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‘Whistleblower,’ ‘Edward Snowden’: Many defend student suspended for recording anti-Trump professor – The College Fix

Whistleblower, Edward Snowden: Many defend student suspended for recording anti-Trump professor

Theyre crucifying this poor guy.

Mr. ONeil is the Edward Snowden of the college system and kudos to him for exposing this kind of leftist hyperbole.

Mr. ONeil is a de facto whistle blower who has sunshined an instructor that is wasting the taxpayers monies and the students tuition.

Thats just some of the comments culled by the Orange County Registerfrom residents and public figures recently regarding the plight of Caleb ONeil, a 19-year-old Orange Coast College student recently suspended for allegedly violating a policy that prohibits recording professors.

Shortly after the election, instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox told herhuman sexuality class of Trumps election we have been assaulted, its an act of terrorism, among other comments. She also called Donald Trump a white supremacist and said Mike Pence is one of the most anti-gay humans in this country.

ONeil, a member of the College Republicans and an open Trump supporter, recorded the rantand gave it to his College Republican peers, who then uploaded it on YouTube. The video went viral and ultimately led to the sanctions handed down against ONeil late last week.

In addition to his semester-long suspension, as well as being suspended for the summer term, he must also write an apology letter to the professor and a three-page, double spaced essay discussing why he videotaped the professor despite knowing that it was a violation of the course syllabus.

Now his attorney is fighting the punishment. Meanwhile, many have rallied to ONeils defense. For one, a GoFundMe page has been created to help pay his legal bills, stating these excessive punishments against Caleb come as the campus fails to have addressed Professor Coxs comments.

The Orange County Register also reports thata Republicanstate senator told constituents if the college is going to punish the student, it should also punish the instructor, and the Orange Coast College spokesman confirmed the school is hearing from people across the country, and most of that feedback is in support of ONeil.

ONeil can continue to attend classes during his appeal.

MORE:Professor tells students: Trumps election an act of terrorism (VIDEO)

MORE:Student who recorded profs anti-Trump rant suspended, lawyer fights sanctions

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‘Whistleblower,’ ‘Edward Snowden’: Many defend student suspended for recording anti-Trump professor – The College Fix

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Greenwald: Democrats Seem to Consider Snowden’s & Manning’s Leaks Evil & Leaks Under Trump Heroic – Democracy Now!

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Glenn, I want to turn to something NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said to you nearly three years ago, when he first spoke out against NSA abuses.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Glenn, can you talk about that and the response that was received to the leaks of Edward Snowden compared to now, the leaks of intelligence officials now?

GLENN GREENWALD: So, on the question of the eavesdropping powers of the NSA as revealed by the intercepts of General Flynns communications, we dont actually know for certain what the methodology was that was used to eavesdrop on him. Was the NSA legally, pursuant to a FISA warrant, targeting General Flynn as part of an investigation, either an intelligence investigation or a law enforcement investigation, conducted by the FBI? Were they, as they claim, only doing routine surveillance on officials of an adversary countryin this case, Russiaand just coincidentally and by accident happened to catch the conversation that General Flynn was having with those targets of the surveillance in Moscow? We dont know.

But what this does illustrate islets assume for the moment that the NSA and the CIA for once are actually telling the truth and that the way that they eavesdropped on General Flynn was not by targeting him, but by targeting the Russians with whom he was communicating. What this reveals is something very important, which is, when the Edward Snowden story first broke and the debate around the world was triggered, the U.S. government kept saying over and over, “If youre an American citizen, we cant listen in on your calls unless we first get a warrant from the court, and therefore theres nothing you have to worry about.” Now, that was a very warped sort of thing to say, because that meant that for 95 percent of the world who are called non-Americans, what the government was saying: “Oh, for you, you have no protections. We can listen in on your calls at any time without getting a judge to approve,” which is actually true. And thats one of the reasons why people all over the world outside of the United States were so horrified to learn of what the NSA was doing. But the broader and more important point is that what the U.S. government was saying was actually completely false. The U.S. government constantly eavesdrops on the telephone calls of American citizens without getting a warrant of any kind, despite what the Constitution requires. And thats because the law that was enacted in 2008, called the FISA Amendments Act, with President Obamas approval, withhe was a senator at the time, he voted for itactually authorizes the U.S. government to listen in on Americans calls with no warrant, as long as theyre talking to someone outside of the United States who the government says theyre targeting. And thats what this episode shows, is they were able to listen in on General Flynns calls, if you believe them, with no warrant, because they say that they were targeting someone with whom he was communicating.

As far as the reaction is concerned in terms of how Edward Snowdens leaks were received versus this leak, its like night and day. I have not yet heard, literally, not one Democrat condemn the leakers inside the CIA or the intelligence community who leaked signals intelligence and, in the process, alerted these Russian officials to the fact that their communications have been compromised. Thats what these leaks did. They told these Russian officials with whom General Flynn was communicating, “We have successfully penetrated your communications systems.” And you can be sure that they are now, in response, fortifying the communications that they use and blocking out the NSA and CIA. There was probably harm done by whoever did this leak. I havent heard one Democrat condemn it on the grounds that its criminal. I havent heard one Democrat say that there should be an investigation to find these leakers and put them in prison for violating the law. And yet, all I heard from Democratsnot all I heard, because there were a lot of Democrats who supported Manning and Snowden and Drakebut certainly Democratic officials in D.C. were almost unanimous, under Obama, in saying that leaksleakers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, that theyre traitors. Chelsea Manning just spent seven years in prison under harsh conditions for leaking information way less sensitive than what these leakers about General Flynn just leaked. And, yes, President Obama commuted her sentence, but only after his administration imprisoned her, under conditions that the U.N. said was basically torture, and kept her in prison for seven years, even though there was no harm demonstrated from anything she leaked. So what Democrats seem to think is, leaks under President Obama, even if they show that high-level officials are lying, as Edward Snowden showed James Clapper was, are evil, are criminal, and the whistleblowers should be thrown in jail; leaks under President Trump, by contrast, are heroic and noble, and we should celebrate the people who are doing it and oppose any effort to hunt them down and investigate them and find them and punish them, as President Trump is vowing to do. The reality is that whistleblowers are a very valuable part of our democracy. They should be cherished and heralded and protected, regardless of which party controls the White House.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Glenn, what about the Republican response? Youve talked about the DemocratDemocratic Party response, but how did the Republican Party, for the most part, respond to the Snowden leaks versus whats happened now?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, ironically, the Republican response is actually consistentconsistently heinous, but at least its consistent. There were a few Republicans, usually former officeholders or some outliers in the Republican Party, like Rand Paul or Justin Amash, people from the libertarian wing, who were somewhat supportive of the Snowden leaks. But, overall, the Republican establishment was contemptuous of Edward Snowden. In fact, Mike Pompeo, the former Republican congressman who is now Donald Trumps chief at the CIA, called for Edward Snowdens execution. Donald Trump himself called for Edward Snowdens execution. Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Marco Rubio all called Edward Snowden a traitor. So, in some sense, the Republicans are being consistent, because theyre now saying the same thing, which is that whoever leaked this information ought to be investigated, hunted down and punished to the fullest extent of the law, which is more or less the same thing they said about leakers and whistleblowers under President Obama. Its the Democrats who have completely switched their position, as they so often do, the minute that the party controlling the White House changed.

AMY GOODMAN: Were going to break and then come back to this discussion, also talk about what happened at the White House yesterday with the Netanyahu-Trump meeting and so much more. Were speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His piece in The Intercept, “The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynns Lie Committed Seriousand Wholly JustifiedFelonies.” Stay with us.

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Greenwald: Democrats Seem to Consider Snowden’s & Manning’s Leaks Evil & Leaks Under Trump Heroic – Democracy Now!

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Will Russia hand Edward Snowden over to Trump?

NBC News spoke to U.S. intelligence officials who said Russian talks have mentioned sending whistleblower Eric Snowden back to the states. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

An NBC News report citing U.S. intelligence sources says Russia may consider handing over Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, to the United States as a favor to President Trump.

NBC News, the only major news outlet to report the development so far, wrote that “highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations” suggest Russia is mulling over sending Snowden back to the U.S. as a favor to Trump. NBC News reported it is one of several tactics Russia could use to cozy up to the president.

Snowden called the report “irrefutable evidence” that he wasn’t colluding with Russians, despite allegations fromU.S. House members.

Snowden, who faces espionage and theft charges over intelligence leaks revealing two secret surveillance programs under the NSA, has lived in Russia since 2013. He planned to fly to Ecuador to take refuge from U.S. extradition efforts, but he was held up at a Moscow airport because the U.S. canceled his passport. Snowden was granted athree-year extension of his asylumby the country’s Foreign Ministry in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC News that the organization didn’t know about any plans to return Snowden to the U.S.

Some hail Snowden as a whistleblower a White House petition calling for Snowden’s pardon got more than 1 million signatures in 2015 yet others see him as a traitor who released sensitive information compromising national security.

READ MORE:

On clemency, White House sees distinction between Snowden and Manning cases

Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning in last-minute clemency push

On clemency, White House sees distinction between Snowden and Manning cases

Snowden told an internet conference in Stockholm after the U.S. presidential electionthat he’s not afraid of the Trump administration boosted efforts to arrest him,The Guardianreported.

The reality here is that yes,Donald Trumphas appointed a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency who uses me as a specific example to say that, look, dissidents should be put to death,” Snowden said.But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesnt actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that Ive already made.

The White House did not comment, NBC News reported. The Justice Department said it would welcome Snowden’s return.

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Edward Snowden’s New Job: Protecting Reporters From Spies – WIRED

Slide: 1 / of 1. Caption: 520 Design

This story is part of our special coverage, The News in Crisis.

