Snowden and Espionage and Treason, Oh, my!

snowden wired

The oh-so-cute WIRED illustration

Edward Snowden is so happy with his new Russian asylum that he’s decided to sell out his country.

James Bamford / Wired
THE MESSAGE ARRIVES on my “clean machine,” a MacBook Air loaded only with a sophisticated encryption package. “Change in plans,” my contact says. “Be in the lobby of the Hotel ______ by 1 pm. Bring a book and wait for ES to find you.”

ES is Edward Snowden, the most wanted man in the world. For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting. Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs?

Ah, the craptacular “setting the mood” opening of the obligatory “important” story, usually indicating that the author has several thousand words to burn and an interview to do.

But our little reporter has an agenda of his own:

WIRED cover Snowden

Treason literally wraps itself in the flag

I confess to feeling some kinship with Snowden. Like him, I was assigned to a National Security Agency unit in Hawaii—in my case, as part of three years of active duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Then, as a reservist in law school, I blew the whistle on the NSA when I stumbled across a program that involved illegally eavesdropping on US citizens. I testified about the program in a closed hearing before the Church Committee, the congressional investigation that led to sweeping reforms of US intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Finally, after graduation, I decided to write the first book about the NSA. At several points I was threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act, the same 1917 law under which Snowden is charged (in my case those threats had no basis and were never carried out).

Isn’t THAT special?  We’re BOUND to get a credible, balanced story from fellow traveller Bamford, right?

What the hell has happened to this country when a treasonous vermin who has happily accepted asylum in Russia spews security secrets to a “reporter” with equally questionable motives and then they wrap this bullshit in an American flag? It wasn’t too many years ago that many media outlets were mindlessly pounding in the absurd notion that “criticizing a president in time of war was TREASON” and the feeble-minded BOUGHT it?


My credentials on this issue predate Mr. Snowden by a long shot (as shown yesterday) and while I am willing to listen to his evidence of unconscionable attacks on the privacy of American citizens within the country — as illegal domestic surveillance has become an issue — where are all those “patriots” who were worried about the security of the USA in the wake of 9-11?

DEC 28 2003 Land of the free no more!

 from yesterday: My bona fides on the Snoopocracy (click to enlarge)

Because, again, Snowden is more concerned with embarrassing the USA in the eyes of the world, and debilitating or destroying our cyber-security if, say, Vladimir Putin wanted to launch a cyber-attack and cyber-war against the USA.

Edward Snowden, no matter how “pure” his libertardian notions of his sovereign citizenship in the Country of “Me” has neatly segued from whistle-blower to traitor and quisling.


Given the NSA’s new data storage mausoleum in Bluffdale, its potential to start an accidental war, and the charge to conduct surveillance on all incoming communications, Snowden believed he had no choice but to take his thumb drives and tell the world what he knew. The only question was when.

Mr. ‘Patriot.’ Listen some more:

Snowden was even more disturbed to discover a new, Strangelovian cyberwarfare program in the works, codenamed MonsterMind. The program, disclosed here for the first time, would automate the process of hunting for the beginnings of a foreign cyberattack. Software would constantly be on the lookout for traffic patterns indicating known or suspected attacks. When it detected an attack, MonsterMind would automatically block it from entering the country—a “kill” in cyber terminology.

Programs like this had existed for decades, but MonsterMind software would add a unique new capability: Instead of simply detecting and killing the malware at the point of entry, MonsterMind would automatically fire back, with no human involvement. That’s a problem, Snowden says, because the initial attacks are often routed through computers in innocent third countries. “These attacks can be spoofed,” he says. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”

Ah, he’s protecting us from Colossus: The Forbin Project. Listen some more:

MUCH OF SNOWDEN’S focus while working for Booz Allen was analyzing potential cyberattacks from China. His targets included institutions normally considered outside the military’s purview. He thought the work was overstepping the intelligence agency’s mandate. “It’s no secret that we hack China very aggressively,” he says. “But we’ve crossed lines. We’re hacking universities and hospitals and wholly civilian infrastructure rather than actual government targets and military targets. And that’s a real concern.”

Evidently, the FISA Court and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees lack sufficient morality for Edward Snowden. Therefore, HE gets to decide what the nation’s security interests and measures are. And if they do not pass his Stringent Morality Tests, then he will personally expose and destroy them.

This does not sound like ANY description of citizenship that I have ever been aware of.


But Snowden’s access while in Hawaii went well beyond even this. “I was the top technologist for the information-sharing office in Hawaii,” he says. “I had access to everything.”

Well, almost everything. There was one key area that remained out of his reach: the NSA’s aggressive cyberwarfare activity around the world. To get access to that last cache of secrets, Snowden landed a job as an infrastructure analyst with another giant NSA contractor, Booz Allen. The role gave him rare dual-hat authority covering both domestic and foreign intercept capabilities—allowing him to trace domestic cyberattacks back to their country of origin. In his new job, Snowden became immersed in the highly secret world of planting malware into systems around the world and stealing gigabytes of foreign secrets. At the same time, he was also able to confirm, he says, that vast amounts of US communications “were being intercepted and stored without a warrant, without any requirement for criminal suspicion, probable cause, or individual designation.” He gathered that evidence and secreted it safely away.

