Edward Snowden interviewed by Lawrence Lessig


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a “public interest” defense would probably be snowden’s only hope if he came back to the u.s. of course, that would only work if he were tried before a civil court. it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t try to take him as an unlawful combatabt or a terrorist given the way some powerful individuals talk.


I certainly hope that whoever the next president is grants Snowden a pardon. Hell, this guy deserves a medal, not prosecution.

Both dems and GOP have condemned this guy for aiding the enemy. This is only true if you consider the American public to be the enemy.


for the most part the republicans are trying to keep a lock on the “national security” brand and the democrats are afraid of looking like they’re weak on the war on terror. in a world where ronald reagan would probably be too liberal to get the republican nomination for president this is no real surprise.


And yet some of the harshest words against Snowden have come from Obama and his administration… Hmmm. And this was after Obama claimed to want to protect whistleblowers when he was campaigning…

Just as a note, if you go to the Wikipedia page on Snowden reactions, the people that claim to offer tenative support are Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, both republicans. One Democrat on the side of Snowden is John Lewis. Senator Bill Nelson (Democrat) and John Boehner (Republican) have called Snowden a traitor.

It is interesting to note that former president Carter gave conditional support for Snowden.

So, this is NOT a partisan issue. Dems and Repubs have both praised and condemned Snowden.

No matter which party you belong to, your opinion of Snowden tells a lot about how you feel about the public and the Constitution.


I was just thinking how much I’d like to caucus with republicans as concerned as I am, about this stuff

This version of partisanship loyalty that treats other Americans as the enemy, sets us all up to be robbed.

Sure, there are plenty of things I’d rather caucus with greens, libertarians, or democrats, but if there’s something we can agree on about mass surveilence, I’ll happily set those topics aside long enough to get some progress cooking.

It used to be we had a lot more veterans in congress who put the country first rather than the party or winning the next election. Those were the days when negotiating a deal between different viewpoints was seen as what made the country the greatest on earth instead of what Fox News declares is “destroying America.”

And as much as it had its flaws, the silver lining to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is that it produced a great number of combat veterans who put their country first, and some of them are even running for congress. We need more of them in government to restore sanity, I think.

Unless these combat veterans want to talk about mass surveilence, I’m unconvinced that it was worth two (going on three) wars to generate them. And even if these hypothetical patriots want to talk about this stuff, I think those wars are too high a price.

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Well, THIS veteran does, (I’m technically a combat veteran, as I served in a combat zone, but, I was a computer geek ferchristsakes, I refuse to claim that designation when there are plenty of other folks who were actually toting rifles on a daily basis). A lot of other vets I talk to who are politically active, if not running for office, have that as a pretty high issue as well. As far as Worth it? I don’t think that was @Quinquennial’s point, more of a silver lining to a dark cloud, rather than providing some kind of justification.

That said, there’s something to Jefferson’s quote regarding the tree of liberty, and, without some massive sacrifice to accompany the experience, or more generally to serve as a litmus test for those who claim to put service to the country first, you’ve got no way to sort out, even in a coarse, poorly accurate way, those who have such traits and those who simply claim to for personal benefit.

While much of his work had authoritarian overtones I don’t agree with, even back in high-school, when the idea that future me might serve in the military would have been laughable, Heinlein’s concept in Starship Troopers that only those that have done some kind of civil service term can even vote, let alone run for office, made a fair quantity of sense to me. At some point, a crucible to test the worth of claims to want to serve makes a whole lot of sense.

Absolutely fascinating, and I wish him the best of luck in both staying alive and free. Two things I found particularly interesting was his statement that “policy is a ratchet that weakens over time.” That thought had never really occurred to me, but I think it’s right on the money. In the simplest sense, we’re still using the verb “wiretapping” to denote capturing communications. Quite simply, the law hasn’t caught up with the speed of our technological infrastructure, and that represents a gaping hole in the protections for which we should all be clamoring.
Another thing I found interesting was a moment, maybe midway through the interview, where Snowden loses his train of thought and mentions that he’s got a poor working memory. Given what he’s done, and what he’s up against, I found it to be refreshing and endearing, and a reminder that he’s a vulnerable human like the rest of us (not that I ever considered him superhuman, but if I had to wake up with his level of stress each day, my furtive glances at the coiled rope and the sturdy tree would be neither furtive or few).
Really interesting talk–I’m glad Lessig (and in some small part, academia) is continuing to mine this particular vein.

