Resist deification – Snowden may not pass the smell test

Shorter Question Everything

I Don’t Buy It. An ex-CIA employee, Edward Snowden, 29, was revealed as the source of the leaks at his own request by the UK’s Guardian newspaper. He told The Guardian he never received a high school diploma and didn’t complete his computer studies at a community college. Instead, he joined the Army in 2003 but was discharged after breaking both legs in an accident. Snowden said he later worked as a security guard for the NSA and then took a computer security job with the CIA. He left that job in 2009 and moved on to Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked as a contractor for the government in Hawaii. He told The Guardian that he left for Hong Kong on May 20 without telling his family or his girlfriend what he planned. So he’s a high school drop out (CNN’s wording), never got even an associate’s degree in computer science, was discharged from the Army at age 20, and was hired by the CIA to do computer security work…after spending most of his adult life shouldering a gun only. Does any of that even begin to make any sense to anyone? The CIA requires experts in their field, either from experience or from education, neither of which appears to be the case for Snowden, unless he did some bang-up job for the Army fresh out of high school. And somehow, we’re also expected to buy his story that he had pangs of conscience over the “oppression” of American citizens, after years of data mining, even after he left the CIA and went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton (which is going to suffer an awful lot of consequences over this, I should add.) A less cynical man than me would think that Glenn Greenwald has been set up.

Resist The Instant Deification. There were scattered moments of skepticism, but they were vastly outweighed by drippy encomiums. Dare I suggest that a small dollop of skepticism is required here?

Before we anoint him “hero” status, there are a few questions I have about Edward Snowden: Jan Crawford @JanCBS – Re Snowden: why does a guy who purports to be disgusted by the motives for the Iraq war pursue a career in the natl security establishment? Wondering if it is just coincidence that this information was leaked just prior to President Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the leaker chose Hong Kong as his hiding place.

Snowden Wanted the Washington Post to Vouch for Him With a “Foreign Embassy”. A fascinating tidbit in the Washington Post’s latest story on NSA leaker Edward Snowden: Snowden wanted the Washington Post to publish online a cryptographic key that he could use to prove to a foreign embassy that he was the source of the documents: Code Name ‘Verax’: Snowden, in Exchanges With Post Reporter, Made Clear He Knew Risks. When the Wash. Post told him we would not make any guarantee about what we published or when – Snowden replied succinctly, “I regret that we weren’t able to keep this project unilateral.” Shortly afterward he made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper the Guardian.

• Some of Greenwald’s statements sound a bit more like threats than laying out a story.

• “Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months“. I know nothing about Booz Allen’s internal policies, but it seems likely the firm required Snowden to agree not only to its code of conduct, but also to a non-disclosure agreement. But the part of the statement that jumped out at me was the “employee of our firm for less than 3 months” line. Booz Allen, in other words, which happens to rely overwhelmingly on government contracts for its very existence, provides detailed information on highly classified NSA programs to employees who’ve been around less than three months? Also note, Snowden is currently in Hong Kong, which he believes has “a spirited commitment to free speech.” That’s … odd. There’s certainly ample room for criticism of the U.S. system, but China not only has a vast surveillance state, it also relies on heavy-handed censorship of speech, press, and online communications — the kind of actions that would be largely unthinkable in the United States.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Sunday called for the prosecution of Edward Snowden, the admitted leaker of top secret documents detailing the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs. “If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,” King said in a statement. The chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism also called on other countries to deny Snowden asylum. Snowden, a 29-year-old technical engineer with defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, went public on Sunday in an interview with The Guardian, acknowledging that he was the source behind NSA leaks. In the video dated June 6, he said that he was in Hong Kong – a country with which the U.S. has a bilateral extradition treaty.

• Conservatives may lionize Edward Snowden now, says Michael Tomasky, but ultimately his actions are going to tear apart the GOP. Here’s something I’ll certainly be keeping one eye fixed on as the Edward Snowden story advances: the degree to which the American right takes him up as a cause célèbre. They’re up a tree either way. If they do, then they’re obviously guilty of the rankest hypocrisy imaginable, because we all know that if Snowden had come forward during George W. Bush’s presidency, the right-wing media would by now have sniffed out every unsavory fact about his life (and a hefty mountain of fiction) in an effort to tar him. If they don’t, then they’ve lost an opportunity to sully Barack Obama. Since they like smearing Obama a lot more than they care about hypocrisy, my guess is that they will lionize him, as some already are. But in the long run, doing that will only expose how deep the rifts are between the national-security right and the libertarian right, and this issue will only extend and intensify those disagreements.

• NSA leaker Edward Snowden was quoted today saying that he chose to flee to Hong Kong because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” This statement is so far off base it beggars the imagination.

