who rose to extraordinary fame in June 2013 when he facilitated classified documents from the NSA to be made fully open and public, is an intriguing case. Some (with blind allegiance the USG and MIC [Military Industrial Complex]) view him as a traitor who should be imprisoned for life or killed. Others view him as a hero, genuine activist and champion of the right to privacy. There are also some who view him with skepticism, finding his story and claims beyond the bounds of credibility. With the publication of his recent book Permanent Record, and to some extent his recent interview with Joe Rogan, he has again become a focus of attention. We have learnt much more about his background and story. Now is a good opportunity to ask: who is Edward Snowden, and can we fully trust his story?
Hacking the NSA
Permanent Record is an interesting read. Snowden does a good job of picking out key moments from his childhood that formed his character. He reveals how he grew up in the Beltway (the area surrounding Washington DC) in a military family and became fascinated with computers, video games and hacking. The idea of 'hacking' is a central theme of the book. He talks about how he was always trying to find loopholes and ways around the rules at home, at school and beyond. He was always interested in systems – how they operate, how the components work together and what their vulnerabilities were – in other words, how systems could be hacked. He obtained a TS/SCI (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information) clearance after going through vigorous testing and became a Systems Administrator. As he worked his way up the ladder, he worked both on the private side as a contractor and on the public side as a government employee. By this point, the boy computer genius and teenage hacker had become a high-level systems expert with access to a massive amount of classified and secret data. He began to feel increasingly uncomfortable with the documents that came across his desk, as he started to see that the MIC, led by the NSA, had set up a network of mass surveillance across not just America but the entire world. Snowden writes that they had "hacked the Constitution" by bypassing the checks and balances meant to protect the American public. The Executive Branch has actively hacked the system by using EOs (Executive Orders) to set new policy without needing approval from the Legislative Branch (Congress). Congress in turn had turned a blind eye to NSA spying and overreach by refusing to demand truthful answers and launch investigations. The Judicial Branch (the courts) had been hacked by the establishment of a special court under the 1978 act FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) which just rubber stamped virtually every (99%) request the NSA made. In response to this, Snowden decided to take matters into his own hands by hacking the NSA, in order to redress the balance of power.
Quotes from Permanent Record, First Book of Edward Snowden
Here are some great quotes from the book which sum up Snowden's realizations and principles. The first sums up the importance of the metadata as opposed to actual content of the communication:
"One major irony here is that the law, which always lags behind technological innovation by at least a generation, gives substantially more protections to a communication's content than to its metadata – and yet intelligence agencies are far more interested in the metadata – the activity records that allow them both the "big picture" ability to analyze data at scale, and the "little picture" ability to make perfect maps, chronologies, and associative synopses of an individual person's life, from which they presume to extrapolate predictions of behavior. In sum, metadata can tell your surveillant virtually everything they'd ever want or need to know about you, except what's actually going on inside your head."
In this quote, Snowden talks about his personal emotions of feeling used and violated. He had assisted the system without knowing it – so many whistleblowers have felt the same. This is only possible due to the strict compartmentalization of information that takes place within the IC (Intelligence Community) and the Military in general:
"I felt far from home, but monitored. I felt more adult than ever, but cursed with the knowledge that all of us had been reduced to something like children, who'd be forced to live the rest of out lives under omniscient parental supervision ... I felt like a fool, as someone of supposedly serious technical skills who'd somehow helped to build an essential component of this system without realizing its purpose. I felt used, as an employee of the IC who only now was realizing that all along I'd been protecting not my country but the state. I felt, above all, violated."
– pp. 180-1
In this quote, Snowden talks about his realization that the US had become the enemy it said it was fighting:
"After 9/11, the IC's orders had been "never again", a mission that could never be accomplished. A decade later, it had become clear, to me at least, that the repeated evocations of terror by the political class were not a response to any specific threat or concern but a cynical attempt to turn terror into a permanent danger that required permanent vigilance enforced by unquestionable authority. After a decade of mass surveillance, the technology had proved itself to be a potent weapon less against terror and more against liberty itself. By continuing these programs, by continuing these lies, America was protecting little, winning nothing, and losing much – until there would be few distinctions left between those post 9/11 polarities of "Us" and "Them"."
– pp. 204-5
Here he shows his understanding that privacy if intrinsic and fundamental to all people:
"Because a citzenry's freedoms are interdependent, to surrender your own privacy is really to surrender everyone's. You might to choose to give it up out of convenience, or under the popular pretext that privacy is only required by those who have something to hide. By saying that you don't need or want privacy because you have nothing to hide is to assume that no one should have, or could have, to hide anything –– ... their immigration status, unemployment history, financial history, and health records ... religious beliefs, political affiliations, and sexual activities ..."
– pg. 208
Here he reveals the moment that the implications of the mass surveillance grid dawned on him:
"The generations to come would have to get used to a world in which surveillance wasn't something occasional and directed in legally justified circumstances, but a constant and indiscriminate presence ... once the ubiquity of collection was combined with the permanency of storage, all any government had to do was select a person or a group to scapegoat and go searching – as I'd gone searching through the agency's files – for evidence of a suitable crime."
– pg. 185
Some of the Surprising Things about Snowden
So, Snowden awoke to the reality of what the NSA was doing to people. He awoke to his unwitting role in assisting the creation of this sprawling surveillance system. He realized the War on Terror was a fraudulent piece of propaganda. He realized the IC had been using 9/11 as an excuse to consolidate tremendous power and control by constructing the most intrusive mass surveillance grid known to man in world history.
Ed Snowden is clearly an intelligent guy. So, it struck me as quite bizarre that he would still, after all these years, buy into the mainstream official version of events regarding the false flag operation of 9/11 and the death of Osama bin Laden. Here is a quote where he seems to buy hook, line and sinker that bin Laden was killed on May 1st, 2011 in Pakistan:
"It was late at night on May 1, 2011, when I noticed the news alert on my phone: Osama bin Laden had been tracked down to Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed by a team of Navy SEALs ... I was glad the motherfucker was dead."
– pg. 203
The idea of radical Islamic terrorists being killed 2, 3, 4 or more times has just come up again with President Trump's recent announcement that "something big has happened" and that the US Military found and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ... again. Well, the story this time is that he committed suicide and blew himself up after being trapped in a tunnel by US forces. Trump claims they DNA tested him right after he died him to make sure it was him! Sure they did. James Corbett offers this