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Is Edward Snowden Just Another Canary in the Coal mine?

By       Message Herbert Calhoun     Permalink
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There are three parts to this book. Part one recounts Edward Snowden's initial contact and subsequent meetings with Glenn Greenwald, the author, a Human and Civil Rights Lawyer, and Laura Poitras, a free-lance reporter and photographer for the Guardian. Their early meetings led to intense cross-examination of Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel to determine his bona fides and to deign his motives for pilfering and desiring to release thousands of Top Secret documents taken from the NSA. Once they were satisfied that Snowden was the "real deal," a consensus was reached on when and how the documents should be released.

Anyone who reads their analysis of Snowden in this book will be forced to agree that the way the 29-year old high school drop-out acquitted himself, places him in a category well beyond his tender years. His astute answers to their questions go far beyond mere whistle-blowing or the mere malicious maneuvering of a single disgruntled low-level employee. In fact, and in retrospect, Mr. Snowden now looks more like the canary in the mine shaft, giving us the last warning before the corrupt structure that has become the USG, collapses under the weight of its own out-of-control intelligence agencies.

First and foremost, Snowden's primary aim was to allow the American people and not the intelligence community, to decide if our government should be engaging in widespread illegal, unconstitutional and unethical behavior. Second, Mr. Snowden did not want to "be THE story" himself, or a distracting focus away from the revelations for which he has willingly put his life in permanent jeopardy. He just wanted to make available to the public what the U.S. was doing behind their backs to further restrict their freedom.

Indeed, NSA continues to operate behind a shield of secrecy that consistently and wantonly betrays America's own highest instincts and values as a freedom-loving people, and arguably, that also violate a whole host of international norms and laws -- as it simultaneously undermines the trust of the American people.

The NSA, in coordination with the FBI and other U.S. and foreign intelligent agencies, has been doing this all under the thin pretext of defending the U.S. not against other nations, but against a ragtag bunch of Middle Eastern desert thugs called al Qaeda. Having as his single aim the idea of promoting enough transparency that it would trigger a public debate, it would be difficult for a "true patriot" not to agree that Mr. Snowden's decision honors the highest instincts and traditions of American ideals of freedom and citizenship.

Part two of the book gives in schematic form a sample of the substance of "Snowden's take." It explains NSA'a purpose and aims using the actual charts NSA contractors and briefers used to justify and sell their ideas to NSA's own management.

What was NSA's primary aim? At least behind close doors, they were not bashful in bragging about the fact that their aim was "to collect it all," every conceivable electronic communication in the world, bar none.

The book then goes into great detail about NSA's collection methods, storage and analysis arrangements, and then meanings of the data themselves. At this juncture, the reader is well advised to read slowly and think hard about all the possible implications of what is revealed. Even a quick and dirty summary here could be misleading, so I leave it to those interested enough in the details to buy the book and read this section slowly and very carefully for themselves. What you discover will simply leave you astounded that our elected leaders could be engaged in such gross international misbehavior and misconduct.

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The upshot of it all is that even though Mr. Obama "got bin Laden" -- murdered him in his sleep; and al Qaeda has been on the run for a decade, we nevertheless are proceeding at neck-break pace to continue erecting an unprecedented, runaway national security state infra-structure, one that right before our own eyes is morphing the U.S. into a not so soft "police state."

Using al Qaeda as a thin and worn-out pretext, since 9/11/2001, the America has been structurally re-arranged so that it is now easier to chip away at our freedoms. We have allowed this restructuring to occur by meekly giving our permission via unlimited funds and minimal oversight to an out-of-control unaccountable intelligence behemoth that lives and dies by a bipartisan Congressional mandate that ex-president Bush Jr. cynically referred to as the Patriot Act. All it is, is a very weak package of ad hoc measures constructed "on the fly" by the GHW Bush administration.

Prior to "Patriot Act," and the construction of the department of Homeland Security, most Americans would have considered it inconceivable that our government would engage in torture, renditions, holding people without the benefit of haebus corpus, and putting America (and most of the rest of the world) under warrantless surveillance. Nor would we have believed that the USG would deploy on quick notice, heavily armed militarized inner city police forces to quell a racial skirmish, or that the USG would insert malware into US exported products, permanently undermining its own business reputation. Nor would we have believed that our government would undermine and cheat in International negotiations, or that in the face of all of this clearly unethical and criminal behavior, that, what would act as a "stand-in" for Congressional oversight, the FISA court, would fail so utterly -- almost as if it were designed for failure.

Part three of the book is devoted to what the massive data collections and the growing infrastructure used to collect them, is about and what it really means for American freedom. Given that what we are now faced with is a "runaway secret National security State apparatus" that so far has proven to be resistant to all attempts to "rein it in," every American should be concerned with this section. After reading it, it will become imminently clear why Mr. Snowden concluded that he had run completely out of options.

Defiantly, leaders like Mr. Obama, did not back-off even when Snowden's revelation proved to be an internationally embarrassing smoking gun: Mr Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, were caught "red-handedly" with their fingerprints all over the cookie jar. But with an unlimited budget, total lack of unaccountability to the public, they "doubled-down," and Mr. Obama, as he is wont to do, "slimed his way out of" yet another international crisis, one that Mr. Snowden had precipitated.

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But sadly, in less than a year after the Snowden revelations, the US national Security apparatus is back on track, up to its old tricks: still playing the al Qaeda card, and now has added to that repertoire a companion, "the ISIS card." Both are just thin pretexts to extend NSA's vast powers, powers that it has consistently used to further suppress American freedoms and instill fear in "we the people."

Greenwald's essay in this section of the book, deserves to be read and reread. And pursuant to that course, I have summarized this part as an essay that I hope will whet the reader's appetite so that they will go out and buy the book. The health of our Democracy depends on understanding what is really being done in our names out at NSA.

Why Mr. Snowden's revelations are important to America

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Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more...)

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