WORTH REPEATING: Jeffrey Toobin’s Rush To Judgement


JEFFREY TOOBIN: Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former C.I.A. employee and current government contractor, has leaked news of National Security Agency programs that collect vast amounts of information about the telephone calls made by millions of Americans, as well as e-mails and other files of foreign targets and their American connections. For this, some, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison. MORE

BUZZ FEED:   There are too many unknowns in this story. How is it possible for a journalist or responsible legal analyst to be so sure of himself or herself at this point in this story? Journalism and the legal system that Toobin so reveres aim to find the truth, but Toobin has reached certainty before certainty is possible. He’s not alone. Others are just as certain that Snowden should be lionized. Yet, per The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and others, much of Snowden’s leaked information is still not public.

Toobin disregards his own comments about the indispensable role of government leaks in a society with a free press. How can Toobin possibly know at this point in this story whether this leak was necessary? Without any consideration of whether leaking was “indispensable” in this case, Toobin instead writes that Snowden had plenty options within government — using formal whistle-blower processes, going to Congress or lodging an internal protest. Without explaining how he reached the decision, Toobin concludes the “legal options” for “disgruntled government employees” were sufficient here.

Toobin, like some unquestioningly supporting Snowden’s actions, oversimplifies the situation — painting a picture in black and white where there mostly right now are only grays. What he misses, or ignores, is that all of the possibilities he discusses could be true. What’s more, all of those conflicting truths are essential to and the cost of a free society. Snowden’s acts could be illegal and motivated by ego at the same time that they could be indispensable and a key to citizens’ understanding the workings of our democracy. Snowden may have been reckless and deserve to be put in prison, but his disclosures may also have been motivated by his conscience and move the country to think and talk about the systems put in place since 9/11 in a groundbreaking way. MORE

CNN: As a digital technology writer, I have had more than one former student and colleague tell me about digital switchers they have serviced through which calls and data are diverted to government servers or the big data algorithms they’ve written to be used on our e-mails by intelligence agencies. I always begged them to write about it or to let me do so while protecting their identities. They refused to come forward and believed my efforts to shield them would be futile. “I don’t want to lose my security clearance. Or my freedom,” one told me.

Snowden was willing to take those risks and, I daresay, more. […] We all know the feeling of surrendering to the embedded biases of our devices. We let our cell phones ping us every time there’s an incoming message and check our e-mail even when we’d best pay attention to what’s going on around us in the real world. We text while driving. Likewise, without conscious restraint, government agencies can’t help but let the growing power of big data draw them into ever more invasive forms of surveillance on a population whose members simply must include those who intend harm on the rest. This is just how everything runs when it’s left on “default” settings.

Yet if we let the evolution of our machines dictate the evolution of our policy, the only possible result is what Snowden calls “turnkey tyranny.” As I have argued in other contexts, the best weapon against the paralysis of technologically induced present shock is human intervention. Just as we the people stood against the structural tyranny of an overreaching monarchy, it is we the people who must stand against the structural tyranny of runaway technologySnowden is a hero because he realized that our very humanity was being compromised by the blind implementation of machines in the name of making us safe. Unlike those around him, who were too absorbed in their task to reflect on their actions and pause in their pursuit of digital omniscience, Snowden allowed himself to be “disturbed” by what he was doing. MORE

NEW YORKER: In revealing the colossal scale of the U.S. government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, he has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed. Like Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who released the Pentagon Papers, and Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed the existence of Israel’s weapons program, before him, Snowden has brought to light important information that deserved to be in the public domain, while doing no lasting harm to the national security of his country. […]

So what is Snowden’s real crime? Like Ellsberg, Vanunu, and Bradley Manning before him, he uncovered questionable activities that those in power would rather have kept secret. That’s the valuable role that whistle-blowers play in a free society, and it’s one that, in each individual case, should be weighed against the breach of trust they commit, and the potential harm their revelations can cause. In some instances, conceivably, the interests of the state should prevail. Here, though, the scales are clearly tipped in Snowden’s favor.

I’ll leave the last word to Ellsberg, who, for revealing to the world that that Pentagon knew early on that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, was described in some quarters as a communist and a traitor: “Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA’s surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans’ and foreign citizens’ privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we’re trying to protect.” MORE

Is This A Video Of The Director Of National Intelligence Lying Under Oath To Congree?

Sure as hell looks like it.