The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Let’s Debate Fourth Amendment Rights, and Also Send Snowden to Leavenworth

Posted on | June 10, 2013 | 67 Comments

Glenn Greenwald’s new man-crush, Edward Snowden

Following the Edward Snowden revelations, I find myself accused of statism, warmongering and worse. It seems some of my libertarian friends — whom I will remind that I voted for Harry Browne in 1996 and for Bob Barr in 2008 — are trying to turn this into a policy debate. And yesterday I had a spirited telephone conversation with my friend Ali Akbar (a guy whose name alone ensures extra scrutiny at airports) about the Fourth Amendment considerations involved. Necessarily, I found myself in the position of arguing that the alleged violations of privacy in the NSA program — about which Glenn Greenwald and others are raising such hell — are purely theoretical, with “privacy” understood as an intellectual abstraction rather than as any practical reality. My attitude is, “No harm, no foul,” and I haven’t seen one scintilla of evidence that any innocent person has been harmed by this program.

Well, let’s all debate that as a matter of policy, but what enrages me about the Edward Snowden case — as with the Bradley Manning case — is that junior personnel cannot be permitted to exercise a heckler’s veto over U.S. national security policy. It doesn’t work that way.

Look, I was at Fort Meade when my son took an oath to obey orders from the President of the United States. Certainly readers by now know that I am no admirer of the current occupant of the White House, nor can I think of any policy of the current president that I support. For that matter, the previous President of the United States had some policies with which I strongly disagreed, including the harebrained notion that we could impose democracy on the people of Mesopotamia at the point of a bayonet. Nevertheless . . .

An Army private doesn’t get to decide which orders he will obey, and he has a sworn duty to maintain operational security necessary to the completion of his appointed mission. For the love of God, people — when my son left Fort Benning on a bus, I was careful not to disclose the time of his departure because who knows if some jihadi wacko might want to attack a busload of Army privates.


What part of that is so hard to understand? So while I’m perfectly fine with having a debate about the permissible extent of NSA intelligence-gathering, and might even be persuaded to agree with Senator Paul that they’ve gone too far, I think that a 29-year-contractor illegally disclosing classified documents that he was obligated not to disclose is what it is: A felony, which makes Snowden an international fugitive from justice.

Certainly, I share the amusement of my conservative friends who delight in this NSA scandal as an embarrassment to The Most Transparent Administration in American History“How’s that Hope and Change workin’ out for ya?” — but this does not mean that we cannot also smile at a future spectacle: Our President using every lawful power of the United States government to pursue, apprehend and prosecute Glenn Greenwald’s newest man-crush.

Damn, I hate it when I have to agree with Dianne Feinstein:

The NSA program is “lawful,” Feinstein told reporters last week, saying that the program only accessed “metadata” about U.S. residents’ telephone and online communications. “There is no content involved,” said Feinstein, who is the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “In other words, no content of a communication. … The information goes into a database, the metadata, but cannot be accessed without what’s called, and I quote, ‘reasonable, articulable suspicion’ that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity. … [T]errorists will come after us if they can and the only thing we have to deter this is good intelligence, to understand that a plot is being hatched and to get there before they get to us.”

Trust me on this: The political advantage for conservatives here is to highlight first, the hypocrisy of Democrats in defending Obama’s use of policies for which Democrats condemned the Bush administration, and second, the negligence that has resulted in someone like Edward Snowden obtaining security clearance. And if Rand Paul wins the GOP nomination in 2016, maybe he can fix all this mess.

But at least I won’t have to vote the LP ticket again, eh?



67 Responses to “Let’s Debate Fourth Amendment Rights, and Also Send Snowden to Leavenworth”

  1. philadelphialawyer
    June 11th, 2013 @ 1:22 am

    I don’t buy that.

    And even if I did, that ship has sailed already. Nothing even remotely approaching the “Soviet threat” is on the horizon now.

    We can, at this time, mind our own business. We just choose not to. And so have built a permanent national security/MIC state.

    And that leads to government spying and snooping, which is one of the hallmarks of totalitarian regimes, tovarishch

  2. rustypaladin
    June 11th, 2013 @ 5:51 am

    I have to respectfully disagree with you on this. I am currently in the process of retiring from the US Army. I’d say about half my shop uses Verizon. 3/4 of my shop have deployed before. None of them have, to my knowledge, expressed any sympathies with any foreign terror organizations. Yet their phone records have been swept up as well (Probably all of ours. Do you really think this was just Verizon? I don’t. Doesn’t make sense) This sweep was waaaay to broad. I therefore doubt its legality and its constitutionality. We shouldn’t relax and say “I’ve done nothing wrong therefore have nothing to hide” We should ask “I’ve done nothing wrong therefore why are you looking at my phone records”

  3. Bob Belvedere
    June 11th, 2013 @ 8:27 am

    Thank you for pulling guard duty for The Republic.

  4. bet0001970
    June 11th, 2013 @ 10:09 am

    “…and I haven’t seen one scintilla of evidence that any innocent person has been harmed by this program.”

    When the government violates our Constitutional rights, we are all harmed and if you can’t see that, I don’t know what to say at this point.

    “Look, I was at Fort Meade when my son took an oath to obey orders from the President of the United States.”

    And I was at Great Lakes when I took MY oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. That comes FIRST. Would you like me to list the various Presidents who have violated the Constitution or the various ways this President has done so?

    “An Army private doesn’t get to decide which orders he will obey,…”

    Yes, actually he does. It’s called disobeying an unlawful order. And if your commander orders you to spy on American citizens, an Army private CAN refuse.

