At this point, the dominant narrative in the American media on Edward Snowden is undoubtedly him being a traitor. The reason for a turn for the ‘worse’ is Snowden revealing to the world, especially to China and Hong Kong, how the United States hack their universities, public officials, and tapping into Pacnet, the major backbone of the Internet for the whole Asia region and stealing SMS and other communications. Kurt Eichenwald argued recently on that point, and major American reporters on Twitter are lauding that line of thinking as “cogent” and a “must read.” The idea there is that NSA’s ability to spy and hack the Chinese (and Russians and other countries the United States may get into conflict with) is severely compromised. If Snowden had kept to whistle-blowing only on the surveillance of Americans, the debate about whether he is a traitor would have continued. Since he divulged American spying and hacking capabilities to potential enemies, he has become a traitor. I buy that argument.
Eichenwald goes to argue, if the United States had not started trying to break Japanese encryption few years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, America would not have gained the upper hand during the Pacific war in knowing Japan’s secret communication of troop positions. Due to that ‘hacking’ under ‘friendly’ times, American lives were saved.
He went on a speculation from a friend who has been a career U.S. intelligence officer that Tsinghua University may have some arms control related program, and therefore hacking the communications between the school and the Chinese government is warranted.
If you are a patriot (or nationalist, because it’s the same coin), gaining an upper hand with or without probable cause is fair game. Tap an entire nation’s internet or phone networks; fair game. You could argue, I should cast a net that wide, because one out of 1.3 billion could be a terrorist. Or one out of 7 billion.
Seriously?! Would that work? Okay, this is where his argument breaks down for me.
Here are some real practical problems for the United States when you are that aggressive.
1. Google, Twitter, Facebook, and all the major American Internet services companies are already colluding with NSA to spy on people, and on foreigners with ZERO due-process. Therefore, there is no reason why a responsible government anywhere on this planet would allow their citizens to such abuse. They all mind as well implement a GFW to protect their citizens.
2. Software from major American corporations such as Microsoft, Adobe, Google, and Oracle are likely full of spyware planted by the NSA. Responsible governments the world over should plan to phase out foreign software.
3. Cars, airplanes, computers, phones, home appliances, or any form of machinery cannot be trusted. How is one country to know whether the planes it has purchased have bugs planted such that during time of war, they self-destruct?
4. Why should the world over buy seeds or farm products from America when Mosanto genetically modify food so they can be triggered to cause your citizen bodily harm?
5. The world over is guaranteed to bypass America’s strangle-hold on the Global Internet’s backbone. Countries will lay their own fiber-optic cables and set up peering networks to bypass American control.
American media has been on a binge playing up Chinese hacking America with little evidence. Now, put yourself in the shoes of the Chinese and think how they should react knowing what the U.S. government actually does?
The responsible thing to do for America at this juncture is to apologize to the world and work within a global framework to contain this sort of nonsense from escalating. America, being the only global superpower, will not face any negative consequence with her actions being made public. She may do nothing. However, if America cares about image, this fiasco is also an opportunity. And opportunity to lead our world towards rules of engagement.
So, while mainstream America may laud Eichenwald’s argument as “cogent,” they should pause and think how it is received around the world. Again, if they care about America’s image.
Mister Unknown says
The notion that Russia & China (or any other nation designated by the US as an enemy) now know “more” about American surveillance is only plausible if one assumes that the entirety of the Russian & Chinese intelligence community is SO deluded & SO naive that they believe their American counterparts are NOT hacking them. Furthermore, one have to assume that China & Russia has few alternative means of detecting American surveillance.
I’m not a cyber-warfare specialist, but if the PRC is half as good at hacking as the US media claims it is, then such assumptions are utterly ridiculous, & the “traitor” argument – as put forth by Eichenwald – falls flat on its face.
Chances are, Snowden didn’t say anything that the Russian & Chinese don’t already know.
The only thing Snowden has done is to undermine US government propaganda & lies worldwide.
Charles Liu says
If one does find the “traitor” rationale sound, then should such rationale applied equally, let’s say, towards Liu Xiaobo?
Liu Xiaobo took a million dollars from US, a foreign power unfriendly to China, to conduct domestic politics, something illegal even in America (right to political and sovereign independence are universally accepted state rights). The Chinese courts found his activity (accepting foreign remittance, advocate abolition of China’s constitution in Charter 08 “A New Constitution”) as harmful to the state.
