Snowden sometimes rational, sometimes hysterical

Snowden sometimes rational, sometimes hysterical

Summary: When Edward Snowden says that privacy has been completely eliminated from life he makes it clear that his view of the world is fallacious.


Edward Snowden has made two prominent appearances in the last two days. The first in an interview with the Washington Post in which he declared "mission accomplished," by which he means that his leaking of secret NSA documents has started a debate on the propriety of the practices he exposed.

This interpretation of events is indisputable. Whether it was any of his business to do what it took to start the debate is another matter.

But the next day, Snowden delivered a short Christmas Day message on British television, and here he got carried away, to put it kindly:

    "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves -- an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

Perhaps NSA capabilities remain to be disclosed which are many orders of magnitude more invasive than what we have heretofore seen, but what we know now does not justify Snowden's nutty statement here. The child he speaks of will plainly have many opportunities for privacy — in their own room talking to siblings, out in a park with friends, believe it or not, even online.

Is it conceivable that someone could be collecting information about those encounters? I suppose it's theoretically possible. Is it plausible that any government or other agency is going to even want to do that, let alone go to the trouble of it? No, of course not.

Read his words carefully: He says that someone will be recording and analyzing our every thought. This is "they put a chip in my brain" stuff. 

Some people get just plain nuts about privacy, and clearly Snowden is one of them. Frankly it makes me all the more angry at the NSA for doing such a miserable non-job at screening trusted workers. Nothing about the revelations we've heard so far justifies the dystopian future Snowden predicts.

We've started the debate Snowden mentioned on December 24. It's happening whether you like it or not, and I would say some changes are necessary because of it. We need to make those changes based on rational analysis of threats and real-world actions, not delusions.

Topics: Security, Government, Government US, Privacy

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  • You evidently don't believe all those cameras exist either.

    Especially in the park. On many street corners, many shops with cameras pointed out the window, many buses, taxi cabs, trains, planes, hospitals, libraries, ...

    I see them nearly everywhere - just look at the ceiling - you know what those little dark hemispheres are? Cameras.

    As for who wants to do such detailed monitoring? well, the NSA for one. As to whether you are the target or not is something different. Watched, yes. Any contact with someone they want to watch adds you to the potential list of also being watched.
    • Cameras are watching you -

      You do realize that businesses watch for those with sticky fingers. That means employees and customers. They are called security cameras for a reason. They also make sure your safe in certain places. That your somewhere that your supposed to be. I'm doubting they are watching you in particular. Wow - another paranoid citizen. Are you hiding something?? And the fun thing is, a lot of places don't even have cameras - just knowing that people like you are that paranoid is enough - is it a camera or not?
      say what
      • Another anti-Snowden campaign by ZDNet

        In the early days of the Snowden saga, ZDNet was reporting it quite well.

        Now things have changed. The main ZDNet journalists have turned against Snowden (sometimes an overseas journalist will write a positive piece, but it doesn't get the top headline).

        So what happened? Did ZDNet get a tap on the shoulder from the dark forces in government? Time to make Snowden out to be a mad guy?

        When he talks about a child of today that will have a life without privacy, Snowden is not raving like an "irrational" lunatic, as this story would have you believe. Snowden is being metaphorical. He's talking about the younger generation as they live and grow up and move through their lives.

        And Snowden is right. The next generation will have no privacy. Their cell phones will track their locations. Everywhere. Their phone calls will be monitored by computer systems, listening out for key words. Their contact and address books will be stored by the government.

        The United Nations said today that internet privacy is as important as human rights. Having privacy when you communicate is fundamental for both journalism and democracy to function. ZDNet doesn't yet appreciate this.
        • Related but separate issues

          Retailers have been using hidden (and not so hidden) cameras for decades. They use them to deter theft and to provide footing of the occasional robbery or assaults on employees (I was on the wrong end of a fist several times during the course of my two year career as a convenience store clerk). If the footage is used by the police to investigate and punish political dissent, then they're very discreet about it (the only time I ever saw the police look at camera footage was in relation to crimes committed in the store).

