NSA Now Revealing A Lot More About What It Does Than Snowden Leaks Did; So Is That Harming America?

from the just-wondering dept

One of the key refrains that has come out from those who are unhappy about the revelation of details around the NSA’s surveillance efforts is that Edward Snowden’s leaks are somehow harmful to America. During hearings about all of this, NSA boss Keith Alexander claimed that “Americans will die” because of these sorts of leaks. But… between those same hearings and other revelations from the administration and Congress, we’re actually learning much more about the various programs directly from the government, as information is now being “declassified.” And, apparently, President Obama is asking the NSA and the Justice Department to look into declassifying even more. So while the initial shove to declassify information may have come via Snowden, the stuff that we’re really learning about is coming through revelations following Snowden’s leaks — revelations that never would have happened without his leaks.

So that raises a fairly basic question: if Snowden is somehow a traitor and putting lives at risk… why isn’t the other information we’re actually learning about the programs equally as problematic? The real answer seems to be that the information Snowden leaked does not harm us at all, but has simply revealed that the government has kept classified information from the American public that never should have been classified at all. The fact that only now are they looking to declassify it (and then doing so) shows pretty clearly that the information was improperly classified in the first place.

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Comments on “NSA Now Revealing A Lot More About What It Does Than Snowden Leaks Did; So Is That Harming America?”

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65 Comments
RyanNerd (profile) says:

Yelling at my TV

I can not watch the news anymore. Especially CNN I saw yesterday afternoon some asshat talking about how Snowden had been harming America and other such asyndeton. My wife thought I’d lost my mind because I kept yelling at the TV: “What the hell! Reporter lady now ask HOW exactly did Snowden harm America?” But instead of challenging this absurd assumtion she thanked the asshat for his factual statements and went on with the next news item.
My poor wife… I was in a foul mood the rest of the day.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Okay let?s list the items that have come to light during the Obama administration (No particualar order):

1) Bradly Manning being charged with 34 violations one of which carries the death penalty.
2) IRS targeting conservative groups.
3) The Benghazi cover-up (which is actually 3 scandals in one)
– The failure of administration to protect the Benghazi mission.
– The changes made to the talking points in order to suggest the attack was motivated by an anti-Muslim video.
– The refusal of the White House to say what President Obama did the night of the attack.
4) The criminalizing of an NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden.
5) The Justice Department massive data gathering of Associated Press reporters’ phone records as part of a leak investigation.
6) The Justice Department accusing Fox News reporter James Rosen of being a criminal for reporting about classified information and subsequently monitored his phones and emails.

I could actually go on but these are most of the major ones. Now tell me again exactly who is harming America?

Nick (profile) says:

Re: That list is already 6 entries too large for my tastes

Don’t forget the massively increased use of drones for targeted killings in sovereign nations, assassination kill list, and the fact that Americans can be and are put on previously said list.

Whether you all agree with the severity of legitimacy of these scandals (most of the ones regarding Benghazi in particular I think are absurd), the fact is that this list is already too large already. In fact, we should be pointing at and laughing at every single allegation on the list as another “whitewater-gate” scandal. Instead, we are either forced to defend them (in the cases of some people suddenly demonizing Snowden and praising the NSA spying efforts) or just staying passive about it (such as the Manning trial (a horrible miscarriage of justice).

Anonymous Coward says:

Ryan I agree with you Candy Crowley is a tool who tried to trap Rand Paul with her line of interrogation.

The thing that galls me the most is David Gregory saying that Glenn Greenwald should be investigated for criminal actions.

Gregory who back in 2012 broke Washington DC law with the on air possession of a high capacity magazine. But because he was doing the governments bidding received a pass.

It would be interesting to look back and see what he had to say about the DOJ abuse of the AP and Fox news reporter James Rosen.

Just a guess I bet it did not support the DOJ.

Ben (profile) says:

Context

This is a tough one, because as much as I prefer to know about this type of intelligence gathering, I believe it’s pretty clear Snowden broke the law by exposing this information. And as much as people don’t like what he NSA was doing, it’s far from clear at this point that it was illegal.

Apart from some public support, what’s the difference between Snowden’s acts and a infiltrator working at the behest of a foreign power making embarrassing information public?

Should we just make it legal to publicly expose classified info, as long as a single person (the person doing the releasing) thinks the public should know?

Eric says:

Re: Context

“And as much as people don’t like what he NSA was doing, it’s far from clear at this point that it was illegal.”

Ummmm…how about a mass warrant for gathering information on people who have absolutely NO probable cause? Do you not understand what the heck you’re talking about?

Let me help you to then, Step 1) Unilateral national warrant for gathering digital info, Step 2) Unilateral national warrant to search and/or seize anything the government deems “dangerous to public safety” from public buildings and corporations, Step 3) Unilateral warrants to search your private residences to insure the public that you don’t have anything in your possession that could threaten their “safety”.

“Whatever, that will never happen”. Oh right…because it didn’t happen in Germany in 1933, or in Continental America WHEN OUR FOUNDING FATHERS WROTE THE STINKIN’ THING INTO OUR CONSTITUTION!!!!

