“By all means, doubt me”: Continuing the criticism of Snowden

A scene from the third Treehouse of Horror of the Simpsons (s3e7).

In the past I’ve criticized Snowden’s ridiculous claims and his celebrity-like status. I first mentioned him in an article criticizing The Intercept, Pierre Omidyar’s plaything, the CIA and corporate surveillance, noting how a letter by Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, got Snowden and “celebrity left personality Deray to back Apple,” which collects reams of data itself. A few months after that, I wrote an article saying that “celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden…has wide influence it is best to look at his words and their symbolic meaning” and that Snowden, in his “privileged position,” can be critical of the media even has he ignores the “role of the bourgeois media” in capitalist society, gives the New York Times a pass despite the fact that its audience is broadly male college-educated bourgeois individuals, never mentions “the role of advertisers in determining media content,” and puts out, just like BuzzFeed and Celebrity Left personalities, “content…engineered to be more attention getting, even though they have no public value…[or] no news value at all,” with his often “self-congratulatory and…egoist remarks” with a “pseudo-change sentiment” at times, even as much of the content he found while working at the NSA and CIA as a contractor has STILL not been released. The following month, in response to frothing-at-the-mouth conspiracist individuals who are worthless twitter scum and give reason for why people hate “the Left,” I wrote another piece about Snowden. I went through a number of conspiracies revolving around Snowden’s ties to the CIA, saying that: (1) “Ellsburg, Assange, and Snowden should be criticized, but to call them intelligence operations seems far-fetched and just putting oneself down a rabbit hole with no escape”; (2) “…Assange and Snowden are likely not in as much danger as supporters claim, to claim they are intelligence assets…[or] created by certain U.S. covert elements is…so ridiculous that it isn’t worth taking [it]…seriously,” among other elements.

Today, I aim to return to Snowden once again with some information I scoured from old storifies I deleted. Perhaps we can start use what Snowden said to show his “adversarial” nature which includes “challenging” the US government (not really), staying uber-nationalist, and promoting encryption software as a solution (“By all means, doubt me. Be suspicious and test my every claim. That’s rational. Then, do the same for those in power. That’s American” to criticize him and his pathetic narrative.

Enter Douglas Valentine

I’ve read Mr. Valentine’s Strength of the Wolf, even using it to talk about the drug trade within Iran in the 1940s through the 1960s. Here, I aim to look at some of his posts on Snowden. To my knowledge, he has only written two posts on Snowden apart from a post criticizing journalist, and celebrity left personality, Glenn Greenwald on income inequality, another criticizing the movie of Greenwald’s friend in company, Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars, for being self-indulgent, or a small mention in an article poking at those “criticizing” the NSA.

In his 2013 article, the first substantively on Snowden, Mr. Valentine argues that Greenwald is trying to prove he is “a different sort of liberal capitalist” by launching his “media empire with a sensational “exposé” on the National Security Agency (NSA)” based on the documents Snowden gave him. He goes on to say that Snowden’s material “undoubtedly reveals NSA-supported CIA operations at the strategic level around the world” but that he could also “sift through Snowden’s material, edit out the good stuff, and focus on tactical matters like assassinations,” which would be good for those that favor such assassinations. He ends by saying that Greenwald could do “what Snowden did and risk it all.   The choice is his.” At this point and time, clearly, Mr. Valentine was more favorable to Snowden. By 2015 that would change.

That year, Mr. Valentine wrote an article which criticized Citizen Four, way before that horrid Oliver Stone “Snowden” movie had come on the scene. He notes how the documentary begins with Greenwald sitting in a hotel room in Hong Kong with Snowden and Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian reporter, with Snowden “earnestly explaining his selfless motive,” saying that he wants the store to be about “the mechanisms of the thought police” not about himself. However, Greenwald has different ideas, thinking, as Mr. Valentine argues, that he can turn Snowden into a big celebrity and “Hollywood star,” showing Greenwald as maneuvering the “naive, trusting, vulnerable” Snowden into being a celebrity, with Snowden submitting himself to such manipulation. The article goes on to say that Greenwald’s money-making scheme from the Snowden files, which calls “GG Industries Inc” (now including all of those at The Intercept) sees Snowden as “a celebrity and perpetual money-making myth for the faux gauche, in the mold of Dan Ellsberg” or Bob Dylan, who he argues “creates its special kind of neurasthenia, a complex of neuroses that render the celebrity incapable of honest self-awareness or genuine human interaction,” a form of the “celebrity virus.” Mr. Valentine goes on. He says that such celebrities direct “all of America’s latent revolutionary impulses into America’s unique brand of post-modern fascism,” that the Citizen Four documentary deceives the audience as a classist “propaganda film” that protects the CIA while exploiting Snowden to be a celebrity, serving the bourgeois, and being “the biggest fluff piece ever contrived.” His criticism goes beyond this by saying that the producers of the documentary cannot be critical of Snowden, which manipulates its audience,who is a “dedicated counter-revolutionary,” who doesn’t want to reveal CIA “methods…names and locations” which he calls, probably accurately, a “fascistic streak” and adds thatin the end, Citizen Four is “a propaganda film espousing the virtues of the faux gauche and its self-induced delusion, and self-perpetuating illusion, that the capitalist system is capable of correcting itself.” The rest of the article writes itself.

Mr. Valentine’s criticism is on par with what Tarzie says, who goes farther by saying that “there can be no intelligent, leftist consideration of Snowden, or any other figure of similar stature for that matter, without recognizing that we know him entirely through instruments specially designed to prevent and suppress any dissent that’s likely to disquiet members of the ruling class and their state security apparatus,” that the few “genuinely entertaining aspects of The Snowden Show at its peak was the struggle of his hand-picked media proxies [such as Greenwald] to look like enemies of the state as they flew from place to place, entirely without incident,” and that Snowden was “running what’s known in intelligence as a limited hangout.” He added that Snowden “encourages us to focus entirely on signals intelligence, and…on only one of the federal agencies that collect signals intelligence,” such as the CIA, leading to a “trivial conversation about surveillance, that…chillingly reminds people they’re always being watched” and that Snowden & Co. have fostered a “swamp of pseudo-dissidence.”

While I tend to be more critical of Tarzie, who defines himself as an anarchist living in Seattle for all I know, after he blocked me on his now-suspended account (@TheRancidSector), even though I still follow his blocked account without interruption. He blocked me then when I criticized him for calling for another Twitter user to kill themselves since they said something that made him angry, and didn’t respond for some time afterwards to his “steaming” tweets, showing that he didn’t give me a chance to explain myself. Still, I think that he has a good point here when it comes to Snowden. He does tend, as does do the rest of the sycophants, to focus on the NSA and not other intelligence agencies, with a few exceptions. However, I wouldn’t say he was running a “limited hangout” only because I don’t know enough about the subject admittedly and it risks getting pulled into the conspiracist realm of the never-ending theorizing about the JFK assassination or 9/11 attacks, which is a waste of everyone’s time. Instead of worrying yourself with trying to “investigate” these topics on your own and get stuck in the conspiracist loop, perhaps it is better to organize against capitalism, revealing actual conspiracies about the capitalist class oppressing the proletariat rather than theories you get from magical authors/commentators (like Alex Jones or Webster Tarpley to name a few) who claim to “know the truth” and are part of an industry to promote these theories to the populace for a buck.

Problem with the “Deep State” term

In terms of conspiracists, there is one term that has made its stamp in the public discourse recently: “deep state.” I first heard of it when I went to the LeftForum years ago, on some handouts given out by 9/11 conspiracists if I remember correctly and dismissed it back then, but now it has come to the forefront more than before, even taking the form of an “announcement” on the Descent Into Tyranny subreddit. [1]

Some advocates of the term even admit that it is “hard to define precisely” while others have just mentioned it in passing (see here and here)or mentioned it in reference to the spying on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, is on an international scale. There have been some recent criticisms. One individual criticized by the term by saying that the “real deep state” is the administrative state or federal bureaucracy that the Trump administration seems they are fighting.

The other was a more direct criticism striking at the heart of the term itself by Mr. Anthony DiMaggio. He says that the rise of the “deep state” critique basically started by Mr. Lofgren, which meant to “spotlight the U.S. corporate-national security-intelligence apparatus, has quickly devolved into a cartoonish absurdity” and no longer useful. He goes on to say that even as he agrees that focusing on the dangers of the National Security State, use of the “panopticon as a symbol of the modern-day surveillance state is apt,” emphasizing “other threats to American democracy,” and concern about “rise of Wall Street power,” is justified, that the concept is not nuanced or clear, meaning that Lofgren’s analysis is tame, pedestrian, and conservative, not incorporating any Marxian concepts within elite theory. Mr. DiMaggio adds that the idea of a “secret shadow government, impervious to any controls or regulation by elected officials” which is so effective that the US populace has “zero political influence over American politics” and pushes away any promotion of political change is absurd since “the last century of U.S. political activism demonstrates that large numbers of social movements were able to fundamentally transform American culture and politics.” He adds to this that saying that so-called “deep state” bureaucrats hold all of the power in Washington instead of elected officials is also not true, even though there is an “institutionalized military-intelligence state…[and] a militarized police system,” since politicians are not “puppets of the bureaucracy,” the intelligence (or military) community is not uniformed or unified “about U.S. militarism and empire.” He ends by saying he isn’t sure why “additional analytical value” comes from referring to the military apparatus and intelligence agencies as a “deep state” and that the term’s value is dwindling, meaning “whatever people want it to mean,” suggesting that “it’s time to start looking for a more coherent, informed analyses than what is being offered by various conspiracy theorists on the left and right.”

