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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Edward Snowden
Created by John Eipper on 06/27/13 3:39 AM

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Edward Snowden (Istvan Simon, USA, 06/27/13 3:39 am)

I am surprised that no one on WAIS has written about the Snowden affair, which let's face it seems more important than some of the topics we have dealt with recently.

Let me start off by clearly reiterating that Mr. Snowden is no hero. I already expressed this view in a comment on a recent post from Francisco Wong-Díaz. Snowden committed a crime, and his motivation for doing so is suspect. There are possible indications that he tried to sell US classified information to China in exchange for asylum, and he may be doing the same in Russia this very moment. If so, he committed treason.

China and the Hong Kong authorities that allowed him to fly to Russia after his passport was revoked are guilty of a major offense against the United States, and the American ire against their actions is justified. I hope that Congress will slap China hard in retaliation. Just what the retaliation should be should be carefully debated, but it should be something that costs the Chinese many billions of dollars in exports to this country. The Chinese authorities should also be advised that we will retaliate similarly when a Chinese citizen commits treason in the same way. Russia should be similarly be warned, though I think that the Putin regime is unlikely to react to it in a positive way.

Still, no one knows where Mr. Snowden is right now, and he appears to have been kidnapped by the Russians and is probably being interrogated. Putin's regime of course is lying in saying that they don't know the whereabouts of Mr. Snowden. They clearly detained him, but for what purpose it is still not clear.

I would be most interested in the views of our fellow WAISers on this issue.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/world/edward-snowden-nsa-surveillance-leak.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130625&_r=0

JE comments: I don't see the US punishing China in any significant way.  Moreover, it would be imprudent to assure China that we will turn over Chinese nationals accused of treason against their state.  Imagine the can of worms this would open up--any Chinese dissident would become fair game.

WAISer thoughts on the Snowden Affair?  I especially hope Cameron Sawyer will give us the perspective from Russia, both in the press and on "the street."


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  • Edward Snowden (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 06/27/13 7:36 AM)
    To respond to Istvan Simon's post of 27 June, I believe no one in WAISdom has commented the Snowden affair because there is no much to comment. To the best of my knowledge, Snowden is still in the transit area of the Sheremetievo-2 airport, without doubt being thoroughly debriefed by the former FAPSI (now taken over by the FSO) officers who try in vain to become a copy of the NSA. They are, of course, violating rights by listening to and recording every person they want, usually without any warrant.

    What Snowden has done is a crime and treason, and the US government is acting absolutely correctly in his case. Snowden is rumoured still to have four laptop computers with him with thousands of secret documents that will do a lot of harm to US security. He will certainly give it all to Moscow, because otherwise they will not let him out. This was probably their condition in Hong Kong from the very beginning, and after his American passport was revoked he had little or no time for manoeuvre. Now they will empty him in Moscow and place him in Cuba, which, of course, is much safer for the whistle-blower than Ecuador.


    Regarding Istvan's advice to punish the Russians or the Chinese, I am afraid it is not possible. In Moscow's case the US cannot even protest because, to begin with, there is no extradition treaty between the two countries for such cases and, secondly, the US authorities will do and do exactly the same in such circumstances. The only consolation is that an American defector is a very rare thing.


    JE comments:  The Russians won't let Snowden travel to Ecuador?  Might the Cubans be willing to grant him permission?  A very interesting case, which reminds me of the spy intrigues of Cold War yore. 


    Tor Guimaraes (next in queue) has also sent a comment.




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    • Edward Snowden: Traitor (Istvan Simon, USA 06/28/13 4:35 AM)
      I thank Boris Volodarsky (27 June) for his always knowledgeable and insightful comments. I also thank Tor Guimaraes for commenting on the case; after all I requested WAISers to comment. However, I am afraid that I do not agree with Tor's views on this subject.

      First, the case does not seem to be all that complicated, as Tor contends. Edward Snowden took the law into his hands. He signed a government contract by which he was bound not to reveal classified information that he had access to. He violated that contract; therefore he is guilty of a crime. He tried to present this as something to defend civil liberties, but in fact he then tried also to evade US law enforcement by fleeing to countries that are not necessarily friendly to the United States. Furthermore, he took with him computers with thousands of classified files on them, with the apparent intent to enlist these countries in his scheme to escape the reach of US law enforcement. Thus he appears to have added to the crimes that he already committed, and he could be and should be charged with treason. All of this is quite simple and obvious, and there are no complications in it at all.


      Tor then brings some notorious people into this discussion, who frankly have nothing of value to add. They do not know any more about this case than any well-informed person who reads newspapers.


      Noam Chomsky, says Tor, is an "intelligent person." He may very well be; I teach some of his theorems in Formal Language Theory. But as a political activist and thinker he is a nullity and someone I definitely despise. So what he says or not about Snowden is of no consequence to me at all. Oliver Stone is even worse. He is at best a minor celebrity with all the emptiness of most celebrities. He has nothing at all as a commentator on this that can be taken seriously.


      Lost in the brouhaha about civil liberties is the truth about this matter. The United States Congress, for better or for worse, passed legislation regulating the National Security Agency and mandating it to gather intelligence in order to foil heinous attacks on the US like the attacks of 9/11. We are a democracy, and one can disagree with these laws. One can debate them, and one can challenge them within our legal system. But we are a country of laws, and the NSA did not do anything illegal, whereas Edward Snowden did. It is not open to any 29 year-old individual to take the law into his hands. If he does so, he commits a crime, and has to face the consequences.


      There was a healthy debate following the brouhaha after Snowden's revelations in the United States. In this debate, responsible members of Congress and ex-members of Congress that participated in the oversight of the NSA have made it clear that the NSA was acting within the law, and that it did nothing illegal. Both Republicans and Democrats have forcefully come out against Mr. Snowden's actions. Furthermore, even more importantly, as polls reveal, an overwhelming majority of Americans have decided that Edward Snowden is a traitor, not a hero. That people like Noam Chomsky would think otherwise does not change the above one bit. They are certainly entitled to their own opinions, but their opinions are also undermined by the long history of their extremist political activity in which they have engaged during the last 40 years.


      JE comments: I have re-read Tor's original post, and he did not necessarily endorse the views of Chomsky or Stone on the Snowden case.



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      • Op-ed on the Snowden Case: Bromwich in *LRB* (John Heelan, UK 06/28/13 8:55 AM)

        There is a very interesting op-ed on the Snowden case in this week's London Review of Books by David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English at Yale.  Worth reading and reflecting upon.







        http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n13/david-bromwich/diary



        JE comments:  Bromwich provides a good deal of insight into Snowden's possible motivations.  My thanks to John Heelan for bringing the essay to our attention.


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      • Edward Snowden and the Traitor/Hero Dilemma (Jordi Molins, Spain 06/28/13 10:35 AM)
        The recent discussion on Edward Snowden leads me to ask WAISers their thoughts about the legality/legitimacy dilemma (or the traitor/hero dilemma).



        It seems clear Edward Snowden committed a crime, knowingly. I do not know why he did that, but I suspect he had some information he wanted to divulge. In other words, he believed he had legitimacy, irrespective of what the law could say on this matter.



        I agree that respecting the law is essential. But as Jefferson said:



        "A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest ... The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation."



        This ethics is engrained in the American psyche: Superman, Star Wars, etc.  There is always the underlying idea that a government and the law may become evil. And then the people may have to act, even breaking the law. And this is good.



        I am not in the position to judge this dilemma for America, but in Spain it is clear there are currently two main themes on this subject:



        On one hand, Catalan independence. Spanish nationalists argue that since the Spanish Constitution describes Spain as "indivisible," Catalonia cannot secede, full stop. Instead, Catalan independentists argue that legitimacy (a majority of the Catalan population asking democratically for the right to secede) should trump legality. Who is right and who is wrong?



        On the other hand, and possibly even more importantly, the Spanish government is pushing for highly distressing laws, aimed at controlling justice (and the media). In Spain, the legislative power has always been subordinated to the executive power. The executive power has always interfered with justice, but some new draft laws suggest the Spanish Executive is trying to fully control the justice system. Separation of powers in Spain would become then a moot concept, becoming in some sense a totalitarian state. Possibly with some elections, which would allow the single party, the PPSOE, to rotate members from time to time, but in a Matrix-esque way, full control of the public institutions would be under the Executive, with the media unable to inform (it will be illegal to report any news about corruption until there is a firm legal judgment, but the judicial process will be controlled by the Executive, which in practice means the process would never reach a judge able to judge the case). The average Spaniard would not notice the difference.



        All this process is clearly legal. Is it legitimate? Would it be legitimate for anybody to fight it, even breaking the law in the meantime?

        JE comments: I'd like to know more about these proposed laws. Given the present societal rage in Spain, shouldn't the PP/"PPSOE" be particularly eager to give the impression that it is fighting corruption?

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        • Edward Snowden and the Traitor/Hero Dilemma (Miles Seeley, USA 06/29/13 5:26 AM)
          I am and will remain old-school on the Snowden issue: you swear an oath (which is explicit) when you become an employee of the government. That oath remains in effect even if government actions make you angry, and you are sure you have to expose these evil actions.

          Period. Violate the oath and you violate the law. Your action is treasonous. Even if you believe you are above the law, you are not exempt. Ever.


          JE comments: I must agree with Miles Seeley; the law here has no ambiguity. Edward Snowden was certainly aware that he would face treason charges, which makes me wonder about the psychological motivation behind his actions. Is there something in his character that makes him seek martyrdom? Or is it a thirst for notoriety? Note that at 30 years old, Snowden is still relatively young and naive.


          Wikipedia tells us that Snowden speaks some Japanese and Mandarin, and lists his religious affiliation as Buddhist. Might religious belief have played a role here?

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          • Edward Snowden Update; NSA Bugged EU Offices? (Bienvenido Macario, USA 06/30/13 1:42 PM)
            It now appears that Snowden is an opportunist. If he was concerned about government intrusion on Americans' privacy, why did he steal secrets and offer them to China and Russia? I think he is just rationalizing his actions by exposing the NSA's domestic spying.

            Here's what probably happened. As a contractor, Snowden was working on checking the integrity of the firewalls dividing different levels of security clearances when he first stumbled upon the eavesdropping. Then he got curious and explored other programs.


            My question is how did an employee of a contractor company end up having so much access to very sensitive materials? A wild guess: political bickering in Washington DC that resulted in the belt-tightening measures and the sequestration including budget cuts in the intelligence and defense departments.


            Life in the technology and intelligence business just got more complicated. Why? I predict that a law will be introduced requiring certain levels if not all IT programmers to take state board exams like the ones given to physicians, nurses, engineers, CPAs, physical therapists, etc. There should be different levels of licenses and more importantly, fees for the different levels of IT "programming" (read: hacking) capability. This is will help bring the much-needed income to the federal and state governments. After all, IT programmers make a lot of money compared to the other board-certified professionals, even doctors, who are typically saddled with student loans.


            See the following:


            US bugged EU offices, computer networks: German magazine

            Obama jabs Russia, China on failure to extradite Snowden


            Thu, Jun 27 2013


            NSA chief says agency eavesdropping helped foil 54 plots



            Berlin | Sat Jun 29, 2013


            http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/29/us-usa-eu-spying-idUSBRE95S0AQ20130629


            (Reuters) - The United States has bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged US spy programs.



            Der Spiegel quoted from a September 2010 "top secret" US National Security Agency (NSA) document that it said fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him, and the weekly's journalists had seen in part.



            The document outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations, not only listening to conversations and phone calls but also gaining access to documents and emails.



            The document explicitly called the EU a "target."



            A spokesman for the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence had no comment on the Der Spiegel story.



            Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said that if the report was correct, it would have a "severe impact" on relations between the EU and the United States.



            "On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations," he said in an emailed statement.



            Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Der Spiegel: "If these reports are true, it's disgusting.



            "The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately."



            Snowden's disclosures in foreign media about US surveillance programs have ignited a political furor in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.



            According to Der Spiegel, the NSA also targeted telecommunications at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home to the European Council, the collective of EU national governments.



            Without citing sources, the magazine reported that more than five years ago security officers at the EU had noticed several missed calls and traced them to NSA offices within the NATO compound in Brussels.



            Each EU member state has rooms in Justus Lipsius with phone and internet connections, which ministers can use.



            Snowden, a US citizen, fled the United States to Hong Kong in May, a few weeks before the publication in the Guardian and the Washington Post of details he provided about secret US government surveillance of internet and phone traffic.



            Snowden, 30, has been holed up in a Moscow airport transit area since last weekend. The leftist government of Ecuador is reviewing his request for asylum.



            (Reporting by Annika Breidthardt and Ben Deighton in Brussels; Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Eric Beech)


            JE comments:  This could prove to be extremely embarrassing to the United States.  I hope our EU insider, Ángel Viñas, will send his thoughts.


            However...isn't it fairly common for nations to spy on their allies?



            Regarding Bienvenido Macario's proposal that IT programmers be subjected to more restrictive licensing, I'm skeptical:  programming is a fungible skill--if it becomes too difficult to hire US programmers, the work will simply go elsewhere.  I am going to ask Roman Zhovtulya to comment.


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            • Programmer Certification and Radical Openness (Roman Zhovtulya, USA 06/30/13 11:19 PM)

              I'm not familiar with Snowden's case, but in response to Bienvenido Macario (30 June), I believe there is already a "certification" process in place.  It's called "security clearance," not just for programmers, but for everyone who works with sensitive/classified information:



              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_clearance 



              Outside contractors (both the company and individual programmers) must have security clearance to do work for the government, where access restrictions apply. 




              On the other note, there could be a lot of good from making sensitive information public. Didn't Wikileaks play a major role in starting Arab Spring?


              JE comments:  Roman Zhovtulya includes the concept of "radical openness" in the subject of this post.  I sense that the IT community is inclined to sympathize with the "openness" stance of "leakers" like Snowden and Julian Assange.  Am I correct here?  I hope Roman can give us a more detailed picture of the IT culture and how it views the secrecy/security distinction.

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              • Programmer Certification and Radical Openness (Istvan Simon, USA 07/01/13 5:59 AM)
                One lesson of all these leaks cases is that the US must rethink the way security clearance is granted.

                Reportedly there are two million people with top security clearance. They should not have access to everything they want. They should have no way to copy information to their laptops, which they can then give to the likes of Putin. This is a stupid way to keep secrets.


                The damage that Mr. Snowden caused is not so much in the files he purloined or so it seems, but on revealing methods of intelligence gathering which can and will be used by our enemies against us.


                I'm an information specialist like Roman Zhovtulya (1 July). I do not know if Roman is for openness in all--I am not. We obviously need to keep secrets from our enemies, so total openness is great about a good deal of government activities, but not all.


                This was painstakingly typed on my iPhone from the Philadelphia Airport. We will spend some time in our nation's capital for the next 9 days.


                JE comments: I wish Istvan Simon happy travels in Washington. A couple of restaurant recommendations from our visit in May: Old Europe (Wisconsin Ave.), for German cuisine. And the Afghan Grill in Woodley Park, where I met colleagues Alan Levine and David Fleischer for a WAIS mini-summit.  Excellent.


                But for this Detroiter, traffic and parking in DC are nightmarish.



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                • Thoughts on IT Culture and Nationalism (Roman Zhovtulya, USA 07/01/13 5:05 PM)
                  Istvan Simon wrote on 1 July: "I'm an information specialist like Roman Zhovtulya. I do not know if Roman is for openness in all--I am not. We obviously need to keep secrets from our enemies, so total openness is great about a good deal of government activities, but not all."

