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‘The Snowden Files’

A new biography of Edward Snowden lays out the life and motivations of the world’s “most wanted man.”

This handout file photo taken on Friday, July 12, 2013, and made available by Human Rights Watch shows NSA leaker Edward Snowden during his meeting with Russian activists and officials at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, Russia . (AP)

This handout file photo taken on Friday, July 12, 2013, and made available by Human Rights Watch shows NSA leaker Edward Snowden during his meeting with Russian activists and officials at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, Russia . (AP)

After all the months and revelations, it is still hard to take on board the full scale and impact of Edward Snowden’s undressing of the N.S.A.  The premier spy agency of a vast superpower, stripped in public of its deepest secrets by a 29-year-old high school dropout.  Enormous consequences, enormous debate – and the stripping, the leaking, isn’t over yet.  He’s called a traitor, he’s called a hero.  He may be the world’s most wanted man.  He’s still out there.  Who is Edward Snowden?  This hour On Point:  “The Snowden Files.”  A new biography on the life, motivation, and reality now of Edward Snowden.

– Tom Ashbrook


Luke Harding, foreign correspondent for The Guardian. Author of “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man.” Also co-author of “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy,” which served as the basis of the film “The Fifth Estate.” (@lukeharding1968)

Carroll Doherty, director of political research at the Pew Research Center. (@CarrollDoherty)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: The Needles in the Monumental N.S.A. Haystack –”The portrait he creates of Mr. Snowden is a familiar one — a geek and gamer most at home online, who never graduated from high school but whose ‘exceptional I.T. skills’ landed him a job with the Central Intelligence Agency and later as an N.S.A. contractor.”

CNN: Edward Snowden: World’s most wanted man, says new book — “The Guardian is a key player in the Snowden saga, having provided an outlet for the former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower to expose what he knew about the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs. Harding accessed a wealth of inside information, such as this story about how Snowden first connected via e-mail with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.”

The Daily Beast: Snowden Keeps Outwitting U.S. Spies – “Some allies of Snowden have speculated that any kind of master file of Snowden documents could only be accessed through a pass code or cryptographic key broken out into pieces controlled by several people in multiple jurisdictions throughout the world. That way. No one government could force a single person to give up access to Snowden’s motherlode.”

Read An Excerpt Of “The Snowden Files” By Luke Harding

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  • brettearle

    I deplore, strongly, the NSA’s possible violation, or actual violation, of constitutional rights.

    But how can Snowden be considered either a Hero, or be nominated for The Nobel Prize–unless we can be certain that, in his disclosures, he did not breach any serious line, whereby National Security was irrevocably, or seriously, threatened?

    • northeaster17

      If the powers that be had not totally run a muck and spied on the people they are charged to protect, as well as doing to same to our allies, this Snowden problem would have never happened. As far as I’m concerned they had it coming.

      • brettearle

        I understand why you feel the way that you do.

        I am outraged about any invasion of privacy of individuals.

        However, none of us can ignore the possibility that Snowden’s actions may have seriously breached National Security.

        You don’t know whether Snowden’s actions have done this or not. And I don’t know it either.

        Unless and until we do know, then I will hold back judgement, as to whether Snowden should be considered a hero or not.

        Can we assume that Snowden had the wherewithal and the expertise to know whether, at any time, he was breaching national security, to such a degree that we could literally be weakened or threatened?

        I doubt that he did know the difference or could discern the difference.

        Under this possible uncertainty, I don’t see how you can, 100%, offer this man acclaim.

        • Don_B1

          I don’t think northeaster17 gave 100% acclaim to Mr. Snowden.

          Nothing is pure black and white, no matter how much some (not including you!, but I think they are well known) on this site would claim.

          Just the vast amount of documents and the short time that Mr. Snowden had possession of them would seem to preclude his having the time to fully analyze the implications of everything that was included in the documents released.

