Actual Former Government Official Makes Totally Ridiculous Argument That Snowden's 'Harms' Are That Other Countries Are Angry

from the this-person-worked-in-our-government? dept

Sometimes you have to wonder about people who hold government positions and the absolutely ludicrous statements they make. Following Ed Snowden’s big NBC interview, NBC apparently asked former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, to respond to Snowden’s pretty convincing claims that all the hand-wringing about “harms” he caused have no basis in fact. In the interview, Snowden points out, accurately, that no one has yet been able to show a single individual harmed by the revelations. McFaul then makes what may be the single dumbest statement we’ve heard to date on this whole debate, arguing that the “harm” is that other countries now trust us less — and that this is somehow Snowden’s fault, rather than, you know, the fault of the NSA which is doing the surveillance:

But Michael McFaul, who left the ambassadorship earlier this year to teach at Stanford University, said that the revelations had damaged American diplomatic relationships with friendly countries who were upset by National Security Agency surveillance.

“That’s damage to the United States,” McFaul said. “If you’re a patriot, you don’t want to damage our relationships with our allies.”

Let me get this straight. Based on this line of thinking, we’d actually all be better off if the US media were entirely being censored and/or silent about Putin’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine (and Russia), because knowing what he’s doing probably makes the US trust Russia less. I’d think McFaul would recognize how silly that argument is in that context, and yet he seems to make it with the US. Similarly, we’re better off not knowing about other countries spying on us?

Hell, earlier this week, we wrote about former CIA director and Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealing that our allies, the French, are almost as sophisticated as the Chinese in hacking the computers of American businessmen. Based on McFaul’s ridiculous logic, Gates is no patriot and has “damaged diplomatic relationships with friendly countries” because he revealed questionable activities of the French intelligence agency.

It is downright idiotic to suggest that the revealing of misdeeds is the reason for any harm, rather than the misdeeds themselves. And yet this guy was our leading ambassador to Russia and is now a Stanford professor. And he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between wrongdoing and revealing wrongdoing. Incredible. And disturbing.

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Comments on “Actual Former Government Official Makes Totally Ridiculous Argument That Snowden's 'Harms' Are That Other Countries Are Angry”

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46 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Idiotic, but consistent

It is downright idiotic to suggest that the revealing of misdeeds is the reason for any harm, rather than the misdeeds themselves. And yet this guy was our leading ambassador to Russia and is now a Stanford professor. And he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between wrongdoing and revealing wrongdoing. Incredible. And disturbing.

While such thinking is, as you said, idiotic, it matches up perfectly with the peeping tom excuse/’logic’ of ‘You’ve only had your privacy violated if you find out about it’, where the actions aren’t responsible for the harm, but rather it’s the knowledge of them that’s causing the damage.

Using the peeping tom excuse, before the actions of the NSA were made public, they did not exists, therefor, no harm to the country and it’s reputation. It was only after the NSA/USG’s actions were made public that the backlash against them was possible, so therefor all the blame rests on the one(s) pointing out the questionable actions, not the one’s doing them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again we see the twisted mentality of spying is great and ok because we are doing it.

Problem with this is, the US is no longer the bastion of human rights and democracy it once was and it is a direct reflection on this as to why the supposed allies and other countries around the globe don’t trust the US anymore.

You have to earn that trust and this government has went out of it’s way to ruin that. Worse it has been caught in it’s own lies, showing that the principles it claims to stand for and what it really stands for are two different things.

It’s not just other countries here that is the problem. It’s own citizens being spied on are also up in arms about it.

Face it, were the government not doing the things it shouldn’t do, there would be no problems at all over this. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and nothing to be upset about. It is it’s own actions that are driving this mistrust. It has no one to blame but itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Really a twisted American exceptionalism has taken root where it is okay when the US does it but not when anyone else does.

When the US is the inferior position guerrilla tactics are smart. When the US in the superior condition they’re cowardly.

When others hack us it is “an act of cyberwar”. When we hack others it is part of our duties.

See all of the outrage mongering attempted over a retired marine being jailed for driving into Mexico with a truck of guns. Because we totally would have released a Mexican marine with a truckload of illegal firearms right?

