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The forced grounding of Bolivian President Morales' airplane over European airspace this week hints at an intense level of desperation if not panic among US security organizations over the Snowden affair. To interfere with a head of a sovereign state traveling across "friendly" airspace is simply breathtaking. Even to an ordinary citizen like me, this was an egregious breech of diplomatic protocol which sets a very dangerous precedent for global commerce on all levels. Violating the core concept of "safe passage" as well as flagrantly disrespecting Bolivian sovereignty puts US global citizenship in serious question.

Let me say that the US has not to my knowledge admitted asking European countries to close their airspace to President Morales' aircraft, but it strains credulity to believe that three countries--wholly on their own--decided to bar President Morales from crossing their airspace. This post assumes that thru one channel or another, the US at some level, made known to appropriate authorities an intense interest in seizing Edward Snowden.
My concern is that taking such a risky and damaging step suggests that there may be way more under the covers in this episode than has been revealed so far. The injuries to US interests that we know of to date include the compromising of sensitive secret information, Mr. Snowden's violation of a non-disclosure agreement and his fleeing the country and seeking asylum elsewhere.

The question that occurred to me early on was how much money Snowden stood to gain from his actions. To my knowledge (and someone please correct me if I'm wrong) other than WikiLeaks picking up daily expenses, he does not stand to make any money from this episode. So his own explanation, that he was acting as a conscientious citizen on behalf of the US public to reveal (in his view) unacceptable intrusions into their private affairs, remains (for the moment) credible.

However, Mr. Snowden whatever his intents and purposes has been effectively stranded in place and has been rendered a global pariah. While his king has been "checked," can the US call "checkmate" or does he still have moves? Or is it game over and back to the States to join Bradley Manning and John Kiriakou in the whistleblower gulag?

Please join me below the fold.

As an operator within the security apparatus, Snowden must have weighed these consequences when deciding to defy the world's (and history's) preeminent superpower. Besides, how could he not have considered the sheer magnitude of forces that would be arrayed against him--a solitary individual with no power base and with no resources beyond hoped-for sympathetic global opinion and the unknowable facilities of  WikiLeaks?

From the start, I did not feel that Mr. Snowden was the story here. For the reasons I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Snowden must have weighed his options and acted anyway, so his fate is his own and whether he is a folk hero or a vile traitor is a matter for US courts and global public opinion to decide. For now, I see the uproar over Mr. Snowden's whereabouts and his future to be red herrings arranged to deflect attention away from the leaked content, the nature of the surveillance system itself and the agencies that run these programs.

So, about the surveillance system. Do any other American citizens find it surprising that this level of highly classified information has been outsourced to a private corporation? I was stunned. Private corporations have their own agendas, their own interests and their undisputed purpose in life is profit.

If there is such heightened concern over the handling of such sensitive information, then how does it make sense to cede control over this national "treasure trove" to a private corporation with its own interests, its own personnel reporting to its own management and with a (no doubt) expansive profit motive? With forty years in the corporate world under my belt, i'm very wary of corporate executives' commitment to business outcomes that don't prioritize first their company's interests and next their own personal interest. As a US taxpayer, I'm totally convinced that "secrets" especially those sensitive enough to disrupt global diplomacy must remain under the total and complete control of the US government.

Another troublesome issue arises from the reporting that Mr. Snowden was an independent contractor, not even a permanent employee of the company. Nothing against independent contractors. I myself worked as an independent contractor in Silicon Valley on and off over the years and the individual's level of commitment is not in question. However, a company uses an independent contractor when a project calls for specialized skills which will be needed only for the life of the project or they use independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and be able to terminate employment without severance pay or litigation hassles.

I can live with all of that in a regular company, but in a company that is serving as a branch of the NSA handling the nation's most sensitive secret data, this is simply unacceptable (at least to this taxpayer). It can certainly be argued that many, many whistleblowers or leakers or whatever we call them were in fact US government employees and they spilled the beans anyway. No doubt...but if a breech does occur, the US government has full access to its own processes and personnel and can review them without involving proprietary corporate resources which may be restricted or withheld overtly or covertly. On the corporate side that may well never happen as i described, but we just don't know as long everything is tightly shrouded in secrecy.

