I completely understand the problem folks have with Snowden and the methods he used to blow the whistle on some of the surveillance programs the NSA undertook. However, for Mike Pompeo, an elected representative and Trump’s section for the next CIA Director, to call on Snowden to be executed is just mind boggling:

On the intelligence committee, Pompeo has taken a particularly hard-line stance on how to treat NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. After Snowden’s allies began a campaign to get him pardoned, the entire House Select Committee on Intelligence wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging against a pardon. The letter said Snowden was no whistle-blower, but rather a “serial exaggerator and fabricator.”

At that time, Pompeo issued his own press release, calling Snowden a “liar and a criminal,” who deserves “prison rather than pardon.”

In a C-SPAN interview earlier this year, Pompeo went further, stating:

He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think that the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence for having put friends of mine, friends of yours, in the military today, at enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers.

Surely Pompeo fully understands that Snowden is unable to mount a whistleblower defense, thanks to the way the current espionage law is written. So it is impossible for Snowden to receive a fair and impartial trial, no matter how you slice it.

But more to the point: playing politics with someones life is just flat out wrong.

The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted in a public forum the Snowden disclosures forced “needed transparency” even though he still believes it was the wrong way to go about it:

In comments after giving the opening plenary presentation of the Intelligence & National Security Summit, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden had driven the intelligence community to become more transparent to citizens about how it does business. In response to a question about the impact of Snowden’s disclosures on the intelligence community asked through moderator and former Director of National Intelligence Ambassador John Negroponte, Clapper said, “On one hand, it forced some needed transparency, particularly on programs that had an impact on civil liberties and privacy in this country. If that had been all he had done, I could have tolerated it.”

But, Clapper added, Snowden “exposed so many other things that had nothing to do with” civil liberties and privacy, including information about the US intelligence community’s operations that did tangible damage to operations. “He has [done] untold damage to our collection activities,” Clapper said, asserting that “terrorists have gone to school on what Snowden leaked.” And programs that had a real impact on the security of American forces overseas, including one program in Afghanistan, “which he exposed and Glenn Greenwald wrote about, and the day after he wrote about it, the program was shut down by the government of Afghanistan,” Clapper noted.

That statement was likely an allusion to the NSA’s monitoring of virtually all the phone calls in the Bahamas and one other country—a country that Wikileaks later outed as Afghanistan.

A recently released NSA document pinpoints China’s cyber attacks to nearly 700 intrusions into government and private industry networks:

China successfully used the attacks to steal massive amounts of proprietary and government data. The map indicates that the NSA is developing better “attribution” capabilities — the ability to trace the origins of the attacks back to China.

Another NSA document provided a diagram of various Chinese military and intelligence organizations involved in the cyberattacks.

The main unit was identified in a briefing slide as “Technical Department 3PLA,” formally known as the 3rd Department of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department, which is considered to be a counterpart to the NSA.

The slide indicates that the NSA has identified more than 19 3PLA cyberunits involved in U.S. attacks, the most among all Chinese government agencies. Nine other units are suspected of being part of 3PLA.

Additionally, the report identified six cyberespionage units under the Ministry of State Security, China’s civilian intelligence service, and another 22 MSS units suspected of involvement in U.S. cyberattacks.

Seven other cyberattacks were categorized by the NSA as unattributed but caused by China.

China is a formidable opponent and all the news about their intrusions makes the US government look clumsy. However, I suspect the US conducts similar operations against Chinese interests and either is much better at covering their tracks, or the Chinese government does not use the media in the same way the US does.

In a move that comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following this story since it broke about two years ago, the White House has said it does not intend to support a pardon for Edward Snowden (emphasis added):

On Tuesday, White House officials finally responded publicly to a long-running petition to pardon Snowden for his theft of classified documents from the NSA. The answer was an unequivocal “No”, and the administration’s homeland security and counterterrorism advisor said Snowden’s actions have threatened the security of the United States. The White House’s response said that while there is a legitimate need for intelligence reform, Snowden went about it the wrong way.

“Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it,” Lisa Monaco, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, wrote in a response to the petition.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

I love how the White House claims Snowden would even be given an opportunity to engage in any constructive act of protest in the United States. He has already accepted the consequences of his actions by living abroad, unable to return home, and essentially acting as the martyr for this cause. What exactly would the White House have him do? It’s not like if he were to go on trial he could even bring up these reasons as part of his defense, as that is expressly forbidden in a trial for treason.