They had the FORESIGHT to protect US from our ridiculous government, who in turn is trying to make them out to be senseless individuals with “antiquated” ideals. Just like King George III did to those who made laws before him. Ohhhh yeah suuuuuure, tell them it’s about their “safety” and they will get on hands and knees to thank you for stripping their rights to protect them from the boogeyman.

Grow a brain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Context

Snowden broke only contract law – so far this is correct and undisputed.
Was he a traitor for exposing classified information that harms American lives? Like Assange and Wikileaks?

Now why would the NSA tip around this hot roof when all they do is
a) in the spirit of the constitution of the USA
b) operating within the words of the law of the USA
c) not appearing to hide something more
d) not upsetting the citizens of the USA
The government must show the government is keeping everyone “safe” – without admitting that to do so is to take away the basic principles of American life and citizenship. And the NSA is in the dead center of a hurricane and doesn’t want to budge for good reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Snoden is not being charged for “harming America” he is being charged for theft, and wrongfull use of classified information.

And for providing classified info to people not cleared to view it.

I dont see anything about “harming America” on his charge sheet, so what is the point of your argument.

Also NSA officials are allowed to make statements and provide information, Snoden signed legal documents and made statements under oath that he understood he is NOT allowed.

So trying to build a defense for which he is not being charged is not that smart an idea, it would be better (by far) to actually build a defense claim that some how defends what he is being charged for !!! would you not think ??

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“Snoden is not being charged for “harming America” he is being charged for theft, and wrongfull use of classified information.

And for providing classified info to people not cleared to view it.

I dont see anything about “harming America” on his charge sheet, so what is the point of your argument.”

This actually made me giggle. Not really a high-level thinker are you?

“Also NSA officials are allowed to make statements and provide information, Snoden signed legal documents and made statements under oath that he understood he is NOT allowed.”

What you clearly want (like the USG apparently) is to prevent whistle-blowing. And the only people who want to prevent whistle-blowing are people who know the public would not be happy with the info provided by whistle-blowers, i.e. people who know what they’re doing is wrong, legally or otherwise. People like you who want to suppress knowledge of governmental misdeeds sicken me. You are an anathema to good democratic government process.

Pete Austin says:

The NSA could not afford to its technology secret

The article forgets two vital facts (1) Snowden fled to China, where they have become very effective at applying for patents and (2) “first to file” is now the law in the USA.

If the NSA had continued to keep the details of their monitoring secret, it would only have been a matter of days before some Chinese company applied for patents covering the whole thing and required $billions in license fees. The risk was too great.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

“usual rubbish, he broke the law putting lives at risk should face trial like manning and assange”

The only life he put at risk was his own-for daring to stare down the government over illegal activities.

Now we see what happens when you do such things-you get the government all pissed off and embarrassed by its’ overreaction and floundering steps.

The government in turn, assumed that anything they asked for would be given to them, and they were shocked to find that they’re not as above the law as they think.

Hong Kong said so: “Sorry, fill out the rest of the paperwork and come back when it’s done.”

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m amazed no-one in the GOP has yet thought of running against Obama on a ‘pardon Snowden’ ticket……

Simple retoric…..Obama = dictator who may/may not have murdered US and non-US citizens without oversight and is now going after any and all whistleblowers that expose the hypocrisy and general evil of his administration.

As a side swipe they could promise to have a FULL and public financial investigation of Obama and Biden’s personal wealth since they came to power…..

Anonymous Coward says:

“The fact that only now are they looking to declassify it (and then doing so) shows pretty clearly that the information was improperly classified in the first place”

It does not necessarily follow. Since Snowden revealed the program it is probably true that much of it no longer needs to be classified. At this point pretty much everybody assumes that the NSA is wiretapping anything that passes through the US. The government’s argument is that before the revelations there were some people out there who did not take precautions and now will.

Declassifying now is pretty understandable if only so they do not have to continue doing crazy things like asking everybody with a security clearance to not look at the documents online.

The central point in this fiasco has always been whether it is appropriate for the government to do capture data on this scale based on the general warrants. Not telling the wiretapped person that he is being wiretapped is not exceptional, the problem here is the target is everyone.

tartar says:

Wow! Seems to be the consensus is that sometimes you got to shake it up a bit. Thank you young man. We all kind of knew it and now it is confirmed. Thank you government for wasting my tax dollars on your ludicrous expeditions. Just shake it.

This country will go on without many government agencies because, at the end of the day, we are a nation of good people.

Eric says:

Come, sign up now to surrender your rights!!!

General warrant = Unconstitutional = illegal. So why are we even considering Snowden to be a traitor and a criminal? I guess a “nation” can’t possibly do anything illegal and be held accountable since there is no one person to blame (or is there…). Good grief people…this is ludicrous!

Again, as I said before, tell everyone that you’re stripping them of their rights to protect them…oh! And put in a little psychological snippet to say that it’s “for the children”, and they will bow down and thank you for saving them from the monsters in the closet.

It’s like your parents grounding you for life to protect you from “the rapists” and “pedophiles” that you probably will never encounter. Same concept, now how does that sound to you? Not so romanticized anymore, is it?!

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