Sunday, June 23, 2013

IN THE SNOWDEN AFFAIR, I THINK THE NATIONAL SECURITY-CRATS JUST WON
(updated)


This is wild -- and I think it's bad news if you're hoping that Edward Snowden's NSA revelations will lead to serious changes in American surveillance policy:
The Hong Kong government announced on Sunday afternoon that it had allowed the departure from its territory of Edward J. Snowden....

A Moscow-based reservations agent at Aeroflot, Russia's national airline, said that Mr. Snowden was aboard flight SU213 to Moscow, traveling on a one-way ticket to Moscow....

Russia's Interfax news service ... reported that Mr. Snowden would remain in transit at an airport in Moscow for "several hours" pending an onward flight to Cuba, and would therefore not formally cross the Russian border or be subject to detention. Someone close to Mr. Snowden later told Interfax that he planned to continue on to Caracas, Venezuela....

WikiLeaks ... said in a statement on its Twitter feed that it had "assisted Mr. Snowden's political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers" and safe exit from Hong Kong, and said in a follow-up Twitter posting that, "Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisers." ...
If you had any hope that a coalition of lefties and libertarians, including right-leaning Paulite libertarians, might ultimately pressure the U.S. government to dial down NSA surveillance, and if you were taking comfort in the fact that even non-Paulites on the right have been accusing President Obama of using the NSA as Big Brother, well, forget it, because that's over: Snowden is consorting with four entities the mainstream right deeply distrusts -- China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Wikileaks -- and that fact is going to drive right-wing reactions to Snowden from now on.

Pretty much everyone on the right, including Fox and talk radio, is going to take the McCain/Graham line henceforth: no more talk about excessive surveillance, and a lot of talk about how weak Obama has been as Snowden has jetted around the world, with the aid of America's enemies. I know Chavez is gone, but his party is still in power in Venezuela, and if Snowden isn't extradited -- I assume he won't be -- Obama's failure to get him back will be deemed by the right as effectively canceling out the killing of bin Laden.

The right is always more comfortable arguing that Democrats are weak on defense, and the mainstream press is usually very eager to accommodate of this point of view. Post-Iraq syndrome has helped Obama, as has his willingness to continue many Bush-era policies apart from fighting the Iraq War endlessly, but I imagine the Beltway Establishment will enjoy the opportunity to revert to the old stereotypes: GOP as patriotic war daddies, Democrats as feckless weaklings. So here it comes again.

*****

Now, why Venezuela? I wonder if Snowden actually read this 2012 Business Insider post, titled "If You Had to Disappear, Where Would You Go?," written by Simon Black of the Web site Sovereign Man:





Black wrote while Chavez was still alive, but if what he wrote was accurate at the time, I imagine some of it still is:
... Venezuelans have a rich ethnic mix– African, European, indigenous, etc. Almost any westerner can pass as Venezuelan, so white or black, you don't necessarily stick out.

Further, Hugo Chavez's brand of National Socialism has created a largely cash society in Venezuela. There are few financial records from which anyone could be tracked, unlike in developed countries up north where constantly using your MasterCard pinpoints your exact location to any government agency paying attention.

Then there's the bit about the extradition treaty....

There is a US-Venezuela extradition treaty dating back to 1922. However it's riddled with ambiguities and contains an extremely limited list of extraditable offenses (e.g. bigamy...seriously?) Even when the treaty does apply, Hugo Chavez rarely cooperates....
So maybe we'll never get Snowden back. Won't that turn Obama into Jimmy Carter as far as U.S. politics is concerned?

*****

UPDATE: Wow, that was fast:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the few public officials sympathetic toward Edward Snowden, warned the national security leaker on Sunday not to cut deals or cozy up to any [hostile] government at the risk of losing credibility.

