Shorter Question Everything
That may be one of the more baffling questions about this whole deal. How does a 29 year old with dodgy qualifications even get to see this stuff, never mind steal it.
Even leaving aside the age thing, and the dodgy qualifications thing, shouldn’t this stuff have been compartmentalized to such a degree that he wouldn’t have access to so much of it?
And then there’s the mercenary angle.
Of course, they’re called contractors but what these guys are, whether it’s some guy working with Blackwater or this guy, Snowden, is mercenaries. They get payed a hell of a lot more than a government public servant would, and they certainly don’t have to come up through the trenches the way a public servant would. They are mercenaries working for mercenary companies, and you’ve got to wonder just where exactly their loyalties lie. This isn’t to say that there were never espionage scandals and leaks before the explosion in mercenary services, but I’m wondering if there’s been a jump?
• The Solitary Leaker: Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good. This is not a danger Snowden is addressing. In fact, he is making everything worse. For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things. He betrayed honesty and integrity, the foundation of all cooperative activity. He made explicit and implicit oaths to respect the secrecy of the information with which he was entrusted. He betrayed his oaths. He betrayed his friends. Anybody who worked with him will be suspect. Young people in positions like that will no longer be trusted with responsibility for fear that they will turn into another Snowden. He betrayed his employers. Booz Allen and the C.I.A. took a high-school dropout and offered him positions with lavish salaries. He is violating the honor codes of all those who enabled him to rise. He betrayed the cause of open government. Every time there is a leak like this, the powers that be close the circle of trust a little tighter. They limit debate a little more. He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods. He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else.
• Investigators looking into how Snowden gained access at NSA. Investigators are “working with the NSA and others around the intelligence community to understand exactly what information this individual had access to, and how that individual was able to take that information outside the community,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said. Among the questions is how a contract employee at a distant NSA satellite office was able to obtain a copy of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a highly classified document that would presumably be sealed from most employees and of little use to someone in his position. A former senior NSA official said that the number of agency officials with access to such court orders is “maybe 30 or maybe 40. Not large numbers.” Snowden, who said he leaked top-secret documents to expose abuse and not to cause damage to the United States, told the Guardian that he had “full access to the rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station we have, what their missions are and so forth.” Officials questioned some of Snowden’s assertions in his interview with the Guardian, saying that several of his claims seemed exaggerated. Among them were assertions that he could order wiretaps on anyone from “a federal judge to even the president.” “When he said he had access to every CIA station around the world, he’s lying,” said a former senior agency official, who added that information is so closely compartmented that only a handful of top-ranking executives at the agency could access it.
• NSA whistleblower disappears from sight in Hong Kong: Edward Snowden checked out of his Hong Kong hotel hours after going public in a video released on Sunday. Staff at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong told Reuters that Snowden had checked out at noon on Monday. Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian journalist, said that Snowden was still in Hong Kong.
• Inside the ‘Q Group,’ the Directorate Hunting Down Edward Snowden: The impact of the leak inside the NSA has been enormous. “There is complete freakout mode at the agency right now,” one former intelligence officer tells The Daily Beast. “There has never been anything like this in terms of the speed of referral of a crime report to the Justice Department. Normally this kind of thing takes weeks and weeks.” Snowden’s disappearance in May was immediately noticed by the directorate, and when The Guardian published the first court order and then documents associated with a program called PRISM, Snowden immediately became the leading suspect in the leak, the intelligence sources said, adding that the FBI was now investigating the leak as well.
• A Disgrace What He Has Done: CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Monday ripped into the man responsible for leaking secret information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. “Every 29-year-old who doesn’t agree with what the government is doing doesn’t get permission to break the law, damage national security, and then run off to China when he’s done,” Toobin said on CNN’s Situation Room. “I mean, it is not the way you protest in the United States. There are ways to do it. I’m not sure this government program is a good program, but stealing documents from the NSA and then turning them over to Glenn Greenwald is simply not the American way and I think it is a disgrace what he has done.”
• PRISM Program: Obama Administration Held 22 Briefings For Congress On Key FISA Law. Obama administration officials held 22 separate briefings or meetings for members of Congress on the law that has been used to justify the National Security Agency’s controversial email monitoring program, according to data provided by a senior administration official. According to the official, the sessions that took place over the course of 14 months starting in October 2011 touched on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, which gives the attorney general and director of national intelligence the authority to gather intelligence on non-U.S. citizens for up to one year. Section 702 has been cited by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as the legal basis for the NSA’s PRISM program, which has allowed the government to track email communication data.
• President Obama Speaks on the Equal Pay Act
• An expected ‘reversal’?: The Obama administration on Monday abandoned its fight to keep age restrictions on sales of a widely used morning-after contraceptive pill, a stark legal reversal that ended years of court battles but did little to extinguish political passions on both sides of the issue.
• Texas shooting: “At least one person was injured Monday after a person fired shots at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. The post was placed on lockdown status after the shooting, but few other details were available. Scanner traffic indicates that one person is in custody.”
In other news
• Hundreds of riot police enter Taksim Square as clashes in Turkey intensify. Hundreds of riot police clashed with protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday, as protests against the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan intensified. The latest violence began Tuesday morning when police moved past barriers and into the square to scatter a small number of people who have been camped there to protest redevelopment of the square. Hundreds more protesters nearby, many wearing gas masks, joined to charge toward police, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, and police responded with round after round of tear gas canisters and frequent blasts from water cannons.
• State Department says evaluation of French chemical weapon evidence from Syria is ongoing.