But Liu Xiaobo gets a Nobel Peace Prize, even with a pro-Iraq War opinion.
I’m with Mr. Unknown here. Snowden is a traitor only if he has divulged secrets that other gov’ts don’t know. I doubt the Chinese intel didn’t know. At least they should have suspected it … with circumstantial evidence.
According to this report, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2013-06/05/content_16569726.htm, the Chinese had disclosed that it had “mountains of evidence” that it was the victim of hacking from the U.S. It however stopped short of attacking the U.S. government, saying it was “technically irresponsible” to attribute the attacks the U.S. gov’t.
From that, it would seem to suggest that they did not know about PRISM.
Hard to say.
My speculation is that the Chinese gov’t did know about extensive U.S. hacking, even if not about PRISM directly. Did Snowden provide real actionable intelligence info to the Chinese gov’t? Or did he simply bring up in public things that the Chinese gov’t were either too polite to say in public, or did not have political capital to say in public?
If the former, I guess from the American perspective, you can say he is a traitor. If only the latter, than he shouldn’t be.
Good point – and perhaps deserving of a post some time…
It has been stated on this blog for years that the US surely has largest and most expensive cyber espionage operation in the world. People like Eichenwald should be reading this blog!
Charles Liu says
And of course, anyone linked to Snowden is gonna get smacked with guilty by association:
Greenwald is now being smeared with gay porn accusation. Google “Glenn Greenwald hairy jocks porn”.
Think back to Assange and Scott Ritter, what better denigration than effed up sex sh!t, in a protestant Christian nation?
Mister Unknown says
Just to clarify my stance, I’m not one to judge whether Snowden is a traitor. He harmed the perceived national interests of the US by exposing the truth behind its facade, that much is unquestionable. So if Liu Xiaobo is a traitor, so is Snowden.
But if “harming national security” or “exposing state secrets to the enemy” is the standard by which the likes of Eichenwald defines “traitor”, then the argument fails, for only the most naive & brainwashed sheep would believe that Russia & China didn’t know about US espionage prior to Snowden. Even the argument that Al Qaeda now knows about PRISM is an utterly invalid one, for Al Qaeda & its associated groups has been using human couriers to deliver messages for years, they obviously knew electronic communications are vulnerable to US interception.
In any case, the terrorism point is rather moot, given that the US is now in bed with Al Qaeda & other Islamic extremist terrorist groups in places such as Libya & Syria.
Alright, this is getting creepy:
This seems like a false comparison. In the case of Snowden, he did nothing to undermine the national security of the US but his actions promoted the wellbeing of the American people. Liu Xiaobo advocated for the US to attack China and to colonize its people. That obviously would not be promoting the wellfare of China or its people. Both may (or may not in the case of Snowden) have violated the laws of their countries but only one is a true taitor.
Mister Unknown says
Ok, that is a valid point. Liu advocated the overthrow of the Chinese government & the establishment of a new one, whereas Snowden is actually trying to preserve original American way of life (as it was intended by previous generations), which is now under threat.
I don’t know…
I think you are making a value judgement.
There are those who thinks Snowden’s action (by bringing to light draconian NSA programs) is good for the American people, but there are also many who thinks there were good oversight already and that bringing it open like he has actually injures national security. It’s a debatable point, and judging from the American apathy, not black and white whether his action hurts or helps the American people.
Same with LIu Xiaobo. Yes he has said something like that colonization is good for China (using HK as an example) and has advocated for the overthrow of the Chinese gov’t. However stupid I feel that is to Chinese interests, there must be enough people in China who blindly worship to make such ideas dangerous (if everyone in China were like me, the likes of Liu would not be dangerous; they would be ridiculed out of town).
Given there are enough people who are likeminded with Liu, it’s also a debatable point whether the overthrow of Chinese gov’t is good or bad for the Chinese people. The likes of Liu would argue their way is better for China for the longer term. Heck some might argue wholesale Westernization of China is better for China.
So whether Liu or Snowden is good or bad is an arguable point – and I don’t think we can distinguish between Liu or Snowden based on how “good” or “bad” they are for their home country.
