Monday, June 24, 2013

Edward Snowden: Hero or Villain?

I know you will find this surprising, but Grace and I have opposing views regarding a topic...  MPP Star Tribune Biased Again  Go figure...  (see comments for our dialogue)

Grace seems to see Edward Snowden as a whistle blowing hero who has stood up for our personal freedom and privacy against "Big Brother".  Whereas I see him as villain who leaked very sensitive information, while he resides in countries that are not necessarily friendly to the US or her citizens, that may cost the lives of American citizens.  If he had used the "whistle blower protocols" and stayed in the USA, I may have peceived him differently, but he didn't...

I am kind of thinking this is one of the topics where the extreme Right and extreme Left actually share a common view. That being that privacy is more important than national security and the safety of us citizens.  Am I correct?

If the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented via the NSA monitoring, would the trade of be worth it?  Why or why not?

A side topic that also came up is that Grace seems to fear "big government" monitoring, whereas she supports "big government" wealth transfer, regulations, healthcare, etc...  And of course I see the monitoring as not a big deal, and am against all the government fingers acting in our personal lives.  Thoughts?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Probably a little of both. I am not sure why it matters a lot. One thing I am pretty sure of is that he has done little damage to national security since any terrorist who has a proclivity for using computers has in all likelihood already been long locked up. There is even an upside to this. Some terrorist wannabe who carefully reads the news accounts might convince himself that he can find a way around the security procedures described. Such a terrorist won't be around for very long.

--Hiram

Anonymous said...

One of the things that baffles me about this whole discussion it the fourth amendment search and seizure issue. The fourth amendment protects that to which we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Speaking for myself, I have never for a moment have had any expectation of privacy, reasonable or otherwise concerning anything I have committed to a computer. From the moment Al Gore invented the internet, the reasonable expectation for anything you put in a computer is as available to the public. Computers are the opposite of private.

--Hiram

jerrye92002 said...

I have always agreed with the old axiom, sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that "those who would trade essential liberty for security forsake both and deserve neither." In this case I don't see where national security has been compromised in the least. Anybody with the least bit of suspicion hanging over their head could have been subject to a completely legal wiretap and other forms of electronic snooping within easy-to-get a warrant from the secret FISA court. And with this available to our "intelligence agencies" there should have been not only no need for but a strict prohibition on the kind of wholesale invasion of privacy that Mr. Snowden revealed. I think I can understand why he fled the country and even why he chose the countries he did. Being a whistleblower shouldn't have to mean running for your life, but where conscience dictates the one, the smart sense of self-preservation may dictate the other.

John said...

Jerry,
Somehow I assumed Grace and yourself would be aligned on this one... My latest question is exactly what "essential liberty" do you think we are foresaking?

How is the NSA monitoring our electronic communications for suspicious behavior different from a police officer watching us drive down the street looking for someone weaving, speeding, etc or the post office sniffing for anthrax laden letters?

And I agree the police may need more legal documents once they find find suspicious behavior. But to just monitor... Really?

jerrye92002 said...

The essential liberty is freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, you know, that pesky old Constitution where SCOTUS found that "right of privacy" that allows the killing of unborn babies?

The difference between the two is "probable cause" and it's all the difference in the world. The hundreds of millions of Americans who are NOT terrorists and everybody knows it should NOT be the subject of government intercepts of their communications, not even the "metadata" about it. Now, if they can identify a terrorist on one end of a phone call, they can certainly listen in to both sides, and can get a court order to do so easily. What happened here was a clear violation of the law by the government snoopers. Unfortunately for them, Snowden did not DO the snooping; he just pointed to those who SHOULD be going to jail.

John said...

Do you think the courts will agree with your opinion?

I am still a bit confused... They are just watching data flow by and looking for probable cause or law breaking. How is this different from the cops running a speed trap?

jerrye92002 said...

The courts have quite a history of respect for the fourth amendment, sometimes not allowing obvious evidence of wrongdoing to be used by the prosecution. I also suspect, since Congress established the special FISA courts, that those courts would not appreciate being ignored.

They are not supposed to be watching dataflow by and "looking for probable cause." The rule is that you must HAVE probable cause before beginning any such search, and that probable cause must be sufficient for you to gain a warrant. Cops running a speed trap have the advantage that your drivers license confers authority on them to stop you for violations of the traffic law; that the speed limits are clearly posted, and seeing you exceed them is clearly cause for arrest – no probable cause needed because they aren't searching you or invading your privacy. It's the same as being caught in the act of bank robbery-- no warrant needed. Now, if the cops stopped you and thought you might be running drugs, they would have to have some probable cause (clearly visible) before they could search your vehicle for THAT.

Think about this the other way. Suppose the cops listen in on your telephone calls, looking for terrorist plots, but find out that you are preparing to rob a bank just for fun and profit? Since they have no warrant, can you be arrested? Could additional police be sent to the bank in anticipation? How would such a deployment be justified without revealing the illegal source of the information?

John said...

I think the police should be able to then hang out near that bank in case there are problems... Then they would not need to file the phone call as evidence of a crime... Since they will have caught the person "speeding"...

The monitoring isn't necessarily to collect "evidence" of a crime. It is to look for indications that a crime may be occuring that requires further in depth "legal" action.

Kind of like that car swerving within the lane, the young woman standing on the corner in very provactive clothing late at night, that man wearing a trench coat in the park on a hot Summer day, that young man leaving a duffle bag near the end of a marathon, a disturbing looking man hanging around outside the High School yard, etc, etc, etc. None of these are evidence of a crime, they are just behaviors or actions that make the police suspicious enough that they want to dig deeper.

So why do you think the courts have not acted to fix this violation of our rights?

jerrye92002 said...

Here's another example illustrating the difference between unwarranted snooping and reasonable search. I have long advocated that the police should simply, on a rotating basis, park outside a bar at random and watch for somebody to come out, alone, and get in their car. They could then walk over and asked that individual if they had been drinking and perhaps prevent having to issue a DWI or, more importantly, a fatal accident. Where I come from, many of these bars are way out in the country and the only way to get home from there by yourself is the way you came, in your car, so it makes eminent good sense to stop this crime from happening. Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that having somebody step out of a bar, alone, and get into a car and turn the key is not "probable cause" to assume they are a drunken driver. So, applying that standard to the Snowdon case, these government agents have WAY, WAY overstepped their proper bounds

jerrye92002 said...

You cite several cases of "probable cause"-- the provocative clothing late at night, etc.-- but NONE of them can be used to get a warrant to search or monitor the individual's actions more than briefly. That's harassment, while waiting for a crime to be committed while you watch can be called entrapment. I think the courts have gone overboard in protecting the rights of the wrong-doers, but I think the Obama administration has gone far too far the other way in defiling the rights of the innocent.

Laurie said...

Given the choice between hero and villain to describe Snowden I'll pick villain. Mostly this story bores me so I guess I don't care about the current level of government spying.

When you are ready for a new topic I suggest a return to economics. I came across a series devoted to "middle out" economics which I find interesting. Here is a link to one of the essays:

Burying Supply-Side Once and for All

I will start out with discussion with some commentary. I think supply side economics is dumb and has been bad for the country.

John said...

I'll read and post after I get on a real computer. Right now we are enjoying Valley Fair.