A formative point in Edward Snowden’s past is said to be an incident he saw while posted in Switzerland as a CIA IT guy. A CIA agent got a banker drunk and he was arrested for drunk driving. Dear lord – that offended Snowden?! If that’s true, then Edward Fingerhands is residing on a different planet than I am. What on earth does he think HUMINT operations do? What does he think field agents of the CIA do? That incident is a vanilla, run-of-the-mill recruitment op. The goal was obvious. To try to penetrate a Swiss bank’s secrecy and find out how US citizens were evading taxes. It was probably that incident that led to the arrest of a banker in Miami. This is one of those things I read about Snowden that makes me think, “Whoa. Dude is wack.”
Pondering that, I also revisited Snowden’s “turnkey tyranny” argument that his leaks are whistleblowing. What he says is that at some point the NSA’s operation could be used to create a dictatorship in the USA. To that, I say, “No shit sherlock.” But to stand up as an argument, we need to compare the NSA with other US government operations arms which have been used by other nations to implement tyranny (i.e. dictatorship). OMG! There is quite a list! And if you think about it – there is nothing that the NSA could do by itself. To implement tyranny using the NSA’s PRISM system would require the participation of virtually every other agency of government.
- The Armed forces of the USA. They could be ordered to attack our own nation.
- The National Guard. Governors and the president could order them to occupy every state’s legislature and replace it with a dictatorship.
- The FBI. The FBI could be ordered to target citizens and incarcerate them using sting operations for political purposes. It could be ordered to spy on citizens for political purposes.
- The DOJ. The DOJ could be ordered to not investigate or prosecute any voter fraud or suppression cases. It could be ordered to dummy up prosecutions of innocent people for political purposes.
- The IRS. The IRS could be ordered to target members of an opposition party.
While this can and has happened in the USA, it did not last forever, and it it has never targeted everyone. There has never been a time when anything remotely resembling a dictatorship has come to pass in the USA. Nor has there ever been a time when any nation descended from the English system of law and governance has become anything like a dictatorship.
So what makes the NSA special? The claim is, “lack of oversight”. Not really. There is the FISA court. There is the intelligence committee in congress. There is the executive branch, run by an elected official we call the president. I’m not a fan of this president in most ways. And maybe he has been overdoing it.
But who was the last president (also a democrat, but not a milquetoast doormat) who seriously overdid it with the CIA? That was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. After he was shot, Lyndon Johnson famously said, “We’ve been running a goddam Murder, Inc. in the Caribbean.” The CIA of the period conducted assassinations at the president’s command. That led to Gerald Ford’s executive order (EO) 11905, Jimmy Carter’s EO 12036, and Reagan’s EO 12333 – all banning assassination, or cooperation with assassination by the CIA. So even if all the controls fail, other presidents step in to stop abuses.
- Are abuses possible with this NSA information archive?
- Yes. No question.
- Will those abuses go unnoticed? (I’m talking real abuses here, not imaginary abuses conceived by libertarians as inherent in the existence of such information.)
- Not a chance. This is inherent in the commission of abuses. When an abuse occurs, something happens. It happens to someone or some group of people. Trust me – if it happens to you – you sure as fuck notice. Ask the Japanese put in the camps in WWII. Ask voters disenfranchised by Jim Crow. (Alright – I’ll grant that if you get killed, you are past noticing. But other people will. Ask the families of deseparicidos.)
- Will abuses go unopposed?
- If you think that, I want some of what you’re smoking. Dear lord. This whole Edward Fingerhands business is happening because this dude got his panties in a bunch over his idea that it might, maybe, someday lead to abuse.
- In nations where dicatorship/tyranny happened, did abuses go unopposed?
- Not in your wildest dreams. Dictatorships are opposed – always. That’s why they never last. Not in Argentina. Not in Cambodia. Not in the USSR (far too much to go into here, but abuses were opposed even by the KGB itself.) Not in China. Iraq’s dictatorship was on its way down, and would have fallen after Saddam died, if not before.
So the more I think this through, the more bogus I think Edward Fingerhands justification for stealing secrets and releasing them is. How do you get around the necessity that all branches of government go along with implementing tyranny?
Snowden didn’t steal those secrets because of anything that actually happened. He did it because of his fear that something terrible would happen – someday – maybe – in the future. That there is no evidence that suggests his worry is realistic didn’t matter to Edward Snowden. He was and is so wrapped up in his fantasy that in his mind it’s as real as the air he breathes.
Looked at objectively, Edward Snowden’s worry is no more realistic than a myriad fact-free conspiracy theories that abound across the internet. From claims that 9-11 was a US government operation, to fact-free anti-vaccination activists, there is a wacko theory out there for you to believe in.
But really folks. There should be facts to back it up. There is no evidence that the NSA’s archive could or would result in the USA becoming a dictatorship. None. There is only fantasy. If you try to work it out logistically, it’s not even remotely plausible.
Edward Snowden got his wacko theory from radical libertarians. It fell on fertile soil in his software dude mind. I understand that mind because I worked as a software engineer on projects from banking to factory automation and artificial intelligence. This mentality is clearly laid out by Weizenbaum in his book, “Computer Power and Human Reason”. There is a section where he talks about the mentality of hackers and why they fall in love with programming. The hacker loves computers because within the machine he has godlike power. He thinks of something and he can make it so. The computer always does what it is told, and Murphy’s law does not operate. Weizenbaum identifies this as the reason why fantasies about AI became widespread.
When I read that, way back in the mid 80’s, during my computer science undergrad days, I immediately got it. I had done that myself. And people I worked with in software were like that.
That is, I think, why Edward Snowden could not (and cannot) tell his fantasy world from reality. Able to wander at will with godlike powers through the NSA’s information store – Edward Snowden confused that with the ability to control the world outside of the NSA’s database. In his own mind, the logistics of implementation of dictatorship disappeared. It is, in Edward Snowden’s mind, nothing – he “made it so” in his head.