Thursday, December 26, 2013

For Person Of The Year: Edward Snowden

Back in October, Eye On Miami offered our vote to Time Magazine for the Person of the Year to NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. The Person of the Year should be someone uniquely suited, through his or her actions, to the times. Popes come and go but rarely does a Shakespearean character emerge fully clothed like Edward Snowden.

Snowden blows the doors off an issue closeted in America's consciousness: how much freedom we surrender to technologies whose reach and scope our Founding Fathers could never have imagined. Where do we draw the line on data collection? How do we dial back the national security state? but for Edward Snowden, these questions would be dormant.

There is enormous pressure now -- and it is reflected in what you hear from esteemed members of Congress -- to keep the wraps on surveillance technologies that touch our liberty and, by extension, vilify anyone with the temerity to expose the extent of data mining, collection, and storage.

From outside appearance, Edward Snowden is unremarkable. His skills sets with computers and software don't intersect with 99 percent of people his age. He would be the geek you might avoid in high school. (His detractors now harp on that story line. How he sat before his computer with a hood covering both his head and the screen.)

What makes us so uncomfortable in our celebrity-driven culture is that Snowden is an anti-celebrity. Everything about him speaks to the ordinary -- where cultural fame demands beauty, he is average looking, where our conscious attractions require of famous performers that any flaw in appearance be accompanied by a special character of voice, delivery or skill, Snowden is pallid, his stubble is average, nothing about him on film or photo sings -- and what he did was extraordinary.

His most ordinary fault is that under almost every other conceivable outcome of his interests and skills he would never be famous.  He is not an inventor. He is not a software or hardware designer. Had Shakespeare any inkling of what was to come, the great Bard or maybe Samuel Beckett might have invented him.

Eugene Robinson, OPED writer for the Washington Post, yesterday wrote that Snowden comes across as "smug and self-righteous-- an imperfect messenger, to say the least." I disagree. Think of the enormity of what Snowden did and try to imagine his actions performed by a grizzled veteran like Daniel Ellsberg or senior scientist. No. It takes someone young, reckless and idealistic to first gain access to the security state and then use keystrokes on a computer keyboard to undo the secrecy that required hundreds of billions of taxpayer investment.

Note from Quartz:

As more and more revelations emerged from the documents Edward Snowden lifted from the US National Security Agency, observers seemed numbed by the sheer scope and audacity of the agency’s domestic and foreign internet surveillance. The fallout for the tech industry has just begun: US companies must now prove, especially to foreign customers, that the move to cloud-based services, which necessitates sending all their data through the very same communication nodes to which the NSA has access, won’t put all of their secrets in the hands of US spymasters by default.

The effects are already being felt. Cisco blamed a poor quarter on deals in Russia and Brazil soured by fears about the NSA. Cisco also warned that this will affect many other US firms, and that it threatens the future of the internet of things—fitting, since the implications of a world in which every gadget is a potential mole sure are scary.
Inevitably, Snodwen's actions will drive the national security state to more inventive barriers and paranoia. With a history of lying to Congress and even to the President, now that the NSA is burying itself even deeper, who will reign in the spying? Edward Snowden might be all American voters and taxpayers ever get in terms of a single individual with the knowledge, access, and ability to publicly disclose the event of surveillance on all Americans and how the quest to find the needle in the haystack has put the tools for massive repression in the hands of a few people we trust to honor our privacy.

When Snowden says, as he does now, that the invasion of personal freedom has gone so much further than Orwell could have imagined, who can doubt he is right?

Robinson concludes:

(Snowden) was an obscure analyst working for a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor at a remote outpost in Hawaii. When he began working in the secret world, by his own telling, he was a true believer. But he became disillusioned — and then incensed — at what he considered outrageous violations of individual privacy by a surveillance apparatus that was out of control.
Snowden’s decision to leak massive amounts of information concerning some of the NSA’s most secret and intrusive spying programs has done more than embarrass officials in Washington. It has galvanized efforts throughout the world to protect what little privacy we have left.
Snowden’s revelations are devastating in their specificity. Americans know that all of our phone calls are logged by the government in a massive database. German Chancellor Angela Merkel knows that the NSA tapped her mobile phoneBrazilians and Indonesians, among others, know that their phone conversations may be listened to and their e-mails may be perused.
We know that secret court orders have forced phone companies and Internet providers to surrender private information. We also know that, unbeknown to those companies, the NSA and its partners — the equivalent spy agencies in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — apparently tap into fiber-optic cables and guzzle as much information as they can.
These ongoing disclosures provide a detailed map of a shadow realm that spans the globe. We now know how technology is destroying privacy — and what steps governments and communications companies must be pressured to take in order that privacy survives.
I can’t think of any individual who had more influence in 2013. Edward Snowden is the person of the year."


Geniusofdespair said...

This is the Gimleteye man of the year. It is not a unanimous decision of Eye on Miami's two writers. I probably would have picked the most liberal pope we have ever had, Nelson Mandella, or Bruce Jenner.