There's still a lot of troubling issues to discuss, but this post is getting very long and I will close by mentioning one other aspect that I find deeply troubling: the actual content of the compromised data. We know that much concerns communications meta-data, but Snowden apparently is believed to possess much more secret material. With the negative reactions from friend and foe alike, it would seem that many oxen have been shown to be gored in these revelations.

My last thought at this time is that in the information world, openness and transparency are always healthier for a democracy than secrecy. Once unaccountable forces, whether employed by the government or a corporation, start operating behind a shroud of secrecy, it's time to turn on the lights. Knowledge is power and power corrupts and with apologies to Lord Acton, unaccountable power corrupts absolutely.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Eh ? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smiley7, Shockwave, Little
    As a US taxpayer, I'm totally convinced that "secrets" especially those sensitive enough to disrupt global diplomacy must remain under the total and complete control of the US government.
    Pentagon Papers ?

    The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

    by indycam on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:39:39 PM PDT

  •  Le Monde has just exposed (17+ / 0-)

    NSA a la Francaise,

    France 'has vast data surveillance' - Le Monde report

    They have an ample supply of their own dirty linen to cover up. After token outrage over the Snowden revelations they have found it expedient to circle the wagons with the other wielders of global power.

  •  US Tech (16+ / 0-)

    to pay the price for NSA overreach:

    European businesses are likely to abandon the services of American internet providers because of the National Security Agency surveillance scandal, the European commission has warned.

    Neelie Kroes, the commission vice-president who speaks on digital affairs, predicted that providers of cloud services, which allow users to store and access data on remote servers, could suffer significant loss of business if clients fear the security of their material is under threat.

    The warning came as it appeared that the Americans and the Europeans were to start investigating alleged breaches of data privacy in the EU as well as US intelligence and espionage practices.

  •  Snowden has gone full truther. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  It's Been a Corporate State for Some Time (7+ / 0-)

    so no I wasn't surprised that corporations were conducting and processing surveillance, any more than I'm surprised that corporations conduct some of our military functions and run our prisons and operate our schools, run our ports and own or lease our highways.

    Incidentally, remember also what this means about the free press.

    In a corporate state, with a corporate press, the free press becomes the state press.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:11:33 PM PDT

  •  A note about private contractors in the security (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TracieLynn, ybruti, david78209, OldDragon


    They've been used heavily since the 60's.

    The use of contractors to some level is understandable. It can provide cover for on the ground security operations overseas. I believe if you look deeply at the Plame affair, you will find that a cover operation was blown and that cover would be related to private contractors.

    They have their uses.

    That said, the use of private contractors to provide basic infrastructure and analysis functions serves no other purpose than to detach the security services from these functions and to enrich the contractors. Nothing opens the security services up to corruption and abuse more than the outsourcing of what should be key competencies for such an agency.

    This works needs to come back in house, and then a new service formed with no other purpose than to police the internal workings of the security services.

    And truly, the private contractors is where the reasonable conversation regarding our security services needs to begin, and then it can branch out easily and with comity from there.

    John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

    by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:32:52 PM PDT

    •  One further note (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Christopher Boyce also worked for a private contractor, and that dates back nearly four decades.

      John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

      by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:34:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is a statement from you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that I can agree with. However whenever a good many of us try and bring up the contractors and outsourcing, those threads get hijacked too.

      •  I tried multiple times last week. (7+ / 1-)

        And got slammed and HRed all over the place.

        That is the single most critical issue to address immediately. Infrastructure and analysis are the most basic of core competencies for these agencies (NSA, CIA, OSI, etc.) and they are outsourced on a widespread basis for no other purpose than to detach those core competencies from the agencies and to enrich those contractors. IT costs more, decreases security, opens up wide abuses, and simply must stop.