                  I don't know much about what it takes to run a country, but there's been a lot of examples of successfully applying ideas/models from IT to other industries (healthcare, education, etc.). The main key is to change the environment and apply innovative solutions, so that the old problems don't apply any more (vs. using brute force and traditional approaches).



                  So, instead of using public transportation to make commuting more productive, why not just work from home and use remote presence devices--what Guy Kawasaki refers to as "jumping the curve":


                  http://vimeo.com/11699253



                  Here's a great talk from Juan Enriquez on a similar approach:


                  http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_wants_to_grow_energy.html


                  JE comments: From my many conversations with WAIS Web Guru Roman Zhovtulya, I've come to a new understanding of how IT culture views the traditional nation-state as an antiquated model.  It is a cliché to say how the Internet has transcended borders like no technology before it, but those at the forefront of the Information Age (like Roman) are starting to think in post-national terms.  I'm sure I'm not doing justice to Roman's views, but this comment may get the ball rolling for a deeper discussion.



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                  • Thoughts on IT Culture and Nationalism (Bienvenido Macario, USA 07/02/13 5:50 AM)
                    I think this discussion is going off on a tangent, because I believe it is time to regulate the IT industry probably by the FCC, just like the pharmaceutical and food industries are now regulated by the FDA. The financial industry, being one of the most heavily regulated industries, is under the SEC's and FBI's jurisdiction, among others.

                    A physician, lawyer, dentist, nurse, CPA, architect, engineer, or other professionals, whether or not their jobs require security clearances, have taken an oath when they passed the state board exams. Often they must renew their respective licenses every year or so. But this did not eliminate the possibility of criminal negligence.


                    Why do I think it is time for the IT industry to have state board certification and federal regulation, even if they are not dealing with national security-related work?


                    A case in point is Madoff's infamous billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. He relied on just two tech-savvy personnel to electronically manipulate the accounting records, and just like EU member-states' financial statements, no CPA needed to sign off on Madoff's financials. The final check would have been or should have been if the electronic accounting system had been verified by a state board-certified IT professional.


                    Just how many financial scandals and honest bankruptcy from 1990s did not involve accounting and other software? Where is the government oversight?


                    Financial scams are carried out and maintained through electronic manipulation of data. While licensed CPAs must sign off on the integrity and veracity of clients' financial statements, there is no such certification or accountability for the millions of software, video games, business IT platforms designed and developed by IT programmers.



                    Then there are the viruses created that wreak havoc on many corporations and individuals, resulting in loss of time, money and effort. How much money is paid to rid a system of the virus? What if the virus maker and virus remover are in cahoots? (How about a team of five techies in each of the problem-giver and problem-solver groups?)


                    Recently I saw a TV feature on the enormous problem if a hacker gets into the air traffic control system and simply puts in fictitious flights.


                    To the inconvenience of many, there are thousands if not millions of cases of identity theft, where either the hacker is very good (evil genius types) or the corporate IT management head is a slacker who is not board-certified. Either way there is no trace of the hacker. Here, the IT firm should get be required to have some sort of malpractice insurance.


                    And finally, there is the issue of violent video games that should definitely be regulated. Never mind that in South Korea, video game addiction is pandemic.


                    From the Columbine high school massacre on April 20, 1999, to the Norway massacre in 2011, the Aurora, Colorado cinema shooting, and lately the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, violent video games, however minor, were a factor.


                    Here, according to this YouTube video, the Norway killer trained via a violent video game:



                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LALr4uTHTJI



                    With regards to IT culture, I think it's no different than any other field or profession. But there are those who'd develop the "Master of the Universe" complex or "Biggerbrother/ I'm better than the government" complex and go on a power trip. At least this is how I look at Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.


                    If Snowden is granted asylum in Russia, Cuba or Ecuador, will he be opening up his host countries' secrets?


                    JE comments: The problem with a more stringent oversight of IT personnel is the fungible nature of their talent. It's easy to establish a jurisdiction over a dentist or lawyer, but a programmer can be literally anywhere. It boils down to where the Internet is "at"; I work with computers every day but have no idea. WAIS is "at" a server farm in Fremont, California (I think), but it's also got a backup somewhere in Germany...I think. Our website was developed by some guys in the Ukraine, whose names I don't know.


                    How do you regulate something that is everywhere and nowhere at once?



                    This all goes back to the question I find fundamentally interesting:  does IT culture by definition undermine or supersede the nation-state model? Does the Snowden case show that patriotism and nationalism are anathema to some IT folks?  Still, as Roman Zhovtulya has taught me, IT culture has a strict, internal code of ethics.  For example, it is taboo to intentionally destroy or sabotage a website--and clients' data is supposed to be sacrosanct.

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                    • Regulate IT Professionals? (John Heelan, UK 07/02/13 9:03 AM)
                      With great respect to Bienvenido Macario (2 July), I suspect that his faith in state regulation of industry is too optimistic.

                      Firstly, history shows that there is often a revolving door between the regulator and the industry being regulated for the not unreasonable prima facie reason that to regulate an industry, one has to understand it intimately. Who understands it better than the people working in that industry? So, often major corporations in an industry second their people to a regulatory authority for a period. In this role, they not only protect the interests of the corporations within the industry but also build up contacts and understanding of regulation (and the ways to avoid it), for use when they return to their parent corporations.


                      Secondly, the regulators themselves are controlled by their authorising legislation. That legislation is itself influenced by powerful industry lobbying groups exercising that power on the decision-making politicians. Thus the authorising legislation, especially any sanctions permitted, is usually weakened. (One needs only to look at the weakness of the US FDA in trying to establish labeling of GM foodstuffs!)


                      The UK abounds in such industry regulators, all with the 1984-ish prefix Of- (i.e. Office of whatever), such as OfQual, Ofsted, Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat, and so on. The majority are only paper tigers: corporate profits are better protected than the interests of the general public.


                      If one looks at the success (or lack thereof) of the UK's "Of-brood" and the US's sundry federal regulators, one wonders "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" In today's world, it appears to be the money men in each industry.


                      With more than five decades' experience in the IT industry, my view is that industry would be no different when faced with attempted regulation.


                      JE comments: I'll defer to John Heelan's wisdom on this one. A threat from, say, Google to offshore most of its programming would be enough to kill any attempt at regulation.



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                    • IT Culture: Ethics and Reputation (Roman Zhovtulya, USA 07/03/13 4:30 AM)
                      Bienvenido Macario wrote on 2 July:

                      "I believe it is time to regulate the IT industry probably by the FCC, just like the pharmaceutical and food industries are now regulated by the FDA. The financial industry, being one of the most heavily regulated industries, is under the SEC's and FBI's jurisdiction, among others."



                      Roman Zhovtulya: Yet it didn't seem to avert the financial disaster, which was orders of magnitude larger than the largest of any IT scandal.


                      Bienvenido further wrote: "Financial scams are carried out and maintained through electronic manipulation of data. While licensed CPAs must sign off on the integrity and veracity of clients' financial statements, there is no such certification or accountability for the millions of software, video games, business IT platforms designed and developed by IT programmers."


                      RZ: I think there is a different system that takes care of it in IT--review/rating/reputation, which comes directly from the users. Anyone who uses a particular software package can give his/her feedback on multiple forums, review sites, etc. This, together with many other parameters, contributes to the overall reputation of the software package/company/individual developer on the web. Researching the reputation/reviews/feedback is a first step towards making a software purchase decision, etc.


                      Such distributed peer-peer system seems to be much less likely to be affected by the lobbying effort of large industry players. After all, how can you trust a regulatory system that says that "pizza is a vegetable":



                      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45306416/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/pizza-vegetable-congress-says-yes/



                      Bienvenido: "Then there are the viruses created that wreak havoc on many corporations and individuals, resulting in loss of time, money and effort. How much money is paid to rid a system of the virus? What if the virus maker and virus remover are in cahoots? (How about a team of five techies in each of the problem-giver and problem-solver groups?)"


                      RZ: I don't think you can make every "black hat" hacker go through a certification process and abide by the rules:



                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_(computer_security)



                      Hacking and viruses are a part of a big and complicated industry that has many business models, which are just as crucial to the development of the Internet and future society as the actual bacteria and viruses/parasites were to the natural selection/evolution of species on Earth.


                      There are many philosophical explanations for it, going to the dawn of civilization (God/Devil, light/darkness, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, etc.). Ultimately, it's an "order vs chaos" conflict, which is shown in a pretty interesting light in a sci-fi TV Show Babylon 5:





                      http://forums.syfy.com/index.php?showtopic=2348026



                      http://badrussiangeek.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/order-and-chaos-philosophy-in-babylon-5/



                      Bienvenido: "With regards to IT culture, I think it's no different than any other field or profession. But there are those who'd develop the 'Master of the Universe' complex or 'Biggerbrother/ I'm better than the government' complex and go on a power trip. At least this is how I look at Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden."


                      RZ: I believe both felt they were helping the humanity in general in uncovering the lies, etc. After all, you just don't take such a risk unless something really big is at stake. On the other hand, it could be yet another elaborate business model.


                      My feeling is that the whole system is so broken and would be simpler to start anew than try to fix it.


                      I wonder if "Seasteading" is the answer:





                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maLAMwhTjHk



                      JE commented: "The problem with a more stringent oversight of IT personnel is the fungible nature of their talent. It's easy to establish a jurisdiction over a dentist or lawyer, but a programmer can be literally anywhere."


                      RZ: The location is not an issue, the importing thing is to selecting whom you trust, regardless of where they are located.


                      JE: "It boils down to where the Internet is 'at'; I work with computers every day but have no idea. WAIS is 'at' a server farm in Fremont, California (I think),


                      RZ: Yes.


                      JE: "...but it's also got a backup somewhere in Germany...I think."


                      RZ: No, the backup is in Cupertino. So, those who might want to shut waisworld.org down would only need to get a permit from the local court, without getting entangled with international law.


                      JE: "Our website was developed by some guys in the Ukraine, whose names I don't know...How do you regulate something that is everywhere and nowhere at once?"


                      RZ: You don't have you know their names. As long as you know/trust me and I can vouch for them, it'll be alright. It's the concept, known as "web of trust," that's a backbone of encryption/secure communication on the Internet:





                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_of_trust



                      JE: "This all goes back to the question I find fundamentally interesting: does IT culture by definition undermine or supersede the nation-state model?"


                      RZ: Yes, Internet erases the barriers and it essentially becomes a self-regulated network of individuals, where reputation, the web of trust and other distributed peer-to-peer concepts persists. I'd like to think that it's ruled by "netiquette":





                      http://www.albion.com/netiquette/corerules.html



                      Anyone who doesn't comply is quickly "educated" by the community--firstly, by explaining the rules, warnings, up to being completely ignored by everyone else (blacklisting, blocking the IP, refusing to accept your email, losing your accounts, etc). If you don't "repent," ultimately you could be shut off completely, which is akin to being sent to prison.


                      JE: "Does the Snowden case show that patriotism and nationalism are anathema to some IT folks? Still, as Roman Zhovtulya has taught me, IT culture has a strict, internal code of ethics. For example, it is taboo to intentionally destroy or sabotage a website--and clients' data is supposed to be sacrosanct."


                      RZ: It all goes back to reputation. Short-term profit maximization at someone else's expense doesn't usually work on the Internet, as it's very easy to find the trace of dishonest activities and outraged customers. eBay wouldn't work without a robust feedback system and those with good reputation value it highly.


                      JE comments:  My thanks to Roman Zhovtulya for these thoughtful responses.  Online reputation or the "web of trust" is a surprisingly effective system of regulation.  Just to take one example, Tripadvisor usually gives a very accurate idea of what you're getting into with a hotel or restaurant.  Another example we encounter every day is Wikipedia, which regulates itself far better than anyone would have imagined 12 years ago.


                      The ten rules of "netiquette":  definitely worth reviewing.  Click on the closest link, above.


                      But Roman...are you telling me that pizza is not a vegetable?



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                      • IT Culture and Other Regulations (Randy Black, USA 07/03/13 9:04 AM)
                        When Roman Zhovtulya replied on July 3 to Bienvenido Macario's pro-regulation post about the IT industry, Roman made a well-reasoned argument against additional regulation. Roman and I are on the same page regarding geek regulation and licensing.



                        Come to think of it, I'll get a tee shirt made that has on the chest, "You can regulate geeks when you pry my cold, dead fingers from the keyboard."



                        I am a firm believer that no amount of regulation will ever solve the problem of financial scams, Internet viruses or any other electronic crimes. Trying to regulate IT people might be like herding cats. You have a better chance of regulating pizza, which coincidentally is the preferred food of geeks, as I'm told by reliable sources.



                        Too often, critics call for more regulations, more oversight, more rules to solve an unsolvable problems, issues or even a perceived problem.



                        Certainly stock brokers, CPAs, bankers, lawyers and others are regulated, but to what level of success are any of these bureaucratic efforts a solution?



                        We are up to our derrieres in regulations in this country and the millions of regulations solve little.



                        Just yesterday (July 2) the Director of Intelligence of the National Security Agency (NSA), James Clapper, apologized for outright lies under oath to the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. His agency is, or was, just about the most regulated body of talent in existence, yet he lied about NSA activities against his fellow Americans.



                        He uttered his lies during his June appearance regarding our government's spying on hundreds of millions of Americans. In his apology to Senate Intelligence Committee chair Diane Feinstein, Clapper said he had "confused two different types of NSA activities: The domestic data collection allowed under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and the foreign surveillance allowed by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)." The head of our nation's intelligence agency was confused. God help us all.



                        Prior to yesterday's apology, Clapper was interviewed on the NBC Today Show and "said that he had given the 'least untruthful' answer possible, and argued that he defined 'collection' of data differently from (the intelligence committee), though he admitted that his reliance on an ambiguous semantic distinction was perhaps 'too cute by half.'"



                        See http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/07/02/national-intelligence-director-clapper-apologizes-for-clearly-erroneous-congressional-testimony-on-nsa-surveillance/



                        Even former CIA agent Valerie Plame is calling for Clapper's resignation. Imagine that.



                        My point is that too many on the left side of the political spectrum support more regulation to solve the unsolvable and more rules to support those who don't want or need support. Relative to the IT world, I'd hazard a guess that a huge percentage of those who spread computer viruses and implant spyware are "offshore" in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Nigeria, China, or on a ship in the middle of the North Atlantic.



                        In short, you cannot regulate what you cannot lay your hands on.



                        Unless it's goldfish. Two years ago the Board of Supervisors who run San Francisco passed a law that forbid local pet stores from selling pet goldfish and guppies on the grounds that pet fish are raised "in inhumane conditions."



                        The next thing they'll do is regulate the backyard cultivation of earth worms used for fishing. Too late, they already did that, specifying the use of fake earthworms for fishing. Is there nothing that the Left does not want to regulate?



                        Goldfish, guppies and energy drinks in San Francisco today--geeks of the world next year.



                        Here are some silly California laws from loonylaws.com:

                        It is illegal to skateboard on walls "or other vertical surfaces" in Palo Alto.


                        Wearing a sweatshirt inside-out is deemed a "threatening misdemeanor" in Half-Moon Bay.


                        Redwood City has outlawed the frying of gravy.



                        Prostitutes in San Francisco are not obliged to make change for bills larger than $50.