Mr. DiMaggio is no radical, just like Mr. Lofgren, who condemned Marxism, the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and claimed that we have “to reflect upon defunct glacial despotisms such as the USSR or East Germany to realize that nothing is forever,” despite the fact that both, even if they arguably were revisionist states in their later years, were by no means “despotisms.” Also, we don’t need to “reflect” upon those states. Mr. DiMaggio condemns what he calls dictatorships (“Mubarak in Egypt, Assad in Syria, or Erdogan in Turkey”) even though Assad’s government doesn’t fit that description and he engages in uber nationalist, pro-imperialist rhetoric in saying that there are “obvious differences” between the US and those countries, implying that the US is somehow “better” than other parts of the world, an Orientalist viewpoint. Still, his criticism of the “deep state” is completely justified. The same goes for Karen (kazahann), who has argued that the term blocks criticism of the ruling wealthy capitalist class, is a worthless buzzword, and claims that the state is neutral or benign.

Karen and Mr. DiMaggio’s criticisms should be taken to heart. The term, as I see it, is highly inaccurate and leads to political apathy. This is bolstered by the fact that those who advocate for the idea of a “deep state,” such as John W. Whitehead, Paul Street, John Stanton (quoting Peggy Noonan), and Mr. Lofgren, cannot agree on one definition but include the following groups within their respective use of the term: militarized police, fusion centers, courthouses, prisons, private military contractors (mercenaries), the hundreds of thousands who have Top Secret clearance, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CIA, Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Treasury, National Security Council, FISA court, certain federal trial courts, defense and intelligence communities at-large, other spy agencies, Wall Street, the military-industrial-complex, Silicon Valley (also called Sexist Valley or Surveillance Valley more accurately), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Federal Reserve.

Just this list shows that the theory is all over the place and totally disorganized, with no rhyme or reason. Instead, of using such a misplaced idea, it is better to talk about the capitalist bureaucracy that most of these organizations, apart from the social control organs manifested in courthouses, prisons, and fusion centers, and capitalist industry represented by Silicon Valley or Wall Street, inhibit. There is undoubtedly a surveillance apparatus within the capitalist bureaucracy of the United States, which fulfills a purpose to keep the populace in line, watching for any challenges to the capitalist class, looking to disrupt and shut it down. Such groups are much more vast than what the “Deep State” theorists imagine, but includes a constellation of agencies brought together by the White House Situation Room, but also independent, working in the areas of “intelligence,” “homeland security,” military affairs, and civilian affairs. A chart from a book by bourgeois liberal journalists, Dana Priest and William Arkin, titled Top Secret America, written in 2011, lays this out clearly for all to see:

This is used under the fair use section of copyright law as a way of educating people about these institutions in the US government, if any of you damn corporate lawyers read this

Such a chart doesn’t include the private military contractors (mercenaries), the hundreds of thousands who have Top Secret clearance, the foreign policy establishment in the State Department, the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Federal Reserve, which also have a role in the capitalist state. I don’t need anyone to say that “the whole government” is the “thought police,” with the state defending an “entrenched economic elite and philosophic orthodoxy,” or that the US’s “representative democracy has broken down,” serving the big capitalists, I can figure that out myself, as can anyone with sense. [2] You could even call it the National Security State if you wanted, like Gore Vidal, but that may be too limited of a term for what exists currently.

Bashar Al-Assad and the “deep state”

On April 27th, the duly elected president of the socially democratic and secular Arab Republic of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, had an interview with Telesur where he sort of used the term “deep state.” Here’s what he said in response to a question about Trump’s foreign policies, with the “deep state” section bolded:

The American President has no policies. There are policies drawn by the American institutions which control the American regime which are the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, the big arms and oil companies, and financial institutions, in addition to some other lobbies which influence American decision-making. The American President merely implements these policies, and the evidence is that when Trump tried to move on a different track, during and after his election campaign, he couldn’t. He came under a ferocious attack. As we have seen in the past few week, he changed his rhetoric completely and subjected himself to the terms of the deep American state, or the deep American regime. That’s why it is unrealistic and a complete waste of time to make an assessment of the American President’s foreign policy, for he might say something; but he ultimately does what these institutions dictate to him. This is not new. This has been ongoing American policy for decades.

Gowans describes this as Assad recognizing that “the US government is…a committee for managing the common affairs of the country’s business owners” with US foreign policy serving their interests. In this case, Assad is NOT using the term “deep state” in the same way as conspiracists use it, but rather is using it to describe, the state being a manager of the affairs of the bourgeoisie as Marx and Engels described the actions of a capitalist state. Assad is undoubtedly right in this regard and is right to point out that US foreign policy is imperialist and serves the capitalist class…but why would such a policy not serve their interests? It always has in some way or another.

The surveillance apparatus strikes again!

Recently Greenwald wrote a heavily promoted story disproving, on his terms, that Snowden was not a “spy for either [capitalist] Russia and/or [revisionist] China at the time he took and then leaked documents from the National Security Agency.” I personally don’t think it is even worth anyone’s effort to read this article which is clearly self-congratulatory and egoist, saying that they “were right” all along. I do think it is evident that Snowden was not a Russian or Chinese spy, but that isn’t the point. Neither are claims by people like bourgeois liberal Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post. [3] Instead, the discussion should be about the US’s worldwide surveillance apparatus.

There are a number of facts that are evident. [4] For one, there are the NSA misdeeds including wiretapping a member of Congress, collecting the telephone records of millions of US Verizon customers, gathering information from tech giants (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube, and Apple) in the PRISM program, trying to access the data of private companies from 1999-2007 with only Qwest refusing access, monitoring all credit card transactions, and running the country’s biggest spy center If that isn’t enough, the NSA has: been getting an “electronic copy” of detail records of all Verizon phone calls within the US and between the US and abroad; has “strategic partnerships” with varied companies (At&T, Verizon, Motorola, Qwest, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, EDS, Oracle, and Qualcomm); shares signal Intelligence with exchanged with Israel, including private data of Americans; spying on foreign leaders (former President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, Mexico’s Peno Nieto, Germany’s Angela Merkel); spying on UN Security Council members; partnering with Saudi Arabia’s brutal state police; infects millions of computers with malware; and may have caused the Syrian internet blackout in 2012. And there are many more programs. However, the NSA is obviously not the only one in this game. Apart from the DOJ once wiretapping the cloakroom of the House of Representatives, the FBI worked with the NSA on spying on Muslim leaders, worked with the CIA to select information from the PRISM system, and gave the NSA access to a broad range of data on Facebook. The FBI also has used drones to monitor citizens on US soil, is monitoring “First Amendment activities…in the name of safety and security in a post-9/11 age,” is conducting its “own signals intelligence as part of the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU),” having the Magic Lantern program which logs keystrokes, the surveillance program called the Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier, and DCSNet which is a “sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device.” Apart from that, there is evidence that the CIA searched US senate computers, that all U.S. mail is being scanned and put into the “Mail Isolation Control and Tracking” database, and that there is a “terrorist screening database” of 680,000 people, almost half of whom are not classified as “terrorists,” with the CIA, DIA, NSA and FBI among those who can nominate people to the list. Then, of course there is the surveillance blimps program launched by the US Army, called aerostats, which have a “surveillance range of over 300 miles,” with this program still on schedule and in operation despite the loss of one of the huge surveillance blimps from Aberdeen in October 2015.

With this data, all of those government entities engaging in surveillance (CIA, DIA, NSA, FBI, DOJ, DHS, and others) are committing crimes, eviscerating privacy, but so are big capitalist firms, especially in the tech industry, like Google, Apple, and Verizon to name a few. Some have said that there is so much data that the NSA has “invented new units of measurement just to describe it” with the NSA’s electric bill reaching in the millions of dollars each year, while some facial recognition and RFID software becomes more common, as billions are spent to keep “secrets secret” making it easier to crack down on dissent to the capitalist class in this surveillance (and capitalist) society. [5] I know conspiracists will be giddy about me mentioning the word RFID chips, as many think it is part of some government conspiracy, but they can just wipe the grins right off their faces. The corporate and government surveillance systems are one complex and should not be separated or compartmentalized as some, like Snowden & co., have done. This system, which some have called “Top Secret America,” others the “surveillance state,” or the “national security state,” is a partnership between big capitalists and the US capitalist government. We have a state of total surveillance with no gender, class, religious or other boundaries, but it falls hardest on the proletariat, people of color, dedicated activists, and Muslims to name a few.

The government, has for years, been afraid of leaked information, even more so with the Trumpster in charge. In the 1980s, the CIA’s Director of Security was angry that information had been released to establishment journalist Bob Woodward (some think that he working with the CIA as  planted journalist but this has not been proven and is still a speculation) about the MIG-25, echoing other concerns by the NSA. [6] This was not a surprise since the Church and Pike Committees in 1970s, with the former committee more moderate than the latter, which included revelations about the CIA MK/ULTRA experiments, with the intelligence agencies feeling “secure behind the cloak.” [7] Other concerns were abound. The CIA’s Director of Public Affairs, their propaganda officer, chastised Woodward for violating supposed “ground rules” for interviews, and later claimed that “damage” from leaks about US policy toward Libya is “money and lives,” with some of this damage as “invisible.” [8] Lest us forget that the US engaged in anti-terrorism” actions, by firing 48 missiles and dropping 232 bombs on two airfields, two “air defense” networks, two barracks, and one camp within the Great Socialist People’s Arab Jamahiriya, then run by Muammar Gaddafi, killing over thirty Libyans as Todd R. Phinney even admitted in a pro-US, pro-military thesis on the subject. [9] If this wasn’t enough, the CIA even created a special team to investigate leaks, with “500 such incidents” in 1986 alone, with claims it hurt “presidential credibility,” with proposals of limited paperflow and calls for “surprise police raids on newsrooms” by CIA Director Bill Casey, lining up with the Reagan administration’s limits on the Freedom of Patriot Act’s scope. [10] By 1988, then-Ambassador Richard Helms was lamenting that US “friends and collaborators abroad” have been convinced “that our Intelligence Community can keep no secrets,” which could “hurt” the empire. [11]

It is worth pointing this out because Obama’s war against leakers/whistleblowers has and will continue under Trump who is egoistical and more about his self-image than many others who have held the presidency, making it “not an aberration, but the norm.” [12] Hence, while they try to stop the leaks, they will keep coming, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing except that such leakers are often moderate in their beliefs and only one reform, meaning that the capitalist system is able to deal with such disruptions. Expanding on that is a subject for another day, maybe.

