Barton-Washington Post

Barton-Washington Post


Edward Snowden’s offer to help Brazil beef up its security after the disclosure that NSA was monitoring the metadata and maybe more  of President Dilma Rousseff’s  cell phone calls and the cell phone calls of  every other person in Brazil and their internet activity including Petrobras, Brazil’s state owned oil company was promptly rejected by Brazil. It alleged it never received a formal request.


Snowden’s temporary refugee visa in Russia is scheduled to expire in mid April 2014.

What will happen now is anyone’s guess. However Russia has no interest in allowing Snowden to stay  if they want to improve relations with the United States so they may deny him an extension. Russia is a mercurial host especially so after the Khodorkovsky, Pussy Riot and  the Greenpeace episodes.

Brazil denied his offer of assistance in exchange for permanent asylum. It has more to gain by normal relations with the United States than what Snowden has to offer.


The NSA alleges Snowden left with 1.7 million downloaded documents and the NSA does not know which materials he took. He released documents to a Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald among others, who has since left the Guardian and announced he would be launching a new media enterprise to have bureaus in New York, Washington and San Francisco.  Ostensibly Greenwald will be headquartered in Brazil since it is unlikely he will venture on U.S. soil.

David Gellman of the Washington Post recently interviewed Snowden in Moscow. He alleges that Snowden says his mission is accomplished and he will not release any further documents. Gellman was one of the three reporters to receive the original cache of documents from Snowden.

If Greenwald is so close to Snowden why didn’t he do the  interview Gellman did? Gellman also inferred in a recent  PBS interview Snowden  already gave his cache to the reporters to redact and publish  as they saw fit. Much of it unpublished at this point.

How big a remaining  cache of documents Snowden  has is unknown as well as their whereabouts. So there may be more  than he gave the  reporters.  While Grenwald’s “Media Company” is to be general in scope, covering news entertainment and sports, it appears it was created because of his relationship with Snowden. Who his financial backer is undisclosed but rumors are it is Pierre Omidyar, the E-Bay billionaire. Given Snowden’s statements in the Washington Post this all sounds like a pipe dream if his plans are based on some alleged connection to Snowden who says he is through releasing data. It would seem that they have already  released the juiciest tidbits of the data Snowden gave them and what he has now is his ace in the hole for bargaining with the Justice Department


Snowden may again become a stateless person living in an airport in April or some  third World embassy . It would seem that his offer to Brazil was a desperate move. It is a step beyond leaking documents to the main stream press to offering a foreign government assistance in protecting itself from U.S.  surveillance. This may well be viewed as another act of treason by the U.S. Government.

Snowden‘s dilemma is that he probably will not be able to get reachable asylum in any country that wishes to maintain normal relations with the US. This fact probably rules out all countries with advanced economies.

Russia has already seen its relations with the U.S. decline when President Obama cancelled his trip to Russia to confer with President Putin. The U.S. and Russia need to talk about solutions to the Syrian and Iran situation as well as other Global matters.

The United States is not likely to offer Snowden immunity from prosecution in exchange for whatever documents he still has. This would be encouragement to other would be leakers. However he may have an ace in the hole.

Also it is unknown what part of his cache was obtained by China or Russia.  The United States has a strong trading relationship with China and it seems to want no part of him despite what his value may be to their intelligence service.   What interest Russia has in an extension of his refugee visa is unknown unless Snowden is feeding them information. Maybe about the inner workings of the NSA instead of data.

He appears to have violated Putin’s original requirement that the leaks stop in exchange for temporary asylum. A ground for not extending his refugee visa. Snowden denies either China or Russia has accessed his documents and that the remaining  cache is concealed somewhere  and encrypted. He told the Washington post there is nothing on his computer and he doubts that China or Russia has ever gained access to his documents. One has to wonder why he is keeping the remaining documents. Snowden’s additional value to a foreign entity is also the information he has in his head about NSA operations.


The U.S. says it won’t negotiate  although  NSA would sorely like to know the extent of what Snowden took and to get the data back. Snowden appears to be very intelligent and shrewd in his handling of this matter  and if he did come back without a prior pledge of amnesty or immunity he would likely do well in any court case with powerful backing by the defense bar and monetary supporters. Also it appears he has held back some devastating revelation the NSA would like to keep secret. Something  like the NSA was compiling files on the personal lives of the  Executive and Congress just like Hoover did.

However not withstanding his possible ace in the hole  his options are running out and he may end up in a cloistered residence at a foreign embassy like Assange  which can’t be that comfortable.

He already has criminal charges pending in the United States that makes him subject to extradition by any country with a treaty with the U.S. that covers his activities. Russia at the present time does not. Probably because extradition is a two way street and there are people in the U.S. that Russia would like but the U.S. is protecting.