Which means, according to Snowden, that he had decided to intentionally spy on and ultimately embarrass and, hopefully, CRIPPLE all US foreign surveillance and cyber-war activity because he personally didn’t like what was going on.

This is not just a whistle-blower. This is an attempt at active treason. Mr. Snowden is no longer concerned with exposing the intelligence depredations (that I protested under Bush to crickets from YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Amerika) but is, instead, an active agent hell-bent on destroying US capacities by “exposing” them to the world — even though many IN that world would happily use the same techniques against US.

The USA is the enemy to Snowden. Not just the elements of the spookocracy that were encouraged to go hog wild crazy under Bush, Cheney and the silence of the USA Lambs, but ALL of it, including countermeasures that would protect you and me.

Snowden is a lunatic with a god complex, judging us all from on high:

Snowden believed he had no choice but to take his thumb drives and tell the world what he knew. The only question was when.

On March 13, 2013, sitting at his desk in the “tunnel” surrounded by computer screens, Snowden read a news story that convinced him that the time had come to act. It was an account of director of national intelligence James Clapper telling a Senate committee that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect information on millions of Americans. “I think I was reading it in the paper the next day, talking to coworkers, saying, can you believe this shit?”

Snowden and his colleagues had discussed the routine deception around the breadth of the NSA’s spying many times, so it wasn’t surprising to him when they had little reaction to Clapper’s testimony. “It was more of just acceptance,” he says, calling it “the banality of evil”—a reference to Hannah Arendt’s study of bureaucrats in Nazi Germany.

“It’s like the boiling frog,” Snowden tells me. “You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it. But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time, and by the time you’ve been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you’ve seen it all and it doesn’t shock you. And so you see it as normal. And that’s the problem, that’s what the Clapper event was all about. He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary. And he was right that he wouldn’t be punished for it, because he was revealed as having lied under oath and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist for it. It says a lot about the system and a lot about our leaders.” Snowden decided it was time to hop out of the water before he too was boiled alive.

At the same time, he knew there would be dire consequences. “It’s really hard to take that step—not only do I believe in something, I believe in it enough that I’m willing to set my own life on fire and burn it to the ground.”

But he felt that he had no choice. Two months later he boarded a flight to Hong Kong with a pocket full of thumb drives.

You get that? Snowden decided that, since Clapper didn’t receive the “justice” that Snowden believed he should receive, THEREFORE, whatever Snowden the “patriot” did, it was for the greater good, no matter what it did to the greater good.

Snowden’s conscience was the only arbiter of right and wrong, and ANY action he took was justified — his intended and stated action being to cause as much damage to US intelligence at home (his supposed concern) AND abroad (treason)  as he possibly could.

Had this SAME analysis and moral smugness been applied to the financial meltdown of 2008, Snowden would NOW be explaining WHY he robbed all those banks, and how “justified” it all was, and how he was going to KEEP ON ROBBING BANKS until the situation had been cleaned up to his liking.

There are those among you who believe that Snowden is a hero.

You are cordially invited to go to hell. What may have begun as a heroic impulse has devolved into a long, twilight struggle by Snowden to degrade and destroy his supposed nation’s defense capabilities, since he cannot seemingly differentiate between questionable practices, illegal acts and ALL surveillance activities.

If someone gets killed as a result of his actions, he doesn’t care: only his “conscience” is the sole arbiter of natural, human and international law, and Snowden actually knows nothing at all about law.

This is the perversion called “libertarianism” in which the individual considers himself SO much a Rock, and Island, that the internal private world of individual experience and conscience is projected on all peoples in all lands at all times, and the individual is free to express whatever power he has unchecked by any other moral considerations whatsoever.

He exercises “veto” power in the manner that a terrorist holding hostages does. And he promises to kill again unless everyone does what he wants:

One death is a tragedy, and a million is a statistic,” he says, mordantly quoting Stalin. “Just as the violation of Angela Merkel’s rights is a massive scandal and the violation of 80 million Germans is a nonstory.”

Nor is he optimistic that the next election will bring any meaningful reform. In the end, Snowden thinks we should put our faith in technology—not politicians. “We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes.” The answer, he says, is robust encryption. “By basically adopting changes like making encryption a universal standard—where all communications are encrypted by default—we can end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world.”

Until then, Snowden says, the revelations will keep coming. “We haven’t seen the end,” he says. Indeed, a couple of weeks after our meeting, The Washington Post reported that the NSA’s surveillance program had captured much more data on innocent Americans than on its intended foreign targets. There are still hundreds of thousands of pages of secret documents out there—to say nothing of the other whistle-blowers he may have already inspired. But Snowden says that information contained in any future leaks is almost beside the point. “The question for us is not what new story will come out next. The question is, what are we going to do about it?”

This is no kind of patriotism with which I am familiar.

But, thinking of Robespierre, it IS a Reign of Terror of which I am knowledgeable.

The kind that uses high-falutin’ moralizing to rationalize monstrous acts — the very sort of thing that Snowden claims he is fighting against.

We become what we hate.


 Mr. Williams has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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