Julian Assange and Edward Snowden

Edwatd Snowden seemed to be just a guy who believed that the Constitution of the United States was being violated by its very government.

Chris has thought about Julian Assange a lot more than I have:

What drove Julian Assange to start WikiLeaks? Do you think he’s a white, gray, or black hat? Has your opinion of Assange or Snowden changed at all due to the leaks and Russian involvement?

I’m going to assume Assange started Wikileaks for the reason he said he started it. From a recent Bloomberg story I can’t locate presently:

“A decade ago, when Assange founded WikiLeaks, it was a very different organization. As Raffi Khatchadourian reported in a 2010 New Yorker profile, Assange told potential collaborators in 2006, ‘Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia, and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations.’ For a while, WikiLeaks followed this creed.”

The same story shows how the organization has gone off the rails, most recently proposing the tracking of verified Twitter users’ homes, families, and finances. Um, no thanks. That seems to be the Big Brother that Assange looked to take down initially.

When Agent Orange sided with Assange Over the CIA, that was disturbing on more than one level. Sarah Palin’s support further diminishes.

I thought, 10 years ago, that he was a white hat if you will, but certainly not now.

Whereas Edward Snowden I’ve seen differently. He was just a guy who believed that the Constitution of the United States was being violated by its very government. He believed that protection from unwanted and illegal government attention should be afforded to every citizen.

I wondered if I, in the same situation, might have been tempted to do the same, be a whistle-blower, to detail these conflicting, interrelated issues of national security, privacy, civil liberties, and Internet freedom. Librarians, after all, have been at the forefront of the fight for freedom, changing the way records are no longer kept in the wake of the so-called USA PATRIOT Act.

He changed the business model. “The NSA relied on Internet giants to do surveillance for them (surveillance being a major part of the Big Data business model), and pre-Snowden, there was no real downside to cooperating with illegal NSA spying requests — in some cases, spooks would shower your company with money if it went along with the gag. Post-Snowden, all surveillance cooperation should be presumed to be destined to be made public, and that’s changed the corporate calculus.”

I wish I had seen “Citizen Four,” Laura Poitras’ film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America. “In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her.”

I did watch that John Oliver interview of Snowden in 2015, in Russia. As a buddy of mine put it, “he was clear, clever, and careful in how he responded, even when he was adopting the joke angle. He earned a lot of my respect just in how he dealt with Oliver’s interjections and his goofy gimmick interview style.”

Did Edward Snowden sabotage the war on terrorism? Did he provide too much information to Russian intelligence? Or did he let the American public know about the illegal activities that the US Government was doing in their name and at their expense? Possibly all of the above.

Someone wrote recently that, if he were a real patriot, Snowden would come home, and like a Father Berrigan, face his accusers, and let the ACLU or others defend him. That’s a personal decision only he can make.

I find Julian Assange to be an arrogant twit, whereas Edward Snowden appears to be a bright guy, but way out of his depth.

The Obama Presidency: Five Years Down, Three To Go

Whether you see Edward Snowden as whistleblower or unpatriotic – I land in the former camp – it’s difficult to think that we would not have been talking about this had he not released the information he had.

President Barack Obama Honors TeachersI know judging a two-term presidency with 36 months to go is a dodgy proposition, but what is the point of writing a blog if not to make these brilliant observations?

THE GOOD:
I had great hopes because the very first thing he tackled was wage discrimination. He was stuck with a horrendous economy in freefall, and the stimulus, despite spending that ought to have been better targeted, had an overall good effect. GM and Chrysler were saved from almost certain death, which would have had a huge ripple effect on other parts of the economy.

The Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, was not what I wanted, as I think his team took the single-payer option off the table WAY too early. Still, the fact that it doesn’t doom persons with pre-existing conditions to, likely, no insurance is a plus, and I appreciate the provision of keeping young adults on their parents’ policies.

Although he may have become more directed on the issue because of something his Vice-President said “too early,” Obama has been strong on LGBT issues, and in particular on marriage equality. One can argue about the US participation at the Sochi Olympics, but his delegation sends a message to Russia.

Obama is rather good at speechifying. From his talks after the shootings in Arizona to Nelson Mandela’s celebration, I often like listening to what he has to say, and how he says it.

The GOOD (but late):

The commuting of the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses, when the crime, if committed today, would not have engendered as much jail time, is the right thing.

THE BAD:

Here’s what I believe: our use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen, with its inevitable loss of innocent life/”collateral damage”, is creating more terrorists. If you review the news stories about the various heads of terrorist organizations that have been killed abroad, it doesn’t appear to have had any long-lasting effect on the problem.

In the case of the NSA spying, the President is only now making plans to limit its reach, as though he had been oblivious to the extent it had been going on, which I found quite disquieting. Whether you see Edward Snowden as a whistleblower or unpatriotic – I land in the former camp – it’s difficult to think that we would not have been talking about this had he not released the information he had.

Surely, the Benghazi bombing, while not the unique situation that it has been painted, was never really well explained, and, as a recent Congressional inquiry suggests, avoidable.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is awful, and it’s little wonder Congressional Democrats are unexcited about it, citing the “potential to undermine important environmental, public health and labor standards.”

While I’ll tentatively tout Obamacare, there’s no defense to the terrible rollout on the website. If it’s your signature accomplishment, you’d think you’d make sure it worked.

THE HMM:

Every credible thing I read about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, suggested that it was 1) also done to liberal groups and 2) fairly limited in scope. I suppose I should define “limited” to clarify that there was no suggestion that this was directed by the White House since some groups wanted to use it as grounds for impeachment.

The bluster about going to war with Syria sounded like a bluff to get Congress to own it, and at least got Damascus to the table. How that situation will play out is still up in the air.

The Iraq war is one which the US shouldn’t have been fighting in the first place, and now the country seems to be falling into the sectarian violence that I had feared would happen. Not sure WHAT should happen there.

Much of the media point to the negative but see photos you didn’t see from the President’s trip to South Africa.

THE UGLY:

Yeah, the Obamacare rollout was a mess, but it’s become an excuse for bad behavior of other players: Insurance Scam; How Private Insurance Companies Are Using Obamacare Fears To Rip People Off.

And comparisons of Obama to Hitler and Mao are just stupid. Likewise the notion that he is paving the way for the Antichrist.

To suggest that none of these tasteless characterizations, not to mention calls for his assassination are about race would be disingenuous. Hey, The New York Post cover involving President Obama’s selfie at the Mandela event managed to be racist AND sexist.

I voted for Obama, TWICE. Never bought the HOPE stuff all that much, but I thought he was better than McCain, certainly better than Romney. This does not mean I approve of everything he’s done; far from it, and I’m undoubtedly leaving some stuff out.

At the same time, I’ve thought, pretty much from the outset, that being the first black President was going to prove to be very difficult, with folks on FOX Noise and its allies complaining about what he had not accomplished as early as January 28, 2009. The “spontaneous” Tea Party opposition was in full swing by April; where was the honeymoon presidents usually get?

Unfortunately, he’s getting to be pretty much a lame-duck president. Still, maybe something unexpected will come around to burnish his legacy.