When Edward Snowden leaked the biggest collection of classified National Security Agency documents in history, he wasnt just revealing the inner workings of a global surveillance machine. He was also scrambling to evade it. To communicate with the journalists who would publish his secrets, he had to route all his messages over the anonymity software Tor, teach reporters to use the encryption tool PGP by creating a YouTube tutorial that disguised his voice, and eventually ditch his comfortable life (and smartphone) in Hawaii to set up a cloak-and-dagger data handoff halfway around the world.

Now, nearly four years later, Snowden has focused the next phase of his career on solving that very specific instance of the panopticon problem: how to protect reporters and the people who feed them information in an era of eroding privacywithout requiring them to have an NSA analysts expertise in encryption or to exile themselves to Moscow. Watch the journalists and youll find their sources, Snowden says. So how do we preserve that confidentiality in this new world, when its more important than ever?

Since early last year, Snowden has quietly served as president of a small San Franciscobased nonprofit called the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its mission: to equip the media to do its job at a time when state-sponsored hackers and government surveillance threaten investigative reporting in ways Woodward and Bernstein never imagined. Newsrooms dont have the budget, the sophistication, or the skills to defend themselves in the current environment, says Snowden, who spoke to WIRED via encrypted video-chat from his home in Moscow. Were trying to provide a few niche tools to make the game a little more fair.

The groups 10 staffers and a handful of contract coders, with Snowdens remote guidance, are working to develop an armory of security upgrades for reporters. Snowden and renowned hacker Bunnie Huang have partnered to develop a hardware modification for the iPhone, designed to detect if malware on the device is secretly transmitting a reporters data, including location. Theyre developing a piece of software called Sunder that uses code written by Frederic Jacobs, one of the programmers for the popular encryption app Signal1; Sunder would allow journalists to encrypt a trove of secrets and then retrieve them only if several newsroom colleagues combine their passwords to access the data. And the foundations coders are building a plug-and-play version of Jitsi, the encrypted video-chat software Snowden himself uses for daily communication. They want newsrooms to be able to install it on their own servers with a few clicks. The idea is to make this all paint-by-numbers instead of teaching yourself to be Picasso, Snowden says.

A brief guide to becoming an anonymous source.

Web

The anonymity network Tor obscures your identity by routing your online traffic through computers worldwide. Access it via the web-based Tor Browser to visit any site related to your planned contact with the press. Find a directory of the 35 or so news organizations that maintain SecureDrop portalsTor-enabled inboxes for anonymous tips. Then choose an outlet and leak away.

Phone

Buy a burnera cheap, prepaid Android phonewith cash from a nonchain store in an area youve never been to before. Dont carry your regular phone and the burner at the same time, and never turn on the burner at home or work. Create a Gmail and Google Play account from the burner, then install the encrypted calling and texting app Signal. When youre done, destroy the burner and ditch its corpse far from home.

Snail mail

Pick a distant mailbox, dont carry your phone on the trip, andduhdont include a real return address.

But the foundations biggest coup has been SecureDrop, a Tor-based system for WikiLeaks-style uploads of leaked materials and news tips. The system has now been adopted by dozens of outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. It works. I know, hinted a tweet from Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold the day after he published a leaked video of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault.

In early 2014, the Freedom of the Press Foundations founderswho include the first recipients of Snowdens leaks, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitrasasked their 30-year-old source to join the groups board as a largely symbolic gesture. But Snowden surprised the board members by showing up to his first meeting with a list of detailed changes to its 40-plus pages of bylaws. The next year he was unanimously elected its president. No one has more practical expertise when it comes to whistleblower and journalist communications, says Trevor Timm, the groups executive director. It was the perfect fit. Snowden has refused a salary, instead giving the group more than $60,000 of his fees from speaking engagements over the past year.

Snowdens own leaks have shown the dire need for the foundations work: In early 2015 he revealed that British spies had collected emails from practically every major newspaper and wire service. Other signs of encroaching state surveillance have also put journalists on guard. Late last year it emerged that Montreal police had tracked the phone calls and texts of a reporter in order to identify sources critical of the department. And in early January, before he had even taken office, Donald Trump called on Congress to investigate a leak to NBC newsone that gave the network a sneak peek at an intelligence report on Russias role in influencing the US election. In the months since Trumps victory, the Freedom of the Press Foundations phones have been ringing off the hook with requests from newsrooms for training sessions, says Timm.

Snowden is quick to note it was the administration of President Obama, not Trump, that indicted him and at least seven others under the Espionage Act for leaking information to journalists. Thats more such indictments than all other presidents in history combined have issued. But Snowden and Timm worry that Trump, with his deep-seated disdain for the media and the full powers of the US Justice Department at his fingertips, will be only too happy to carry forward and expand that precedent. (As for recent rumors that Putin may send Snowden back to the US as a gift to Trump, the former NSA contractor remains sanguine: If personal safety was the only thing I was worried about, I would never have left Hawaii.)

All of that makes the medias technical protections from spying more important than ever. We cant fix the surveillance problem overnight, Snowden says. But maybe we can build a shield that will protect anyone whos standing behind it. If the group succeeds, perhaps the next Snowden will be able to take refuge not in Moscow but in the encrypted corners of the internet.

Andy Greenberg (@a_greenberg) wrote about Google subsidiary Jigsaw in issue 24.10.

This article appears in the March issue. Subscribe now.

UPDATED 02/14/17, 12:45PM, TO INCLUDE SNOWDENS RESPONSE TO REPORTS THAT RUSSIA MAY EXTRADITE HIM TO THE U.S.

1 Correction appended, 2/14/17, 2:45 pm EST: This story has been corrected to clarify Frederic Jacobs involvement in Sunder.

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Edward Snowden’s New Job: Protecting Reporters From Spies – WIRED

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Edward Snowden may head to US, jail – Boston Herald

Moscow is reportedly toying with the idea of handing NSA leaker Edward Snowden over to President Trump as a housewarming gift after the whistleblower and alleged spy spent four years hiding in Russia.

The Kremlins ploy emerged from intelligence reports that outlined Russian talks about ways to curry favor with the Trump administration, according to an NBC News report citing two unnamed U.S. officials.

Snowden, the 33-year-old who extracted files from the National Security Agency outlining secret surveillance programs that gathered information from U.S. citizens as well as foreigners and fled to Hong Kong then Russia after his revelations were made public, would face espionage charges upon his return.

Trump has called Snowden a terrible traitor and a spy who should be executed.

Boston University professor and longtime CIA officer Joseph Wippl said gift-wrapping Snowden and forcing him on a plane to U.S. wouldnt make a whole lot of sense.

Its up in the air whether Snowden was an agent of Russias before he got to Russia. Certainly, hes become one there, Wippl said.

His use may indeed be over, and also he may not want to stay in Russia forever. I would be surprised if they forcibly sent him back. Its just something that wouldnt make a whole lot of sense. As a bit of a present, I dont know how much good that does to the administration.

The Russian government in January extended Snowdens asylum for another two years. Snowdens lawyer from the ACLU, Ben Wizner, told NBC he and his client have received no such signals and has no new reason for concern.

On Twitter, Snowden hailed the rumor as irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel.

No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear theyre next, his tweet read.

Russia views the report as a stale story being used by Trumps opponents to knock the new president off balance.

It is evident that the pressure on the new administration on the part of political opponents within the United States continues, in the midst of bargaining, said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

In December, Snowden acknowledged he could be sent back to the U.S.

A lot of people have asked me: Is there going to be some kind of deal where Trump says, Hey look, give this guy to me as some kind of present? Will I be sent back to the U.S., where Ill be facing a show trial? Snowden said. Is this going to happen? I dont know. Could it happen? Sure. Am I worried about it? Not really, because heres the thing: I am very comfortable with the decisions that Ive made. I know I did the right thing.

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Edward Snowden may head to US, jail – Boston Herald

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Wippl in the Boston Herald on Edward Snowden – BU Today

February 13, 2017

Joseph Wippl, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, was recently interviewed on the possibility of whistleblower Edward Snowden being returned to the United States by Russian authorities.

Wippl was quoted in a February 12, 2017 article in theBoston Heraldentitled Edward Snowden May Head to U.S., Jail.

From the text of the article:

Boston University professor and longtime CIA officer Joseph Wippl said gift-wrapping Snowden and forcing him on a plane to U.S. wouldnt make a whole lot of sense.

Its up in the air whether Snowden was an agent of Russias before he got to Russia. Certainly, hes become one there, Wippl said.

His use may indeed be over, and also he may not want to stay in Russia forever. I would be surprised if they forcibly sent him back. Its just something that wouldnt make a whole lot of sense. As a bit of a present, I dont know how much good that does to the administration.

You can read the entire article here.

Wippl is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer. He spent a 30 year career as an operations officer in the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Wippl has served overseas as an operations officer and operations manager in Bonn, West Germany; Guatemala City; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; Mexico City; Vienna, Austria; and Berlin, Germany. Learn more about him here.

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Edward Snowden Unafraid of Donald Trump Vladimir … – time.com

Edward Snowden speaks via video link during a news conference in New York City on Sept. 14, 2016. Brendan McDermidReuters

Edward Snowden has said he is not worried about the prospect of Vladimir Putin striking a deal with Donald Trump that could lead to his extradition and trial in the United States.

Speaking on a webchat hosted by the Dutch private search engine StartPage on Nov. 10, the whistleblower and former NSA contractor said it would be “crazy” to dismiss the idea of the Russian President and Trump making a deal over his future, but he “[doesn’t] worry about it.”

Snowden has been stranded in Moscow since he revealed classified information about the National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance three years ago. He was charged in the U.S. with violations of the Espionage Act, but various campaigns and civil liberty organizations have been putting pressure on President Obama to pardon him .

While I cant predict what the future looks like, I dont know whats going to happen tomorrow, I can be comfortable with the way Ive lived today,” he said. “And no matter what happens, if there’s a drone strike or I slip and fall down the stairs, that’s something that won’t change. As long as we do our best to live in accordance with our values, we don’t have to worry about what happens tomorrow.”