YinYang, the more I think of this “cogent argument,” the more I feel it’s flawed. Breaking the military code of the Japanese military for military advantage is one thing. Hacking into normal ordinary citizens of the world (everyone can be a terrorist, that almost goes without saying) to keep the peace is another. Perhaps the nature of war has changed. But that by itself should not make us accept things. The changed nature of war is what makes the hacking of Japanese military during WWII and hacking of world citizens today different. They are morally on different planes. If you must hack the world’s citizens to keep yourself safe, if you must outspend the rest of the world by something more than 10:1 (see this article on NATO spending vs. spending by those who may theoretically be hostile to NATO), something is wrong. This ain’t like the hacking of Japanese military at all…
Black Pheonix says
By the same logic, every nation in the world should do “preemptive hacking” and snooping.
And why distinguish between civilian vs. government hacking, that limit seems to be somewhat arbitrary, if we are to do every thing possilble to maintain peace or save lives.
Yes, it is inevitably a slippery slope for ever bigger government.
Black Pheonix says
Obama tries to downplay Snowden, by saying that he’s not going to scramble jets to get a “hacker” like Snowden.
Perhaps he has not been reading up on his own policies, because DoD already planned previously to bomb “hackers”, including possible use of atomic bombs.
I think it’s about propaganda, and the hawks in the U.S. are concerned too much apparent aggression by the United States is going to backfire by having more of our world joining hands to counter her. I bet the next time the world come together to ask the U.S. to relinquish control of the Internet, they’d do it with much more forceful tone than in the past. This Snowden revelation of U.S. spying activities is a tremendous slap against American propaganda.
Allen – I agree with you. The “cogent” argument is not cogent at all if you simply think about it. That’s really the point behind my post. I’ve got some updating to do to make that point clearer.
If it is truly cogent, then get ready for Google and the like to see their market-share outside the U.S. deteriorate over time.
Mister Unknown says
A little comical sidenote – every time I think about Snowden, I’m reminded of the hilarious irony that is the origin of Wikileaks:
Chinese cyber-dissidents launch WikiLeaks, a site for whistleblowers
So how’s Wikileaks working out for you so far, America?
Black Pheonix says
Leaks are more dangerous for Western Democracies, which have prided themselves and built their own mystique upon “transparency” and yet have hidden so much secrets, even from allies.
The better question is, how is that “Soft power” of “democratic values” working out?
How would you define value judgment and why do you think I made one?
That’s not a value judgment. It either endangers the US security or it doesn’t. Moreover, we may have good evidence either way. Can you think of a single person or institution of the USA (other than the NSA) that has been harmed by Snowden’s leak? What possible scenario in the future will these leaks make possible that they would not be possible that does harm US security and what evidence do you have that they will harm the US? This is an empirical question. In the case of Liu, he advocated for war and colonialism from one of the more warmongering countries of all time. It is reasonable to see this is increasing the risks of some kind of security breach for China. In the case of Snowden, he released data that shows the government to be spying on US citizens. I see no good reason that this has or will harm US security interests. In fact, it probably helped the US to be far more secure since.
Do you seriously think it’s a “debatable point” whether essentially world war three and 300 years of colonialism is good for the Chinese people? If so then you must have a very different notion of what is debatable than I do. Anyway, we have very different values. You don’t see anything wrong with America colonializing and waging a war on China that will likely cause millions of deaths while I do. This is due to radically different values of the world. I see no point in continuing any kind of conversation as we simply are so different that there will never be any kind of agreement between us.
oh sure, Snowden’s a ‘traitor’ to America if by America you define to be those bloated mega corporations that benefited directly from the NSA spying:
note that companies that abetted the NSA in their espionage activities were ‘rewarded’ with contracts (looking at you, Mandiant).
it also contradicts weak defences made by US officials who try to explain how their hacking is different to ‘Chinese espionage for Intellectual property’ etc.
