President Obama Calls Ed Snowden A 'Hacker' When He Didn't Hack Anything

from the smearing dept

This is odd. In talking about Ed Snowden, President Obama referred to him as a “hacker.” After being asked about what kinds of efforts the administration was making to capture Snowden, the President (thankfully) claimed that they weren’t going to go too crazy over it, but chose an odd descriptor for Snowden:

“I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” he told reporters during a news conference in Senegal.

Leaving aside the fact that Snowden recently turned 30, calling him a “hacker” seems like a calculated move to try to reframe these leaks as something nefarious where someone “broke in” to get classified info, rather than a whistleblower on the inside, who saw what was going on, the widespread abuses, the lying to the American public and Congress, and decided to do something about it. This attempt at reframing whistleblowing is all too consistent with the administration’s practice of declaring war on whistleblowers.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “President Obama Calls Ed Snowden A 'Hacker' When He Didn't Hack Anything”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
64 Comments
S. T. Stone says:

Re: Lets tread on conspiracy; Shall we?

They want to instill the idea that whistleblowers pose as much of a threat to National Security as actual terrorists, which could prevent potential future whistleblowers from blowing said whistle, which in turn would allow the government to erode our civil rights without any oversight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Lets tread on conspiracy; Shall we?

There’s a more fundamental reason – the US government is a second-wave industrial government trying to find ways to make itself important and relevant in a third wave post-industrial world. By creating a new resource that it can wield over everyone the government is reasserting its power.

Read PowerShift by Alvin Toffler. Frightening stuff. But the signs that the power shift has started is all around us.

Anonymous Coward says:

clearly the government is not going to do anything productive. What we will need to do is lean on Tech companies to re-commit to respecting users data and develop zero knowledge encryption strategies, and if they don’t do it we should do it ourselves. This isn’t up to government. We are the internet and we choose what goes on and what is acceptable. Its really up to us we will need to take matters into our own hands and get this right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why the focus on the 29

Seems like every report out there has to introduce him as 29. I’m not sure the effect they are trying to achieve. Are they trying to point out that he’s young? Or that he’s mature (i.e. been an adult for over a decade)? I just don’t get it. I can’t think of any other news celebrity whose age is highlighted so much.

I'dHireHim says:

That's a heck of a reference

Whether the President is using the term hacker correctly, meaning someone who can write creative code solutions on the fly, or incorrectly, referring to a ‘cracker’, someone who can break into data bases with little difficulty, it makes a heck of a job reference, I’d hire him.

Kenpachi says:

Re: Paging Doctor Freud...

I’m more worried about “the other” slip. If it’s true that E.S. is in some Russian airport,they will do everything in their illegal (abuse of) power to prevent him from reaching any destination. Of course he (or someone down the chain) is going to scramble jets.

They know that IF he gets to any country that’s going to grant him asylum, it’s going to be a very long halt. Of course, if that doesn’t play out, the second option always apply in their sick-twisted-criminal minds: they most certainly will attempt to snatch him in the dark, special force’s style. They don’t give a single fuck about other Nation’s Sovereignty.

For this matters alone, I really hoped he could have stayed in China or Russia, the only two countries that could have granted him some decent protection.

I really hope I’m dead wrong, but hey, it’s the U.S.A. “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”

Anonymous Coward says:

I hear that too and thought “WTF?!” I know the President was just trying to give a snarky answer but at least he could get the facts right when giving it.

So what he was really saying is that he’s so butt hurt that this 30 year old is doing a better job of defending the Constitution (something he promised to do before he took office and swore under oath to do when he took office) than he is that it’s making him look so bad that he can’t even get the basic facts on the guy straight.

Uh, Mr. President, WHAT exactly did he hack? By all known accounts, he had security clearance AND authorized access to every piece of information that he possessed. Oh, you don’t actually KNOW what the word “hacking” means? Well, it would probably be a good idea to find out before you try to use it, because when you misuse a term in a way that shows you don’t know what you are talking about, it only makes you look foolish and further undermines the credibility of your argument. Just a little piece of advice.

PS: You might want to fire your advisers because they probably should have told you this long ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well. It is secret service for a reason… Everything going on in it is secret, and we will likely not get the information needed to make the determination!

It sounds like they have found out that he was cracking along on the local mom and pap NSA hideaway. Now, if he figured that world was not enough he might have hacked his way into some server with data he did not have clearance for.
That would make him a hacker technically and since I know Obama is decently versed in the lingo, I would expect that he knows the difference which would make it a concious designation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Really? He doesn’t know how old the guy is even when it’s been all over the news that his birthday was Friday, but he knows the meaning of the word “hacker”. And with all the squirming they have been doing to try to spin this as espionage instead of whistleblowing all of their attempts to dig up dirt to paint him as a criminal, if they had found ANY evidence that he used unauthorized access to gain any of the data, then you don’t think they would have thrown that out there deliberately to show what a bad, dangerous guy he is? Really? You know good and well they would have made a HUGE point of it had there been ANY evidence of it. But they haven’t so sorry, don’t buy that.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think he is trying to get the label hacker attached to Snowden so they have another vague book to throw at him.