The “surveillance reform” BS

In order to determine what should be done, it is worth considering what shouldn’t be done first. Snowden himself has issued calls for surveillance reform, which Tarzie criticized for the former having a “bizarre notion of human rights.” In the post, Snowden is quoted as saying that “self-government is about…[not] making these decisions behind closed doors, without public debate, without public consent” and that the decision about surveillance belongs to the people not politicians.

For one, this is ignorant of the reality because as it stands now, people don’t have such a voice in US government. In the famed April 2014 study by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin L. Page of Northwestern University, they argued that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” This was even echoed by fake “radical” and class collaborator Noam Chomsky in August 2013, when he said that “roughly 70% of the population…have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised….maybe a tenth of one percent…determine the policy…the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.” Even Chris Hedges, who embraces “democratic socialism,” openly quotes rabid anti-communist George Orwell, and determined the characteristics for being “a socialist,” while waving the word around, admitted this much. Remember he is also a person who says he opposestotalitarian capitalism” (can’t you just call it capitalism?), was confused if the US had capitalism or not, hates Black Bloc with a passion (see here, here, and here), is pro-Green Party, and declared seven paragraphs into an article criticizing climate change liberals that:

“This is not a battle [against “corporate capitalism] I would have picked. I prefer incremental and piecemeal reform. I prefer a system in which we can elect politicians to represent the governed and thwart corporate abuse. I prefer a United Nations that serves the interests of people around the globe rather than corporate profit. I prefer a vigorous and free debate in the public arena. I prefer a judiciary that is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate state. I prefer the freedom to express dissent without government monitoring of my communications and control of my movements. I prefer to have my basic civil liberties protected. But we do not live in such a system.”

This shows that Hedges is a wannabe radical who is really an inner liberal. Still, he said in his book, Empire of Illusion (p. 142-143), that the idea of consent of the governed is an empty one: “The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase…Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite…The government…provides little more than technical expertise for elites and corporations…It has become the greatest illusion in a culture of illusions.” Beyond this, there is the controversial but well-sourced study titled ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ which argued that the collapse of human civilization can be avoided if “the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably” and said that most common in society today are elite-commoner societies: “the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses (or “Commoners”)…accumulated surplus [or wealth] is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels…Elites “prey” on the production of wealth by Commoners.” Even more, as a leaked Citigroup memo (if it isn’t a hoax) noted, there is a plutonomy referring to the habits of rich consumers, rather than “the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many” which is driven by “ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution…capitalist-friendly governments and tax regimes…greater financial complexity and innovation…[and] patent protection.”

This invalidates Snowden’s philosophy, if you could call it that, which is that: as “long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision…the public needs to decide whether these policies are right or wrong.” [13]  Ultimately, the people, as it currently stands, don’t have an ability to decide if policies are right or wrong because they aren’t part of the policy-making apparatus, and their views are easily brushed aside by capitalist class in the U.S., and in other capitalist states. Additionally, Snowden’s trust in the thoughts of the public also forgets the fact that public opinion polls can be manipulated, deceptive, or limit “people’s sense of wider possibilities.” Still, I would like to point out I am not saying that people do have the ability to influence or push government to make certain decisions. However, I am saying that in general, the government, I’m mainly talking about the U.S. government but this could be applied to other governments, doesn’t really care what ordinary people think. They care what the people with the deep pockets say and think. That’s who they, in general, listen to. That is the current state of affairs.

Then there is the whole “Reset the Net” campaign, making it clear that working with the corporate sector in order to counter surveillance is wholly counterproductive and makes you a simple pawn of big business, along with recognizing reforming the NSA in any way, shape or form is a waste of energy. This “anti-surveillance” campaign was created after  Snowden’s “revelations of government surveillance” with Snowden making it seem that it would be opposing all types of surveillance,” saying “today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same…[encryption is] the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance…don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.” [14] However, Tiffiniy Cheng, spokesperson for Fight for the Future, which coordinated Reset the Net basically undermined this idea. She told its real focus, saying that “now, they’ve [the US government] got a rebellion on their hands as tech companies and internet users work together to directly intervene in mass surveillance and block the NSA and its kind from the web.”

I’m not sure how something is a “rebellion” if corporations and internet users are working together. That sounds more like a way for the companies to reassure customers and their users that they care about privacy. As Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith said, “it’s of course important for companies to do the things under our own control, and what we have under our own control is our own technology practices. I don’t know that anyone believes that will be sufficient to allay everyone’s concerns. There is a need for reform of government practices, but those will take longer.” This makes me concerned about this campaign.Another problem is that the campaign’s main goal is to push for “mass adoption of encryption is a tool to fight mass surveillance” strong encryption doesn’t always translate into cyber security in reality. Despite this, the EFF, the Tor Project, ACLU of Massachusetts (and likely the whole organization) Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism, Natasha Leonard of Vice and New Inquiry, Glenn Greenwald (I would believe so) [15] and many others support this campaign.

Using their website, I found who supports Reset the Net, which are the usual suspects. According to their list of supporters, which compromises of fifty-six non-profit, public and private organizations, thirteen are for-profit companies (approx. 23%), twenty are non profits (including the three organizations that back Democrats) (approx. 36 %), three are political parties, and four are mostly alternative media. The rest, sixteen organizations, are considered other, as I could not figure how I should categorize them. Think what you want about these supporters, but this doesn’t look too good to me. Ashlin Lee and Peta Cook of the University of Tasmania added that while the campaign could be praised,

“encryption makes any collected data more difficult (but not impossible) for authorities to interpret and act upon…The Reset the Net project acts to reinforce the idea that surveillance is primarily conducted by state authorities…But the reality is that the NSA is only one actor in the surveillance drama…Google is just one of many private companies conducting surveillance today…Surveillance today is not just about seeing into the lives of the present – it’s about cataloguing and using the past (and present) to understand the future…The Reset the Net project paradoxically represents a small positive step in resisting and counteracting warrantless and illegal surveillance, while ignoring the bigger picture.”

Yasha Levine had a similar critique on PandoDaily, which often shills for the tech industry (but didn’t in this article), writing that Reset the Net avoids Google’s snooping, saying that “the campaign is not against online surveillance, just government surveillance….these companies — which themselves stay in business by spying on us online — help to defeat surveillance? By offering encryption apps…Reset the Net is outraged by our government’s capability to wantonly vacuum up our personal info, and yet it unconditionally trusts powerful Surveillance Valley megacorps when they do the same thing on an even greater scale as a normal part of doing business.” Bill Blunden argues something similar saying that “in contrast to the inflated fanfare about disrupting terrorist plots…the global surveillance apparatus is essentially being driven by powerful corporate interests….Roughly 70 percent of the intelligence budget…goes to the private sector…Google has extensive long-standing connections with the defense industry.” Then there are quotes of individuals in the PBS Frontline documentary, United States of Secrets, talking about how corporations were integral to the surveillance apparatus, connected to the government-issued National Security Letters (NSL) which can compel certain private companies and individuals to give them information, quoting Tim Wu, Chris Hoofnagle, Julia Angwin, Askan Soltani, Barton Gellman, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, and Martin Smith, to name a few.

To end this off, the Reset the Net supporters who know the underlying truth that corporations are integral to surveillance system, and still support the campaign are being foolish. There is no doubt that the interests of those against government surveillance will overlap with the companies that want to act like they care about privacy (they don’t). I understand why ordinary people are participating in this campaign as many are pissed off and for good reason, but I will not be signing any petitions, or participating in any actions by Reset the Net or others following their example. Some seem to think that working with the companies is a good idea and I disagree. Even though these companies have a good amount of clout, that doesn’t mean that people should be working with them. This effort, Reset the Net, is no rebellion, rather it is an anti-NSA surveillance effort serving as a front for corporations that participate (and profit from) government mass surveillance. As Eli Pariser wrote, powerful cloud giants, like Google and Amazon, have “a vested interest in keeping the government entities happy.” [16] This effort is in a sense a way of keeping the government entities happy, as it distracts from the corporate-state nexis on surveillance, but in another sense it is also about defending their bottom line, their profit margins, protecting their consumer base. Some may think that Reset the Net is even a social movement, but clearly is not by any reasonable standards. It does not deploy symbolic resources, it does not shift construction of identity and it does not product popular and scholarly knowledge.

What should be done?

The total surveillance that exists today is nothing new.The “rollback” of NSA surveillance hasn’t changed much broadly as the FBI still pushes to keep its existing surveillance powers. At minimum, those who care about state surveillance should push for the NSA, CIA and FBI to be abolished for starters, with those who committed crimes, perhaps top NSA officials, going on trial. However, this in and of itself is still reformism. Neither encryption or bowing before tech giants to “save us” from government surveillance will solve anything. In fact, it will perpetrate the idea that people should sit back and do little. That is the opposite of what should happen. Instead, we should resist such surveillance by pushing for the abolishment of capitalism as a goal. In the end, what happens now, in regards of the massive US surveillance apparatus, is up to us.


