Ex-CIA technician who leaked Verizon court order comes forward

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week, British newspaper The Guardian revealed a secret court order that enables the United States government to collect the telephone records of millions of customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest cellular phone service providers. On the morning of Sunday, June 9, the individual responsible for leaking the secret court order came forward on his own volition. He is Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The 29-year-old computer expert, who has been working for the National Security Agency (NSA) for the last four years, told The Guardian that he decided to leak the injunction because he felt it posed “an existential threat to democracy”. He added that he was not motivated by money in disclosing the document. Were he after money, he said, he “could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich”. In a video published on The Guardian’s website, Snowden told the paper that his disillusionment with America’s “federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers” began even before 2007, when he was stationed under diplomatic cover at the CIA station in Geneva, Switzerland. He finally decided to act three weeks ago, he said, after careful consideration of the ramifications of his decision for his life and career.

As a consultant for private-sector intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden said he has a stable job that earns him “roughly $200,000 a year. But he is prepared, he said, to sacrifice that, as well as his house in Hawaii, in order to draw attention to “what the US government is doing [...] even for an instant”. Snowden told The Guardian that he understood he would be “made to suffer” for his actions, but that was “willing to sacrifice all that” because he couldn’t, in good conscience, “allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building”.

On the day The Guardian published the secret court order, I opined that the big news story in the revelation was not the surveillance itself; after all, the wholesale and indiscriminate interception of electronic communications traffic has been a core feature of the US government’s post-9/11 security paradigm. The real story, in my opinion, was the very fact that the injunction, issued by the ultra-secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, had been leaked. It is indeed remarkable that, in the age of WikiLeaks, US intelligence policy planners were under the impression that a system of wholesale surveillance could remain secret for long. In 2011, I wrote in connection to WikiLeaks, that governments were going to have to adapt their secrecy models to fit new reality, in which secrecy can be undermined by independent actors commanding limited technical resources.

Snowden is indeed one such actor, who appears to be guided by a set of personal ideological principles. It is worth noting that, on May 20, in preparation for leaking the FISA injunction, the self-styled whistleblower left his job and boarded a plane to Hong Kong, where he is currently holed up in a hotel. He told his interviewers that the reason he chose to seek refuge in Hong Kong is because he believes that the Chinese city has “a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”. He added that the People’s Republic of China is “one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government”. However, Snowden said he was not confident that the Chinese government would offer him protection and said he intends to file for political asylum with the government of Iceland, because it is known as “a champion of Internet freedom”. Iceland’s International Modern Media Institute, an online civil liberties organization with strong connections to the government of Iceland, said on Sunday that it was attempting to get in touch with Snowden “and discuss the details of his asylum request”.

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25 Responses to Ex-CIA technician who leaked Verizon court order comes forward

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just to point out a technical issue here, Hong Kong is part of People’s Republic of China, not Republic of China (Taiwan).

  2. Pete says:

    Eddy is certainly looking a little peaky. He needs a long rest before the international press batters down his door him and chases him around HK. Chinese security will need to protect him – but I’d say that’s already happening.

    Though democratic politically Hong Kong is actually Chinese territory in terms of security and defense – so the only way the US could ship Eddy to the States would be by:

    1. formal extradition
    2. quiet rendition with quiet agreement from the Chinese leadership,
    3. China/Hong Kong expelling him, or
    4. Eddy being lured or wishing to travel to a country/ship/aircraft where the US or its allies have the muscle or legal right to arrest

  3. Pete says:

    On Eddy’s Icelandic option:

    The Icelandic Ambassador to Beijing indicated few hours ago that Iceland cannot grant him asylum as long as he is in Hong Kong. “According to Icelandic law a person can only submit such an applications once he/she is in Iceland,” Kristín Árnadóttir, the Icelandic ambassador in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post in an e-mailed statement.

    Iceland and the US have an Extradition Treaty that went into force in 1906.

    Iceland is a member of NATO. Iceland is (arguably) so loyal to the US that Iceland participated in the Coalition of the Willing invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iceland apparently also hosts Canadian F-18s (Iceland’s only air defences) in a NORAD like multilateral agreement with Canada and the US.