Trouble is they already look foolish as it is, as they have been caught with their pants down doing the very things that Obama claimed they weren’t doing.

I suspect without proof that Obama’s oath doesn’t mean much as most likely the NSA has some sort of leverage on him through all this spying. If it ever comes out, most likely you will find all the judges, and all the politicians are likewise compromised and that is how we have gotten to the point we are today. Somehow, I serious doubt this is all by happenstance without arm twisting of some sort.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Another way of looking at this

I think Obama may also be trying to downplay the threat Snowden poses to the affected government agencies (and by extension, his administration).

While it’s true that the government tends to overreact to anything it feels falls under the CFAA, there’s still enough of the “old guard” left (population-wise)that someone can be instantly marginalized simply by declaring them to be a “hacker.” The word conjures up ineffectual, pasty young men who still live in their parents’ basement and cannot comfortably exist in the “real world.”

When Obama says he won’t be scrambling jets to go after a “29 year old hacker” (also notice: “29” sounds much more young, callous and irresponsible than “30” does), it seems to me he’s implying that Snowden is beneath the administration’s attention. And if Snowden and his leaks can’t make Obama panic, then maybe he’s just some hacker punk messing around with a few hard drive’s worth of unimportant documents.

Loki says:

Re: Another way of looking at this

Here’s the thing, Snowden’s actions merely confirmed what a lot of people already knew (or least mostly suspected for lack of actual proof) and just forced it a little more into the public consciousness (where I can tell you a lot of people are still deliberately ignoring the issue).

The real threat Snowden’s revelations posed are when people starting asking the bigger questions of access:

1)If Snowden had access to all this information, how many other people did as well?

2) How do we know Snowden was the first person to access all this data, and what might they have done with it?

I posed those questions the other day, and a few hours later I was reading about Snowden being stuck in a Russian airport, where Putin was quoted as saying “Snowden didn’t tell us anything we already didn’t know.”

I’m willing to bet they aren’t really so mad that it’s been revealed the information is there, but how easy it was to compromise, because I’m also willing to bet it’s been compromised for quite some time.

Anonymous Coward says:

so even Obama is blaming Snowden for things he hasn’t done, just to make the blame appear to be with him rather than with the NSA and other law enforcement agencies. Obama needs to think why this situation is as it is. basically because he told those that blew the whistle would be protected, but in true politicians style, he lied! i dont think that is anything to be proud of and i am waiting to see what shit comes out when some other country does something that goes against ‘human rights, privacy and freedom’ he aint got a damn thing he can say when he goes down the same path! is it any wonder why the USA is getting more and more despised each day? it has lost it’s path and whoever is pushing/leading it, needs removing before something serious comes out of it!

Roland Lindsey says:

Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

“Last week NSA Director Keith Alexander told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Snowden was able to access files inside the NSA by fabricating digital keys that gave him access to areas he was not allowed to visit as a low-level contractor and systems administrator. One of those areas included a site he visited during his training that Alexander later told reporters contained one of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court orders published by The Guardian and The Washington Post earlier this month.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/25/greenwald-snowden-s-files-are-out-there-if-anything-happens-to-him.html?source=socialflow&account=thedailybeast&medium=twitter

According to that description, he’s a hacker.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

NSA Director Keith Alexander told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Snowden was able to access files inside the NSA by fabricating digital keys that gave him access to areas he was not allowed to visit

There’s only two ways to interpret this statement:

1) Mr. Alexander is a bald-faced liar, or
2) The NSA is hopelessly incompetent with security systems

…and I seriously doubt the answer is #2.

If properly implemented, it is the next best thing to impossible to “fabricate digital keys”, particularly by a single person without access to some serious computing resources.

If Snowden did manage to pull this off, then yes, he’s hacking. But the more serious revelation would be the crippling incompetence of the NSA.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

Yes, but that makes Mr. Alexander a bald-faced liar. “Digital keys” and passwords are very, very different things.

Further, guessing/stealing a password, tailgating onto a machine that someone left logged in, etc., aren’t even on the same continent as “fabricating a digital key”.

Roland Lindsey says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

Alexander told a closed committee that Snowden used some sort of privilege escalation to gain access to files he shouldn’t have. None of us have the detail, nor do we know exactly what Alexander said.

Privilege escalation is a hack, no matter how he did it, and it is the most reasonable explanation for how he had access to the files he stole. Do you really think you can just roll up to BAH and get the keys to the kingdom within three months? Further, he took the job at BAH specifically to gain access to those files.

He’s a hacker. The President spoke correctly. “President Obama Calls Ed Snowden A ‘Hacker’ When He Didn’t Hack Anything” is BS.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

Wait a second…

Which is it — did he fabricate a digital key, or did he use a privilege escalation hack? Those two things can’t be easily confused. They’re totally different acts.

So now we’re being told two contradictory things about what Snowden actually did. That the NSA can’t keep its story straight is an even greater indication that they’re lying.

He’s a hacker.

Maybe he is, I don’t know.