[1] As the Wikipedia page on the subject notes, it has been increasingly used by Trump’s supporters. Beyond this, see these articles as testament to how this term has seeped into the “mainstream”: Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America,” New York Times, Feb. 16, 2017; Ed Rogers, “The ‘deep state’ is real. The ‘alt right’ is fake,” Washington Post opinions, Feb. 21, 2017; Moyers & Company, “The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight,” Feb. 21, 2014; Tim Naftali, “”Deep State” myth won’t fix wiretapping mess,” CNN opinions, Mar. 17, 2017; Glenn Greenwald, “The Deep State Goes to War With President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer,” The Intercept, Jan. 11, 2017; Greg Grandin, “What Is the Deep State?,” The Nation, Feb. 17, 2017; Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, “Why Steve Bannon Wants You to Believe in the Deep State,” Politico, Mar. 21, 2017; Anne O’Donnell, “The Bolsheviks Versus the Deep State,” New York Times opinion, Mar. 27, 2017; NPR, “With Intelligence Leaks, The ‘Deep State’ Resurfaces,” Feb. 19, 2017; Doyle McManus, “Op-Ed: Is the ‘deep state’ out to get Trump? We’re not there yet,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 2017; Neil Munro, “Bill Kristol Backs ‘Deep State’ over President Trump, Republican Government,” Breitbart, Feb. 15, 2017; Philip Giraldi, “Deep State America,” The American Conservative, July 30, 2015; Rod Drehler, “The Deep State,” The American Conservative, Feb. 28, 2014; Marc Anbinder, “Trump Is Showing How the Deep State Really Works,” Foreign Policy, Feb. 15, 2017; Joel P. Pollak, “Deep State #Resistance: Spies Withhold Intel from Trump, Says WSJ,” Breitbart, Feb. 15, 2017; Steven A. Cook, “The Deep State Comes to America,” Foreign Policy, Feb. 24, 2017; Finian Cunningham, “‘Deep State’ wins… Trump is being tamed to toe the line,” Russia Today, Jan. 12, 2017; Ishaan Tharoor, “Is Trump fighting the ‘deep state’ or creating his own?,” Washington Post opinions, Feb. 1, 2017; Andrew Napolitano, “Revenge of the Deep State,” Reason, Feb. 23, 2017; Hunter Schwartz, “What’s a ‘Deep State’ and why is it a new buzzword for the online right?,” CNN opinions, Mar. 11, 2017; Democracy Now!, “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” Feb. 16, 2017; Matt Wilstein, “Stephen Colbert Mocks Trump Administration’s ‘Deep State’ Paranoia,” The Daily Beast, Mar. 21, 2017; Chris Stirewalt, “Trump knocks down ‘Deep State’ claims,” Fox News, Feb. 16, 2017; Alastair Cooke, “‘Deep State’ Has Trump on the Menu,” Consortium News, Feb. 17, 2017; John R. Schindler, “Rebellion Brews in Washington—But American ‘Deep State’ Is Only a Myth,” Observer, Feb. 22, 2017; Alana Abramson, “President Trump’s Allies Keep Talking About the ‘Deep State.’ What’s That?,” Time, Mar. 8, 2017; Patrick Buchanan, “The Deep State Targets Trump,” Real Clear Politics, Feb. 17, 2017; Joe Blistein, “Watch Samantha Bee Skewer Trump’s ‘Deep State’ Fears,” Rolling Stone, Mar. 16, 2017; David Remnick, “There Is No Deep State,” New Yorker, Mar. 20, 2017; Danielle Ryan, “Is Michael Flynn the first casualty of a “deep state” coup? It’s not unthinkable,” Salon, Feb. 16, 2017; Elias Isquith, “Controlled by shadow government: Mike Lofgren reveals how top U.S. officials are at the mercy of the “deep state”,” Salon, Jan. 5, 2016; Washington’s Blog, “The Deep State,” Mar. 3, 2014; David A. Graham, “There Is No American ‘Deep State’,” The Atlantic, Feb. 20, 2017; Loren DeJonge Schulman, “The Deep State Is a Figment of Steve Bannon’s Imagination,” Politico, Mar. 9, 2017; Shadi Hamid, “The American ‘Deep State,’ as a Trump Voter Might See It,” The Atlantic, Mar. 7, 2017; Justin Raimondo, “A Win for the Deep State,” Antiwar.com, Feb. 15, 2017; Emily Jane Fox, “Trump’s Soviet-Style Plan to Create His Own Deep State,” Vanity Fair, Mar. 20, 2017; Patrick J. Buchanan, “The deep state targets Trump,” World Net Daily (WND), Feb. 16, 2017; Jeet Heer, “Donald Trump Can Do a Lot With the “Deep State”,” The New Republic, Feb. 22, 2017; Sarah Childress, “The Deep State: How Egypt’s Shadow State Won Out,” PBS, Sept. 27, 2013; Mike Lofgren, “The Deep State 2.0,” Common Dreams, Mar. 4, 2017; F.H. Buckley, “Trump’s threat to the liberal ‘deep state’,” New York Post, Jan. 17, 2017; Kevin D. Williamson, “The Right discovers the ‘Deep State,'” National Review, Mar. 12, 2017; Peter Dale Scott, “The “Deep State” behind U.S. democracy,” Voltaire Network, Apr. 6, 2011.

[2] I’m referring to David “Dave” Foreman, a former Earth First! founder, here, quoted in Defending the Earth: A Dialogue Between Murray Bookchin & Dave Foreman (ed. Steve Chase, Boston: South End Press, 1991), 44, 67. He had (and still has) some strong anti-immigrant views, there is no doubt about it. Also quoted in that book is problematic former anarchist Murray Bookchin. Perhaps I will address them both more in the future, but for now, I don’t think it is necessary for this article.

[3] Fareed Zakaria, “Fareed Zakaria: Why Edward Snowden should agree to stand trial in the U.S.,” Washington Post, October 23, 2014.

