Golf Time is Over, What’s the President Going to do with Snowden and the NSA?

nsa-cartoon-luckovich-495x365New Orleans   Ok, we’re off of vacation now, and making our way back to work to grudgingly greet or growl at a new year.  Our teams won or lost and we’re waiting for the playoffs.  Winter’s not coming.  It’s here!  Time to crack back at it again.

            The President seems to have had a good vacation in Hawaii.  No doubt well deserved and reportedly involving a lot of golf, so if anything he’s probably so bored he’s ready to embrace the New Year just for something to do to get his heart beating again.

            So just to get started on the right foot, isn’t it about time the President looked past the website issues with the Affordable Care Act and really fixed this problem with the NSA being wildly out of control in every way imaginable

            The special panel he appointed has said clearly, “Dial it back, dude,” but surprisingly the President before his Aloha week did not seem to be embracing that alternative as fully as we should have been able to expect.   Granted we have some division in the court rulings about even whether or not this mass vacuuming of everything telephonic is even legal, but 2 judges out of three have said, no way.

            Heck, the New York Times editorial board even joined the call, and, yes, I said this a while ago, that Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, should be given amnesty or allowed some kind of softer landing on a plea bargain because he has done the country a huge service.  Embarrassingly for the President, they also pointed out that his gratuitous, and no doubt scripted, comments earlier that Snowden should have blown the whistle on the NSA rather than copying, pasting, and running, were wrong because contractors like Snowden are not protected as whistle blowers, and further than Snowden has indicated that he twice told supervisors, not that any of them cared because contrary to common sense, American traditions, and most believe the constitution, they might have wrongly thought it was all hunky-dory and legal.

            If we’re going to start a New Year off right, how about doing it without government spying and by showing some mercy to a guy who took the big steps to wave his hands in the air and tell us something was way wrong at the NSA.

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Amnesty for Edward Snowden, the NSA Leaker

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.

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