          The total failure of the government to set up a reasonable path for whistleblowers to get full responses to their claims of misuse of government power is at the root of this and that IS a glaring failure of President Obama’s administration as well as previous administrations.

          • brettearle

            Thanks for your response.

            Appreciate your comments.

            First, a minor point. My reference to `Acclaim’ was addressed collectively, not personally. But I can see how any reader could have construed, otherwise.

            Secondly, the whistleblower recourse, with such a pressurized culture of security would almost surely have ended in failure–unless there would be a direct avenue for disclosure to Congessional Oversight.

            Basically, I also blame Congress for its carte blanche approach to NSA and Media for not being aggressive in reporting the agreements, for Oversight, pointed out by Senator Feinstein, when the story broke.

        • northeaster17

          You wrote “However, none of us can ignore the possibility that Snowden’s actions may have seriously breached National Security.

          You don’t know whether Snowden’s actions have done this or not. And I don’t know it either.

          Unless and until we do know, then I will hold back judgement, as to whether Snowden should be considered a hero or not.”……

          The government that controls all this info about our lives will not give us a straight answer unless that answer serves to preserve the status qua. I’m not happy to think this way but the NSA and the Military Complex are way past what’s best for our citizens and the world. It’s all about them now. And the money they need to survive. Snowden just called them out for it.

    • dfg

      I don’t believe the NSA did anything illegal. Whether or not the laws that were passed to enable these actions are constitutional or not is a different matter, one that the SC may have to consider at some point.

      • brettearle

        It’s a fair point, what you say.

        But it may also be true that NSA has far exceeded its authority, in ways that we don’t even have a clue about.

      • Don_B1

        But at least some in Congress (e.g., Rep Sensenbrenner [R, WI]) do not believe the law allowed what the NSA did, or at least they did not intend that it allow such activities.

      • PoliticsWatcher

        How would it ever come to the SCOTUS if he hadn’t made it public? No possible way.

      • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

        The Constitution is the supreme law of the land (it says so right there), if you do something that contravenes it, then you’re doing something illegal.

        This isn’t high-level stuff.

    • Jasoturner

      He revealed that your government was lying to you. He revealed that it was betraying the law of the land. What is national security if you live in a state that tramples your rights and harvests your communications and records your transactions? That flatly lies to congressional committees?

      Without Snowden we would know none of this, and no reforms would ever be proposed.

      In New Hampshire, they say “Live Free or Die”. Such appears to be Snowden’s thinking, and for it I think he merits our thanks.

      • brettearle

        Your points are all excellent ones. Although the Jury may be still out, as was mentioned by another commenter, as to whether NSA violated laws that might have already been unconstitutional, but were laws, nevertheless.

        Maybe I’m exonerating a part of NSA’s actions, unjustifiably, based on a technicality….

        But, in any case, while everything you say is quite significant, it STILL does not answer the actual question about whether a true, and real, breach of National Security has occurred.

        I can’t imagine how a thoughtful guy like you would give Snowden a complete pass, on his actions, if he had breached security and therefore threatened the country–even if it were done, Unwittingly.

        • Jasoturner

          A fair and difficult question. Unlike Bradley Manning, who just dumped a bunch or raw intelligence into Wikileaks’ lap, Snowden engaged respected journalists to vet material prior to publication to prevent items affecting national security from being released. While this is not a foolproof approach, it does demonstrate his awareness that he was dealing with fire, and that he needed to be very cautious and protective of sensitive materials.

          In another way, I feel like we are discussing two different things. The information he revealed has value in it’s own right, as you point out, but the principles that motivated the release of that material are a different matter. Were Snowden a callow egomaniac, I would feel quite differently about him. But from what I have read and heard, he acted in good faith to try to expose an injustice carried out against fellow Americans. Sometimes a radical act is required to impel fundamental change, and I think fundamental change was (and is) needed in our surveillance state. And so I do not condemn his actions.

