Gwynne Dyer: Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, spies, and whistle blowers

Edward Snowden, a former contractor to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, has been trapped in the transit lounge of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow for the past two weeks, while the United States government strives mightily to get him back in its clutches.  Last week it even arranged for the plane flying Bolivian president Evo Morales home from Moscow to be diverted to Vienna and searched, mistakenly believing that Snowden was aboard.

Former U.S. army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is already in the U.S. government’s clutches. Having endured 1,100 days of solitary confinement, he is now on trial for “aiding the enemy” by passing a quarter-million U.S. embassy messages, Afghanistan and Iraq war logs, detainee assessments from Guantanamo, and videos of U.S. attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq to the WikiLeaks website.

These two American whistle blowers have a lot in common. They are both young idealists who had access to the inner workings of the U.S. “security community”, and were appalled by what they learned. Their intentions were good, but their fate may be harsh. (Bradley faces life in prison without parole.) And there is one big difference between them.

Bradley, the more naive of the two, was shocked by facts that more experienced observers take for granted: that governments, including the U.S. government, routinely lie to their citizens, their allies, and the world, and that armies at war, including the U.S. army, sometimes commit terrible crimes.

So he published a mountain of evidence that substantiated those lamentable truths. That greatly angered the U.S. government, and he will probably pay a heavy price for it. The U.S. government wants its secrets, especially the most shameful ones, to stay secret, and its extraordinary vindictiveness towards Bradley is intended to deter others from blowing the whistle.

Edward Snowden, on the other hand, has exposed something that even experienced observers did not take for granted: that the U.S. government has created a massive apparatus for discovering everybody else’s secrets. Under the cover of the “war on terror”, it has been secretly trawling the telecommunications networks of the whole world for information not just on terrorism, but on any other subject that affects its interests.

Never mind the hypocrisy of this. (American secrets are sacred, but the United States has the right to know everybody else’s.) It’s the sheer scale and brazen arrogance of the operation that are so stunning. Exhibit A is the PRISM programme, whose very existence was a secret until Snowden spilled the beans early last month.

This program, run by the National Security Agency, began in 2007. It collects data from all nine major American internet giants—Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Skype, et cetera—and they are not allowed to reveal the fact that they are passing the data to the U.S. government.

In the first instance, it’s mostly traffic analysis: who is talking to whom? But if the traffic pattern sparks the NSA’s interest (or if the U.S. government wants to know the content of the messages for other reasons), then the spies can read the actual messages. And, as you would expect, PRISM didn’t just stay focused on “terrorism” for very long.

The NSA started using its new tools, and some older ones, to spy on foreign governments and companies, including those of America’s allies. “We hack network backbones—like huge Internet routers, basically—that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post in late June.

U.S. citizens resident in the United States are allegedly exempt from having their messages read without a court order (but the court is secret, too). Unless, of course, American citizens communicate with people living outside the U.S., in which case they are fair game.

Americans, on the whole, are remarkably untroubled by the NSA’s actions. Almost a million people work in the U.S. security industry, and most of those jobs would disappear if Americans did not believe that “terrorism” is the greatest threat facing their country. So the industry works very hard to sell them this fiction, and most of them accept it.

Foreigner governments, by contrast, are very angry. The countries targeted by the NSA included not just obvious candidates like China and Russia, but U.S. allies like France, Italy, Greece, Japan, and South Korea.

The European Union’s embassy in Washington, its office at the United Nations, and even its headquarters in Brussels have been hacked. Latin American targets include not just Venezuela, but Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil. (It’s those pesky Brazilian terrorists.)

French president Francois Hollande responded to Snowden’s revelations by demanding that the spying “stops at the earliest possible date—that is to say immediately.” Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said that the NSA’s actions, if proven, would represent “violations of sovereignty and human rights.”

But foreign protests will not force a shut-down of the PRISM program. At most, it will be renamed and re-hidden. The U.S. government gains major advantages by knowing everybody else’s secrets, and the million people in the “security community” are a huge domestic lobby.

Manning and Snowden have done the world a service by exposing the U.S. government’s illicit actions past and present, but Manning’s future is probably life imprisonment, Snowden’s a life in exile (if he’s lucky).

No good deed goes unpunished.