                        It is illegal to whistle for a lost canary before 7 am in Berkeley, CA.


                        JE comments:  "Least untruthful answer possible"--this one will enter the anthologies of famous quotes.


                        I love Half Moon Bay and its Bohemian style; we try to visit every time we travel to the SF Bay Area. I'll have to make sure I check my sweatshirt next time I'm there. Labels go on the inside...


                        Seriously now, for every regulation on earthworms there is a very important safeguard on our food, air, water, or medicine. The point is to throw out the bathwater while keeping the baby.

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                        • Snowden Revisited (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/03/13 12:02 PM)
                          On 27 June I opined that the Edward Snowden case is much more complicated than Istvan Simon was thinking. On one hand, we have had some very intelligent people sponsoring Snowden as a hero for democracy and against the abuse of US government power. On the other hand, we have some members of our government accusing Snowden of being a traitor. I still have no idea who to believe without access to the important details of the case.

                          On 28 June John Eipper clearly expressed my position that "there is no question about the legality of Snowden's situation. The morality of Snowden's actions will come to light eventually--was he motivated by greed alone, or by a sincere desire to reveal the NSA's possibly illegal surveillance methods?" On 3 July Randy Black moves the needle against the US government by stating that the day before the Director of Intelligence of the National Security Agency (NSA), James Clapper, had to apologize for lying under oath to the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee about our government's spying on hundreds of millions of Americans. I agree with Randy that it is disgusting that we can't trust our own government. God forbid, but perhaps the American people needs more people like Snowden to protect them from government abuse, and to put some of these lying traitors disguised as patriots in jail.



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                        • Thoughts on Regulations (Paul Pitlick, USA 07/04/13 7:24 AM)
                          As a Californian, I have to share Randy Black's bemusement (3 July) at some of those silly laws passed by various agencies within my state. However, the real joke of a legislature is that of a certain un-named state which is now trying to regulate uteri (is that the plural of uterus?).

                          JE comments: I think Paul Pitlick is referring to the recent attempt in the Texas legislature to ban virtually all abortions. The bill was stopped after an 11-hour filibuster by Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis:


                          http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/25/19140887-texas-abortion-bill-fails-to-pass-after-epic-filibuster?lite

                          Could our two largest states (California and Texas) be any more different, politically?

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                          • Texas Anti-Abortion Legislation (Randy Black, USA 07/05/13 8:01 AM)
                            In his response to my comments about silly California laws (3 July), Paul Pitlick countered with the far more serious matter of abortion access and the ongoing fight by some Texas Republicans and governor Rick Perry to further regulate late-term abortions.



                            My personal view is similar to one told to me in the mid-1970s by feminist Gloria Steinem, who said to me (paraphrased) during an interview for the Dallas Times Herald, "When men can get pregnant, the right to an abortion will be made a sacred right." But then I'm only one vote.



                            In Texas, perhaps the most controversial portion of the proposed law is the matter of late-term abortions, which will be forbidden in Texas past 20 weeks. Additional elements of the Texas law will require that those performing the procedure be conducted in a licensed surgical facility (a doc-in-the-box at minimum), and that the supervising physician have admitting privileges at a licensed hospital located within 30 miles. In short, if something goes wrong, there must be easy access to a hospital.



                            This is as compared to California's law that allows abortions up to the 24th week, and which may be performed by someone as thinly trained as a midwife. California's law is best described as forbidding abortion "post viability."



                            On the legal front in California, I also found that a physician, RN, PA, LVN or anyone employed in the medical profession and related institutions may refuse to perform an abortion on religious or ethical grounds, and that California employers may require that their issuers of health-insurance plans exclude coverage for contraception on religious reasons.



                            Other barriers to abortion and contraception in California include regulations on abortions offered to minors. Anyone who performs an abortion on for instance a woman younger than 18 without permission of a judge or a parent is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces fines of $1,000 and jail time. Health & Safety §§123460 et seq., 123450



                            Texas is following twelve other states that restrict abortions after 20 weeks as of March 2013.



                            Note: I found that similar laws enacted by other states are being challenged in the courts and mostly are on hold pending higher court decisions. Various sources on the Internet describe California's laws on abortion as both loose and at the same time, fairly strict.



                            According to the Washington Post, March 28, 2013, 98.7 percent of abortions in the US happen prior to 21 weeks.



                            My prediction: The proposed abortion law in Texas, if passed, will be overturned down the road. After Texas state senator Wendy Davis's filibuster last month, which ended the previous special session of the bi-annual Texas legislature, Governor Perry quickly called another special session that is on-going.



                            Other sources: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/28/the-landscape-of-abortion-bans-in-one-must-see-map/



                            http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_California_law_deadline_for_a_legal_abortion




                            Cal. Prob. Code §§ 4619, 4621, 4734, 4736 (enacted 1999).



                            http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/government-and-you/state-governments/state-profiles/california.html?templateName=template-161602701&issueID=14&ssumID=2487




                            JE comments:  I'd love to hear more about Randy Black's interview with Gloria Steinem--a native of Toledo, Ohio.  It's been 40 years, but what a cool scoop!
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                            • Texas Anti-Abortion Legislation (Paul Pitlick, USA 07/17/13 4:05 AM)

                              Randy Black is usually pretty careful in his posts and citations, but on 5 July I think he misses the tenor of the bill recently passed in the Texas legislature, HB 2/SB 1. While he cites the part of the bill which reduces the allowed gestational age from 24 to 20 weeks, he pointed out that this 4-week difference will affect only a very small percent of abortions. In my opinion the rest of the bill is much more "serious" in its effects upon women's health--as in "grave," but not in the sense of "sincere."



                              The proponents of the bill claim to be improving women's reproductive health, but the opposite is the case. For example, Randy stated, "Additional elements of the Texas law will require that those performing the procedure be conducted in a licensed surgical facility (a doc-in-the-box at minimum), and that the supervising physician have admitting privileges at a licensed hospital located within 30 miles. In short, if something goes wrong, there must be easy access to a hospital. This is as compared to California's law that allows abortions up to the 24th week, and which may be performed by someone as thinly trained as a midwife."



                              While I certainly wouldn't want any procedure performed upon me by someone "thinly trained," a simple Google search (http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/01/13403/study-abortions-are-safe-when-performed-nurse-practitioners-physician-assistants ) shows that NPs, PAs, and Nurse Midwifes can be just as skilled as physicians. In fact, there is no evidence that there is currently a problem of unsafe conditions in Texas. (See: http://www.texastribune.org/2013/07/02/house-panel-meets-move-abortion-restrictions-forwa/ "Ellen Cooper, an expert witness from the State Department of Health Services, told the committee that state data on abortion facilities and procedures does not indicate a cause for alarm. When Turner [Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston] asked if the state had noticed problems with the current abortion facilities, Cooper said, 'Not to my knowledge.'")



                              Republicans showed in the last national election that math isn't their forté, and the math isn't on their side with this issue, either. If a woman with an unwanted pregnancy is denied an abortion, she becomes more than 10 times more likely to die of the pregnancy than she would have from a (legal) abortion (see: http://dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/915/n/275 . "1. Based on data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of dying as a direct result of a legally induced abortion is less than one per 100,000. 2. Based on data from the CDC, the risk of dying as a direct result of pregnancy and childbirth is less than 10 in 100,000 live births. At 22 in 100,000, the risk is higher for African-Americans.")



                              The new regulations will leave 36 of the 42 existing clinics non-compliant (see the article in the Texas Tribune above); many of them may close, rather than upgrading. As stated in an ad by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: (http://www.acog.org/About_ACOG/News_Room/News_Releases/2013/Open_Letter_to_Texas_Legislators ): "The fact is that these bills will not help protect the health of any woman in Texas. Instead, these bills will harm women's health in very clear ways."



                              So Randy wants us to take this bill seriously, but just before the vote, the Senate veered off into the surreal--tampons were confiscated from women who wanted to get into the observation section: (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/us/texas-abortion-bill.html?hp&_r=0 "Department of Public Safety officers, their numbers swelled in anticipation of crowds and tumult, searched every bag and confiscated anything that could be thrown--including, for part of the day and until the practice became an object of derision online--tampons.") Texas can have a new motto: "Ladies come visit us! You can bring your guns, but leave your tampons at home."



                              Finally, I'm pro-life and pro-choice. I'm not pro-abortion, but I've never had to make that decision, in either a personal or a professional capacity. It wouldn't bother me if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, thereby getting the federal government out of the abortion issue altogether. Abortion is not mentioned in the US constitution, nor at what point human life actually begins. Things not enumerated in the constitution then fall under the jurisdiction of the individual states. If a state like Texas wants theocrats to force poor women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, that's their choice. And if a state like California wants to allow nurse-midwives to become competent in providing a broad range of reproductive services, that's fine too. But we should track the outcomes, so that after a few years, we'll find out which is the better approach.


                              JE comments:  Roe v Wade is probably the only bulwark against a total prohibition of abortion procedures in some states.  It seems to me that the new Texas law will especially impact rural women, many of whom may not be within 30 miles of a hospital.  If only six compliant clinics remain in such a large state, the distances alone will make a legal abortion inaccessible for women without sufficient resources.


                              Will we see the rise of back-alley abortions in Texas?


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              • Security Clearances (Randy Black, USA 07/01/13 8:09 AM)
                Several among WAIS including Roman Zhovtulya (1 July) raise the matter of security clearances as they relate to the Edward Snowden affair. I've long thought of security clearances as a hit-or-miss deal.



                Having had my share of clearances in my work for the US Army as a contractor during the mid-1980s, I've had my doubts about the effectiveness of such background examinations. (I've probably undergone a half-dozen or more security clearances that I know of over the decades.)



                It seems to me that it might be far easier that we might think to fake one's way through such a process.



                I cannot speak to each and every detail, but the firm that I worked for (EDS) informed me that the work I was doing on their behalf for the Army required a background clearance check way beyond their own initial one when I was hired.



                When I had been hired a year earlier, they told me that their security check beyond bank records, credit records, education, prior employment, etc., would involve their folks visiting my neighbors in my Dallas suburb and asking those neighbors what kind of company I kept, what kind of guests came and went, had they ever heard me utter anything considered questionable as it pertained to national security or integrity, and so on and so forth.



                Moreover, since I'd lived in my home for less than three years, they would also visit my previous neighborhood and make the same queries in a different city.



                My post-offer, pre-hire interview at EDS involved a group interview along with several individual ones, one of which took two hours and involved a lot of stressful scenarios. I was photographed and fingerprinted prior to their offer. And let me tell you, there was no joking when I alerted my neighbors to the impending visits from the firm's and later the Army's "suits."



                One item that came up in my post-hire process indicated that they'd actually had access to my divorce decree from three years previous and to my discharge file from my earlier military service.



                I found it interesting that they had access to a divorce court file in an obscure county courthouse. Believe me when I say that I was small potatoes in the bigger picture.



                During that period, I had access to government computer networks as EDS designed the Army's logistics support system at EDS in Dallas, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and other military facilities across the USA.



                Can you imagine what someone such as Edward Snowden might have gone through with his far higher level of access?

                JE comments: I've never been subjected to a security clearance; "for your eyes only" WAIS e-mails are the closest I ever get to confidential information! As a teacher, though, I've received a few visits from "suits" inquiring about former students. The visitors look intimidating and ask very personal questions--about a person's hygiene, drug and alcohol use, sexual habits, etc.  I don't usually know much about these things when it comes to students.



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            • Edward Snowden Update and an Encounter in Munich (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 07/01/13 3:50 AM)
              "This could prove to be extremely embarrassing to the United States," JE writes in his 30 June comment to Bienvenido Macario's thoughtful post. I immediately remembered sitting at a Munich restaurant some 15 years ago when the owner, Danilo, introduced me to one Konrad Kujau, an antiques dealer and painter. One of his paintings was proudly displayed in Danilo's good restaurant.



              What was so special about this man Kujau? In 1983 Germany's Stern magazine ran what it thought was the scoop of the century. Stern's reporter by the name of Gerd Heidemann, claimed he had found Hitler's diaries, 62 volumes of which he acquired from Kujau for what is now 6.1 million euros. In April 2013, Der Spiegel reminded us that the diaries turned out to have been penned not by Hitler but by Kujau. "Stern took years to recover from the embarrassment," the Der Spiegel article said. Now it is Der Spiegel's turn. What means "the documents seen in part"? Only half of the page? Who could possibly check that the documents were genuine? How and when they were seen? If it was after 23 June, then Snowden was already under Russian control. Were those alleged listening devices actually found in the EU buildings in Washington and New York? Missed calls from the NATO outpost to the EU Brussels building are, of course, a clear proof of... what? With Great Britain being a full member of the EU, what special secrets unknown to London were the United States seeking to unearth by their potentially embarrassing eavesdropping operation? What may be so interesting in those generally stupid EU bureaucrats' telephone calls and emails that the NSA would by all means want to know?

              I believe the ball is now in Der Spiegel's court and before the EU officials make claims, they should first of all check the proof.


              JE comments: Boris Volodarsky raises some excellent questions--for now, we should hold our judgment on Snowden's latest "revelation" about the NSA.


              Hard to believe the Hitler diaries hoax was 30 years ago!  I'd love to hear more about Boris's encounter with the author, Kujau.  For 62 volumes, the forgery must have taken him many years to compose.

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              • Snowden Case and the EU (Angel Vinas, Belgium 07/03/13 1:25 PM)
                I am on holidays in Denmark/Sweden, and a bit out of touch with recent developments. In the last week many WAISers have expressed different views about the Snowden case.

                May I briefly intervene? After all, as a former EU Ambassador to the UN in NYC I may have been subject to the NSA ministrations.


                The first rule is not to get caught. Thanks to Snowden, the US has been caught! It seems that the NSA has been intercepting communications between EU offices and Brussels and between France and Germany missions/embassies and their capitals.


                The EU and its member states are friends of the US. The NSA and/or the US authorities seem to believe that being friends is not enough. Possibly they would like us to feel so grateful to the US that we should relinquish our own interests and to subsume them into the vast pool of contradictory US interests.


                Let me add that EU missions in New York have an extremely good relationship with the US mission. We see and meet each other all the time. We commonly exchange views on the most delicate subjects.


                We do differ on economic matters. Occasionally on political matters as well.


                However, we entertain in our capitals the most intense relationship with each other. The US security services are accredited to our capitals and keep a permanent dialog with ours.


                Apparently this is not enough for some Americans.


                No wonder there are people in the EU who have voiced extreme dislike about the NSA snooping. I, for my part, find this a rather distasteful act if not an unfriendly action.


                JE comments: Hard to disagree with Ángel Viñas. Friends may spy on each other, but Ángel has put his finger on the problem with "the first rule is not to get caught."


                Might the Snowden revelations prove to be the biggest embarrassment of the Obama years? Note that nobody seems to care now about the IRS scandal.


                Happy travels to Ángel in Scandinavia. Enjoy the long days and the beautiful vistas!



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                • Spying against Friendly and Unfriendly Powers (Istvan Simon, USA 07/04/13 4:43 AM)
                  I think that Ángel Viñas (3 July) expresses well his disappointment, if the allegations of Edward Snowden about the NSA bugging EU offices are true. But I think that there are two problems with Ángel's point of view. He says that thanks to Snowden the US has been "caught." Does he have proof of this, or does he merely assume that Mr. Snowden is incapable of lying? As Boris Volodarsky already stated, what Mr. Snowden says does not seem very believable, and could very well be false. After all, he seems more and more desperate to save his own skin, as country after country has refused him asylum, and he is therefore not an disinterested party in whatever he says. So this is problem number one.