          Do I believe that PRISM goes too far? Absolutely. Do I believe that I live in a totalitarian state as oppressive as Hitler's or Stalin's, or am likely to do so in the near future? Absolutely not. Do I believe that all governments are equally illegitimate and equally oppressive (the traditional anarchist lie)? Definitely not. Am I afraid of being hauled off by the police in the middle of the night for saying the wrong things, or reading the wrong books, or viewing the wrong websites, or hanging out with the wrong people? I'm more afraid of being hauled off by self-proclaimed freedom fighters for one of the above and am not terribly afraid of them. I do have the continuing vision of people rising up and murdering their supposed enemies because their favorite talk show host told them to (which is what happened in Rwanda). And I'm very much afraid that people will believe all of the "democracy is a sham" propaganda they're constantly bombarded with and as a consequence, willingly embrace the next Napoleon, or Lenin, or Mussolini that comes along (which will definitely destroy our liberties); or kill each other in a years-long civil war that will leave scars that will take generations to heal.

          Our system of government is definitely flawed (I'm writing as an American), but it's what we have and it's better than most others. The founders left us enormous gifts in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, together with a revolutionary mythology that exalts human rights and has enormous faith in the ability of ordinary people to govern themselves, both individually and collectively. But democracy (or representative government, if you prefer) can only work if citizens take ownership of it. There are vested interests that will happily order things to suit themselves, but they're at their strongest when ordinary people aren't paying attention. Politicians are reluctant to cross their constituents on issues they are perceived as understanding and caring about. But many will do favors for campaign contributors if they don't think their constituents are paying attention.

          For better or worse, Edward Snowden has focused the public's attention on the whole issue of surveillance. It's up to us as citizens, acting both individually and collectively to decide what we're going to do about it. But acting as cowering subjects whose opinions don't matter won't help a bit; and paving the way for the next Napoleon by undermining and delegitimizing the system we have instead of using it will make things worse. In a republic, the citizens own the government (whether they want to our not; it's our job to make it work in the public interest. In the end, the monkey is on all of our backs.
          John L. Ries
          • If you don't believe all governments are equally legitimate/illegitimate

            then don't be surprised when the one you support today bends you over tomorrow.
        • Looks like ZDNET is the "Washington Post of IT media"...

          ... defending American conventional corporate wisdom of "freedom" and ignoring serious danger of NSA doing for democracy, privace and freedom.

          Edward Snowden is hardly hysterical at all. Actually political elite of America is hysterically hating Snowden. And trying to spread that pathetic hate monger.
          Napoleon XIV
          • Larry is reacting irrationally.

            Snowden is viewing the world using accumulated knowledge of what is really happening. Larry is gut reacting to words that make him anxious that the world isn't what he thought it was. Who is truly being irrational here?

            Everything Snowden mentioned is already happening. It isn't only the government gathering information about you. You probably don't believe thought analysis is taking place, but every large retailer is keeping track of and heavily analyzing your buying habits, in order to understand your thinking. Every credit card company is analyzing your monthly purchases to discover your preferred lifestyle and then pushes services which would address your lifestyle.

            Then, there is the NSA. What reflects your thoughts and opinions more than the sum of all your communication with others? Everything you say, do, or buy is being monitored. Your movements are tracked via the GPS in your phone and cell tower logging. Even those who think they live completely off the grid are tagged via taxes and purchases.

            Believing you aren't being controlled and continuously monitored is living in a fantasy world. Snowden isn't even telling us everything.
        • As a ZDNet blogger I can say

          some of my compatriots strike me as credulous and insufficiently versed in the long history of abuse of power - which is why we are supposed to have a rule of law and not of men - but I can say that no one at ZDNet has asked me to tone down my criticism of the NSA's American spying.

          Let's put the ZDNet conspiracy meme to bed. Google "ZDNet Harris NSA" to see some of what I've written and debated on the subject.

          Robin Harris
          Storage Bits
          R Harris
      • Am I hiding something?