          Perhaps the worst outcome would be some less thoughtful Snowden wannabes trying to recreate his act with bad results. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. And that may be a major reason why the U.S. will never cut a deal with him…

    • PoliticsWatcher

      You go to war against government tyranny with the whistle-blower you have, not the whistle-blower you might wish to have.

      With apologies to Rumsfeld.

      • brettearle

        You’re missing THE point.

        Snowden may NOT have had the expertise to judge what he made off with, as far as how much of a breach of National Security there was apparent, in its contents.

        • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

          I agree. If you take it upon yourself to personally override your countries entire classification system, then you better be damn sure you know exactly what you’re doing.

  • andrewgarrett

    It’s hard to get my puny brain to understand why Snowden, who supposedly doesn’t like surveillance, goes to Russia and China, the two largest remaining surveillance states on the planet. Yes, his actions helped them, although it seems he was only a useful idiot. Is his next stop NK?

    • brettearle

      ASIDE from propaganda, how do we know, for sure, that Snowden’s actions have helped those countries?

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      Because most other countries would have given him a 1 way ticket to the USA.

    • PoliticsWatcher

      He had to go to a non-ally of the USA. Duh.

  • brettearle

    Can you be more specific about trade negotiations?

    I don’t see it.

    What i also don’t see is what you also said above:

    “But fueling and milking public outrage at this “revelation” can yield benefits in other venues”

    How? What sort of benefits?

    • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

      Brazil’s President cancelled a plan trip to the US over these revelations (hard to negotiate when you’re not in the same room) and Brazil also moved away from a Boeing bid over a defense contract.

      In addition, the TPP and trans-Atlantic processes have both been weakened because of these revelations – particularly the European trade deal.

      • brettearle


        Didn’t know that.

        Can you give me a credible reference on the TPP and how Snowden has affected Trade Negotiations?

  • Duras

    In a democracy, the citizens should know what the government is doing to them.

    This is the real “Big government”–the Orwellian government.

    And democrats are too scared to say that the intelligence was adequate before 9/11. We had an inadequate president who was accurately informed about the impending danger.

    Now we have erected the surveillance state, homeland security is eating up tax dollars, and both political parties are scared to cut it because it could hurt them politically when the next terrorist attack happens.

    Thomas Jefferson: “An informed citizenry is the bulwark of democracy.”

    Thomas Hobbs: “Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man.”

    Hobbs was wrong. A common Power to keep them all in awe is keeping us in the perpetual war against terror. “Terror”–a nice Owellian word that means almost anything and nothing at the same time.

  • Coastghost

    We can be sure that Luke Harding has no motivation that entails boosting Guardian circulation, enhancing Guardian credibility, or earning the Guardian any income whatsoever. Harding’s motivations, just like the Guardian’s and arguably just like Snowden’s, are purely idealistic and thus purely utopian.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      Clearly :D
      He doesn’t expect to extend HIS 15 minutes of fame AT ALL!

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    1) Snowden is a criminal. He MIGHT have been a “hero” if he had gone to one of the many Senators or Representatives who have been highly critical of the NSA’s LEGAL work who would have “started the conversation” without blasting anything and everything to the press.
    2) Snowden is the perfect example of why NSA records should NOT be kept by a non governmental organization. If we can’t trust contractors hired by the government and sworn to secrecy, why does anyone think we can trust a “generic company” employee?

    • PoliticsWatcher

      1) Congress has subpoena power. It already knows everything.

      2) Private industry already has those records, because they created them. The only question is should the NSA also have them.

      • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

        If you think Congress knows everything, then you haven’t been paying attention. A few members on a few committees knew a few things.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Yes and no. It was confidential information. He should have gone to a non news “ear”.

  • rich4321

    HA! That’s big data for everyone!

  • Jasoturner

    Snowden calculated – probably correctly – that running his concerns through the chain of command was a mug’s game – the process was fixed to conceal the truth from American citizens, and he would have been permanently sidelined and muzzled. His decision to inform his fellow citizens was therefore a moral act that took great courage – don’t forget that the issue of his asylum was not a forgone conclusion, and he was aware that imprisonment was likely.