The only indication of it is the NSA’s say-so. The NSA had already lost most of its credibility by lying to Congress about all this stuff, and the story I’m hearing about this particular point is even sketchier than that. it’s certainly nowhere near credible enough to justify an unqualified accusation that he’s a hacker.

Roland Lindsey says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

Which is easier to believe?

1. Snowden targetted the NSA using the BAH job knowing there was a vector by which he could gain access to sensitive information, and gained access via that vector.

2. Snowden was given access to the files as a new employee to FISA files that have never been leaked in the history of FISA.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

Honestly, I don’t know. Either way, the NSA comes out of it looking terrible.

Interestingly, recent news reports I’ve been hearing have cited the NSA as saying that Snowden did not actually access any super-sensitive files, and that he only copied the more abstract and generally available (to cleared employees) things like that slide show.

What’s really clear to me is that we’re getting a lot of contradictory information from the NSA. This is a standard spy tactic to mitigate the release of real information: you fill the media with a bunch of made-up crap so that nobody can be sure which information is accurate.

Kenneth Michaels (profile) says:

Re: And now they can charge him for "theft" under 18 USC 641

The DOJ has to accuse him of some sort of “criminal entry, or criminal or civil trespass,” so they could charge with “theft of government property” under 18 USC 641 (see the criminal complaint). See Techdirt article about DOJ guidelines:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130624/12345623597/doj-guidelines-inappropriate-to-prosecute-leaking-govt-information-as-theft-govt-property.shtml

More specifically, the DOJ guidelines state (see part 3):
“for the reasons set forth below,…it is inappropriate to bring a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. ? 641 [theft] when: (1) the subject of the theft is intangible property, i.e., government information owned by, or under the care, custody, or control of the United States; (2) the defendant obtained or used the property primarily for the purpose of disseminating it to the public; and (3) the property was not obtained as a result of wiretapping, (18 U.S.C. ? 2511) interception of correspondence (18 U.S.C. ?? 1702, 1708), criminal entry, or criminal or civil trespass.”

There you go!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

If you are in charge of maintaining and repairing a Certificate Authority, then having access to keys and generating new keys is no more hacking than a Verisign employee generating a test key. Without the whole story, this is more likely like driving away in a running car from the local store, ie it’s not theft but unauthorized use.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Uh, I'm not sure how you missed this...

Cue “Pirates of the Caribbean” song “He’s a pirate!” as a background to your comment along with all the fantasy. I’m with mr Fenderson there. NSA lies too much and too often for us to believe it along of course with all the other points he exposed. I say he had access to the files and this is just a smear campaign like many others to draw attention to the character and destroy him.

Forest_GS (profile) says:

Yeah, I saw that clip. He stuttered right before he said hacker… I wonder if he didn’t want to say it, or was “ordered” to say it…

But still, the old obama that got elected by the people wouldn’t let stuff like this go unchecked. Too bad he “changed” >.> . There is no reason to debate about whether or not he has changed, it’s too obvious. The people of the US would never vote someone like obama is now into presidency.

Truth says:

Truth

THEY ARE ALL TOGETHER, BUSH, OSMA, BILDERBERG, ANONYMOUS HACKERS, ?THAT EX GENERAL THAT USED TO RUN THE FEDS , THE ISRAELI SECRET ?SERVICE, BILDERBERG AND ALL NOT ONLY ARE THEY ACKING INTO ALL OF US THEY ARE ROBBING FAMILIES OF THEIR HARD WORK AND STEALING FROM BROKERS HUGE TANSACTIONS WORTH TRILLIONS AND TRILLIONS AND TRILLIONS. ?YOUR WATER IS DRUGGED SO YOU DO NOT REACT. ?THE DRONES ARE WATCHING YOU AND DARE TO REVOLT WATCH HW FAST THEY ?ZAP YOU AND KILL YOU. ? THE EVIL MONSTERS ARE WITH THE BANKING FAMILIES FAKE JEWS THAT ARE GERMANS AND TOOK THE IDENTITY OF JEWS THEY KILED SO THEY WOULD NOT BE GIVEN THE GUILLOTINE FOR THE NIGHTMARE ?HORRORS THEY CAUSED THE JEWS, BLACK PEOPLE WHEN THEY SLAVED THEM AND THE STORY CONTINUES. ?NOW THE WHOLE WORLD IS UNDER ATTACK AND THEY WANT TO PUT US IN THEIR CAMPS AND RATION OUR FOOD THAT IS WHY ALL IS GOING ON, FOOD IS EXPENSIVE,OBAMA WANTS TO MAKE LAW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GROW IN YOUR OWN GARDEN ? ?AND SOOOOOOO MUCH MORE. ? PEOPLE GOD SEES AND GOD WILL CRUSH THEM ALL, HE TOLD ME IN A LOUD VOICE AND WATEVER YOU DO DO NOT GIVE THOSE TYRANTS, THOSE DEVILS YOUR GUNS. ?GOD IS HERE HE SEES AND TRUST E THEY WILL GET IT FOR ALL THE SUFFERINGS THEY ARE CAUSING

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...