Thursday, June 27, 2013

Government attacks on Snowden give good reason not to believe them.


There has been a lot more PR coming from members of congress and government officials defending the massive NSA collection of Americans phone records and Internet communications while attacking Edward Snowden, and very little in the way of facts or truth regarding either.

After testifying in front of a House oversight committee who could have used a seeing eye dog to conduct oversight,  General Keith Alexander was able to provide no proof that NSA collections were solely or even principally responsible for preventing any terrorist attacks. He claimed the NSA massive records collectons helped prevent 50, which were then whittled down to 10 inside the United States, and, as written about here previously, the two most high profile and significant of the ten,  one a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange and another an attack  on the NY subway system hasn't been  substantiated or confirmed  by either New York Mayor Bloomberg or NY police commissioner Ray Kelly making both claims highly dubious if not outright deceptive or even untrue. One would think that any program that prevented a bombing of the NY Stock Exchange and an attack on the New York subway system would be loudly endorsed and defended by Mayor Bloomberg. He's said nothing.

Then on Sunday, General Alexander on ABC News again made the still unsubstantiated claim that Snowden's revelations did "irreversible damage" to the United States. The last time a government official made that claim it was Rep. Peter King and when pressed to be specific about the damage said, " Now Al-Qaeda knows we're monitoring them".

Peter King added to the lack of credibility when he said " Snowden is a traitor. He is a defector. He is not a hero".

For the record in terms of the actual statute that defines treason, Snowden is not a traitor. He is also not a defector. He hasn't defected to any country so if they want to call him names they'll have to find something else.President Obama has called him a "hacker". He isn't that either.  But when you have the president calling him a hacker and members of congress calling him a traitor you have what's called a disconnect.

 General Alexander also couldn't get specific about the "irreversible damage" to the United States caused by Snowden's leaks. There is no proof  yet that exposing this program to American citizens did any damage to the United States.  The closest they have been able to come is the claim that terrorists are now changing the way they communicate. But that, as irreversible damage has also been contradicted.  Until there is more proof, what it damaged was the government and its credibility. Alexander also said, "this is not an individual who in my opinion was acting with noble intent".

The statement is preposterous and further damages Alexander's credibility because all he  knows regarding Snowden's intent and motives is what Snowden has stated  and  misguided or not, Snowden said he was motivated by conscience. And so far all of his actions and all the evidence support that.

There is a mountain of circumstantial evidence that supports what Snowden claims are his motives and no evidence whatsoever in support of Alexander's claims.  As for the "damage" claim that terrorists will now change the way they communicate  Alexander  said that terrorists will now probably not use their real phone numbers when communicating with each other.   But experts have also said that even petty criminals know enough to use disposable pay as you go cell phones when they communicate so what's next?  Telling us that because of Snowden's disclosures terrorists are now blocking their caller I. D. ? If they want to be believed they are going to have to do better than that.

Alexander's as well as others' claim of "irreversible damage" has been contradicted in an Associated Press article which quotes M.E. "Spike" Bowman, described as a former intelligence officer and deputy counsel at the FBI who said the NSA would catch up with any attempts by terrorists to change how they communicate because there are only so many ways terrorists can communicate. Bowman said, " I have every confidence in their ( the NSA) ability to regain access (to terrorist communications)".

 So much for irreversible damage.

So far the government has done a terrible job justifying the program and a terrible job  justifying their attacks on Snowden. And they keep putting their foot in their mouths doing it. Especially Democratic senator Chuck Schumer who must be living on another planet if he thought his attempts at trying to intimidate Putin by "warning " him was going to get Putin to cave in and hand over Snowden.

 If what Snowden did in disclosing the program was so terrible why is president Obama saying there should be a national conversation about Snowden's disclosures? We should have a national conversation about what? Treason?  Defecting? Irreversible damage? Or the program itself?

If the government can't get its act together in defending the program, if all they can manage is a PR onslaught against one man, then why should anyone think they can be trusted with massive amounts of information on American citizens? The answer is they shouldn't be.

And keep in mind James Clapper, the Director of Intelligence committed perjury with impunity in front of a congressional oversight committee seemingly with no fear of reprisals.

In terms of damage to the United States, what kind of damage will it to do to our system of government and the idea that this is a nation of laws not men if Clapper faces no consequences for perjury? They say Snowden had other avenues he could have persued to register his concerns, that he could have gone in house, through proper channels. Clapper had other avenues also besides perjury. He could have requested a closed or executive session. But his intent was to keep the program secret even from congress. Even if it meant lying about it.

James Clapper willingly committed perjury, broke the law, and did it to keep the NSA collection program secret.  So, if Clapper isnt held accountable, why not ask what other laws intelligence officials might be willing to break if they felt they were justified? And remember, Clapper was given the questions  he was going to be asked in advance,before his appearance. He knew what he was going to be asked.  He had every opportunity to request a closed session. His intention was to lie.And he did.

As for Snowden having other avenues, seeing Clapper, the Director of Intelligence commit perjury in March in front of a congressional oversight committee over the very program Snowden was concerned about wouldn't exactly inspire him to go through channels.  It probably would have gotten him in almost as much trouble as he is in now. Peter King, Dianne Feinstein and others criticizing Snowden for going to the Guardian should see Snowden's disclosures as a result of Clapper reaping what he sowed when he committed perjury.

 Something  that seems to get overlooked is that the "F" in  FISA is supposed to stand for "Foreign". More and more, in terms of the American people and their privacy and the honest of government officials it looks like  it's starting to stand for something else.



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