        John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

        by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:44:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well to be fair (5+ / 0-)

          you brought many of your HR's upon yourself. I know because Im one of the people who HR'd you, and Ive almost never HR'd. Your statements have been everything from rude to racist and give the appearance of diary hijacking. I think you do much yourself much more justice when you expand beyond one sentence retorts. Just something you may want to think about. Sometimes we get so passionate about our beliefs that we need to step back and look at ourselves.

          The whole contractor thing is a mess and Ive been working on a diary series about the people/programs behind the scenes. Its a hotbed of corruption and favors and needs to stopped. Not only does it foster corruption and potential 'Snowden Incidents' but it leads to pay envy & brain-drains from our actual intelligence agencies.

          •  Oh I agree, I went off. I deserved many of them (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I let the HRs that simply were because of feuds and nothing else get the best of me, then went off. It was wrong.

            That said...

            I can see outsourcing of these functions from the individual agencies, but only internally to the government. For example, if infrastructure services are best fit into the NSA, then let the CIA and other agencies basically expend parts of their budget to have the NSA run the infrastructure for them.

            It's how super large corporations with multiple corporate entities around the globe operate to keep their information in house and protected from third parties while still taking advantage of economies of scale to bring down costs.

            Heck, a new security agency that does nothing but infrastructure and analysis for all of the security agencies would be a better way to do things as it keeps the accountability in one agency within the government, is more secure, allows for leveraging of economies of scale across the entire body of security agencies to do it more cheaply, and would be much more transparent in terms of watching for abuses.

            John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

            by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:09:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Contractors abusing their access (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              rights or dong any unconstitutional activities need to face the full force of the law that a soldier, etc would for dong the same thing. They need more than 'put on paid-leave' until things die down. Whistleblowers need protection for reporting actual violatons of the law that are not being acted upon by the chain of command or involve that chain of command itself. They need to know that their backs will be covered for dong the right thing, otherwise it fosters a 'cant beat them, join them' attitude.  Their should infact be a reward for such behavior, then perhaps people would not feel the need to flee the country and spread our intelligence secrets to the  rest of the world in hope of getting safe-harbor somewhere.f we cannot be informed of these programs, budgets etc, then at a very least EVERY member of Congress should, so that oversight is not left to any one or two judges or any 'gangs of 8', etc.

              •  The Whistleblower Protection Act needs a rewrite (4+ / 0-)

                to take into account private contractors and provide a solid framework for how to blow the whislte on waste, fraud, and abuse by the contractors because all three are going to be far more prevalent in the private sector.

                I believe we need a disinterested third party completely detached form the DHS to perform the duties of watchdog. Personally, I think the GAO would be the best spot for such a service.

                Where contractors are concerned, blowing the whistle has to be detached completely from the contracting corporation. The GAO would provide this function under my model. Furthermore, the whistle blower's identity must remain anonymous until such a time as the GAO feels it must bring in the DOJ for criminal charges. Obviously, nobody can be prosecuted with witnesses whose identities are not revealed. In those severe cases, monetary rewards and some form of reward through a job within the GAO or other government agency needs to be a part of the protection. Few people can afford to risk their jobs in order to insure the right thing is done.

                John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

                by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:52:44 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Would-be whistleblowers should have a direct line (0+ / 0-)

                  to the most skeptical Senators and Representatives.  Snowden should have had a way to speak straight to Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden.  Dianne Feinstein seems to be a tool, dupe, or rubber stamp for whatever the spooks want.
                  And any whistleblower should have direct access like that, confidentially, with an ironclad guarantee of no retribution.

                  I think Snowden tried some of these avenues, and got nowhere.  It's been said there are no official channels, only official oceans and official sewers.  Somehow, that has to change.

                  We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

                  by david78209 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 08:33:13 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  One other thing (0+ / 0-)

            I even started a diary about this very subject and got slammed so hard I deleted it.