[4] For information used here, see documents used in Glenn Greenwald’s new book shown in a 108 page PDF, and numerous other sources: Russ Tice, “NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.,” March 17, 2014; TRNN, “U.S. Army to Test Blimps With Capacity to Surveil East Coast,” January 28, 2014; Michael Rattner, “Where’s the Outrage Over Spying on Muslim Civil Rights Leaders?,” July 10, 2014; Glenn Greenwald, “The U.S. Government’s Secret Plans to Spy for American Corporations,” The Intercept, Sept. 15, 2014; Ryan Gallagher, “The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google,” The Intercept, Aug. 25, 2014; Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, “The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police,” The Intercept, July 25, 2014; Glenn Greenwald, “Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack,” The Intercept, Aug. 4, 2014; Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, “Watch Commander: Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers,” The Intercept, Aug. 5, 2014; Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher, “How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware,” The Intercept, March 12, 2014; Dam Froomkin, “Calls for Brennan’s Ouster Emerge Along With Details of CIA Search of Senate Computers,” The Intercept, March 12, 2014; Dan Novack, “DOJ Still Ducking Scrutiny After Misleading Supreme Court on Surveillance,” The Intercept, February 26, 2014; Ryan Gallagher, “How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet,” The Intercept, June 18, 2014; Ryan Gallagher, “Der Spiegel: NSA Put Merkel on List of 122 Targeted Leaders,” The Intercept, March 29, 2014; Dam Froomkin, “Reports of the Death of a National License-Plate Tracking Database Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” The Intercept, March 17, 2014; Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, “NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama,” The Guardian, June 27, 2013; Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, “How the NSA is still harvesting your online data,” The Guardian, June 27, 2013; Ewan MacAskill and Julian Borger, “New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies,” The Guardian, June 30, 2013; Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill, Laura Poitras, Spencer Ackerman, and Dominic Rushe, “Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages,” The Guardian, July 12, 2013; Nick Hopkins and Julian Borger, “Exclusive: NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ,” The Guardian, Aug. 1, 2013; James Ball and Spencer Ackerman, “NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens’ emails and phone calls,” The Guardian, Aug. 9, 2013; Ewan MacAskill, “NSA paid millions to cover Prism compliance costs for tech companies,” The Guardian, Aug. 23, 2013; Spencer Ackerman, “US tech giants knew of NSA data collection, agency’s top lawyer insists,” The Guardian, March 19, 2014; James Ball, Julian Borger, and Glenn Greenwald, “Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security,” The Guardian, Sept. 6, 2013; James Ball, Bruce Schneier, and Glenn Greenwald, “NSA and GCHQ target Tor network that protects anonymity of web users,” The Guardian, Oct. 4, 2013; Glenn Greenwald and James Ball, “The top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant,” The Guardian, June 20, 2013; Jason Burke, “NSA spied on Indian embassy and UN mission, Edward Snowden files reveal,” The Guardian, Sept. 25, 2013; Wikipedia, “Spying on United Nations leaders by United States diplomats“; Ian Trayor, Philip Oltermann, and Paul Lewis, “Angela Merkel’s call to Obama: are you bugging my mobile phone?,” The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2013; James Ball, “NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts,” The Guardian, Oct. 25, 2013; Alex Hern, “US government increases funding for Tor, giving $1.8m in 2013,” The Guardian, July 29, 2014; Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill, “NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel,” The Guardian, Sept. 11, 2013; Associated Press, “NSA intercepts: ordinary internet users ‘far outnumbered’ legal targets,” The Guardian, July 6, 2014; Spencer Ackerman, “NSA searched data troves for 198 ‘identifiers’ of Americans’ information,” The Guardian, June 30, 2014; Spencer Ackerman, “NSA queried phone records of just 248 people despite massive data sweep,” The Guardian, June 27, 2014; Juliette Garside, “Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance,” The Guardian, June 5, 2014; Jason Leopold, “Top NSA officials struggled over surge in Foia requests, emails reveal,” The Guardian, May 29, 2014; Matthew Weaver, “US intercepts Moscow’s calls to spies in Ukraine, report says,” The Guardian, April 30, 2014; Luke Harding, “Edward Snowden: US government spied on human rights workers,” The Guardian, April 8, 2014; Martin Pangelly, “NSA targeted Chinese telecoms giant Huawei – report,” The Guardian, March 22, 2014; Spencer Ackerman and James Ball, “Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ,” The Guardian, February 28, 2014; John Vidal and Suzanne Goldenberg, “Snowden revelations of NSA spying on Copenhagen climate talks spark anger,” The Guardian, January 30, 2014; James Ball, “Angry Birds and ‘leaky’ phone apps targeted by NSA and GCHQ for user data,” The Guardian, January 28, 2014; Nafeez Ahmed, “Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist,” The Guardian, January 21, 2014; Dominic Rushe, “Apple insists it did not work with NSA to create iPhone backdoor program,” The Guardian, December 31, 2013; Paul Lewis and Philip Oltermann, “Angela Merkel denied access to her NSA file,” The Guardian, April 10, 2014; Spencer Ackermann, “NSA keeps low profile at hacker conventions despite past appearances,” The Guardian, July 31, 2014; Lisa Graves, “How the Government Targeted Occupy,” In These Times, May 21, 2013; David Kravets, “FBI Admits It Surveils U.S. With Drones,” Wired magazine, June 6, 2013; Brian Zick, “”Illegal Use of Space-Based Satellites and Systems to Spy On U.S. Citizens,”” In These Times, May 12, 2006; Cole Stangler, “Tar Sands Drones Are On Their Way,” In These Times, Aug. 22, 2013; Kristie Reilly, “Warning! You Are Being Watched,” In These Times, Sept. 19, 2003; Ron Nixon, “U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement,” New York Times, July 3, 2013; Wikipedia, “Mail Isolation Control and Tracking“; Jesus Diaz, “Imagine the US Postal Service Opened, Scanned, and Emailed All Your Letters,” Gizmodo, April 2, 2010; Bruce Schneider, “The FBI Might Do More Domestic Surveillance than the NSA,” 2013; Ryan Singel, “Point, Click … Eavesdrop: How the FBI Wiretap Net Operates,” Wired magazine, July 28, 2007; Brian Beutler, “Inside the Shadow Factory,” In These Times, Dec. 18, 2008; Susan J. Douglas, “Information Highway Robbery,” In These Times, May 28, 2014; Wikipedia, “Magic Lantern (software)“; Wikipedia, “Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier“; Sam Adler-Bell and David Segal, “Why NSA Surveillance Should Alarm Labor,” In These Times, July 24, 2013; Van Badham, “Governments are spying on our sexual lives. Will we tolerate it?,” The Guardian, Mar. 5, 2014; Alex Hern, “Phone call metadata does betray sensitive details about your life – study,” The Guardian, Mar. 13, 2014; Trevor Timm, “The US government doesn’t want you to know how the cops are tracking you,” The Guardian, June 14, 2014; Anthony Loewenstein, “The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control,” The Guardian, July 10, 2014; Josh Levy, “For Communities Of Color, Mass Surveillance Is All Too Familiar,” Talking Points Memo, Nov. 5, 2013; Kirk Wiebe, “NSA Whistleblower: USA Freedom Act Will Not Go Far Enough To Protect Civil Liberties,” The Real News, Feb. 10, 2014; Ana Marie Cox, “Who should we fear more with our data: the government or companies?,” The Guardian, Jan. 20, 2014; Charles Arthur, “Google’s Eric Schmidt denies knowledge of NSA data tapping of firm,” The Guardian, Jan. 31, 2014; Arun Kundnani, “No NSA reform can fix the American Islamophobic surveillance complex,” The Guardian, Mar. 28, 2014; Nafeez Ahmed, “Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown,” The Guardian, June 12, 2014; Ray McGovern, “McGovern: Unconstitutionality of NSA Phone Call Collection is Indisputable,” The Real News, Dec. 16, 2013; Virginia Eubanks, “Want to Predict the Future of Surveillance? Ask Poor Communities,” The American Prospect, Jan. 15, 2014.

[5] These sources are bourgeois liberal individuals, but their analysis is half-decent so it is included here. Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You (New York: Penguin Press, 2007), 11; Maureen Webb, Illusions of Security: Global Surveillance and Democracy in the Post-9/11 World (San Francisco: City Lights, 2007), 48, 71-72, 84-85, 101, 194-5, 196, 201, 209, 235, 239-240, 243; Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (New York: Little Brown & Company, 2011), 24, 51, 77, 156, 133, 182, 277; Mark Monmonier, Spying With Maps: Surveillance Technologies and the Future of Privacy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 2, 151-152, 170, 172.

[6] Director of Security to Deputy Director For Central Intelligence, May 11, 1982: “Latin American Pilots Training on Soviet Mig-25 from an article in the Washington Post entitled ‘U.S. Approves Covert Plan In Nicaragua’ by Patrick E. Tyler and Bob Woodward on 10 March 1982”; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD; Sissela Bok, Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation (Vintage Books Edition; New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 167.

[7] CIA, April, 17, 1985: Reprint of “All Things Considered” transcript on “CIA Secrecy”; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD.

[8] George V. Lauder, CIA Director of Public Affairs, to Bob Woodward, Washington Post, Feb. 20, 1986; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD; CIA, Dec. 11. 1986: “Annex: Unauthorized disclosures of Classified Intelligence”; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. Bok, Secrets, 134, 169; Stephen Hess, “The Greatest Generation.” Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012 (Paperback Edition; Washington, D.C.: Brookings Instiution Press, 2013), 11.

[9] See pp. 10, 12, 16-7, 20-1 of Phinney’s thesis.

[10] William J. Casey, Director of the CIA, to Frank Carlucci, Assistant to the President for National Security, Dec. 17, 1986; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. Note at the end of the letter implies that the letter is not by Casey, but someone who works for Casey, as it says “Bill might not sign these exact words but the problem and specific measures suggested are things he feels very strongly about”; Executive Director of the CIA to Frank Carlucci, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Dec. 18. 1986; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD; Matthew B Kerbel, “The President and the News Media,” CQ Press Guide To The Presidency and the Executive Branch (Fifth Edition, ed. Michael Nelson; Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2013), 1045; Arthur L. Liman, “Implausible Deniability: Why Reagan Was Not Impeached,” Lawyer: A Life of Counsel and Controversy (New York: PublicAffairs, 1998), 345; Hedrick Smith, “The Image Game: Scripting the Video Presidency,” The Power Game: How Washington Works (New York: Ballantine Books, 1988), 437-9, 446.

[11] William M. Baker, CIA Director of Public Affairs, to Judge Webster, Jan. 28, 1988; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. The part of this document cited here is an annex titled the letter from Ambassador Richard Helms on January 22, 1988. While the document says 1987, I think its a mistake and they mean 1988.

[12] Wendell Bell, “Some Practical Strategies for Judging Preferable Futures,” Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era: Values, Objectivity, and the Good Society (Volume 2, updated edition; London: Transaction Publishers, 2004), 164; Smith, “The Image Game: Scripting the Video Presidency,” 439.

[13] This was expressed in articles in the New York Times and The Guardian. Obviously, Snowden has more thoughts than this, but these are some of his major reformist views.

[14] In a post on the Reset the Net tumblr blog, he showed that this was not the case, with the full quote which was partially used in The Guardian article:

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That’s why I’m asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. …We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That’s why I am excited for Reset the Net — it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and protect ourselves on a large scale.”

[15] According to an article in Firedoglake by Kevin Gosztola summarizing Glenn Greenwald’s speech to the Socialism 2013 Conference, he “…expanded the discussion into how private companies are working in concert with the federal government. He characterized this coopeation as “a full-scale merger between the federal government and industry” where the two are “equally important parts” of the surveillance state,” however from this account it seems he focused a lot on government surveillance and very little on corporate surveillance which is tied into government surveillance. What was his solution? Subverting the “radical transparency” of the surveillance state, groups like Anonymous, organizations like WikiLeaks, wanting “holes to be blown in the wall of secrecy” and endorsing “the use of technology that protects the identity of users.” The last endorsement sounds a lot like Reset the Net.

[16] Pariser, The Filter Bubble, 146. One of the best examples of keeping these entities them happy is Google and the CIA both investing in a company called Recorded Future, “which focuses on using data collection to predict future real world events.”


Snowden, the CIA, and conspiracies


Almost a month ago I wrote about celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden. Some corners of twitter criticized me for my post, basically saying that I didn’t go far enough. Some claimed that Snowden was “concocted” by the CIA and was a personality just like Mickey House (see here and here) while others claimed I had contempt for people who didn’t agree with me. There’s much more than that in terms of criticism, but I think I addressed it adequately on twitter so it seems silly to address it here. However, in this post, which I promised in the past, aims to look at Snowden’s connection to the CIA and some conspiracy theories, to put it rightly, about Snowden floating around the web.

Snowden’s story with the CIA

There is no doubt, even if you are skeptical of Snowden’s story, that he worked for the CIA He admitted this himself in a primetime interview with NBC over two years ago:

 “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word — in that I lived and worked undercover, overseas, pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine. Now, the government might deny these things. They might frame it in certain ways, and say, oh, well, you know, he’s a low-level analyst…I’ve worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, undercover, overseas. I’ve worked for the National Security Agency, undercover, overseas. And I’ve worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.”

In the same interview he also said that he basically, as noted above and summarized by BBC, “worked for the CIA and NSA undercover, overseas, and lectured at the Defense Intelligence Agency.” He also claimed that he was a “technical specialist…[and] a technical expert. I don’t work with people. I don’t recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I’ve done that at all levels from — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top,” possibly even working at a CIA overseas station.