"I do think, for Mr. Snowden, if he cozies up to the Russian government, it will be nothing but bad for his name in history," said Paul on CNN's "State of the Union." "If he goes to an independent third country like Iceland and if he refuses to talk to any sort of formal government about this, I think there's a chance that he'll be seen as an advocate of privacy. If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government, or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that will be a real problem for him in history."
Translation: I'm trying to run for president with a lite version of my dad's national security views while still hoping to get traditional Republicans' votes, and YOU'RE SCREWING IT UP FOR ME, SNOWDEN!

(Via commenter tonycpsu at Metafilter.)

18 comments:

Victor said...

The only way to make the situation worse, is, if after Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela, Snowden sought asylum in "The People's Republic of San Francisco!"

Steve M. said...

Or Sean Penn's house.

Never Ben Better said...

China ---> Russia ---> Cuba ---> Venezuela?

Good grief. Why didn't Snowden just strap a giant flashing neon sign to his head: "I HATE AMERICA!" and be done with it? Never mind what his real agenda may be, what he's done and is doing shreds any credibility he may have had with the vast majority of Americans. Damn right there'll be no sane, sensible, useful discussion of national security, how far should it go, what methods should/should not be employed with Snowden as the poster child for the "Whoa, there, not so fast" side.

Phil Freeman said...

Well, honestly, where the hell is he supposed to go? Pretty much every other country on Earth is either a US client state or a lapdog...I mean, seriously, what are his other options? Iran? North Korea? Somalia? If there's some country he could land in that WOULDN'T set off the screamers, feel free to name it.

flipyrwhig said...

How about... He could go back to the USA and set about becoming the civil libertarians' answer to Oliver North, man who did something illegal in the spirit of a higher ideological calling.

Never Ben Better said...

I don't recall Daniel Ellsberg running away from what he'd done. Matter of fact, when he surrendered to the authorities he said:

"I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision."

Phil Freeman said...

flipyrwhig, Never Ben Better -

Do the names Bradley Manning and Jose Padilla mean anything to you? If Edward Snowden touches down on US soil, or in a cooperating country (which is to say basically all of them), he will never be heard from again.

Neo Tuxedo said...

@Phil Freeman: I wish to hell I could stop myself from thinking you make a point. Two of them, actually.

Well, flip? Ben? The way I see it, the ball's back in your court. Can you think of a country Snowden could go to that would neither (a) make the Noise Machine squeal like a chicken caught in a tractor's nuts nor (b) cooperate in disappearing him? Because I can't name any such with 100% certainty, not even (especially not?) our very own Land of the Fee and Home of the Bought-and-Paid-For.

Pete said...

@Neo Tuxedo: Yeah, it's hard. I fear that Snowden failed to predict the response he got up till now, and I have my doubts that he knows what he's doing now. Bluntly, I think he's more likely to die soon if he stays outside the U.S. In his position, I'd be negotiating. Did he really start this without having something to deal? Maybe ... but that wouldn't speak well of his chances of making a good decision now.

Examinator said...

He's going to be used as an object lesson to other potential people with moral principals and guts who say enough is enough.

The gorilla in the room that no American site wants to discuss is 'what do you think this is doing to US credibility and regard? How much higher is world tension now?
And to think the USA waxed feral about Chinese computer hacking . The US has simply bugged everyone ....

Well it listens in on EVERYBODY, ignores laws even it's own, says one thing then does another, lies to it's citizens
As for human rights well um;
Kangaroo courts, ( Fisa... see guardian UK stories)
star chambers; ( death lists)
Commits and Condones Mass murders even on the most spurious grounds Supported Saddam against Iran why? Because the it dared to unseat the puppet Shah and commercial oil interests. Lets be serious America it was both revenge for the embassy hijack and the ending of the US corporate rape of Iranian oil profits.
Iraq war 2 ;
Afghanistan;
Israel's many breaches;
Summary executions/ torture and bombings (drones) for association not guilt. How many wedding have been bombed in Afghanistan and Pakistan etc ( oops)

Apparently unelected shadow figures can usurp by various means elected authority. What's next?
Anywhere else American's would be vilifying it as ...oh I don't know military junta in waiting dictatorship, un democratic.