Trump, who has vowed to repair U.S. relations with Russia, has previously threatened Snowden with execution. “I think hes a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country? You know what we used to do to traitors, right?,” he said, during an appearance on Fox and Friends in 2013.

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Will Edward Snowden Go To Jail? US Indicts A Former NSA Contractor For Violating Espionage Act – International Business Times

As Edward Snowden awaited possible extradition on the other side of the world, another National Security Agency contractor accused of stealing and leaking a large trove of classified information faced federal charges this week amounting to a potential 200 years in prison over his violation of the Espionage Act.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore found Wednesday that, over the course of up to 20 years, Harold Hal Martin, 52, flagrantly abused the trust placed in him by the government while working as a government contractor, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a Thursday Justice Department press release. Martin, who allegedly revealed many of the NSAs powerful hacking and overseas spying tools, faces 20 counts of willful retention of national defense information, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. He will first appear in court at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Martin at one point workedfor the tech-consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the same contracting company that once employed Snowden.

Meanwhile, the Russian lawyer for Snowden told the Kremlin-owned news agency Sputnik Tuesday that Russia, where the more famous NSA whistleblower and former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor is evading arrest by the American government, had not received any extradition requests from the U.S. This claim should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as the lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, also told the state news agency that the U.S. had not issued charges against Snowden. A 2013 Justice Department press release confirms that he faces charges of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, unauthorized disclosure of classified communication intelligence and theft of government property.

Unlike U.S. Army leaker Chelsea Manning, Snowden was not among the 1,715 people granted commutations by former President Barack Obama on his way out of office, nor was he among the 212 people pardoned, as Snowden hadnt presented himself in court before the end of Obamas tenure.

President Donald Trump is not expected to take a softer stance. His appointee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, once called for Snowdens execution. In a 2013 interview with Fox & Friends, Trump has called Snowden a terrible guy and hinted at Snowdens execution himself.

Correction:A previous version of this article mischaracterized where Harold Martin worked during the time of his NSA leak. Martin was employed withseven different contractors during the period of his illegal activity.

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Was Edward Snowden a Russian agent? – The Australian Financial Review

by Charlie Savage

One evening in the American autumn of 2015, the writer Edward Jay Epstein arranged to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side with the director Oliver Stone. At the time, Stone was completing Snowden, an admiring biopic about the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who disclosed a vast trove of classified documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs to journalists in June 2013 and had since been living as a fugitive in Russia. Epstein was working on a book about the same topic, which has now been published under the title How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft.As the writer recounts in that book, their conversation took a testy turn:

“Toward the end of our dinner, Stone told me that he did not know I was writing a book about Snowden until a few weeks earlier. He learned of my book from Snowden himself. He said Snowden had expressed concern to him about the direction of the book I was writing. ‘What is it about?’ Stone asked me.

“I was taken aback. I had no idea that Snowden was aware of my book. (I had not tried to contact him.) I told Stone that I considered Snowden an extraordinary man who had changed history and was intentionally vague in my description of my book’s contents. Stone seemed to be reassured ”

Epstein and Stone had a history of rivalry when it came to interpreting another important historical event: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Early in his career, Epstein wrote three books about that topic. The first, Inquest(1966), poked holes in the rigour of the Warren Commission’s official investigation. The second, Counterplot(1969), brought a sceptical eye to the investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who pursued the theory that the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the president’s murder. And the third, Legend(1978), pointed readers to the conclusion that Oswald’s image as a mixed-up loner with half-baked Marxist ideas was an operational cover story a “legend” and that he had been a Soviet intelligence agent. (After the Soviet Union collapsed, the opening of the KGB’s archives did not corroborate the theory that Oswald had actually been a trained intelligence agent.)

Stone waded into those same murky waters with his 1991 movie JFK,which used a fictionalised version of Garrison’s investigation as a means to explore the theory that a right-wing conspiracy, spanning the CIA and the military-industrial complex, had been responsible for Kennedy’s death. The following year, Stone and Epstein were invited to be part of a panel discussion at New York’s Town Hall about the Kennedy assassination and the film’s controversial blending of fact and fiction. In preparation, according to a diary entry on Epstein’s website, he brought an index card on which he wrote:

“Although they may aim at the same purpose of finding truth, non-fiction and fiction are two distinct forms of knowledge. The writer of non-fiction is limited by the universe of discoverable fact. He cannot make up what he does not know no matter how strong his intuition or suspicion. The writer of fiction knows no such boundary: he can fill in whatever gaps exist with his imagination.”

Now, years later, the two men once again found themselves eying each other as they circled the Snowden saga.

The conventional understanding of Snowden is that he was what he appeared to be: a computer worker in the intelligence world who became alarmed about the hidden growth of the American surveillance state and decided to reveal its operations to the world, copied archives of documents, and handed them to journalists whom he had summoned to Hong Kong and whom he entrusted to decide what to publish.

Within the mainstream spectrum of interpretations of his actions, at one end are civil libertarians who consider him simply to be a heroic whistle-blower. At the other extreme are members of the national security establishment who consider him nothing more than a destructive traitor. In between are a range of those who think some of his disclosures met the high standard for “whistle-blowing”; that other disclosures brought to light important things that should not have been kept secret in a democracy but that were also not necessarily, in and of themselves, abuses or overreaches; and that still other disclosures went too far and were not a public service.

Stone’s movie, which premiered in September, presents a comic-book version of the pro-Snowden narrative in which a wunderkind super-hacker takes on Big Brother. In telling that story, Stone mixes accurate material with fiction, while simplifying away complexities. His movie steps on the genuine privacy issues raised by Snowden’s disclosures with melodramatic embellishments, such as a scene in which an invented senior NSA official, his Orwellian face filling a floor-to-ceiling screen, casually reveals that he knows whether the Snowden character’s girlfriend is sleeping with another man.

It omits actual Snowden disclosures whose individual privacy rationale was debatable, such as when he showed the South China Morning Post documents about the NSA’s hacking into certain institutional computers in China. And its discussion of the volume of internet metadata the NSA collects from equipment inside the United States ignores any distinction between truly domestic emails and foreign-to-foreign messages that are merely travelling across domestic network switches.

Epstein’s book, by contrast, presents a negative view of Snowden. But the two works are not equivalent: Epstein does not merely oversimplify with the purpose of downplaying the benefits of Snowden’s leaks and emphasising the harms. Rather he contends that the conventional narrative of what happened may have been a deceptive cover story. Epstein lays out the case that behind his image as a whistle-blower Snowden was instead an “espionage source” for Russia perhaps its dupe at first, or perhaps its willing spy all along:

“The counterintelligence issue was not if this USintelligence defector in Moscow was under Russian control but when he came under it. There were three possible time periods when Snowden might have been brought under control by the Russian intelligence service: while he was still working for the NSA; after he arrived in Hong Kong on May 20, 2013; or after he arrived in Russia on June 23, 2013.”

The reader should know that Laura Poitras, one of the journalists to whom Snowden leaked documents in Hong Kong, later shared some of them with me, and we developed several articles from them for The New York Times. In addition, as part of a book on national security, I wrote a history of how surveillance technology, law and policy secretly evolved in the decades following Congress’enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

It explained how the rise of fibre-optic networks in the late 1980s and the internet in the 1990s placed mounting pressure on legal constraints written for the analogue telephone era; how the Bush administration bypassed those rules after September 11 and then enlisted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Congress to legalise what it had created lawlessly; and how the Obama administration decided to keep and entrench what it inherited.

I could not have written that history without the files disclosed by Snowden and information the government declassified because of his leaks. While there had been stray glimpses for years suggesting that the NSA was becoming far more powerful, facts were scarce and speculation and conspiracy theories had filled the void. Snowden’s disclosures enabled us to understand what was real about the NSA’s activities so we could engage in an informed public debate about the rules for 21st-century surveillance. This is why I regret Stone’s reintroduction of distortions into discussion of surveillance, and it may also colour my reaction to Epstein’s book.

Snowden’s disclosures indeed prompted robust debate and policy changes. An appeals court ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic calling records was illegal, rejecting a dubious legal theory that the intelligence court had been secretly relying on for years. Congress ended that bulk collection program and required the intelligence court to tell the public when it issued novel and significant interpretations of surveillance laws.

President Obama imposed unprecedented privacy protections for information about non-Americans that the NSA collects abroad. Technology giants such asGoogle and many ordinary people began taking steps to more firmly secure their private information from hackers. Still, this enlightenment came at an undeniable, if difficult to measure, cost. Some terrorists, criminals and unsavoury regimes learned from Snowden, too, becoming harder to monitor and thereby making the world more dangerous.

Assessing whether Snowden’s disclosures served the public interest whether they did more good than harm turns in part on who counts as “the public”. Snowden’s critics, including Epstein, tend to define the public in nationalist terms, focusing their criticism on his disclosures about NSA operations abroad, where few domestic legal rules apply and the agency can indiscriminately vacuum up private messages in bulk. Snowden’s supporters point out that domestic data are also found abroad in the internet era and they argue that consideration of the NSA’s work should take account of its effects on human rights: non-Americans have privacy rights, too.

Another complication for judging Snowden’s actions is that we do not know how many and which documents he took. Investigators determined only that he “touched” about 1.5 million files essentially those that were indexed by a search program he used to trawl NSA servers. Many of those files are said to pertain to military and intelligence tools and activities that did not bear on the protection of individual privacy. Snowden’s sceptics assume that he stole every such file. His supporters assume that he did not. In any case they believe his statements that after giving certain NSA archives to the journalists in Hong Kong, he destroyed his hard drives and brought no files to Russia.