Spare Me said...

Maybe it's just me but when someone violates his oath to this country, steals the passwords of U.S. intelligence employees, uses that access to obtain and smuggle classified security information out of the country and then finds safe harbor in Russia, he doesn't deserve to be placed on a pedestal.

The end never justifies the means. Edward Snowden is a traitor to this country. The fact that uber civil libertarians like Gimleteye now throw roses at him speaks more to their politics than their love of the United States.

Gimleteye said...

Obviously I disagree. This has nothing to do with my politics. It has to do with constitutional guarantees and individual liberty that American citizens fought and sacrificed to protect. If you are telling me that the price of freedom is surrendering our freedoms to strangers, I would ask you who is policing the strangers to protect our liberties? That is not a Democratic question or a Republican question: it is a question fundamental to our national identity. Don't take the easy way out and attribute this serious question to politics. Answer the questions.

Anonymous said...

What are you thinking Gimleteye? Edward Snowden is the worst traitor ever. If NSA developed a superior spying program what do you think other nations are working on? One has to realize other nations must have similar or more advanced spying programs to spy on us. Gimleteye are you suggesting NSA do nothing to keep ahead of the changing world and allow our country to become vulnerable to protect our "liberties"? Of course not, NSA is forced to stay ahead of the game assuming the spying world is quite nasty. Again, Edward Snowden is a traitor and deserves no "person of the year recognition.

Anonymous said...

Please think outside of the box, he did sacrificed his freemon so that you and I know that information can be use against us without any real legal process, just because......

Anonymous said...

Excellent answer Gimleteye!
It is the second posters stance that allows abusive regimes to cling to power the world around.
Exhibit #1 : Irak war, where the US military checked they-er knowing better at the door and instead asked how high do you want us to jump. I'll never understand how military and government people lose the ability to think and reason as citizen.
Me thinks its the pension.

DANTON (aka CATO) said...

This is one of the (VERY) few times I agree with Gimspierre,Snowden is an excellent choice for all the reasons enunciated and more.

As for you Mr. "Spare Me" It seems that you were most definitely spared was an education on the constitution and the bill of rights.

If there are any traitors here (and there are plenty) it is those that knowingly violate the constitution and trample on the rights of the citizens of the United States. I can think of about 500 folks that work around Penn. Ave that fit this description.

Every citizens top priority and allegiance should be to the freedoms spelled out in the constitution and Bill of Rights not any president or "National Security" Agency.

Gimmspierre we will continue to disagree on many things, but today we charge the barricades together.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Chauncey said...

I finally agree with something on this blog. Snowden is a hero. Cheers!

Studly Steve said...

Why not pick one of the many hot ladies? I would choose Miley Cyrus.

Anonymous said...

In many circles in America, he was and will always be a traitor. And if he ever comes back, he will pay the price. Many people here are very comfortable and naive about the world and our way of life. Everything is not as rosey as you assume and there are people in the world who would glady cut our throats if they could. The thoughtless, indiscreet actions of one little contract worker might have put thousands of lives in danger, ended or impacted all kinds of critical operations that he knows nothing about. But I also fault the government for giving a two-month contract worker that kind of power. There are some jobs in America only the military, and military people should handle.

Anonymous said...

Why have all of the apologists for capital and the establishment come out of the shadows to condemn Gimleteye and Snowden? I make it a practice to ignore anything that Robinson writes, because he is mostly an apologist for capital, too, but on this one, he is right. Snowden IS the man of the year. Right on, Gimleteye!

Spare Me said...

Gimleteye: As technology seeps into every part of our life, intelligence collection and analysis will, too. It's inevitable. It has to happen to keep up with the other side and to prevent harm to this country. It's not so much the fault of the collectors as it is Technology's advance. If you're advocating that we ignore that reality, pretend like it's the 1970's and '80's, and suffer the consequences, I disagree.
This discussion needed to be held, no doubt. But the way Snowden and Greenwald generated that conversation and continue to poke and provoke is absolutely wrong. Please don't tell complain about "surrendering our freedoms" to "the establishment" and not complain about SunPass tracking you as you drive around South Florida or your phone company as you talk on your cellphone or your credit card company as you log your purchases. To ignore that existence in pursuit of some kind of civil rights Camelot is idiotic and the hard reality is that the other side will eat our effing asses for lunch. And then guys like you will be the very first in line to intellectualize the BS and complain that "The Establishment" is a failure.

As far as Snowden goes, he betrayed his country and his oath. Period. Dress him up and rationalize his actions any way you want.

And then ask yourself why the Hell you feel the need to do it.

Anonymous said...

He betrayed his country for his ego, 15 minutes of fame, a decision that he alone knew what was best for the country, and a chance for international attention. For others out there who seek attention at the expense of the well-being of the country, who think they alone should decide the course of the country, don't do it. The price will be extremely high.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Spare Me.
Snowden felt compelled to blow the whistle, but he could have done it without putting at risk our national security secrets. He went overboard. Sorry, he is no hero in my book. With all of this country's defects, It is still My Country, and I will defend it at all costs.

