We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Yet it is Snowden who is the indicted fugitive…

A US Federal Court has found against the NSA’s ‘Orwellian’ mass surveillance on the grounds it is probably unconstitutional… yeah no kidding.

So… even if the NSA’s programme of indiscriminate data mining is shut down (yeah right), will a large number of people… hell… will anyone actually go to jail for this blatantly illegal project? Will anyone even lose their jobs? I would not hold my breath on that score if I were you.

In the meantime, Snowden remains an indicted fugitive for revealing what a court has now ruled unconstitutional.

48 comments to Yet it is Snowden who is the indicted fugitive…

  • Mr Ed

    I heard mutterings of an amnesty for Snowden today, if he hands back in a verifiable manner (!?!) all the data he took without passing it to the possible enemies of the USA (which could be anyone on Earth?). Perchance a nod to that judgment, acknowledging that to prosecute for revealing unconstitutional conduct might not yet get them home for a conviction, the in-built biases in the US Federal system notwithstanding.

  • Regional

    Any thing that protects the elite is not ethical.

  • Sorry, but you are living in cloud cuckoo land if you think that the US Government, which has a long track record of such abuses, is going to give up the propaganda war against Snowden just because he has revealed their unconstitutional abuses.

    Even if Snowden was to return to the US, the chances of him receiving a fair trial are slim-to-none. He would be subject to the usual prosecutorial abuse, whereby they would throw enough charges against him to send him to prison for 1,000 years and then offer him a deal whereby if he pleads guilty to 3 charges he will serve only 4-years. Any lawyer on earth would say “take the 4 years”, but as soon as he pleads guilty, the US government can shut him down and say “we don’t accept criticism from convicted felons”.

    I don’t like what Snowden did, but I like the activities the NSA were undertaking even less and find the US Governments harassment of him but spiteful and unsurprising.

    This is one of the reasons why I want the US to fall apart, not because I wish to see American citizens suffering, but because it would stop the arrogant bullying of the US Government, which has been a threat to world peace for a long time.

    During WW2 and the Cold War the behaviour of the US Government was a lesser of two evils, but not any more. If Americans cannot get to grips with their government then it deserves to fall and they with it as a consequence of their own hubris.

  • Laird

    As an American, I agree with everything John Galt said except “I don’t like what Snowden did.” I do like it; it was heroic and necessary. What I don’t like is what we have permitted our government to become. It reflects very badly on us, and will lead to our inevitable (and deserved) downfall.

    The rumors of amnesty for Snowden have already been shot down by the White House. Anyway, if I were in Snowden’s shoes I wouldn’t put much faith in this government’s honoring any such amnesty even if offered.

    As to Perry’s question, no, no one will ever go to jail or lose his job over “this blatantly illegal project”. That’s because, its obvious unconstitutionality notwithstanding, no crime was committed as the “project” was conducted under color of law. It was allegedly authorized by the Patriot Acts (versions 1 and 2), sanctioned (reportedly) by Congress (acting through its Intelligence Committees), and conducted (for the most part) with the approval of the FISA Court. Sadly, it was unconstitutional but not criminal in a narrow, technical sense. No heads will ever roll over this.

    On a side note, I find it curious that no mention has been made here over The Guardian naming Snowden its “Person of the Year” for 2013. Surely that merits a shout-out in these environs, especially as we have already discussed Time Magazine’s punting on the issue (by naming Snowden as its runner-up to the Pope for its Man of the Year).

  • The reason I don’t like what Snowden did is because as a former UK defence contractor, I signed the official secrets act and was paid in full for the work I did (Royal Air Force Logistics, not snooping involved).

    I dislike what Snowden did for reasons of personal integrity, if you agree not to disclose official secrets and sign a document to do so, then you should keep your mouth shut even if you do feel morally outraged.

    I realise there are wider issues here and that mitigates what Snowden did, but I still don’t like it.

  • I dislike what Snowden did for reasons of personal integrity, if you agree not to disclose official secrets and sign a document to do so, then you should keep your mouth shut even if you do feel morally outraged.