One may ask what he did when he worked at the CIA. One website summarizes the story, saying that in 2007 Snowden is sent to Geneva as part of IT, and is put “in charge of maintaining computer-network security for the CIA and US diplomats” with one incident souring Snowden, but he still “leaves the CIA and goes to work in the private sector” in 2009, then claims that the CIA experts may have accessed NSA documents and “handed them to Snowden” over time, perhaps, since Snowden “worked for the CIA in Geneva, in a high-level position, overseeing computer-systems security.” Wired and the New York Times don’t have the same viewpoint. Wired says that Snowden was offered a position at the CIA, “after attending a job fair focused on intelligence agencies,” with Snowden assigned to “the global communications division, the organization that deals with computer issues” at CIA headquarters at Langley. The story continues by noting that Snowden was sent to the “CIA’s secret school for technology specialists,” living in a hotel for six months and then traveling to  “Geneva, Switzerland, where the CIA was seeking information about the banking industry” in 2007, then “assigned to the US Mission to the United Nations.” The story goes on to say that in Geneva, Snowden saw “firsthand some of the moral compromises CIA agents made in the field” and goes on. The New York Times, in a June 9, 2013 article titled “Ex-Worker at C.I.A. Says He Leaked Data on Surveillance,” by Mark Mazzetti and Michael E. Schmidt, tells a different story. It described Snowden as a “29-year-old former C.I.A. computer technician” who feared that the “C.I.A. might try to spirit him out of China, and speculating that it might even hire Asian gangs to go after him” and that he was “later hired by the C.I.A. to work on information technology security, serving in Geneva.”

Some have openly questioned if Snowden is a spy. Former CIA officer, Robert Baer, scoffed at the notion that Snowden could be considered a spy. He not only implied, laughably, that Snowden was working with the Russian government since 2007, which he couldn’t prove, basing it mainly on “his landing of Moscow” which made him “very suspicious.” If there was anything valid in what he said, it was when he declared that Snowden was “a systems administrator…[and] communicator” for the CIA in Geneva, sitting in “an office and relays messages” and then claimed that “the NSA doesn’t have spies overseas. It’s got technicians who sit in American embassies. They are not even analysts.” A much better article was by Dan Murphy, staff writer for Christian Science Monitor, who said that just because someone works for a spy agency doesn’t make them a spy and that it is “standard practice” for CIA employees overseas to get cover identities. The article continues by saying that not only is “building computer systems” not spying but that if Snowden did “have a lot of high-level spy training, it would appear that either the training stinks or he was an exceptionally poor student, judging by his actions,” including making “arrangements for his flight after he’d blown his own cover” and that there may be some intersecting of Snowden’s interests and those of the Russian government.

You can easily dismiss what these posts say and push them away, but the response to Snowden, Greenwald & co. later on is not disputable. These include that a “secret US government jet – previously employed in CIA “rendition” flights on which terror suspects disappeared into invisible “black” imprisonment – flew into Europe in a bid to spirit him back to America” but failed to make it fully to Moscow, only setting down and waiting at Copenhagen Airport apparently. William Blum, a premier foreign policy analyst of US empire, said that “Edward Snowden had something inside him shaped like a conscience, just waiting for a cause” and then talked about the trials and tribulations of Philip Agee when he ran away from the CIA. Then there was former CIA director James Woolsey claiming, despite the CIA’s record as a handmaiden of imperial destruction, that Snowden had “blood on his hands” because his leaks would supposedly help “terrorists,” and CIA director John Brennan declaring that “any unauthorized disclosures that are made by individuals who have dishonored the oath of office that they raised their hand and attested to undermines this country’s security.”

Some may wonder how Snowden, assuming that the CIA did not assist him in a  covert manner, was able to get away with such leaking. Stories came out that showed that years before the leaking the CIA was suspicous of Snowden. One story said that CIA superiors of Snowden suspected in 2009 that he was “trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access,” and so they decided to “decided to send him home” from his job in Geneva, but that didn’t stop him for doing something that some claimed was “wrong”: gathering documents of misdeeds, mostly of the NSA. All of these stories derive from an article in the New York Times by Eric Schmitt (October 10, 2013) titled “C.I.A. Warning on Snowden in ’09 Said to Slip Through the Cracks.” The article said that before Snowden was about to leave Geneva in 2009, his “supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion.” The article then claimed that “the red flags went unheeded” and the “supervisor’s cautionary note and the C.I.A.’s suspicions apparently were not forwarded to the N.S.A. or its contractors.” The Times also said that in mid-2006 Snowden got an “information technology job at the C.I.A” and that despite formal credentials, “he gained a top-secret clearance and a choice job under State Department cover in Geneva.” Later on, of course, the Justice Department sued a private company, US Investigation Services,  which “provides background checks of the staff being recruited by the US state agencies.”

Another part of this story doesn’t involve Greenwald’s heroic casting of Snowden, like in this opinion piece, Snowden’s claim about the CIA keeping documents away from Congress or the angry CIA veteran who hates Snowden’s guts. This part of the story is the supposed “hilarious” CIA review of Glenn Greenwald’s book on the whole Snowden story, as you can call it, which developed since 2013. The review, by Hayden Peake, in Studies in Intelligence covers many books, including three about Snowden.

Despite what some said about the review, the FIRST SENTENCE of the review praises the book as “the most complete, though far from the most objective account of the Snowden affair to date.” That doesn’t sound like they don’t like the book. The review goes in to talk about the view point of “lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald” with the book focusing on the relationship between Snowden and Greenwald, with a “quasi-clandestine meeting in Hong Kong.” The review, of course, goes on to claim that “intelligence issues” led to the adoption of mass surveillance by the NSA, that Snowden should have followed “official whistle-blower procedures” and supposedly ignoring “other interpretations regarding the legality of the NSA’s collection programs.” Peake then claims to be be “surprised” that Greenwald harshly “attacks selected members of the media” for their efforts to  discredit him and that Greenwald criticizes “the Bush and Obama administrations and various private individuals,” along with calling numerous other journalists “dutiful spokespeople for political officials.” Even if you accept that Greenwald is adversarial, it is clear that with statements like this he is boosting his own ego and acting like he is more independent that he is in reality. The review closes by saying that Greenwald says Snowden’s actions are justified and that “journalists have the absolute right to be the final arbiters of what to publish.” Peake, as part of the establishment, doesn’t like the latter, and claims that Greenwald has an “often bitter ad hominem rationale for this” but there is no doubt he is correct that this book is “unlikely to be the last word on the subject.” All in all, I actually think the review is MUCH more positive toward Greenwald that many websites are claiming, even though it obviously tries to cut him down in certain ways. This review is also telling because it shows that Greenwald is not as opposed to the establishment and adversarial then he claims.

The theories, the theories

Now it is time to move onto the conspiracy theories as they should be accurately called. Before that, it is important to make two points. For one, there is no theory that Snowden didn’t read all the documents, since he, as he admitted to liberal blowhard John Oliver, that he didn’t read them all. Secondly, despite some (see here and here) reposting a “story” about Snowden as a “lethal operative” and “lethal killer,” it turns out that the website of that “story” is a satire site.

The first conspiracy theory comes from a site called “Veterans Today” which holds viewpoints in one could call the “Alex Jones camp” in the conspiracy theory world. In the article, Webster Tarpley argues that Snowden is likely “a limited hangout operation, in which carefully selected and falsified documents and other materials are deliberately revealed by an insider who pretends to be a fugitive.” The article also claims that Snowden’s relations have benefited the CIA, that “Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon papers” along with “the case of Assange and Wikileaks” being limited hangout operations. Tarpley then goes on the say that “limited hangouts have been around for a very long time” and goes on to claim that these operations cats someone as “the darling of the controlled corporate media.” Tarpley goes into wacko land by claiming that Ellsberg’s Pentagon papers were “doctored”  and claims that those really in opposition to the establishment are “kidnapped, renditioned or liquidated,” which pushes away the obvious response by such establishment of ignoring critics. Tarpley goes on and on about Cass Sunstein involved in “creating” Wikileaks in his view,claims that Norman Solomon is a “former State Department public diplomacy asset”and that limited hangouts say little. He goes on to claim that “Assange’s Wikileaks document dump” did little to seriously damage “one US, British, or Israeli covert operation or politician,” that Assange “had a hand in preparing one of the largest destabilization campaigns mounted by Anglo-American intelligence since 1968” and much more. In sum, even if Tarpley’s view has some merit, it is hard to take him seriously as he has only ONE quote in the whole article, has no links to other sources, and seems to just be writing a lot without verification. While I say all this, I am aware that Ellsburg, Assange, and Snowden should be criticized, but to call them intelligence operations seems far-fetched and just putting oneself down a rabbit hole with no escape.

In the same realm, could be this discussion, but is more likely this post which builds off Tarpley. The writer, a certain”Jay,” claims that there is a charade around Snowden, a bogus narrative around people such as Assange, goes as far as to claim that the Chinese Communist Party and Mao were created by the OSS and CIA, forgetting the change over time which he brought China to be more sympathetic with the West, and that there is a “Snowden Psy Op.” Where is no do doubt that Assange and Snowden are likely not in as much danger as supporters claim, to claim they are intelligence assets and other wacky things like the Chinese Communist Party created by certain U.S. covert elements is something that is so ridiculous that it isn’t worth taking anything that this “Jay” says seriously at all since he is so deluded that he is running around in circles.

