Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson: This Has Nothing To Do With Snowden, The Intelligence-Industrial Complex Is Out Of Control

from the transparency-needed dept

Husband and wife Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson are well-known for an earlier “leaking” of “intelligence” information that resulted in Plame being outed as a covert CIA officer. The two have now written a powerful op-ed for the Guardian pointing out that the “intelligence-industrial complex” is completely out of control and very ripe for abuse:

We are now dealing with a vast intelligence-industrial complex that is largely unaccountable to its citizens. This alarming, unchecked growth of the intelligence sector and the increasingly heavy reliance on subcontractors to carry out core intelligence tasks – now estimated to account for approximately 60% of the intelligence budget – have intensified since the 9/11 attacks and what was, arguably, our regrettable over-reaction to them.

They point out that the size of the operation, the reliance on private companies and contractors more focused on profits than what’s best for the country, combined with the massive amount of secrecy all needs to change:

On this spying business, officials from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to self-important senators are, in effect, telling Americans not to worry: it’s not that big a deal, and “trust us” because they’re keeping US citizens safe. This position must be turned on its head and opened up to a genuine discussion about the necessary, dynamic tension between security and privacy. As it now stands, these programs are ripe for abuse unless we establish ground rules and barriers between authentic national security interests and potential political chicanery.

Separately, they point out that the focus on Ed Snowden is nothing more than a “sideshow” which distracts from the real issue: which is just how insanely out of control the intelligence infrastructure of the country has become.

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Comments on “Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson: This Has Nothing To Do With Snowden, The Intelligence-Industrial Complex Is Out Of Control”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Separately, they point out that the focus on Ed Snowden is nothing more than a “sideshow” which distracts from the real issue: which is just how insanely out of control the intelligence infrastructure of the country has become.

I don’t get why you think we have to only focus on the NSA and not on Snowden as well. Both are interesting stories in themselves. It’s not a sideshow. It reminds me of how you reacted with Swartz, where you wouldn’t discuss what Swartz had done and instead try to steer to the conversation only to the CFAA and practices of journals. Both can be compelling stories that are worthy of our focus, Mike.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Snowden is ultimately irrelevant beyond his role in leaking the information; it could have been anyone else with access to that information. Snowden himself is as news-worthy as the average celebrity. The reason why he’s a sideshow is because the government and media intentionally try and make him the issue, so that we don’t think the NSA is the issue. Same thing with Swartz and the CFAA. All they are is a distraction from the key issue.

In short, they’re the circuses in “bread and circuses”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Someone makes public classified documents, engaging in espionage, and that’s not a story? Like I said, both the documents and the man are viable stories. Many (Mike included) only want to talk about the documents, but I think it’s important, if we’re putting things into context, to discuss why certain types of documents are classified to begin with.

Do you think that it’s OK for people entrusted with state secrets to just disclose them whenever they want to? Should we just let one person decide for himself what’s important and worth keeping secret and what’s not? Let’s talk about that too since it’s also a big part of this story.

ipgrunt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let's talk about leaking secrets...

Mr. Coward, I believe you miss the point about the trade-off here between “secrets being leaked” and a free society.

The gatekeepers who decide what is secret and what is not are the same group who are violating our constitutionally guaranteed rights to privacy, speech, thought, and trial by jury. This situation violates our tradition of the balance of power and is therefore intolerable in the American system of government.

Many Americans, including no doubt Mr. Snowden, believe that these gatekeepers are 1) abusing their citizen-given power, and 2) covering up their abuse of power by making the fact a “national security secret.”

Hell, every day new revelation. Now it is revealed that we have violated the trust of our own allies by spying on their government and citizens. We risk becoming a pariah on the world stage because of the actions of the “intelligence-industrial complex.”

I think the point many are making, including Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson is that our “national security” is in greater danger from the usurpation of constitutional rights by those who abuse that power without accountability, than it is from any foreign power who might wish us harm.

Our federal government has no constitutional basis for wire-tapping and recording every telephone call made in America. Yet, the government not only does exactly this, it lies about it.

The IRS is again being used as a hammer in which to smash those within this country who’s thoughts are not aligned with the powers in office. This is a Nixonian-era abuse of power that added to pressuring one president to resign office.

Even the offices of the Associated Press, a wire service that feeds all other news services, has been wiretapped without cause and without a court order.

I believe America has a mandate to support and defend the right to privacy, free speech, and free thought. Yet, this and past administrations violate all three principles of freedom.

Have the events of 9/11/2001 repealed our Bill of Rights? Those in power seem to think so, with Patriot I and Patriot II, and who knows how many other Presidential Findings?

However, I am not willing to trade my constitutional guarantees of freedom of privacy, speech, thought, and trial by jury for the current political simulation of national security we now have, which is in my opinion, designed for consumption by and pacification of an uninformed citizenry.

There are better methods to maintain security than spying on every American who uses a telephone or sends an email. If we don’t know what they are today, then we better find them, fast.

Have you no outrage about these intrusions on our basic freedoms or are you content with the status-quo?

Bravo to Mr. Snowden, a true American freedom-lover who had the courage to act. America needs to stand behind Mr. Snowden.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sideshows

But it’s not a sideshow. Whether we should be encouraging individuals to violate their duty and to take things into their own hands is very much central to this story. Do you think that every person entrusted with classified documents should just make them public if they unilaterally decide that that they think that’s best? I don’t.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re: Sideshows

Secrecy should only be maintained if it’s in the public interest. In this case it’s pretty clear the secrecy was entirely because the public would be horrified to learn the truth. You may have a moral issue with breaking an oath of secrecy, but surely there’s a point where what is being kept secret is not only immoral but far worse than oathbreaking.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sideshows

Do you think that every person entrusted with classified documents should just make them public if they unilaterally decide that that they think that’s best?

