customer info is safe. All it takes is one person not as honorable as Snowden to abuse the NSA wiretaps to obtain hundreds of thousands of credit card info.

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    Bayan (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:38am

    Shameless Espionage Pornogropher... so Ed Snowden is 007?

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:41am

    Yeah, there is no evidence they have done any changing and adjusting of hardware...that's why the French aren't getting to sell that satellite to the UAE. No evidence at all.

    The point here isn't that there is or is not evidence. The point is they no longer have that line in the sand saying this is a valid target of interest.

    “N.S.A.’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”


    From the Snowden evidence, this means that every American and every internet communication is viewed as a foreign intelligence target. In the process of trying to smear Snowden, the author (Marc Thiessen) has shown his real colors. His purpose is not to reveal and expose but rather to assassinate Snowdens' character in an attempt to somehow invalidate his releases. This is absolutely in line with how the NSA thinks as evidenced by the gathering of porn viewing habits for later use.

    Sorry but Marc has assassinated his own creditability with this write up.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:41am

    Re: Ambivalent

    All you really need is to see the lack of outrage on Russia and China's parts to know that the harm is largely non-existent.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: Ambivalent

    This particular disclosure was about spying the NSA's done overseas, against not that friendly governments. Which is kind of part of their job, and something they're expected to be doing.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Re: Ambivalent

    When you need physical access, it is a technology that is difficult to deploy on foreign soil, especially if you need to set up a receiving station within a few miles. It is much more useful when used against your own population, when it is easier to intercept deliveries of equipment find places to set up the receiving station.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Guardian, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:01am

    says a man who likes the nsa looking at

    says a man who likes the nsa looking at everyone's porn

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:14am

    Yo, Marc, we already know the NSA is doing espionage. You don't have to tell us about it by projecting on someone else, like with that Cisco router debacle.

    Hmm... wait... Does this mean the NSA is using its camera hijacking and such to generate extra revenue by selling particularly voyeuristic porn?

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:16am

    Most damaging theft and release of classified information in American history? More damaging than the theft of nuclear weapon secrets and handing them to the Russians? The Cold War and threat of nuclear holocaust must not have been as big a deal as everyone made it out to be then.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:33am

    "But don't pin it on the guy who isn't making editorial decisions."

    There would have been no editorial decisions to make if Snowden had not extended a benevolent hand to some news reporters (and arguably some foreign governments) by disclosing an unimaginable amount of classified documents to them to do as they wished.

    So, while he did not make the editorial decisions, it is precisely because of his actions that such decisions can be made.

     

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

  14.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Ambivalent

    Yes, this. The disclosures of bulk collection of domestic data were necessary because that is clearly over the line. There is no indication (as of yet, anyway), that the installation of these devices is being done domestically by the NSA. It is absolutely being done by the FBI, but that's a whole different agency and issue.

    I am not opposed to the existence of spy agencies. I don't like them, but I recognize that they serve a valid purpose. What I am opposed to is spy agencies that are abusive and/or out of control.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Re: Ambivalent

    It is a kind of psychological warfare attack. He's attacking his public perception construction an 'us' vs 'that pornographer' brand (marketing, meme, what have you).

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Re:

    And thank goodness.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:47am

    Re: Ambivalent

    "So, I'm ambivalent. It was an unnecessary disclosure, but I don't see the actual harm it did."

    Please stay under your rock when election season gets here!

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    He is exploiting emotional framing and has a clear smearing agenda. I think he knows how incredibly manipulative he comes off to people who reads his comments at more than a brief glance.

    As long as the target audience do not read deeper into the subject, he is just doing a good job in his world!

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 11:53am

    slow clap

    Bravo on doing the funny thing

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Daemon_ZOGG, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    "As he sees it, revealing this allows terrorists to alter their hardware habits"

    How much of an idiot does one have to be, not to understand how to block radio signals? A deep cavern, underground bunker, Faraday cage, etc. Terrorists can be quite innovative, even when they're not blowing stuff up. And, Larry Flynt was a better man than Marc Thiessen. Marc and his NSA buddies seem to enjoy criticizing others without first looking into the mirror.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    David, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    What does he mean?

    His actions have exposed not only the NSA terrorist surveillance programs...

    Does he mean that the NSA surveilles terrorists? Or does he mean that the NSA surveillance programs are by their very nature terrorist?

    At the current point of time, it would appear by far the largest terrorist organization bent to dismantle the U.S. constitution by striking fear and anxiety into U.S. citizens and lawmakers alike is the NSA.

    Bin Laden had it right when he stated that his part of the work was done, and that the U.S.A. would pick up where he left off.

    And the NSA continues with its relentless mission to strike terror into the heart of the Americans, weakening their resolve to stand up for their constitution.

    They magnified the damage of 09/11 a hundredfold, and keep on doing it.

     

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

  22.  
    icon
    DOlz (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    They really don't get it

    Calling what Mr. Snowden did as Espionage Porn is only going to make more folks interested in it. Paging 4Chan and rule 34.

     

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

  23.  
    icon
    Oblate (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:27pm

    It's actually worse than than...

    Look at it this way- the information Snowden released is only a few years old, at most.