Tin foil hats aside who really benefits ? Will it guarantee no more terrorism? NO. if one adds up all the deaths from external interest terrorism it barely matches internal terrorism/ shooting spree deaths when taken as a whole and orders of magnitude less that motor vehicle deaths. Simply on a cost benefit basis/ proportion you have to be kidding. It's been said before 9/11 happened because a cock up between two existing Agencies not sharing or joining the dots, not lack of information.
Consider the real purpose of terrorism …. the terrorists MUST be happy with the results the US over reaction must be a 'ya we're hitting the button' from the terrorists internal nutters and external.

Informed self interest of the people should be kicking in big time but it isn't.

Common sense should tell Americans that vetting people should not be in the hands of one person i.e. General Strange love (?) I charge of CIA, NSA and a GENERERAL ( they are trained to WIN at any cost diplomacy is about dealing with issues without creating mass losers) nor should that person have influence in government that's for the elected. That is exactly the same power base as Indonesia, Pakistan, Burma etc and we all know how how well that works.
BTW history is full of precedences and lessons but will we heed the them or simply repeat the mistakes? ( the fall of the Roman Republic and countless coups since)
It's not a matter of no security V security its a matter of degree.
Part of the problem is that the US system doesn't limit the excesses of minority but encourages them.
Nothing exceeds like excess. Paraphrasing one of the founding fathers “ anybody who gives up freedom for security invariably finishes up with neither.”

Never Ben Better said...

You're completely missing the point of our host's lament: That by his flight and its itinerary Snowden has sabotaged whatever faint hope there was (not much, to be sure) of something useful emerging from an examination of means and methods, policies and practices in national security. The right will bay off on the Obama is soft on America's enemies trail, the left will get sidetracked into Snowden is a persecuted martyr bitching, and instead of anyone actually addressing the issues, as Steve said, "the Beltway Establishment will enjoy the opportunity to revert to the old stereotypes: GOP as patriotic war daddies, Democrats as feckless weaklings. So here it comes again."

If you think that doesn't matter, you need to get out of your bubble.

Examinator said...

PS
I forgot to mention the Generals' conflicts of interests.
In that his job is to manage "his" agencies (read ensure they prosper). This means his power and or post govt career.

In that they and ex politicians are only of interest to business for their insider knowledge and their contacts, to ensure inside running.

A public servant head has NO SEAT at the table of GOVERNMENT (most western nations use this structure) and must deal through the elected member, whose oversight must be within the law and is limited by law. i.e. the appropriate member can't simply ask for opponents details etc.

This way neither can as easily build a power base or threaten cajole etc elected authority.

Examinator said...

Never Be Better,
Thank you for your feedback,.
However it all depends on your perspective.
Yes, what ever Snowdon intended is being systematically devalued by the powers that be .
AND he's being made an example of as is The hapless soldier. Likewise they're after Assange because they want to shut Wikileaks.

If you read the Guardian , der Spiegel end other foreign media you'll note they don't see it like this article and or the American media, public. His motives , his fate are a side issue …. It's what he has drawn attention to that is important.
BOTH political Parties are hog tied by the shadow empire builders. Neuter the power of the general and the effect of money interests and the problem becomes manageable.

In fact this piece also highlights the tactics used to devalue Snowdon's FACTS, they're deliberately diverting the conversation to the banality of political partisanship which turns people off.

It's called “desensitising an issue” which is what PR people get paid to do.
Look at who benefits by this desensitising and direc your anger at them.

