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.

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Comments on “Former Bush Speechwriter: Ed Snowden Is A 'Shameless Espionage Pornographer'”

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weneedhelp (profile) says:


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?

John Fenderson (profile) says:


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.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Clownius says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"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.

David says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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..

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