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"The truth will set you free"

The Obama administration has been put in another awkward position this week as a part of its doublespeak with respect to spying on its citizens and citizens in ally states.
 
I. Suppression of Free Speech, Freedom of the Press
 
Today the U.S. is the world's biggest spying superpower.  It records personal communications of nearly all Americans on a daily basis, taxing them to pay for this effort.
 
President Obama has repeatedly blamed Congress for the spying effort, despite the fact that his administration made expanding Bush-era spying powers a top priority.  His administration effectively admitted to spying on Congress.  Members of Congress have sued the Obama administration for using cybercriminal tactics to spying on "99 percent" of Americans.
 
NSA agents admit to breaking the law at least 3,000 times a year, but are exempt from prosecution as the Obama administration characterizes these illegal actions as "mistakes".  The U.S. is spending tens of billions of dollars on the programs, much of which is funneled to corrupt special interests.  Understandably, the Obama administration has made concerted efforts to keep the public uninformed about these actions.

NSA spying taxpayers
Today federal spying is low cost and focuses more heavily on U.S. citizens.  This all equates to more pork for paid of polticians to push. [Image Source: The People's Cube]

The Obama administration feigned surprise, claiming it was unaware of efforts by the UK government to suppress freedom of the press.  However, emails obtained by the Associated Press indicate that the administration was well aware of these tactics and its public comments were, in fact, lies.
 
That degree of disingenuous doublespeak in turn suggests what some suggested all along is likely true -- that the Obama administration was behind this effort in its ally state.
 
Last July, The Guardian (UK) -- the third most-read online newspaper in the world -- was subjected to threats from the British government over its decision to publish details of Orwellian spying by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).  Versus the U.S., where freedom of the press is ostensibly rigidly protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in Britain freedom of the press is more of a gray area.
 
Rather than jeopardize the entire publication, The Guardian agreed to destroy hard drive and laptop computers containing hundreds of files leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Joseph Snowden, who obtained the documents using commercial-grade links-crawling scripts and login credentials of his less competent coworkers.

The Guardian
[Image Source: The Guardian]

The dramatic destruction was overseen by agents of the GCHQ.  The Guardian reported on the incident, recalling:

And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.

Dramatic videos of the destruction have since trickled out.


The thorough nature with which the hardware containing the files was pulverized is an astonishing testament of how much the NSA -- and its partner the GCHQ wanted to suppress the leaks.  

destroying hard drive
[Image Source: Corbis]

Memory chips literally were ground to dust against angle grinders.  Nothing was left in a salvageable state.

II. What Did the U.S. Government Know About the Hard Drive Destruction?

After the destruction was reported on, a journalist questioned White House spokesman Josh Earnest about its knowledge of the incident.  The conversation, as recorded by The Intercept went as follows:

Q: A last one on the NSA—The Guardian newspaper, following on everything that was discussed yesterday—The Guardian is saying that British authorities destroyed several hard drives, because they wanted to keep secrets that Edward Snowden had leaked from actually getting out.  They were stored in The Guardian‘s—they had some hard drives there at their offices.  British authorities went in there and destroyed these hard drives. Did the American government get a heads up about that the way you did about the person being detained?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ve seen the published reports of those accusations, but I don’t have any information for you on that.

Q: And does the U.S. government think it’s appropriate for a government, especially one of our allies, to go in and destroy hard drives? Is that something this administration would do?

MR. EARNEST: The only thing I know about this are the public reports about this, so it’s hard for me to evaluate the propriety of what they did based on incomplete knowledge of what happened.

Q: But this administration would not do that, would not go into an American media company and destroy hard drives, even if it meant trying to protect national security, you don’t think?

MR. EARNEST: It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate.

Josh Earnest
[Image Source: Twitter/@jearnest]

To most, "the only thing I know about this are the public reports" would imply a direct denial of knowledge.  But to those who have followed the story carefully, we see the Obama administration playing its all to familiar game of hiding behind weasel words when it comes to unconstitutional spying.

III. Fool me Once, Shame on You...

Behind the scenes, though, the Obama administration was aware of the destruction even before it happened, which hints that it may have organized it.  

The hard drives were destroyed on July 20.  A day before the destruction occurred -- on July 19 -- the NSA's deputy director Richard Ledgett emailed NSA director Gen. Keith Brian Alexander.  The email obtained by the email states:

July 19, 2013
From: "Richard Ledgett"
To: "Keith Alexander"...
Subject: Guardian data being destroyed

Good news, at least on this front.

The next day Gen. Alexander replied:

July 20, 2013 [around the time of the destruction]
From: "Keith Alexander"
To: "Richard Ledgett"
Subject: Re: Guardian data being destroyed

Can you confirm this actually occurred?

