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Member since: Sat Dec 6, 2003, 05:15 AM
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Is calling Snowden a coward just another psy-ops technique?

What does Snowden stand to gain from his revelations in your view?

From what I have read so far, he appears to have asked nothing other than asylum for the truths he brought to light.

I don't think he spoke up or published these documents for personal benefit.

Rather I think he is paying and will pay a tremendous price for his courage and honesty.

It will be a long time, maybe never, before he gets to bask in the glory of having opened the eyes of millions in the world to the surveillance to which we are subjected.

In fact, just to live, just to survive, he has to fade from the stage, leave everything he has ever known and retire to a very, very quiet life far from anyone who has ever known him.

He is at sea. He can know no one. He can trust no one. And that for a long time, maybe the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, you and I sit here in our comfortable chairs posting on the internet, living the good life until we die of natural causes. And quite possibly, we will eventually enjoy just maybe a tiny bit more privacy in our communications thanks to his revelations. We may gain, but Snowden will lose. He will be on the run, never to feel secure probably for the rest of his life.

And there may not be much left of that.

Snowden a coward? Really?

A "coward" who will never sleep a night without wondering who may have seen him during the day, who is coming for him, whether today he will be hunted down by our powerful state and our mighty, ubiquitous military.

Snowden will wonder perpetually to what sadistic police force in what remote country he will be secretly renditioned, to what kind of torture he will be subjected, what violent end he will meet.

Meanwhile you and I chat away, our every word, our every keystroke watched, collected, sorted and categorized by the voracious computers at Booz, Allen.

Now, who is the coward(s)?

For my part, I'm really grateful to Snowden for making the sacrifices he has made to let us know that our own government is Big Brother and is watching us, slicing and dicing our every communication, classifying our every call, ready to claim every word we write or speak any time it wishes.

As I see it, Booz Allen and the government stole our information.

Snowden just told us that they were stealing it.

Snowden did not take anything that didn't already belong to us, the people.


Ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Since we are the government, since we govern ourselves, who took our metadata? It is a small elite clique, a rogue group in our government that operates under the color of authority but that does not have legitimate authority. Why does this program lack authority?

Because once people understand what is happening and what the repercussions of this spying and collection of our metadata means for our self-determination, for our press, for our freedom of speech, religion and association among other freedoms, this spying will have no authority whatsoever. It is a program that operates under the color of law but is as illegal as police brutality.

Snowden has brought out the facts. It will probably take years, but the program's inevitable excesses and abuses will come to life and the people will take back their authority and end the program.

It comes down to how much you value democracy, representative government. I value it greatly.

I value democracy, representative government, participatory government so much that I volunteer in political campaigns, I discuss politics with my neighbors and friends and family, and I read and post on DU to keep up with political developments. I devote a lot of time to democracy and to participating in what I have always thought was the democracy in which I live.

So once you decide how much you value democracy, it comes down to what you believe is necessary in a society in order to have a democracy.

For me, we need a free press, near absolute freedom of expression (right up to the point at which the only expression that should be barred is expression that makes democracy and the expression by others of their ideas impossible), freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom to petition government and a government that answers to all the people and not just the wealthy, the well connected.

For me, a democratic, a representative government answers to the people. It does not manipulate the people. It does not indulge in psy-ops, influencing the people with psychological tricks. It does not require the people to use ID cards made with technology that uses biological markers like DNA or a photo of the singular eye of the card-holder.

When I was a child, I was told that our Forefathers fought and worked and wrote the Constitution so that we would live in a democracy, so that we would have and participate in representative government and so that certain rights we be guaranteed to us to insure that we could live in democracy.

This surveillance program is incompatible with democracy because it makes a free press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and all our other freedoms impossible.

It makes a joke of representative government, since under this surveillance program we cannot, without the government's knowledge, communicate with each other or learn news that the government might not approve.

Further, once the government has collected our metadata, knows the names of the people we communicate with, the organizations we belong to, the books we buy or borrow, etc. the government, regardless which party is in charge, can classify us, and most important, if it sees what websites we visit, it can categorize us by our interests.

Once it has that and similar information, it can influence us. It can make sure that we are contacted by people who have links to the organizations, religious, social, professional, that are important to us. It can make sure that we will be exposed to the information it wants us to have.

In fact, I have wondered, here on DU, whether one or maybe more of the people who post a lot and always feed us with information, very elaborate and well organized information that is extremely, unusually and always favorable about, flattering to, our current government are employed by someone, maybe the government, to influence us, to do psy-ops on us on DU.

It may just be coincidence, but, is it possible that a real person would always, always, always be able to think up reasons, arguments for us to side with the Obama administration? A person who genuinely thinks for him or herself is, in my opinion bound on occasion, at least once in a while, to disagree with Obama on something no matter how much they support Obama.

I strongly object to this surveillance program. It is not compatible with democracy or representative government.

It is also not compatible with human rights. The minute that our government places us under surveillance we are not free to say or think what we really say or think.

This program enables the government to manipulate and influence us -- inevitably. If the government is not yet actively influencing and manipulating us, sooner or later it will.

This surveillance takes away our freedom.

In my view, for that reason, it is unconstitutional.

If you think I am wrong or exaggerating, think a little harder.

