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  (Source: Reagan Republicans)
As outrage of government spying grows, politicians rush to punish the source

On Tuesday developments continued to pour in regarding the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal.  

I. Booz Allen Fires Mr. Snowden

Last Wednesday, it was revealed that the government was collecting the phone records of at least a third of Americans.  In the wake of the scandal, the government essentially admitted it was archiving the phone records of most U.S. citizens without any requirement of suspicion.  

This tracking gives the government near-continuous access to the locations and contacts of citizens raising thorny privacy issues.  In that regard it goes well beyond similar concerns raised regarding location tracking by private corporations such as Apple, Inc. (AAPL).

On Tuesday, Reuters reported on a not-so-unexpected development -- top defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton (Holding Corp. (BAH)) had fired Edward Snowden on Monday from his position "for violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy."

NSA Unchained
[Image Source: ACLU]

BAH has been battered by a 5 percent drop in its stock, as investors fear the association to Mr. Snowden could hurt the firm's ability to get lucrative "big data" contracts from the government.  An interesting tidbit in the company's firing announcement was its assertion that Mr. Snowden had been making a salary of $122,000 USD, versus the $200,000 USD claimed in part of the Guardian's reporting on the leak (the Guardian, a top British newspaper was the first to publish details on the spying programs and the first to out Mr. Snowden, as per his request).

II. Snowden Eyes Asylum

Mr. Snowden wasn't exactly called in to a disciplinary hearing the day after he outed himself; he's currently holed up at a hotel in Hong Kong, 5,500 miles away from his former workplace in Hawaii.

Human Rights Watch emergencies director Peter Bouckaert suggested that Mr. Snowden should evacuate Hong Kong, pointing out that Hong Kong (Chinese) authorities had cooperated with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to extradite an anti-Gaddafi Islamist who was considered a security risk.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower may seek asylum. [Image Source: Reuters]

Mr. Snowden appears to be possibly prepared to try to follow that advice.  He checked out of his luxury hotel room on Monday at noon, just scant hours after the Guardian published his identity.  His whereabouts are currently unknown but Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian journalist, says he's still in Hong Kong, commenting:

He didn't have a plan. He thought out in great detail leaking the documents and then deciding rather than being anonymous, he'd go public. So he thought that out in great detail. But his plans after that have always been vague.

I'd imagine there's now going to be a real battle between Washington and Beijing and civil rights groups as to his future.  He'd like to seek asylum in a friendly country but I'm not sure if that's possible or not.

Despite the fears of Human Rights Watch, the relationship between China and the U.S. has chilled over the last couple of years over concerns about intellectual property theft and North Korea, among other issues.  Ultimately, China may look to flex its muscle as a world superpower by defying the U.S.

Another perennial adversary of the U.S. is also considering helping Mr. Snowden -- Russia.  Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov is quoted by Russian news agency Ria Novosti as saying, "If we receive such a request, we will consider it."

Meanwhile, advocates in Iceland are seeking a less politically motivated offer of asylum for Mr. Snowden.  Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an Icelandic MP who fought to protect Wikileaks during its time in the European island state, is lobbying Iceland's immigration services and interior ministry to consider Mr. Snowden's potential asylum bid.  At the same time she encouraged Mr. Snowden to contact Icelandic authorities to advance the process.

III. Boehner: Snowden is a "Traitor" for Snitching on Secret Spying Program

Congress meanwhile is struggling towards trying to determine what to charge Mr. Snowden with.  Some members of Congress, such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) called him a whistleblower who "should be defended."

But House Intelligence committee chair U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York) called Mr. Snowden a "defector" and Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) was even harsher, saying on Good Morning America, "He's a traitor."


He commented:

The president outlined last week that these are important national security programs that help keep Americans safe and give us tools that help fight the terrorist threat we face.  The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it's a giant violation of the law.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), rumored to be considering a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, did not immediately condemn Mr. Snowden but was less enthusiastic about the leak than his father, Rep. Ron Paul.  

He comments:

I think it's a complicated issue. I think when people choose civil disobedience they're at their wit's end and think there's no other choice.

He notes, however, that he's fighting the laws that allow the kind of privacy invasions that the leaks detailed.

Given the Republican support, charges for Mr. Snowden seem likely.  President Obama's administration has charged twice as many reported "whistleblowers" under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all other administrations combined.  Despite that, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was close lipped regarding Mr. Snowden, remarking, "I won't characterize him or his status.  The Obama administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting whistleblowers."

IV. Lawsuits, Protests Over Spying Kick Off

Even as Congress struggles over Mr. Snowden's fate, there's a corresponding conflict over the revealed programs themselves.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Tuesday filed suit [PDF] against the U.S. federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The suit elegantly states:

In response to information published by the media, the government has acknowledged that it is relying on Section 215 to collect “metadata” about every phone call made or received by residents of the United States. The practice is akin to snatching every American’s address book—with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we talked, for how long, and from where.