    Eddy may therefore have to think again – perhaps movement by land to Chinese territory then on to Russia (?) but watch out when crossing Mongolia or the “stans” as they are contested territory with leaders who can possibly be bought.

  4. Adrian E Martinez says:

    As with all breaking stories things are a little murky. Who is this guy? A High School dropout turned into CIA Computer expert? He started as a security guard at the NSA in 2009 but was posted under diplomatic cover in 2007? He was in Iraq?

    Like Manning this seems to be a relatively junior person with access to very sensitive information. Another facet of our new intelligence challenge is this desire to share all intelligence with the widest possible audience in the hope that someone will “solve a puzzle”. It’s proving to be a dangerous gamble.

  5. Peter Wallerberger says:

    My advice Mr Snowden is that you find time in between your hectic media schedules to relax and
    maybe even listen to some music. I would recommend something like “nowhere to run” by the Rock Band KISS, the lyrics really are something special..

  6. intelNews says:

    @Anonymous: Thanks for the correction. Fixed. [JF]

  7. Kidd says:

    techies are the achilles heel of security. bit players who hold all the cards, know how the deck is stacked and where to find any card they so desire. they’re like the garbage men who know all your secrets that you carelessly dumped in the trash. even though these people are vetted before getting the job, their views may differ on what constitutes ‘love of country’.

  8. TFH says:

    Can’t see either why Eddy would think Iceland good choice for seeking asylum, as has already been pointed out by Pete, the two countries have close ties. It is the closest (independent) European country to America and Iceland got independence in 1944 thanks in large part to USA support. Had Iceland remained under the Danish crown at the time it would have technically belonged to Germany by way of occupied Denmark.
    The same two political parties that controversially put Iceland on the ‘Willing to invade Iraq’ list are now back in power after recent election and the IMMI whistleblower laws that Eddy might be thinking about have yet to take effect.
    Bobby Fisher got to leave a Japanese prison and live out his days in Iceland, but first he got Icelandic citizenship (that trumps the Extradition treaty) after much lobbying from local chess enthusiasts and historians.

  9. Pete says:

    @Adrian

    Just look at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video provided by Joseph.

    In the video Eddy describes exactly who he is – a highly paid, CIA-NSA spy with a TS codeword security rating. He’s seriously experienced, articulate and knowledgeable – making him the threat that the US government acknowledges.

    Eddy represents the new face of sigint spying, which is more highly funded (and presumably valued by “customer” governments) than the more familiar humint spying.

    Its a toss-up whether Eddy proves more damaging and embarrassing (shades of Manning and the Ecuadorian Embassy chappie) in the hands of the Chinese, Russians, some other third country or the US.

    Regards

    Pete

  10. THEJNSREPORT says:

    Reblogged this on THEJNSREPORT and commented:
    This man is a hero not a traitor. Let us all put on our thinking caps and not be distracted by the media and NSA portrayal of this brave man.

    Remember the film “Enemy of the State”. They use Hollywood and Mass Media to subliminally if not literally tell us what they are doing to our rights on a daily basis.

    Again let us not be distracted from the truth he revealed. We the citizens of the U.S. are being violated and spied upon by our own government without our consent. In closing I’ll ask the question, What does the word Fascii mean?

  11. Pete says:

    @THEJNSREPORT

    But let us be assured that Prez Obama, the Statesman of Truth, has promised that the CIA-NSA are only spying on foreigners.

    Hey waita sec, I’m a foreigner! So I’m being legally spied on.

    Feeling a whole lot better ;-)

    Pete

  12. Adrian E Martinez says:

    @Pete, there is a wide chasm between the video and the same paper’s description of him. Why do we think that is? Disinformation? And let’s be clear, he was not a spy. He was a Help Desk, tech guy.

  13. Pete says:

    @Adrian

    Yep there are varying descriptions of his duties – but if he was getting around $200,000 which makes him higher paid than most spies, I imagine. There are all sorts of “tech guys” with vastly differing skill sets – some run Google and Facebook.

