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Yesterday, I got an email from the regional organizer for MoveOn, asking me to participate in their next organizing action. Their plan was to show a Brave New Foundation documentary, then ask people to sign a petition that alleges "the Obama administration has criminally prosecuted more whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act then all other past administrations combined". It goes on to decry "gross misspending (in the billions!)" (emphasis theirs) from DoJ investigating media outlets in an effort to plug leaks, and "systemic race and gender discrimination within the Department of Energy", of which I am not able to find one jot of information, save a solitary lawsuit by a straight white male. They claim to have a coalition of progressive organizations backing this effort demanding Congress reign in the President and pass laws that would "ban the criminalization of whistle-blowers". When I objected, the organizers proceeded to switch out the petition with a totally different one that did have coalition support, and failing that called me uncivilized.

I'm not sure if this is all public information, but hey, I'm a whistle-blower, right?

Except it doesn't work that way.

Whistle-blowers reveal unknown, illegal activity to the public. MoveOn does petitions. It's a thing they do. This is not anything that you, dear reader, do not already know. It's not even news that they appear to have picked up the Snowden hoopla and used it as a reason to rile themselves into full on attack-the-President mode. They've done this before. Now, we can debate the efficacy of MoveOn and their efforts. A friend of mine once told me that every election cycle she becomes aware that Phoenix has a MoveOn organizer and thinks to herself, "oh, you poor thing," but what is undebateably true is I have blown no whistle in regards to their actions. None of what I described above is new information. I just tried to put a spin on it and used a few choice quotes. Plus, while we could debate if MoveOn has sinned against the Left or not, there's also absolutely nothing illegal. At most I am a leaker, and even that is debatable.

So, too, with Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. This is not new information, and it is not an illegal activity. We knew in 2007 when actual whistle-blower Mark Klein informed us the NSA was making secret copies of the Internet. There were lawsuits and the media freaked out, Bush bullied Congress to amend FISA and legalize the program, there was a whole big debate in the Senate, but it passed and Bush signed it and was promptly sued. Fast-forward a bit and the renewal of the FISA Amendments was one of the few things the 112th Congress actually accomplished, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is still fighting that lawsuit.

Now, Snowden is a young guy, perhaps he simply wasn't aware of having been beat to the punch on this by six years. He'd've been 23 doing, well, we really don't know what he was doing or how he got that clearance. But either way, perhaps he can plead ignorance and he really really didn't know that we had chosen collective amnesia on this one. If only some intrepid journalist had crossed his path! Perhaps he would not have fled to China and be in fear for his life. Oh, wait, that doesn't work that way either. Glenn Greenwald knew full well that this whole saga had already played out six years ago. He was there for it. That whole big debate was covered and live blogged by none other than Glenn Greenwald, check the by-line for yourself. It is not possible that Greenwald, who has been thumping this issue since the dawn of time, sat in the Senate gallery, hammering away on a laptop, reporting the law that legalized the nascent PRISM program, was not fully aware that Snowden was reporting legal and disclosed government surveillance. Nothing is illegal, nothing is not known. Therefore, much like me and my MoveOn bashing, no whistle has been blown.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who want Snowden hanged for treason. Snowden is not a traitor any more than he is a whistle-blower, not unless we are at war with China. Even then, part of the irony of Snowden's story is that he's decrying a surveillance state while sitting inside one of the most advanced and thorough surveillance states in the world. Let's not kid ourselves. If Snowden has anything worth having, China has it. It may not be willingly or knowingly, either. He does have an NSA laptop. It is well within the realm of possibility that he hooked up his laptop to the internet and the Chinese browsed it and took whatever they want. If China thought he was a high-value target, he'd've disappeared by now. If any government is capable of disappearing someone even in the midst of glaring media attention, it is China. But there he is, talking away from Hong Kong, and China does not seem to particularly care. The same applies to him seeking asylum in Russia. These are not nations with which we are engaged in a hot war. He very likely has nothing of significant value to offer them anyway. The legal definition of treason has not been met.

So, if Snowden is not a traitor, and he is not a whistle-blower, is there anything that correctly defines what Snowden has done? Yes, of course there is. Espionage. Per the Espionage Act (Pub.L. 65-24, 40 Stat. 217, enacted June 15, 1917), espionage criminalizes the conveyance of information with the intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States. What was Edward Snowden's intent? Disrupt PRISM. It is not much of a stretch, if any stretch at all, for the Government to argue that information obtained from PRISM drives clandestine military operations. It is plausible - no, it is likely that the United States has found at least one if not more than one foreign agents it would classify as an enemy combatant. It's seven plus years of data. If they have not found at least one Al Qaeda operative, then we might want to re-evaluate who we are employing in these agencies.

