Snowden: NSA Revealed Only One Email, Shows NSA Lied Before… Also: None Of This Matters

from the battle-continues dept

After NBC confirmed Ed Snowden’s earlier claims that he had tried to make use of internal channels to question NSA surveillance programs, James Clapper released a single email from Snowden to the legal department at the NSA, which they claim shows he never actually raised these issues. Snowden quickly responded, noting that this is not the only email, that he raised the issue more directly with his supervisors… and, most importantly, that none of this really matters.

Oh yeah, also that the NSA lied before when it claimed no such thing existed.

The NSA’s new discovery of written contact between me and its lawyers – after more than a year of denying any such contact existed – raises serious concerns. It reveals as false the NSA’s claim to Barton Gellman of the Washington Post in December of last year, that “after extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”

Today’s release is incomplete, and does not include my correspondence with the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Compliance, which believed that a classified executive order could take precedence over an act of Congress, contradicting what was just published. It also did not include concerns about how indefensible collection activities – such as breaking into the back-haul communications of major US internet companies – are sometimes concealed under E.O. 12333 to avoid Congressional reporting requirements and regulations.

More importantly, though, Snowden points out that none of this really matters:

Ultimately, whether my disclosures were justified does not depend on whether I raised these concerns previously. That’s because the system is designed to ensure that even the most valid concerns are suppressed and ignored, not acted upon. The fact that two powerful Democratic Senators – Ron Wyden and Mark Udall – knew of mass surveillance that they believed was abusive and felt constrained to do anything about it underscores how futile such internal action is — and will remain — until these processes are reformed.

Still, the fact is that I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions – as I have always said, and as NSA has always denied. Just as when the NSA claimed it followed German laws in Germany just weeks before it was revealed that they did not, or when NSA said they did not engage in economic espionage a few short months before it was revealed they actually did so on a regular and recurring basis, or even when they claimed they had “no domestic spying program” before we learned they collected the phone records of every American they could, so too are today’s claims that “this is only evidence we have of him reporting concerns” false.

Separately, after ODNI published the email, Tim Lee wrote a great piece over at highlighting why it really doesn’t matter at all if he did, or did not, raise the matter internally:

But the NSA’s response to Snowden also has a deeper problem: it wouldn’t have made a difference if Snowden had raised his concerns more forcefully through internal channels.

Remember, the NSA’s position is that it hasn’t done anything wrong. The agency claims that its domestic surveillance programs comply with the law, and that it gets plenty of oversight from both the courts and Congress. The NSA has stuck to this position despite a year of pressure from Congress and the public. Why would it have been any more receptive to the concerns of a lowly contractor?

Maybe Snowden should have brought his concerns to sympathetic members of Congress? That wouldn’t have done any good either, because key members of Congress already knew about the program. And some of them were outraged about it!

And, of course, other whistleblowers had their lives completely destroyed. Still, this story is one worth paying attention to, because it demonstrates a serious problem with how the intelligence community handles anyone concerned about its programs. The idea that there are internal controls to handle such a thing is pretty clearly misleading, whether or not Snowden made full use of those channels.

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Comments on “Snowden: NSA Revealed Only One Email, Shows NSA Lied Before… Also: None Of This Matters”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Every time they try to paint Snowden in a worse light they fail miserably. But as pointed out this is just fireworks to get the attention out of the abuses and into Snowden’s character. They are trying fiercely with varying degrees of success and failures. When I talk to someone that was convinced somehow that Snowden is what the NSA portraits I don’t deny. I just start asking them questions till they end up thinking about the issue and changing their opinions (much better than direct confrontation, thanks Socrates!).

NSA is using tools that used to work when information didn’t flow as easily as today. Smearing won’t work as well anymore.

On a side note it reminds me from a portion on Dance with Dragons where some fellows are talking about Daenerys and how an evil witch she is when one of them says something like: “That’s what the great slave merchants say about a queen who is trying to end slavery.” So, that’s what the NSA is saying about a guy who revealed they are total crooks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You should have used DuckDuckGo instead:

Missouri Rental Dealers Association
Moldovan Research and Development Association
Meeting Recorder Dialog Act
Mandy Rice-Davies Applies
Mundri Relief and Development Association

granted, that list did not help me either.

Anonymous Coward says:

As I had said, in the article about the release of the one email, NSA and the USG have no credibility. All of it rests with Snowden.

It is stupifyingly amazing that one individual has more trust than the entire government, much less one branch of it.

Once again, we see the mentality behind what is wrong with the NSA on display. No accountability at all. No oversight at all. No desire to see any meaningful changes speaks more to me of what is wrong with the NSA and by reflection what is wrong with much of the USG.

A president so intent on getting what he wants that he attempts to rule by executive order rather than solving the issues at hand in both parts of congress. An idea that E.O.s can take total precedence over the Constitution is dumbfoundly and a willfull violation all that this country stands for and the supposed laws that govern it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: he doth protest too much

Is that all you can come up with?

He is trying to defend his position, as any normal person would do in such a situation. Everything he has said so far has been proven true, the same cannot be said for the other side where everything so far has been proven false.

Currently Snowden is far more trustworthy than the US government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: he doth protest too much

I was wrong before when I suggested Whatever was a shill. If this site posted an article asserting that roses are plants, Whatever would disagree. It’s clear that Whatever is a troll.

Stop feeding the troll. I recently realized that if you feed a troll you bear responsibility for the troll’s actions. If there was a monster rampaging through the countryside and you knowingly fed it, would you not bear responsibility for the monster’s actions, would you not be an active enabler of its crimes?

David says:

Re: Re: he doth protest too much

“Mr Snowden, why do you hate freedom so much? What do you expect from fighting us? Why don’t you man up and return for your reeducation in the Ministry of Love? You are missing out on so much. Why are you so hard on yourself?”