    It is telling that James Clapper lied to congress rather than admit to the ostensibly legal data harvesting that was taking place under his watch. This strongly suggests that, just like Snowden, our government knew what it was doing was wrong and probably illegal.

    Ultimately, Snowden deemed it his duty to tell me and my fellow citizens the truth about our government’s activities, whereas the security apparatus flat-out lied about it. Not hard to figure out which party is more heroic…

    • Agnostic58

      Exactly. Why did Clapper think it necessary to lie to his own government?

    • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

      I don’t have a problem with Snowden leaking that the NSA was spying on Americans. I have a problem with Snowden leaking that the NSA is also spying on Germany, Brazil, and China. What purpose did that serve?

      • Jasoturner

        Friends and enemies alike already knew damn well we worked to intercept their signals – read The Puzzle Palace that was published way back in the 80′s. What got Angela Merkel pissed off was our interception of her private communications – that is considered bad diplomatic form. You will note that the international diplomatic response was actually pretty muted, aside from some feigned outrage. Because they all play the same game as us and they all know about it…

        • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

          I don’t disagree – there’s been a ton of hypocrisy in the international response. Our allies already knew this was happening, but that doesn’t mean that putting it into the public square wasn’t harmful. The PR hit to American foreign policy has been substantial. That’s the result of an illegal leak by Edward Snowden, and in this case he can’t make the public interest defense.

          • Jasoturner

            Can you explain why Clapper lied to congress? That, to me, is a very telling piece of the puzzle. If you can’t trust the head of the NSA to tell the truth, then how can we know the truth *without* guys like Snowden?

          • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

            Obviously, I can’t speak for Clapper. I presume that he lied because he had just been asked to disclose a classified program and he didn’t want to do that. That’s not a valid defense when you’re giving sworn testimony to Congress.

            I don’t believe trust has that much to do with it. You dont build a system as powerful as America’s intelligence programs and then hinge the whole thing on trust. There’s no substitute for Congress doing its oversight job. If Congress won’t do it, then its our job to vote them out.

            That’s the thing about a democracy, you get the government you vote for.

  • Coastghost

    On the basis of what we’ve been told, Snowden is a TRAITOR to the US, just as unambiguously and just as much as a Hanssen or an Ames, at least as unambiguously and at least as much if not more so (though his status as a Russian agent remains to be discerned, if indeed he is: he certainly is no brave human rights campaigner, else he would already have begun speaking up for Russian domestic dissidents in the past several months).
    The Brits working at the Guardian seem altogether dismissive of the perils wrought by a Philby, a Burgess, a Maclean.

    • PoliticsWatcher

      Oh, please. Only in an Orwellian fantasy is he a spy.

  • wauch

    This man is a hero. Clapper should be brought up on charges of lying to congress. He would get about as fair a trial as accused al-queda or taliban brought up from Guantanamo.

    • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

      I think Rand Paul’s suggestion that Clapper and Snowden share a cell was pretty good advice.

  • Coastghost

    Edward Snowden: principled megalomaniac, untethered idealist, odious traitor.

    • brettearle

      He’s a traitor, if he willfully disclosed information that is a threat, in my view, to National Security.

      He is not a traitor, in my view, if he disclosed information that clearly revealed that the NSA was in violation of the Constitution or of any Law, so promulgated, to protect the security and safety of the american Public.

      If he has done both, than he is both a Hero and a Traitor.

  • art525

    Snowden strikes me as a not very smart yet pretty self important twit whose big ego made him feel entitiled to determine what should and should not be held secret. Do we really want any old contractor to decide what should be made public and put personal and policies in jeopardy? Does he really have the knowledge and the savvy to make such sweeping determinations? I don’t think so. Perhaps the NSA needs oversight but this was not the way to do it. We can see from the predicament he got himself into that he isn’t the sharpest pencil. Greenwald, Snowden and Assange all seem cut from the same cloth- self important raging egos with big self serving ambitions.