Hypocrisy has become normalized.

Anonymous Coward says:

We have officials so blind to the idea that the government shouldn’t be doing what it’s doing, in direct violation of the Constitutional articles that they are grasping at straws in an attempt to say the government is doing right.

They have no moral ground to stand on, no legally justifiable laws to point to, and no way to support themselves as valid reasons for this to be right and ok. So you get stupid things like this attempted justification as they blunder around in the dark attempting to get a good sounding reason. Since it is off the cuff of the moment, it has no good, sound, logical reasoning. It comes out just as stupid as the government’s over reach where it shouldn’t be.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, if we follow this logic to it's insane next step

The NSA is unpatriotic and damaged our reputation with our citizens because what they were doing outraged Snowden (a citizen), and caused this particular citizen’s relationship with the NSA to deteriorate.

At least, I’m of the impression that citizens usually outrank foreign allies when it comes to political importance, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Point of no Return

This is the point of no return.

Government officials that make claims like this are on the kool-aid drip. Their integrity has gone horseback riding with the unicorns. This has become so common place while the electorate barely mumbles on… what do we look like to the rest of the world? They may want our money and possibly even way of life, but they laugh at our stupidity, and deservedly so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google's Eric Schmidt is appropriate here

Let’s see….

Some people don’t want others to know they are doing chemotherapy, because they don’t want that kind of attention.

Not all things hidden or private are necessarily evil or wrong. People have a right to privacy for reasons other than just doing bad. Some people are persecuted, this is why privacy is so damn important because liberty is difficult to be had when public opinion knows you are gay, religious, political, or just flat out had a bad day and said something they normally would never say. The court of public opinion has exactly ZERO mercy, regardless of how many people in it have it!

Eric Schmidt has a fitting last name, because some of the Schmidt he says, is just that!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Google's Eric Schmidt is appropriate here

For anyone who makes claims like that, I issue this challenge:

Prove it.

Make your records(financial, medical and so on) public, the contents of your phone calls, your emails, your mail, make all of that available to everyone who cares to browse through it.

After all, by that logic, the only reason you might not want something to be publicly known is if it’s ‘wrong’ in some way, so the only reason they would have to decline making all their personal information public is because they’re doing something wrong that they want to hide.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Google's Eric Schmidt is appropriate here

For anyone who makes claims like that, I issue this challenge:

Prove it.

The NSA was spying on everyone, didn’t want anyone to know, and probably shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. Does that actually need to be proven, after all these months of Snowden leaks?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Google's Eric Schmidt is appropriate here

The NSA was spying on everyone, didn’t want anyone to know, and probably shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. Does that actually need to be proven, after all these months of Snowden leaks?

I’m glad to see at least one person got the point of my quote. As evidenced first by my use of anonymous posting, I completely recognize that there are cases where you don’t want anyone to know what you’re up to, even when you’re doing nothing wrong. But if someone somehow identified me posting these comments, it wouldn’t hurt my reputation much if at all. On the other hand, the NSA’s extensive spying programs were revealed, those revelations hurt their reputation and more generally the reputation of the US government. As the parent poster says, they didn’t want anyone to know, but seemingly never stopped to consider that maybe they shouldn’t have been doing it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

calm down, kamper…
the FIRST thing you have to recognize, is OF COURSE (except for a few dim-witted tools and twue bewievers) these borderline sociopaths don’t believe the shit they spew: that is strictly propaganda for the authoritarians in the audience (approx 25%) and the media to echo-chamber…
these ‘idiots’ get to high positions of power by knowing when to PRETEND to believe the bullshit and lies, and when to foist that off on the plebes and proles…
they are paid to promote the lies of Empire, NOT to disseminate truth, justice and the American way…
you MUST get past the idea that most of these public servants are there to serve the public interest, they are not… they are there to serve the interests of the 1%…

Prokofy Neva (profile) says:

Ed is a Felon

Let’s see now. Gates revealed that the French were doing bad things, grabbing commercial data as bad as the Chinese.

So he revealed that in a bid to deter it. Good!

The Chinese do bad things, hacking into our business, media, government to steal secrets and economic data.