Epstein sees Snowden’s supporters as naive. He draws on his connections with the late James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s paranoid hunter for KGB moles both real and imagined during the height of the Cold War; after his dismissal from the agency in 1974, Angleton became an important source for Epstein, including for his book on Oswald. Much of How America Lost Its Secretsconsists of Epstein building “alternative scenarios” like a counterintelligence investigator in Angleton’s mould trying to pierce presumed Russian deception. This, he concedes,

“differs from that of a conventional forensic investigation aimed at finding pieces of evidence that can be used to persuade a jury in a courtroom The point is to assure that any alternative that fits the relevant facts, no matter how implausible it may initially seem to be, is not neglected.”

And so Epstein asks: what if Snowden told secrets to Russian intelligence officials or brought files to Moscow, despite saying otherwise? What if he meant to end up in Russia all along, and it was just a cover story when he said he was trying to get to South America and was stranded in Moscow because the United States revoked his passport? What if Snowden sold out to China and/or Russia in Hong Kong? What if the Russian intelligence service recruited Snowden when he was still working for the NSA or even earlier? What if some other hypothetical Russian mole still inside the NSA helped him? What if he was working with the Russians unwittingly, manipulated by a handler pretending to be a “hactivist” interested in internet privacy?

In this way, How America Lost Its Secretsplunges down rabbit holes, each leading to its own Wonderland. In building up his scenarios, Epstein deploys dozens of instances of variants of the words “presume”, “assume” and “might have”. He describes things he believes “could have been”, things he interprets as “possible”, things he supposes were “likely” and things he maintains were “suggested”. He piles inferences atop other inferences, as with “if so, it seems plausible to believe”; “if that is the case, then”; and “if so, it wasn’t much of a leap to assume”. He weaves cobwebs of conjecture that start with phrases like “it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to conclude” and “it is not difficult to imagine’.

For Epstein’s book to have value for it to be worth reading, not just an object intelligence hard-liners might display on their shelves as a sign of their contempt for Snowden the facts he selects to anchor and discipline his scenario-building cannot be flimsy or cherry-picked to fit his pre-existing beliefs. This is important because he clearly decided early that everything pointed in the direction of the Snowden saga being a foreign espionage plot. In June 2013, as the world was still absorbing the first revelations, Epstein published a column in The Wall Street Journal asking, “Who, if anyone, aided and abetted this well-planned theft of US secrets?”

And in May and June of 2014, he published two more columns laying out the case that “far from being a whistleblower, Snowden was a participant in an espionage operation and most likely steered from the beginning toward his massive theft, whether he knew this at first or not”. Given this predisposition, it is unfortunate that Epstein builds his imagined scenarios upon allegations that may not be real facts.

For example, Epstein gives sinister significance to the “fact” that Snowden arrived in Hong Kong 11 days before he checked into the hotel where he met the journalists, leaving his activities during that period a mystery. Snowden has insisted that he was in that hotel the whole time, waiting for the journalists to arrive. In one of his columns written in 2014, Epstein first claimed that there was an 11-day mystery gap, citing his conversation with an unnamed hotel security guard. I am aware of no independent verification of this allegation. So as things stand, this “fact” appears to be vaporous.

Epstein also makes important factual omissions, in places even overlooking crucial information that he had mentioned elsewhere. For example, laying out the case that Snowden may have decided to concoct a whistle-blower cover story at some point after he had already started copying documents for some other purpose, Epstein stresses that Snowden’s most famous leaked document a classified intelligence court order requiring Verizon to turn over all its customers’ phone records, which “gave him credentials as a whistle-blower” was issued in April 2013, yet Snowden had been copying files since 2012. But other documents described the program for collecting bulk domestic phone records, including a classified inspector general report Snowden also leaked; 87 pages earlier, Epstein had noted that Snowden read that report in 2012.

It would be eye-glazing to compile a comprehensive list of Epstein’s doubtful “facts”, but one more is worth scrutinising because Epstein hangs such heavy weight on it: the allegation that Snowden brought files with him to Russia, despite his denials. A Hong Kong lawyer who represented Snowden has publicly said he witnessed Snowden destroy his hard drives before leaving that city; Epstein interviewed the Hong Kong lawyer, but does not mention this corroboration. Instead, he focuses on a brief exchange during a September 2013 interview of Snowden’s Russian lawyer: the interviewer asked, “So he does have some materials that haven’t been made public yet?” and the Russian lawyer replied, “Certainly”.

For his book research, Epstein says he asked the Russian lawyer about that interview, which was conducted in Russian but translated into English before being broadcast and published, and whether the exchange was accurate. The lawyer affirmed that it was. Based on this, Epstein repeatedly states that the Russian lawyer disclosed that Snowden brought documents to Moscow; once he even embellishes it, writing that in this exchange the Moscow lawyer had disclosed that Snowden still had access in Russia to additional files that he had not given to the journalists in Hong Kong.

Yet the interview transcript shows that this exchange was ambiguous. The context, which Epstein omits, was a discussion of how the ongoing publication of new articles citing Snowden’s leaks did not mean that he was still making new leaks from Russia; rather the journalists were still just working through files he had given them in Hong Kong. So maybe this was a garbled conversational moment, and the Russian lawyer was saying that the journalists had still more unpublished materials to work with. Or maybe, in that 2013 interview, he was just playing along to gin up intrigue.

For that matter, when the lawyer later told Epstein that it was accurate, was he merely affirming the English translation of his 2013 words, or did he understand himself to be confirming the interpretive gloss Epstein placed on them? It seems to me that a journalist who wanted to know the truth, even at the risk of undermining his book project, would have followed up by asking the lawyer to clarify explicitly whether he was saying that Snowden had brought files with him to Russia and, if so, how the lawyer knew that he had done so and how he accounted for his client saying otherwise. By Epstein’s account, after obtaining this murky confirmation, he instead changed the subject. That left him free to construe this exchange as having generated a “fact” consistent with his thesis.

There is a related problem. Epstein gets many facts about surveillance issues wrong, calling into question his competence to serve as a guide to thinking seriously about the Snowden saga. He gets dates wrong, calls an important technology by the wrong name, and inaccurately describes various programs and a presidential directive Snowden leaked. His botched discussion of the Prism system, which Snowden disclosed, is a troubling example. The government uses Prism to collect from American webmail providers such asGmail, without a warrant, the emails of non-citizens abroad whose accounts have been targeted by intelligence officials for surveillance. When Americans communicate with those targets, the government also “incidentally” gathers those Americans’ emails to and from the target without a warrant. Epstein reassures his readers three times that every few months, the NSA sifts through all the emails it has gathered via Prism in order to filter out and purge “whatever information was accidentally picked up about Americans”. That is a fake fact.

In reality, the NSA does not filter out Americans’ messages gathered via Prism. Indeed, it shares raw messages gathered via the Prism system with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigationand the National Counterterrorism Centre. Once-secret rules permit officials at all those agencies to search that trove for intelligence purposes using the names of Americans and to read any private emails they find. FBI agents may also do so when investigating ordinary criminal suspects. When Congress in 2017 extends the law that authorises Prism, reformers are hoping to close this so-called “backdoor search loophole” by requiring warrants to search for Americans’ emails within the Prism trove. Because this policy debate is attributable to Snowden’s leaks, Epstein’s misinformation about Prism is no small detail.

Epstein argues that views differ about Snowden because the public and the media lack good information, accepting what Snowden says at face value and omitting whatever does not fit that narrative because of their “confirmation bias”. By contrast, he writes, those who hold darker views about Snowden include lawmakers and officials who “base it on classified reports” and “have been at least partially briefed” about the NSA’s investigation. Here he cites several of the latter group who said Snowden’s leaks were damaging and unjustified, including two who said in 2014 that they thought he must be a spy, although Epstein only names one of those two. But Epstein omits what Chris Inglis, who was deputy director of the NSA from 2006 to 2014 and oversaw that investigation, said last March when asked whether Snowden had acted as a spy or from his own convictions:

“Here is what I surmise based upon a careful observation of the facts available to me. It does seem clear that his intention was to go to Latin or South America after he revealed all of this material in Hong Kong. He worked very hard and his lawyers worked very hard on his behalf to actually achieve that in the days and weeks afterwards I don’t think that he was in the employ of the Chinese or the Russians. I don’t see any evidence that would indicate that. And even if they are careful in terms of practising denial and deception, I think there would be certain tell-tales ”

Epstein also says little about Snowden’s comments criticising Russia’s internet policies and human rights record. But those comments have heightened chatter about what will happen to him under the Trump administration: might Vladimir Putin extradite him to the United States as a gift or a bargaining chip? In a recent interview, Snowden said he found such talk perversely encouraging, since nations do not trade away their spies.

The premise of this chatter dovetails with an odd twist at the conclusion of Epstein’s book. Without much warning, he writes that he sees “no reason to doubt [Snowden’s] explanation that he stole NSA documents to expose its surveillance because he believed that it was an illicit intrusion into the privacy of individuals”.Epstein continues to criticise Snowden for taking documents that did not concern “domestic” spying, and he still maintains, vaguely, that by the end Snowden’s “mission evolved, deliberately or not, into one that led him to disclose key communications intelligence secrets to a foreign power”. But he states that he “fully” accepts that Snowden “began as a whistle-blower, not as a spy,” and was still acting as a whistle-blower when he reached out to the journalists.

By pulling back at the end of his book, Epstein tries to have it both ways: weaving conspiracy theories while maintaining plausible deniability and some veneer of evidence-based journalism. But his indulgence in speculation, his treatment of questionable claims as established facts, and his misunderstanding of surveillance combine to undermine his book’s credibility. How America Lost Its Secretsfails to live up to Epstein’s own principle, jotted down on that card for his debate with Oliver Stone about “JFK” so many years ago: when a non-fiction writer reaches the limits of discoverable fact, he is supposed to stop not fill in whatever gaps exist with his imagination, no matter how strong his intuition or suspicion.

