Elected Officials Grudgingly Admit Snowden Forced This Debate On Surveillance… As White House Insists He Belongs In Jail

from the cognitive-dissonance dept

No matter what you might think of the surveillance debate happening in DC this week, there’s no honest way to deny that the debate would be very different (and likely wouldn’t be happening at all) if Ed Snowden had leaked a bunch of documents to reporters almost exactly two years ago. Even those in the Senate who are the NSA’s strongest supporters will now grudgingly admit that:

?Because of Edward Snowden, there?s a perception — which is not true — but there?s a perception that we?re invading people?s privacy,? Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), explained last month. ?This would presumably take care of that,? he added, referring to the USA Freedom Act, which he voted against in 2014 but now supports as a better alternative to a complete lapse of the Patriot Act.

[….]

?It?s why we?re here,? Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and a fierce NSA defender, said of the Snowden disclosures. ?People began creating a myth around it. That did occur. The public discourse around it created a myth about what this program is and what it isn?t.?

Of course, both Nelson and Corker are wrong themselves in arguing that there’s a “myth” or that perceptions are off. Yes, there are some who have an exaggerated picture of what’s happening, but plenty who are fully aware of the details have found the program to be illegal, unconstitutional or both.

And that, at the very least, has to raise a question: how could it be illegal to blow the whistle on a program that has been found to be illegal or unconstitutional?

But, according to the White House, it still thinks Snowden belongs in jail for basically the rest of his life:

?The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes,? White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. ?The U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them.?

[…]

?We believe Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process and have the opportunity ? to make that case in a court of law,? Earnest said.

“Very serious crimes”? That would be exposing a program that two separate courts, two separate White House review boards and countless others have noted to be illegal and/or unconstitutional? How do you figure? And, the whole “due process” claim is a load of crap from Earnest. As he well knows, under the Espionage Act (which is what Snowden has been charged under), he would not be allowed to explain the whistleblowing reasons for leaking the information. That’s not due process and it’s not allowing him to make his case.

The more the White House sticks with this wholly unbelievable line about “very serious crimes” at the very same time that Congress is debating reforms to surveillance programs only because of Snowden’s actions, the more and more ridiculous the administration looks. I get that there must be some sort of ridiculous “political calculation” being made here about “looking strong” and “not encouraging” more leaks or something — but all it really does is make the administration look foolish and unwilling to be honest.

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Comments on “Elected Officials Grudgingly Admit Snowden Forced This Debate On Surveillance… As White House Insists He Belongs In Jail”

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58 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The worst part is according to polls so many idiots are starting to side with the politicians and turn against Snowden, even while opposing all the illegal and blatantly unconstitutional stuff Snowden exposed.

Such an attitude only helps bad guys (the government) get away with continuing to break the law and violate our rights without anyone knowing about it.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No Confidence

DNC is Pro-…
~ Mass surveillance and data gathering program
~ Police state and tough-on-crime (presumption of guilt) stance of DoJ
~ Extrajudicial detainment, rendition and torture program

GOP is Pro-…
~ Mass surveillance and data gathering program
~ Police state and tough-on-crime (presumption of guilt) stance of DoJ
~ Extrajudicial detainment, rendition and torture program

Why should I even acknowledge an electoral system that fails to acknowledge my positions or best interests?

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Like Manning?

Jeffrey Sterling? David Drake? “No, no, no, silly. Like Panetta and Petraeus. See, the system works as expected.” The system stinks all the way to the moon. I think Snowden is either going to grow old outside the USA or be extraordinarily renditioned back to face a Virginian kangaroo court populated by spooks and other useful idiots. Even in the senate’s Patriot Act sunset debate, the surveillance state’s champions mumble sotto voce about all the other sooper-seekrit programs that Snowden stole information on and spilled the beans to unauthorized foreign entities.

Gawd forbid they should turn around and take a suspicious look at some of the crap the CIA pulls daily (and has done since its inception).

David says:

Huh.

“The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. “The U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them.”

Would that be before or after Clapper faces lying under oath to Congress about commandeering the dismantling of the U.S. Constitution by criminally reinterpreting his mandate?

As long as none of the criminals uncovered by Snowden’s actions faces the music and instead stays in office without retribution, it is entirely silly to go gungho on the person uncovering the crimes.

Oh by the way: who is going to get prosecuted for the CIA torturing people to death for fun (as it has been clearly established that at the point of the killing no information was to be gained any more)? Obama has stated emphatically that those “heroes” and “patriots” would not be facing the music. Including the armchair psychologists directing the torture “experiments” and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars for their “expertise”.

I’m all for a punishment proportionate to the crime. If we take the punishment of those criminals as guidance, the punishment of Snowden would probably be a daily banquet in the Washington D.C. market place for the rest of his life.

Which is more or less what Sokrates pleaded as punishment for his “crimes” when dragged before a court about equally likely to deliver justice as a U.S. court.