The final post addresses a supposed division between the CIA and NSA. In the post,  anonymous intelligence community sources claimed to the Wayne Madsen Report that Snowden got “access to and released tens of thousands of classified NSA documents” because a CIA faction “was growing increasingly alarmed over the massive surveillance system controlled by NSA” and that “highly compartmented CIA covert operations abroad were made known to NSA” which did not make them happy. The article then goes on to claim that “a group of active and retired CIA officers, in addition to CIA contractors, set out to expose the NSA’s massive surveillance operations” and that Snowden “was chosen by the CIA faction as the person best positioned to collect NSA documents and leak them to the media.” It is also claimed that a civilian “who worked at the NSA Regional Security Operations Center in Kunia, Hawaii” worked with Snowden and that “the CIA faction helped arrange, through its own back channels, safe passage for Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow.” The site where the article is reposted then claims that there is no way of confirming ” whether NSA is actually being brought down by CIA or not” but that “Snowden’s transition from zero to immaculate spy was managed by Booz Allen and CIA” and that even if this is partly true, the war “between CIA and NSA…is representative of a collapse of the elite police force.”

The last post actually seems to be the most plausible of all the theories while the others have problems of verification or are just so off-the-wall as to not be taken seriously. One can easily dismiss all of these theories as hogwash. I am almost tempted do this myself. Still, it is should always be the case that people should think outside the box and challenge themselves.


I could look more into this and bring in some posts by Douglas Valentine, whose book on the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (Strength of the Wolf) I liked very much. I could look into statements by Snowden under his username of “Truehooha” but I feel that has already been done. While I could have written as a piggyback off Fivek’s post about the problems of the peace movement in the United States, that is for another day. In the future I am to use some of the science fiction books I have read on the way to work to write posts on numerous subjects, including but not limited to, animal rights, possibly in relation to the incident on the Cincinnati Zoo, and a criticism of capitalism, of course. As I continue in my new job, which is a temp job, I won’t have much time to write posts such as this, but I may even write some narrative posts. We’ll see what happens. Anyway, I look forward to all of your comments as always.

Snowden’s “adversarial” deception

Snowden as spotted in Russia in October 2013

Recently, I was pursuing Twitter when a recent interview with celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden popped up. I’ve criticized Snowden before on this blog as supporting Apple, a company that collects much data but claims it is “pro-privacy.” This post looks at a recent Q&A with Snowden in the Columbia Journalism Review which was promoted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a foundation which has Daniel Ellsburg, Glenn Greenwald, Snowden himself, John Cusack, John Perry Barlow, Laura Poitras, Micah Lee, Rainey Reitman, Trevor Timm, and Xeni Jardin on its board of directors. This organization, founded in 2012 also thinks Pentagon projects like Tor are just great. This post could examine this foundation, but since Snowden, as he admitted himself, is already a celebrity who has wide influence it is best to look at his words and their symbolic meaning. [1] In sum, I read it, as Tarzie would say, so you don’t have to.

Snowden, of course, in his privileged position, can talk about the bourgeois media from afar. He claims that there is a “changing nature of the public’s relationship to media” with the media “strong” but less willing to “use that sort of power and influence because of its increasing commercialization.” He goes on to say that back in the past, the media culture assured that media was “intended to be a public service” but now that is lost because of “the 24-hour news cycle.” This “observation” fundamentally misses the role of the bourgeois media in and of itself. Snowden by almost acting nostalgic in acting like media in the past served the public is almost in line with the speech by Edward R. Murrow in 1958 saying that television “can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire…[but] only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box” which arguably removes the role of television in capitalist society. Even if one pushes that aside, it is silly to say there is a “changing nature” of mass media in US society considering that the bourgeois media has always been tied to the profit motive to sell more papers (in the case of newspapers) and garner a bigger audience, while keeping in place the existing capitalist system.

Worst of all is Snowden’s comments on The New York Times. He almost acts aghast that even the Times, which he implies is a paragon of virtue, is not challenging the government. As the Times‘s own media kit shows, their audience is predominantly male, over 35 years old, college graduates, and in a professional/managerial position, along with total expenditures for the audience as a whole in the hundreds of millions. If that’s not enough, the International Business Times has similar data showing a predominantly male and college graduate audience with differing political perspectives mostly ranging from moderate to liberal. Similarly, the International New York Times has even more high-level audience with a high percentage in senior management and a household income over $367,000 a year. This shows that Times basically has a bourgeois audience to give it “All the News Lies That’s Fit to Print” which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Snowden goes on to claim that competition in the media environment means that “institutions are becoming less willing to serve the public to the detriment of themselves.” He further adds that this role is “typically exercised through the editors” and that “the distance between allegation and fact, at times, makes all the difference in the world.” This “observation” makes a number of assumptions. For one, it implies that bourgeois media outlets have a “duty to the public.” That is utter crap and he knows it. Any capitalist or capitalist business that does not make a profit will go out of business. Secondly, his focus on editors is misleading. I say this because he NEVER mentions the role of advertisers in determining media content, as even Noam Chomsky has outlined in his Propaganda Model. This shows the weakness of his analysis and how it fails to take into account the reality of bourgeois media.

There’s more horribleness. Snowden goes on to say that there is more competition in the current media environment despite the fact that six corporations control 90% of the media in the US (also see here), and that even as a reformist NGO notes, “massive corporations dominate the U.S. media landscape.” He claims that such competition among publishers has led to “hybrid publications” like BuzzFeed, which in his words creates “an enormous amount of trash and cruft” with their “content…engineered to be more attention getting, even though they have no public value at all” and that “they have no news value at all.” He later tempers this by saying that “if it’s not going to be BuzzFeed, it’s going to be somebody else” and that “this isn’t a criticism of any particular model” and that these outlets “don’t have a journalistic role, it’s a reportorial role.” I think he actually has a good point about BuzzFeed. However, I think his description of attention-getting content and having no public value applies all of the Celebrity Left personalities, including myself. Hence, his own words could be used to describe his own Twitter stream, which has, as he said about BuzzFeed, “no public value at all.” After all, aren’t secretive oligarchs basically controlling media and social media?

Snowden goes on to talk about about the James Rosen and AP cases of course. He argues that this is “suddenly chilling” because it silences “the traditional work of journalism” but then claims that journalists need to use tradecraft used by the CIA because using VPNs could “get you in real trouble in these areas of the world” like Bangladesh. Yet again, this perpetrates the idea that the “West is best” and even justifies the CIA as something to model after. This shouldn’t be a surprise since he admits that before he came out as the NSA whistleblower he had “never talked to a journalist in any substantive capacity” and that he worked as an intelligence officer for the CIA and NSA, saying “everything is a secret and you’ve got two different kinds of cover.” This is disturbing to say the least because it makes it seem that Snowden is proud of what he did for the NSA and CIA, not calling them out and even calling for them to be abolished, at minimum. What he did for the CIA for SIX YEARS he hasn’t talked about much, if at all. Remember when he said this in 2013: “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA. I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.” What utter bullcrap is that anyway. Anyway, the most laughable thing he says is that “the secrets are becoming public at an accelerated pace.” I doubt that very much. After all, as Cryptome reported in February at the current rate “it will take 20-620 years to free all documents” gathered by him, with governments and business benefiting the most, along with media and NGOs benefiting as well. I’ll get to the Panama Papers later.

It doesn’t get any better. Snowden states that the government may even engage in prior restraint and that there need to be “institutions working beyond borders in multiple jurisdictions” so that “that the journalists could play games, legally and journalistically more effectively and more quickly than the government.” He then goes on to engage in one of his many self-congratulatory statements claiming that “I was, in fact, quite famous for criticizing the press.” Putting aside his ego-supporting statement, the fact that he supports journalists “playing games” is worrisome. It basically means that journalists can just be pawns in “challenging” the government.

From here, there are a number of self-congratulatory and hence egoist remarks from Snowden himself. He claims to be surprised by the  “impact” of his revelations, claims they are special, claiming that unlike in 2006 when “there was a warrantless wiretapping story in The New York Times” and that his revelations “transformed” the public debate. Then he tries to act humble by saying “I personally see myself as having a quite minor role” and that “I was the mechanism of revelation for a very narrow topic of governments,” that he didn’t have access to court orders from the Department of Justice. He then goes on to boast that he predicted how people would treat him, that the media were useful in making an argument and reporting his leaks. He then almost claims like he is an authority who can tell journalists how to report a story and says that “my ultimate goal was simply to get this information back in the hands of the public” despite the fact that much of what he found has NOT been released as of yet. He then goes further and claims that he believes in “traditional American democracy” whatever that is, a term that refers to an idolized form of bourgeois democracy in the US. He even goes further and says that “if I had stayed in place at the NSA as a source and they had asked me for this document…[it] actually brought risks upon them that could have led to new constraints upon journalism.” That’s so nice of him to look out for the NSA. Not! Snowden also claims that working with journalists changed his “understanding of journalism” and that “public knowledge of the truth is more important than the risks that knowledge creates for a few.” I don’t even think is worth analyzing what he says in a self-congratulatory fashion as it is all wrapped up in puffing up his ego like a puffer-fish blows itself up to take in air or water so they aren’t as vulnerable to predators.