I guess the meta point I make constantly is that by simplifying (paraphrasing, redefining) an issue the real import tends to get lost trivialities( you name the topic). In this case Party policy has little to do with the real issue.
To me it's "Do we want to investigate potential solutions and in that way present ta single clearly defined unambiguous proposition around which the people can gather or do we want to continue emoting in small groups and not unite.
Which, BTW why I object to splinter special interest groups it allows the forces to play divide and conquer. e.g. which is harder to fight by divide and conquer 'feminist' issues or HUMAN RIGHTS. They are in the final analysis the same thing, only the former allows for prejudice and wedge politics.
Look at the underpinning strategies of MLK jr most of his speeches focused on HUMAN RIGHTS not just BLACK RIGHTS.
If the public were united under say HUMAN RIGHTS and not diverted (and it was heavily sold) I'd suggest Snowdon's fate would be considerably brighter. So long as National security etc is allowed to be part conversation his case and the argument about Prism being dialled back down are dead.

Never Ben Better said...

Actually, Examinator, I was responding to Pete and Neo, who zeroed in on Snowden's personal fate, ignoring Steve's broader point, as addressed by Flipyrwhig and me: that by fleeing to such easily demonized refuges rather than staying to fight as Ellsberg did, Snowden sidetracks the very debate he demands.

I'm old enough to recall the sensation of the Pentagon Papers' release, and part of their power came from Ellsberg's principled stand, his willingness to face whatever the Nixon administration could throw at him. Hell, much as I despised Ollie North, and still do, I have to recognize what a masterful job he did of turning his Congressional testimony and later criminal prosecution into a noble stand for AMERICA!!!! against the Forces of Evil. *gag*

By contrast, with Snowden you have this perception (however much a media caricature it may be): a leaker who runs away from the consequences of his actions to nations that are hostile to this country's interests. This damages his credibility and by extension the credibility of his claims. Unfair? Too bad; it's reality.

You, Examinator, said this: "If you read the Guardian, der Spiegel end other foreign media you'll note they don't see it like this article and or the American media, public. His motives, his fate are a side issue …. It's what he has drawn attention to that is important. BOTH political Parties are hog tied by the shadow empire builders. Neuter the power of the general and the effect of money interests and the problem becomes manageable.

"In fact this piece also highlights the tactics used to devalue Snowdon's FACTS, they're deliberately diverting the conversation to the banality of political partisanship which turns people off."

Exactly. I do in fact read Der Spiegel and am aware of how this is playing out in other countries; but the country most in need of a frank, open, sane discussion on national security is the US of A, and it's this country that is most susceptible to being distracted by the fact of and destinations involved in Snowden's flight.

Rick Massimo said...

"... if Snowden isn't extradited -- I assume he won't be -- Obama's failure to get him back will be deemed by the right as effectively canceling out the killing of bin Laden."

But surely if Obama gets up and says "The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. ... He’s just a person who’s been marginalized. … I don’t know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you" the right wing will accept that. They certainly did before.

Pete said...

@NBB: Well I was responding to Neo, and trying to find some common ground; I largely agree with you. The relevance of Snowden's personal decisions is precisely that he's made bad ones all along.

Ellsberg spent months (at least) actively working the back channels before the Pentagon Papers were prematurely published by the NYT. He tried to formulate a sophisticated strategy to change policy, hence in part his efforts to get Senators on board, individually, to read the leaks into the record, as Gravel eventually did.

Snowden, by contrast, seems to have thought that "if I put this out, everyone will believe me ..." which is regrettably naive and counterproductive. But I make no apology for being concerned whether and how the poor sap is going to live ...

Philo Vaihinger said...

"Pretty much everyone on the right, including Fox and talk radio, is going to take the McCain/Graham line henceforth: no more talk about excessive surveillance[.]"

Good. Good for O, good for us all.

Never Ben Better said...

Ah, yes, Pete; I see where you were going now. Yes, Ellsberg was far more thoughtful, deliberate, and downright savvy to the ways of the world in how he went about his whistle-blowing. What has struck me in comparing both men is the difference in how they manifested the courage of their convictions, and how that affected the impact of what they did. I'm afraid Snowden doesn't look very good in such a comparison; how that will play out in his eventual fate, as you say, it does not augur well.