It seems maybe ex-Attorney General Eric Holder may be having a change of heart and suddenly believes the Obama Justice Department could strike a deal with Edward Snowden to allow him to return to the United States:

In an interview with Yahoo News, Holder said “we are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures” and that “his actions spurred a necessary debate” that prompted President Obama and Congress to change policies on the bulk collection of phone records of American citizens.

Asked if that meant the Justice Department might now be open to a plea bargain that allows Snowden to return from his self-imposed exile in Moscow, Holder replied: “I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists.”

“The former attorney general’s recognition that Snowden’s actions led to meaningful changes is welcome,” said Wizner. “This is significant … I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of respect from anybody at a Cabinet level before.”

Holder declined to discuss what the outlines of a possible deal might consist of, saying that as the former attorney general, it would not be “appropriate” for him to discuss it.

It’s also not clear whether Holder’s comments signal a shift in Obama administration attitudes that could result in a resolution of the charges against Snowden. Melanie Newman, chief spokeswoman for Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Holder’s successor, immediately shot down the idea that the Justice Department was softening its stance on Snowden.

“This is an ongoing case so I am not going to get into specific details but I can say our position regarding bringing Edward Snowden back to the United States to face charges has not changed,” she said in an email.

This is a welcome change of heart. I wonder if Obama feels the same way?

Wired on US Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker discussing cyber surveillance myths and his obvious contempt for the loss of Patriot Act Section 215 authorities thanks to the Snowden disclosures:

In the Snowden case, those were PowerPoint presentations of some things that had been reported—

Oh kiss my ass, that’s not true. At some abstract level you know the NSA has some capabilities. You don’t know which rumors are true or false. You don’t know whether the people who are saying them are accurate. There’s a lot of stuff in the ether. It doesn’t come down to you as an individual making a decision on how to communicate. But when you see the details and exactly how the NSA is exploiting your communications, which is true of some of the Snowden stories, they actually told ISIS what we were doing to intercept ISIS communications—that’s a very different thing. At that point, if you continue to do that, you should be shot. That is very different than having heard maybe there was some capabilities and seeing that you have been compromised.

Did Snowden’s revelations and raising national consciousness about surveillance end up being a good thing for America?


Why not?

It was a scam from the start. Greenwald, Poitras, Snowden, and Bart Gellman did exactly what people like them have been accusing the intelligence community of doing for 40 years. They used the classification to tell a partial story in the hopes of shaping the debate, and they succeeded.

They released that order saying the government is scarfing up metadata about all your calls and they withheld, for roughly two weeks, the [documentation] which they all had which showed all the limitations on that access. Why? Because they didn’t want a debate on the limitations—they wanted to leave the impression that everybody’s phone calls are looked at by NSA and they have succeeded in leaving that impression because of their manipulation of the classified information. That’s a shame.

Never expect the intelligence community to ever admit the disclosures were a valuable tool for American citizens. As far as the IC is concerned, once they are given legal authority to conduct surveillance, they believe that authority should last indefinitely and unencumbered.

In short, the US IC believes they should be able to do whatever they want, to whoever they want, for however long they want, no questions asked.

Ars Technica on UK’s Sunday Times sending DMCA notices to attempt to silence critics of its craptacular Snowden hacking story from this weekend:

This morning, lawyers at Times Newspapers took a step to limit Greenwald’s criticism, sending a notice telling The Intercept that Greenwald’s story, which included a low-res image of the Times‘ front page, violates their copyright. The Intercept quickly published the takedown notice, and on Twitter Greenwald made clear that his publication won’t be deleting his copy of the Times’ “humiliating headline.”

The “infringing” picture of The Sunday Times’ front page, reproduced in part, above, doesn’t have sufficient resolution to allow the article to be read. And Greenwald didn’t reproduce the Timesstory in full, although considering how much he had to say about the piece, doing so would likely be well within his rights.

Sending legal threats was obviously a much smarter strategy than say, you know, basing their reporting on facts and the truth.