Julius and Ethel said...

Shocked, awed, appalled, meh

Maybe I am Alan Sorkin's apathetic ignoramus.

I don't know what I don't know and I still don't care.

But I always pay cash, strive to be boring and trust nobody.

"Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?"

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what they say about Snowden 100 years from now, if we're still around.

Anonymous said...

Eventually he will have to come back home and face the charges. He first gave all our information to the Chinese, and once they had it, they were pretty much finished with him. Now the Russians have as much of our information as they want, and soon they will be finished with him too. When he arrives again in the US, we will be able to say mission accomplished too.

CATO said...

Those that put their info out there on facebook,twitter, instagram etc for everyone to see have no expectation of privacy, but who I call or when should be between me the person I call and the carrier NOT the NSA or any other government agency, they should be required to obtain a warrant (from a regular court not fisa) to get that info from a US Citizen especially on US soil.
Same goes with emails. The Fourth Amendment should not be contorted to appease the state or Spare Me's of the world.

"Those that sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither"
Benjamin Franklin

Anonymous said...

While I believe that the NSA collecting domestic data on US citizens may be improper, if the FISA court judge allowed it, what can we do? When there is a terror attack, we are quick to ask "how did we not know this was going to happen? We have all these tools."

As far as Snowden singing on our spying overseas, that was treasonous. The US Constitution doesn't protect them. Because of this idiot, our ability to gather intelligence has been hampered.

If Snowden truly cared about his country, there were better ways for him to do what he did. Go to the FISA judge. Speak with a Senator or Congressional member. Wikileaks wasn't the correct tactic.

Anonymous said...

Everyone in a position of power should have a group of advisors, counselors, family members, or friends, people with good judgement in their inner circle. When they are confronted with dilemmas they can help you analyze situations and provide workable alternatives that will solve the problem and keep you out of trouble. When you are facing a problem, there are many things you cannot see because you are right up on it. But, they maybe very visible to others. Additionally, they may have different ways of thinking about the problem and can explore multiple alternatives, things that you wouldn't think of. While all of them need it, young inexperienced people especially must seek out trusted advisors to prevent chaos and big mistakes.

CATO said...

Anon Said

"what can we do? When there is a terror attack, we are quick to ask "how did we not know this was going to happen? We have all these tools."

So I am supposed to think that the same keystone clowns that mailed pilots licenses to dead 9-11 Terrorists a year after the attack are going to keep me safe because now they have ALL our phone and email Data?

Spare ME!

Anonymous said...

It was the NSA that mailed the pilots licenses? If the story is true, it's the FAA that licenses pilots, not the NSA.

BTW, the saying is not "keystone clowns" it's "keystone cops."

Snowden is not a patriot. He is a traitor. Read the details. The FISA court approved the surveillance but said that if any American citizens were involved that were not already considered suspects, the surveillance must stop.

I have absolutely no problems with the NSA or any other government agency intercepting discussions among any other nations' leaders. There may be crucial intelligence gathered there and it may be just a discussion about who's effing who at the UN. Who cares.

I am generally against our government gathering data on otherwise innocent individuals. I don't do anything illegal besides maybe drive too fast sometimes or jump an occasional red light. There is no evidence that shows any of the NSA data was used against any citizen for political purposes.

keystone l said...

Re keystone clowns
Ever heard of a play on words?
Previous to all this broo haha
If gubment wanted phone records they got a warrant to compel your carrier to cough up the data from a regular court not a "secret" couty.
Federal agencies got reports of Arabs taking flying lessons yet not caring to learn how to land and did nothing about it. No need to track everyone's phone calls just need to spend less time ay Krispy Kteme
You don't do "anything" Illegal? That's what you think, there ate so many laws on the books that unless your a pet rock your an inmate waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

This guy endangered all of us. He is an AH -- and I am a Dem.

There is nothing to acknowledge here, other than he and a newspaper reporter wanted to be famous and important in their own eyes. If they were truly wanting to make the world safer, they would have not outed the facts this way. They would challenged the government to change without publicly spilling state secrets.

Instead, they showed their ignorance and endangered all of us. Not to mention, encouraged other hackers by showing the world that hacking is acceptable. What an ass, if he were my son I would be mortified.

Prem Lee Barbosa said...

so funny when tunnel-vision conservatives and liberals ignore the fact that our government lies to us under oath, and violates our constitutional rights on the daily, but the guy who exposed this treason at the highest levels is a traitor.

His oath was to the constitution, not his superior officers.

the Snowden revelations are only just begun, there's a lot juicier stuff to sink our teeth in to in 2014, and at some point 80% of the people doing the "Snowden-tongue-lash will either bite their tongues or drop their jaws.
If we think what we know so far is bad, let's just wait...corporate espionage, infiltrating non-violent activism organizations, recording the entire internet, somehow these are just the beginning!