    He could as justifiably be called a shameless espionage child pornographer.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    fixed

    America’s espionage secrets is a crime.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Oblate (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:32pm

    That. "than that." Sigh.

    Why do I only catch typos after I hit submit? This is what the NSA should be working on catching, I'm sure they had the info in time.

     

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

  26.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Ambivalent

    I'm not sure if you're insulting me because you think I a approve of the leak or you think I disapprove of it.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    I think it would be more appropriate to compare Snowden with stuff like redtube - spreading freely that which was immorally produced by others...and very interesting to watch.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    His actions have exposed not only the NSA terrorist surveillance programs, but our intelligence collection efforts against foreign governments, including Russia and China.


    Please... this is another tired excuse being dragged out in hopes it sounds like something that could be.

    Does anyone recall that Bin Lauded had no internet hook up in his compound? No cell phone either. I wonder why that was? Could it possibly be that years ago it was already known that the US patrolled both cell phones and the internet? I'd say it was more than just highly likely. I'd say you have an absolute positive on awareness.

    Anytime he wanted to upset the West, he'd send a messenger somewhere else to upload what he wanted to use as a message to the West by USB. They couldn't catch him because he wasn't on the electronic horizon.

    Now if you think Bin Laudin held that info to himself about electronic communications being monitored, I don't think you know how messenger communications work.

    So the whole business about exposing the US's eavesdropping is bogus. Then think back and a lot of the 'creditable warnings' about terrorist events could happen were put out by various public officials and agencies. Depending on what was revealed in the info, just how hard do you think it was to pin down where the leak occurred from the terrorists standpoint? Were I one of them, I'd want to know where not to put sensitive information and it would not take them any longer than I to figure out the way to do that was salt messages with particular lines only to that one site and wait to see which was picked up. The process of elimination will tell you a lot over time.

    No, the various programs are not any more at risk than they were 5 or 6 years ago. Nothing Snowden has revealed has risked lives; only reputations and comfort of various officials. Trying to elevate this to the status of trading off nuclear secrets doesn't stand the smell test.

    This is just various embarrassed officials wanting it to all go away before they have to answer serious questions and stand the threat of losing their precious.

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    dparadis (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 3:00pm

    Thiessen

    I guess it's fitting that this asshole would try to coin the term "espionage porn" since he's such a fan of torture porn.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Sacredjunk, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 9:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ambivalent

    And why should an American organization have the right to illegally spy on foreign citizens?

    Would that make it right for organizations from other countries to spy on American citizens?

    Would you support other governments knowing your every step? Hearing your every call?

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Sacredjunk, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 9:18pm

    Re:

    According to him.. more like 0069

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 9:40pm

    Re: Ambivalent

    It certainly did need revealing. Inserting hardware back-doors and forcing you into lying and defrauding your customers is certainly a violation of rights period. And that is without getting into how wrong their spy on everyone mentality is period.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2014 @ 1:01am

    "How can anyone logically worry about "potential" adversaries, especially when the US seems to have plenty of existent adversaries.
    "

    How very telling that statement is !
    Is TD finally admitting there ARE EXISTENT ADVERSARIES ??? and PLENTY OF THEM TOO !!


    Existent adversaries ARE potential adversaries, so making these documents available is providing assistance TO OUR EXISTENT ADVERSARIES, as you state..

    Finally honesty from TD..

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jan 17th, 2014 @ 3:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ambivalent

    It makes sense to spy on potential threats as long as the spying is carefully targeted to those threats. What we're up against is mass surveillance by agencies that could indict a ham sandwich on what they discover about people and their habits.

    Terrorists and criminals are legitimate targets for spying. The rest of us are not.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jan 17th, 2014 @ 3:28am

    Re: Re: Ambivalent

    Russia and China take it as a given and do it themselves. Evidence of harm is that Brazilian warplane deal that fell through over the spying.

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Clownius, Jan 17th, 2014 @ 4:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Ambivalent

    Are you really sure its never been done to an American target? After all thats come out do you really trust the NSA's word on this? Seriously?

    According to the NSA none of their programs spied on Americans. Well not until there was absolute proof out there that they bloody well did.......

    If i was running any sort of server now with private information on it i too would have to check this out seriously. Its wasted time and money for businesses.

    Thus many will choose vendors not linked to America now to reduce the chances they end up with equipment they cant in good faith use because its bloody well bugged by the NSA.

    The economic damage these guys are causing is going to be absolutely stunning. Glad im not in the USA tech industry...

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 17th, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ambivalent

    Countries don't have the right to spy on other countries. I never meant to imply that they did.

    Of the two sins, however, domestic spying is the larger one. It's the one that leads to tyranny.

     

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

  38.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 17th, 2014 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ambivalent

    Are you really sure its never been done to an American target?


    It absolutely has been done to American targets by the FBI, but that's not what this release has revealed.

    The NSA probably doesn't do this sort of thing against domestic targets directly. If they want it done, they'd ask the FBI to do it.

     

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

  39.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 17th, 2014 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    When did anyone claim there were no enemies? You're just making stuff up.

    Giving information to enemies when they already know that information isn't really providing assistance, though.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2014 @ 1:36am

    Re:

    darryl just detests it when due process is enforced.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This