As for @Kevin_Harrelson’s thought that [quote]
…the people that claim to offer tenative support are Ted Cruz and Rand Paul…

I take your point that it’s a bipartisan problem, but I wouldn’t believe either of those two if they told me the sun was going to rise in the East tomorrow.

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So the topic was originally the Snowden revelations and mass surveillance. We talked about who gets to have an opinion, and you’ve established your credentials. So if you have an opinion about mass surveillance and freedom, what is it? Is this the sort of thing you signed up to defend? Should there be a difference between the way citizens at home are tracked, vs enemies abroad?

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Heh, well, I don’t think anyone has to establish credentials to have an opinion, Certainly not on how the US government conducts itself with it’s own citizens, as well as how it represents itself to the world at large, but, if my experience changes what weight you put on it, that’s for you to decide I guess.

What did I sign up to defend? Let me put it this way. I tell folks that I take my oath seriously. I didn’t swear an oath to GW Bush (the pres at the time), or to the government as it exists presently, Or to particular bits of the constitution. I swore to “support and defend the constitution, from all enemies, foreign and domestic”. To me, that’s pretty damn straightforward. The oath goes on, but, given that I’m a veteran now, and according to the very rules I swore to abide by (the UCMJ), those same rules no longer apply to me. But the first part of my oath does. The oath as a whole has no expiry. That’s not an accident or an oversight. It used to.

So, given that framework, that puts me in a pretty damn odd political boat. I think anyone trying to subvert, circumvent, wheedle out of, etc, the constitution, is very arguably an enemy of the constitution (this would mostly be for US citizens, folks elsewhere are bound by different social contracts, and, of course the issue if they commit acts against us is entirely separate). And while responding with deadly force, as was the military assumption, is obviously not the correct response to most who would situate themselves as enemies of the constitution, there are many ways to support and defend short of that force. For me, this applies to ALL the constitution though.

Some conservative, authoritarian types aren’t big fans of the 1st amendment. So, obviously don’t fit in well with that crowd. But plenty of folk on the flip side of the spectrum aren’t very keen on the 2nd amendment. I don’t get many fans from that end (if you’ve read some of my comments in threads here on Boing Boing, you may have seen that in action).

To your exact question, I see mass surveillance, especially of US citizens, as a blatant, horrific violation of the 4th amendment. There simply is no excusing it, and anyone involved with it, from the technical people doing the work to enable it, the analysts processing the intel, the administrators who put the programs in place and the Judges who participate in the farcical “legal” proceedings to dress it in a sham imitation of legitimacy, have all positioned themselves as enemies of the constitution. If they swore an oath similar to mine, as many public servants and judges do, they have violated those oaths, and arn’t fit to serve as janitors in a public building, let alone people with a heightened public trust.

This is not to implicate those that abide by the document, while going about means to enact changes in it. One doesn’t have to AGREE with the whole bloody thing, you just have to actually go through the pain of changing it, not simply ignore the bits you don’t like. That involves, by design, being public and open about the changes you want, not skulking and doing things in secret star chambers.

Surveillance of foreigners, especially mass surveillance, is a dicier topic. While it might not carry the same constitutional issues, It’s certainly no moral winner, and, has clear hazards, for instance if we do it to/for our allies, and they do it to us, and we just swap info. That one puts us right back into the previous issue. The 4th isn’t concerned so much with precise methods of collection, rather the government having extreme access into the lives of innocent citizens. Or if we prove, by our surveillance stance, we are not worthy stewards of major pieces of infrastructure, and damage our own wellbeing because of that paranoia.

My stance on that side is more that our intel apparatus has proven that it cannot responsibly use those tools, so they should be put out of reach for all uses, foreign and domestic, regardless on if it’s morally, strategically, or constitutionally acceptable for it to be used on foreigners. And, I’m not at all convinced about the strategic soundness of the concept by any stretch. Sure, it’s got obvious utility, but, the collateral effects are corrosive, and destroy the very tool that started the issue.

If our ability to be able to spy is so damned important, it should be used like an extremely powerful antibiotic, sparingly and in an extremely controlled fashion, lest the environment develop a resistance to it.


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