    “The NSA program is “lawful,”…”

    No…It’s not “lawful”. And just because Diane Feinstein says it is, doesn’t make it true. Before you start quoting government officials who have a stake in this, I suggest you do some actual homework. The NSA cannot COLLECT on US citizens on US soil. I don’t know how many times I say this.

    Perhaps you would be better served to speak with Wombat regarding the LAW in this matter.

  5. bet0001970
    June 11th, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    CT’s Wombat. The Navy calls them CT’s.

    And you’re right. This is some scary shit.

  6. bet0001970
    June 11th, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    You know GHB, it looks like our back and forth yesterday wasn’t for nothing. We both may have been right. I came across this earlier this morning:

    I knew there was something off about this guy’s story. Looks like the feds did too. I think you hit upon it yesterday as well.

  7. bet0001970
    June 11th, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    Officers don’t. Only enlisted do. Unless that’s been changed. And he is correct, the oath to the Constitution comes first.

  8. AGoyAndHisBlog
    June 11th, 2013 @ 11:09 am

    That hotair piece is nothing but speculative bunk in search of web traffic.

    First off, it’s clear that Allah is (intentionally?) confusing National Security authority with Computer System authority. The latter – which is what Snowden describes in his vid – is, essentially, whether someone has the equivalent of “root” access on a system (i.e., control of absolutely everything in that system).

    The thing about a network administrator position like Snowden had is that they ALWAYS have, essentially, “root” access – unlimited “authority”. Someone has to, at some point, in order for system configuration, maintenance, backup, etc. to be performed. This means that even if they don’t have Security Clearance to view certain information, they could very well have sufficient control over the computer system itself – due to their system access – to view it anyway. Snowden’s statements imply that he had this access, but not necessarily security clearance to use it.

    An alternative example: in the ’90s I worked for a med. ins. company in CA, writing software to accept OCR’d medical claims data and add it to the company’s database so that the claims could be processed individually.

    As a function of that job, I was given the root-level username/password to the database itself so that I could write the code, perform searches to verify modifications, tests, corrections, etc. With that, I could have easily looked up the medical history of every single person enrolled in ANY ONE of that company’s insurance plans – including their mental health records. That I did not do so was only because I CHOSE not to. But this is the problem.

    As an aside – one which should concern Americans just as much as in the case of this NSA debacle – In the case of the insurance companies, the problem is made worse by the fact that they give this same database access to customer service people and claims processors in places like India and Eastern Europe – people who are NOT subject to U.S. HIPAA laws but, rather, only constrained by the terms of their employment contract (if any). I can promise you that NO ONE in the U.S. is fully aware that this is the case (or, at least, was back in the late ’90s).

    Essentially, we have the same situation this Snowden situation, at least as HE describes his work. The question is, is what he said, in fact, true. That remains to be seen.

  9. bet0001970
    June 11th, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    I was referring specifically to the WAPO quotes. Not the Hot Air BS. I should have made that clear. Actually, I should tracked down the WAPO piece, but I’ve been swamped this morning.

    I know what you’re saying about having the “ability” to access that data because of the nature of his alleged job. And naturally, that crossed my mind. However, Snowden would have to have understood what he was looking at and understood the breadth of that program once he was in. He would have to have known what it meant when he looked at it. Consider that in the context of his interviews. He’s talking like an analyst. Not a tech guy.

    Like I said, I think you were right.

  10. Edward Snowden, the NSA, PRISM and All That | The Necropolitan Sentinel
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  11. AGoyAndHisBlog
    June 11th, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

    I barely trust Greenwald’s reportage on this, so you’ll forgive me if I find the word of a WaPo reporter less than credible.

    IIRC, it was a WaPo hack who CREATED the “Bush Lied” meme by publishing Joe Wilson IV’s lies without ever reality-testing them. This was the beginning of the wholesale demonization of GWB by the Anti-Bush Party and the media (BIRM) which – after YEARS of 24/7 media lies and spin, all of which leaned heavily on the WaPo’s “Bush Lied” meme – ultimately paved the way for Obama, who ran against Bush, not McCain.

    That sort of blind leftist groupthink has not left the WaPo as far as I can see, and it’s just another data point, IMHO, in support of the increasingly hinky-looking eeriness of the last several weeks’ scandal revelations – an inexplicable turnabout in the MSM’s mindless support and slobbering adulation of Obama.

    Got your comment, btw. In light of recent events, I’ve completely ditched that email provider. I no longer use it or send email to folks who do. I’m petulant that way. 🙂

  12. bet0001970
    June 11th, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    Fair enough. And understandable. I’m looking into alternatives myself.

    And it’s not that I trust the MSM or WAPO for that matter. It’s what’s in between. I expect they will attempt to cover the administration on this. But there is still interesting stuff in there. I would so love to tell you why I think you are right on this one.

    Suffice it to say, there will always be apologists for this type of crap. At least now we know who to run out of office. Maybe they think they can rely on those uninformed college kids again during their next election? I’m guessing not.

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  14. dscott
    June 11th, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

    That would be the point, congrats, you sussed out the hidden subtext. Obama virtually said those words with his mea culpa defending the PRISIM program his Attorney General asked the FISA Court to be initiated. Now you know why Obama says Holder has his full confidence and support.

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  16. Wombat_socho
    June 12th, 2013 @ 10:46 am

    They must have dropped the I from CTI. I meant the Navy equivalent to INSCOM and ESC; I used to know but it’s been a while so I forgot.

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