Snowden, Director Oliver Stone. B+. Film Review.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley as Snowden and Mills.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley as Snowden and Mills.

There is a Snowden documentary Citizen Four  by Laura Poitras and Snowden the drama (trailer) by Oliver Stone. Stone is a highly skilled director and screenwriter who has won Oscars for his films. He wrote the screenplay with Kieran Fitzgerald while the documentary stars Edward Snowden in person the film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden with Shailene Woodley as Lindsey Mills, his life partner (apparently they never formally married although they have been together for a long time).

The main difference between the documentary and the film is that Stone humanizes  Snowden and shows the events that led up to his decision to go public with classified documents that he believes reveal that the government  is illegally spying on its own citizens.

As opposed to dumping the data unedited on the internet Snowden chooses to go public through a responsible liberal news organization located in Great Britain named The Guardian that will edit names and other unnecessary but dangerous facts. When writer Glen Greenwald( Zachary Quinto), Laura Poitas documentary film maker (Melissa Leo) and Ewan MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) an editor of the Guardian meet with Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel named Mira the movie unfolds from their discussions with flash backs in his life  that lead up to his disclosure of classified programs designed to spy not just on hostile foreigners but everyone in the world that communicates by cell phone or computer.

The first flash back is of Snowden as a volunteer in training for the Special Forces which he is forced to leave because of a broken leg and other sub fractures. This apparently was to show his patriotism and loyalty to the United State and the principles for which it stands. The picture moves back and forth between the discussions in the hotel and Snowden’s life events. He meets Lindsey Mills on line while he is in the hospital recovering and learns he will be discharged from the Army for medical reasons. She is a young liberal and an amateur photographer.  Her life style, which is open and unconcerned about her on line profile as most young people her age are, is juxtaposed by Snowden’s increasing knowledge and concern  that the most private details of all American lives is being collected and stored. He is aware of the FISA court’s secret and classified alleged oversight of the NSA and the CIA’s activities in data collection is a thin excuse for constitutionality.  He is also aware that the spy agencies  get their warrant requests  rubber stamped and even  this procedure is often by passed.

He applies after discharge to the CIA and despite the fact  he doesn’t have a high school diploma he is accepted into computer training by Corbin O’Brien a CIA officer  (Rys Ifans) who is impressed with his intelligence and computer skills. O”Brien seeing his potential becomes his mentor and career guide.

Snowden is stationed in Switzerland but is “D-ROGED” by his supervisor for exceeding his authority. This is normally is a career ender but O’Brien has him moved to the field branch where he becomes disillusioned with an operation to compromise an otherwise innocent Pakistani Banker. He resigns his post and returns to the United States with Lindsey. They are happier back in Maryland but Snowden conscious of his superior computer skills feels compelled to use them in what he believes as defending the United States. He comes from a family with a distinguished record of service in the U.S. military. His grandfather, an admiral, was assigned to the Pentagon on 9/11 but unhurt.

Slowly he concludes that the Bush Government is acting unconstitutionally against its own people but with his association with Lindsey and when Obama is elected president he hopes things will be corrected.

However he learns that we are depositing sleeper programs in most  of the World’s computer systems which would enable the shut down of their vital infrastructures on command. Also, he sees drone strikes on people talking on cell phones believed to be in the hands of terrorists. He is offended by the casualness of the drone commands activities which take innocent lives along with terrorist lives. He has been assigned to an intelligence contractor in Hawaii and is living a comfortable suburban life with Lindsey but he is aware the government’s activities remained unchanged.

He aware that past complainers or whistleblowers have been demoted or have been isolated in non-essential posts and at least on one occasion a frustrated whistleblower has gone to the press and was then prosecuted under the Espionage Act which only provides for a secret closed trial in which a  verdict of guilty is preordained. He suffers from epilepsy and the pressures of his job cause him to stop taking his anti-seizure medicine so he can more effective. It also makes him more susceptible to seizures.

The final straw comes when he sees the Director Of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in testimony before Congress testify under oath that the intelligence agencies are not wittingly collecting data on U.S. citizens within the country which Snowden knows  to be incorrect.

He then gets permission to index all spy programs into a program he designs called Heartbeat. He downloads this information on a chip and goes to a pre-planned meeting with the journalists. He hopes to gain asylum in Ecuador but his passport  was revoked while en-route in Moscow where he remains today.