    Huh? So your personal sense of honour matters more than doing the objectively morally correct thing?

    The fact Snowden did the right thing is what makes Snowden a hero. It is precisely the fact that, at enormous personal cost, he did what he did in spite of all the institutional and social pressures to make him keep his mouth shut that makes him so remarkable and which means he has real personal integrity. Integrity is not continuing to be a party to gross immorality once you realise the truth of what is going on.

  • Mr Ed

    JG I see your point, but I would proffer the possible defence that Mr Snowden was entitled to presume that the other party to the contract would abide by the Constitution, and thereby he was implicitly subject to a misrepresentation in entering into his contract, which might make it voidable on Mr Snowden realising what was going on.

    The other question is how on Earth one person got so much data? He needed access to all that, more than he could read in a lifetime?

  • no crime was committed as the “project” was conducted under color of law.

    Yes of course no one will go to jail but actually the entire enterprise was manifestly unconstitutional from the get go, which mean it is wilfully criminal. And the fact it was done under ‘color of law‘ actually makes it worse, not just from a commonsensical position but also legally actually.

  • Perry, I’m not saying that he was wrong to do what he did. In the overall scheme of things it might be right up their with Watergate, but I cannot bring myself to like what he did, regardless of it’s necessity.

    Sure, castigate me for my own personal morality if you like, for the fact that I wouldn’t have done what he did. Fundamentally, he signed a contract, took the money and then reneged on that contract for reasons which some deem valid and others don’t.

    Admittedly, I am conflicted, but that is just my opinion and I’m entitled to it. I ain’t the POTUS and my viewpoint is not going to make a penny worth of difference either way.

    Opinions are like arseholes, everybody’s got one and everybody else’s stinks. :-)

  • Huh? So your personal sense of honour matters more than doing the objectively morally correct thing?

    Sorry Perry, but that’s bullshit. We live in the age of moral relativism, where accusations of treason are concerned doubly so. Treason against what? Loyalty to whom?

    There is no such thing as the “objectively morally correct” as each persons morals are a reflection of their own persons character. I won’t inflict my morality on you and I’m sure (if you seriously thought about it), you wouldn’t try and inflict your morality upon me.

    You free to like or dislike my personal morality as you wish, that is the power of free speech, it empowers even the distasteful. Without it we are no better than the fascists we oppose.

  • There is no such thing as the “objectively morally correct” as each persons morals are a reflection of their own persons character.

    And you call yourself “John Galt”? Ayn would give you a severe spanking for such relativism. Of course morality has an objective basis. The tricky bit is we have to form moral theories about what that is. And I am perfectly willing to force ‘my’ morality on you, as you are on me… that is why we believe in property rights and self defence.

  • Again Perry, that’s bullshit.

    Ayn Rand quite categorically stated:

    “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”

    In what way does my like or dislike of the actions of Snowden affect my own rational self-interest? In the overall scheme of things it is a rounding error. Sure it might affect society overall in a very nebulous way, but whether that will be positive or negative is difficult to say.

    Any premise based upon something being “objectively morally correct” is reliant upon an absolute such as God (in which I don’t believe) or Kant’s Categorical Imperative which is unprovable.

    In short, your attempt to classify his actions as “objectively morally correct” is little better than a disguised call to authority. Even if there was some moral absolute that you or others may hold to it has no claim on me personally or my own personal morality.

    Your gaff, your rules, but if you’re going to call me out on Randian Objectivism then you need to get some better ammo.

  • The fact you dislike Snowden doing the moral thing rather than the social mandated thing (and what is an ‘Official Secrets Act’ if not a social contruct to pressure people into staying quiet when they see something that needs to be said) means you dislike moral behaviour. Snowden made a choice his moral values were what mattered to him and not his social convenience.

    Yes rationality is a choice of course but that does not mean all choices are morally correct ones. Rand goes into great detail about the objective basis of morality, so I will not regurgitate that all here but rather will only state that the place she gets it wrong is not that morals have an objective basis but rather failing to understand the process of falsifiable theorising required to understand what is or is not moral.