            John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

            by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:09:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  That HR (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is not warranted. Never thought Id be saying Walt does not deserve one, but.. there it is. He has made an apology of sorts below and is already NR. Id like to try and give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope that he is genuine in those remarks.

          If not, it will be obvious real soon and the HR's will still be around to be given.

          •  Thanks, you don't need to call out my lumps (0+ / 0-)

            I've pissed off a lot of people and in most cases, I will say nothing about most of those few HRs on posts since pissing off so many. I deserved them before and taking more lumps now is nothing more than doing penance in most cases.

            There are a few people who still stake me out and make sure they HR posts that piss me off, but that's all par for the course.

            John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

            by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:55:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  The fact that the Obama administration... (10+ / 0-) willing to violate international to catch Snowden tells me that there is something else going on.

    I was of the opinion that the NSA was doing what Snowden confirmed as far as metadata and Internet information.  Snowden just confirmed it.

    Even if Snowden is a "criminal", catching him must have much more significance than what he disclosed.

    Two possibilities;

    1) The Obama administration wants to make his capture a symbolic act against future whistleblowers and this is more important than relations with most Latin American countries.

    2) More disclosures lie ahead that are more damaging to whatever reputation the NSA, CIA and the US have and by catching him they may stop this.

    In either case there is no winning move.

    Obama made a gross miscalculation diverting the Bolivian Air Force One.  And not coming out clean about the extent of NSA activities is another.

    The NSA has spent untold billions to stop at best a handful of lesser terrorist acts.  They have also implemented an intelligence infrastructure that can be used to suppress opposition in the US and abroad if it falls in the hands of a future J Edgar Hoover or Dick Cheney.

    Things are not looking good, thanks to an "independent contractor".  This also proves that the NSA is not capable of securing the data that they have accumulated.

    Things don't look good.

    Just thinking aloud.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:34:32 PM PDT

  •  Ive got a great question... (10+ / 0-)

    How many people do we expect to have their lives saved by preventing terrorism? If we took the money spent on preventing terrorism and used it for universal medical how many lives would be saved.

    I know its not relevant, but it is...

    Its all about framing and we let media government corporations do all the framing. We treat Republicans like they are sincere and terrorism like its a threat more dangerous than drowning in a swimming pool.

    The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

    by fToRrEeEsSt on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:36:50 PM PDT

    •  There has been a lot of discussion about that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fToRrEeEsSt, Cliss

      Here's a diary I did on it.

      There have been some others.

      •  A lot is a stretch... (5+ / 0-)

        Not enough if you ask me.

        Its not just terrorism its everything. We are arguing if Snowden is a sinner or a saint, when its irrelevant. We are asking if the NSA is legal or illegal, when its irrelevant.

        War on Terror, War on Drugs, Military spending, Republicans, etc...

        We even have many people on the site call social programs 'entitlements'.

        The best framing i've seen from the left was OWS and the 1%/99% and truth is its the only framing victory we've had.

        Its not if Snowden is a hero or a Traitor or if the NSa is legal or illegal. Its if we should be spending billions of dollars making data haystacks.

        But no one asks that...

        The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

        by fToRrEeEsSt on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:52:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "A lot of discussion" could mean here on Daily Kos (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not sure I'd use the term 'a lot' but I remember a diary comparing the number of terrorism deaths with the number of gun accident deaths.  

          But out in what I'll call the Lamestream Media, I don't remember seeing anything.

          We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

          by david78209 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 08:43:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I agree with all of the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cliss, OldDragon


    There is a load of muck that hopefully with hit the fan the sooner the better.  God only knows what it will to the 2014 elections.  That scares me more than the NSA.

    This is Bush's baby and I am sorry Obama has bought into it, probably he had no real choice, but unless he mans up, and soon, against the secret cops, and for transparency, his legacy is likely to part or want ends of being muck forked.

  •  FWIW... (8+ / 0-)

    I saw this coming many years ago, understood the implications, and chose to dial back my online footprint as a result.  While I'm not a Luddite, I no longer use either Facebook or Twitter and have multiple layers of distance between my online and real-world identities.