Sounds eerily like that, doesn’t it?

Actually, political parties enjoy calling others “communists”, “liberals”, “fundamentalist” and a number of other things that are not even remotely useful as insults once you look their definition up. What’s next as insults? “Freedom fighter”, “constitutionalist”, “citizen”?

These days, it would seem that “senator” is a worse insult than “citizen”.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: he doth protest too much

That bullshit still works. Some people I know visibly jump when the words “communist” or “socialist” are used. It’s dog whistle for “boogeyman.”

We need to stop being afraid of the boogeyman and search the damn closet and under the bed instead of shivering beneath the bedclothes at the mention of his name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: he doth protest too much

No, the real problem is that EVERYONE is too sensitive about this… and the government knows it.

They’re trying to distract from the real problem, the actual crimes against U.S. citizens (and freedoms worldwide), by continuing to focus on Snowden.

The sensitivity you see is journalists and other media flocking to Snowden every time the government gives them a tidbit to work with, asking for his opinions and statements on the matter. It’s despicable – they should be focusing on the real crime here, not some he said/she said bullshit like it’s Hollywood.

Anonymous Coward says:

NSA Cannot Search Email

There is this site. I wish I could remember the name of, but it has all sorts of articles about government agencies and their refusals to provide information under the Freedom of Information Act. In fact, that site has an article about how the NSA cannot search it’s own emails. That means our friends at the NSA have stated that can’t search their emails. So now we should believe them when they say they searched all their emails and Snowden only sent one. My 9 year old acts the same way when his hand is caught in the cookie jar. Perhaps the NSA should change it’s name to the NLC (National Liars Club).

Anonymous Coward says:

Since the NSA has decided that ‘fuck the constitution’ and ‘fuck the truth’ are their new mantras, why don’t they just make up some fake emails where Snowden sent emails to Putin offering Nuclear warhead secrets / the password for Michelle Obama’s naked-pics dropbox / The location of the Ark of the Covenant etc?

I’m surprised they haven’t though of just making shit up and offering it to the news outlets currently functioning as government lick spittles.(They know who they are)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I’m surprised they haven’t though of just making shit up and offering it to the news outlets currently functioning as government lick spittles.(They know who they are)”

They already have done this, via a British news outlet (forget which now) that was not privy to any of these leaks, shortly after the responsible journalism about them started.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They would, but they still do not know exactly what documents Snowden confiscated from their computers.

Making shit up might just force the Guardian to disclose stuff they would not have disclosed, due to its sensitive nature, just to prove the NSA shit was all standard lies.

You can absolutely bet your last dollar that they considered it though.

Posting a single email as the ONLY email, is in fact, as close as they’re willing to get to total bullshit.

You see, should the Guardian have and publish other emails from Snowden to various links in the chain of command, the NSA can always just say;

“Oh. Those emails must have been erased, after they were dealt with. So we could not have found them. Sorry about that. Again.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Look at the real picture...

If you remember the interviews with the government officials from the Frontline report on the story, After the FISA court shut down the original program because it was basically illegal, it was the Office of the General Counsel that scrambled to come up with a legal theory to justify authorization to reopen it and they were the ones who came up with the idea that the Executive Order permitted it. So now we have an official statement from that very same office stating that Executive Orders cannot be used to override a statute and magically take something that’s illegal and magically make it legal. It”a not just a contradiction of the SIDOC. It’s a contradiction of the claims of their very own office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why did the NSA think that attacking Snowden yet again would somehow magically be effective?
Why does a secret spy agency keep intentionally putting itself in newspaper headlines?
Why are they still floundering around like this months and months after the leaks started?
Why hasn’t every last NSA agent still working for that laughable agency been fired for gross incompetence?

Just another coward says:

Re: Re: why hasn't every last agent quit in disgust?

Because they’re cowards, terrified that their income might drop by 15% if they did that.

And then how would they keep up their loan payments? They’ve already spent somewhere between 95 and 115% of their future income – before having earned it.

Which more-or-less makes them wage slaves to their corrupt employer. (In their own tiny minds, anyway. If they had any balls, they’d quit and deal with it.)

Anonymous Coward says:

We can’t believe anything NSA representatives say, because they’ve all been caught lying with their pants on fire for the past year. “Least untruthful answer”, “Constitutionally legal”, “We only spy on terrorists”, “Not involved in industrial espionage”.

All of it turned out to be lies!

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, they were being honest when they said he should have gone through proper channels to raise his concerns. That way they would have had more opportunity to shut him up before he did anything that embarrassed them and revealed the truth about what they were doing. The proper channels exist to allow them to cover their asses in to cover up their actions.

Lurker Keith says:

tricked again

lol I just realized, reading this article, that Snowden tricked the NSA once again into doing stuff for him. I’m sure Snowden handed over most, if not all, of the E-mails, etc. he tried raising alarm w/ to reporters w/ everything else. Part of why they probably haven’t been published, yet, is because the NSA could’ve just said “that looks nothing like an internal E-mail… here’s [a fake] one to prove it.”

But, as always, they were held until the Government slipped up & released one. Now, when Snowden’s internal E-mails are published, they can point to this one & say it definitely fits the NSA’s format, & point out the journalists have had them for over a year, so Snowden can’t have made it up to match the one that was released!

I thought the NSA was supposed to be some of the best & the brightest? It looks more like those in charge were just taken from the short bus, after those w/ functional autism had gotten off.

Anonymous Coward says:


Mr. Masnick,

Thank you for clarifying your views in this post regarding these emails and please consider yourself redeemed in regards to your misguided statements from your recent post on topic…

“That said, it does sound as though Snowden may have slightly exaggerated his claims concerning his conversation with the NSA’s lawyers.”

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