Let's review. Glenn Greenwald has this ongoing crusade against the Government with regards to the surveillance state. Greenwald is not party to and has written no amicus for the case most likely to halt the program. The sum total of Greenwald's outrage when FISAA was reauthorized in 2012 is just an oped. He then engages in espionage with an employee of an NSA contractor, writes a story that amounts to journalistic malfeasance, and is spinning up fantastic theories about how Snowden should be afraid that Obama will kill him with a drone. He has not mentioned the EFF's lawsuits on the matter, and he has not called for a repeal of the FISA Amendments. For the record, no one in Congress has introduced a repeal bill, either (Rand Paul, I'm looking at you). There is a conversation and a dialogue in here that we absolutely need to have - namely, whether or not PRISM and the litany of associated programs violate the Fourth Amendment. But instead, here we are, discussing a 29 year old high school drop out. This is not helpful. This is a pair of Paulites taking a valid issue and turning it into a three-ring-circus and advancing not much more than themselves. Greenwald is certainly blowing something here, but it's not  a whistle.

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Comment Preferences

  •  disagree. (4+ / 0-)

    this is embarrassing.

    •  How so? (0+ / 0-)

      Snowden is neither hero nor traitor, Greenwald is being self-serving, and we're all debating them instead of the actual 4th Amendment issues at play.

      Where's the embarrassment?

    •  PS (0+ / 0-)

      Bear in mind, I am specifically not commenting on the constitutionality of PRISM in this post. I've commented on that elsewhere, and would be glad to repost. :)

    •  Yeah, nice try but I think I'll go with Ellisberg (3+ / 0-)
      In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an "executive coup" against the US constitution.

      Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.

      The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa – but that unconstitutionally sweeping warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, almost totally deferential to executive requests. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: "It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp."

      From Edward Snowden: saving us from the United Stasi of America

      But then I get the sense that some people around here would have vilified and attacked Ellisberg too, had he leaked a modern version of the Pentagon Papers today.

      History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce - Karl Marx

      by quill on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 02:40:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, no. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        effdot

        First, I would not have vilified him anymore than I am vilifying Snowden. I am vilifying the circus that has grown up around him that Greenwald, not Snowden, is creating. I let Snowden off pretty early in the article. You're actually proving my point. We aren't having the Fourth Amendment debate. We're debating whether Snowden deserves a medal or a bullet. Neither outcome is appropriate. He's not a whistle blower, he's not a traitor. At best he's a kid that really thought he was uncovering some big illegal scandal (which he's not, Mark Klein did in 2007). At worst he's a brat who stole a laptop to get his fifteen minutes. Either way, either the media narrative pivots to the real issues, or we're all about to get punked, and Greenwald isn't helping.

    •  How is this worthy of an HR? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, WakeUpNeo, shwing
    •  HRs aren't for disagreement, though (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      We Won

      Uprating to counter.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 02:57:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Snowden, Snowden, Greenwald, Greenwald... (8+ / 0-)

    Terror, Terror, Spy, Spy...

    And A Traitor In a Pear Treeeeeeee....

    /snark

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 01:44:51 PM PDT

  •  asdf (4+ / 0-)
    Whistle-blowers reveal unknown, illegal activity to the public.
    Wrong.  That's far too restrictive a definition.  Whistle-blowers may reveal waste or abuse or things they only have a reasonable basis for believing to be illegal.

    I won't argue that Snowden is purely a whistle-blower, because his later revelations about spying in Hong Kong and of the G20 describe legitimate activities.  But there is a strong reasonable basis for thinking the broad domestic surveillance revealed by the FISC order is unconstitutional (and thus illegal.)  PRISM is a closer call, but I'm far from convinced it's legal and it's arguably an abuse of power.

    As for your attack on Greenwald, while it contains some inaccuracies I'll just say nobody gets to dictate to others how they do their advocacy.  He has his platform and I think by and large he does an effective job of shining a light on this murky issue.

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

    by jrooth on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 01:56:15 PM PDT

    •  See: Law (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      effdot, shwing

      It's not an overly restrictive definition. It's the legal definition under WPEA.

      And more to the point - Greenwald knew that nothing Snowden was reporting was illegal. He was sitting in the Senate gallery when it was legalized.

      •  Yes, because All Laws Are Honorable (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quill, Lost and Found

        as are the men who make them. Always. Without question.
         

        "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

        by lunachickie on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 02:16:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Different conversation (0+ / 0-)

          I'll be updating and reposting an article from elsewhere that goes to that point. My point here is that the race to annoint or demonize Snowden is premature and not terribly productive. The program is legal. Whether or not it is CONSTITUTIONAL is a different matter. Right now Greenwald is directing the conversation, and ensuring it remains a media circus he can control. The sooner we get off that, the sooner we can move on to the constitutional issue.

          •  Not really (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jrooth

            because the secrecy and deception practiced by this government go straight to the heart of this matter. This is morally bankrupt and illegal in a "democracy" with a 200+ year Constitution.

            Glenn Greenwald is NOT directing this conversation--it is simply taking place among the people, as it should. Those who wish to steer that conversation to support this egregious usurpation of law--the extent of it hidden from the public because they k n e w it was morally bankrupt and probably illegal as hell--are dying to direct the conversation.  