Comments (22) Add New Comment
Leone
Orwell almost got it right. It's not Big Brother, it's Big Uncle...Uncle Sam.
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blah
Everybody is doing it. Maybe not on the same scale as the U.S., but everybody is doing it.
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I Chandler
"These two American whistle blowers have a lot in common. They are both young idealists"

Young idealists? As old idealists, (5 decades with NSA) Russell Tice and William Binney have much in common with these young idealists.

Both Snowden and Biney have won the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, given by a group of retired CIA officers:

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

Russell D. Tice leaked that the NSA had spied on Obama, federal judges, ranking military officials and members of congress.

" something that even experienced observers did not take for granted: that the U.S. government has created a massive apparatus for discovering everybody else’s secrets."

Observation: Discovering everybody else’s secrets, is something that the CIA/NSA was created for......
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Michele Baillie
One whistle blower of note comes to mind; Tyler Kent. If anyone is interested, his story can be found at ihr.org (Institute for Historical Review) I can promise you; it will be an eye opener.
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Alan Layton
I keep hearing at how enraged the American public is, but there have been no demonstrations and now the world seems more interested in Snowden's romantic story of adventure and intrigue, than what he uncovered. I'm not even sure what he uncovered was really that astounding or as unknown as stated. As for foreign governments being upset, I'd be interested to know what their programs are called, because you can make a bet that either they have nascent programs running or would like to have them.

I think part of the reason there isn't a real, sustained outcry from the public is that few can identify any personal damage done by it and also that with social media, everyone has had a chance to vent their spleen to the world and have now moved on to other more pressing issues, such as the summer blockbuster movies, or what they are going to wear to the beach.
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Martin Dunphy
Michele Baillie:

What part of that "story" do you consider an eye-opener?
The part at the end where he concludes that, with regard to the Jews, "Hitler was right"?
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Brain Dead
Alan Layton:

The reason is clear. Most Amercicans, and westerners for that matter, are brain dead, lack historical perspective, or vicious.
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Claire Duboc
Why the asymmetry?

Surely the optimal method of surveillance is to allow everyone to watch anyone, not just a privileged class of watchers waiting to exploit the information gathered.
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I Chandler
Some historical perspective might have been expected from a historian. The fact that LBJ was a close neighbour of Hoover, assisted him in becoming president. Hoover could not have imagined this
dystopia in a wet dream. It would be nice if one could explain the damage done by these programs. After reading this column ,someone might not understand the extent of the spying

"U.S. citizens resident in the United States are allegedly exempt from having their messages read without a court order"

Regurgitate: "Nobody is reading your messages, and nobody is listening to your phone calls"
But NSA Does store every phone call, of Every american,while having the capability to listen to them at any time. After all it is very inexpensive:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130621/03390823552/how-much-would-it-...

This Interview with Whistleblower Russ Tice, describes how intelligence can be used to control journalists, supreme court judges , politicians, generals etc:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6m1XbWOfVk
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Ted Reynolds

The state that jails and persecutes its patriots, and, moreover, prevents me from even voting for the people and issues I desire, receives no certificate of legitimacy from me.

I may not feel like rising in rebellion against it at this moment, but I feel no need to respect its actions, demands, and mandates. I will try to do what is right, even when the political and economic rulers are criminally wrong.

BRADLEY MANNING IS INNOCENT. So are Edward Snowden, and John Kiriakou.

Pass it on.



Pass it on.
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Alan Layton
Brain Dead - good answer, I guess there's no reason to go on living since there seems to be no hope for the western civilization.

I think probably a simpler answer is that most people are too buy living and enjoying their lives to spend much time on wide-ranging apocalyptic thoughts. It rarely affects our lives to any great extent, so eventually it falls below the radar and life goes on. Speaking of historical perspective, I'm sure you're aware that this sort of activity is as old as civilization. Governments are just lucky now that social media and our desire for constant communication is making it much easier to keep an eye on things.
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Michele Baillie
Martin Dunphy:

History is the tale told by the victors. Don't take my word for it; if you have the drive to do so; dig for the truth...it is out there and a lot easier to find than when I went looking for it starting in the 1980's.

You WILL get upset....be warned.

Voltaire said; "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."
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Martin Dunphy
Baillie:

There are websites where you can spread the gospel of Holocaust denial and historical revisionism.
Find one.
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John-Albert Eadie
"Manning and Snowden have done the world a service": *Correct*. Good Americans they, and represent the USA of 1945 more than 2013. I pray that something, perhaps yet another 'defector' happening, starts to change current American attitudes, but predict as does Dyer.
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M.
Snowden makes me believe the word "integrity" still has meaning. He has done a great service, and I am grateful for the way he explains himself directly to the public.