    • PoliticsWatcher

      Yeah, just like George Washington. Big ego. Caused a lot of trouble.

      • art525

        Nice try but no not just like George Washington. He had no regard for any persons or policies that might be jeopardized. He did not behave in a moral and honorable way. He did not have a respect for this countrty, only an arrogant sense of self righteousness. And Washington put himself on the line for wht he believed in. He didn’t run off to a country that is our longrtime enemy. It is offensive to try to place Snowden in the pantheon with a great American hero.

    • Agnostic58

      Yeah what we need are more compliant, see-nothing citizens who look the other way when their government is kicking the teeth out of the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold, written incidentally by the very type of individuals you are decrying about here.

      • art525

        Yeah you’re right, what we need are self anointed young twits who don’t know the whole picture and take it upon their superior selves to control surveillance policies and activities. He of course has been trained and better and is the ultimate expert on how these Ctivities should be pursued.

        • Agnostic58

          The self-annointed ones are the ones running our secret government doing things that not one election gave them a mandate to do. They have done everything in their power to keep this from the light of day including lying to Congress and opposing any case from reaching a real visible court.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Double agent


  • sam liu

    SNOWDEN is suck a traitor that the Chinese Govt is blocking The Guardian’s website!

  • bmad2012

    Snowden is a whistle blower. Equating him with British turncoats Philby and Burgess is ridiculous, and just reveals a lack of historical knowledge. When his leaks were first published, those (such as ex intelligence officials) denouncing him claimed he had done damage to the U.S. – yet when asked to specify the damage done, could not specify what they alleged.

    Here is one example

    “Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said Edward Snowden’s disclosure of top-secret U.S. surveillance, including spying on allies, harmed national security more than any other leak in modern times.

    “The damage here was extensive, the most damage that I have ever seen from a disclosure,” Morell, a 33-year veteran of the U.S. spy agency, said today at a forum in Washington sponsored by Bloomberg Government.

    Morell, 55, who retired in August after twice serving as acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, declined to say whether spying on allies is necessary or what the damage has been …

    • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

      Whether or not spying on allies is necessary, it is legal. Leaking that information was illegal. Snowden should go to prison for that.

  • nvictoria

    Edward Snowden has done much more to improve the lives of American citizens during the past year than congress has. Let’s bring him home and welcome him.

  • Coastghost

    Oh joy: Americans will recognize betrayal and traitorous behavior only if an opinion poll confirms us in such belief.
    It’s at least as late as we might think . . . .

  • https://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

    Snowden is a genuine American hero of the first order, who threw away his entire life to inform the American people of the crimes being committed every day by their government, which appears more and more to be properly viewed as an occupying force and/or a domestic enemy of the people.

    • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

      Do you think it should be illegal for the US to spy on China? Or to spy on Germany? (More to the point, do you think that it is – in fact – illegal to do so?) If not, then why should Snowden get a pass for leaking that as well?

      He exposed some really disturbing things and America is better for it. Lionize that, but don’t make him out to be some sort of saint because it fits an easy narrative.

    • Fredlinskip

      A case of good ol’ “tyrannical government”, you say?
      What do you think of Baradley Manning?

  • bmad2012

    Yes, the disgrace is not that Snowden revealed NSA spying, it is that the it was so easy for a contractor to gather so much data so easily. For all we know, the Chinese, etc. have paid or blackmailed others for same data. Mexican cartels use the threat of “silver or lead”. How do we know that hasn’t happened, or is happening? Snowden was one contractor among thousands. Ultimately he has performed a real service to U.S. intelligence agencies by convincingly revealing how easy it is take data from the NSA

  • John_Hamilton

    Snowden did a great thing in exposing the national security state. One thing that is ignored is that it was inevitable that someone would do this.