            These constitutional issues are being reviewed by those they affect the most--again, as it should--and I can reasonably assure you, neither you nor anyone else is going to dictate how that conversation takes place.

            If you would diary based on facts, that's great. I'd like to read it. That's all fine and good--but the minute you try to demonize, talk down to, minimize or cast aspersions of any kind on the messengers, you're not basing it in facts, you're adding your own editorial slant.

            "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

            by lunachickie on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 06:10:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I cite everything (0+ / 0-)

              I did write based in fact. Those facts happen to make Glenn Greenwald look manipulative, and Edward Snowden look about seven years late. The program is not illegal as hell it was explicitly legalized under the Bush administration and reauthorized in 2012.  This is exactly my point though. You are racing to defend the messengers without examining the actual message. That's where the whole national dialogue is stuck. There's no progress to be made there.

              •  Really? (0+ / 0-)


                You are racing to defend the messengers without examining the actual message.
                It's a race, all right--for the minds of a bunch of allegedly-free people. And some of you sure seem to be racing to convince us all that you've examined The Actual Message for us, so we don't need to bother our beautiful minds examining anything else ourselves.

                If you're going to do that, and do it more successfully than you've done here so far, maybe dial back some of your more pointed sly, manipulative language? That seems to be, essentially, the problem you have with Greenwald. Seems a little hypocritical for you to be sitting here, lecturing others on The Clarity of The Actual Message, while all those words upthread and in the body of this stellar screed veer off from verifiable fact into a little bias here and a little bias there, and then back again to some relatively-tangential aside that happens to be some sort of other verifiable fact.

                In other words, keep it simple. Stupid, you're not, I can see that. I eagerly await your next installment...

                "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

                by lunachickie on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 08:15:56 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Let's try this again. (0+ / 0-)

                  Snowden himself acknowledged that the actual story is getting lost in the story of himself and Greenwald. From The Guardian's Q&A:

                  Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.
                  I made no attempt here to get at the very real constitutional issues surrounding PRISM itself, I simply want to be done with the hero worship/demonization of Snowden, because it's not productive, and Greenwald seems quite content to be his egotistical self and harp on his personal agenda of hating all things bipartisan and/or government rather than dig out the real issue at the root of it all.
                  •  It does not read like Snowden was referring to GG (0+ / 0-)

                    when he said this:

                    the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like
                    Putting aside the fact that GG isn't even "mainstream" in the United States, the fact is, I could right now find 20 links from 20 domestic "MSM" websites about Snowden's girlfriend.

                    And then you go here. Again.

                    Greenwald seems quite content to be his egotistical self

                    Like I said, I eagerly await your next installment. So far, it seems you just can't write well enough to keep your obvious bias from peppering themselves all over your sourced facts.

                    "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

                    by lunachickie on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:38:18 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not aware of a single, clear legal definition. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        T100R, Lost and Found

        There's a patchwork of laws relating to whistle-blowing.

        But I think this is a good working definition:

        The disclosure by a person, usually an employee in a government agency or private enterprise, to the public or to those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other wrongdoing.

        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

        by jrooth on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 02:22:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  PS (0+ / 0-)

      Unconstitutional and illegal are not interchangeable. This is why I went to lengths to dig up stories from 2007. It was illegal, so we legalized it. SCOTUS has yet to weigh in on constitutionality, and no amount of leaking can force them to do so.

      •  The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. (0+ / 0-)

        So while something can be illegal without being unconstitutional, it cannot be unconstitutional yet legal.

        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

        by jrooth on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 05:46:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Limbo (0+ / 0-)

          Until the judiciary deems a law unconstitutional, it remains a legal thing in theory. Take what's left of Arizona's SB1070. The rationale behind leaving one piece of the law stand was not that it was necessarily constitutional, but that the act had not been actually carried out, no damage had been done, so there was no standing to sue to overturn it. The law remains on the books and is fully enforceable, though the act of enforcement may cause Arizona to land back in court. The same weirdness applies here. In Clapper v Amnesty International, SCOTUS did not rule at all on constitutionality, only on standing, leaving the program intact and running on the grounds that no actual rights had been violated, only theoretical ones, and they were too far fetched of a theoretical for the Court to act.

          In short, a thing can be legal and theoretically unconstitutional, but for practical purposes a court decision is required.

  •  This bears watching (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WakeUpNeo
    He then engages in espionage with an employee of an NSA contractor,
     I think it's going to make a difference whether Greenwald merely reported information provided to him, or if he participated in planning with Snowden to acquire the information.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 02:53:49 PM PDT

    •  Yep! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WakeUpNeo, shwing

      And it's not in the media narrative because we're too busy racing to decide if Snowden is a hero or a traitor, and he's neither. At this point, he's a distraction from the real issue.

    •  Heh ... (0+ / 0-)

      Same thing they're trying to get Assange with.  It's bullshit in both cases.

      “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

      by jrooth on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 05:47:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's very easy to unsubscribe from moveon, I did. (0+ / 0-)
  •  You are heroic! (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this well-researched and written diary.

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