It may be too late, though. Things have gone too far. Western institutions and culture have absorbed many bits of this poisonous insect -- it digs in deeper and deeper. From cameras on every corner (UK), to laws against wearing masks (in Canada), to secret courts (US)... to police outfitted like soldiers (in the US and elsewhere), to journalists struggling for an opportunity to be journalists rather than marketers, and more and more.

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Peasant
Glad to see that Gwynne Dyer is still a free-thinking journalist. Lord knows there are few of them remaining. Can't believe how even the mainstream, leftist media are pretty much ignoring this pivotal-moment-in-Western History story - I guess because they support Obama, vindictive, droning fascist or not. (And, believe me, I do not use the fascist word often, not for Harper etc) Generally the media have been scared off and we have to start supporting not only those who reveal the truth, like Snowden and Manning, but those who report it also. Thanks Gwynne Dyer
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Alan Layton
The mainstream media aren't really ignoring this story, but it's not the 'pivotal-moment-in-Western History' that you think it is. It's no more life-changing than the First World War, which was called "The War to End All Wars". Have all wars ended? The answer is no. In fact they never even missed a beat after WW1 ended in 1918. As I've said before, life goes on and the vast majority of people will not be affected by this at all. The western world is not on the verge of becoming a fascist police state. As a matter of fact it continues to become more liberal all of the time - eg Marriage Equality is becoming a reality.

But I do agree with you that the left wing is hamstrung by their devotion to Obama and mainly because he's black. If you lean to the left, criticizing a person of colour is looked down upon (just ask Paula Deen, who's life has been ruined because she used 'the N word' many years ago). If this were a white president, or more importantly a white Republican president, then the left-wing media would much more intense about it.
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Peasant
A Layton - ok, the leaks don't equal a WW, but according to Daniel Ellsburg: "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."

He also told CNN why he said he'd been waiting "decades" for someone like Snowden to emerge. "Decades in a sense that of seeing somebody who really was prepared to risk his life for his country as a civilian," he said. "To show the kind of courage that we expect of people on the battlefield." Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago."
Agree with you about the left being hamstrung (and conflicted) about Obama - partly because he's their idea of an 'acceptable Black' Several years ago I was good friends with an African student who used to cringe when people used to assume that he was overjoyed that the US had a black pres. He shocked several of O's cheerleaders by saying that he didn't respect or trust Obama because he is half white, was raised by whites and is pretending to be black and, most importantly, that he seemed to be minimizing his white roots which he should honor too.

I used to think I was on the left, but lately I see little difference between the left and right wing. I've decided that the ends of the spectrum are blinded by ideology and that the middle is the place for the clearest view.
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I Chandler
The media are not just ignoring the story, (of massive & indiscriminate NSA surveillance) but are distracting attention away from the substance of the revelations with stories of Snowden's asylum drama and alleged personality traits etc. Glenn Greenwald explains how the latest efforts to distract attention from the NSA revelations are absurd. He also offers a list of the NSA revelations that he has published over the last month:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/13/reuters-article-dead...


"Americans, on the whole, are remarkably untroubled by the NSA’s actions. "

Even with all the conditioning that they have been subjected to, there has been a massive shift in American attitudes: voters say 45 - 40 percent the government's anti-terrorism efforts go too far restricting civil liberties, a reversal from, 2010@ 63% - 25 %. They also say 55% - 34% that Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower, rather than a traitor.

The NSA leaks are going to have legal ramifications:

Last Friday new "media investigation guidelines" (ie gov spying on journalists) were publicized. Of course,America a was a nation of laws, not guidelines. I need to read Greenwald's book With Liberty and Justice for Some.

People were not able to challenge the legality of these secret programs because they didn't have evidence that they were being spied on - no one could establish standing.

Lying to Congress is a felony, punishable by 5 years in prison for each offense. Reagan administration officials and sports stars have been prosecuted for having done so.
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Chris
I think the point everyone is missing here is how EXTENSIVE the operation is. It must extend through a good portion of all internet traffic, and the sheer amount of data they have the ability to hack is incredible.

There are other internet protocols that encrypt the data you send over the internet much more securely, perhaps that will catch on...
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