    Your outrage suggests to me you really don’t understand Objectivism though. To live man qua man is the heroic struggle to live in accordance with objective reality regardless of the pressures of the collective to conform to convenience of the subjective.

    I am also an atheist but I nevertheless have a critical preference for the theory that reality is objective and therefore base moral theories on that objective reality.

  • Mr Ed

    JG, what of my point that the ‘contract’ that Mr Snowden signed may be voided by fraud on the part of the US Government, if one accepts that an officious bystander would, if asked, have been told by both parties that the contract involved upholding the US Constitution, (or, we can hold the US Govt. to it being required to say so), and if it does not, the contract is voided by a fraudulent misrepresentation on the part of the US Govt.

  • what is an ‘Official Secrets Act’ if not a social contruct to pressure people into staying quiet when they see something that needs to be said

    It isn’t some social construct Perry, it’s the law of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as instituted by Parliament assembled and signed into law by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

    You and I might think that such a state of affairs shouldn’t exist, but it does, unless your going to start spouting FMOTL idiocies as well.

    To live man qua man is the heroic struggle to live in accordance with objective reality regardless of the pressures of the collective to conform to convenience of the subjective.

    Funnily enough part of my avoidance of “conforming to the collective” is to recognise that much of the froth and vim appearing in the newspaper is meaningless narrative verging on propaganda depending upon the particular news organ being read. This is why I deliberately avoid the main outlets and treat most facts and all editorials with suspicion.

    Can you say the same Perry? Aren’t you raising Snowden on a pedestal of secular sainthood without fully understanding the REAL reasons why he did what he did (NSA & US Government black propaganda notwithstanding?)

    You can criticise my personal interpretation of Randian objectivism as much as you like Perry, but this all seems like an ad hominem distraction from responding to the points I’ve made above.

    Play the ball, not the man. :-)

  • It isn’t some social construct Perry, it’s the law of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as instituted by Parliament assembled and signed into law by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

    All law of the land is a social construct FFS, do you think it grows on trees?

    Can you say the same Perry? Aren’t you raising Snowden on a pedestal of secular sainthood without fully understanding the REAL reasons why he did what he did (NSA & US Government black propaganda notwithstanding?)

    I look at what he did, not what is being said about him. It speaks for itself.

    Play the ball, not the man.

    Right back at you. You said you dislike the man for doing the right thing.

  • I look at what he did, not what is being said about him. It speaks for itself.

    That’s exactly the problem Perry, you’re looking at “what” he did not “why” he did it. Looking at both his public statements about his motivation and the conflicting reports from journalists he approach prior to the Guardian his motives seem at best confusing and at worst irrational.

    Right back at you. You said you dislike the man for doing the right thing.

    I don’t think what Snowden did was the right thing. Certainly there are some positives in terms of the exposure of unconstitutional activity by the NSA, but was this the only way to go about it?

    Why is he still holding ransom a vast amount of potentially damaging material rather than handing it all over to the news media and “Let justice be done though the heavens fall”.

    It may well be that Snowden recognizes that some revelations might be more than embarrassing or illegal, but actually undermine the protection and defence of the United States which is the only legitimate purpose of a state anyway (from my minarchist perspective), which kind of justifies the concept of an official secret in the first place.

    You can say what you like Perry, but I find Snowden’s actions to be morally ambiguous and I’m fucked if I’m going to get down on my knees and pray to your tin god for the justifications you’ve put forward thus far.

    Aren’t you being a little naïve Perry?

  • Aren’t you being a little naïve Perry?

    I was thinking the same about you actually. If you think working within the system would have made a damn bit of difference then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. If you have a better way he could have done this, then what is it, pray tell?

  • Fair enough, well for starters, there is no way that I would have stolen the sheer volume of information that he appears to have taken. I would have restricted it to just those materials which relate to unconstitutional behaviour by the NSA.