Gen. Keith Alexander
Former NSA Director Keith Alexander [Image Source: DefenseTech News]

A few hours later, Lt. Gen. James Robert Clapper, Jr., then the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI), emailed Gen. Alexander under the same subject line.

July 20, 2013 [around the time of the destruction]
From: "James Clapper"
To: "Keith Alexander"
Subject: Guardian data being destroyed

Thanks Keith … appreciate the conversation today.

James Clapper
Director Clapper, seen here with President Obama, had already admited to other misstatements under oath, but calls them "mistakes", not lies.  [Image Source: AP]

Here's the full email conversation, via the AP's post to Document Cloud.

Emails Indicate Obama Administration Suppressed British Freedom of the Press by jasonmick



Given that three senior level intelligence officials knew of the destruction, it's hard to believe the White House's claim that days later it was "only aware of" the destruction via press reports.
 
IV. More of the Same
 
Unfortunately for the Obama administration and its British cohorts, the effort broadly failed.  The Guardian continued to produce new leaked information and other top global newspapers like Germany's Der Spiegel also picked up the torch.
 
In a response to the AP, the White House acknowledged its agents were caught saying one thing internally while the White House implied a different truth to the public.  The AP writes:

The White House said Thursday the comment from Ledgett — then the head of the NSA’s Media Leaks Task Force — was confined to intelligence operations because it was "good news" that classified information was recovered and "didn’t reflect a broader administration view" on press freedoms.

Regardless, the implication here is that the U.S. pressured the GCHQ (which was partially acting in its own interests as well, given its material was also leaked) to try to bully the UK media into submission. 

Obama pointing
President Obama's administration has repeatedly been caught lying about spying on U.S. citizens.
[Image Source: Reuters]

The entire incident of the Obama administration suddenly remembering something it claimed it didn't is symptomatic of the administration's entire approach to handling the issue of spying on its own citizens.  In a speech President Barack Obama stated,

[As] I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May [May 2012] that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty.
...
Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power. It depends on the law to constrain those in power.

Yet in essence that's the argument ("trust us, we mean well") that the administration has made time and time again.  And in common English, the administration had done everything to prevent a "robust" discussion before the Snowden leaks.
 
Not only had its appointees (e.g. Gen. Clapper) delivered misleading testimony to U.S. Congress about the spying programs, it had made every effort to keep the American taxpayer in the dark about the fact that their money was being spent not only on spying hundreds of millions of people in ally states like Germany and France, but also being spent to spy on Americans.

Rep. Peter Kin
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is among the pro-Obama members of Congress who have called upon the DOJ to charge journalists involved with reporting on NSA surveillance. [Image Source: CNN]
 
Sadly many members of Congress in both parties have looked to enable this behavior -- and help President Obama crack down on freedom of the press.  House Republican Rep. Peter King (R-New York) has been vocally demanding that the international authorities prosecute the journalists at The Washington Post and The Guardian who were involved in the leaks, opening investigations against them and their families.  Rep. King stated:

Actually, if [a reporter/reporters] willingly knew that this was classified information, I think action should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude.  I know that the whole issue of leaks has been gone into over the last month. I think something on this magnitude, there is an obligation, both moral but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security.

Other members of Congress on both sides of the aisle -- including Senator Randall Howard "Rand" Paul (R-Kent.), Sen. Ronald Lee "Ron" Wyden (D-Oreg.), U.S. Senator Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (D-Verm.), Sen. Mark Emery Udall (D-Colo.), Sen. Martin Trevor Heinrich (D-New Mexico), and Senator Patrick Joseph Leahy (D-Verm.) -- have fought such efforts to deny Americans and citizens in other nations freedom.  They have drafted legislation that would cut the funding of mass digital warfare campaigns against the American public.
 
V. The Defection
 
Many have criticized Mr. Snowden for leaking the information and for his decision to flee to Russia.  It is without question that Russia is a state with many anti-freedom policies of its own, a state that often acts as an enemy of free speech.
 
However, Mr. Snowden's critics should first consider that at the end of the day he provoked precisely the kind of discussion that the Obama administration claimed to be supporting, but in reality was duplicity suppressing.
 
Second, one must consider the issue of trustworthiness.  Repeatedly the Obama administration has made was appears to all but its most glowing supporters to be a clear and deliberate effort to mislead and deceive taxpayers -- and their elected officials in Congress -- about the NSA spying and its effort to cover up the leaks about that spying.
 