Looks like Snowdon is a ‘dupe’ set up by the CIA. His background is very suspicious as has been noted by Tarpley, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/06/18/309609/how-to-identify-cia-limited-hangout-op/
” the same day as the liberation of Qusayr in Syria – Snowden was the beneficiary of a high-powered media rollout assisted by the left-liberal gatekeeper Glenn Greenwald, and later by the foundation-funded documentary filmmaker Laura Poiret. This was the beginning of a series of high-profile stories featured on the front page of the London Guardian, the notorious British intelligence conduit.”
and Naomi Wolf..http://www.globalresearch.ca/my-creeping-concern-that-the-nsa-leaker-edward-snowden-is-not-who-he-purports-to-be/5339161
Worth thinking about. I dont think he said anything that the Chinese gov dint know already or Russians either. This guy is a double agent, maybe that why Beijing dint bother to get him into China further. Looks like he may have fled to Iceland (http://www.globalresearch.ca/tracking-edward-snowden-chartered-russian-jet-lands-in-reykjavik-iceland/5340599) by secret Russian flight. Not mentioned in popular (US co-orperate controlled) press, not that they would know or admit anything that dint suit them. Remember the REAL whistle blowers, embarrassing to the Military and secret intel complex usually end up dead in car bombs.
i’m not buying the ‘snowdon double agent’ theory; seems like an expensive way for the NSA/CIA to conduct a ‘sting’ considering in the space of the last 4 weeks, the US-or Obama in particular- lost the moral high ground when it came to cyber security and therefore ruining his 20 month long plan to pressure China into giving up its cyberwarfare advantage by allowing the US to go after Chinese hackers. Think about it, months, no years, of careful hounding and crying to the world media-and of course, Mandiant’s special lapdog charade over ‘tracking Chinese hackers, and Obama’s hope to corner XI into giving up the cyber keys to China at California…well all that went to shit the moment Snowden came out with his revelations-and a good goddam thing too!
At the moment and for the foreseeable future, cyber warfare is the PLA’s only credible defence against US/NATO aggression; take that away and China becomes another bullied nation succumbing to US vassalage. With cyberwarfare, at least China has a chance at becoming an independant superpower until its own carrier and space based weaponry come online.
i also don’t buy the Snowden/double agent theory because for that to work, the obama administration has to come out of all this looking good and considering how the administration has consistently been caught out in lies from insisting that the NSA doesn’t store americans’ private information and how the NSA doesn’t conduct industrial espionage (which as just disproven this weeke with the european espionage scandal), and thereby threatening the supposed US-EU FTA…that’s a pretty big price to pay for the Obama administration to get….nothing really.
Fact is, the Obama administration has been on the retreat since this Snowden saga exploded, but his propaganda chiefs-those who serve the Washington Elite-have been going full on assault on Snowden and those who harbour him. Funny also how in the wake of the EU spying revelations, the US said it would ‘address each individual european nation in private’…hmmm sounds like the good old divide and conquer regimen that the US has often accused China of doing with respect to ASEAN:S
Black Pheonix says
Germans and other Europeans are threatening sanctions against US over snooping!
Wow. So the Euros finally got some balls?
Somehow, the more denial US issues now, the more guilty they look, don’t they?!
It’s almost like the US Government comes out with a statement applying liberal doses of misinformation with damage control and then having those efforts being blown out of the water by new revelations about the NSA.
Man, i can’t help but enjoy the spectacle watching the formerly pompous and hypocritical ‘human rights crusaders’ ducking for cover in this media storm.
As an aside, i do wonder off handedly whether Obama or Hilary or any of the Elites in Washington in exasperation and anger at these revelations lashed out and ordered CIA NOCs to carry out terror attacks in China and Russia. Certainly wouldn’t put it past these individuals who seem have developed a more than ample dose of a god complex.
LOl yes and no..OK there was an attempted coo to oust Obama by ‘skull and bones’ Kerry who want a war with Syria, Obama knows this would be suicide and Russia will start WW3 if pushed , but the MIA and hawks want Obama out (therefore tried to stage a coop) so they can have their war with Sryria and eventually China Russia. i dont like Obama but hes hesitant on war, so WW3 is delayed somewhat. Yes the cyber thing with China is issue but not the whole thing here with the Snowden thing.
Also rember thet its OLD news that they are spying,,Snowden didnt say anything new! the MSM just got it.
okayyyyyy, YinYang and BlackPhoenix, can you guys check to see if we have a spambot here?
can’t believe the shamelessness of the Obama administration when i read that Obama would ‘press the Chinese over cybertheft’
yeah, good luck with that