This picture is designed to show Snowden as an intelligent, conscientious, normal human rather than a cold, stoic egghead without a life and nothing to lose by his actions is cinematically excellent, the acting is superb and the story is well told. It got lukewarm reviews from the “mainline” critics who pander  to the horror, comic book audience which constitutes their readership. However it is an intelligent film well done and deserves better from these critics who should  be leading instead of following.

At present Snowden supporters are seeking a pardon or a public trial on lesser charges. However the sentiments of the bureaucracy is summed up at the end by Gen. Michael Hayden former head of the NSA  saying “He’ll die in Moscow.”

Share

SNOWDEN, ELLSBERG AND MANNING COMPARED. THE DILEMNA: WHAT TO DO ABOUT PEOPLE OF CONSCIENCE THAT EXPOSE GOVERNMENT SECRET ILLEGALITIES?

ELLSBERG-MANNING-AND-SNOWDEN

ELLSBERG-MANNING-AND-SNOWDEN

What makes Edward Snowden’s case different from Daniel Ellsberg’s case.  They both worked for the U.S. Government in some capacity. Snowden for the NSA by way of Booz, Allen and Hamilton, Ellsberg as  Marine Corps Officer, Rand employee and Pentagon Assistant to Secretary McNamara. Both worked in intelligence, Snowden as a Data Systems Manager, Ellsberg as intelligence analyst at Rand and in the Pentagon.  They both released voluminous amounts of material: Ellsberg the “Pentagon Papers” which  revealed that the government knew that the Viet Nam war could not be won, yet we were drafting men  and sending them  to their deaths or injuries in a lost cause.(See the movie Born On The  Fourth of July about Ron Kovic who was made a  near quadriplegic at age 18 in Viet Nam.)

Snowden revealed the extent of NSA surveillance of innocent people in the United States and abroad for no purpose except to create a huge data base on every one for possible future use such as the PRISM program and much more including  the  copying and storing of personal Yahoo messaging videos for instance by the British.

Ellsberg has a PhD from Harvard, Edward Snowden had a GED and some college credits, both appeared to be methodical in their methods in regard to the type of materials leaked and the purpose of the leak. Ellsworth stood trial but the case was dismissed for government misconduct. The Watergate plumbers burglarized his psychiatrist’s office among other things. The Ellsberg leak was in the 1970’s almost forty years ago.

In the case of Chelsea ( b. Bradley)  Manning she like Snowden had an education limited to a few college courses. She had a troubled family life and after enlistment in the Army at age 19 had a troubled existence in the Army. At her trial witnesses in her behalf said her mother drank during pregnancy and her lawyer proposed that Manning showed evidence of fetal alcohol syndrome. Whatever her personal circumstances she was morally outraged at some of the documents and videos that she was exposed to as an intelligence technician in Iraq. In particular was a now famous Apache helicopter attack on a group of unarmed civilians on an Iraqi street corner. By some unknown conduit she released the video and about 750,000 combat reports and diplomatic cables to Wiki leaks. These were published in the Guardian, The N.Y. Times and other leading newspapers much like Snowden’s and Ellsberg’s leak.

Of the three none was motivated by money or under the control of a foreign power but moved by the callous deception of the public by the U.S. Government in their conduct of a war. Ellsberg the Viet Nam War, Snowden The War On Terrorism, Manning the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War. Manning was convicted and is in an Army Prison sentenced to 35 years but experts say he will not serve the whole sentence. Ellsberg has been an advocate for government transparency since the criminal case against him was dismissed; Snowden has been indicted but is out of reach of the U.S. Government as he is exiled in Moscow where he has the benefit of a lawyer connected to the Russian FSB (Like our CIA). He says he will return if he is guaranteed a jury trial. Attorney General Holder will not negotiate with him. Normally persons who divulge state secrets don’t get an open jury trial but a secret trial before a judge or  a panel.

Ellsberg tried to have Senators release the papers and when this failed he  went public on his own. Snowden was aware of the fate of prior whistle blowers who went through the official procedures. These people usually lost their jobs and were ostracized, some  were even prosecuted. Manning seems to have gone directly to Wiki leaks through an intermediary without seeking other legal means of disclosure. If she did it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Her leak seems to be more a personal cry for help although triggered by what she saw in the videos and documents. Ellsberg and Snowden appear to have made a calculated decision to go public no matter what the consequences on moral and intellectual grounds.