A reporter whose phone records, whose metadata is collected by the government cannot make a call to talk to a source without the government knowing that the communication is taking place.

A troubled soul cannot call his pastor or his doctor's office with the government finding out that call took place.

An abused wife cannot call an attorney for advice without the government knowing about it.

This surveillance deprives us of our freedom and enables our government to influence us. That is not democracy.

So that is why I am grateful to Snowden for letting us know that this program is taking place.

Punishing Snowden would mean the government is telling the American people that the American people do not even have the right to discuss this surveillance program, much less criticize it.

Obama has said we should have a discussion about surveillance, but he wants to punish the person who began this discussion. That makes no sense.

Again, there is somehow a contradiction between claiming that you encourage discussion on a topic and then trying to arrest the very person who started the conversation.

We live in dangerous times. Surveillance is a dangerous development.

We have heard a lot about cyber-terrorism.

That's not Snowden's thing. He is a cyber-revolutionary. I'm not at all saying that I think that is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm just saying how I see this situation realistically.

While I am happy that Snowden has let us know that our electronic communications are not at all private and that we have no right or means to know whether we are among the surveilled or not, I don't know enough about the cyber-revolution, the cyber-war in which he seems to have taken a command for himself to know what it means for the rest of us non-computer-geeks.

I have no idea how computers work other than that I can turn one on and enter stuff and stuff comes out. I don't understand the internet well enough to post successfully on any website other than DU, but I do send e-mails and do Google searches.

Seriously. I have joined other websites, but I can never seem to get back on if I don't go back for a while. I haven't learned to text yet. So you can see. I am not a soldier in the cyber-wars. Not even a likely enlistee.

But I do now understand what General MacArthur said to Theodore White two days after Hiroshima.

"White, he said, White, do you know what this (the atomic bomb on Hiroshima) means?" "What sir?" I (Theodore White) asked. It meant, he said, that all wars were over; wars were no longer matters of valor or judgment, but lay in the hands of scholars and scientists. "Men like me are obsolete," he said, pacing back and forth. "There will be no more wars, White, no more wars."

Theodore White, In Search of History, A Personal Adventure (Warner Books 1978) page 224

Snowden was born in 1983. Although it was already an inevitable reality, Congress argued about opening up our markets to international free trade on a pretty unlimited basis in 1985 (maybe earlier, but 1985 is when I learned about it). Snowden's generation of Americans does not have the same concept of "nation" that his parents and ours did.

Snowden believes in a cyber-world in which everybody puts in their two cents, and the best ideas win. Information is conveyed on line. People shop online, get medical advice online, socialize online, see the world online. The people even vote (recommend, like) online.

Snowden does not believe in nation-states. He buys a computer made in China out of parts made from about five other countries. His pants are made in Sri Lanka. His shirt in El Salvador. (Not really. Just examples.) His tomatoes come from Mexico, his grapes from Chile, his wine from France. He joined the US military and was sent on a cyber-mission, to spy on people around the world of all nationalities, colors, races, including the US.

And now he has taken an open field in the cyber-war. The cyber-war that puzzles the world's governments but is only understood by the computer geeks themselves. We, including our "leaders" are the peasants. Our cyber-fields will be left in ruins by this. Just wait and see. We will be much more cautious in our electronic communications once we begin to comprehend what this means.

And now Feinstein says to him: you took an oath.

Well, Feinstein took an oath too: to uphold the Constitution. But she and the rest of Congress and the Supreme Court construe the Constitution according to their interests - liberally when it comes to the powers of government, when it comes to approving secretive laws and secret cabals within the executive branch and to giving big chunks of tax money to private contractors and military junk production companies.

But when it comes to the First, Second, Fourth and maybe the Fifth and 14th Amendments (at the very least), the Executive, the Congress and worst of all, the Supreme Court believe in free authority for government and restrained rights for people.

That interpretation of the Constitution does not work well in a world of international trade and international electronic communications. Our trade agreements conflict with the concept of local, democratic government. That does not bother members of Congress like Feinstein, Pelosi and Shumer because they know how to profit from those agreements.

But the internet and electronic communications open up the world to ordinary people who clamor for international rights and international freedom. And that scares the same people who have foisted international trade on us in exchange for what used to be our jobs.

Snowden is not revolting against the US. He is beyond that. He is revolting against the constraints of traditional nation-states. He wants freedom for the internet.

He seems to have chosen to be a soldier in the government of scholars and scientists that MacArthur predicted would fight future wars. So here we are. The cyber-war is on.

I sit here, approaching my dotage. I am still part of the library generation, except that more and more, I realize that my generation would better be called the library-book-sale generation. Because that is where I am finding all these precious old books written by people who were not trying to squeeze communication into three one-syllable words expressed in symbols and smiley faces.

I look at what Snowden is doing and I am as baffled as Obama sounds, as Putin looks. I hear the skies are full of planes roaring from the capitols of countries on the out list among American diplomats. What a strange war we are in.

Personally, I'm on the side of the books -- the old books I find in used book shops and library sales -- the casualties, the orphans of this cyber-war. Unless I announce it on the internet, only I know whether I am reading Voltaire or Locke or Goethe or Haiku or Theodore White. That's privacy.
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