We then hack back to try to deter them and get a jump on them. Obviously, we have no need of their economic data except in so far as we need to see what they’re stealing for us.

So Snowden reveals our techniques for doing that. Great! That’s called being a traitor.

Nope, I’m not seeing any moral equivalence here.

I’m seeing that Ed is a felon.

And Masnick is profoundly ethically challenged, as per usual.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Mmm, gotta love those double-standards and special pleading

I really can’t tell if you’re pulling a Poe here or not…

The French do it = That’s bad and they should feel bad.

The Chinese do it = Even worse, they deserve all the bad karma in the world for their heinous actions!

The USG does it = Nothing wrong here at all, the US only hacks into systems, grabs everything they can, damages security, and weakens encryption to protect itself against the above two fiends. And lets not forget because terrorists!.

Also, ‘traitor’, might want to look up the real definition of that word, before tossing it around so carelessly.

Prokofy Neva (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mmm, gotta love those double-standards and special pleading

Um, dear. It’s not merely that “the French do it” – it’s that they do a bad thing.

That’s not something you seem able to concede. PS they sell Mistrals to the Russians, too.

We have the right — indeed duty! — to spy on people who harm us. The end.

Your problem with this is obvious — and creepy.

The US cannot be shown to be doing anything unlawful and has numerous check and balances.

Not a single case has ever been made.

No one has actually ever proved that the US weakened encryption. Fulfilling a customer’s request in an order requesting this — from the NSA — isn’t damaging standards.

The standards are open, the geeks sit in the workshops, they can complain if they see something in these open standards going haywire.

I don’t see any lawsuits from Cisco or anybody else claiming standards are damaged. It’s hacker lore, nothing more.

Traitor is what Snowden is. Betraying his homeland, its values, and its security — not to mention his oath. Look it up yourself.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mmm, gotta love those double-standards and special pleading

… I’m curious, have you not been following along with the story as it’s unfolded, or are you assuming that I haven’t been, and hoping that means I won’t be able to spot a falsehood when I see it?

To save time, and because this is covering some ground already gone over during a previous discussion, have a post filled with links:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140521/07124327303/snowden-ran-major-tor-exit-relay-hosted-cryptoparty-hawaii-while-waiting-greenwald-to-reply.shtml#c672

No one has actually ever proved that the US weakened encryption.

Well…

NSA & GCHQ Covertly Took Over Security Standards, Recruited Telco Employees To Insert Backdoors
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130905/12295324417/nsa-gchq-covertly-took-over-security-standards-recruited-telco-employees-to-insert-backdoors.shtml

NSA Gave RSA $10 Million To Promote Crypto It Had Purposely Weakened
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131220/14143625655/nsa-gave-rsa-10-million-to-promote-crypto-it-had-purposely-weakened.shtml

Traitor is what Snowden is. Betraying his homeland, its values, and its security — not to mention his oath. Look it up yourself.

Well since you’re apparently too lazy to do it yourself…

‘Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

‘Betraying his homeland’, by exposing the fact that the government was engaged in mass-spying of it’s own citizens, violating their rights, undermining their security… oh yeah, quite the ‘betrayal’ there.

As for the idea that he betrayed the values of the country? Oh several people(and government agencies) are guilty of that, but certainly not Snowden.

Given he was a contractor for the government, he didn’t work for it directly(as far as I know), whether or not he took an oath regarding it is uncertain, but if he did, and it had anything in there about, say, ‘defending the constitution’, or similar wording, I’d say in that case he’s upheld the oath quite well, certainly better than those in the government who clearly see the rights of the people as annoyances and obstacles, rather than important things to defend.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Mmm, gotta love those double-standards and special pleading

You have the right to spy on Germany because Germany is harming you?

The US has not been shown to do anything unlawful despite Germany and other countries realising the opposite is true and are now angry about it?

Numerous checks and balances which have been proven to not work?

Are you this obtuse?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s still a ‘shooting the messenger’ way of looking at it.

Snowden did nothing more than expose the USG’s actions, blaming him for the results of that exposure is rather like blaming the person who provides photographic evidence of a break-in, rather than the person who actually robbed the house. Had the NSA not gone totally power mad, and went so overboard, there would have been nothing to expose.

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