The New Yorker argues since Congress passed the USA Freedom Act which was subsequently signed by President Obama that its time to allow Edward Snowden to come home without fear of prosecution since this legislation would never have passed had his NSA disclosures not been made public (emphasis added):

Another matter still at hand is the fate of Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who has been languishing in Vladimir Putin’s Russia for almost two years. In a statement that President Obama issued shortly before signing the new law, he said, “For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe … enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs.” Nowhere did the President or the new law’s sponsors on Capitol Hill state the blindingly obvious: that if it hadn’t been for Snowden’s leaks, the intelligence agencies’ excesses would never have come to light, the U.S.A. Freedom Act wouldn’t exist, and the N.S.A. would still be merrily sweeping up phone records and analyzing them as it saw fit. (My colleague Mattathias Schwartz argued last week that Snowden shouldn’t have been necessary.)

Instead of thanking Snowden for his public service and inviting him to come home, the U.S. government is still seeking to arrest him and try him on charges that carry long prison sentences. “The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes,” the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday. “The U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them.”

In a criminal complaint that it filed on June 14, 2013, the Justice Department accused Snowden of stealing government property, communicating national-defense information without authorization, and revealing classified information. The last two charges were filed under the 1917 Espionage Act, which seemed to suggest that the U.S. government regards Snowden as a spy. That is absurd. Despite suggestions in some quarters, back in 2013, that Snowden might be passing along some of America’s secrets to the intelligence agencies of China or Russia, there is no evidence that this happened.

Does anyone believe the United States government will just allow Edward Snowden to waltz back in the country and not be arrested for stealing classified government documents and disclosing them to people who both did not have security clearances nor the need-to-know?

The New York Times on exiled former NSA contractor Edward Snowden being relatively pleased witnessing small victories while stuck abroad in Russia:

The fallout has been deeply satisfying to Mr. Snowden, who at first feared that his revelations might be ignored, said Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents him. But the debate about Mr. Snowden is far from over.

“His life is very, very rich and full,” Mr. Wizner said, eager to refute predictions by Mr. Snowden’s critics in 2013 that he would end up in bitter obscurity in Russia. “What a remarkable public citizen he’s become. How fitting that he has been able to use technology to defeat exile and participate in the debate he started.”

There are many satisfied people in the United States as well. Without much of what Snowden provided to journalists, the debate about NSA capabilities, specifically its spying on American communications in the United States, would never have happened.

Then there is this:

American intelligence officials tell a different story about the saga that began on May 20, 2013, the day Mr. Snowden flew to Hong Kong. Mr. Snowden’s decision to leak hundreds of thousands of highly classified N.S.A. documents to selected reporters still prompts fury from many in the Obama administration, who say his revelations taught terrorists and other adversaries how to dodge the agency’s eavesdropping. They note that his disclosures, some of which were printed in The New York Times, went far beyond the phone records collection, touching on many programs that target foreign countries and do not involve Americans’ privacy.

“The only debate we’re really having in the U.S. is about the very first document that Snowden produced,” said Stewart A. Baker, a former N.S.A. general counsel and outspoken critic of the leaks, referring to the secret court order authorizing the phone records program. “The rest of the documents have been used as a kind of intelligence porn for the rest of the world — ‘Oooh, look at what N.S.A. is doing.’ ”

In a new memoir, Michael J. Morell, former deputy director and acting director of the C.I.A., expresses the dark view of many intelligence veterans, even blaming Mr. Snowden’s leaks for empowering the Islamic State extremist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Color me surprised that the intelligence community portrays Snowden’s disclosures as the reason why ISIS is technically savvy. Its almost as if the NSA is claiming a small, relatively unfunded (in the context of NSA vs. ISIS) group of terrorists are out-witting, out-playing, and out-surviving the United States intelligence apparatus all because of information Edward Snowden leaked to the press.

If you believe that, I have some swamp-land in Arizona for sale…

RT on Edward Snowden working harder in Russia than when he was employed by the NSA:

Whistleblower Edward Snowden says he has been working harder and doing more significant things while in exile in Russia than he did while being a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).

“The fact is I was getting paid an extraordinary amount of money for very little work [at the NSA] with very little in the way of qualifications,” Snowden said via satellite link during an event at Stanford University on Friday.

In Russia, “that’s changed significantly,” the former NSA contractor, who revealed the agency’s vast and controversial surveillance activities in the US and abroad, said.

“I have to work a lot harder to do the same thing. The difference is that, even though I’ve lost a lot, I have a tremendous sense of satisfaction,” the whistleblower said, as cited by Business Insider.