        " If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

        -- Germany, 1935.
        • creepy creeping government

          pishaw, you are absolutely correct. Now how about all those SWAT teams that are in place just waiting for the next attack order...everything is in place...
          Maybe I am exaggerating a bit here but then maybe Germans in 1935 should have been more concerned...and now it is happening again.
    • jessepollard is spot on !

      I believe Larry is aware of the cameras etc. It is just that some of us are concerned and some are not.

      For Example:

      I have a boat, and spend my life keeping it shipshape and safe, but I get people onboard who get terrified unecessarily. I too get terrified when on other peoples' boats but only when I know they are incompetent and carry out minimal maintenance. It is all a question of perspective. I AM concerned about current surveillance ! AND, I am NOT making a "nutty statement".
    • Of course, they exist

      And in public places, I don't see a problem with them (any more than I see a problem with undercover police officers walking the streets). And note that private businesses are not in the habit of handing over the recordings from them to the police, unless there's evidence that a crime was committed.

      But do you have good reason to believe that my house is bugged, or that my phones are routinely listened to? It still takes a warrant for governments to do either and it's illegal for private citizens to do so. Privacy may be seriously eroded, but it still exists.
      John L. Ries
      • You also don't seem to understand how easy it is to get...

        A warrant is only necessary if the business refuses to hand them over...

        Whether there has been a crime or not. All the police have to do is ask nicely.

        And it isn't illegal to record. If it were, then all the web cams being sold would be identification of illegal activity.
      • You don't seem to be paying attention.

        The NSA has already said they don't need warrants for personal surveillance (After they said they aren't reading your email, then they said they ARE reading you emails with a warrant, THEN they said they don't need warrants). And they DON'T need warrants. Congress has passed laws to allow this (to keep you safe, remember?). This surveillance will increase exponentially until (if) the issue reaches the Supreme Court. And it's for that reason that the Administration is asking the Judicial to basically ignore the entire issue: A judge would have to be extremely incompetent or dishonest to interpret the fourth amendment as giving law enforcement unlimited authority to monitor everyone all the time. Which is exactly what they are working towards.

        You don't have a problem with undercover cops, and that's reasonable. What if the cop asks you to empty your pockets? And we need to see your cell phone, too. What's the password? NOW it's a problem, right.

        That's exactly what's going on here. If they aren't listening to you phone calls (and you don't know they aren't), it's not for lack of trying. If the NSA are allowed to continue, this will be the largest engineering project in the history of man. You think Googles' server farms are large? Small potatoes. Google tracks people that come to them voluntarily. The NSA want's to know, about everyone: who you are, where you've been, who you've talked to, what you said to them, and where are you now. About everyone. Consider how much computing power that is. They're just ramping up. It'll be a decade until they're done. Unless someone stops all this now.

        Think that's insanely paranoid? Replace 'NSA' with 'J. Edgar Hoover'. And the people in congress that tell you "We've got this, don't worry about it"? Imagine they're Joe McCarthy. Suddenly it's not only plausible, not only likely, but almost definite.

        What about Snowden? Look how smartly he's play this game. He waits until the Administration tells you, laughingly, that of COURSE we're not reading your emails.

        (Releases document that says they're reading emails).

        But, snicker, we have warrants, and we only target dangerous people.

        (Releases document that says they don't have warrants, and target as many people as possible worldwide.)

        Repeat infinitely. Why do you think Snowdens still alive? The administration doesn't want him in prison, they want him dead. But they don't know what else he knows. But he's in Russia, they can't touch him, right? Are you kidding me? This isn't 1979. They could have him dead before breakfast tomorrow. But they are afraid of what might come out.

        Insanely paranoid? "We're not reading you're emails". This administration has lied about everything, all the time. When they tell me "Chill, you have nothing to worry about", if find it frightening.

        Finally, they say the NSA are doing Very Important Things in order to Keep Me Safe. You know, like the stopped that thing in Boston? Or the one(s) in Colorado? Or that embassy attack in Benghazi? Oh, that's right. They were caught completely by surprise. Oh, and Russia warned us about the kids that did the thing in Boston. The NSA and FBI had prior knowledge that they were a threat. How'd that work out? Right.

