David House poses with his laptop computer at his Somerville, Mass. home on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. Newly disclosed U.S. government files provide an inside look at the Homeland Security Department’s practice of seizing and searching electronic devices at the border without showing reasonable suspicion of a crime or getting a judge’s approval. The documents describe the case of House, who had befriended Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the soldier convicted of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks. Photo: Elise Amendola
BY ANNE FLAHERTY – WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly disclosed U.S. government files provide an inside look at the Homeland Security Department’s practice of seizing and searching electronic devices at the border without showing reasonable suspicion of a crime or getting a judge’s approval. Read the rest of this entry »
In October, DreamWorks plans to release “The Fifth Estate,” an international thriller about WikiLeaks. The director is Bill Condon, who made two of the “Twilight” vampire movies; Benedict Cumberbatch plays Julian Assange. Sure to follow are studio imaginings of the Edward Snowden affair, which looked script-ready the minute the N.S.A. contractor surfaced in Hong Kong with a hard drive full of secrets and a baby face lined with stubble.
Assange and Snowden style themselves as philosopher-rebels in the age of Big Data, and, over all, their disclosures of state secrets have served the public interest. But the glamorization of their radicalism is a distraction. In American courthouses this summer, a vitally important, yet much more subdued, struggle over the First Amendment’s scope is taking place between the Obama Administration and the press. At issue is whether the Administration will fulfill a recent pledge to end its heavy-handed pursuit of professional journalists’ sources.
Anchors on Russia Today, the international news network funded by the Russian government, found themselves in an uncomfortable situation when reporter James Kirchick challenged them and their network over the country’s anti-gay laws. Kirchick, who is gay, was on the panel to discuss the sentencing of WikiLeaks conspirator Bradley Manning.
“Being here on a Kremlin-funded propaganda network, I’m going to wear my gay-pride suspenders and speak out against the horrific, anti-gay legislation that Vladimir Putin has signed into law,” Kirchick said as he pulled up rainbow-colored braces. He told the network’s reporters they should be “ashamed” of themselves for not covering the “horrific abuse” against the LGBT community in Russia.
The two clearly uncomfortable anchors tried to redirect the conversation back to Manning, but Kirchick, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute and a former reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, refused to budge. “You have 24 hours a day to lie about the United States and to ignore what’s happening in Russia. . . . I’m going to take my two minutes and tell people the truth,” Kirchick asserted.
Before his appearance, Kirchick subtly forecasted his plans to discuss gay rights when he tweeted, “Need a rainbow flag in Stockholm, fast. Can anyone help?” After his appearance, he tweeted that RT had told the taxi that was supposed to drive him from the studio to the Stockholm airport to “drop me off on the side of the highway.”
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted into a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., before a sentencing hearing in his court martial. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP
After more than three years already spent in confinement while awaiting trial, former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison today for what has been described as the largest ever leak of classified government documents.
Manning, who is 25 years old, had been facing 90 years, and prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence him to a minimum of 60 years in prison, arguing that the leaks endangered lives and interfered with the government’s diplomatic efforts.
“There may not be a soldier in the history of the Army who displayed such an extreme disregard” for his mission, the prosecutor, Capt. Joe Morrow, said in court on Monday, according to CNN. Manning “felt he alone was knowledgeable and intelligent enough to determine what information was to be classified.”
Forget skinny ties and retro hats: The surest way to attain super-cool status (and fame) today is to betray your country.
The impossibly self-important NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, who “exposed” two vital intelligence programs, isn’t a leftie Paul Revere. He’s Kim Kardashian with stubble.
He revealed very highly classified programs, alerting our enemies about our most sophisticated intelligence-collectioncapabilities (programs designed to keep us safe, not spy on us).He broke his oath to protect the information with which we entrusted him, lied about who we target and aided those who want to kill Americans.And he hintshe could do more damage.
To this old-fashioned American, that’s plain treason.
It’s always been a hipster thing to trash government, but the left’s generations-long effort to destroy the positive image of patriotism has made betraying our country a fashion statement. Snowden is a copycat who “admires” Pfc. Bradley Manning, another now-famous young man who knew better than those who serve dutifully for decades. He’s also enamored of Julian Assange, the left’s favorite accused rapist.
There’s nothing brave about his brag that he was the source of the NSA leaks (especially since he fled the country first). This is clearly about the desire to be a star.
To get a sense of Snowden’s phenomenal vanity, check out the 12-minute film (all over the Internet) in which he justifies his deed. The high-school dropout may have a flair for tech, but he knows nothing about our history, trade relations, international affairs or even the conditions in Hong Kong (where he says he now fears assassination by CIA-backed Triad gangsters).