                  But let us now suppose, for the sake of argument, that what Snowden said is true. So here is problem number two with Ángel's position. Now if my friend spies on me, I understand on a personal level that I'd be disappointed with my friend. But are such personal feelings transferable to the relations between countries? I would argue that they are not. The job of Intelligence agencies is to gather intelligence--whether from friend or foe. Can Ángel assure us that, say, Germany does not spy on the United States? I'd be surprised if it does not. Does Germany spy on Russia? I'm not saying that there are no limits on what is considered acceptable or not in gathering intelligence on a friendly power--I think that there are limits to such activity. But I'm saying that what such limits are is debatable, and to transfer to countries the standards of personal relationships is inappropriate. After all, a country does not have permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.


                  JE comments:  The WAIS discussion on Snowden seems to waver between two incompatible positions.  On the one hand, Snowden's allegations have no proof; but on the other, everybody spies on their friends, so it's no big deal--unless you are caught.

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                  • Spying against Friendly and Unfriendly Powers (Angel Vinas, Belgium 07/05/13 5:02 AM)
                    I thank Istvan Simon for his comments of July 4th.

                    1. International media have reported that both Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande are incensed about US snooping. Although trade negotiations will start as foreseen and suffer no delay, specific working groups are to be set up to go into the details of those US activities. There is no smoke without fire.


                    2. Snooping is likely to lean towards the US side. Obviously I can imagine that some EU member states may have non-declared intelligence agents on US soil or even intercept US communications. However, very little of this if at all has yet come to light.


                    3. I can think of a number of reasons why this imbalance may exist, but I would have to write too much to explain it.


                    4. Suffice it to say that for many decisions the US is far easier to penetrate than France or Germany. (I exclude private-sector operations and industrial snooping.)


                    5. On the other hand, the US has traditionally had an insatiable thirst for information. This has happened in Spain in the past, and I can easily imagine that it also applies to other EU member states.


                    6. In my professional activity, I have always assumed that the information I transmitted to Brussels from NY could be tampered with. Appropriate steps were taken to make this as difficult as technologically possible.


                    7. This is why I think Snowden´s allegations have led to the US being caught in flagranti.


                    8. As for relations among countries, one should remember that in the 1920s the British General Staff considered the possibility of a conflict with France (!), and acted accordingly. Or that the GCCS, precursor to the GCHQ, intercepted communications worldwide amongst which were those of the US Embassy in London. However, as far as I know the Americans were blissfully ignorant of this. (By the way, the French were also spied upon in accordance with the motto that the UK has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.)


                    Therefore, Istvan´s question should then perhaps be rephrased to encompass another possibility: Do the US and the UK spy on each other?


                    JE comments: I am especially intrigued by Ángel Viñas's points 4 and 8. Why is it easier to snoop on/in the US than on France or Germany? And, is it possible that the UK and the US spy on each other?  In the same vein, I wonder what kind of surveillance operations we have going on in Ottawa.



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              • Edward Snowden Update (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 07/18/13 6:22 AM)
                I believe all WAISers know by now that Ed Snowden asked Russia for a political asylum. After a well-organized and quite an unprecedented press conference at the transit zone a few days ago, everybody still pretends that Snowden is hiding somewhere between the Sheremetyevo gates. In the meantime, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, commenting on the statement by the Intelligence and Security Committee on "GCHQ's alleged interception of communications under the US PRISM Programme," has just made the following statement:

                "The Intelligence and Security Committee has today cleared GCHQ of the allegations of illegal activity made against it.


                "The Committee has concluded that these allegations are 'unfounded.' I welcome these findings.


                "I see daily evidence of the integrity and high standards of the men and women of GCHQ. The ISC's findings are further testament to their professionalism and values.


                "I have written to Sir Malcolm Rifkind to thank him for the Committee's prompt and thorough investigation.


                "The Intelligence and Security Committee is a vital part of the strong framework of democratic accountability and oversight governing the use of secret intelligence in the UK. It will continue to have the full cooperation of the Government and the security and intelligence agencies."



                (BV): To my mind, the above statement is a good evidence that Snowden is just a tool in the Kremlin's hands and his so-called revelations must not be taken for granted. And his supporters' recent claims about "explosive material in Snowden's possession" are an obvious bluff.


                JE comments: A week or so ago, Venezuela offered to grant asylum to Snowden. My thought?  The US public has already forgotten about him.  Few things are briefer than the American attention span.



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                • Snowden News Updates (Bienvenido Macario, USA 07/18/13 6:45 AM)
                  I thought WAISers might be interested in the following items:

                  Edward Snowden Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize



                  July 15th, 2013


                  http://news.softpedia.com/news/Edward-Snowden-Nominated-for-Nobel-Peace-Prize-368223.shtml


                  Ex-Russian spy Anna Chapman proposes marriage to Edward Snowden


                  Claudine Zap, July 4th, 2013


                  Yahoo! News Politics Arts & Entertainment National Security Agency Russia


                  http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/news/ex-russian-spy-anna-chapman-proposes-marriage-edward-171009157.html


                  JE comments: You cannot really "nominate" for the Nobel Peace Prize, but anyone is free to propose marriage. How about a Chapman-Snowden union--the Power Couple of espionage for the 2010s?  They would cut quite a profile in Moscow.

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                  • Edward Snowden Update (Massoud Malek, USA 08/02/13 6:08 AM)
                    In May 2010, the Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was arrested on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website WikiLeaks. One of the documents was a video of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, showing an American helicopter firing on a group of men in Baghdad. One of the men was a journalist, and two others were Reuters employees carrying cameras that the pilots mistook for an anti-tank grenade launcher (RPG-7). The helicopter also fired on a van that stopped to help the injured members of the first group; two children in the van were wounded and their father killed.

                    One day after Manning was convicted on 19 of 21 charges, including 6 counts of espionage, the FBI asked Edward Snowden's father to fly to Moscow to convince his son to return home, in order to be charged for espionage which carries the death penalty. Edward Snowden said the following to The Guardian and Der Spiegel:


                    "NSA uses a tool, called XKeyscore, to collect nearly everything a user does on the Internet. NSA not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The European Union representation's computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers. NSA has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) over the last three years for access to Britain's intelligence gathering programs."


                    Last Friday, the NSA director attended the annual hacker conference in Las Vegas to recruit warriors for battles being fought on the Internet. During a keynote speech, he said: "I am absolutely impressed with some of the stuff going on here, this is the world's best cyber community. We need great talent; we don't pay as high as some of the others, but we are fun to be around." By the way, Snowden, who did not complete course work at a community college in Maryland, and ended up earning nothing but a GED, was making $122,000 a year. 85% of university professors dream of making as much as he was making in a fun place.


                    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a "traitor" in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America." Defending human rights, Mr. Boehner, does not make you a traitor. Snowden is telling the world that the basic human rights of Americans and Europeans are violated by the US government. He told us that there is a striking similarity between what Orwell described in 1984 and what is going on in the United States today. Every single website that we view is watched by the government. Google reads our emails, to sell us products; NSA reads our emails, to control our minds. Is NSA changing the United States of America into a land called North Korea?


                    JE comments: I've been out of the Snowden loop for the last fortnight; is he still holed up in Moscow?


                    Note that the NSA is now using "fun" as a way to lure new talent.  Somehow I don't think this was a recruiting strategy before the age of video games.


                    Great to hear from Massoud Malek, by the way.  Hope your summer is going well, Massoud!  Any recent travels (and photos) to share with WAISdom?



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                    • Thoughts on the NSA (Alan Levine, USA 08/04/13 4:15 AM)
                      Massoud Malek wrote on 2 August: "NSA reads our emails, to control our minds. Is NSA changing the United States of America into a land called North Korea?"

                      I'm not quite sure yet what to think of what the NSA does, because I'm not quite sure yet what it does. I'm waiting to form an opinion.


                      But even if everything Massoud reports is completely accurate, how is spying and recording what you do--even if it is every single keystroke -- "control[ling] our mind"? There is a huge difference between these. Nor is spying close to the consciously chosen policy of mass starvation as done in North Korea. This kind of hyperbole is most irresponsible and regrettable. JE usually catches and comments on such stretches, but since he missed these I felt compelled to note them.


                      JE comments: Yes, I should have caught the North Korea comparison, but I took Massoud's phrasing as a rhetorical question to make his point on NSA surveillance.  North Koreans would be overjoyed "only" to be monitored on computer or cell phone usage--if they had computers or cell phones.



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                    • Edward Snowden Update (Istvan Simon, USA 08/05/13 4:10 AM)
                      This week the Snowden affair has come to a tentative conclusion, when Russia gave him temporary asylum for a year. I had predicted in the pages of WAIS that Russia would not extradite him to the United States, and my prediction has now turned out to be correct.

                      Four countries have offered Snowden asylum: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and now Russia. None of the four is known for respecting human rights, which makes this all really ironic, as Mr. Snowden has been trying to sell his act as a "service" in the interest of human rights. It is a claim that I never subscribed to.


                      In any case, all this means that Mr. Snowden now will have to live in a situation that he is unlikely to enjoy that much. Russian spy Anna Chapman has reportedly offered to marry him, so perhaps she will be able to ease his existence to a more tolerable one than is likely to be otherwise. Russia has made a condition of his asylum that he stop his anti-American political activities, and if that is to be really the case, there is not much else that Mr. Snowden will enjoy in Russia.


                      Russia tried to present its decision as "insignificant" in its overall relations with the United States, which according to Putin, should not be damaged. But it seems likely to me that it will be far more damaging to bilateral relations than Mr. Putin hopes. The fact is that Mr. Putin rarely acts like a friend of the United States. So we should treat him the same way. It is reported that President Obama is considering canceling his summit with Mr. Putin scheduled for later this year, and I think that would be the correct decision. This is not only because of the Snowden affair, but because there is nothing that seems would be worthwhile for us that we could hope to achieve in these talks. Not only has Mr. Putin ignored our request to return Mr. Snowden to the United States to be tried for his crimes, but Putin is also on the wrong side in the Syrian conflict and is unlikely to be of any help with Iran. Therefore President Obama should indeed cancel the summit, and we should reassess our entire relationship with Russia, including our commercial ties, which are currently highly favorable to Russia.


                      Will Mr. Snowden be able to escape his day in court in the United States? I think not. In the long run this is highly unlikely. I predicted that Mr. Snowden will not be extradited by Russia. I now venture another prediction: Mr. Snowden will eventually be prosecuted and convicted in a court of law of the United States, and he will spend time in jail for his actions.

                      JE comments:  I sense that Snowden feels safer in Russia than he would in Venezuela, Bolivia, or Nicaragua, any of which could conceivably see a change in government that would immediately extradite him to the US.  Otherwise, in Snowden's quivering shoes, I'd pick the Pacific coast region of Nicaragua, or the gorgeous city of Granada.
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                      • on Extradition (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/05/13 11:28 AM)
                        It doesn't seem to me, from his comments, that Istvan Simon (5 August) knows very much about the theory or practice of extradition. It is not and has never been the norm that one country will render a foreigner to another country for crimes the foreigner is accused of there. The exception is when the two countries involved are close enough to have entered into an extradition treaty, and where the alleged crime is recognized by the rendering country as a crime, and where the potential penalty is acceptable to the rendering country, and where the requesting country has presented prima facie evidence of the crime satisfactory to the rendering country. Thus even America's closest friend and ally the UK, which has virtually the same legal system as we do to boot, nevertheless does not render to the US accused persons if there is any chance that they could be subject to the death penalty, and often refuses extradition to the US for other reasons. France has refused for 20 years to extradite Roman Polanski to the US.

                        Thus there was never any question that Russia would extradite Edward Snowden to the US.


                        And would the US have extradited to Russia a Russian citizen accused of revealing mass electronic spying by FAPSI on Russian citizens and citizens of countries friendly to Russia? How does one imagine that? The US wouldn't do that in a million years, so how could anyone ever expect the Russians to do it? But actually one does not need to get to the possible whistle-blowing aspects of such a case--the US never extradites anyone to Russia at all, even murderers, a sore spot with Russia for 20 years. Why? Simply because US law forbids the extradition of anyone in the absence of an extradition treaty, except only in cases where the accused is accused of crimes of violence against US citizens. That's in 18 USC 3181 and 3184. Why anyone expects Russia to behave differently, I can't understand--it's a blatant double standard.


                        Let's move on to the possible whistle-blowing aspects of the Snowden case. I have been offline for a month sailing, with only sporadic and very limited Internet access, and I have not expressed an opinion on the Snowden case since I was not able to adequately inform myself. I will still have to do a lot of reading before I allow myself to form a firm opinion about the case, but I think for purposes of discussing extradition from Russia we can already discern that the case is controversial enough that many, perhaps most countries, even countries very friendly to the US, might not readily agree to extradition of Snowden.


                        Snowden's revelations--good summary here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_mass_surveillance_disclosures --reveal that the NSA and other US agencies have been reading our emails and analyzing our browsing activities on a scale far in excess to what was previously known. The revelations forced the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, to apologize for denying, under oath, before the US Congress, that such activities were taking place. See: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/07/02/198118060/clapper-apologizes-for-answer-on-nsas-data-collection . So it seems that our intelligence services have been lying not only to us, but to the US Congress, about the extent of their surveillance of ordinary Americans, and without warrants. Whether this is legal or not under the Patriot Act, I cannot say, but this certainly runs counter to American traditions of privacy and historic limitations on spying on our own citizens. Should we have the right to know that this is going on?


                        This part of the story is strikingly reminiscent of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. It turns out that four administrations had systematically lied to the American public about the purposes of the Vietnam War, our prospects there, and the plans for continuing it. Ellsberg disseminated a top-secret internal study of the war revealing this information--undoubtedly committing a crime, the same crime as Snowden undoubtedly committed--and was aggressively pursued for this security breach, by both legal and illegal means, including some banally sordid acts of the so-called "White House Plumbers," the revelation of which played a large role in the downfall of President Richard Nixon.


                        The US government also attempted to restrain the New York Times from publishing excerpts of the illegally leaked Pentagon Papers, which resulted in the famous New York Times v. The United States, a seminal First Amendment case decided by the US Supreme Court in 1971 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._United_States ). This ober dictum of Chief Justice Warren Burger is chilling: "[T]he imperative of a free and unfettered press comes into collision with another imperative, the effective functioning of a complex modern government . . . ," indeed showing a very basic misunderstanding of how the Constitution works. It reminds us of the debate today about civil liberties versus security in the aftermath of 9/11. But even Burger did not argue that the government was entitled to its restraining order, and the case was decided in favor of the Times by 6 to 3, and after that, the contents of the top-secret Pentagon Papers were published freely for all Americans to read.


                        Snowden's revelations have cause widespread outrage, both inside and outside the US. Americans are fairly evenly divided on the question of whether Snowden was performing a public service, or not. In most surveys, a narrow majority of Americans support Snowden's actions. In Germany, one survey revealed that 35% of Germans would even "hide Snowden in their homes," if they could (!)--http://www.balaton-zeitung.info/vermischtes/umfrage-jeder-dritte-wuerde-snowden-bei-sich-unterschlupf-bieten-12565/ . Half of Germans consider Snowden to be a hero; only 20% consider him to be a criminal. A Reuters poll showed that more Americans consider Snowden to be a "patriot," than a "traitor"--http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/12/us-usa-security-poll-idUSBRE95B1AF20130612 . Russians have similar views: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130801/182518591/Most-Russians-Positive-About-Snowden---Survey.html .