    I understand why he has taken vastly more, it’s because he knows full well that he can use the undisclosed official secrets as a bargaining chip to either remain free or negotiate the terms of a surrender. This is eminently logical, but ignores the fact that the US government has a long track record of wrathful vengeance that makes Medea look like a nun.

    Secondly, if his position is that he wants to highlight the unconstitutional behaviour of the NSA, there are other ways to do it, including contacting requesting an appearance before the senate committee overseeing the NSA (with it’s obvious limitations) or undertaking a protected disclosure through one of the main media channels.

    Now lets not be naïve here, in both of those circumstances it is likely that he would have been accused by the NSA of revealing state secrets and the whole thing could have been hushed up by the NSA threatening media outlets with utter annihilation if they revealed anything, but stories like that are like tinderboxes – eventually they blow-up, just like Watergate did.

    So another alternative would be to disclose the necessary information to a major US media outlet on a purely anonymous basis. Obviously there would still be some personal risk that he could be found out, but given what he has revealed thus far the information he had access to was available to hundreds, if not thousands of NSA staff, so tracing an anonymous leak would have been next to impossible.

    So why DIDN’T Snowden do this? He certainly seems smart enough to have figured this out on his own. I think the simple fact is that to have revealed the information anonymously wouldn’t have given Snowden the hero status he was looking for (and which you seem determined to grant him).

    Snowden was not identified as the leak by the NSA, he revealed himself
    in the Guardian’s interview with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

    To my mind this is why I find Snowden’s position to be morally ambiguous, because even if his rationale for breeching official secrets on public interest grounds had merit, the way he went about it, sneaking out of the country and then outing himself in a taped interview was self-serving.

    In the age of faux-celebrity, I don’t think we should be surprised, but it’s not something which is going to gain my respect. Even with the public interest defence as mitigation it stinks.

    That’s why I don’t like him or his methods, because regardless of what he did, I find his justification dubious and his hagiography distasteful.

    Still want to worship your little tin god?

  • So why DIDN’T Snowden do this?

    Because what he did was VASTLY more likely to work than the laughably flawed suggestions you make. To establish the truth of what he was revealing, he needed to establish his own credentials, ie who he was and what he did as an NSA contractor, hence he had to put his face on it. No one is just going to ‘take it on trust’ from some anonymous source… it would have been written up as a loony conspiracy theory from anti-war.com.

    What I find distasteful is people sneering at effective action against state overreach. We are all very happy to blog our little hearts out from the safely of our homes, safe in the knowledge the state regards us as noise rather than signal, but to do what Snowden did takes real courage.

  • Sorry Perry, I ain’t buying it.

    If you think courage is running to the other side of the world and hiding under the coat-tails of your countries enemy then you have a funny definition of courage.

  • If you think courage is running to the other side of the world and hiding under the coat-tails of your countries enemy then you have a funny definition of courage.

    Yeah giving up a comfortable well paid First World existence and living on the run from the Global Superpower is no big deal.

    If you don’t think that is courage then you have no concept of the what the word means. And not only was he courageous, he was effective and not even the US state was able to keep the lid on it, which seems to be what so many people, including you, hold against him.

    Damn, if liberty has allies like you, who needs enemies?

  • Damn, if liberty has allies like you, who needs enemies?

    Perry, we’re libertarians. We believe that “…there is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences” (as P. J. O’Rourke famously said)

    You’re trying to flog me some line of crap about Snowden being a hero and I’m just not buying it. If he wanted to be a hero he could have done it without sticking his face on the front page of every newspaper in the world.

    If he wanted to be a hero, he could have done it by revealing what he knew and standing up in front of a court and justifying what he did and taking the consequences.

    He didn’t. He might be your hero, but he ain’t mine. For perfectly good reasons and I didn’t become a libertarian to be told how to think by you.

    If I wanted that I could have joined the Socialist Workers Party or the fucking Moonies.

  • If he wanted to be a hero, he could have done it by revealing what he knew and standing up in front of a court and justifying what he did and taking the consequences.

