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Edward Snowden: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Discussion in 'The Case For...' started by enjoypolo, Sep 22, 2019.

  1. enjoypolo

    enjoypolo Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jun 17, 2016
    Likes Received:

    Boy, oh boy.
    Been spending the week reading through Snowden's incredible latest book: Permanent Record. Only to notice that THC didn't even have a proper thread on him. So here it is, as a toast to him.

    Where to start? He is almost universally known as the former NSA whistleblower who came forward, via journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in June 2013 with probably the most exhaustive documentation of the US Government's extensive use of mass surveillance.

    It's funny sometimes, how little things change even though it's been 6-years since the initial revelations.
    Snowden is still in exile in Moscow, Russia after the US revoked his passport whilst on his way to Ecuador.
    I'm almost at the end of the book, and all I can say is, despite some of the suspicions I may have had on him in recent years, this personal and candid account drastically shifted how I perceive him.

    In fact, I have previously paid to attend public conferences where Snowden was interviewed live in Vancouver, but there is just so much context lost in the medium, not to mention he is quite reserved on personal details (nothing uncommon for a spy).
    What strikes me in reading his autobiography is 1) how young he is (36; 29 when he came public), and how weirdly similar our paths are (despite being 8-years senior than I): from growing up at the dawn of commercial computers to the dial-up era, with a familiar nostalgia for an Wild Wild West Internet (compared to today's gestapo-shopping-mall landscape); as well as much later, his stint in my native city of Tokyo, as an NSA officer in charge of all the cyber-systems collecting data, where Ed had his ultimate catalyst awakening moment.

    2) This may sound ironic given the differences in the context, but I couldn't help feel how Snowden's personal, intimate accounts– his awakening moment between the moment he realized the extent of the mass surveillance program, to edge-point where he left for Hong Kong (a period of almost 3-4 years of research, and soul-searching)– and how familiar it looks to those of us who have gone through the hardship of "waking up" amidst the traumas of slipping thru the bottomless rabbit-hole, upon which realizing the world around is but a stage (with a demonical plot-twist happening backstage) and difficult, but necessary evolution moment.
    And yet, I'm not even pretending to go through an oz of what he's been thru.

    In fact, it makes me realize that, this whistleblower experience (or whatever you want to call it) is a symptom shared by increasingly more people, on a collective scale. Some of us, like Snowden, were in more privileged positions, but with equally much more to lose. But all of us, collectively, are dealing with the consequences of a tyrannical, brave-new-world type of scenario unfolding amidst our eyes, on a daily basis. It's a testament to how much one person's conscious decision can have ripple effects onto the larger System.

    And though I can't help but smirk when certain passages mockingly refer to no alien-files being in the NSA databases (or about the moon landing) in typical tongue-in-cheek, I am genuinely curious how far up the foodchain Snowden has uncovered (ie, has he gone up to David Icke levels?)

    Last but not least, I genuinely think what Snowden has done is a heroic act, regardless of whether he is being deceitful or acting on low-vibration agenda (like Assange makes me feel). As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    This book is the zenith of this generation's zeigeist in my mind. And so far, most of the mainstream interviews with him are abhorring in their gestapo-style bias to frame him as a traitor. But hey, he's a smart guy and certainly doesn't let himself be fooled around by some petty mockingbird journalists.
    This is not even a review of the book, more like a pre-emptive draft, a place to share the enthusiasm.

    (this one is one of the more neutral ones available)

    If you haven't had a chance to check out his book, I highly advise it. If not just for the tour-de-force thrilling story it is. This is the film Snowden (by Oliver Stone) should have been!

    PS: In the midst of this reading, Robert Grant came up with a public demonstration of his new prime factorization algorithm that can crack 256-bit RSA encryptions in less-than-a-minute on a generic mac laptop. Nothing like that to realize how crazy the times we're living are!
    (If you want to know, Snowden encrypted his secret thrumbdrive with 4096-bits and 8192-bits encryption!)
    #1 enjoypolo, Sep 22, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  2. enjoypolo

    enjoypolo Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jun 17, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Here's a short summary of the book from a review I just wrote:
    Valuable insights from the book:

    1. The work handled at these secret facilities is done as frequently by private-sector contractors as it is by government servants. These cyber-spies are not accountable per government regulations.
    “68% of the classified 2013 Black Budget, some $52.6 billion, was dedicated to the IC, funding for 107,000+ employees, more than a fifth of whom, some 21,800 people were full-time contractors. And that number doesn’t even include the tens of thousands more employed by companies that have signed contracts (or subcontracts, or sub-subcontracts) with the agencies for a specific service or project”(Ch.12, Homo contractus).
    Furthermore, this structure promotes corruption at the highest levels, creating conflicts of interests, just as commonly as in the Finance industry (where regulators switch to private-sector and later return favours, and vice-versa.

    2. “The agency accounts of events were often very similar to the accounts that would eventually show up on network news, CNN, or Fox days later.”(Ch. 13 “Indoc”). This is another vindication that Mockingbird media outlets are nothing but the PR front of the IC, funded by think-tanks and billionaires, for specific agendas.

    3. “Cables, satellites, servers, towers–so much of the Internet’s infrastructure is under US control, that over 90% of the global Web traffic passes through technologies developed, owned and/or operated by the American government and businesses, most of which are located on American territory.” (Ch.16 “Tokyo”). This is not a new, nor even a surprising revelation per-se, however, it gives some context as to the implications of our personal data, and how it doesn’t matter as much where you live, for your private data to be collected. “These include software (Microsoft, Google, Oracle) and hardware (HP, Apple, Dell); Chips (Intel, Qualcomm), to the routers and modems (Cisco, Juniper) to web platforms providing emails and social networking, and cloud storage (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple)”

    4. The President’s Surveillance Program (PSP) an unclassified document released publicly in July of 2009 outlined the domestic and international surveillance program. However, this obscure document sent Ed searching through the NSA’s datbase to no avail.

    According to Snowden, “it was only later, long after I’d forgotten about the missing IG report, that the classified version came skimming across my desktop [..] I realized why I hadn’t had any luck finding it previously: it couldn’t be seen, not even by the heads of agencies. It was filed in an Exceptionally Controlled Information (ECI) compartment, an extremely rare classification used only to make sure that something would remain hidden even from those holding top-secret clearance. Because of my position, I was familiar with most of the ECIs at the NSA, but not this one.” (Ch. 16, Tokyo)

    There's tons more, including how shortly after he's been dealing with the mephistopheles-type demon eating him from inside-out, he was regularly suffering from epileptic seizures, due, no doubt to massive stress, insomnia, etc. I have to reiterate again, how insightful this book was. given how compartmentalization works, and we know there are security clearances way beyond Top-secret, makes me wonder how much Snowden is aware of.
    There's opportunity for a serious, bad-ass A-Team: Snowden, Kim.com, Robert Grant, Zach Vorhies, and other disillusioned defectors to recreate an internet for the Commons.