                        Actually, I find it quite striking that Russians and Germans--our close NATO allies--have almost exactly the same opinions about Snowden. 51% of Russians (50% of Germans) approve of Snowden's actions, while 17% of Russians (20% of Germans) disapprove of or condemn Snowden's actions.


                        So why should Russia extradite Snowden, to be prosecuted for blowing the whistle on on activities which our intelligence agencies lied to our own Congress about? Why should the Russian government assist the US government in prosecuting activities which Americans themselves don't condemn, by any significant margin? Much less Russians, and even our close allies in Germany? Why should the Russians allow themselves to be a tool for this kind of controversial prosecution? Would anyone honestly expect Putin to go so much against the opinions and values of his own people, just to show loyalty to the US? The US who don't even extradite murderers to Russia, because we have no extradition treaty with Russia?


                        As I said, I have not yet allowed myself to form a firm opinion about Snowden--more learning and more reading is required for this. I do not like the fact that Snowden went to the Chinese with his information--how could that serve the purpose of blowing the whistle? On the other hand, the activities Snowden has revealed are horrifying, presenting the biggest threat to civil liberties we face in our age--the State becoming a truly Orwellian entity with its tentacles in every nook and cranny of our lives.


                        That problem is a really sticky one, without any obvious answers. Technology directly threatens privacy, and maybe privacy altogether will go the way of the dinosaurs. Soon technology will give us microscopic drones, capable of being mass produced at minimal cost, which will make it possible to maintain visual surveillance on anyone, anytime, and anywhere (see: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/02/07/johns-hopkins-researchers-develop-mav-the-size-of-a-bug/ ). How do you prevent governments from using these tools, once they exist? I'm not sure it's possible to prevent governments from reading our emails without a warrant. But by the same token, I'm not sure it's not worth trying.


                        I appreciate and respect Istvan's incredible enthusiasm for his adopted homeland. I might, however, respectfully suggest that he has not yet managed to absorb one key American value--the State is not identical with the People, and we do not worship or bow down to our own government, the way most other peoples do. The State has its own life, and its own interests, which are sometimes but not always aligned with the interests of the People. When the State fails to serve the interests of the People, and especially when the State lies to us, as it did about Vietnam, as it did about Iraq, and as it did and does about the extent to which it reads our emails and studies our browsing habits, then we Americans reserve the right to condemn what the State is doing in our name. We do not assign any holy significance to what the State has made a crime--we reserve the right to make up our own minds about what is right and wrong, even if this runs counter to our own laws. That is because we believe that sovereignty resides in the people, and is not imposed from above, even if this idea has become largely mythological and is not actually very true in practice.


                        Therefore, we have a special place in our society for people who break the law to reveal what the State is doing in our name but without our consent, especially when it is lying to us about it. People like Daniel Ellsberg. Whether Snowden deserves to be ranked alongside Ellsberg I can't say, and probably no one can say yet. Surely, I am troubled by the Chinese angle of his story. But there is enough evidence that he might, to doubt that many countries would readily extradite him. And certainly to expect that Russia would expedite him, is crazy. I'm sure that our allies, like Germany, where half the people consider Snowden to be a "held"--a "hero"--must be very grateful that the extradition request has gone to the Russians, rather to them.


                        JE comments:  There must be many nations that are glad to have dodged the "Snowden question," and let the Russians take the heat.


                        Be that as it may, I'd like to assign Cameron Sawyer's post as mandatory WAIS reading, for it raises very important issues on the role of the citizen and/in the State.  I hope this essay gets a good conversation started.

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                        • on Extradition (Istvan Simon, USA 08/06/13 4:36 AM)
                          Cameron Sawyer (5 August) raised a number of issues specifically directed at me, about the Edward Snowden case.

                          On the issue of extradition by Russia, Cameron misinterpreted my post: I did not expect Russia to extradite him, and I have said so explicitly on WAIS. So it is a little disingenuous for Cameron to argue that I do not understand the theory or practice of extradition. But even if he were right on this question, that is, even if I were fully ignorant of the theory and practice of extradition, I think all this is hardly relevant in the Snowden case, because Russia did not base its decision on extradition law. Rather it was obviously a political decision.


                          If this were not the case, why would Mr. Snowden be holed up at the Moscow airport for over two months? Clearly Russia could have just told the United States two months ago: "Sorry Pal, we have no extradition treaty with you, so Mr. Snowden is welcome to stay. Besides, you do not even extradite murderers to us, so how can you expect us to extradite a mere traitor?" Case closed, and even better, from Russia's view, a clear propaganda point scored by Mr. Putin against the evil United States.


                          But we all know that this is not what happened, and Russia did not do any of that. So Cameron's legal considerations on extradition, while quite interesting, are largely irrelevant in the Snowden case.


                          Second, Cameron says that he admires my loyalty to my adopted country but that I appear not to have fully mastered American traditions about distrust of government. I am afraid I have to correct him on this, because I am in fact a great admirer of this American tradition. I have been against the Patriot Act from the start, and I have publicly argued in WAIS several times that I thought Congress ought not to have passed it, and ought to not have renewed it. Had Congress done so, the NSA perhaps could not have done legally the intelligence gathering that was at the heart of the Snowden case.


                          But Congress did not repeal the Patriot Act, and authorized the NSA to do the things that it has done. Given this fact, now I ask Cameron: who the hell is Mr. Snowden to unilaterally decide that the Congress of the United States is wrong, and that he is going to make public the methods by which the NSA gathers intelligence, even though he took an oath that he would not do so? This is the crime of Mr. Snowden, and irrespective of my opinion on the Patriot Act, he ought to be imprisoned for that. Period.


                          Third, Cameron misrepresents the "horrific massive surveillance" that Snowden supposedly revealed. What the NSA used were billing records of mobile communication companies. It is absurd to argue that what is routinely available to Verizon, is suddenly a "horrific massive evil surveillance" in the hands of the United States government. Much before mobile phones even existed, and certainly much before the Patriot Act was ever passed, it has been ruled by the United States Supreme Court that it was legal for the government to gather data available on the envelope of postal correspondence. That is, for example, that I am the sender, and I have sent a first-class letter to Cameron with such and such postage on it, on such and such a date. The contents of what I have written in the letter to Cameron is not legal for the government to read. But the envelope information is. What the NSA used in the "horrific massive evil surveillance" revealed by Snowden is exactly the digital analogue of that for phone conversations. It is explicitly legal under the Patriot Act, and one could argue that it might be considered legal even by analogy to the envelope information that I just stated.


                          JE comments: Cameron Sawyer was careful to stress that he had not (yet) formed an opinion on the morality of Snowden's act.

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                          • on Snowden's Revelations (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/08/13 4:51 AM)
                            Istvan Simon wrote on 6 August: "Cameron [Sawyer] misrepresents the 'horrific massive surveillance' that Snowden supposedly revealed. What the NSA used were billing records of mobile communication companies. It is absurd to argue that what is routinely available to Verizon, is suddenly a 'horrific massive evil surveillance' in the hands of the United States government."



                            Istvan is talking about so-called "telephone metadata" which is provided by US telephone companies to the NSA. But telephone metadata is hardly a significant part of Snowden's revelations. In fact, the collection of telephone metadata is the least controversial of the NSA's mass surveillance programs. The Supreme Court ruled way back in 1979 that telephone metadata is not subject to Fourth Amendment protection at all--that means that Americans have no "reasonable expectation of privacy" with regard to their telephone metadata. So the use of telephone metadata by the NSA, although we may not agree with it, is undoubtedly legal, and the NSA has followed proper procedure to get it. And the world knew about this long before Snowden.



                            It would be useful, I think, to review what we have learned from Snowden:



                            1. The NSA has been collecting not only telephone metadata, but telephone calls themselves--recordings of telephone conversations--on a massive scale and without any kind of warrants. As one example, one of Snowden's documents show that the agency records and stores one billion (!) mobile phone calls every day (!)--the entire calls, not just the metadata. This is something new. These stored telephone conversations can be accessed and searched in all kinds of different ways with different sophisticated tools, and low-level analysts can listen to them at will, subject only to the heretofore secret "minimization" procedures promulgated by the NISC. The NSA has been lying about this to Congress for years. And under pressure from the Snowden revelations, they have now admitted it, sort of: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57589495-38/nsa-spying-flap-extends-to-contents-of-u.s-phone-calls/ . The NSA has come up with various rationalizations of the way they deal with this content--instructions and procedures which may or may not be followed by the low-level analysts who have access to the content of our phone calls, which may or may not filter out calls--but I would say that this is unlikely to withstand Fourth Amendment challenges (1).

                            2. The very same thing concerning the content of email messages and text messages, plus financial transactions and Internet browsing history. Not metadata--that is, the identity of sender and recipient, date, size, etc.--but the content itself. Including encrypted text in some cases, as the NSA has aggressively sought backdoors to encrypted channels. The totally indiscriminate collection of emails was started under the Bush administration, continued for two years under Obama, was scaled back, then scaled up again, apparently.


                            3. According to secret procedures approved by the NISC (the National Intelligence Surveillance Court, by the way--the secret court set up under the FISA in 1979 to basically rubber-stamp--only 00.03% of requests have ever been denied; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Foreign_Intelligence_Surveillance_Court on requests for warrants to carry out surveillance, perform wiretaps, etc.), data "inadvertently collected" on US citizens without any kind of warrant at all, including the contents of their telephone calls and texts of their emails, etc., can be kept and used for up to five years, although the US citizen is not even suspected to have committed any crime. See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/20/fisa-court-nsa-without-warrant . The data can even be handed over to foreign governments (!) provided only that the name is redacted. The concept of "inadvertently collected" is extremely troubling--since they collect everything indiscriminately anyway, it's all "inadvertent." In my opinion, this is an outrageous violation of the Fourth Amendment. Interestingly, any encrypted communication is automatically retained regardless of circumstances--take note, users of PGP.


                            4. We have been lied to systematically by both Bush and Obama and their respective administrations, not to mention by the NSA. Both Presidents have repeatedly stated that no phone conversations of US citizens are listened to and no email messages of US citizens are read without a warrant. The NSA has now admitted that this is not the case. Now will the President make the same admission? Both Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly assured the US public that there are "robust procedures" in place to protect the privacy of Americans from the surveillance capabilities of the NSA. Now that Snowden has disclosed original documents outlining the exact procedures, we can all judge for ourselves, but I can't imagine that any honest person would call them "robust." They depend on the discretion and judgment not of judges or courts or even policemen, but of cubicle-dwelling line analysts with no more qualification or training than, say, census takers or IRS inspectors. The secret court which issues warrants for real surveillance (mass surveillance I have been discussing doesn't count and doesn't require a warrant) is a pure rubber stamp. This is all quite new, and it is profoundly disturbing.


                            5. The NSA has the physical infrastructure to monitor and sift through nearly the entire world's electronic communications in full text and in real time. Not metadata, I say again, but the contents of messages and voice conversations. In order to build this infrastructure, the NSA has installed equipment in the servers of nearly all of the US major telecommunications and data providers, and has obtained the cooperation (under pressure?) of Microsoft, Apple, Google, AT&T, Verizon, Global Crossing, and many, many other companies. These companies have been given immunity from prosecution and from civil suits for giving away their client's private data (that last fact was known before Snowden and I give only for context). I knew that the Russians install such equipment at the facilities of Russian mobile phone and Internet providers--which would surprise no one--but I did not know that the NSA was doing the same thing in America, at least not on such a scale.


                            6. Electronic services providers have been lying to us for years. Skype has repeatedly assured the public that it does not wiretap its users. Snowden's materials show that Skype has actively cooperated with the NSA, giving the agency unfettered access to Skype traffic, cooperating even to the extent even of secretly installing keyword databases on all users' machines. See: http://blogs.computerworld.com/privacy/22477/new-snowden-revelation-shows-skype-may-be-privacys-biggest-enemy


                            These are a few examples--the extent of the revelations is astonishing, and it is quite a job to read through all of them. There's a lot more than what I have summarized, and WAISers should do their own reading. I have not even touched the revelations concerning our activities abroad.



                            As to Snowden himself, I am still reserving judgment--still thinking about it. On the one hand, reading all of this stuff makes me wonder how I would have felt in Snowden's place--knowing all of these terrible secrets. WAISers should really read through the PowerPoint slides Snowden released (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_mass_surveillance_scandal ). Our government has programs called "TrafficThief" (!), "Scissors," "Nucleon," "Protocol Exploitation," "Stellar Wind," "Boundless Informant" (!!)--this is like something from a bad science fiction novel, inspired by George Orwell, with the nation run by a gang of evil 20-year old geeks with pimples, making up these absurd names, as if they were playing a video game, with the game, however, our nation, and the pawns, us. I find it plausible that Snowden simply couldn't live with this knowledge and decided it would be worth ruining his life (end up as a life-long fugitive, or assassinated). Plausible, although I don't know and can't know, of course, what he was really thinking. Surely, however, one cannot approve of his methods. Along with information which was shocking and useful to Americans concerning their own privacy, he released information which is simply damaging to US interests. It seems to me that Snowden could have achieved his purposes simply by releasing all the data to all the members of the US Congress, without making any of it public. Still illegal, but vastly less damaging.



                            I found it extremely telling that none other than the principle author of the Patriot Act himself, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who introduced the Patriot Act on the floor of the House in 2001, and who currently serves as Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, stated that Snowden's revelations show that the NSA has gone far beyond what is allowed by the Patriot Act. When asked whether he agreed with those who call Snowden a "traitor," he answered: "No, I don't agree." Sensenbrenner went on to say that if it had not been for Snowden's revelations, he himself would not have known the extent of abuse by the NSA. The Chairman of the subcommittee responsible for Homeland Security himself, entirely in the dark about an operation of this scale! How terrifying is that? http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/350854/sensenbrenner-obama-administrations-nsa-assurances-bunch-bunk-lindsey-grudnicki



                            On the other side of the aisle, Daniel Ellsberg himself--mentioned in my last post on this subject--has also come out in support of Snowden's revelations. See "Snowden is a Hero, and We Need More Whistle-Blowers," by Daniel Ellsberg http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/10/daniel-ellsberg-edward-snowden-is-a-hero-and-we-need-more-whistleblowers.html . "But I identify . . . with Snowden . . . His life was like mine. It's very easy for me to identify with his choice, his decision, his performance." It may well be that Snowden is no Ellsberg (I tend to this opinion myself), but there are striking parallels between their cases. Today there is no doubt that Ellsberg is an American hero, but we have mostly forgotten that among the reams of top secret material Ellsberg leaked was much which was, at the time, embarrassing and damaging to US interests. We have mostly forgotten it, but at the time Ellsberg was considered a traitor by many, and a criminal.



                            As to the Russians--the situation is ironic in the extreme--Snowden asking for asylum from an old KGB colonel after protesting against abuses of our services against our freedom. It's really very funny if you think about it. Imagine how uncomfortable Putin must have felt--every fiber of his body wanting to punish or eliminate this betrayer of intelligence secrets. At this moment, Putin must have keenly felt his brotherhood with his NSA counterparts, and reading through Snowden's documents, he must have felt admiration and envy towards them, and fellowship with them and their mentality. Who can doubt that Putin's surveillance of his own people is limited only by his technical and manpower resources, not by any scruples (I would bet that those technical capabilities are pretty good, actually--see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SORM ), but Putin lacks one key advantage which the NSA has, which is that most of the world's electronic communications are routed through the US.



