This is yet another crisis issue, with items about Edward Snowden, who
did a Q&A yesterday, plus two items about the US government's
Privacy Board and an international action plan against spying on any
and all civilians. Also, this is loaded up some four hours earlier than
1. #AskSnowden: Q&A Chat with Edward
To start with, an article by the Common Dreams Staff on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows (and
the links are in the original):
Edward Snowden participated in a live online chat Thursday starting at
3 PM EST.
First, since this may be
important to some, here is one of the above links:
The forum was hosted on
the Free Snowden website here, which is
run by The Courage Foundation and is the only officially endorsed Snowden Defense Fund.
This comes exactly one
week after U.S. President Barack Obama gave an address in response to
the public concerns raised by Snowden’s revelations about US
surveillance practices. In the live chat, Edward Snowden gave his first
reaction to the President’s speech.
In fact, you'll find
there the same as you'll find on Common Dreams. I will not quote most
of that, since you have two links, but I will quote two bits.
Quite so. Second quote:
@ferenstein what’s the worst and most
realistic harm from bulk collection of data? Why do you think it
outweighs national security? #AskSnowden
The worst and
happening-right-now harm of bulk collection — which again, is a
euphemism for mass surveillance — is two-fold.
The first is the chilling
effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human
behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation,
we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.
The second, less
understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs,
is that they effectively create “permanent records” of our daily
activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This
enables a capability called “retroactive investigation,” where once you
come to the government’s attention, they’ve got a very complete record
of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as
five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June
12th 2009, but the government does.
The power these records
represent can’t be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to
this sort of data gathering as resulting in “databases of ruin,” where
harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent
individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the
government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying
the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be
incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed
as recently as today by the federal government’s Privacy and Civil
Liberties Oversight board.
Fundamentally, a society
in which the pervasive monitoring of the sum of civil activity becomes
routine is turning from the traditions of liberty toward what is an
inherently illiberal infrastructure of preemptive investigation, a sort
of quantified state where the least of actions are measured for
propriety. I don’t seek to pass judgment in favor or against such a
state in the short time I have here, only to declare that it is not the
one we inherited, and should we as a society embrace it, it should be
the result of public decision rather than closed conference.
That was a brief one,
and there is a lot more under the links.
@Valio_ch #asksnowden Do you think that the
Watchdog Report by Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board will
have any impact at all?
I don’t see how Congress
could ignore it, as it makes it clear there is no reason at all to
maintain the 215 program. Let me quote from the official report:
“Cessation of the program
would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated
with bulk collection without unduly hampering the government’s efforts,
while ensuring that any governmental requests for telephone calling
records are tailored to the needs of specific investigations.”
2. 'Not all spying is bad': Snowden calls
protection in Q&A
Next, an article by
Adam Gabbatt in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
There is considerably
more, but most of that is quoting from the links in section
The former National
Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden on Thursday called
for comprehensive whistleblower protection. He also insisted
that not all spying is bad and said the US could take the lead in
setting acceptable standards for targeted surveillance.
Taking part, from Russia,
in an online Q&A, Snowden did not rule out a return to the US but
criticised the Whistleblower Protection Act, the latest version of
which was signed into law by President Obama in 2012, for making his
return “not possible”.
He also denied tricking
colleagues at the contractor Booze Allen Hamilton into giving him their
passwords and other login credentials to help him gather up secret NSA
documents, an allegation made in a Reuters
report in November. “With all due respect to [Reuters
reporter] Mark Hosenball, the Reuters report that put this out there
was simply wrong,” Snowden said.
whistleblower protections been in place when, last year, he
leaked thousands of documents to media outlets including the Guardian, Snowden said
that he “might not have had to sacrifice so much”.
3. US government privacy board says NSA
bulk collection of
phone data is illegal
Next, an article by Spencer
Ackerman and Dan Roberts in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The US government’s
privacy board has sharply rebuked President Barack Obama over the
National Security Agency’s mass collection of American phone data,
saying the program defended by Obama last week was illegal and ought to
be shut down.
A divided Privacy
and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent and long-troubled
liberties advocate in the executive branch, issued
a report on Thursday that concludes the NSA’s collection of every
US phone record on a daily basis violates the legal restrictions of the
statute cited to authorize it, section 215 of the Patriot Act.
“This program should be
ended, allowing for a transition period,” board member James Dempsey
The recommendations of
the five-member board, which featured two dissenters, amount to the
strongest criticism within the US government yet of the highly
controversial surveillance program, first disclosed by the Guardian
thanks to whistleblower
Edward Snowden. They give fresh support to congressional efforts at
ending the practice on Capitol Hill – the main political
battleground where the scope of surveillance will be readjusted this
There is a lot more under
the last dotted link.
4. US hints at Edward Snowden plea bargain to allow return
Next, an article by Paul
Lewis, Spence Ackerman and Dan Roberts in the Guardian:
This starts as
The attorney general,
Eric Holder, has indicated that the US could allow the national
security whistleblower Edward Snowden to return from Russia under
negotiated terms, saying he was prepared to “engage in
conversation” with him.
Holder said in an
MSNBC interview that full clemency would be “going too far”,
but his comments suggest that US authorities are prepared to discuss a
possible plea bargain with Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia.
Snowden, who took part in
a live webchat at
about the same time Holder’s remarks were made public, defended his
leaks, saying weak whistleblower protection laws prevented him from
raising his concerns through formal channels.
“If we had ... a real
process in place, and reports of wrongdoing could be taken to real,
independent arbiters rather than captured officials, I might not have
had to sacrifice so much to do what at this point even the president
seems to agree needed to be done,” Snowden said.
Again there is a lot
more under the last dotted link.
5. One Planet, One Internet: A Call To the
International Community to Fight Against Mass Surveillance
Finally, an article by
Katitza Rodriguez, who is the Electronic Frontiers Foundation's
International Rights Director, on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
The Snowden revelations
have confirmed our worst fears about online spying. They show that the
NSA and its allies have been building a global surveillance
infrastructure to “master the internet” and spy on the world’s
communications. These shady groups have undermined basic encryption
standards, and riddled the Internet’s backbone with surveillance
equipment. They have collected the phone records of hundreds of
millions of people none of whom are suspected of any crime. They have
swept up the electronic communications of millions of people at home
and overseas indiscriminately, exploiting the digital technologies we
use to connect and inform. They spy on the population of allies, and
share that data with other organizations, all outside the rule of law.
We aren’t going to let
the NSA and its allies ruin the Internet. Inspired by the memory of
Aaron Swartz, fueled by our victory against SOPA and ACTA, the global
digital rights community are uniting to fight back.
There is considerably more under the last link, that
includes a list of the organizations that support this, that in turn
includes Amnesty International.