Third, in terms of Mr. Snowden's decision to flee to Russia, one must consider the lengths to which the administration went to, to unsuccessfully try to suppress the leaked documents.  From seizing and destroying newspapers hard drives and laptops, to detaining and harassing reporters and their loved ones, the administration has conducted a clear and deliberate campaign designed to try to suppress this information at any cost.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden was "too smart" to hire, says one former intelligence official.  When he caught wind of massive gov't spying and corruption he blew the whistle in a responsible way when a "dumber" employee might have stayed quiet, ignorant, and obedient . [Image Source: AP]

Throughout that campaign, one factor preserving an ongoing flow of information has been Mr. Snowden retaining his freedom.

Russia was the only country in the world willing to offer Mr. Snowden asylum.  And certainly it was one of the only countries to have the military might to preclude a U.S. military extraction effort.  What that means is that if Mr. Snowden had stayed in the U.S. or gone to any other country in the world other than Russia, his final destination would be in a U.S. prison cell, awaiting trial.

Had that happened, it is likely that the administration might have successfully limited the scope of the data releases.

We The People
Leaker Snowden says he's defending the Constitution.

And that in turn would have given it the upper hand in continuing to mislead the public.  After all, Mr. Snowden was implying that the administration was carefully conducting perhaps the biggest anti-freedom campaign in the world today, collecting data from literally a billion or more people daily.
 
VI. The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend
 
That's a crazy claim, anyone would tell you.  And it is.  It is so much so that most rational people, including members of the media would be wise to doubt it -- were it not for the ongoing leaks, leaks which were only made possibly by Mr. Snowden's flight to Russia.  But thanks to those leaks we now have the truth, we now have the robust discussion of what U.S. taxpayer money is being spent on.
 
Mr. Snowden's critics are absolutely right in one regard -- in fleeing to Russia, he absolutely made a deal with the devil, so to speak.  But if we are to assume that evil is the suppression of freedom, then we must realize that there is not one evil in the world today, there are many.
 
Russia spies on its people, suppress free speech, and manipulates elections.  But there is no evidence to believe it ever achieved the astounding reach of the NSA's campaign to eliminate global privacy and spy on the world.
 
What Mr. Snowden did was clearly designed to preserve Americans' Constitutional protections against mass warrants (general warrants), and warrantless search and seizures, as well as to preserve freedom of speech.  And what he did was criminal because today in the U.S. there are no clear protections for those who violate secrecy laws in order to protect the Constitution.

NSA surveillance
Americans data is harested by the NSA under mass warrants.  [Image Source: ClimateViewer 3D]

Thus, while Russia stands against nearly every value that Mr. Snowden has come to believe in, he realized the truth in the old axiom that in the most extreme of circumstances sometimes "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".  Fleeing to America's biggest Cold War era enemy may seem patently unpatriotic, particularly for the generation who lived through the Cold War.  But when the U.S. government -- the most powerful government in the world -- is perverted to behave patently unpatriotically, to secretly commit mass robbery of Americans free speech and right to due process, sometimes an enemy is the only place to turn.
 
At the end of the day by preserving his own freedom, Mr. Snowden stifled the Obama administration's efforts to internationally suppress the dissemination of leaked NSA documents.  And that choice in turn allowed him to play David to Obama's Goliath.
 
VII. Traitor or Hero?  Snowden is Whatever You Say He Is
 
Today the deception is ongoing.  And Goliath is wounded, but far from dead.  But for those opposed to one government seizing virtually unchecked and unlimited power of surveillance, the tide this battle has shifted.  By sacrificing his own reputation in the eyes of some by making a deal with the devil to preserve his own freedom, Mr. Snowden has given the world the knowledge it needs to keep fighting for the freedom of billions.
 
Mr. Snowden is a traitor in the eyes of many now.  And if one day he's paraded through the courts, surely he'll be viewed as even more of a traitor.  But Mr. Snowden willingly chose to sacrifice everything -- his family, his friends, his citizenship, his reputation, possibly even his own freedom or very life itself -- for the Constitution, for liberty, and for freedom of billions living outside the U.S.

Snowden -- a hero?
A banner in Hong Kong thanks leaker Edward Snowden. [Image Source: AP]

The rapper Eminem once stated:

I am whatever you say I am.  If I wasn't, then why would you say I am?

Perception is reality.  So Mr. Snowden is both a patriot and a traitor, a whistleblower and a criminal.  Likewise President Obama and his cohorts are both liars and protectors, patriots and traitors alike.  But at the end of the day one party continues to show itself to be the steady deceptor, while the other continues to shed light on the dark secrets of what the money taken from taxpaying Americans is spent on.

Sources: AP [story], [emails]





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