Hopefully Snowden will spare the American people at least the shame of a mock trial and will refrain from returning while the current criminals are in office.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Human laws in conflict with natural law are immoral.

Might makes right is a natural law.

All of society, which is based on establishing rights for the individual even when the individual cannot enforce those rights, is based on subverting the above natural law.

In fact, the current situation of corporate oligarchy, is a return to the might = right paradigm, where symbolic might, in the form of money (which can be exchanged for loyalty of armed garrisons) has captured those who are supposed to be regulated by the people.

Our constitutional framers have painstakingly defined our inalienable rights, standing atop some very significant frameworks such as the Magna Carta and the Social Contract. None of these are in any way natural, but were carefully artificed on the foundation of centuries of suffering for not having them.

We defend — take up arms to resume the fight for — liberty and equality not because they sound like charming concepts, but because every society that does not assert them really sucks for the people near the bottom.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Morals?

“if the law is supposed to uphold our morals”

The law is not supposed to uphold our morals (or shouldn’t be, anyway). Legislating morality is not only a terrible idea that leads directly to tyranny, it’s ineffective. Morality is enforced the way it’s always been enforced: through social pressure.

That’s not to say there’s no connection, but the proper connection is in the other direction: what laws are acceptable is informed by morality, but laws never dictate or uphold morality.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Proscription of murder is a moral.

In fact, the whole mandate of reciprocity, we treat others as we would be treated ourselves is an essential morality and the justification of most human law.

You might be thinking of morality as revealed by sacred scripture, but that is hardly the only source of human mores.

Treat others as you would be treated and Do no harm are the mores universal to every society, even when laws and social customs fail to express or enforce them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Proscription of murder is a moral.

“Treat others as you would be treated and Do no harm are the mores universal to every society, even when laws and social customs fail to express or enforce them.”

Agreed.

A lot of hay is made about how “might is right” right is some inbred fact of human nature, when reciprocity and a urge to preserve the lives of not just the self, but others, comes from a place of empathy that is just as innate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Proscription of murder is a moral.

… reciprocity and a urge to preserve the lives of not just the self, but others, comes from a place of empathy that is just as innate.

The funny thing is, this urge is inversely proportional to the willingness and desire to hold a position of power. The pool of individuals from which we are forced to select our leaders is comprised almost entirely of sociopaths.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Might is right

Might is right is not an inbred fact of human nature so much as simply intrinsic to nature. The mighty hungry beast eats the meek beast without a thought or concern to the rights or needs of its prey.

The notion of might is right as a divine order emerged from the feudal age in which lords were all soldiers, and we see customs such as trial-by-combat on the pretense that God favors the righteous (God favored a lot of big Gregor Clegaine types until the age of firearms).

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Proscription of murder is a moral.

I agree with you about the golden rule.

“You might be thinking of morality as revealed by sacred scripture”

I’m not at all. I’m talking about the mores of a given society — the moral code that a group of people have agreed upon (consciously or otherwise). I’m not talking about the source of the moral code or whether or not I agree with it.

Personally, my moral code is based on logic and reasoning and it consists of the golden rule. But my moral code is not identical to that of the society I live in.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Transgressions

Hmmm… I was going to make the argument that the state may have some interest in creating a legal framework to address incidents of trangression, such as murder, theft, vandalism and so on.

However, it reminds me of the murder of Spotted Tail by Crow Dog (leading to the Ex parte Crow Dog decision and the subsequent Major Crimes Act.) in which restitutions were determined in the form of a fine paid (in kind) to the family of Spotted Tail.

And I realize that while I expect protections against transgression to be enforced by our justice system, I cannot say with certainty that it is the best way to provide those protections, or restitution when those protections fail.

A law against murder seems to be a no-brainer, but an appropriate response by the state is less clear.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Transgressions

The way I see it, a properly functioning legal system does essentially two things. It restrains people from doing things that harm other people’s person or property without their consent and it provides a way for people to settle disputes without having to resort to such harm. It’s a practical thing: I think those are the bare essentials you need to be able to have a society that is larger than a handful of people. A law against murder would not exist because murder is immoral but because murder is harming a nonconsenting other.

Of course, all that is easy to say in the stark sterility of simplicity. That the devil is in the details is apparent at a first quick glance: what is “harm”? What is “consent”?

And we have haven’t even got to your (quite correct) point: what is the appropriate response to breaking the various laws?

I guess the point I’m rambling towards is that this whole business of laws is really nothing more than an aspect of the business of human interaction — and that’s something that gets very messy very quickly.

CanadianByChoice (profile) says:

Re: Morals?

Mr. Snowden was in a bad position; he had to choose between his moral code (which, incidentally, supports the Constitution) or “other laws” (which are theoretically based on the Constitution). Further, as I understand it, failing to revealing criminal activity is also a crime. There is no way he could “win” here; as soon as he had knowledge of criminal activity, he was automatically guilty of something.
If he returned to the States to face trial, it would be a Star Chamber affair in which he would not even be allowed to make a defence.
Stay free and proud, Mr. Snowden – the world needs moral people like you!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: No one belongs in US jails.