    The main issue is he supplied those powerpoint slides to the press. The slides were what caused international interest, embarrassment to the US Gov, to internet and software companies and to telcos. The slides were the main event no matter who or what he is.

  14. Peter Wallerberger says:

    There’s some serious politics herein. Perhaps Mr Snowden is just the “messenger”.
    I have heard of the phrase “the power on one” but some of this just dosen’t add up.

    Edward might be brave but he is also unpatriotic and deluded.

    My guess is that as this debacle drags on , he will become a rather scared lonely figure living in exile in a foreign country. Every day he leaves his sanctury he will for the rest of his life live in fear of the ineventable tap on the shoulder or something much worse.

    By the end of the day; irrespective of whether or not one agree’s with his ‘idealogical principles’,
    the plain indisputable fact is that Mr Snowden appears to have been granted a high level security clearance from the NSA, prior to which it is alledged that he help similar clearances from the CIA. It matters little were he employed as a cleaner or security guard or Techo – he has knowingly breached his security clearance to such a degree that he now can only be catagorised as a traitor.

    The U.S courts and Government agencies are going to have to ‘harden up’ and set an example as a deterent to other employees who might have similar ambitions as this type of incident is becomeing abit to frequent of late particulary now it appears that Agencies are ‘contracting out’
    sensitave roles to NGO’s and in doing so loseing their ability to monitor and control security levels and compliance.
    Such contracting out may also damage international relations and trust were there to be serious security breaches, and this case may well result in such an event at a later date.

  15. One thing spies and associated professionals appear to be woefully short on is concrete knowledge concerning the rule of law. I would expect this would not be the case as much of any operatives career is spent breaking laws and it would appear they are aware of this in some respect but there is a nuance here; In the USA theory of law there is a known and in the past applied concept called ‘color of law.’ In fact ‘color of law’ is when the apparatus of state puts up a pretense of legitimate authority to pursue what are in fact illegal acts.

    In the case of the FISA court, there is ZERO constitutional foundation for any secret jurisprudence violating citizens’ rights laid out in the first through eighth amendments, which the FISA court in fact sets out to do.

    In fact the actual traitors under any authentic American ‘de jure’ rule of law are those persons putting forth a pretense these civil liberties violations are legitimate. This points first to the Congress authorizing patently unconstitutional legislation, second to any president signing and implementing such unlawful authority and subsequently any Chief Justice appointing members of said secret court and finally those persons accepting and serving, these are the ‘traitors’ if our constitution were to mean anything in the present day, which in fact it would appear it does not.

    Obama must have been a terrible professor or he has simply thrown out any principled view of American foundational law when ensconced in the halls of power (which seems to be a socially contagious disease in 21st century American politics)

    (Full disclosure, I taught American constitutional law as adjunct professor at University of Mainz law school)

  16. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Interesting , thoughtful comment Ronald . Nevertheless – no amount of well intentioned excuses and soul searching is going to alter the fact that Snowden ( & associates) have committed treason.
    Your constitution may well have originally been drawn up by a group of ‘demigods’, but even so, there is no exception contained therein to justify or excuse the actions of Mr Snowden – not then and not now.

    You all better ‘hold onto your hats’ as this drama is only in it’s infancy and there’s allot worse to come.

    Do not be fooled into thinking this event was some kind of spontaneous descision on the part of a delusional former NSA employee. This event was planned and I’d hazard a guess that it was premeditated and is being managed by more than one person. It is obvious that a foreign government(s) are also closely involved and they are certainly not your ‘friends’..

    The only way Snowden will become a ‘Hero” is if he lives to see his 30th birthday.

  17. Fans of fascism and impunity were never in short supply in ‘civilized’ peoples, and so it is the power corrupt such as recent Director of Central Intelligence General Patraeus who’d provided cover for James Steele in Iraq with organized torture centers and related death squads is rewarded with a seat at Bilderberg. You may well be right Peter, because victors often rewrite history [and determine definitions] despite the facts of the matter ..

  18. Peter Wallerberger says:

    I’m trying desperately to exclude U.S Politics here Ronald and instead just concentrate initially on the single event perpatrated by Mr Snowden (& associates.)