                            As to the Russians extraditing Snowden, or not--people, please! Don't be so naïve! This whole affair was, of course, pure theater, as such things always are. Of course Putin could have simply said: "Sorry, we don't have an extradition treaty, despite our requesting one for years. And you don't ever fulfill our extradition requests. So--sorry, but no. Maybe you'll put that draft extradition treaty which we sent you back on the agenda, hmm?" No, Putin preferred to be seen tweaking Obama's nose and provoking a tweak in return. He reveled in Obama's anger. This is for domestic consumption--Putin imagines that by appearing to be a tough guy, unintimidated by the world's most powerful man, he will score points with some demographic or another in his desperate domestic position. He has been doing such things for a long time now--showing Russians that he doesn't care what people think about him. Feel sorry for Russians--it's a reflection of the awful state of Russian politics today.



                            Keeping Snowden, a symbol of standing up against an oppressive surveillance culture, is of course very dangerous for Putin, since he maintains an oppressive surveillance culture himself. One can be sure that Putin will rid himself of Snowden at the earliest seemly opportunity. We cannot know what will happen to him, but I don't exclude that as the scandal works itself out, and a certain mass of US legislators mobilize against the NSA, a deal will be cut which will allow him to return to the US with a slap on the wrist, or perhaps, immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony. We shall see.


                            There is so much of interest to read on the subject that I wouldn't dream of attempting to make a "further reading" list, but I can't refrain from pointing out the superb article by James Bamford--http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/aug/15/nsa-they-know-much-more-you-think/?pagination=false --in the current issue of my favorite journal, the New York Review of Books.



                            Footnote:



                            (1) One should distinguish the policy question from the legal question, although they are intertwined. The legal question is complicated--the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (not the Patriot Act, incidentally) allows certain kinds of mass electronic surveillance provided certain procedures are followed with respect to, for example, "minimization"--the filtering of irrelevant data. The NSA argues that this permits them to record and sift through all of our telephone calls and emails in the way we now know they do. But if NSA procedures do comply with the FISA law, then the FISA law itself is not going to stand up to a serious Fourth Amendment challenge, I think. Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is fairly harsh on domestic spying. The policy question is simpler--do we want the State to listen to everyone's telephone and email conversations, subject only to the judgment of some callow junior NSA analyst picking his nose in a cubicle somewhere, and without the slightest even suspicion of any criminal activity, much less probable cause?


                            JE comments: Another masterful analysis from Cameron Sawyer.  I especially appreciate Cameron's comments on Putin granting asylum to an individual who blew the whistle on excessive government surveillance.  This may turn out to be the greatest irony of the decade.


                            In the meantime, I'll underscore the title of the James Banford NYRB essay:  "They Know Much More than You Think."  Yes, they do: "He knows when you've been WAISing; he knows with whom you chat; he knows if you've been bad or good..."

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                            • on Snowden's Revelations (Istvan Simon, USA 08/09/13 4:06 AM)
                              I agree with Cameron Sawyer (8 August) that the NSA listening to domestic phone conversations without a warrant is likely to be against the Fourth Amendment, though this seems less certain in the case of mobile communications. As citizens, both Cameron and I have a right to have an opinion on such matters, and I would even go farther and say an obligation to think about these issues and have an opinion. Nonetheless, our opinions have no legal value. There are also proper authorities to decide these questions according to the Constitution. And I think that this is an important point in the Snowden case.

                              Though to me, because of the way that Snowden went about his business, it looks doubtful that his motivation was respectable, let us assume for the sake of argument that I am wrong and that Snowden was indeed horrified about NSA surveillance and wanted to save us from the NSA. That is let us assume that his motivation was a good and honorable one. Does it then follow that what he did was right? I think not.


                              Sowden's actions show a troublesome disdain for the law, an immature and oversized ego, a lack of proper modesty. For Snowden, as any citizen, may and should have an opinion, but nonetheless he is not qualified to say whether the surveillance of the NSA was legal or not. He does not have a university education, nor a law degree to make sound judgments about subtle issues involving constitutional law. There are conflicts inherent in the Constitution between privacy and security. Any untrained individual like Snowden, or I for that matter, should have enough common sense to be reluctant and hesitant about deciding unilaterally that the law of the land is against the Constitution. Snowden's actions show that even under the benign assumption that he was well-intentioned, he did not have this healthy hesitation that he should have had. It is the United States Congress and the President of the United States who pass laws in this country, and the Courts that decide whether these laws violate or not the Constitution. So if he believed that the NSA was acting illegally, his first steps should have been to contact the proper authorities. Because they were not, this shows a troublesome arrogance, a disdain for Congress, the President, and also the courts. Because the first two are elected, his actions also imply a disdain for the people of the United States.


                              Cameron alleges that the NSA lied to Congress. In this regard, I would like to note that if I were to testify in a public hearing of Congress and I was asked a question that involved classified information, I would be also quite understandably reluctant to be absolutely candid about it. That is because once again there clearly is a conflict in such a situation: (1) Congress is entitled to hear the truth in testimony, but on the other hand, (2) I am not at liberty to reveal classified information without proper safeguards even to Congress in a public hearing. Now, I actually doubt that Congress did not know about the NSA activities--the loaded question that was asked of General Clapper, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_R._Clapper#False_testimony_to_Congress_on_NSA_surveillance_programs

                              seems to indicate that Congress in fact knew about it. This is important, because if Congress knew about it and yet did not attempt to pass specific legislation prohibiting it, then in effect Congress sanctioned the NSA activities as legal. Which once again has implications about what Snowden should have done but did not. And on the other hand, if we assume that Congress did not know about it, then still Snowden should have tried to inform Congress, not the whole world about it.


                              For all the above reasons, even though I am sympathetic to the idea of prohibiting the NSA from listening indiscriminately to phone conversations, I think that Mr. Snowden committed a serious crime, for which he should be prosecuted and go to jail. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so if he had good intentions, that may be a mitigating factor in his eventual sentencing, but he still needs to be prosecuted.


                              JE comments:  I'd welcome Istvan Simon's thoughts on the claim of Patriot Act sponsor Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI, that he was unaware of the breadth of NSA surveillance activities.  (On this, see Cameron Sawyer's post of 8 August.)

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                            • Snowden's Revelations; Comment from William Kyburz (John Eipper, USA 08/10/13 6:43 AM)
                              Reader William Kyburz (Rochester, New York) has sent this response to Cameron Sawyer's post of 8 August. I publish it with Mr. Kyburz's permission:

                              I liked Cameron Sawyer's WAIS post on Edward Snowden. Thank you for thinking about this very important subject.


                              Too many are confused here in this nation.


                              We speak of "We the People" and "Rights."


                              "The People" 200 years ago only included white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.


                              Many worked hard and some died to include themselves in "We the People"; I just mention one of my heroes, Susan B. Anthony.


                              There is a difference between a right and a privilege. They are often confused.


                              We have privileges, not rights.


                              These privileges are protected by our Constitution, but if someone threatens to destroy this nation, our precious Constitution goes with it.


                              Hence, we have a dozen of them locked up, who have not seen a day in court.


                              On the NSA: They are protecting our privileges we hold dear.


                              One day, some poor misguided individual out of the slums of Pakistan is going to drive a truck into Chicago with a dirty A-Bomb, making Sept. 11 look like a picnic.


                              The NSA is trying to protect against that.


                              In conclusion...


                              what is the conclusion?


                              I guess it is this: we must define our terms and make it clear what we are talking about.


                              Just food for thought.


                              I'd like to know what other readers think.


                              Best regards,


                              Bill Kyburz

                              Artificial Intelligence Researcher

                              Rochester, NY


                              PS. My past credentials: consultant for many, many organizations, including IBM, ATT, Microsoft, NASA, NIH, NSA, Department of Defense, etc. Now, I am writing a textbook for a graduate-level course in Artificial Intelligence.


                              JE comments: Best WAIS wishes to William Kyburz, and my thanks for his comment.  I believe William is in favor of the NSA's recent surveillance programs. But what's this about "rights" and "privileges"? Driving is a privilege (although for a Michigander it's considered a right); Amendments 1-10 of the US Constitution are not called the Bill of Privileges...



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                        • Snowden Case (Bienvenido Macario, USA 08/06/13 4:50 AM)
                          Cameron Sawyer wrote on 6 August:

                          "Actually, I find it quite striking that Russians and Germans--our close NATO allies--have almost exactly the same opinions about Snowden. 51% of Russians (50% of Germans) approve of Snowden's actions, while 17% of Russians (20% of Germans) disapprove of or condemn Snowden's actions."


                          Snowden believed "Americans should know what the government is doing" in name of national security. By this he meant the whole world, including Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, should also know how terrorist attacks in the US are prevented.



                          So Al-Qaeda smartened up and decided to focus and re-direct all their resources outside the US. For now the Al-Qaeda threat alert is focused on the Middle East.


                          I wonder if the 50% of Germans would still approve of Snowden's actions when Al-Qaeda and other terror groups re-focus their efforts on Europe, even perhaps using Germany as a staging ground for such attacks across Europe.


                          I don't think Russia will turn Snowden over to the US. But after a year, when his disclosures are no longer relevant, maybe he'll be allowed to leave Russia for other than the US. Snowden was allowed to enter Russia and stay there for just one year. It may or may not be extended.


                          What he did as an employee of a government contractor was wrong. This does not make lying to Congress right or that our system has an effective check and balance over Congress, the mother of all too big to fail and too big to blame.


                          JE comments: I'm not sure I see any connection between Snowden's revelations and the present threats from Al-Qaeda.  In any case, several US embassies in risky Middle Eastern nations are on lock-down this week.


                          Can anyone provide some clarity on this question:  is Snowden a voluntary guest of Moscow?  Meaning, if he chose to leave for, say, Venezuela, would he be free to do so?



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            • Spying on Allies (John Heelan, UK 07/01/13 4:53 AM)
              JE asked on 30 June: "Isn't it fairly common for nations to spy on their allies?"

              Who was it that said, "a nation has no long-term friends or enemies, just long-term interests"?


              JE comments: It was John Heelan's countryman (and Lincoln's contemporary), Lord Palmerston. This classic quote, perhaps the most brutally honest ever uttered in the field of International Relations, last came up on WAIS in April 2012:


              http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=69192&objectTypeId=63000&topicId=4963


              It bears repeating from time to time.


              Which reminds me: wasn't there an scandal ten more more years ago of Israel spying on the US? Can anyone refresh our memory?



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              • Jonathan Pollard (Robert Whealey, USA 07/02/13 4:11 AM)
                JE asked, "Wasn't there a scandal ten or more years ago of Israel spying on the US? Can anyone refresh our memory? "

                The man you are referring to is Jonathan Pollard. He was born in Galveston, Texas, of Jewish parents. He got and education in Political Science from Stanford and some postgraduate work in computers. He visited Israel for the first time in 1970. He worked in a DC civilian intelligence agency and passed classified information to the State of Israel. He pleaded guilty to espionage in 1987 and received a life sentence. Casper Weinberger refused the Israeli government's claim for amnesty on the basis of dual citizenship.


                JE comments:  My ten years turned out to be 25! Pollard may be released as early as 2015, after 28 years in prison. His name will undoubtedly be coming up more often these days, due to recent allegations of US surveillance operations on its allies.



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                • Jonathan Pollard and Mossad (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 07/01/13 5:00 PM)
                  In response to Robert Whealey (2 July), there is nothing so straightforward and simple in the spy games as some people think. Especially when dealing with such a sophisticated service as the Mossad, or "Institute," in Hebrew. And Jonathan Pollard's case, as well as that of Ben-ami Kadish, who pleaded guilty in 2008, is not a trivial affair.



                  To begin with, they were not "spies" in the common understanding of this word. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that spy is "a person employed by a government or other organization to secretly obtain information on an enemy or competitor." And Israel is a friendly state and in no way a competitor to the United States.



                  The Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, known outside its walls as the Mossad, is the tiniest among intelligence agencies. According to some estimates, it has no more than 1,500 employees and less than 40 case officers known as katsas. That it can operate with such a tiny staff and still secure the "product" and even an occasional "hit" when it concerns the enemies of Israel depends on two factors. One is the ability to tap into the Israeli population that is traditionally cosmopolitan with an unlimited number of talents, languages and personal contacts. Another factor is an international network of helpers internally known as "sayans." It is difficult to say how many of them live in the United States, but by some estimates quite a few thousand. They do not spy or take part in operations, just asked for favours. And they are convinced that the help they are asked to provide is not against their country. Conflicting loyalties are not encouraged and not allowed.



                  In our two cases, the katsa of both Pollard and Kadish was Yosef "Yossi" Yagur, who operated from the Israeli embassy. He was recalled in 1985 and never returned to the United States. I do not think that any of the two above-mentioned diaspora Jews (who must be Jewish on both sides to become sayanim) with access to secret documents had ever been asked to steal those documents. They certainly did so voluntarily in order to help Israel. That is, their actions were not directed against the United States, and they never considered that they were inflicting damage to their country of birth. For example, one of the letters to Yagur found in Pollard's wife's suitcase dealt with "missile systems designed or manufactured by various non-communist countries, which might be available for sale to Iran." I believe at the time this letter was misinterpreted by the prosecutors. And yes, JE is right that Pollard may be released in late November 2015 (Ben-ami Kadish died in July 2012, aged 89).

                  JE comments: Fascinating. Despite (or because of) Mossad's fearsome reputation, the truth is we know very little about it.  I had no idea, for example, that Mossad proper is so small.



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                  • Jonathan Pollard (Istvan Simon, USA 07/02/13 4:10 PM)
                    Many thanks for Boris Volodarsky's informative review of the Jonathan Pollard case (2 July). Without condoning Pollard's actions, which were wrong and a crime, I think that the sentence that Pollard received is too harsh, especially considering his motivation and the fact that the information he passed to the Israelis, at least in his mind, was not harmful to the United States. These are mitigating factors, and should have been taken into consideration during his sentencing. I think they were not properly taken into account.

                    I think that the Reagan administration decided to make Pollard an "example" to deter others, and they did. Time, however, gives perspective and a new look should be given to this case: Pollard has served nearly 30 years of a life sentence for his crime, and it seems to me it is high time that he be pardoned and released. 30 years is the maximum sentence for murder in countries like Brazil! I doubt that anyone's life was even endangered by Pollard's actions, much less lost.


                    I think that our government sometimes does go overboard in cases where it suspects National Security is involved. Another case is the witch hunt of Chinese-American scientist Wen Ho Lee, who it appears to have done absolutely nothing wrong, and whose persecution by our government was a disgrace.


                    In contrast, I do think that Edward Snowden's actions endangered US lives, even if we accept that his motivation was to protect citizens from snooping. The secrets in the files that Snowden tried to purloin to the Russians and the Chinese in exchange for asylum do not seem valuable enough--judging by the yardstick that he is having so much trouble getting asylum. What was harmful is that he revealed methods of intelligence gathering. This is probably of not much value to sophisticated intelligence gatherers like the Chinese and Russians are themselves. But it would be invaluable to our less sophisticated enemies, who will undoubtedly use Snowden's ill-considered release of these methods to evade them. Since Al-Qaeda is out to murder Americans, this does endanger American lives. In Congressional testimony it has been said that the United States foiled more than 50 terrorist attacks as a result of the NSA surveillance methods. If this is true, it would show that these methods are indeed valuable to protect American lives.


