The Snowden Affair

| #america | #Editorial | #leaks | #politics | #snowden |

Edward Snowden worked for the National Security Agency in the USA, and he revealed a fairly large spying program where the agency was snooping on American citizens. Now, most Americans presumed this wasn’t allowed, but the rules had changed, and this snooping was legalized. With a fair amount of understatement, John Oliver of the Daily Show “told Obama that the problem isn’t that they broke any laws, but “it’s a little bit weird that you didn’t have to.””


Snowden fled to Hong Kong, which seems pretty weird when you consider, you know, China.

Hong Kong allowed Snowden to leave a few days later, when the American request to detain him was riddled with errors, and didn’t meet Hong Kong’s legal standard. Hong Kong said as much in a statement, followed by “[Hong Kong] has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies.”

That’s right, America – you can’t fill out forms, and we’re letting your guy go, and by the way, are you spying on us?

It is to laugh. =D

Snowden goes to Russia – we think. There are no photos of him there, but pretty much everyone thinks he’s there, and the Ecuadorean ambassador in Russia claims to have met him, so… He’s probably in Russia. According to an Al Jazeera reporter, when Snowden first arrived the Russian cops were doing searches of the pre-immigration parts of the airport every few hours looking for him. (No link, sorry, I saw it on TV).

Meanwhile the USA threatens to kick Ecuador out of a lucrative trade arrangement if they dare offer asylum to Snowden, and in response Ecuador tells America they’re pulling out anyway, and offered the 23 million dollars they could have made through the agreement back to America. For human rights training.

That has to sting a little, eh?

America, meanwhile, canceled Snowden’s passport. Without a trial, never mind a conviction, he’s now facing serious difficulties traveling. That seems sort of petty to me, but it’s more or less what I expect from the USA given the sorts of short-term thinkers who’re running the place. And the Ecuadorean consul in Britain offers a safe passage document to Snowden, at the urging of Julian Assange, which is later rescinded because, as is pretty obvious, it’s up to Russia, not Ecuador to grant safe passage out of Russia.

And in Western Europe the French and Germans want to give Snowden asylum, partly because they approve of what he revealed, but also in retaliation for America’s spying on their countries.

France, however, seems a bit confused on the issue. Along with Portugal (and Italy and Spain) they recently refused to allow the president of Bolivia to land fly over their countries, because they suspected Snowden was on his plane. These two four countries forced the president of Bolivia to divert to Austria because Snowden might have been on board. Now that’s some terrible fear of the USA right there. And if powerful countries like France are shit-scared, imagine what smaller countries are thinking now that America is pressuring them not to grant asylum to Snowden.

Venezuala, at least, is standing strong. President Maduro said Snowden “deserves the world’s protection”. In that same article you’ll see that Russia will consider Asylum for Snowden only if… Well, in Putin’s words: “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition — he must stop his work aimed at bringing harm to our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth.”

Even the condensed version of this story is so full of baffling, nonsensical and genuinely hilarious buffoonery that I can’t help but giggle as I write it all down.

What a world, eh?

Love it.

[ Jul 3 2013 ]



Jul 3 2013

As an American, I obviously have a less positive view of Snowden’s actions. Without diving deeply into the right or wrong of whistleblowing, I do want to examine one particular bit of his behavior.

In the past, civil disobedience has generally been coupled with an acceptance of the consequences. Boycotting an event or a service means that you just live without the exposure or benefits that come with your presence. Participating in an unlawful protest means that you’re comfortable being arrested to draw attention to the issue. In the most extreme example, martyrdom (be it Tibetan self-immolation or western-Asian suicide bombing) means you’re willing to die for your beliefs.

Compare with these general examples Snowden’s specific actions. He could have blown the whistle and gone to prison, knowing that the information would still be disseminated and that the public would be on his side as he awaited trial. The notion is that the principles are more important than your own personal benefit, because that’s why you speak up. Instead, he metaphorically flung a pile of documents into the air and then ran away to hide, as if the consequences didn’t apply to him. That implies that he thinks the show is about him, and not about the issues he is addressing. For half of America, the story isn’t that the government spies on people (which frankly, we already knew) but that this kid does not have the courage of his convictions. For all of the legitimate grievances that have been aired, I see the messenger as a narcissistic and arguably unreliable representative of them.

This will blow over. Nobody is paying attention to Bobby Fischer or Chen Guangcheng or any number of people who have run away from their governments claiming corruption and injustice. Snowden, when the spotlight turns from him, may need to discover that you can’t change a system of government from the outside.


Jul 4 2013

First, it’s interesting that it’s ‘obvious’ you’d have a less positive view of Snowden’s actions. Based on what I read on sites within my usual sphere it seems like it’s the whole world vs America’s government. I had assumed that the only people against Snowden were USgov and old men. THanks for shaking that up a little. =)

Years ago, when I thought America still stood strong for justice and due process I would have been much less likely to approve of Snowden’s flight. Now, however, with ‘hackers’ and leakers and Manning and Mitnick being convicted and jailed for many years without charges, never mind a trial, I’d be pretty tempted to leak and flee too.

I can no longer view the system as trustworthy. Consider where he has fled to, places like Russia and China as safer havens than America? It’s only one man’s opinion, but wow.

I hope it does blow over for Snowden, like it has for others. I also hope America gets its shit together, and starts thinking long term. I hope they stop freaking out every time someone uses a computer without getting permission first. I hope people selling security snake-oil and military toys stop hyping minor threats. I hope America stops fearing the educated, and starts accepting again the idea that freedom comes with risks.

But I don’t expect any of these things to happen soon.

Also, as an update, how about that presidential Bolivian flight, eh? The US suspects Snowden is on board, and commands their flunkies France, Portugal and Spain to deny permission to fly over these countries, forcing them to land in Austria.

No matter what Snowden did, it’s America that looks bad here. Every minute and every day.


Nov 20 2013

Olympus Has Fallen

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