    Yeah that is what I meant when I said you, and so many others, dislike him for being effective. If he had does as you indicate, the system would have shut him up and this story would have already vanished down the memory hole. The state will take the occasional reverse in the courts but frankly that is where they much prefer to fight their battles, not on the front pages on newspapers and websites.

    For perfectly good reasons and I didn’t become a libertarian to be told how to think by you.

    Yeah and you are not just wrong you on this, you are wrong at the top of your voice. And that is what *I* think.

  • Laird

    JG, I think that Perry has the far better argument here. The disclosure methods you propose would have been far less effective (“anonymous sources” are rightly given little credibility); giving up a comfortable life for temporary sanctuary in Russia while incurring the enmity of the most powerful government in the world takes real courage; and as to his not using “main media channels”, how much more “main” can you be than the New York Times? He shared the data with the NYT at the same time he did with the Guardian; the fact that the Times has been far more circumspect in its disclosures speaks to the quality of its editors, not to Snowden. And with respect to the quantity of data he took, we can’t know but I suspect that he was simply downloading as much as he could as quickly as he could before escaping; it’s unlikely there was any time for reviewing and editing it. Anyway, holding some of it in reserve is a wise defensive strategy, and it must be acknowledged that he has been careful not to disclose anything which would objectively harm the US’s legitimate defense interests or put any specific persons at risk. In my opinion he went about this in absolutely the best and most moral way possible. (Whether that morality is “objective” or not I leave to you and Perry.)

    I can’t speak to the Official Secrets Act, but with respect to Snowden he had sworn an oath to “protect and defend the constitution of the United States”. In my mind that oath supersedes any mere contractual obligation to an employer, and even any statute of dubious constitutionality.

  • Laird

    “If he wanted to be a hero he could have done it without sticking his face on the front page of every newspaper in the world.”

    But he didn’t do that; the newspapers did. He revealed his name to establish his bona fides and to give he disclosures credibility. Beyond that, he has had almost no media contact. He did give the Guardian that long interview in Hong Kong, but other than that he’s been almost invisible. Why else do you think every article about him uses that same photo? Why are there almost no quotations? If he were in this for personal publicity or gain he would be granting interviews every day, but instead he is in hiding and speaks directly to almost no one (not even his own family). I really don’t think you’ve been paying enough attention; you made up your mind early and you’re sticking to it, facts be damned.

  • Fraser Orr

    Question for John Galt: Imagine if you will that you were employed in the household of some famous celebrity, perhaps as a butler. As is common, you signed a non disclosure agreement to not talk about the goings on in the house.

    However, when you started working there it became clear that the owner was sexually abusing children that he bought on the child sex slave market.

    Would your moral code allow you to make a call to the cops to relieve the suffering of those poor children? Would you be a good person for having done so? And if you would, how is what Snowden did morally any different?

    I am in the praise camp — I think the guy is a hero. And he is going to pay with the rest of his life for his heroics. We the beneficiaries of his heroism probably can’t do much to change the fact that he is going to live the rest of his life on the run, but the least we can do is laud him for his heroics, and recognize him for his brave and selfless act.

    The “establishment” is going to do everything they can to demonize the guy, the least we, the lovers of liberty, can do is to loudly articulate the other side.

  • @Fraser Orr:

    Not really a fair comparison as in having knowledge of such a circumstance but not advising the police of the same (in certain US states at least) would be a felony offence on the basis of “conspiracy after the fact”.

    Equally, under the common-law of contract I cannot be bound to a contractual agreement to commit or allow an illegal act, so the commission of an illegal act would render the contract null and void (or at least void in respect of the silence against illegal activities).

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

    I am a libertarian, not an anarchist. I believe in the non-aggression principle and such an attempt (i.e. rationalising aggression against a minor) would breech that principle, so again would have no compunction against repudiating any such contract and no court would enforce proceedings against such a breech.

    Comparing all of the above with Snowden is meaningless, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

    Anyway, it’s after midnight here in Asia, so I’ll have to call it a day.

