Who's leaking more: Edward Snowden or the officials condemning him?

Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation: "In the month since the Guardian first started reporting on the surveillance documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government has taken to the media to condemn his leaks and insist he is flagrantly violating the law. To prove this, the government has been incessantly leaking information… READ THE REST


It’s not about leaks. It’s about what is leaked and who leaks it.


There is a difference between authorized leak and unauthorized leak. The former, one hopes, has been vetted to ensure that it won’t cause more problems than it solves.

And since the link to respond to Xeni’s post doesn’t seem to be working: As with BB’s editorial policy, there is – alas – no guarantee that all violations will be equally acted against; someone makes a judgement call about whether the case is worth pursuing, and that brings us back to the previous paragraph.

Is this fair or reasonable? No. But it’s hardly news; security has been selectively porous since the concept of security was invented, and the fact that someone else happened to get away with it, or even be encouraged to do it, is no guarantee that a ton of bricks won’t fall on the next person who does so.

The leak was a violation of contract law at least. If it’s an act of civil disobedience, be prepared to stand up and take the consequences and use that as further publicity for the issue. If you aren’t willing to accept that risk, it probably doesn’t matter enough to be worth leaking.

I’m still undecided on whether this particular leak was a good thing or not (it wasn’t really news to anyone who understands the NSA’s general direction of research), and on whether Snowden simply executed it poorly and got himself in more trouble than he need have done.

I literally cannot wait to see the logic pretzels the pundits twists themselves into when (if) they try to cover this. Truing up the main narratives they’ve created for Manning, Assange and Snowden with what they’re going to have to write/say about Hoss seems impossible to me.

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If it's an act of civil disobedience, be prepared to stand up and take the consequences and use that as further publicity for the issue. If you aren't willing to accept that risk, it probably doesn't matter enough to be worth leaking.
People keep saying this as if Snowden getting railroaded would surely be in the interest of his cause. But as he himself said, that's nonsense; Manning's unreasonable detention has kept the public eye on what he revealed much less than Snowden's flight has.

So the only real reason he should have to take “consequences” is if you feel people have an obligation to submit to courts they know aren’t fair, regardless of whether anyone else benefits - and the whole reason asylum exists is because we think they shouldn’t.

Anyway, it’s painfully easy to tell other people to take risks. Snowden has taken plenty, apparently solely on the belief the public ought to know what is happening, that to sit at home and ask why he didn’t take more is base ingratitute.

What I find interesting is that after the Snowden leak, Obama said we should (all) talk about this, effectively giving everyone permission to speak about that which was classified, and relieving all people from fear of charges if they now discuss such top-secret things as encouraged to by The President.

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We agree we disagree.

Unless he is protesting the secrecy regulations – and I don’t think he’s objecting to them, just to the specific action being taken under them – he agrees that he has broken his agreement under those regulations. If doing so wasn’t worth facing the music, he could and should have found a safer way to raise his concern – taking it to a senator or five with strong civil-rights history, for example.

Instead he chose to do a direct-to-the-press release, for maximum impact – and at maximum risk.

He buttered his bread; he can sleep in it, as far as I’m concerned. His stated goal is fine, his execution stunk.

Snowden definitely is facing the music: he’s on the run, THAT is the consequence, which he accepted and prepared for and is now living with. This could turn into “he’s captured and tried and sentenced by the US government”, which is also a potential consequence which he has verbally acknowledged (that the US govt. would attempt this, avidly) and so also has accepted and is living with the potentiality of. But there is no natural consequence of any act requiring people to stand still and let whoever do whatever they want to them. Snowden chose his actions, and the consequences are happening all around him, and to him. It isn’t concluded yet, but he hasn’t avoided anything: he’s living with the results.

And leaking to a non-debriefed Senator would have been the same technical crime as taking it to the media. If the Senator was debriefed, then obviously they already knew and weren’t going to do anything about it. Snowden’s execution is, as far as the facts of the situation suggest, was the only way to achieve any result at all. You can say it “stunk”, but as compared to what? And what kind of reasoning is there to believe the alternatives would have been better? Or had any impact at all? Snowden’s stated goal was to let the American public know. Whether a journalist or a politician informed the public, what difference would there have been? If you mean Snowden should have found a way to inform another government official and attempt to get the NSA’s programs under better regulation without the public knowing, then that isn’t what Snowden’s stated goals were. No matter how the public became informed, he would have broken the same laws, if indeed the public became informed.