Time and again the US Department of Justice has proven complete inability determine right from wrong, or sentences proportional to the crime.

At this point, the Department of Justice has the right to detain or execute prisoners only because it has the arms to enforce its will against the people.

Not because it has any authoritative high ground. Not because we expect fair and wise arbitration from any court of law.

David says:

Re: Whitehouse insists he belongs in jail...

“spent bullets”? What is spent is rather citizens’ money. If you convert all the bribes (also known as “perks”) the treasonous traitors in the Executive branch are collecting in return for trampling the Constitution into platinum rather than lead and make a medal for Snowden from that, he’ll be crushed dead under its weight.

Anonymous Coward says:

no one should listen to criminals like those in the white house or congress on this issue. They have been caught lying dozens of times. The little tiny shread of any credibility they may have had left has long ago been totally decimated by their own lies on this issue. When it comes to Snowden they are scared of him, and what others that come after him will do. They are simply scared.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good to see such prejudicial comments from the White House

Now there will be no question that he cannot get a fair trial from a jury of his peers. Jurors are often questioned for whether and how much they already know about the case from outside media. Prior knowledge is not always a disqualification, but my experience has been that the courts prefer jurors who come in with no prior knowledge of the parties involved and the incident alleged. When the President (by way of his spokesperson) pronounces guilt and punishment from On High before any evidence has been presented in court, it makes finding a pool of truly uninformed jurors very difficult.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good to see such prejudicial comments from the White House

That doesn’t really matter, as the same court that approved the unconstitutional spying will be deciding how such a trial goes ahead and who gets to sit on the jury.

Added to that, he’d be tried under the espionage act, so we’re not talking People’s Court here — this would be a private affair operated behind closed doors by the rules of those in power. No need for a regular jury trial.

leehb9 (profile) says:

Is this guy still around???

It’s nearly time this ‘white house’ got some new residents! Next November can’t come soon enough! I’ve been a Democrat all my life..the current administration has got me checking out the alternatives for the first time. Unfortunately, there ain’t much out there! Yet!

This president has clearly shown his distaste for the Bill of Rights and our Constitution. It’s almost time he had a new gig! Someplace else! Far away…

Mr. Obama…You’ve definite left a ‘bad-taste’ in a lot of Americans’ mouths…

DigDug says:

Perception? Not True? 2nd District court disagrees...

“Because of Edward Snowden, there’s a perception — which is not true — but there’s a perception that we’re invading people’s privacy,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)

That statement is about as true as “the world is flat” or “the earth is the center of the universe” or “9/11 changed the Constitution”

Which is to say, that it is 100% fabrication, untruth, lying out his skid-mark stained trousers.

MarcAnthony (profile) says:

"There's a perception..."

NSA defenders are still trying to sell the angle that they are merely ‘perceived’ as intruding on civil rights, even after being reprimanded for the seizures by a court. There is no evidence that a burden-shifting of these actions to a third party will “presumably take care of that.” Regardless of whether or not Snowden appropriated some documents, he fulfilled his oath by putting the interests of the people before his own freedom.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Whistleblowing vs self defense

First you’d have to toss out the Espionage Act, and it’s ability to bar motive from even being introduced to the case.

There’s also the case of who would be presiding over the case, you can bet the government would argue(and not without merit to be fair) that the classified nature of what was leaked would require a judge familiar with the system, and take a wild guess which way any such judge would be leaning towards?

A ‘requirement to consider intent’ sounds nice, but you can bet that if the government had any say at all, the ‘consideration’ would take all of five minutes, and would be found insufficient justification Every. Single. Time.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Whistleblowing vs self defense

Once we understand all that, it’s really puzzling why we all still put up with these nation state sized gangs who herd us about and ignore us as long as we’re paying our share of the vig. We have got to get over our obeisance to nationalism and tribalism if humanity really wants to survive. These jerks are going to kill us all if we let them continue this way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Equal persecution

Well, I’m sure Snowden could hope for a fair trial, if he could see all those criminals in the executive branch, the CIA and the NSA getting dragged in front of the courts for all the crimes Snowden uncovered.

Oh, there aren’t any of them facing persecution? I’d not count on “fair” or “just” being what the DOJ actually does, in that case…

someonesomewhere says:

he leaked a lot more than domestic spying

He’s arguably a whistleblower on the domestic spying.

However, he also leaked a bunch about foreign spying, which is not illegal or unconstitutional (and is in fact what the NSA is supposed to be doing). Even Greenwald and Binney says that this was not whistleblowing. Snowden admits that he took to position that got him access to the NSA specifically to get information on the NSA’s foreign spying.

So basically what we have is a guy who intended to get in and commit espionage, and while there found illegal domestic spying and turned whistleblower over that–but continued on with the espionage part.

Here’s a comment on reddit that covered this in detail with documentation: http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/38cej4/elected_officials_grudgingly_admit_snowden_forced/cru8s3x

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