    I remain unconvinced by your hero worship…

  • GoneWithTheWind

    Lets agree that Snowden’s only motive was to expose some unconstitutional wrongdoing by NSA. Why then would he not tell a reporter who would put this in print in front of the American people. Why not be a whistleblower rather then being a traiterous spy? But instead snowden choose to steal a huge amount of secret data and give it to Russia nad the Chinese. Think abut that for a moment, would you even know how to give the Russians and Chinese secret data? He had to plan this and have help in his spyng efforts. Snowden is a spy, a traitor and a defector. I have no doubt his espionage has given Russia and China information that will put American lives at risk. He deserves the maxium punishment for his crimes.

  • Why then would he not tell a reporter who would put this in print in front of the American people.

    He did exactly that and corroborated the story he had to tell. And if he had then waited around until he was arrested, the Snowden story would already be off the front page, the news would be filled with nothing but Reality TV ‘stars’ and Nelson Fucking Mandela, i.e. we would be back to business as usual, which I suspect is what you want, safe under the watchful eyes of our betters.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I should point out that violating constitutional rights under color of law is a US federal felony under 18 United States Code Section 242. From http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/crm/242fin.php:

    DEPRIVATION OF RIGHTS UNDER COLOR OF LAW
    Summary:

    Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

    For the purpose of Section 242, acts under “color of law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of that official’s lawful authority, if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. Persons acting under color of law within the meaning of this statute include police officers, prisons guards and other law enforcement officials, as well as judges, care providers in public health facilities, and others who are acting as public officials. It is not necessary that the crime be motivated by animus toward the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin of the victim.

    The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.

    TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 242

    Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

    Which speaks to several arguments JG has made.

  • Laird

    PFP, on its face it would seem that nearly every member of our government could be charged under 18 USC §242. How many prosecutions have you seen? None, of course. The reason is the clever insertion of that little word “willfully” into the statute. All anyone has to do is claim that he believed that the statute under which he was operating was in fact constitutional and he’s off scot-free; no “willfulness”, hence no crime. QED. No prosecutor is going to waste his time bringing such a case. This is mere eyewash, intended solely to delude the gullible.

    GWTW, you obviously haven’t been paying attention. Snowden has asserted (and I believe him, and no one has claimed otherwise) that he did NOT take copies (electronic or otherwise) of any of those documents into Russia or give them to the Chinese (he delivered his only copies of the thumb drives to the journalists prior to the first public disclosures). He appears to have done everything humanly possible to avoid disclosing any information which would harm the legitimate security interests of the United States, or which could endanger individual intelligence agents, or to permit sensitive documents to fall into the hands of the country’s enemies. He has acted morally, intelligently, and courageously throughout this entire affair. You simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • @PersonFromPorlock:

    Yup, I have to agree with Laird here PFP, such statutes might appear to protect the general public against such abuses, but given the prosecutors and the judges are on the public payroll, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell it would be used against an actual government employee doing their job. It’s just legal eye-candy, a veneer of protection which is as insubstantial as mist.

    @Laird:

    Snowden can assert as much as he likes that he hasn’t given material aid to the enemy, but he’s got that data somewhere in some form, he might not have given the Russian’s and Chinese access to the data, but they’ll have a pretty good idea and there’ll be hundreds if not thousands trying to get their hands on it.

    Russia didn’t give Snowden asylum because they liked the look of his face, they did it because it is in their national interests to frustrate the power of the United States. For us libertarians, who are fundamentally against such states, this is fun to watch, I even make popcorn, but we should be in no illusion that this is a former intelligence agent of the United States giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    You can put whatever sheen you like on that, but at best the guy is a deluded fool who may have done some good in ratting out the NSA, but he’s got the power to do tremendous harm.

    If you expect the US Government to turn the other cheek you’re living in a dream. In fact it shouldn’t surprise any of us if somebody didn’t whack him for his actions. Then we’d be left guessing as to who’d actually done it.

    Paul Marks (sometime commentator at this parish) certainly thinks so as does that bastion of moral probity Colonel Oliver North.

