Amnesty for Edward Snowden, the NSA Leaker

Ideas and Issues

amnestyNew Orleans    When Richard Ledgett, the man mentioned as the possible next director of the NSA and the head of the NSA team that has spent six months reviewing what documents Edward Snowden may have gotten and how much he still has left to leak, says to CBS News that “it’s worth having a conversation” with Snowden about an amnesty for information trade, you know that we have entered a new dimension in this spying mess.   This is the same Snowden that some Congressman suggested was worth assassinating and the Justice Department claimed to be investigating for treason.   Snowden says that his leaks were about letting the American people know how spying had gotten out of control in order to spark a national conversation.   We certainly are having that now!

            Ledgett was no doubt floating a trial balloon and trying to send a message to Snowden and his lawyers in Russia, but he was also telling all of us some very important things.  Among them is that NSA still has no idea how much more he may have seen and taken.  Obviously, they would not be considering trading amnesty for the information return unless there was potentially some heavy, heavy stuff out there that might make what we have read to date pale in comparison.  No doubt the rightwing will go bonkers over even the suggestion of amnesty for Snowden, but it is still amazing how this story has migrated to the front of in all information and technology debates.

            Ben Wizner, director of the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the ACLU, hit the nail on the head in talking to the Times about the opportunity that all of these disclosures now present for change:

What’s clear is that tracking technologies have outpaced democratic controls.  What we’ve learned this year is that agencies are determined to conduct surveillance on us, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. This may be one of those once-in-a-generation moments when we recalibrate the powers of the citizens and the state.  And that change can happen on the technological side, where the technologists that are disillusioned by the incessant tracking will use their skills to make surveillance more costly.

            Wizner’s point is that the same kind of techies that are spying on us can also build the kinds of tools that stop the spying and return some privacy.

            Of course the other thing that all of us have learned in this mess is not only that if they can spy on us, they will spy on us, but also that when we put a device in our hands or under our fingertips there really is no such thing as full privacy anymore, no matter what all of the tech-ad companies claim or how many privacy settings you click.  They have the info, and someone is going to get it and they are all trying to sell it.

            For that kind of information alone, maybe Snowden deserves amnesty.