Saturday, June 22, 2013

Snowden –Hero, Traitor, or just Stupid?

Like many of you, I have been following the Ed Snowden story in the news. Depending on what person is writing the story he seems to be either an evil traitor or a heroic whistle blower.

Opinions regarding any potential damage he may have done are equally split. On one side, you have people, such as former Vice President Dick Cheny, saying he has done irreparable harm to the nation’s security. On the other side, you hear people, including Congressmen and Senators, saying it’s not a big deal. We knew all about this program all along.

According to sources supposedly briefed on the matter, Snowden was employed by an unidentified classified agency in Washington from 2005 to mid-2006, by the CIA from 2006 to 2009, when he primarily worked overseas, and by Dell Inc from 2009 to 2013, when he worked in the United States and Japan as an NSA contractor.

So, which is it? Hero or Traitor? And, how the hell did a 29-year-old high-school dropout manage to gain access to such top secrets as the NSA's electronic surveillance programs?

I don’t know. And so far, no one else seems to know either (at least no one willing to admit it).

I have no secret or confidential information. I don’t know anyone with “behind the scenes” access. I don’t even know anyone who knows somebody that knows somebody.  So, my opinion here must be taken with a large grain of salt. It is strictly my opinion and is based entirely on reports in the media and on the Internet (which means they are wrong about half the time and when they are right, they still contain errors).

Here are a few things, being reported on Reuters and Wikileaks, that I found interesting.

Snowden worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency contractors for eight years. During that time, he was  a prolific commentator on technology forum Ars Technica, posting approximately 750 messages using the screen name "The True HOOHA" from late 2001 to 2012. Here are a couple of those posts:

"I can't hope to change the way things are going by overtly complaining, writing letters, or blowing things up," Snowden wrote in 2003 in response to a discussion about corporate greed on the Ars Technica online forum.

"That's not the way a good person does things. I will, however, do what I can with the tools that are available to me."

Most of the postings were not political in nature: he dispensed advice about government careers, polygraphs and the 2008 stock market crash. He claimed to own the same gun as James Bond and posted glamour photos of himself. He jokingly compared the video console Xbox Live to NSA surveillance.

One of his postings, however, dealt with the now-familiar  issue of corporate compliance with government eavesdropping programs. On February 4, 2010, while working for Dell, Snowden commented on a discussion about a major technology company that allegedly was giving the U.S. government access to its computer servers.

"It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles," Snowden wrote. "Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types."

According to the sources, Snowden told employers he took computer classes at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, earned a certificate from the University of Maryland's campus in Tokyo, and expected in 2013 to earn a master's degree in computer security from the University of Liverpool in England.

A Johns Hopkins spokeswoman said she could not find a record of Snowden's attendance, but he may have taken correspondence courses for which records are not kept. A Maryland official confirmed Snowden attended at least one summer class. A Liverpool spokeswoman said Snowden registered for an online master's degree in computer security in 2011, but did not complete it.

Born in 1983 in North Carolina, Snowden grew up in a Maryland suburb near the NSA headquarters. He left high school in 10th grade and later earned a G.E.D. At 18, he worked as a webmaster for Ryuhana Press, a start-up promoting Japanese anime artists.

Snowden began posting on Ars Technica on December 29, 2001. He sought technical help for his work at the anime site and a website company called Clockwork Chihuahua.

As early as 2002, Snowden wrote online of his desire to work in Japan: "It is pretty far-fetched, but I've always dreamed of being able to make it in Japan."

An avid gamer, he posted on the ethics of video game piracy in 2003: "I feel the mega corporation is promoting hyper-materialism and I don't like that. That means I want to punish the company in any way I can."

"Legality does not factor into this, getting away with it (OMG dispensing justice LOL!) in order to do it again does," Snowden added. "If my actions contribute to driving the corporation I view as "evil" into the ground, I'll sleep easier at night knowing I have (in my mind) done society a service."

On Ars Technica, Snowden gave more advice than he sought. To others hoping to land U.S. government jobs, he bemoaned high living costs and commuting hassles in Washington.

"My life is great except for the fact that while I'm making twice the average income, I could not afford a house in my zip code without robbing a bank," he wrote in 2006.

And he wrote of life: "We're all in this crazy boat together. Best of luck, comrade."

So, what do you think? Hero or Traitor? Is he secretly working for the Chinese or is he just incredibly naive and stupid?

I think it’s a case of “all the above." His postings claim that he had a gun like James Bond and that tells me a lot. I think he sees himself as a virtual secret agent battling "the establishment", and he may very well have given information to the Chinese in furtherance of that illusion. He may also be deluding himself into thinking he’s a super hero fighting corporate greed.

He made no apparent attempt to “blow the whistle” following proper procedures. He downloaded information he knew was classified, smuggled the information out and released it knowing that it would in some way harm our National Security. He fled to Hong Kong and has given the Chinese at least some of the classified information –and claims he has more. He is considering an offer from Russia for asylum and has supposedly approached Iceland authorities with a similar request. He obviously has no intention of returning to the United States to take responsibility for his actions (unless forced).

I think he is a person who would like to promote himself as a hero by acting out a super spy illusion. He is, in reality, a spoiled, immature brat acting in a stupid manner which also happens to involve theft and treason. He has ruined his life. He will now either return to the United States to face a lengthy prison sentence, or he will forever remain in exile, jumping every time there is a knock at the door, and wishing he could enjoy some of the freedoms his actions have betrayed and undermined.

Live Long and Prosper...

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