    Oliver North predicts Russians will kill Snowden: ‘He’s a dead man walking’

  • The bit about Oliver North being a bastion of moral probity was a joke by the way.

  • bloke in spain

    Mr Galt’s moral argument may well be correct. As may be Mr deH’s Whichever, would be great in a moral world. In reality it rarely is & in the particular world the subject of discussion is taking place, a world the architecture of which is entirely the construction of the US & other states, expediency is probably the best that can be hoped for.

  • Being a libertarian is essentially the role of eternal opposition, we wish the world to be arranged differently, but it is not.

    We can always plan and hope.

    However, it is foolish to deny the reality of circumstance, RealPolitik if you will, just because we despise it.

  • …but we should be in no illusion that this is a former intelligence agent of the United States giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    I was not aware the USA and Russia were at war or is it that you expect Snowden to feel “My nation, right or wrong”? The real enemy here is the NSA and GCHQ and frankly if Putin gets to strut like some absurd peacock at the USA’s discomfort, why should I care? The whole reason one of the few places Snowden could run to was Russia was the USA has a very long reach and thus it has to be a place whose government really does not care much for America.

    So how strange that you are willing to give a knowing nod to realpolitik by nations and yet when Snowden does exactly that, rather skilfully playing them off against each other, to thwart the USA, you criticise him for it. As I said before, your main beef with Snowden seems to be he has actually been effective.

  • Its not a case of “My Nation, right or wrong”, Snowden WAS a member of the United States intelligence community, he was paid by them to undertake analysis of specific forms of intelligence, it’s not like he was just some mindless prole that walked in off the streets.

    Secondly, despite a veneer of democracy, Russia remains a geopolitical opponent of the United States. There may not be an actual war between the two at this point in time and Russia is significantly weaker than it was during the cold war, which it lost to NATO and the United States, but there is still an argument to be made that Russia is still a threat to the security of the United States, crippled and diminished though it may be.

    Equally, even though the US Government is dangerous at least there remains the vestiges of democracy and law. Whereas Russia is at the opposite end of the spectrum, an autocratic tyranny thinly disguised as a democracy.

    Your trying to tell me that he appeared in Moscow by accident on his way to Ecuador or some other such 3rd world shithole? I could say the same of other people you might have heard of, like Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess among others.

    Snowden’s effectiveness, as you define it, is in a single sphere, his ability to undermine and distract the NSA by revealing its internal operations and focussing on actions which appear unconstitutional.

    Now think about that all again, very slowly…

  • The USA spends 682 billion on its military. Russia spends 90 billion. Yeah a terrible threat… if you are Georgia.

    Your trying to tell me that he appeared in Moscow by accident

    Go look up that realpolitik link you posted. He ended up in Moscow because that is where the USA cannot reach him, and that is what keeps him on the front pages and therefore makes him effective. The fact Russia is an autocratic tyranny is irrelevant, the fact it dislikes the USA and will not hand Snowden over is the key piece of evidence here.

  • Mr Ed

    Perry

    I was not aware the USA and Russia were at war or is it that you expect Snowden to feel “My nation, right or wrong”? The real enemy here is the NSA and GCHQ

    Quite, unless you are, say, a South Korean resident, the greatest threat to your liberty is going to be the government(s) that you live under.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Laird, JG, I’m all too aware that federal law enforcement takes its cues from administration policy. But administrations go out of office, taking their priorities with them, and this year’s a-wink-and-a-nod may be next year’s feeding frenzy. Your cynical view is probably correct, but that doesn’t mean the law will never be – with equal cynicism – applied to this situation. There have been charges brought and convictions won under 18 USC 242.

  • You do realise that 18 USC 242 tops the list of laws where prosecutors decline to prosecute an astounding 98.7% of the time and that even when prosecutions do take place they are for minor prison and law enforcement officials for egregious breeches?

    http://trac.syr.edu/laws/18/18USC00242.html

    Given this I don’t think my view is cynical, but spot on the money.