Today, Google Inc. (GOOG) and Facebook.com, Inc. (FB), perhaps the two biggest internet corporate powers, called on Congress to declassify details of the spying programs, which they say impact their customers.

Mark ZuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he wouldn't cave to spying requests like Verizon did. [Image Source: Christian Sinibaldi]

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was particularly vocal about his feelings about Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc.'s (LON:VOD) Verizon Wireless's decision to comply with a blanket surveillance grab, commenting:

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively.

Privacy advocates are unifying under the new campaign -- Stop Watching Us (with the grin-worthy URL www.stopwatching.us).  They're encouraging U.S. citizens to sign a petition.

V. EU Pushes Obama for Action

Meanwhile, opposition over the spying continues to mount overseas.  Given that the most ambitious warrantless seizures like PRISM primarily targeted foreigners, many European politicians voice anger at being left in the dark.

German chancellor Angela Merkel says she'll press President Obama about the spying issue at a summit in Berlin, while Peter Schaar, Germany's federal data protection commissioner, warned that it was not acceptable for the U.S. to be spying on German citizens "and [for] the level of protection [to be] lower than what is guaranteed for US citizens."

EU officials dredged up a previous report from a Parliamentary advisory organization in Brusells, Belgium called [PDF] that had called the program a "grave risk" to data protection and citizen rights -- even before the details of its full extent were revealed.

EU flags
The EU politicians are outraged at the spying. [Image Source: AFP]

Italy's privacy minister Antonello Soro comments, "[These seizures] would not be legal in Italy [and run] contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation."

Under pressure from his EU allies, President Obama -- a long time supporter of increased surveillance both domestic and international -- showed signs of being on the verge of caving.  White House spokesperson Jay Carney, comments, "If [congressional] debate were to build to a consensus around changes [to the Patriot Act] the president would look at that.  Although this is hardly the manner of discussion we hoped for, we would still like to have the debate."

Sources: Reuters [on Huffington Post], ACLU [PDF], Google, Mark Zuckerberg



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Boehner is the traitor.
By Captain Orgazmo on 6/11/2013 9:38:57 PM , Rating: 5
There is an enormous difference between what Bradley Manning did, and what Snowden did. Manning dumped a massive amount of sensitive raw operational intelligence into the wild, that directly compromised the security of American and allied operatives, and agents and informers working for them.

Snowden, on the other hand, brought publicity to a massive, intrusive, unconstitutional government surveillance program, which could be used to illegally spy on US citizens. Nobody has been directly put in harms way by this, and the "national security" is not at risk. Our enemies already assumed they were being spied on. The only thing they know now that they didn't before, is that our governments are spying on us too.




RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Captain Orgazmo on 6/11/2013 9:44:05 PM , Rating: 5
And another thing, the examples given by the administration about what this program has accomplished are bogus. Feinstein cited the 2009 New York subway plot, and the Mumbai attacks. The subject in the NY plot was identified by a foreign intelligence agency tipoff, and Mumbai was a massive slaughter.

What did this program do to prevent BOSTON!!! Not a thing, and they are liars, and power mad wannabe tyrants. Stand up to this BS!


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By spread on 6/11/2013 9:53:11 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
What did this program do to prevent BOSTON!!! Not a thing, and they are liars, and power mad wannabe tyrants. Stand up to this BS!


They didn't care about Boston. The NSA will lie cheat steal and break any laws it wants. The NSA cares about the NSA. They even had information from the Russians about the bombers. They did nothing.

The NSA is a criminal organization. They are like Germany's SS. Its for your protection citizen. Look how safe you are.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By lolmuly on 6/11/2013 11:35:19 PM , Rating: 2
Für die Homeland!


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By ShieTar on 6/12/2013 7:36:01 AM , Rating: 2
You should read a bit about history if you really want to comment on it. The SS was an operative front-line unit, much more like the US marine corps than any intelligence agency. If you desperately need to bring up the Third Reich, the comparison you are looking for is the Gestapo, Department I.

Either way the comparison is rather pointless. Its not like moral is a binary system, where all actions need to be sorted as either "Nazi-like" or "Not that bad". Truth is, most people at NSA probably believe in the official reasoning, because everybody who considers an career in an agency tends to be at least a little bit paranoid.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By ClownPuncher on 6/12/2013 1:56:23 PM , Rating: 1
I'm pretty sure the SS controlled the Gestapo.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By spread on 6/11/2013 9:48:03 PM , Rating: 2
He is a traitor. He exposed sensitive information to the enemy, the American public. Therefore the government is at war with the American people.

Boehner knows what he's doing. He's picked a side.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By flyingpants1 on 6/11/2013 10:17:33 PM , Rating: 1
Lol. What do you mean , "therefore"? Of course they are. All the headlines are about the NSA spying on all Americans. That should be enough to understand they are at war with us, not anyone else.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By ritualm on 6/11/2013 11:23:20 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
He is a traitor. He exposed sensitive information to the enemy, the American public. Therefore the government is at war with the American people.

Boehner knows what he's doing. He's picked a side.