The New York Review of Books

How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft, by Edward Jay Epstein, published by Knopf. Snowden, a film directed by Oliver Stone. Charlie Savage is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times. His latest book is Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post9/11 Presidency.

2017 The New York Review of Books, distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

Originally posted here:

Was Edward Snowden a Russian agent? – The Australian Financial Review

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February 8, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

‘Whistleblower,’ ‘Edward Snowden’: Many defend student suspended for recording anti-Trump professor – The College Fix

Whistleblower, Edward Snowden: Many defend student suspended for recording anti-Trump professor Theyre crucifying this poor guy. Mr. ONeil is the Edward Snowden of the college system and kudos to him for exposing this kind of leftist hyperbole. Mr. ONeil is a de facto whistle blower who has sunshined an instructor that is wasting the taxpayers monies and the students tuition. Thats just some of the comments culled by the Orange County Registerfrom residents and public figures recently regarding the plight of Caleb ONeil, a 19-year-old Orange Coast College student recently suspended for allegedly violating a policy that prohibits recording professors. Shortly after the election, instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox told herhuman sexuality class of Trumps election we have been assaulted, its an act of terrorism, among other comments. She also called Donald Trump a white supremacist and said Mike Pence is one of the most anti-gay humans in this country. ONeil, a member of the College Republicans and an open Trump supporter, recorded the rantand gave it to his College Republican peers, who then uploaded it on YouTube. The video went viral and ultimately led to the sanctions handed down against ONeil late last week. In addition to his semester-long suspension, as well as being suspended for the summer term, he must also write an apology letter to the professor and a three-page, double spaced essay discussing why he videotaped the professor despite knowing that it was a violation of the course syllabus. Now his attorney is fighting the punishment. Meanwhile, many have rallied to ONeils defense. For one, a GoFundMe page has been created to help pay his legal bills, stating these excessive punishments against Caleb come as the campus fails to have addressed Professor Coxs comments. The Orange County Register also reports thata Republicanstate senator told constituents if the college is going to punish the student, it should also punish the instructor, and the Orange Coast College spokesman confirmed the school is hearing from people across the country, and most of that feedback is in support of ONeil. ONeil can continue to attend classes during his appeal. MORE:Professor tells students: Trumps election an act of terrorism (VIDEO) MORE:Student who recorded profs anti-Trump rant suspended, lawyer fights sanctions Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter About the Author Fix Editor

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Greenwald: Democrats Seem to Consider Snowden’s & Manning’s Leaks Evil & Leaks Under Trump Heroic – Democracy Now!

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Glenn, I want to turn to something NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said to you nearly three years ago, when he first spoke out against NSA abuses. EDWARD SNOWDEN: Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email. NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Glenn, can you talk about that and the response that was received to the leaks of Edward Snowden compared to now, the leaks of intelligence officials now? GLENN GREENWALD: So, on the question of the eavesdropping powers of the NSA as revealed by the intercepts of General Flynns communications, we dont actually know for certain what the methodology was that was used to eavesdrop on him. Was the NSA legally, pursuant to a FISA warrant, targeting General Flynn as part of an investigation, either an intelligence investigation or a law enforcement investigation, conducted by the FBI? Were they, as they claim, only doing routine surveillance on officials of an adversary countryin this case, Russiaand just coincidentally and by accident happened to catch the conversation that General Flynn was having with those targets of the surveillance in Moscow? We dont know. But what this does illustrate islets assume for the moment that the NSA and the CIA for once are actually telling the truth and that the way that they eavesdropped on General Flynn was not by targeting him, but by targeting the Russians with whom he was communicating. What this reveals is something very important, which is, when the Edward Snowden story first broke and the debate around the world was triggered, the U.S. government kept saying over and over, “If youre an American citizen, we cant listen in on your calls unless we first get a warrant from the court, and therefore theres nothing you have to worry about.” Now, that was a very warped sort of thing to say, because that meant that for 95 percent of the world who are called non-Americans, what the government was saying: “Oh, for you, you have no protections. We can listen in on your calls at any time without getting a judge to approve,” which is actually true. And thats one of the reasons why people all over the world outside of the United States were so horrified to learn of what the NSA was doing. But the broader and more important point is that what the U.S. government was saying was actually completely false. The U.S. government constantly eavesdrops on the telephone calls of American citizens without getting a warrant of any kind, despite what the Constitution requires. And thats because the law that was enacted in 2008, called the FISA Amendments Act, with President Obamas approval, withhe was a senator at the time, he voted for itactually authorizes the U.S. government to listen in on Americans calls with no warrant, as long as theyre talking to someone outside of the United States who the government says theyre targeting. And thats what this episode shows, is they were able to listen in on General Flynns calls, if you believe them, with no warrant, because they say that they were targeting someone with whom he was communicating. As far as the reaction is concerned in terms of how Edward Snowdens leaks were received versus this leak, its like night and day. I have not yet heard, literally, not one Democrat condemn the leakers inside the CIA or the intelligence community who leaked signals intelligence and, in the process, alerted these Russian officials to the fact that their communications have been compromised. Thats what these leaks did. They told these Russian officials with whom General Flynn was communicating, “We have successfully penetrated your communications systems.” And you can be sure that they are now, in response, fortifying the communications that they use and blocking out the NSA and CIA. There was probably harm done by whoever did this leak. I havent heard one Democrat condemn it on the grounds that its criminal. I havent heard one Democrat say that there should be an investigation to find these leakers and put them in prison for violating the law. And yet, all I heard from Democratsnot all I heard, because there were a lot of Democrats who supported Manning and Snowden and Drakebut certainly Democratic officials in D.C. were almost unanimous, under Obama, in saying that leaksleakers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, that theyre traitors. Chelsea Manning just spent seven years in prison under harsh conditions for leaking information way less sensitive than what these leakers about General Flynn just leaked. And, yes, President Obama commuted her sentence, but only after his administration imprisoned her, under conditions that the U.N. said was basically torture, and kept her in prison for seven years, even though there was no harm demonstrated from anything she leaked. So what Democrats seem to think is, leaks under President Obama, even if they show that high-level officials are lying, as Edward Snowden showed James Clapper was, are evil, are criminal, and the whistleblowers should be thrown in jail; leaks under President Trump, by contrast, are heroic and noble, and we should celebrate the people who are doing it and oppose any effort to hunt them down and investigate them and find them and punish them, as President Trump is vowing to do. The reality is that whistleblowers are a very valuable part of our democracy. They should be cherished and heralded and protected, regardless of which party controls the White House. NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Glenn, what about the Republican response? Youve talked about the DemocratDemocratic Party response, but how did the Republican Party, for the most part, respond to the Snowden leaks versus whats happened now? GLENN GREENWALD: Well, ironically, the Republican response is actually consistentconsistently heinous, but at least its consistent. There were a few Republicans, usually former officeholders or some outliers in the Republican Party, like Rand Paul or Justin Amash, people from the libertarian wing, who were somewhat supportive of the Snowden leaks. But, overall, the Republican establishment was contemptuous of Edward Snowden. In fact, Mike Pompeo, the former Republican congressman who is now Donald Trumps chief at the CIA, called for Edward Snowdens execution. Donald Trump himself called for Edward Snowdens execution. Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Marco Rubio all called Edward Snowden a traitor. So, in some sense, the Republicans are being consistent, because theyre now saying the same thing, which is that whoever leaked this information ought to be investigated, hunted down and punished to the fullest extent of the law, which is more or less the same thing they said about leakers and whistleblowers under President Obama. Its the Democrats who have completely switched their position, as they so often do, the minute that the party controlling the White House changed. AMY GOODMAN: Were going to break and then come back to this discussion, also talk about what happened at the White House yesterday with the Netanyahu-Trump meeting and so much more. Were speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His piece in The Intercept, “The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynns Lie Committed Seriousand Wholly JustifiedFelonies.” Stay with us.

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Will Russia hand Edward Snowden over to Trump?

NBC News spoke to U.S. intelligence officials who said Russian talks have mentioned sending whistleblower Eric Snowden back to the states. Video provided by Newsy Newslook An NBC News report citing U.S. intelligence sources says Russia may consider handing over Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, to the United States as a favor to President Trump. NBC News, the only major news outlet to report the development so far, wrote that “highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations” suggest Russia is mulling over sending Snowden back to the U.S. as a favor to Trump. NBC News reported it is one of several tactics Russia could use to cozy up to the president. Snowden called the report “irrefutable evidence” that he wasn’t colluding with Russians, despite allegations fromU.S. House members. Snowden, who faces espionage and theft charges over intelligence leaks revealing two secret surveillance programs under the NSA, has lived in Russia since 2013. He planned to fly to Ecuador to take refuge from U.S. extradition efforts, but he was held up at a Moscow airport because the U.S. canceled his passport. Snowden was granted athree-year extension of his asylumby the country’s Foreign Ministry in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency. Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC News that the organization didn’t know about any plans to return Snowden to the U.S. Some hail Snowden as a whistleblower a White House petition calling for Snowden’s pardon got more than 1 million signatures in 2015 yet others see him as a traitor who released sensitive information compromising national security. READ MORE: On clemency, White House sees distinction between Snowden and Manning cases Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning in last-minute clemency push On clemency, White House sees distinction between Snowden and Manning cases Snowden told an internet conference in Stockholm after the U.S. presidential electionthat he’s not afraid of the Trump administration boosted efforts to arrest him,The Guardianreported. The reality here is that yes,Donald Trumphas appointed a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency who uses me as a specific example to say that, look, dissidents should be put to death,” Snowden said.But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesnt actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that Ive already made. The White House did not comment, NBC News reported. The Justice Department said it would welcome Snowden’s return. Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/2kvtSmV

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden’s New Job: Protecting Reporters From Spies – WIRED