Claiming that he only wants to make government accountable, Snowden then brags that he could expose CIA stations around the world. He wants “asylum from any countries that believe in free speech.” So he went to China? Hope you enjoy your stay, Mr. Snowden.
The 29-year-old revealed large-scale surveillance of Internet user data by the National Security Agency, in a program known as PRISM, during an interview with the Guardiannewspaper — and has been holed-up in a comfortable hotel in the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong for the past three weeks. The city undoubtedly has the “strong tradition of free speech” that Snowden asserts, but with its autonomy being gradually eroded, Hong Kong is hardly the most obvious beacon of freedom. Even if it were, there must be major doubt that Beijing would approve of the Hong Kong authorities offering Snowden a safe haven. It may frequently spar with Washington on a range of issues, but China has little to gain in blocking attempts to extradite a man swiftly soaring to the top of its rival superpower’s “most wanted” list.
Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, landed in Hong Kong on May 20. He subsequently revealed reams of classified information on the controversial and classified PRISM program, garnered from a government office in Hawaii. The revelations came just as new Chinese President Xi Jinping met Barack Obama for the first time over the weekend. The treatment of former intelligence officer Bradley Manning, kept in solitary confinement for much of his three years’ detention before finally coming to trial last week, as well as the ongoing pursuit of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, indicate that the White House is unlikely to go easy on attempts to bring Snowden back to U.S. soil.
Republicans have already called for his speedy repatriation to answer various charges, which could include treason and (à la Manning) aiding the enemy. Hong Kong and the U.S. maintain a bilateral extradition treaty signed in 1997. There are special exceptions for political crimes, but human-rights activists point to past extraditions from the territory apparently driven by pressure from Washington, most notoriously that of Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, who in 2004 was placed upon a secret rendition flight from Hong Kong to Tripoli, allegedly planned and executed by the U.K., U.S. and Libyan governments. (He is currently taking legal action after being tortured by the Gaddafi regime.) Some commentaries, like one written by James Fallows in the Atlantic, paint Hong Kong as a political cipher, acting at the beck and call of Beijing’s communist administration as well as obliging Western powers.
However, local experts emphasize Hong Kong’s legal independence. Professor Simon Young, director of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law, says he “doesn’t see any chance” that Beijing could assume jurisdiction of any proceedings relevant to the Snowden case. “Although Hong Kong is not bound by the Refugee Convention, a recent decision from our Court of Final Appeal held that the Hong Kong government must independently assess whether an individual’s refugee claim is well founded,” he tells TIME. In other words, all persons landing in Hong Kong with a bona fide claim to refugee status will not be returned to a place where they may be persecuted.
Bradley Manning proved that massive amounts of the government’s most secret data was vulnerable to being dumped on the open Internet. A single individual achieved that unprecedented leak. According to the Washington Post, “An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.” And this week, we learned that the FBI, CIA and NSA were unable to protect some of their most closely held secrets from Glenn Greenwald,Richard Engel, Robert Windrem, Barton Gellman, and Laura Poitras. Those journalists, talented as they are, possess somewhat fewer resources than foreign governments! So I naturally started to think about all the data the NSA is storing.
In the wrong hands, it could enable blackmail on a massive scale, widespread manipulation of U.S. politics, industrial espionage against American businesses;,and other mischief I can’t even imagine.
The plan is apparently to store the data indefinitely, just in case the government needs it for future investigations. Don’t worry, national security officials tell us, we won’t ever look at most of it.
Do you trust the government to keep it secure, forever, if others try to look?
2) Russia manages to get the NSA data. (It isn’t like they never succeeded in placing spies in our government before.)
3) Pakistan manages to get the NSA data. (They pulled off stealing the West’s nuclear secrets.)
4) Iran manages to get the NSA data.
5) Saudi Arabia manages to get the NSA data.
Of course, it could be a non-state actor that gets ahold of the data too. Perhaps a successor to Al Qaeda.
What if one of these entities breached the database’s security without our even knowing?
Even assuming the U.S. government never abuses this data — and there is no reason to assume that! — why isn’t the burgeoning trove more dangerous to keep than it is to foreswear? Can anyone persuasively argue that it’s virtually impossible for a foreign power to ever gain access to it? Can anyone persuasively argue that if they did gain access to years of private phone records, email, private files, and other data on millions of Americans, it wouldn’t be hugely damaging?
Think of all the things the ruling class never thought we’d find out about the War on Terrorism that we now know. Why isn’t the creation of this data trove just the latest shortsighted action by national security officials who constantly overestimate how much of what they do can be kept secret? Suggested rule of thumb: Don’t create a dataset of choice that you can’t bear to have breached.
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”
He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”
Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’
Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.
He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.
As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”
On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.
He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.
Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.
Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.
And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.
“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.
“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.
“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”