Does that mean everyone who disagrees with your twisted logic is a traitor?

The village called, they're missing an idiot.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Camikazi on 6/12/2013 1:02:48 PM , Rating: 4
I am pretty sure he is saying that in a sarcastic way and not serious about it.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Wererat on 6/14/2013 9:34:12 AM , Rating: 2
Not "the village" but The Village (do a quick search on "The Prisoner" if confused).

Be seeing you...


By villageidiotintern on 6/12/2013 9:03:24 AM , Rating: 3
Heh. Nice. The American public is the enemy of it's government. I can see that. Boehner isn't the only one on that long list.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By MrBlastman on 6/11/2013 11:22:42 PM , Rating: 5
You're right! Boner is the traitor!

The entire Federal Government is the traitor to our Constitution. Every damn one of them. They're all corrupt, self-serving, power-hungry Federalists who care nothing about state rights or anything else our Republic was originally founded upon.

This man, Snowden, he is a hero! Americans should awake up. Even if the information revealed is nothing new--it is very sobering to at least hear confirmation of many suspected practices.

I find it nauseating when I turn on the television and listen to what the "talking heads" have to say about him. The scary thing is that it is nearly the same on every channel from CNN to MSNBC to Fox. All of them are practically calling Snowden a traitor while some of them are trying to make all these policies look good.

So where do we go from here? It is up to the people now. If those in power have their way, Snowden will be shot or worse.

Should we, the people, tolerate this any further?

No!

But will we?

Sadly... a part of me says yes, the people will. Maybe they'll stop listening to the puppets on television and wake up. We can only hope they do. Our nation depends on it.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By MrBlastman on 6/11/2013 11:23:24 PM , Rating: 2
You're right! Boner is the traitor!

The entire Federal Government is the traitor to our Constitution. Every damn one of them. They're all corrupt, self-serving, power-hungry Federalists who care nothing about state rights or anything else our Republic was originally founded upon.

This man, Snowden, he is a hero! Americans should awake up. Even if the information revealed is nothing new--it is very sobering to at least hear confirmation of many suspected practices.

I find it nauseating when I turn on the television and listen to what the "talking heads" have to say about him. The scary thing is that it is nearly the same on every channel from CNN to MSNBC to Fox. All of them are practically calling Snowden a traitor while some of them are trying to make all these policies look good.

So where do we go from here? It is up to the people now. If those in power have their way, Snowden will be shot or worse.

Should we, the people, tolerate this any further?

No!

But will we?

Sadly... a part of me says yes, the people will. Maybe they'll stop listening to the puppets on television and wake up. We can only hope they do. Our nation depends on it.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By MrBlastman on 6/11/2013 11:24:26 PM , Rating: 2
Bah. Slow internet while on vacation. Sorry for double post.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2013 1:31:41 AM , Rating: 2
Well if the reports about Snowden coming out tonight are true, he's officially a traitor.

Giving classified information to a foreign power, especially China, is NOT "whistleblowing". No matter how you slice it, that is just unacceptable.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Paj on 6/13/2013 7:46:34 AM , Rating: 3
The Guardian is a foreign power now?

You're describing treason. Giving classified information to the public in describing wrongdoing, through the media, is not treason. It's not like he gave them launch codes, military plans, or secret blueprints.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2013 9:19:39 AM , Rating: 2
No not the Guardian. He's allegedly feeding China US information in exchange for sanctuary. Like I said if the reports is true we'll have to wait and see

oh yeah going to the Guardian first and not a US Representative wasn't the best whistleblower move he could have made. There were more legitimate avenues available to him but I guess he wanted to be a hero or a martyr.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Oceanryder on 6/13/2013 12:02:42 PM , Rating: 2
I think this aspect has broadly been overlooked. There are any number of Representatives and institutions (i.e. ACLU)who would've gladly taken Mr. Snowden in. Instead he runs to China.

Personally, I haven't decided whether Mr. Snowden has provided a good service to the American people or not, but his actions are somewhat dubious.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By BRB29 on 6/13/2013 12:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
his whole story is dubious


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Paj on 6/13/2013 7:42:21 AM , Rating: 2
No body was put in harms way by the Manning/wikileaks documents either. As in this case, the only organisation that was harmed was the US government itself - by providing evidence of the true extent of the atrocities and failure of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Interesting that when leaks concern US foreign policy, the US public response is far more negative. But, as in this case, the leaks concern a domestic program, the opinion is much less clear-cut.

To the rest of the world though, the public reaction to both cases has been largely the same.


RE: Boehner is the traitor.
By Wererat on 6/14/2013 9:33:04 AM , Rating: 2
Good old Boehner. The Dems (actually, specifically Obama as the executive branch) explode FISA requests 1000% and actually use all this data to target political enemies, and Boehner rushes to say the most stupid possible thing to make sure to shield his political opponents from harm.

Frankly, as the pursestring-holders, any response from the House (GOP and Dem members alike) less than defunding this universal spying through the budget is unacceptable.


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