Slide: 1 / of 1. Caption: 520 Design This story is part of our special coverage, The News in Crisis. When Edward Snowden leaked the biggest collection of classified National Security Agency documents in history, he wasnt just revealing the inner workings of a global surveillance machine. He was also scrambling to evade it. To communicate with the journalists who would publish his secrets, he had to route all his messages over the anonymity software Tor, teach reporters to use the encryption tool PGP by creating a YouTube tutorial that disguised his voice, and eventually ditch his comfortable life (and smartphone) in Hawaii to set up a cloak-and-dagger data handoff halfway around the world. Now, nearly four years later, Snowden has focused the next phase of his career on solving that very specific instance of the panopticon problem: how to protect reporters and the people who feed them information in an era of eroding privacywithout requiring them to have an NSA analysts expertise in encryption or to exile themselves to Moscow. Watch the journalists and youll find their sources, Snowden says. So how do we preserve that confidentiality in this new world, when its more important than ever? Since early last year, Snowden has quietly served as president of a small San Franciscobased nonprofit called the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its mission: to equip the media to do its job at a time when state-sponsored hackers and government surveillance threaten investigative reporting in ways Woodward and Bernstein never imagined. Newsrooms dont have the budget, the sophistication, or the skills to defend themselves in the current environment, says Snowden, who spoke to WIRED via encrypted video-chat from his home in Moscow. Were trying to provide a few niche tools to make the game a little more fair. The groups 10 staffers and a handful of contract coders, with Snowdens remote guidance, are working to develop an armory of security upgrades for reporters. Snowden and renowned hacker Bunnie Huang have partnered to develop a hardware modification for the iPhone, designed to detect if malware on the device is secretly transmitting a reporters data, including location. Theyre developing a piece of software called Sunder that uses code written by Frederic Jacobs, one of the programmers for the popular encryption app Signal1; Sunder would allow journalists to encrypt a trove of secrets and then retrieve them only if several newsroom colleagues combine their passwords to access the data. And the foundations coders are building a plug-and-play version of Jitsi, the encrypted video-chat software Snowden himself uses for daily communication. They want newsrooms to be able to install it on their own servers with a few clicks. The idea is to make this all paint-by-numbers instead of teaching yourself to be Picasso, Snowden says. A brief guide to becoming an anonymous source. Web The anonymity network Tor obscures your identity by routing your online traffic through computers worldwide. Access it via the web-based Tor Browser to visit any site related to your planned contact with the press. Find a directory of the 35 or so news organizations that maintain SecureDrop portalsTor-enabled inboxes for anonymous tips. Then choose an outlet and leak away. Phone Buy a burnera cheap, prepaid Android phonewith cash from a nonchain store in an area youve never been to before. Dont carry your regular phone and the burner at the same time, and never turn on the burner at home or work. Create a Gmail and Google Play account from the burner, then install the encrypted calling and texting app Signal. When youre done, destroy the burner and ditch its corpse far from home. Snail mail Pick a distant mailbox, dont carry your phone on the trip, andduhdont include a real return address. But the foundations biggest coup has been SecureDrop, a Tor-based system for WikiLeaks-style uploads of leaked materials and news tips. The system has now been adopted by dozens of outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. It works. I know, hinted a tweet from Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold the day after he published a leaked video of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault. In early 2014, the Freedom of the Press Foundations founderswho include the first recipients of Snowdens leaks, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitrasasked their 30-year-old source to join the groups board as a largely symbolic gesture. But Snowden surprised the board members by showing up to his first meeting with a list of detailed changes to its 40-plus pages of bylaws. The next year he was unanimously elected its president. No one has more practical expertise when it comes to whistleblower and journalist communications, says Trevor Timm, the groups executive director. It was the perfect fit. Snowden has refused a salary, instead giving the group more than $60,000 of his fees from speaking engagements over the past year. Snowdens own leaks have shown the dire need for the foundations work: In early 2015 he revealed that British spies had collected emails from practically every major newspaper and wire service. Other signs of encroaching state surveillance have also put journalists on guard. Late last year it emerged that Montreal police had tracked the phone calls and texts of a reporter in order to identify sources critical of the department. And in early January, before he had even taken office, Donald Trump called on Congress to investigate a leak to NBC newsone that gave the network a sneak peek at an intelligence report on Russias role in influencing the US election. In the months since Trumps victory, the Freedom of the Press Foundations phones have been ringing off the hook with requests from newsrooms for training sessions, says Timm. Snowden is quick to note it was the administration of President Obama, not Trump, that indicted him and at least seven others under the Espionage Act for leaking information to journalists. Thats more such indictments than all other presidents in history combined have issued. But Snowden and Timm worry that Trump, with his deep-seated disdain for the media and the full powers of the US Justice Department at his fingertips, will be only too happy to carry forward and expand that precedent. (As for recent rumors that Putin may send Snowden back to the US as a gift to Trump, the former NSA contractor remains sanguine: If personal safety was the only thing I was worried about, I would never have left Hawaii.) All of that makes the medias technical protections from spying more important than ever. We cant fix the surveillance problem overnight, Snowden says. But maybe we can build a shield that will protect anyone whos standing behind it. If the group succeeds, perhaps the next Snowden will be able to take refuge not in Moscow but in the encrypted corners of the internet. Andy Greenberg (@a_greenberg) wrote about Google subsidiary Jigsaw in issue 24.10. This article appears in the March issue. Subscribe now. UPDATED 02/14/17, 12:45PM, TO INCLUDE SNOWDENS RESPONSE TO REPORTS THAT RUSSIA MAY EXTRADITE HIM TO THE U.S. 1 Correction appended, 2/14/17, 2:45 pm EST: This story has been corrected to clarify Frederic Jacobs involvement in Sunder.

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden may head to US, jail – Boston Herald

Moscow is reportedly toying with the idea of handing NSA leaker Edward Snowden over to President Trump as a housewarming gift after the whistleblower and alleged spy spent four years hiding in Russia. The Kremlins ploy emerged from intelligence reports that outlined Russian talks about ways to curry favor with the Trump administration, according to an NBC News report citing two unnamed U.S. officials. Snowden, the 33-year-old who extracted files from the National Security Agency outlining secret surveillance programs that gathered information from U.S. citizens as well as foreigners and fled to Hong Kong then Russia after his revelations were made public, would face espionage charges upon his return. Trump has called Snowden a terrible traitor and a spy who should be executed. Boston University professor and longtime CIA officer Joseph Wippl said gift-wrapping Snowden and forcing him on a plane to U.S. wouldnt make a whole lot of sense. Its up in the air whether Snowden was an agent of Russias before he got to Russia. Certainly, hes become one there, Wippl said. His use may indeed be over, and also he may not want to stay in Russia forever. I would be surprised if they forcibly sent him back. Its just something that wouldnt make a whole lot of sense. As a bit of a present, I dont know how much good that does to the administration. The Russian government in January extended Snowdens asylum for another two years. Snowdens lawyer from the ACLU, Ben Wizner, told NBC he and his client have received no such signals and has no new reason for concern. On Twitter, Snowden hailed the rumor as irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear theyre next, his tweet read. Russia views the report as a stale story being used by Trumps opponents to knock the new president off balance. It is evident that the pressure on the new administration on the part of political opponents within the United States continues, in the midst of bargaining, said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. In December, Snowden acknowledged he could be sent back to the U.S. A lot of people have asked me: Is there going to be some kind of deal where Trump says, Hey look, give this guy to me as some kind of present? Will I be sent back to the U.S., where Ill be facing a show trial? Snowden said. Is this going to happen? I dont know. Could it happen? Sure. Am I worried about it? Not really, because heres the thing: I am very comfortable with the decisions that Ive made. I know I did the right thing.

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Wippl in the Boston Herald on Edward Snowden – BU Today

February 13, 2017 Joseph Wippl, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, was recently interviewed on the possibility of whistleblower Edward Snowden being returned to the United States by Russian authorities. Wippl was quoted in a February 12, 2017 article in theBoston Heraldentitled Edward Snowden May Head to U.S., Jail. From the text of the article: Boston University professor and longtime CIA officer Joseph Wippl said gift-wrapping Snowden and forcing him on a plane to U.S. wouldnt make a whole lot of sense. Its up in the air whether Snowden was an agent of Russias before he got to Russia. Certainly, hes become one there, Wippl said. His use may indeed be over, and also he may not want to stay in Russia forever. I would be surprised if they forcibly sent him back. Its just something that wouldnt make a whole lot of sense. As a bit of a present, I dont know how much good that does to the administration. You can read the entire article here. Wippl is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer. He spent a 30 year career as an operations officer in the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Wippl has served overseas as an operations officer and operations manager in Bonn, West Germany; Guatemala City; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; Mexico City; Vienna, Austria; and Berlin, Germany. Learn more about him here. Posted 1 day ago on Monday, February 13th, 2017 Permalink

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden Unafraid of Donald Trump Vladimir … – time.com

Edward Snowden speaks via video link during a news conference in New York City on Sept. 14, 2016. Brendan McDermidReuters Edward Snowden has said he is not worried about the prospect of Vladimir Putin striking a deal with Donald Trump that could lead to his extradition and trial in the United States. Speaking on a webchat hosted by the Dutch private search engine StartPage on Nov. 10, the whistleblower and former NSA contractor said it would be “crazy” to dismiss the idea of the Russian President and Trump making a deal over his future, but he “[doesn’t] worry about it.” Snowden has been stranded in Moscow since he revealed classified information about the National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance three years ago. He was charged in the U.S. with violations of the Espionage Act, but various campaigns and civil liberty organizations have been putting pressure on President Obama to pardon him . While I cant predict what the future looks like, I dont know whats going to happen tomorrow, I can be comfortable with the way Ive lived today,” he said. “And no matter what happens, if there’s a drone strike or I slip and fall down the stairs, that’s something that won’t change. As long as we do our best to live in accordance with our values, we don’t have to worry about what happens tomorrow.” Trump, who has vowed to repair U.S. relations with Russia, has previously threatened Snowden with execution. “I think hes a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country? You know what we used to do to traitors, right?,” he said, during an appearance on Fox and Friends in 2013.