                    JE comments: The government apparently considers Pollard to have paid for his crime, almost, if indeed he is released in 2015.



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                    • Jonathan Pollard (Randy Black, USA 07/04/13 4:14 AM)

                      In his post of 2 July, Istvan Simon commented that convicted spy Jonathon Pollard was made "an example" by the Reagan administration for his crimes, and that his sentence was too harsh. Istvan compared Pollard's 28 years (to date) in prison as similar to that of Brazil's maximum sentence for murder.



                      I'm not certain what murder in Brazil has to do with spying against the United States, but so be it.



                      Just so you'll know, Istvan's claim that 30 years is the maximum in Brazil for murder is not factual. See Article 121 of Brazil's Penal Code for intentional murder of persons age 13 and younger or older than 60. I will repeat: Brazil's punishment for murder has nothing to do with the laws for spying against the USA.



                      Pollard knew what he was doing, did it, hid his actions, was caught and convicted.



                      A decade later, President Clinton refused to pardon Pollard despite pardoning others including Puerto Rican terrorists, a financial supporter, a former Democratic congressman, several in prison for bank fraud, and Clinton's half-brother, who was convicted on drug charges. See Pardongate facts.



                      President Bush (43) followed President Clinton and also refused to pardon Pollard.



                      Whether or not President Obama will offer Pollard early release is anyone's guess.



                      Vice President Joe Biden's position is as follows: "In September 2011, Vice President Joe Biden was reported by The New York Times to have told a group of rabbis, 'President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, "Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time." If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.' A few days later, Biden denied having used those words, although he acknowledged that the sentiment attributed to him was, in fact, his position on the issue."



                      Bravo Joe Biden for his sentiment.



                      http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/biden-denies-saying-jonathan-pollard-would-be-released-over-his-dead-body-1.388489



                      JE comments:  VP Biden is also the Administration's point person on the Snowden case; he's working the phones to discourage countries that might offer him asylum.


                      But Randy:  Bravo to Joe Biden?  Are you sure you wrote that...?


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                  • Jonathan Pollard and Mossad; a Comment from ex-Mossad Agent J (Francisco Ramirez, USA 07/08/13 3:56 AM)
                    "J" used to work for Mossad. The exchange below might be of interest to some WAISers. I asked if I could cut and paste without identifying the source, and J said that was fine.

                    Hi Chiqui [Francisco]:


                    Mossad has strict rules against operating in any way, form, or fashion in the US. Whenever opportunities present themselves to do so, and they do, whether through offered assistance by a Jewish American or through some found passports or other documentation, the Mossad runs from it like it would from nuclear fallout. That is one reason why whenever forged or stolen Mossad passports are recovered, like in the Mabkhuouh assassination case, for one example, you will find forged passports from every nationality in the world save the US.


                    As hard as it is to believe, [Jonathan] Pollard was indeed a rogue operation that was conducted outside of Mossad's knowledge and chain of command (but with the knowledge of Israel's Prime Minister(s)). It was run by a senior air force officer and a retired Mossad senior executive who literally flew by the seat of their pants. That is one reason it was so amateurish, and why none of the standard Mossad precautions were followed.


                    When the Pollard affair was revealed, the head of Mossad went ballistic. He was concerned not only with the precedent of running an agent outside of Mossad (which in domestic Israeli politics diminished Mossad's stature and its bailiwick), but also because the information that Israel received from Pollard was not in the eyes of many in the intelligence community equal to the loss of intelligence derived from the standard, regular, friendly exchanges between Mossad and their counterparts at CIA, NSA and FBI. These relations came to an abrupt complete standstill and were almost fatally damaged. They did not recover until years later.


                    [Francisco Ramírez's response]


                    Dear J,


                    This is very informative.


                    Without citing source, can I cut and paste the text and pass it on? The Snowden case reactivated interest in the Pollard case.


                    This humble monk has had two encounters with the CIA. A colleague at San Francisco State (I co-taught with him) had served in a desk capacity with the Company shortly after graduating from the University of Kansas. When he left the CIA he was told never to travel in Europe, because all agents were known to the Soviets. It took him years to figure out that this was less a preoccupation with his safety and more a concern with the likelihood of his spilling the beans to the wrong parties. In the 1950s, spilling the beans often required direct contacts. He had very little beans to spill. But protocol is protocol. He traveled to Europe in the early 1970s.


                    My second encounter came in Granada. Margie and I had met an American couple. At one point he casually mentioned that he had worked for the Company (his words). So, I asked him about the ongoing case of an American agent who had spied for the Soviets, an Opus Dei guy. I asked him if he thought the government press for the death penalty was warranted. He replied by pointing out that people had died as a result of this guy's nefarious activities. But then he added that there would be no death penalty because there would be no trial. I quickly inferred that there would be a plea deal because we wanted to extract information from this double agent. No, my fellow traveler (my words) corrected me. The point was to prevent his lawyers from seeking info about the CIA that could be embarrassing or damaging.


                    Through that exchange I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to be informed about intelligence matters, I needed to get in touch with insiders.


                    Thanks anew,


                    Chiqui


                    JE comments: My thanks to Francisco [Chiqui] Ramírez for this interesting exchange. WAIS doesn't post anonymous content, but I consider contributor "J" to have been vouched for by Francisco. In any case, insider information from/on Mossad is very scarce.  Not all readers will "buy" J's claim that Mossad doesn't operate in the US, but it's important to see all the perspectives and form one's own opinions.

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                    • Does Mossad Operate in the US? (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 07/08/13 5:30 AM)
                      This is my comment to the "comment of an ex-Mossad agent" (see Francisco Ramírez, 8 July):

                      This story, of course, is impossible to believe. We are being told that it was an individual operation of the Air Force Colonel (later general) Aviem Sella, who was allegedly running Jonathan Pollard and to whom Pollard confessed there were secrets that the USA was not sharing with Israel. This is a very lame explanation! I would ask this alleged (former) Mossad agent to comment on the following:


                      1. Two Mossad case officers (katsas) working under the roof of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, Yosef Yagur and Llan Ravid, were quickly recalled in 1985 because they were running two assets: Pollard and Ben-ami Kadish, both of whom got "burned." Does that mean that the Mossad was not informed?


                      2. In 1995 Israel granted citizenship to Pollard--was it done because it was unaware that Pollard shared American secrets with his Mossad katsas?


                      3. In 2002 Benjamin Netanyahu visited Pollard in prison showing his support and trying to arrange for his release. Was it done because Israel regretted what had happened and did not know that Pollard helped Israel to get some vital information?


                      4. The Mossad does not have "ex-agents": a sayan is for life and a katsa is until he/she retires. To which category does our informer belong?


                      JE comments: "Ex-agent," in the subject line of Francisco Ramírez's post, was my editorial contribution. Francisco wrote that "J used to work for Mossad." I have no idea, but it is possible that J was affiliated with Mossad in a non-agent capacity.


                      Boris Volodarsky raises a very intriguing question: if Pollard was a rogue amateur spy, why would Israel grant him citizenship and work for his release?



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                      • Does Mossad Operate in the US? Response from J (Francisco Ramirez, USA 07/09/13 3:47 AM)
                        As my colleagues from rural America would say, I have no dog in this fight. But here is a response from my source "J" to Boris Volodarsky's post of 8 July.

                        I would be interested in what WAISers with roots in intelligence work have to say.


                        J:  "OK, let's start with the comment regarding Pollard's Israeli citizenship (and how it 'proves' that Pollard was run by Mossad):


                        "The fact that Israel granted Pollard citizenship illustrates Tip O'Neill's maxim that all politics is local.  The Israeli ascendant right wing--of which Netanyahu's Likud Party is still the standard bearer--has made Pollard its cause célèbre. And so it misses no opportunity to place Pollard at the top of its grievances against the (liberal/Left) Israeli parties, the US government (which the Israeli Right views with hostility--unless it is a Republican-led government), and of course the EU. Moreover, regardless of who ran Pollard, there is no doubt or argument by anyone from any quarter that Pollard indeed delivered valuable intelligence to Israel. So what does that prove? When a thief brings bread to a hungry family, most families eat the bread and thank the thief. Where's the news in that? How does one extrapolate from that that the family sent the thief? And even if one does that extrapolation, how does one extrapolate that it was the sister who sent the thief and not the brother?


                        "It's a simple matter:  without Israeli citizenship the Israeli government was in an awkward position to intercede on Pollard's behalf, because he is an American citizen and only an American citizen. With Israeli citizenship the situation is different; now Israel intercedes on behalf of its citizen. Governments on the left and the right have sought to release Pollard because Israel took responsibility for the affair. Again, that is proof that Israel acknowledges its responsibility--not that Pollard was run by Mossad.


                        "Boris Volodarsky states his speculations as fact. For one example, Boris writes that two Mossad Case Officers were running Pollard. OK; debate over. Let's start folding the chairs and cleaning the auditorium--even though that line of reasoning does sounds suspiciously like a tautology, or is it just me?


                        "Is Boris unaware that case officers of every intelligence agency of every country worldwide are usually part of their respective country's embassy and consular staff? Is he unaware that these folks are in the embassy or consulate, as the case may be, so that they can maintain diplomatic immunity under diplomatic passports? Is he unaware that Mossad has a large contingent of Mossad case officers in the USA who liaison regularly with CIA, FBI, Interpol, State, and the press? Does he really believe that because he says that two of these Mossadniks were running Pollard that they were really running Pollard?


                        "Most importantly, implicit in Boris's comments is the apparent belief that someone, somewhere, anywhere argues for the proposition that because Pollard was recruited and run outside of Mossad it makes a substantive difference to the magnitude of stupidity in the operation or to Israel's responsibility in the operation. The facts are--as I stated in my previous email--that there is simply no question and no argument that at least two Israeli Prime Ministers knew of the Pollard operation and sanctioned it. This much was established by Abba Eban in a special commission of inquiry. The fact that Mossad was out of the loop in this US operation is irrelevant to the question of Israel's responsibility; it simply is an inside the (Israeli) beltway story and a matter of water-cooler gossip for the chattering spy-class.


                        "Boris states that a 'sayan' is for life. Hmm, and how exactly does he know this? And he continues with his insight to offer that 'a case officer is a case officer until he retires...'  That should be obvious to anyone.


                        "Should Boris wish to learn a thing or two about Mossad and its operations, he would be well served to read In Hostile Territory, Gerald Westerby, Harper/Collins."


                        (Francisco Ramírez):  And in response to my question: I gather from your e-mails that within Mossad this operation is a sore point because it was ran outside the usual channel, that is, Mossad.


                        Response from J: "It's a sore point for many reasons--not necessarily for the reasons a sane person would think.


                        "Mossad believes that if a human intelligence operation is to be run, it should run it. That is its mandate. When the facts of a spy being run in the USA came to light--and the fact that Mossad was not involved came to light--it was upset because it appeared naive to the other intelligence communities in Israel and around the world. None could believe that Mossad actually took the Israeli government edict of 'no spying in the USA' seriously. And yet for years--indeed since its very creation--Mossad walked away from great US opportunities, great recruiting possibilities, great passports and great covers in order to follow that edict. Of course Mossad also believes that if it ran Pollard, the operation would not have come to light."


                        JE comments:  I'll remain the proverbial fly on the wall in this discussion, but I'll add that it's been very interesting.  Perhaps Boris Volodarsky is not privileged to share such information, but I have a related question:  in the old days how successful was the KGB at infiltrating Mossad?  The FSB today?


                        A big WAIS "thank you" to J for contributing to our conversation, and to Francisco Ramírez for serving as intermediary.

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              • Spying on Allies (Robert Gibbs, USA 07/03/13 3:57 AM)
                If I may enter into this conversation regarding spying on Allies and friends. I really believe that most of the Allied governments' garment-rendering, especially from Germany, is just a political show along the lines of a Kabuki dance.



                All nations spy on one another. Why else is there a host of spies from the EU in Washington? Perhaps, this latest revelation is "a bridge too far," but it is also a sign of the times and a recognition of the vast advances in technology witnessed in the past 20 to 30 years.



                When I served in international coalitions, we all knew that our counterparts were reporting on our movements and that there were official reporting channels and for want of a better term, "unofficial" channels, where our and other information was "abstracted" (a great euphemism) and sent to their HQs on a secure transmission. On one of my tours I served as Operations Officer. All traffic went through me (or was supposed to). We were authorized 4 radios, but somehow we had 9 antennas (4 official and 5 we did not see). Then there is the fact that there were things they did not want us to know, and sometimes things they did. Most amusing was the information they might have wanted us to know but we did not want to "know," at least officially. The list is endless, as is the presence in Washington of agents from all over Europe--check the bars around Harry Diamond Labs or DARPA HQ someday. So please save the histrionics.



                The real issue here is the new technology and its potential use. We are entering a new world of electronic spying unimaginable 20 years ago, where most of "the reading of gentleman mail" was not unheard of. No, I believe that the future will be determined by how we--as a nation--and as a people control this technology and not have it control us in our head-long drive to build bigger and better and more efficient machines.

                JE comments: Information they wanted us to know but we did not want to "know"--it takes a moment to wrap your head around that.


                DARPA: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia:


                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA



                Just what is it about spying that is so endlessly fascinating?  Novelists make the profession sound romantic, but I'm sure in reality it's merely stressful and terrifying--and often quite tedious.

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        • Edward Snowden and the Traitor/Hero Dilemma (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 07/04/13 7:34 AM)
          In my opinion, the essay by Jordi Molins (28 June) is by far the best thing we've had on WAIS so far on the Snowden case. I think that Jordi has put his finger on the real issue. I don't really have an opinion on the case itself, and I'm not sure anyone has enough information so far to really understand anything about Snowden's motives.

          As a general proposition (which may or may not apply to the Snowden case), I think that it is essential that citizens be willing to break unjust laws, and break the law if necessary--and accept the punishment--in case doing so is necessary for the greater good. That is because we cannot assume that just because there is a law about something, that this defines the right and wrong of the question. This principle is the basis of all civil disobedience, and is well-accepted in legal philosophy. The classic essay on the subject is of course Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, for which the whole concept was later named, but there are also a host of ideas of the American Founding Fathers which are exactly on point.


          Therefore I think that the emphasis on the legality of what Snowden did is misplaced. No one questions whether it was illegal--of course it was. The more interesting question is whether it was a good thing, or not. In case what Snowden did was to uncover illegal activities of our own government and reveal this to the public, then I am all for it. In case he was simply misusing his position of trust to steal secrets for personal gain--then I am all against it. I don't think we know and possibly we will never know the answer to this. One thing I can say for sure--I am firmly opposed to any state having the ability to spy on and overhear anyone, anytime, without any limitation. I am opposed to the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful state, whose own interests are considered to be identical to those of the people (which actually means that the people have no interests at all). I bet the vast majority of Americans are, too--it's a fundamentally totalitarian idea which goes against the grain of American traditions. It might be that we have come to a point where we need a thorough public discussion of the subject, and that anything done to stimulate this discussion is valuable, particularly if there are real transgressions which need exposing.


