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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 11:40am

    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.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 11:52am

     

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  3.  
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    Michael, May 29th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    “If you’re a patriot, you don’t want to damage our relationships with our allies.”

    By doing things like F***ING SPYING ON THEM?

    And where do you get off calling other countries our allies?

     

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  4.  
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    CK20XX (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re: Idiotic, but consistent

    Reminds me of how infants start out thinking that if they can't see something, like their parents, that must mean it stopped existing.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    If the danger in revealing something is that the revelation would make others trust you less and it will make them more upset and angry at you then the problem isn't the revelation it's the action being revealed.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:07pm

    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.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:15pm

    I guess it all comes down to:"If you saw the wife of your friend cheating on him, should you tell him?" I guess all of those who blame the messenger would say a big resounding :"NO!!!"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:15pm

    I beg to differ...

    It's not the dumbest statement to date. I would have to say that honor goes to Roger's statement about your privacy not being violated unless you know it's being violated. It takes a whole lot of derp to top that whopper.

     

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  10.  
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    Michael, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    Is she cheating on him with me or someone else?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:20pm

    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?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:27pm

    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.

     

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  13.  
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    Michael, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Point of no Return

    horseback riding with the unicorns

    Is this referring to unicorns that ride horses, or do you mean unicorn-back riding?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    "Ignorance is power."

    Literally. Holy shit.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    If a wrongdoing is only a wrongdoing once it is revealed and revealing a wrongdoing is a wrongdoing, all we need to do is reveal the wrongdoings without revealing that we have revealed the wrongdoings. Pretty simple really.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:48pm

    Google's Eric Schmidt is appropriate here

    From Wikiquote:
    If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

    CNBC interview, 3 Dec 2009, quoted in Google CEO on Privacy, 18 Mar 2010

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Point of no Return

    I guess horse back riding "on" Unicorns would have been better phrasing...

    But the allusion was to imply that their integrity is non existent because it was horseback riding with/on the unicorns.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 1:01pm

    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!

     

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  19.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    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.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    It has no one to blame but itself.
    Pity the people in charge aren't mature enough to do things like accepting blame for their actions. Maybe then they wouldn't have done those things in the first place.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 1:23pm

    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?

     

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  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    I've been waiting for that

    I've been waiting for someone to trot out that explanation of the "harm" Snowden has done. It's an incredibly stupid "shoot the messenger" sort of argument. It's yet another indication that they got nothin'.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 1:51pm

    The peoples of those countries are ANGRY at the ACTIONS .....REVEALLED...... thos very actions being done in SECRET........= irreversable DESERVED harm.....trust, .......dont even think about it......you brought it on yourselves and continue to do so with your RESPONSE

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 1:55pm

    Fair enough

    “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.”

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 1:55pm

    Fair enough

    “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.”

    Tell that to the NSA, dipshit!

    It amazes me that short-sighted fucktards like this are allowed to talk to ANYONE.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 2:15pm

    where the hell do you get these people from? even more concerning, how the hell did they ever secure so important a job as they held/ still hold? it scares the crap outta me that my life and others could be in these peoples hands!

     

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  27.  
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    PRMan, May 29th, 2014 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Idiotic, but consistent

    Well, the Obama administration and Congress are acting like a bunch of babies...

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 2:22pm

    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.

     

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  29.  
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    Abara, May 29th, 2014 @ 3:29pm

    What's more worrying is that he left the govt for a teaching position...

     

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    tomczerniawski, May 29th, 2014 @ 4:18pm

    Well...

    No wonder Snowden has become a hero to the world.

    Damaging evil nations is a heroic act.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 4:33pm

    Not my fault

    Yer Honor, it's not my fault that I'm standing before you today. It's the fault of dem coppers whut caught me! Punish them, not me!

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 5:40pm

    If McFaul was our leading ambassador to Russia, I guess that explains why the Cold War has restarted.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 9:16pm

    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.

     

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  34.  
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    Prokofy Neva (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 11:10pm

    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.

     

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  35.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 12:29am

    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.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 12:34am

    Actually, he is right. The US depends on allies, and Snowden send a pretty big sized dildo through the US's reputation.

     

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  37.  
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    Prokofy Neva (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 12:59am

    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.

     

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  38.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 1:01am

    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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  39.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 1:29am

    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-cry pto-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.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 3:45am

    Re:

    You're right. If I know your best friend is sleeping with your wife and I tell you, the resulting ruined relationship is obviously my fault. Expanding on that statement, I should leave your friend and wife alone to make a cuckold of you.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 5:29am

    So Michael McFail thinks people should just shut up about criminal and underhand activity????

    Cue McFail turning out to have beaten his wife or molested his kids or stolen something or said something racist in 5,4,3,2...

     

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  42.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re:

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

    To be fair, this isn't just a US thing. This has always the normal case for militarily powerful nations throughout history.

     

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  43.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    "Snowden send a pretty big sized dildo through the US's reputation."

    No, the US sent a pretty big sized dildo through it's own reputation.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 10:39am

    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%...

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 5:52pm

    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?

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2014 @ 5:52am

    No Harm...

    "In the interview, Snowden points out, accurately, that no one has yet been able to show a single individual harmed by the revelations."

    Unfortunately, no single individual has yet to even be harmed by being fired or kicked out of office.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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