It’s a valid question. On the one hand, there’s an obvious problem with being OK with that. On the other hand, if people never did it, then all kinds of serious misbehavior would never have been spotted and corrected.

In my opinion, it is essential that there are people who are willing to divulge classified documents in the course of whistleblowing. At the same time, it’s important that there be serious consequences for doing so, to ensure that people wouldn’t engage in such behavior casually.

Rudy says:

Re: Re:

“I don’t get why you think we have to only focus on the NSA and not on Snowden as well.”

Review and redo: Mike said THEY pointed this out, whereas your reply suggests “Mike” did. These two stories are not equally yoked in the press either. They are clearly pushing character over action on this one.

bigpicture says:

Re: Blinkers

They used to put blinkers on draft horses so they could only see in front of them and not to the sides. This was so they could control the horses decisions/actions. This is what the government is doing to you, keep you focused on their agenda so that you will not look at the bigger picture.

(1) Who pays for all this? The Taxpayer? That makes the taxpayer a CONSUMER. But not protected by the normal consumer protection laws. The consumer laws protect the consumer from false and misleading advertising, from certain forms of secrecy, from collusion, monopoly etc.

The Swartz issue was that the taxpayer had already paid for the information, AND THEREFORE IT SHOULD BE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, just because the government has a monopoly and CAN MAKE THE LAWS, that makes it ILLEGAL to put the information in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, does not make the LAW right.

The issue with the NSA is, and you will see more of this GRIND the USA into the ground, under the guise of NATIONAL SECURITY, the good old USA was actually spying on it’s TRADING PARTNERS, to get a trading advantage, so how will China, Russia, Europe see this? Will they not say FU we are not trading with you any more, because we don’t need you, or your Monsanto, or your Apple or anything else, I know that would be my reaction.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

I can understand the idea that endless discussion and attention to Snowden can become and may already be a side show. Particularly since the publicity hounding Assange and Wikileaks got involved.

What is technically fascinating is the route he’s taken to keep the rest of his material away from the American government and intelligence community unless or until something happens to him. It’s possible the key could be as little as a single byte which could trigger the sending of his other documents out after they’ve been unscrambled.

Despite what he’s charged with he’s a whistle blower, nothing more or less. Which is an honourable thing in an open and free democracy when government starts to get out of control. which, in this case, and more it seems, it has.

Anonymous Coward says:

Evidently other folks are beginning to see what I’ve been talking about here. The not hearing public officials own up to the issue of out of control spying. No one in the intelligence community is coming out to say, “yeah we went too far”. Instead it’s been that very lack of coming out and being transparent that tells me what is going on.

It’s now about damage control and shutting down those known programs so they can be restarted in another name still doing the same things once the attention is gone. It’s not about recognizing it’s gone too far.

Character assassination has always been a tool of media and the intelligence community to divert attention away from what they are doing and to justify seeking the maximums for a spy when all it is, is as mentioned a whistle blower who does not deserve this sort of reaction from an embarrassed government. In this Obama and the DOJ have pretty much been caught red handed at it. Only now it is out in the open about it. It will be far harder to institution these kangaroo courts and charges without the public asking questions. I also suspect that this might still be early enough to help Bradley Manning with another of these kangaroo courts.

antymat says:

So tell me - do NSA това́рищи have small red books for IDs?

And does Honecker^H^H^H^H^^H^H^H Obama still live in a delusion of the free country of free people?
Oh, sorry, Honecker might have been deluded that it will just stay that way…

They have trained you, Americans, very well indeed. And for the good – instead of barbed wire, death zones, defectors and costs of that all – everyone is happy with the brain washed so well it shines. If anything – this definitely IS a success of the “war on terrorism”.

Anonymous Coward says:

the best form of defence is attack and that’s exactly what all the intelligence/security agencies are doing. if they cvan keep the spotlight on Snowden, blaming him for everything, making out how what he did is so heinous a crime, the real crimes and the real perpetrators are able to get away with what they have done/are still doing and have no backlash or recrimination against them. the only thing i have read recently that ought to stop is Snowden’s father being his mouth piece. if the man actually thinks that nothing will happen to his son, even if iron-clad conditions are given, he is in cuckoo land! the word of the government is about as much use as a chocolate coffee pot. it means nothing! even Obama has lied about protecting whistle blowers. if Snowden came back to the USA, he will either be imprisoned for life or will meet with a fatal ‘accident’. if i were his father, i would keep my mouth shut unless he wants a corpse for a son!!

Anonymous Coward says:

The pathetic part is no one here has equated NSA and Stasi or NKVD.

Consider the US has more political prisoners (we call them drug convictions) than the USSR ever had.

The US has a more powerful domestic intelligence organization than the USSR ever had.

The US disappears people at places like Gitmo and Diego Garcia. Once on Google one could see the gulag camp and the area surrounding the camp, not now.

That elections are just as rigged in the US today as they were in the USSR.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a very large difference between how the media and political establishment treats the Valerie Plame leak and the Snowden leak. One leak was for the benefit of the people in power and the other did not. Snowden is now hunted across the globe by the US government, while members of the political class blurts out threats of vengeance against his person in the media.
The leaker of Valerie Plame’s identity will not have to fear any such repercussions.
There a “good” leaks and there are “evil” leaks when it comes to the government.

Davol (user link) says:

Elephant in the Room

One aspect of the Snowden angle of this story is the elephant in the room I see all too well, which is why he ran all the way to Hong Kong instead of going through “normal channels” as the media puts it. Look at Bradley Manning who today is probably genuinely insane from the last 3 years of solitary confinement he has been in. The Snowden story sheds light on that, which ought to lead to an outcry to free Bradley Manning who was also leaking truth to the people from this BS fog of a so called war.

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