          As to the outrage expressed by some about the refusal of China and Russia to extradite Snowden, I suggest that a brief study of the institution of extradition would be profitable. The criminal indictments and judgments of the courts and agencies of one state, are not automatically valid in another state, and God forbid that they should be. What kind of a world would we have if an arrest warrant in one country was automatically valid all over the world? Every country has the right to decide for itself whether foreigners on its territory, accused of a crime in another country, should be sent back or not, a right we exercise ourselves on a daily basis, often refusing if it is in our interests to do so, or if we do not agree that what the person did was actually wrong. Even our closest allies refuse to extradite Americans to the US, if they think they might be at risk of being sentenced to capital punishment, since they consider our practice of applying such punishment to be barbaric. It's a matter of law in many European countries. And if some Russian had stolen a bunch of Russian state secrets, purporting to expose wrongdoing of the Russian state, and flew to Washington with a laptop full of these secrets, would the US instantly send him back to the Russians just because the Russians had revoked his Russian passport? Of course not--what a preposterous thought. Since we have no extradition treaty with Russia which would otherwise limit our discretion, we would be free to make our own judgment of the situation--not failing, naturally, to consider our own interests, besides of course the question of whether we thought he had actually done something we consider to be wrong or not--before deciding whether or not to send him back. It is quite hard for me to understand how anyone could think that the Russians must behave any differently, than the way we would obviously behave in the same situation.


          JE comments: It's appropriate to discuss civil disobedience on the anniversary of one of history's greatest examples of it (civil disobedience). The signers of the Declaration of Independence were traitors by any legal definition.  Yet civil disobedience, if it proves "right" in the end, is how we construct heroes. (Let me stress that I'm not comparing Snowden to the Founding Fathers.  If Snowden were really interested in his civil disobedience bona fides, he would have stayed in the US to face the music.  Dragging China and Russia into this only makes him seem like a traitor.)



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          • Edward Snowden and the Traitor/Hero Dilemma (Istvan Simon, USA 07/05/13 7:29 AM)
            I think that JE went right to the weak point of Cameron's argument (4 July). Indeed, if what Snowden did was "civil disobedience" to change an unjust law, then he would not mind being arrested for it, just like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and countless others who engaged in civil disobedience before him did. But Snowden did not do that. He broke the law, and then promptly fled the United States to a foreign country where he tried to sell US secrets in exchange for foreign protection. That is not civil disobedience--it is treason, and he is no different than any fugitive who breaks the law and then tries to evade prosecution where he committed the crime.

            Interestingly, Snowden faces the same problem as his current champion Julian Assange also does. Both lack credibility. Assange is being sought on charges of rape made by two of his political admirers in Sweden. It is hard to see how that can be characterized as political persecution. Yet he is seeking asylum to escape extradition on the grounds that he is facing political persecution. In neither case is asylum justified because in both cases we have legitimate prosecution rather than persecution.


            I am afraid that it is not possible to be a "martyr" without the unpleasantness associated with martyrdom, yet that is precisely what both Snowden and Assange are trying to do.


            JE comments: I wasn't trying to point out the weaknesses of anybody's argument. I was merely thinking out loud on the topic of civil disobedience, and yes: you must be willing to pay the piper and suffer the consequences, at least in the short run.


            Speaking of which, who wants to see (and sit in) the actual Rosa Parks bus?  Join us in Adrian at WAIS '13, 10-13 October.  Here are the details--please me know if you plan to attend and whether you'll be giving a presentation:


            http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=77748&objectTypeId=68078&topicId=182




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      • Update on Snowden Case (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 06/28/13 10:59 AM)

        My thanks to Istvan Simon for his 28 June post on Edward Snowden.



        Here are some new details. Julian Assange of WikiLeaks arranged for Snowden to get an entrance visa to Ecuador signed by the Consul of this country in London, Fidel Narvaez. Now, the government of Ecuador announced that this document, known as a "safe pass," is not valid, and that Snowden never asked the authorities for political asylum.


        Snowden is still hiding in Russia. Russian television aired a one-hour program last night devoted to "a hero." The program was impossible to watch because it was full of uninformed paranoia and anti-American hysteria. One of the guests, Mikhail Lyubimov, a former KGB head of station in Copenhagen and London, from where he was expelled for espionage, was literally asking that Snowden be awarded the Hero of Russia gold medal (Ramón Mercader, as we all remember, got one). The program clearly demonstrated that in today's Russia anti-American sentiment (and anti-British, I would add) is fully supported by the Kremlin.


        From Hong Kong Snowden was accompanied by the WikiLeaks Legal Chief Judge Baltazar Garzón and a group of aides. They all may be in the airport hotel in the transit zone, but I now tend to think that Snowden has long been smuggled out by the FSO/FAPSI and is in a safe house now.



        Kind regards and friendly greetings to all in WAISworld.


        JE comments:  Ramón Mercader assassinated Trotsky in Mexico City, for which he served twenty years in prison.  Another Spaniard, Baltazar Garzón, first gained fame as the judge who tried to prosecute the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.  I should have known (but didn't) that Garzón is now on Assange's legal team.


        The Snowden case is getting very strange.


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        • Judge Baltazar Garzon (John Heelan, UK 06/29/13 6:17 AM)
          JE commented on 28 June: "Another Spaniard, Baltazar Garzón, first gained fame as the judge who tried to prosecute the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet."

          One should also remember that Judge Garzón was instrumental (with the journalist Vicente Romero) in revealing the crimes of Argentinian juntas in torturing and "disappearing" opponents in the book El alma de los verdugos (2008).


          More recently, he has been suspended from his judicial duties in Spain to answer charges brought by a right-wing group with the ironic name "Manos Limpias" (Clean Hands), because he was investigating Francoist crimes and political corruption in the ruling government. The suspension was ordered by the less-than-independent senior Spanish judiciary. As a thorn in the side of Spain's right-wing government, Garzón travels usually surrounded by bodyguards.


          JE comments: Given Garzón's record, it was a major publicity coup for Julian Assange to get him on the Wikileaks legal team.



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      • Snowden, Chomsky, Stone (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/28/13 1:39 PM)
        First, my thanks to John Eipper for going through the trouble and commenting on Istvan Simon's 28 June interpretation of my earlier post with "I have re-read Tor's original post, and he did not necessarily endorse the views of Chomsky or Stone on the Snowden case." It is too bad that Istvan neglected to notice that.

        Second, Istvan's disrespect for a great man like Noam Chomsky is a poor reflection on himself. This might be a good time for Istvan to take some of his own medicine, since he often issues requests for apologies from other people.


        Last, my position on this matter was more succintly re-iterated by John Eipper's comment that "there is no question about the legality of Snowden's situation. The morality of Snowden's actions will come to light eventually--was he motivated by greed alone, or by a sincere desire to reveal the NSA's possibly illegal surveillance methods?"


        Unfortunately, while things get sorted out we have the usual extremists fighting over him as a hero or a traitor, while America's image is getting tarnished in the eyes of the world by the rift among American civil liberties, and by the latest insult from Ecuador's Communications Minister Fernando Alvarez, accusing the US government of using "the trade deal ... as an instrument for blackmail" to grab Snowden. This on top of insults from China/Hong Kong and Russia, which thumbed their noses at US requests for extradiction and which ironically took the opportunity to chastise the US for spying on its own people--as if they never do that.


        JE comments: "As if they never do that"--one of the best codas to a WAIS post in recent memory.



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        • Snowden and Chomsky (Robert Whealey, USA 06/29/13 6:23 AM)
          I do not know anything about Edward Snowden. He is innocent until proven guilty of a crime in a court of law. I have read a lot of Noam Chomsky. I have heard him speak in person one or two times. He is the closest to a parallel of George Orwell in America. He believes very little of what appears on American TV, especially the propaganda for more war. He has been consistent in his attacks on Presidents who have imperialistic ambitions. He has always defended the democratic constitution of the US. His books all have footnotes.

          JE comments: And there are 100 of them (books). Wikipedia teaches us that Chomsky was cited more than any other living intellectual in the Arts and Humanities between the years 1980 and 1992. I'd like to know who took over the title in '92.


          Istvan Simon (next in queue) has also sent a note on Noam Chomsky--who's still going strong at the age of 84.


          Anybody remember the "talking" chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky?


          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nim_Chimpsky



          "Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you."


          --Nim Chimpsky


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        • Noam Chomsky (Istvan Simon, USA 06/29/13 8:27 AM)
          In response to Tor Guimaraes (28 June), Noam Chomsky deserves recognition for his scientific work. I already mentioned this in my previous post. But I contend that Chomsky is better known and infamous for his political activism rather than his scientific work. And in my opinion, in the political arena, Chomsky deserves no admiration. He is an unrepentant extremist, a leftist and an anarchist. In his early days he was also a Marxist and a communist, and he has stood with the worst and most repressive regimes of the world against his own country. He often tried to justify his extremism on moral grounds. But someone that sides with repressive tyrants and murderers against his country has basically lost his moral compass, and indeed once he lost it, he never regained it.

          It's not that Chomsky's criticisms of the United States or of capitalism in general are always wrong. Rather, his criticisms may be narrowly valid, but they come with a striking inability to see the bigger picture, and this inability blinds him to the blatant moral faults of our enemies. Thus, for example, Chomsky sided with communist and repressive North Vietnam against the United Sates, and never admitted that he was wrong. 1,000,000 Vietnamese fled Vietnam in rickety boats to escape the communist regime once the North took over Saigon. To my knowledge, Chomsky has never uttered a word of sympathy for the plight of these people, nor admitted his role and guilt in causing their suffering. Countless others were sent to "re-education" camps by North Vietnam. Once again, Chomsky was silent on these outrages. He has repeated this same despicable immoral behavior in other cases since.


          Even worse was his support for the Khmer Rouge--support for the murderous and genocidal Pol Pot! He washed his hands like Pontius Pilate over his responsibility in the murder of 2,000,000 human beings. Tor says I need to apologize for not recognizing the "greatness" of Chomsky? What greatness? It is Chomsky that needs to apologize for his extremism. He has caused much harm, and yet is too arrogant to recognize the error of his ways.


          http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm#chiii


          JE comments: Yet I would say that very few in the US outside university circles take Chomsky seriously.  Americans are like that with our public intellectuals, especially with those on the Left.



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  • Edward Snowden (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/27/13 7:52 AM)
    The Snowden case is much more complicated than Istvan Simon (27 June) thinks. On the one hand many people, including very intelligent people like Oliver Stone and Noam Chomsky, who are closer to the details of the case, are sponsoring Snowden as a hero for democracy and against the abuse of power. On the other hand we have members of our government accusing Snowden of being a traitor. I have no idea who to believe without access to the important details of the case. But as always, my heart and mind wants what is best for the American people, not alleged traitors and not the members of the US government possibly abusing the privacy and the interests of the American people.

    Does anyone know what information Istvan is saying Snowden is trying to sell? It must not be true or must not be valuable for the Chinese/HongKong to sneeze at it and send Snowden on his way. Istvan is wrong in saying, "Putin's regime of course is lying in saying that they don't know the whereabouts of Mr. Snowden." Putin has stated that Snowden is at the Moscow airport without a visa to enter Russia.


    Who is this person? Now might be a time where based on past behavior, defining his personal character may give us some clues whether he should be a hero or a traitor. What is the information he is threatening to release? Is the US government afraid that the revealed secrets might hurt the American people or show abuse of power, lack of respect for human rights, etc? We need to at least answer these questions before issuing snap judgments.


    JE comments: Tor Guimaraes raises one point we should consider: why would the Chinese be eager to unload Snowden and turn him into Russia's problem, if his information is so valuable? A possible answer is that the Chinese are less willing than the Russians to pique US ire. Another answer is what Tor suggests above: Snowden's information is not that interesting or useful.



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  • Edward Snowden (Randy Black, USA 06/27/13 3:43 PM)
    To my WAIS friends who may have doubts about where Edward Snowden is heading once he leaves Russia, one only has to know that today, the government of Ecuador renounced all tariff benefits agreements with the USA. That's taking the bull by the horns.



    Lest someone think I'm taking sides on the Snowden issue, please understand the following statement of fact: Anyone who has access to intelligence secrets of any nation and steals them to be released to other nations is a criminal by definition. Snowden knew what he was doing. In his heart, he probably believed that he was performing a service. The matter remains that he unlawfully stole intelligence secrets and distributed them elsewhere. He's really not much different than most other criminals.



    From the Associated Press:



    "Ecuador said Thursday it is renouncing tariff benefits on hundreds of millions of dollars in trade that are up for renewal by the US Congress.

    "The announcement by Communications Minister Fernando Alvarez comes at a moment when Ecuador faces US pressure to avoid granting asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Alvarez told a news conference that the trade deal had become 'a new instrument of blackmail.'


    "Alvarez said his country 'does not accept threats from anybody, and does not trade in principles, or submit to mercantile interests, as important as they may be.'


    "Ecuador has been lobbying for continuation of reduced tariffs on hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of trade in products such as cut flowers, artichokes and broccoli. Nearly half Ecuador's foreign trade depends on the US."



    JE comments: This could cost Ecuador a lot of money, but it still has oil. As for countries of exile, Snowden picked a nice one.  I would think, however, that in Ecuador he's in danger of being snatched.



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    • Edward Snowden (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 06/28/13 4:27 AM)
      Randy Black (27 June) is correct regarding Edward Snowden's legal status as a criminal on the run. Anyone with a security clearance--confidential, secret, top secret--signs a nondisclosure agreement that subjects him or her to federal criminal charges.

      JE comments: Yes, there is no question about the legality of Snowden's situation.  The morality of Snowden's actions will come to light eventually--was he motivated by greed alone, or by a sincere desire to reveal the NSA's possibly illegal surveillance methods?

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      • Edward Snowden and Treason Laws (Deborah Dupire-Nelson , USA 06/28/13 10:09 AM)
        Regarding JE's comment on Francisco Wong-Díaz's post of 28 June:

        The morality of Snowden's actions may raise some interesting academic questions. However, the legality of his actions will likely be the sole issue if/when he is apprehended and, presumably, brought to trial in the US. Treason is still punishable by death in this country.


        See: 18 USC Chapter 115 - Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities - and 18 USC § 2381 - Treason.

        Source: (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103-322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J),Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148)


        See also: United States Code Classification Tables, Office of the Law Revision Counsel. (Updates there appear to occur daily.) http://uscode.house.gov/classification/tables.shtml


        Note: These citations are not blue-book confirmed.


        JE comments: It's great to post a comment from our colleague in Honolulu, Deborah Dupire-Nelson. Debbie phrases her legal opinions with great care, thus the "blue book" disclaimer. For this car guy, I always thought the Blue Book was what you used to check what your old Chevy is worth...


        See below:


        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluebook



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        • US Treason Laws (David Duggan, USA 06/28/13 2:17 PM)
          The citation form of the statute is correct, but perhaps Deborah Dupire-Nelson (28 June) means that she did not go back to the "session laws" (published in tomes called "US Code Congress and Administrative News"), where the bills as enacted are recorded before they are codified in the United States Code (50 chapters), to verify that the 80th (Truman's "Do-Nothing") Congress passed this version of the treason statute, which is a restatement of the US Constitution, Art. III, sec. 3.

          This is one of the bedeviling aspects of legal "citology": a statute can have several different references. E.g., section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (broadly prohibiting fraud in the purchase or sale of securities) is cited as 15 U.S.C. sec. 78(j)(b).


          JE comments: I'll take David Duggan's word for it!  Was this version of the treason statute enacted prior to, or after, the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case?



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