  • Fraser Orr

    John Galt,
    My argument is more one of what is innately right rather than what a specific legal system might say. After all the NSA is part of that legal system, and systems tend to give excessive protection to their own.

    Is it right to be a whistleblower when you observe a significant evil, regardless of what agreements you have already made? As you point out the fact that this is true is recognized in law, since a non disclosure agreement can be overridden by an obligation to report child abuse. I am not a lawyer, but if this legal principle exists then it should and could apply equally to an agreement to keep secrets being over ridden when it turns out those secrets are terribly evil.

    I bumped into an interesting, much lower grade story of similar effect. A guy bought some bling on an online site and when the service was bad he gave them a negative review. Apparently in those terms and services that no one ever reads there is a clause saying they aren’t allowed to do it, and they are currently being charge $3,500 for violating this clause, as well as having their credit ruined. Is this a just outcome? Just because they agreed to this in some obscure agreement can they really be held subject to such an unreasonable clause in the contract?

    I don’t know, I am a libertarian and believe in free association and free contracts, but this just seems so innately unjust I bristle against it. I think it is perhaps just an artifact of government, the government who run the legal system, a system that is just too difficult for ordinary people to really understand, and a system that makes the normal mechanisms for managing such complexity either difficult or illegal.

    http://gma.yahoo.com/couple-fined-3-500-negative-review-fights-back-140154802–abc-news-money.html

  • Laird

    JG, you are certainly correct that Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum “because it is in their national interests to frustrate the power of the United States.” Putin seems to enjoy sticking his finger in Obama’s eye (witness his masterful manipulation of Obama’s attempted invasion of Syria), and who can blame him? (I would too, had I the power.) But Perry is correct that Russia was the only place where Snowden could have any reasonable expectation of his personal safety. There is no indication that he had originally intended to wind up in Russia; in fact, it appears that he had intended to seek asylum in Argentina (now there’s another close ally of the US!) but feared (with good reason) that the US would ignore international law and interdict any plane he was travelling on. Russia was the best option remaining to him.

    As to his having the data somewhere, in some form, as his “ace in the hole”, you’re undoubtedly correct, but there is no indication that he has given any of it to the Russian or that he has any desire to do so. Given his actions to date I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt on that score. But keeping some form of insurance against an “accident” befalling him is only prudent.

    I think you perceive more of a gap between Russia and the US on the tyranny/freedom spectrum than is warranted. Russia may indeed be “an autocratic tyranny thinly disguised as a democracy”, but the veneer is wearing awfully thin on the US’s reputation as a bastion of liberty. We may not be an abject tyranny yet, but we’re busily constructing a turnkey tyranny which will be ready to implement at a moment’s notice. Someday, someone is going to turn that key.

  • JG:

    but there is still an argument to be made that Russia is still a threat to the security of the United States, crippled and diminished though it may be.

    I absolutely agree. I also happen to think that the current US government with all its agencies, including the NSA, is no less of a threat to US citizens, as well as to foreign ones. I wish it wasn’t so, and it was only 5 years ago that if you told me that this would be my thoughts now, I would question your sanity. But here we are.

  • Mr Ed

    Fraser, in English Common Law, that penalty clause would be unenforceable as unconscionable, and the company could be sued for the return of the money. It is hardly a genuine pre-estimate of loss, which the law requires.

    Also, in England, under statute, a credit card company might also be sued as a creditor to the ‘deal’, which makes them jointly liable to the seller. Yes, in the UK, a creditor can be a guarantor for the seller of the deal is between £100 and £15,000. Hardly fair, but caveat lender is the rule now.

  • @Mr Ed:

    A bit off topic actually, but since we’re talking about it, in the circumstance of a contract baring complaints, it could be challenged under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 which I’ve used to claim against a mortgage company who attempted to charge an £8,000 redemption penalty against me.

    In general under English Law, you are not allowed to charge penalties, only to reflect the costs of recovery in relation to actual losses or estimates thereof, so for a whole host of reasons an equivalent action would be rejected under English Law.

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