    National securityists – government and corporate total information awareness-ites – can be accurately seen as prurient information addicts. They’re humans, not automatons, and as such are ALL highly flawed. NO ONE can be trusted with the power to spy on whomever they have the capability of spying on worldwide. As J.Edgar Hoover so abundantly proved, information is power, and power corrupts. It isn’t just absolute power that corrupts absolutely, ANY power corrupts absolutely.

    As for Snowden himself, thanks. Beyond that, who cares about whether or not he is a narcissist, “troubled,” a “traitor,” high school dropout, “loner,” or whatever, attention-seeker, weirdo, or “nerd?” The enraged will say anything to cloud the issue, distracting from its essence. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, the genie is out of the bottle, and the can of worms is open. We now have a formerly secret government intrusion trying to get the cat back in the bag, the genie back in the bottle, and the worms back in the can.

    And, of course, this is all in the context of a declining infinite-growth economic system under conditions of increasingly severe global climate change. Does the NSA have an answer for global warming? Yes. It is to spy on the people who are trying to do something about it.

  • Euphoriologist

    Most of the criticism of Snowden I’ve heard comes from the right, which makes no sense to me. As shown, Snowden himself was on the right, a proud patriot, a fan of smaller government, and believer in strong national security. Modern conservatives literally could not have asked for a more passionate champion against rampant government over-reach.

    IRS? They are puny! Snowden has revealed that, under Obama, the entire weight of the enormous US military intelligence community has been UNDENIABLY eavesdropping on ALL his political enemies’ communications. All your communications are stored forever in personal dossiers in an impenetrable digital fortress that will exist in eternity to be searched retroactively any time the government deems you a threat to its goals.

    This massive violation of privacy — and, yes, the US Constitution — is far beyond what even the most paranoid, anti-Obama Tea Partier could have imagined. If you are one of these people, your worst dreams have shown to be a reality. As some of you predicted, Obama’s government has been shown IN REALITY to be tapping your phones and reading your emails ever since he was elected. Even after they have been exposed, the watchers continue to do it in broad daylight! Consider that we civilians still only know a fraction yet of how our privacy has been violated in secret…and be chilled.

    If you believe in freedom; if you believe in the inalienable rights granted to all US citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights; if you believe in reversing this unprecedented government intrusion into all of our lives; then join us tomorrow and help fight back this 21st-century leviathan in any way you can:


    All that is required is that you believe in the right not to have your every word and action be monitored by the government. Together we CAN stop this. See you there.

    • Jasoturner

      Ah, but your opening paragraph is a straw man. Republicans, and all politicians, bow before the military and security agencies like worshipful supplicants. Our ruling class covets money, power and prestige. There is little in it for them to applaud Snowden and his actions.

      What a shame that our craven political leaders are merrily destroying our culture through their political decisiveness to boot…

      • Euphoriologist

        Most republican politicians may be do what the security agencies tell them to do, but that doesn’t mean conservative voters have to do the same. Rand Paul certainly doesn’t, and many think he could be the next Republican presidential candidate. That would be quite interesting (especially as Hilary is all but certain to take the NSA’s side of things on all issues.)

        Valuing privacy shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

        • Jasoturner

          I don’t think you need limit it to republicans. It seems pretty obvious to me that our president was intimidated by, and deferred to, his military and security advisers. And most other democrats are also terrified of appearing soft on national security issues.

          Can’t say I can envision Rand Paul as the next republican presidential candidate. Though I also confess I have absolutely no idea who can survive the republican primaries and still appeal to enough people to win the general.

    • Fredlinskip

      Why do you say “Obama’s government has been tapping…”?
      Are you saying “Bush’s government” did not maintain the same policy? How would you know this? Isn’t it most likely after 9/11, W initiated the policy?

      Dems lost 3 elections after 9/11, because GOP played the “we’re tougher on terrorism” card.
      This basic fact has much to do with why Dems continue a lot of the same flawed policies W initiated.