What could happen to  Snowden is  that  he be  condemned to a life of  exile like Phillip Agee the CIA operative who wrote a book outing other CIA agents. He died in Cuba in 2008 never to return to the U.S. after his 1968 book and then there  is the British spies Burgess, MacLean and Philby who spent the remainder of their lives in Moscow.

However Snowden’s case is a magnitude different from their cases and  the outcome  may  different and his case is also very different from the  Chelsea Manning case.





December 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: asylum, Brazil, EDWARD SNOWDEN, leaks, NSA, power, terrorism 


 They’re about power… Not prevention of terrorism.


Snowden reveals his belief of the real purpose of NSA spying in an open letter to the people of  Brazil published in the Brazilian newspaper Folia de Sao Paulo                       

 Saying: ” There is a huge difference between legal programs , legitimate spying , legitimate law enforcement- where individuals are targeted on a reasonable individualized suspicion- and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations behind an all seeing eye and save copies for ever. These programs were never about terrorism: They’re about economic spying , social control and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

Snowden’s insight into the nature of the NSA program and other government programs that it was basically control of whole populations of people rather than to locate terrorists is correct. How many terrorists did they expect to locate in the president of Brazil’s Dilma Rouseff’s personal calls or Angela Merkal, Chancellor of Germany’s personal calls or the personal calls of millions of ordinary people scooped up en mass.

NSA programs were allegedly different for foreigners than for American people where only “meta data” was collected. However there is evidence that not only meta data was being collected in the United States but every electronic communication as well with the justification we only look at substance after we have suspicions that the creator has committed a crime.

This is an enormous power far beyond necessary policing power or the power allegedly necessary to combat terrorists and apparently ineffectual in that regard. We knew nothing about the plans of Boston bombers before hand or the Times Square bomber in advance.

We  once had a Federal bureau of Investigation head,  J. Edgar Hoover, who collected files on politicians and other people he wished to control for almost  forty years. This helped to maintain his powerful position in Washington until he died long past his effectiveness as  the leader of the  FBI. This megalomaniac let  criminal organizations like the Mafia flower on his watch  while puffing up his crime fighting statistics by adding to the total every minor crime. Taking a stolen or reportedly stolen car over state lines was a big item. He became a master of his own self importance while investigating ordinary citizens and politicians in order to intimidate them for his own power rather than for the safety of the public.

You say this information the NSA seek  could not be used to control people and enhance their own power but as said above  it has already been done by Hoover.

The Framers of the Constitution were escaping oppressive British rule and control of their lives. That is why we have separation of powers in our own government and Fourth Amendment guarantees against illegal searches and seizures among other things.

Yet when so much power and control is centralized in a few agencies of government the opportunities for abuse of that power are great.  The FISA  oversight court and the congressional committees charged with protecting the values of the Constitution are willing to look with a blind eye or willing to bend basic principles based on the testimony of the mangers of the very agencies they are supposed to supervise and control in the interest of the public. These agencies may not always divulge the true nature and scope of their activities. Witness National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s misleading testimony before Congress on the nature of data collected.

Richard J. Leon A Federal District Court Judge  In Washinton D.C.  has already ruled that collection of meta data on all electronic communications is in violation of the Fourth Amendment saying “ I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval” Also he noted that the alleged threat that the government said justified the program was never proved.  Usually the Government demands, due to national security, that the proceeding be in- camera, which means that whatever information they give the judge is not disclosed to the other side or the public and goes unrebutted just as their  testimony before Congress justifying their programs is in secret session unknown to the majority of legislators or the public.

The system that now exists is can easily abused by a government more intent on perpetuating itself in the guise of protecting the public against some external threat. North Korea is doing that now, the Soviet Union did  for most of the Twentieth Century and Snowden rightly perceived that is the direction this country is headed for now. As Lord Acton observed: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What we see now is that the agencies collecting the data are the ones presenting their justification before select courts in secret and to select members of Congress in secret.  In other words the agencies are in control and not the public or their their appointed judges and representatives. This is a recipe for a dictatorship or an oligarchy if that is not the case already. In any event the machinery for such a political coup establishing a police state like East Germany’s during the Cold War  is already in place

The people who have tried to disseminate what was going on before Snowden have lost their jobs, been imprisoned and disparaged as traitors.

Snowden, being rational, took the only course possible since the Executive, the FISA Court and Congress was nonresponsive. He lost his job, is now called a traitor and forced into exile while responsible managers of the agencies disassemble before  Congress and the public saying the external treat is so great that their activities must be condoned. It is always some amorphous external threat, usually greatly exaggerated, which is used as the justification of the suspension of civil liberties and the imposition of a police state.