At the present time Snowden has more  public support for his actions than the Government has for its position  and he would almost surely win a jury trial if it is granted. However A.G. Holder has followed a strict application of the law and refuses to guarantee him one. Thus he has  continued to be  exiled in Moscow.

The solution is to prosecute persons and policy makers in the Government who deliberately violate the public trust or the Constitutional and legal principles of our government. Then there will not be any secrets for whistleblowers to expose.

Also it is necessary to have a separate agency to handle whistleblowers outside and independent  of the agencies that the whistleblowers are reporting on. One that will protect the whistleblowers not punish them. Then the whistleblower laws will have credence.

As for Snowden give him his public jury trial. The secrets are out anyway and let a jury decide if he was right or wrong. This is much better than having him in Russia with an FSB lawyer for counsel.

Share

SNOWDEN’S DILEMNA: HIS DESPERATE PLEA FOR ASYLUM IN BRAZIL DENIED. HE MAY SOON BE A STATELESS PERSON AGAIN. HIS HOBSON’S CHOICE.

EXILE OR REPATRIATION?

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.

IS HIS ACE THE HOLE HIS KNOWLEDGE OF NSA OR THE REMAINGING DATA HE MAY HAVE OR BOTH?

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

THE BRASIL OFFER WAS DESPARATE MOVE.

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.

WHAT COULD BE HIS ACE IN THE HOLE?

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.

 

 

Share

EDWARD SNOWDEN’S OPEN LETTER TO BRAZIL

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

Edward_Snowden-2

 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.

 

Share

JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING IF BY SOME COINCIDENCE OR RANDOM OCCURRENCE IF YOU ARE BEING SURVEILLED IN DEPTH CHANCES ARE YOU ARE ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE BY SEAN GALLAGHER: You may already be a winner in NSA’s “three-degrees” surveillance sweepstakes!

  1. NSA SURVEILLANCE SCOOPS UP THE INNOCENT AS WELL AS “PERSONS WHO MAY BE OF INTEREST” 

PROTEST IN BERLIN OVER DATA MINING 2013

JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING IF BY SOME COINCIDENCE OR RANDOM OCCURRENCE  IF YOU ARE BEING SURVEILLED IN DEPTH CHANCES ARE YOU ARE  ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE BY SEAN GALLAGHER: You may already be a winner in NSA’s “three-degrees” surveillance sweepstakes!

“When the first revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) widespread collection of phone call metadata and Internet traffic began to surface, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham noted that for those not talking to terrorists on the phone, “We don’t have anything to worry about. I’m glad that activity is going on, but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to.”

Turns out the data collection is not so limited. In testimony yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee, National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis said that the NSA’s probing of data in search of terrorist activity extended “two to three hops” away from suspected terrorists. Previously, NSA leaders had said surveillance was limited to only two “hops” from a suspect.” This according to the Sean Gallagher article above.

Share

NOT TO WORRY IF YOU LOSE ELECTRONIC DATA: SOUTH UTAH NSA DATA CENTER CAPABLE OF HOLDING 500 QUINTILLION (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) PAGES OF TEXT

SOUTH UTAH NSA DATA COLLECTION CENTER<IN/ HOME OF LOVEINT

MORE AND MORE JAMES CLAPPER’S AND KEITH ALEXANDER’S EXPLANATIONS OF THE AMOUNT OF DATA COLLECTED AND STORED SOUND LIKE THE IRANIAN EXPLANATION OF WHY THEY NEED MORE AND MORE CENTRIFUGES.

MAUREEN DOWD N.Y. COLUMNIST ON NSA’S COLLECTION PRACTICES
NSA’S CREEPING CLOUD OF SURVEILLANCE OR NSA’S CROWD OF CREEPS
“I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it, yes,” Alexander said.

Yet, news broke this past week that the N.S.A. inspector general admitted that there have been a dozen instances of staffers spying on love interests. (The Wall Street Journal said this practice is known as “LOVEINT,” for love intelligence.)

JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING IF BY SOME COINCIDENCE OR RANDOM OCCURRENCE  IF YOU ARE BEING SURVEILLED IN DEPTH CHANCES ARE YOU ARE  ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE BY SEAN GALLAGHER: You may already be a winner in NSA’s “three-degrees” surveillance sweepstakes!

Share