      • Euphoriologist

        Bush absolutely started the craze of wiretapping of US civilians. But it’s impossible to deny that the NSA’s capabilities expanded even further under president Obama. The Bush-era NSA wasn’t wiretapping smartphone apps or reading Google’s unencrypted server traffic, to mention some of the programs that have been exposed. The NSA was caught violating the Constitution multiple times in federal court on Obama’s watch. He must have at least known of these instances, at the very least.

        Bush started it, but Obama’s hands are at least as dirty now. It’s even worse when you realize Obama ran on *ending* illegal wiretapping.

        I’m just point out that Tea Partiers who said Obama’s government, their #1 enemy, was spying on them were brushed off as paranoid. Yet it turns out their worst fears were right all along. This is frightening stuff. They should be thanking Snowden for revealing this. We all should, in my opinion.

        • Fredlinskip

          It’s frightening if you believe Big Gov is monitoring ones every move.
          It’s not so frightening if they are simply storing data for future reference if permission is granted by FISA courts, so as to use as a tool in prevention of massive attacks on Americans soil.

  • Don_B1

    Actually, it is the accumulation of phone call metadata over long periods of time that the NSA claims helps identify but the phone companies currently only keep that type of data for a month or so, which is not long enough.

    But there are people who claim to know enough to have a sound basis for asserting that this “brute-force” approach has not helped in making the country safer while making individuals less safe from other threats.

    The problem is that the public has to trust individuals to preserve secrets while representing the interests of everyone in ensuring that the government does not do more than is necessary to lower risks from all threats while recognizing that the elimination of all risks is not possible.

  • Bruce94

    For another perspective on the motivations of Snowden et al. (and one I’d argue is more balanced than today’s guest, Luke Harding), I came across the following TNR article by Sean Wilentz. It recounts the details of what some (who are being charitable?) might term Snowden’s evolution as well as the glaring contradictions in several of his statements and actions that today’s interview delved into somewhat. In addition, Wilentz provides a window into the paleoconservative/libertarian far-right ideology that seemed to propel his deeds or misdeeds depending on your point of view.


  • MattCA12

    I have a hard time believing that Snowden is an American patriot who is interested in freedom. He fled to Russia and seeks refuge there, an enemy of the US (however undeclared) and one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

    • insert name here

      The fact that he had to stay in Russia because he was probably going to be nabbed on the flight out by the American government for exposing its lies should tell you something. It should tell you, among other things, that Russia isn’t the only repressive regime in the world. Asylum isn’t about finding the most moral government (as if such a thing existed) its about being protected from undue punishment for political activity.

      • harverdphd

        No wonder no dissidents ever come to the US! Thanks for clearing that up.

        • insert name here

          I don’t understand your logic. Are you saying that because dissidents have taken refuge in the United States, then it must be a non-repressive nation? If a dissident takes refuge in Russia, would you grant the same distinction to that country?

    • PoliticsWatcher

      He fled because he was pursued. Easy for you to say he could have gone elsewhere.

    • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

      Snowden stripped his actions of a lot of their moral power by fleeing. He should have faced the music.

  • Petar Maymounkov

    Today Tom Ashbrook danced around for one hour on the topic what

    should we do with Snowden. The issue was that he made no intellectual

    progress (i.e. no deductive skills) from the pretty useful data that

    was available in his very own spoken words over the radio.

    So let me interpret the confusion for his audience and, hopefully,


    Your interviewee and yourself both admitted, not in these words, that Snowden,

    for his age, is surprisingly intelligent. He outwitted the NSA (a scary

    but vague concept). Puzzling indeed. But instead of accepting the

    hard-to-believe conjecture that Snowden is really smart (truthfully

    way smarter than both of you, because you admit you can’t comprehend his

    precision-in-action) you decided to go for the more believable

    explanation that the NSA is sloppy and you kinda left it there.

    Because it felt most comforting.

    You are exactly wrong. Ask yourself: How do I know this?

  • amstel

    I think he’s a naive libertarian ideologue who didn’t understand the gravity of what he’s doing. The NSA program is all about preventing a 9/11 redux with WMD.