IRS

Elijah Cummings outplays Darrell Issa. He releases the transcript of a Republican IRS manager saying the White House had nothing to do with the scandal. Just hours after the vice chair of the House Oversight Committee threatened Chairman Darrell Issa with releasing House Oversight Committee interview transcripts that clear the White House of wrongdoing in the IRS mess on CNN, AP already has the story: “a self-described ‘conservative Republican’ has told investigators that no one at the White House directed the Internal Revenue Service to target tea party groups.”

IRS Staff Undermine GOP Claims That White House Directed Targeting Of Conservative Groups, Top Democrat Says. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) — the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee — pledged to release transcripts of interviews with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials [that Issa does not want to release]. Cummings insisted that the interviews will prove that “the White House was not involved in this,” pointing out that the Cincinnati IRS manager of the screening group, a career veteran at the agency who identified himself as Republican, told investigators that Washington did not direct the targeting. “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development,” the individual told investigators according to portion of the transcripts released by the Democratic staff on the House Oversight Committee.

IRS: A self-described conservative Republican who is a manager in the Internal Revenue Service office that targeted tea party groups told investigators that he, not the White House, set the review in motion. In the five-hour interview conducted last week, the manager said one of his employees brought to him a tea party group’s application for tax exempt status. The manager said he recognized the political implications of the decision and flagged it for an office in Washington. Some Republicans have suggested that the Washington office initiated the close examination.

Santa Monica Shooting

Police identify Santa Monica shooting suspect after fifth victim pronounced dead. Police identified the 23-year-old suspect in a string of attacks in Santa Monica, California responsible for the deaths of five people before authorities killed him in a shoot-out inside a library, ABC News reported on Sunday. Authorities also said that John Zawahri shot and killed his father, 55-year-old Samir Zawahri and his brother, 25-year-old Christopher Zawahri, at their home with an assault rifle before setting the house on fire and making his way toward Santa Monica College, trying to carjack two motorists and shooting at others while carrying more firearms and ammunition inside a duffel bag later recovered on campus.

Middle East

Israel ‘not getting involved’ in Syria war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells cabinet Israel to stay out of civil war despite recent attacks inside Syria. “Israel is not getting involved in the civil war in Syria, as long as the fire is not directed at us,” Netanyahu told his cabinet in broadcast remarks on Sunday. His comments came a week after fierce fighting erupted between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and opposition rebels near the UN-patrolled armistice line of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Beirut: One person was killed by shots fired at anti-Hezbollah protesters near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut Sunday afternoon, officials said. Protesters gathered outside the embassy building ahead of a planned demonstration protesting Hezbollah’s growing intervention in the Syrian civil war, The (Beirut) Daily Star reported.

Benghazi: Clashes between protesters and militias aligned with the military in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi have left at least 27 people killed and dozens wounded, a health official said on Sunday. The violence broke out on Saturday after protesters stormed a base belonging to Libya Shield, a grouping of militias with roots in the rebel groups that fought in the country’s 2011 civil war. Protesters were demanding militias leave their camp and submit to the authority of Libya’s security forces. The death toll is likely to increase public backlash against militias, which have been accused of acting with impunity, abusing citizens and enforcing their own agendas.

On the lighter side

• “We have an idiot on the program today.” Speaking to conspiracy radio host Alex Jones on Sunday, BBC host Andrew Neil exclaimed at the end of their talk, “You are the worst person I have ever interviewed,” as Jones attempted to promote his website and repeatedly shouted, “Liberty is rising!” “Bilderberg is heavily involved in the EU plan and helped hatched it and it is a Nazi plan,” Jones insisted during the program, drawing astonished looks from Neil and his guest, journalist David Aaronovitch. “It leaves me with a huge question, Alex,” Aaronovitch said. “You have uncovered the New World Order, which is deadly, it’s full of people who are criminals… who seek to run the world and will kill anybody that gets in their way, and you are almost a lone crusader powering against them. So, how are you still alive?”

Benjamin Franklin: A new stamp to be issued by Canada Post Monday is already raising eyebrows for its depiction of famous American inventor, philosopher and founding father Benjamin Franklin. But officials say the tribute makes sense, if you know a little about Canadian postal history. The stamp is being released to mark 250 years of postal service in Canada. Looking back at the service’s history, Canada Post notes that in 1753, Franklin, then Philadelphia Postmaster, was promoted to joint deputy postmaster general for the British colonies. He opened the first Canadian post office in Halifax to serve as a link between the Atlantic colonies and Britain, before going on to start mail service in Quebec. The stamp portrays Franklin’s image – famously seen on U.S. hundred-dollar bills – with an artist’s rendering of Quebec City in the background.

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