His self-congratulatory statements couple right with those in which he says that Glenn Greenwald and co are great. In his magical view, Glenn Greenwald. Ewan MacAskill, and Laura Poitras, along with the Washington Post‘s Barton Gellman, “simply represented a system that I did not believe could be overcome before the story could be put out. By the time the government could get their ducks in a row and try to interfere with it, that would itself become the story.” Once again, this implies that all of these writers are somehow adversarial, a view that is utterly laughable. Its about as bad as the “glowing” response they had to the new fawning Snowden movie by Oliver stone. Lets not forget that Greenwald was once a lawyer for Big Tobacco companies. As Mark Ames writes,

And this is where whistleblower-irony becomes so dense, it collapses on itself: Because one of Wachtell Lipton’s young associates working on the Philip Morris lawsuit against ABC-TV was a lawyer by the name of…Glenn Greenwald. We know Greenwald worked at Wachtell Lipton’s New York office at the time of Wachtell’s lawsuit because Greenwald himself has talked about working for Wachtell, beginning in 1993 as a summer associate, then joining out of law school in 1994, and staying on until the end of 1995…Perhaps Greenwald had no idea that the law firm he chose to work for was representing Philip Morris in the most talked about case of 1994. That even though his own boss, Henry Wachtell, was a regular on national TV news defending their tobacco clients, he was still oblivious. Greenwald perhaps didn’t watch television. Or read newspapers? It’s reasonable to assume Greenwald—ever the diligent researcher—must have joined Wachtell fully aware that they were helping gag whistleblowers and threatening journalists: Greenwald says that he chose to work for Wachtell in 1994 after being recruited by over a dozen top law firms. But of course that doesn’t necessarily mean he worked on the specific Philip Morris case. Except that a billing ledger discovered in the tobacco library shows Greenwald’s name in a Wachtell Lipton bill to Philip Morris…Other Wachtell Lipton memos show Greenwald’s name prominently displayed on the letterhead in aggressive, threatening letters against ABC-TV, against whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, and against whistleblower Merrell Williams…One Wachtell letter to ABC’s lawyers with Greenwald’s name up top, dated December 14, 1995, warns that Wigand’s testimony in a Mississippi tobacco trial is “in direct defiance of a Kentucky Court order”— and demands that ABC turn over their source’s private testimony to Wachtell Lipton…Greenwald’s name appears on the Wachtell Lipton letterhead of threatening legal letter after letter—targeting ABC-TV and tobacco whistleblowers …the question is, why has he never said peep about Wigand and Merrell Williams? Greenwald styles himself as the most fearless outspoken defender of whistleblowers today—and yet he has absolutely nothing to say about the most famous whistleblowers of the 1990s, a case he worked on from the other side…Again, in the two decades since, whistleblower champion Glenn Greenwald has never said a single word about this case or about the role his law firm played in crushing TV investigative journalism. As far as our research can tell, Greenwald has never taken a position on tobacco laws or  spoken about the horrific death toll smoking is taking…Besides Greenwald’s belief that Big Pharma should be able to sell all of its drugs to any adult who wants them, a very tobacco-industry-esque argument—there’s little to suggest anything like regret, remorse, or any reaction whatsoever to his work on behalf of Philip Morris’ lawsuit against adversarial journalism and whistleblowers. Quite the contrary, Greenwald went on to a close friendly (and paid) relationship with the CATO Institute, one of the tobacco industry’s most active friends in the think tank world.

Back to Snowden, he claims that “the more powerful the institution, the more skeptical one should be,” talks about Daniel Ellsberg, how Greenwald represents the “purest form” of journalist that that he doesn’t see it as a problem that he has “too much faith” in the press. He goes on to say that what need to be changes are “the values of the people in these institutions that are producing these policies or programs.” Yet again, this pseudo-change sentiment is a joke. Snowden of course does not want the system to crumble and there to be a more just one or to even challenge entrenched bourgeois values. But neither does Greenwald or any of the other Celebrity Left personalities.

Most interesting of all is what he says about Twitter, claiming that “individuals can build audiences to speak with directly” which is deceptive because inherently some will be able build bigger audiences than others. He claims that “whether it’s a hundred people or a million people, individuals can build audiences to speak with directly” which is a way that new media actors and “malicious actors” end up exploiting “what are perceived as new vulnerabilities in media control of the narrative.” He goes on to say that on Twitter “there are a lot of celebrities out there on Twitter, but really they’re just trying to maintain an image, promote a band, be topical, remind people that they exist. They’re not typically effecting any change, or having any kind of influence, other than the directly commercial one.” Once again, like what he said about BuzzFeed, this analysis can easily apply to himself and other Celebrity Left figures. Arguably they promote an image and aren’t really making any change, at least not that which matters. At the same time, these personalities do have an influence and he is wrong to say that celebrities do not typically have an influence because they definitely do. For instance, if Beyonce did not have the influence she did, supported not only by her own wealth but thinkpieces across the internet, then there would be no one pushing her songs and image as pro-“feminist” or  “black power.”

Near the end of the interview, Snowden claims that there is much that can be done to move forward, at least in the way he wants. First of all, he does not call for eliminating espionage laws, but he claims that there should be “an international framework” for protecting whistleblowers, and claims that the way to implement this is “culture” and a “press that’s more willing and actually eager to criticize government than they are today.” He goes on to say that countries across the world “are embracing the idea of state secrets” and that “we’re increasingly monitored and tracked and reported, quantified and known and influenced” while politicians are “becoming less reachable and also less accountable.” Yet again, Snowden is acting like everything will work out and that capitalist governments will serve their subjects. This is patently absurd. Additionally to claim that the media will  criticize the government, he is once again pushing away the importance of the profit motive, a motive that shows that no one can just push for the bourgeois media to be reformed as it is a press that is fatally flawed.

Beyond his self-congratulatory message that his revelations has an impact on “the publication on the culture of government,” his laughably optimistic (and incorrect) ideas that “secrecy will not hold forever…the secrets are becoming public at an accelerated pace,” he then goes into almost defending Facebook. He claims that everything will be find if companies like Facebook are “selective” about certain posts to take down and have no restrictions whatsoever, but then asks if private companies should determine “the limits of public conversations.” He then goes on to spew some words which aren’t important to mention here. At the end of his Q&A Snowden claims he has an answer: moving to “public policing”:

“The real solutions here are much more likely to be in terms of entirely new institutions that bound the way law enforcement works, moving us away from the point of military conflict, secret conflict, and into simply public policing. There’s no reason why we could not have an international counter-terrorism force that actually has universal jurisdiction. I mean universal in terms of fact, as opposed to actual law.”

Regardless of his qualification about what “universal” means, even if it doesn’t mean this, this proposition of an “international counter-terrorism force” is ridiculous. After all, he is naive to think such a force would not be used for imperialist purposes. At the same time, he may think his idea is fine since he is ignoring and/or doesn’t recognize where power lies in capitalist society and in capitalism worldwide: with the bourgeoisie.

We finally move onto the Drone Papers. Snowden claims that “releasing” these “papers” was an “extraordinary act of public service on the part of a whistleblower within the government to get the public information that’s absolutely vital about things that we should have known more than a decade ago.” He goes onto say that these papers are “things that we really need to know to be able to analyze and assess policies” but that this was denied by”major” media outlets like the Times but that The Intercept “saved” the day as “one journalistic institution that breaks the story.” To be honest, this is utterly ridiculous. For one, as Cyrptome’s most recent tally shows, at most, 15.24% of data/files of the Panama Papers have been released but more accurately, the percentage released to date is .0021%. If Snowden, Greenwald and co actually had courage they would call for all of the documents to be released and put in a searchable archive like the Cablegate search, which now includes cables from the 1970s and 2000s.

There is more I’d like to say about the Panama Papers here. For one the whistleblower who revealed the information frames himself almost as a crusader for justice and goes on to explain his ideas, along with claiming he is bringing about a “digital revolution.” which fall into the bourgeois political spectrum nicely. But then at one point he declares the following:

For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly
or as a contractor, and I never have. My viewpoint is entirely my own, as was my
decision to share the documents with Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), not for any specific political purpose,
but simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale
of the injustices they described.

To me this almost seems like a dodge. He is claiming that he is independent of such forces. However, even if he did not work such entities it is still possible one could say that he could be manipulated, I don’t see why not. Let us consider before going forward that VOA, a US government propaganda outlet promoted the Panama Papers with a guide to read them. Also, we should recognize that one of the organizations that is releasing this information, the Center for Public Integrity, is funded by big foundations such as the Open Society Foundation and Ford Foundation along with George Soros’s Open Society Institute. Should we ignore the views of Swiss banker whistleblower Bradley Birkenfield who said the following to CNBC:

“The CIA I’m sure is behind this, in my opinion. The very fact that we see all these names surface that are the direct quote-unquote enemies of the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, Argentina and we don’t see one U.S. name. Why is that? Quite frankly, my feeling is that this is certainly an intelligence agency operation.”

Should we ignore that USAID is basically funding ICIJ and by extension this Panama Papers release? After all, USAID is basically an appendage of the murderous empire. Should we ignore how media, such as The Guardian, which Snowden would laud with praise, twisted the revelations to implicate Russian President Vladmir Putin in corruption? Should we ignore how the liberal media outlets like Truthdig, Slate, New York Magazine, and PBS News Hour are promoting the Panama Papers? Should we ignore who funds the Center for Public Integrity or how Wikileaks and Greenwald are promoting the releases? There is much more on the Panama Papers, but it can be convincingly argued that the releases and the papers themselves are a form of negative propaganda.

I could go on with this post, even citing some of the articles by Douglas Valentine, but I think what I have said so far is sufficient. Perhaps I could have said more, but this post is just one of the many criticisms of Snowden and celebrity left personalities, something that few do because they are sucked in by the allure of celebrity or their veneer of being adversarial. That is all.


[1] In a fawning interview with The Nation, this exchange ensued:

The Nation: Speaking of films, we understand that in addition to Laura Poitras’s documentary Citizenfour, a couple of others will be made about you.

Snowden: Anything to get people talking about the issues is great. I’m not a movie guy. I don’t know all this stuff that comes with celebrity. I don’t know who the actors will be and stuff like that. But anybody who wants to talk about the issues—that’s great.

The Nation: You already are a celebrity.

Snowden: People say that, but I’ve only had to sign autographs for “civ-libs” types. And I autograph court orders.

The Nation: Maybe, but you need a strategy of how you’re going to use your celebrity, for better or worse. You own it. You can’t get rid of it.

Snowden: [laughs] Well, that’s kind of damning!