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February 10, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Will Edward Snowden Go To Jail? US Indicts A Former NSA Contractor For Violating Espionage Act – International Business Times

As Edward Snowden awaited possible extradition on the other side of the world, another National Security Agency contractor accused of stealing and leaking a large trove of classified information faced federal charges this week amounting to a potential 200 years in prison over his violation of the Espionage Act. A federal grand jury in Baltimore found Wednesday that, over the course of up to 20 years, Harold Hal Martin, 52, flagrantly abused the trust placed in him by the government while working as a government contractor, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a Thursday Justice Department press release. Martin, who allegedly revealed many of the NSAs powerful hacking and overseas spying tools, faces 20 counts of willful retention of national defense information, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. He will first appear in court at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Martin at one point workedfor the tech-consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the same contracting company that once employed Snowden. Meanwhile, the Russian lawyer for Snowden told the Kremlin-owned news agency Sputnik Tuesday that Russia, where the more famous NSA whistleblower and former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor is evading arrest by the American government, had not received any extradition requests from the U.S. This claim should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as the lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, also told the state news agency that the U.S. had not issued charges against Snowden. A 2013 Justice Department press release confirms that he faces charges of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, unauthorized disclosure of classified communication intelligence and theft of government property. Unlike U.S. Army leaker Chelsea Manning, Snowden was not among the 1,715 people granted commutations by former President Barack Obama on his way out of office, nor was he among the 212 people pardoned, as Snowden hadnt presented himself in court before the end of Obamas tenure. President Donald Trump is not expected to take a softer stance. His appointee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, once called for Snowdens execution. In a 2013 interview with Fox & Friends, Trump has called Snowden a terrible guy and hinted at Snowdens execution himself. Correction:A previous version of this article mischaracterized where Harold Martin worked during the time of his NSA leak. Martin was employed withseven different contractors during the period of his illegal activity.

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February 9, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Was Edward Snowden a Russian agent? – The Australian Financial Review