Agreed, he’s living with the results. But:

Leaking to a non-debriefed Senator would provide a level of cut-out that would have made him less likely to get caught. There are other ways he could have reduced his risk… and his personal visibility. That’s where I think his judgement stunk; I think he had too much ego invested. Of course this is all interpretation from many miles away and Nth-hand reports, so your reading may vary.

Again, though: Anyone who knows what the NSA does could pretty much have predicted that this approach would at least be one they were researching; anyone who considers the current state of enhanced paranoia could have taken it the next step to guess that they’d go live with it at the soonest opportunity. The confirmation and detail is interesting but – in my judgement – not worth the risks he took, especially the greater risks involved in how he did it.

So, again: Yes, he’s living with the results. But I don’t feel an excessive amount of sympathy for him. Some, certainly. Not enough that I would suggest the jury or judge go overly easy on him if he comes within reach of US law again. I wouldn’t suggest throwing the book at him, but I also wouldn’t let him off with a wrist slap.

His stated goal is fine, his execution stunk.

What? His execution?

"Yeah Snowden I’m gonna give you 10 out of 10 for style, but minus several million for not sticking the landing."

Civil Disobedience is not a sport, ok? There are no style points. There is no rule book. If he is not killing people or causing them to be killed, it’s still Civil Disobedience.

Criticism of Snowden’s “execution” just comes off as armchair quarterbacking.

"Well mayhap the colonists did have a valid point about concerning the whole ‘taxation without representation’ thing, but dumping a boatload of tea in Boston harbor was terrible execution."

There are more and less civil forms of civil disobedience. No absolutes; reality is fractal and shades of grey.

I’m just saying that, as it is, I, personally, can’t celebrate or praise him. His action was less necessary than it may have appeared, and to me he doesn’t come across as either hero or victim but more as disgruntled employee.

You’re free to interpret it differently; more power to you. We’ll see what history says about it. I’m betting history will yawn.

I get the cognitive dissonance and the shades of gray thing. That goes with the civil disobedience territory. But this is looking at the finger, instead of looking at where the finger is pointing. We’re asking questions like “Who’s leaking more?” rather than asking how we’re going to fix the problems identified in the leaks.

The only reason I replied is that twice you indicated that Snowden “executed” poorly. I don’t even know what that means in this context. It just sounds you’re saying Snowden is “breaking the law, but in an improper fashion.” :smile:

The implication is that Snowden violated the chain of command, used “improper” channels etc. It sounds like you’re saying he should have taken this up with his Senator. :smile: But, as has been made clear:

  • Some members of Congress knew and said that the American people would
    be “shocked” if they found out
  • Some members of Congress knew and
    tried to inform us, but couldn’t because the relevant materials (e.g.
    the FISA court opinion stating that the NSA’s requests were
    unconstitutional) were classified
  • Some members of Congress didn’t
  • Congress was lied to by people in the Intelligence Community

So, given that some legislators knew but couldn’t say, other legislators didn’t know, and some asked but got lies in response, I can’t agree with you that Snowden should have just taken this to his legislator.

to me he doesn’t come across as either hero or victim but more as
disgruntled employee.

Sometimes the hero is the disgruntled employee. :smiley: On one level, Rosa Parks was just a disgruntled bus passenger. She wasn’t trying to be “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” She wasn’t trying to become a hero. She was a lady who was trying to get home after a long day at work.

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I agree that this is offtopic for “who’s leaking more”, and I apologize for the digression. I’m going to shaddup because I honestly don’t think I have more to add; I could rephrase but that’s unlikely to close the gap. We’re simply looking at it from different directions.

The ON-topic comment was in my original post: It would be nice if all leaks were equivalent, but as the system is being operated they really ain’t. Selected/filtered/“official” leaks are a standard part of Washington procedure, so who’s leaking more is, alas, probably not a productive question. Looking at the specifics of what’s being leaked and how it’s being spun seems more likely to yield insights than raw volume. But again, that’s just my gut reaction.

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