    Ever since man walked this godforsaken earth there has been primitive law. It still applies even to those who live in the ‘bad lands’. This law relates to Right and Wrong – simple as that.

    What Snowden did was WRONG.

    I note that the word wrong ‘can also apply to the state of being contrary to the principles of justice or law’ – (as a former constitutional law adjunct professor – I’m sure this will enlighten you somewhat !!)

    Dragging a Highly decorated U.S General into this debate is not going to change the game one iota; rather, you are just clouding the issue !!

  19. Trying to separate politics from civil liberties issues is like demanding zombie reality, where the patient walks as the undead as opposed to any reality in life. You should also know, Peter, General Arnold was the hero of Ticonderoga prior to selling out West Point and his country (speaking of highly decorated American generals and treason, there IS a precedent.)

    Your innuendo of conspiracy (as opposed to old fashioned ethics) motivating Snowden would make it seem you’d be better off reading at Alex Jones page where newsworthy events are mixed with David Icke’s lizard DNA and paranoid nut jobs. Speaking of clouding issues, on the outside chance your’s is innuendo this event is a conspiracy to undermine a president because he is Black, there are some very savvy Black people at blackagendareport(dot)com who would disagree with you as would I.

    http://ronaldthomaswest.com/2013/05/03/a-conversation-with-jon-stewart/

    I can only put up one link in my comment without the intelnews spam filters catching it, so I’ve self-centeredly indulged my penchant for satire and reiterate there is some very good reading on Obama and cohorts at blackagendareport(dot)com

  20. TFH says:

    “If you tolerate this, then your children will be next” is both the text of a popular song by Manic Street Preachers and mr. Snowdens justification for his act of bravery, I for one say thank you Eddy for your sacrifice.
    Citizens of the United States of America might think that; “as long as they are only spying on foreigners then this is OK” unaware that the definition of foreigner can if need be stretched to include literally everyone.

  21. Pete says:

    I probably put this in the wrong place before. Edward’s relationship with Hong Kong and/or China is a big question mark. Where he is now holed up Hong Kong and whether he is being debriefed by China’s NSA (PLA-IT) or by China’s FBI-CIA (known as MSS) is another question.

    Debriefing in Hong Kong itself is possible. Notably China’s PLA Hong Kong garrison includes “1 intelligence gathering battalion” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Liberation_Army_Hong_Kong_Garrison .

    I’d hazard a guess that cyber surveillance of links in and out of HK and within HK would be the intelligence gathering battalion’s main jobs.

    As China’s NSA (PLA-IT) is a military intelligence outfit I’d say officers of PLA-HK’s intelligence gathering battalion are pretty knowledgeable and talking to Edward

  22. Pete says:

    Some inconvenient statistics.

    An interesting article from Glen Greenwald yesterday http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/nsa-partisanship-propaganda-prism . Greenwald is the journalist who Edward directly provided all the CIA details and NSA documents.

    In the article Greenwald presents stats on the percentage (of US voters polled) finding the NSA surveillance programs “acceptable” or “unacceptable”.

    According to the figures:

    in January 2006 51% of US voters polled found the programs acceptable and 47% unacceptable.

    in June 2013 56% found the programs acceptable and 41% unacceptable.

    I don’t know what this increase in acceptability of the NSA programs suggests. Perhaps the Boston bombings have had an impact on public views and fears.

  23. TFH says:

    @Pete, assuming Mr. Snowden is genuine his crime must surely be to point out that what the NSA is doing abainst fellow countrymen is WRONG. He is revealing national secrets and normally that is WRONG, but he is revealing WRONGdoings by the those entrusted by national secrecy against those supposedly being protected.

  24. Peter Wallerberger says:

    The issue here TFH is that Snowden made such revelations “whilst he was still bound by a security clearance”, and that is a crime.(particulary when the information leaked relates to anything to do with the N.S.A !)

  25. TFH says:

    Still Mr. Wallerberger, when a contractor for the police reports crimes committed by the police witnessed while fulfilling that contract, it does seem bloody hypocritical to charge that contractor for a crime.

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