by Charlie Savage One evening in the American autumn of 2015, the writer Edward Jay Epstein arranged to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side with the director Oliver Stone. At the time, Stone was completing Snowden, an admiring biopic about the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who disclosed a vast trove of classified documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs to journalists in June 2013 and had since been living as a fugitive in Russia. Epstein was working on a book about the same topic, which has now been published under the title How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft.As the writer recounts in that book, their conversation took a testy turn: “Toward the end of our dinner, Stone told me that he did not know I was writing a book about Snowden until a few weeks earlier. He learned of my book from Snowden himself. He said Snowden had expressed concern to him about the direction of the book I was writing. ‘What is it about?’ Stone asked me. “I was taken aback. I had no idea that Snowden was aware of my book. (I had not tried to contact him.) I told Stone that I considered Snowden an extraordinary man who had changed history and was intentionally vague in my description of my book’s contents. Stone seemed to be reassured ” Epstein and Stone had a history of rivalry when it came to interpreting another important historical event: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Early in his career, Epstein wrote three books about that topic. The first, Inquest(1966), poked holes in the rigour of the Warren Commission’s official investigation. The second, Counterplot(1969), brought a sceptical eye to the investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who pursued the theory that the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the president’s murder. And the third, Legend(1978), pointed readers to the conclusion that Oswald’s image as a mixed-up loner with half-baked Marxist ideas was an operational cover story a “legend” and that he had been a Soviet intelligence agent. (After the Soviet Union collapsed, the opening of the KGB’s archives did not corroborate the theory that Oswald had actually been a trained intelligence agent.) Stone waded into those same murky waters with his 1991 movie JFK,which used a fictionalised version of Garrison’s investigation as a means to explore the theory that a right-wing conspiracy, spanning the CIA and the military-industrial complex, had been responsible for Kennedy’s death. The following year, Stone and Epstein were invited to be part of a panel discussion at New York’s Town Hall about the Kennedy assassination and the film’s controversial blending of fact and fiction. In preparation, according to a diary entry on Epstein’s website, he brought an index card on which he wrote: “Although they may aim at the same purpose of finding truth, non-fiction and fiction are two distinct forms of knowledge. The writer of non-fiction is limited by the universe of discoverable fact. He cannot make up what he does not know no matter how strong his intuition or suspicion. The writer of fiction knows no such boundary: he can fill in whatever gaps exist with his imagination.” Now, years later, the two men once again found themselves eying each other as they circled the Snowden saga. The conventional understanding of Snowden is that he was what he appeared to be: a computer worker in the intelligence world who became alarmed about the hidden growth of the American surveillance state and decided to reveal its operations to the world, copied archives of documents, and handed them to journalists whom he had summoned to Hong Kong and whom he entrusted to decide what to publish. Within the mainstream spectrum of interpretations of his actions, at one end are civil libertarians who consider him simply to be a heroic whistle-blower. At the other extreme are members of the national security establishment who consider him nothing more than a destructive traitor. In between are a range of those who think some of his disclosures met the high standard for “whistle-blowing”; that other disclosures brought to light important things that should not have been kept secret in a democracy but that were also not necessarily, in and of themselves, abuses or overreaches; and that still other disclosures went too far and were not a public service. Stone’s movie, which premiered in September, presents a comic-book version of the pro-Snowden narrative in which a wunderkind super-hacker takes on Big Brother. In telling that story, Stone mixes accurate material with fiction, while simplifying away complexities. His movie steps on the genuine privacy issues raised by Snowden’s disclosures with melodramatic embellishments, such as a scene in which an invented senior NSA official, his Orwellian face filling a floor-to-ceiling screen, casually reveals that he knows whether the Snowden character’s girlfriend is sleeping with another man. It omits actual Snowden disclosures whose individual privacy rationale was debatable, such as when he showed the South China Morning Post documents about the NSA’s hacking into certain institutional computers in China. And its discussion of the volume of internet metadata the NSA collects from equipment inside the United States ignores any distinction between truly domestic emails and foreign-to-foreign messages that are merely travelling across domestic network switches. Epstein’s book, by contrast, presents a negative view of Snowden. But the two works are not equivalent: Epstein does not merely oversimplify with the purpose of downplaying the benefits of Snowden’s leaks and emphasising the harms. Rather he contends that the conventional narrative of what happened may have been a deceptive cover story. Epstein lays out the case that behind his image as a whistle-blower Snowden was instead an “espionage source” for Russia perhaps its dupe at first, or perhaps its willing spy all along: “The counterintelligence issue was not if this USintelligence defector in Moscow was under Russian control but when he came under it. There were three possible time periods when Snowden might have been brought under control by the Russian intelligence service: while he was still working for the NSA; after he arrived in Hong Kong on May 20, 2013; or after he arrived in Russia on June 23, 2013.” The reader should know that Laura Poitras, one of the journalists to whom Snowden leaked documents in Hong Kong, later shared some of them with me, and we developed several articles from them for The New York Times. In addition, as part of a book on national security, I wrote a history of how surveillance technology, law and policy secretly evolved in the decades following Congress’enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. It explained how the rise of fibre-optic networks in the late 1980s and the internet in the 1990s placed mounting pressure on legal constraints written for the analogue telephone era; how the Bush administration bypassed those rules after September 11 and then enlisted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Congress to legalise what it had created lawlessly; and how the Obama administration decided to keep and entrench what it inherited. I could not have written that history without the files disclosed by Snowden and information the government declassified because of his leaks. While there had been stray glimpses for years suggesting that the NSA was becoming far more powerful, facts were scarce and speculation and conspiracy theories had filled the void. Snowden’s disclosures enabled us to understand what was real about the NSA’s activities so we could engage in an informed public debate about the rules for 21st-century surveillance. This is why I regret Stone’s reintroduction of distortions into discussion of surveillance, and it may also colour my reaction to Epstein’s book. Snowden’s disclosures indeed prompted robust debate and policy changes. An appeals court ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic calling records was illegal, rejecting a dubious legal theory that the intelligence court had been secretly relying on for years. Congress ended that bulk collection program and required the intelligence court to tell the public when it issued novel and significant interpretations of surveillance laws. President Obama imposed unprecedented privacy protections for information about non-Americans that the NSA collects abroad. Technology giants such asGoogle and many ordinary people began taking steps to more firmly secure their private information from hackers. Still, this enlightenment came at an undeniable, if difficult to measure, cost. Some terrorists, criminals and unsavoury regimes learned from Snowden, too, becoming harder to monitor and thereby making the world more dangerous. Assessing whether Snowden’s disclosures served the public interest whether they did more good than harm turns in part on who counts as “the public”. Snowden’s critics, including Epstein, tend to define the public in nationalist terms, focusing their criticism on his disclosures about NSA operations abroad, where few domestic legal rules apply and the agency can indiscriminately vacuum up private messages in bulk. Snowden’s supporters point out that domestic data are also found abroad in the internet era and they argue that consideration of the NSA’s work should take account of its effects on human rights: non-Americans have privacy rights, too. Another complication for judging Snowden’s actions is that we do not know how many and which documents he took. Investigators determined only that he “touched” about 1.5 million files essentially those that were indexed by a search program he used to trawl NSA servers. Many of those files are said to pertain to military and intelligence tools and activities that did not bear on the protection of individual privacy. Snowden’s sceptics assume that he stole every such file. His supporters assume that he did not. In any case they believe his statements that after giving certain NSA archives to the journalists in Hong Kong, he destroyed his hard drives and brought no files to Russia. Epstein sees Snowden’s supporters as naive. He draws on his connections with the late James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s paranoid hunter for KGB moles both real and imagined during the height of the Cold War; after his dismissal from the agency in 1974, Angleton became an important source for Epstein, including for his book on Oswald. Much of How America Lost Its Secretsconsists of Epstein building “alternative scenarios” like a counterintelligence investigator in Angleton’s mould trying to pierce presumed Russian deception. This, he concedes, “differs from that of a conventional forensic investigation aimed at finding pieces of evidence that can be used to persuade a jury in a courtroom The point is to assure that any alternative that fits the relevant facts, no matter how implausible it may initially seem to be, is not neglected.” And so Epstein asks: what if Snowden told secrets to Russian intelligence officials or brought files to Moscow, despite saying otherwise? What if he meant to end up in Russia all along, and it was just a cover story when he said he was trying to get to South America and was stranded in Moscow because the United States revoked his passport? What if Snowden sold out to China and/or Russia in Hong Kong? What if the Russian intelligence service recruited Snowden when he was still working for the NSA or even earlier? What if some other hypothetical Russian mole still inside the NSA helped him? What if he was working with the Russians unwittingly, manipulated by a handler pretending to be a “hactivist” interested in internet privacy? In this way, How America Lost Its Secretsplunges down rabbit holes, each leading to its own Wonderland. In building up his scenarios, Epstein deploys dozens of instances of variants of the words “presume”, “assume” and “might have”. He describes things he believes “could have been”, things he interprets as “possible”, things he supposes were “likely” and things he maintains were “suggested”. He piles inferences atop other inferences, as with “if so, it seems plausible to believe”; “if that is the case, then”; and “if so, it wasn’t much of a leap to assume”. He weaves cobwebs of conjecture that start with phrases like “it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to conclude” and “it is not difficult to imagine’. For Epstein’s book to have value for it to be worth reading, not just an object intelligence hard-liners might display on their shelves as a sign of their contempt for Snowden the facts he selects to anchor and discipline his scenario-building cannot be flimsy or cherry-picked to fit his pre-existing beliefs. This is important because he clearly decided early that everything pointed in the direction of the Snowden saga being a foreign espionage plot. In June 2013, as the world was still absorbing the first revelations, Epstein published a column in The Wall Street Journal asking, “Who, if anyone, aided and abetted this well-planned theft of US secrets?” And in May and June of 2014, he published two more columns laying out the case that “far from being a whistleblower, Snowden was a participant in an espionage operation and most likely steered from the beginning toward his massive theft, whether he knew this at first or not”. Given this predisposition, it is unfortunate that Epstein builds his imagined scenarios upon allegations that may not be real facts. For example, Epstein gives sinister significance to the “fact” that Snowden arrived in Hong Kong 11 days before he checked into the hotel where he met the journalists, leaving his activities during that period a mystery. Snowden has insisted that he was in that hotel the whole time, waiting for the journalists to arrive. In one of his columns written in 2014, Epstein first claimed that there was an 11-day mystery gap, citing his conversation with an unnamed hotel security guard. I am aware of no independent verification of this allegation. So as things stand, this “fact” appears to be vaporous. Epstein also makes important factual omissions, in places even overlooking crucial information that he had mentioned elsewhere. For example, laying out the case that Snowden may have decided to concoct a whistle-blower cover story at some point after he had already started copying documents for some other purpose, Epstein stresses that Snowden’s most famous leaked document a classified intelligence court order requiring Verizon to turn over all its customers’ phone records, which “gave him credentials as a whistle-blower” was issued in April 2013, yet Snowden had been copying files since 2012. But other documents described the program for collecting bulk domestic phone records, including a classified inspector general report Snowden also leaked; 87 pages earlier, Epstein had noted that Snowden read that report in 2012. It would be eye-glazing to compile a comprehensive list of Epstein’s doubtful “facts”, but one more is worth scrutinising because Epstein hangs such heavy weight on it: the allegation that Snowden brought files with him to Russia, despite his denials. A Hong Kong lawyer who represented Snowden has publicly said he witnessed Snowden destroy his hard drives before leaving that city; Epstein interviewed the Hong Kong lawyer, but does not mention this corroboration. Instead, he focuses on a brief exchange during a September 2013 interview of Snowden’s Russian lawyer: the interviewer asked, “So he does have some materials that haven’t been made public yet?” and the Russian lawyer replied, “Certainly”. For his book research, Epstein says he asked the Russian lawyer about that interview, which was conducted in Russian but translated into English before being broadcast and published, and whether the exchange was accurate. The lawyer affirmed that it was. Based on this, Epstein repeatedly states that the Russian lawyer disclosed that Snowden brought documents to Moscow; once he even embellishes it, writing that in this exchange the Moscow lawyer had disclosed that Snowden still had access in Russia to additional files that he had not given to the journalists in Hong Kong. Yet the interview transcript shows that this exchange was ambiguous. The context, which Epstein omits, was a discussion of how the ongoing publication of new articles citing Snowden’s leaks did not mean that he was still making new leaks from Russia; rather the journalists were still just working through files he had given them in Hong Kong. So maybe this was a garbled conversational moment, and the Russian lawyer was saying that the journalists had still more unpublished materials to work with. Or maybe, in that 2013 interview, he was just playing along to gin up intrigue. For that matter, when the lawyer later told Epstein that it was accurate, was he merely affirming the English translation of his 2013 words, or did he understand himself to be confirming the interpretive gloss Epstein placed on them? It seems to me that a journalist who wanted to know the truth, even at the risk of undermining his book project, would have followed up by asking the lawyer to clarify explicitly whether he was saying that Snowden had brought files with him to Russia and, if so, how the lawyer knew that he had done so and how he accounted for his client saying otherwise. By Epstein’s account, after obtaining this murky confirmation, he instead changed the subject. That left him free to construe this exchange as having generated a “fact” consistent with his thesis. There is a related problem. Epstein gets many facts about surveillance issues wrong, calling into question his competence to serve as a guide to thinking seriously about the Snowden saga. He gets dates wrong, calls an important technology by the wrong name, and inaccurately describes various programs and a presidential directive Snowden leaked. His botched discussion of the Prism system, which Snowden disclosed, is a troubling example. The government uses Prism to collect from American webmail providers such asGmail, without a warrant, the emails of non-citizens abroad whose accounts have been targeted by intelligence officials for surveillance. When Americans communicate with those targets, the government also “incidentally” gathers those Americans’ emails to and from the target without a warrant. Epstein reassures his readers three times that every few months, the NSA sifts through all the emails it has gathered via Prism in order to filter out and purge “whatever information was accidentally picked up about Americans”. That is a fake fact. In reality, the NSA does not filter out Americans’ messages gathered via Prism. Indeed, it shares raw messages gathered via the Prism system with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigationand the National Counterterrorism Centre. Once-secret rules permit officials at all those agencies to search that trove for intelligence purposes using the names of Americans and to read any private emails they find. FBI agents may also do so when investigating ordinary criminal suspects. When Congress in 2017 extends the law that authorises Prism, reformers are hoping to close this so-called “backdoor search loophole” by requiring warrants to search for Americans’ emails within the Prism trove. Because this policy debate is attributable to Snowden’s leaks, Epstein’s misinformation about Prism is no small detail. Epstein argues that views differ about Snowden because the public and the media lack good information, accepting what Snowden says at face value and omitting whatever does not fit that narrative because of their “confirmation bias”. By contrast, he writes, those who hold darker views about Snowden include lawmakers and officials who “base it on classified reports” and “have been at least partially briefed” about the NSA’s investigation. Here he cites several of the latter group who said Snowden’s leaks were damaging and unjustified, including two who said in 2014 that they thought he must be a spy, although Epstein only names one of those two. But Epstein omits what Chris Inglis, who was deputy director of the NSA from 2006 to 2014 and oversaw that investigation, said last March when asked whether Snowden had acted as a spy or from his own convictions: “Here is what I surmise based upon a careful observation of the facts available to me. It does seem clear that his intention was to go to Latin or South America after he revealed all of this material in Hong Kong. He worked very hard and his lawyers worked very hard on his behalf to actually achieve that in the days and weeks afterwards I don’t think that he was in the employ of the Chinese or the Russians. I don’t see any evidence that would indicate that. And even if they are careful in terms of practising denial and deception, I think there would be certain tell-tales ” Epstein also says little about Snowden’s comments criticising Russia’s internet policies and human rights record. But those comments have heightened chatter about what will happen to him under the Trump administration: might Vladimir Putin extradite him to the United States as a gift or a bargaining chip? In a recent interview, Snowden said he found such talk perversely encouraging, since nations do not trade away their spies. The premise of this chatter dovetails with an odd twist at the conclusion of Epstein’s book. Without much warning, he writes that he sees “no reason to doubt [Snowden’s] explanation that he stole NSA documents to expose its surveillance because he believed that it was an illicit intrusion into the privacy of individuals”.Epstein continues to criticise Snowden for taking documents that did not concern “domestic” spying, and he still maintains, vaguely, that by the end Snowden’s “mission evolved, deliberately or not, into one that led him to disclose key communications intelligence secrets to a foreign power”. But he states that he “fully” accepts that Snowden “began as a whistle-blower, not as a spy,” and was still acting as a whistle-blower when he reached out to the journalists. By pulling back at the end of his book, Epstein tries to have it both ways: weaving conspiracy theories while maintaining plausible deniability and some veneer of evidence-based journalism. But his indulgence in speculation, his treatment of questionable claims as established facts, and his misunderstanding of surveillance combine to undermine his book’s credibility. How America Lost Its Secretsfails to live up to Epstein’s own principle, jotted down on that card for his debate with Oliver Stone about “JFK” so many years ago: when a non-fiction writer reaches the limits of discoverable fact, he is supposed to stop not fill in whatever gaps exist with his imagination, no matter how strong his intuition or suspicion. The New York Review of Books How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft, by Edward Jay Epstein, published by Knopf. Snowden, a film directed by Oliver Stone. Charlie Savage is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times. His latest book is Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post9/11 Presidency. 2017 The New York Review of Books, distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

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February 8, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed


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