    The diarist is correct in redirecting our attention to the problem / issue, not the person who exposed the problem.

    This is a BFD, regardless of the eventual disposition of Edward Snowden.  This is about YOU and your privacy and your personal information and your ability to consort with whomever you please in the absence of overt criminal intent.

    Stop following the shiny object.

    "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

    by Richard Cranium on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 05:52:07 PM PDT

    •  My Facebook is Only a Pointer to My Web Site (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't ever act there or do anything elsewhere in digital space that points to my identity there.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:34:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There was no "forced grounding" (0+ / 0-)

    The plane was going to have to refuel somewhere, even if they took their preferred route.

    Non futuis apud Boston

    by kenlac on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:09:23 PM PDT

    •  A Rose by any other name... (0+ / 0-)

      If you're up for more cliches...more than one way to skin a cat.

      Point is...someone in the administration IMHO made a bad call and kneejerked this whole incident into existence. I'm clearly not adequately informed on the way things work in the Big Bad World, but I just can't buy France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all had the same thought at the same time to refuse to accept that airplane. And Vienna was definitely not in the flight plan..but I lean toward orchestration and I'm sure someone somewhere figured out that after circling for 3 hours it just might run it out of fuel.

      While no one that we know of was threatening to shoot it down, running it out of fuel sounds kind of forced to me. Gravity is always unforgiving.

      "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

      by GEldridge on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 09:13:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What about the Atlantic Wire article? (0+ / 0-)

    I thought that would put an end to l'affaire.

    •  The AtlanticWire article includes numerous errors (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      antirove, 3goldens, david78209, anana

      some of which were added in the "updates" that purported to "clarify" the situation.

      It turns out to be TRUE that there was, at the very least, massive confusion over whether Pres. Morales' plane had been cleared for access to French airspace - the French government has publicly apologized for the "delay" in allowing such clearance.

      It turns out to be TRUE that the Portuguese government denied permission for a refueling stop in Lisbon - but all the AtlanticWire yak-yak severely clouds and confuses the original vs. revised flight plan. (Lisbon was the original refuel plan - the Canary Islands stop was only in the revised Wednesday flight plan. But you wouldn't know that from the AtlanticWire!)

      The AtlanticWire article claims that "Midway over Austria, the plane turned west, then doubled back before landing." The plane had been flying west - it turned EAST, returned to Vienna, and circled before landing. (The "animation" referred to is no longer available,  but still  images can be found if you look hard enough.)

      Just goes to show that no single news source is error-free.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 07:25:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, but (0+ / 0-)

        the most convincing details — the audio recording indicating that the reason for landing was to fix an instrument problem, and the fact that the plane took off from a different airport than the one Snowden is at — seem to me to be much more critical.

      •  Some of the early reports were so confused they (0+ / 0-)

        seemed to say the plane had landed "in Spain to refuel" and then diverted back to Vienna.  Not only are a lot of reporters ignorant of geography, they're too lazy to look at a map.  If the plane had refueled in Spain, with a short detour it could have gotten to the Atlantic without flying over Portugal.  On the other hand, it's damned hard to get from Spain back to Vienna without flying over France, Italy, or both.  

        We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

        by david78209 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 08:50:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A fascinating story. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3goldens, david78209, OldDragon

    Just when you think it can't possibly get any worse, in terms of finding out more revelations and dirt.  

    But -- judging from the fervor to get Snowden, there must be some incredibly damning things the NSA doesn't want to get out.  Which is again hard to understand since I've read on another Diary Snowden most assuredly made the "Dead Man's switch" meaning his information has already been divulged to some news source, probably the Guardian which first broke the story.

    Just having a hard time imagining how much worse it could be.

    So --  I'll stay tuned to the Daily Kos where we gets our news first. ::))

  •  I wish Snowden would (0+ / 0-)

    just come back to the States and then we can all just get along!

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