What the NSA's assault on whistleblowers taught Snowden

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If they started today, when would they regain our trust?


That’s a question I often ponder. Because, ideally, we want a government that we can trust, that has earned the populace’s trust. And I do trust certain parts of the government–just not the surveillance and military arms. And I have to wonder for myself on what exactly it would take for them to gain my trust that they actually are doing their jobs with the aim of actually protecting the populace they ostensibly serve.

Because that’s an important question; to draw a parallel, the difference between an honest skeptic and a denialist is that the skeptic has a threshold of evidence that will convince them, while the denialist will never be convinced, and will always move the goalposts for their evidence threshold. And, ironically, if I take the stance of the denialist in regards to governmental trust, then there is no point in them even trying to gain my trust, and the trust of others like me, so they might as well continue with business as usual.

So the answer that I’ve come up with so far (subject to review and examination) is apparently fairly close to the unstated BoingBoing general preferred outlook: a trustworthy government is one that does not use the powers and authorities granted to it by the populace it governs to abuse that populace for the private gain of the individuals empowered by that government, and is open to review and transparency to that populace.

(I’ve noticed that one must also be careful to avoid the nirvana fallacy, too, and be willing to recognize steps in the right direction, and avoid demanding perfection at the cost of progress; we will never have a perfectly trustworthy government, but movement in that direction should still be applauded, not derided as “not good enough, perfection-or-nothing”)


This basically confirms what anyone with any sense has known the whole time, which is that anyone who says he “should have gone through channels” is either completely ignorant of the subject and suffering from dunning-Kruger syndrome, or, as in the case of Clinton, is lying to your face and hoping you are dumb enough to believe a single thing they say.


Checks appointment book while standing over desk …

“How’s never? Is never okay for you?”



A very well considered and well stated answer! :thumbsup:

A mere <3 was inadequate to express my admiration.


want protection…come back home to the US…we have lots of protection for you in jail…called condoms…

Are you cynically predicting the sort of treatment Snowden might expect if he were to return to the USA :question:

Or gleefully anticipating that “justice” might thereby be served :question:

Also, welcome to bOING bOING.


@bibliophile20, same. Well said.


:blush: Thank you!

Continuing on the point, the question that immediately comes to mind is how can military and intelligence arms actually gain a reputation for being not-abusive of their powers? Transparency and immediate civilian oversight of their operations isn’t really possible, given operational realities of their job descriptions, yet, as we’ve seen, a culture of secrecy immediately lends itself to information asymmetries and abuses of power. And even mandated declassifications after X-years can have negative operational impacts when dealing with long-term assets, to use spy-speak.


EDIT: Clarification on the “Transparency and immediate civilian oversight of their operations isn’t really possible, given operational realities of their job descriptions” point above–I’m thinking about the real risks to undercover investigators and other intel sources if the information is made immediately available, to give an example.


I’ve had the same thoughts about banks. You know how old-timey banks always put “and Trust” in the name? Why do you suppose they had to keep reminding people to trust them?

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If those operations involve spying on US citizens, they need transparency and complete civilian oversight, period.

I'll take, "A Simpler Question" for $200, Alex.

I honestly don’t know. Is there any way intelligence gathering on a national level can be done nicely, or within international law, or in any sort of progressive, liberal way? I don’t know that it can. That’s not to say that the CIA is all torture, all the time, because that obviously wouldn’t work (in the same fashion that torture during the CIA’s rendition program didn’t work), but I slip down the slippery slopes too easily on that question.

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There is. It’s called a warrant. From an open court. Every time, for every kind of domestic collection. With real teeth for dealing with intelligence types who break the law.

When an intelligence agency spies on its own citizens, you are already down the slippery slope towards Stasi (and, indeed, the Stasi would have creamed themselves for the NSA’s capabilities).

The only justification for internal surveillance at the level the NSA has been doing it is internal control (through blackmail, suborning, etc.), because, as a tool against terrorism, it fails miserably - the analysts get swamped by too much information. Almost all recent successful terrorist attacks were mounted by people known to intelligence and law agencies. Needless to say, used as a tool for internal control, surveillance is extremely detrimental to both democracy and honest government.


Systems meant for your protection are not meant for your protection.




Why do they need to dragnet spy on / surveil all of their own citizens?

I reject that as incompatible with the Republic and its overt principles.

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One of my favorite NY cartoons; I still have the original clip-out somewhere. For those wondering, here 'tis:


Yep, same here. I still find it laugh-out-loud funny. So arch.

At which point, why should people like Snowden even bother trying to unmask governmental miscounduct, if they’re doomed to fail at helping make a trustworthy government before they even begin?

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