        Thanks for keeping us safe. I guess.
        • Obviously...

          ...I'd demand a warrant before I emptied my pockets, or at least the honor of being arrested for something. I would do the same before I allowed my home or computers to be searched (even if the police took it in ill humor). And under no circumstances would I ever divulge a password without a direct court order. Rules are useless unless they're enforced, and I think the Fourth Amendment is a very good rule.

          And I agree that Snowden is playing the game very intelligently. This is not a man who likes to take risks.
          John L. Ries
          • Unfortunatly, the NSA doesn't think the constitution applies to them.

            They've set up their own little court system. They have their own judges, working in secret, to issue warrants whenever NSA thinks they need one. When they ask for a warrant, they get it. None of that 'probable cause' stuff, because their work is Very Important.

            A Federal Circuit judge ruled that even though collecting email and phone data without warrants SEEMS to violate the fourth amendment, the Very Important Work that NSA does outweighs the 'minor inconvenience' incurred by the individual, and is therefor legal. It's the same logic that applies to DUI checkpoints: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

            Unfortunately, the fourth amendment wasn't written by Mr. Spock. And even thought the Bill of Rights was created specifically to protect the rights of the individual, a federal judge ruled that the fourth amendment doesn't apply to NSA and their data collecting (spying). Like I said before, you'd have to be very stupid, or very dishonest, to believe the fourth amendment does not protect you from a random search for no reason, given that's EXACTLY what it says. But there it is.

            I was relieved to see Bush out of office. Obama said he was going to change everything, and make the government more transparent. Great, I thought, fire everyone at Justice and work you're way out.

            But where Bush was just a learning disabled child from Texas, Obama seems legitimately evil. Every time he speaks today, I have no doubt he's lying. None. It's worse than Nixon (whom I remember). Tragically, the republican party is dominated by religious whackjobs and idiots, so it's hard to imagine an alternative that's better. These are exciting times, to say the least.

            As a student of history, I can attest that there is historical precedent for things of this nature. When the United States has an outside enemy, we come together for the common good (see Japan, the Soviet Union, etc.). But when we don't we turn on each other. Joe McCarthy said he was protecting us from communists that were trying to destroy the country, although he couldn't share his evidence or say where it came from (sound familiar?). Turns out, he was insane. His fellow members in the senate allowed him to destroy lives by the hundreds for SIX YEARS. Then McCarthy said there were commies in the senate.

            They impeached him immediately.

            We need a voice of reason in this country. But there is no one reasonable in the republican party, and the democrats are worthless.

            Yes, these are very exciting times. In a terrifying sort of way.
          • Correction

            Joseph McCarthy was censured by the Senate and stripped of his committee assignments. The US Senate, which is vested by the Constitution with the sole authority to try federal impeachments, has long held that members of Congress are not civil officers of the United States and are therefore not subject to impeachment.

            You're entitled to your own opinion, of course, but I don't think President Obama is evil (he's not ruthless enough to merit such an accusation). I think he's well meaning, but lacks the political and administrative skills to be effective. I have doubts about a lot of the political positions he's taken, but that too is a matter of opinion and politicians can be wrong without being evil.
            John L. Ries
          • and it is just a small step...

            to where you as a suspected terrorist, are then water boarded for not complying.
            This has been a slippery slope for some time however since Snowden opened the box the table just tilted more than you can handle.
            Good luck to my good US friends.
        • J. Edgar Hoover, for sure.

          His spies once alerted him to a Hollywood star's pregnancy from the doctor's office (before home pregnancy tests were invented), whereupon he called the star's husband BEFORE his wife called him. The couple? Everybody's favorite international couple in the 1950's, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, of course. And he didn't get in trouble with the Eisenhower administration (or any other one), or even with the American people, and ended up dying of old age in office. No President would have DARED to fire him.
          • That's a reasonable point

            It's exactly why FBI directors are limited to ten years in office (that law was passed within a year of Hoover's death). What evidence do you have that US intelligence or police agencies are currently misusing data for political purposes?
            John L. Ries