Edward Snowden Has A Little Chat With The World
Hero/Traitor/Leakey Man Edward Snowden had a heart-to-heart talk with the internet on Monday, via Glenn Greenwald andThe Guardian. We considered liveblooging it, but decided that liveblogging someone else's liveblog would be just a little more meta than would be healthy. Still, for a bit over 90 minutes, Snowden answered some 18 out of several bejillion questions submitted through the Guardian website and Twitter. New details! Clarifications! Hints of what may come next! Douchey self-promotion! (Did he answer our tweeted question, "Have you even read Catch-22?" He did not! Glenn, man, you gotta set up another of these things!)
Rather than try to summarize the entire Q & A & TL;DR, we'll simply hit a few highlights. Like for instance, is Edward Snowden a hero for dragging the details of the surveillance state out into the open, or is he a self-aggrandizing jerk? He most certainly is! Frankly, we don't mind too much that he's kind of an insufferable bastard, because we are not planning to gay marry him or to take even the shortest of road trips with him. On the other hand, the information he's providing -- if it turns out to be accurate, which is one hell of an if -- might be pretty useful to The Conversation we're supposedly going to have about all this stuff. Probably the biggest question is whether there's any truth to his assertion that midlevel analysts have the ability to go digging past metadata and actually get into the content of emails and phone calls:
[Glenn Greenwald]: When you say "someone at NSA still has the content of your communications" -- what do you mean? Do you mean they have a record of it, or the actual content?
Both. If I target for example an email address ... and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time - and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.
Do we know whether that's actually the case? It doesn't seem unpossible, at the very least. Snowden also stuck to his insistence that the only safeguards against are procedural, not technical:
US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it's important to understand that policy protection is no protection -- policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection -- a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the "widest allowable aperture," and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border.
Oh hello there, four-car metaphor pile-up. Are we ratcheting? Are we filtering? Are we ingesting? Are we ingesting filtered ratchets, because delish! Clearly our metadata is in great danger of being strained or eated, so we're thinking our metadata should start packing a gun, because our metadata loves those way more than butter.
Hey, what about the spy question? Is Snowden going to give our precious secrets to Red China? He actually answered this twice, sort of, initially saying
Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.
Which we think would be kind of cool, though we are not entirely sure it's accurate either in terms of biology or the PRC's debriefing process. Asked to explicitly say whether he had given classified information to the Chinese government, Snowden flatly denied doing so:
I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.
Well, and with Glenn Greenwald...zing!
Speaking of whom, Snowden seems to have maybe cleared up one point of contention: In response to a question about whether he'd lied about his salary being $200K when Booz Allen Hamilton said it was $122K, Snowden said
I was debriefed by Glenn and his peers over a number of days, and not all of those conversations were recorded. The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my "career high" salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I've been paid.
We were not aware that talking to Glenn Greenwald about your criminally outsized salary constituted a "debriefing" but apparently when you are a wannabe spy, every conversation is a thrilling Bond-esque adventure.
Finally, in response to a question about whether he's a traitor, Snowden kind of won us over with this bit:
Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.
We are sure that folks that died in WWII or got the Purple Heart or maybe got a Kennedy Honoree thing like Barbra Streisand did would be happy to know that their efforts pale in comparison to having Cheney call you a nasty hyperbole name. Edward Snowden, freedom fighter. Again, kind of douchey and self-important, but anyone who pisses off Dick Cheney can't be all bad.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.