    • Agnostic58

      And whose minding the line set by the Constitution in all this “preventing”? Feinstein and McCain and Graham? Please.

    • artymowski

      Amazing! He went from diapers to knickers, to true believer, to cynic, to traitor in the time people decide what to get for dessert dining out! What a genius indeed!

  • PoliticsWatcher

    Because mindless loyalty is the only thing that matters?

    Tell the intelligence services that they should never lie about anything.

  • PoliticsWatcher

    What damage? What people? You have no evidence, only preconceptions.

  • Fredlinskip

    Everything our “intelligence” agencies do should be broadcast daily on the News as public information.
    No secrecy whatsoever-
    Americans have the right to know.

    • artymowski

      Oh yes! Testify! You got it! Webcams in all the Hush-Hush meetings. Maybe Putin will join hands with us as well;>

      • Fredlinskip

        You’re catching on.
        Snowden should be canonized as greatest patriot since Founding Fathers.

  • Beverly

    Snowden is an old fashioned thief. Off you go – to Iceland and Central America and Russia – don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

  • Jasoturner

    Even if your company is violating the law? Was the NSA standing behind their word to defend and protect the constitution? I think not.

    • Fredlinskip

      No- just America.

  • Duras

    I am so sick of this “We don’t have a democracy, we have a republic” inane comment.
    Of course we have a republic. When we speak of democracy we are using its abstract meaning, which seems lost in 21st-century America.
    The big deal is that the government is acting on its on people without the people’s knowledge. Anything that distorts democracy is a big deal.

  • LizinOregon

    I was disappointed to hear Tom buy into the US government’s trashing of the 1st Amendment by accusing the press of being an accomplice to a leaker. This is a huge issue that should not be buried in the canard of argumentative journalism and statements starting with “some people claim”. And why is he shouting?

    • Lusitan75

      Me too. (I am always late to these shows because I listen via podcast.) I was disappointed to hear Mr. Ashbrook pushing back, in apparent disbelief, against the idea that Mr. Snowden could have possibly come up with this “on his own” . . .

      Our government has been engaged in serious constitutional and statutory violations — unlawful spying on Americans, assassination of American citizens without due process, etc. Why the disbelief that an American citizen would risk his own life in a desperate attempt to bring this to light? Mr. Snowden has basically sacrificed his life to expose the criminal acts of the U.S. government, and this is how Mr. Ashbrook thinks of him?

      I suspect Mr. Ashbrook is just disturbed by the idea of anything tainting the saintly reputation of President Obama, still a subject of hero-worship among many. I can only imagine the outrage Mr. Ashbrook would be channeling if the Snowden revelations came to light under G.W. Bush.

      The fact that these crimes are being perpetrated under the administration of Team Blue shouldn’t matter. Team Red will do the same. We should all be outraged and Mr. Snowden should be considered a true patriot and hero for what he has done.

  • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

    Can I ask a question? Why is it that so many people insist on turning Edward Snowden into a symbol? His leaks on NSA spying on Americans served the public interest and I would be more than happy to consider pardoning him for that. But he also leaked a fair amount more than just that. Should he get a pass for telling the world that the US spies on world leaders? Or spies on China? What, exactly, did you think your NSA dollars were going to? http://bit.ly/1dMQsMD

  • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

    So…umm…what’s the difference between a republic and a democracy?

    • Fredlinskip

      Implication of Democracy is that majority rules.

      Republic implies that minority gets it’s say and in some respects gets to “gum up the works” so a temporary self-perceived “enlightened majority” doesn’t take courses of action that the country may later regret.
      This is the reason progress occurs SO SLOWLY.
      And is generally a good thing-
      Founders did possess a bit of wisdom.

      Unfortunately today’s GOP have taken this concept to machinations FAR beyond what founders intended in their WILDEST dreams-
      They have set precedents that could render our government fairly dysfunctional for generations-

      but that’s a discussion for another day.

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