Edward Snowden says: "We have an [intelligence] oversight model that could work; the problem is when the overseers aren’t interested in oversight"
At SXSW, Edward Snowden's lawyer, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, with ACLU technology specialist Chris Soghoian at his left, questions the remotely connected Snowden.
"The problem is when the overseers aren’t interested in oversight, . . . when we have James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, in front of [a congressional committee] and he tells a lie that they all know is a lie, because . . . they have the questions a day in advance, and no one says anything, allowing all Americans to believe this is a true answer. That is an incredibly dangerous thing."
On Monday whistle-blower Edward Snowden participated -- via Google Hangout video-conferencing technology -- in SXSW 2014, the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin. Onstage in a packed Austin Convention Center were the ACLU's Ben Wizner, Snowden's lead lawyer, and the ACLU's principal technologist, Chris Soghoian, in what the Washington Post's Dan Zak called Snowden's "first direct conversation with his fellow citizens."
The SXSW people thankfully paid little attention to the urgings of buttwipe Kansas Republican congressman, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, who replaced one of the House of Representatives' more notorious doodybrains, Tim Tiahrt, as Koch Industries' home-district congressman, last week wrote to SXSW urging them to withdraw the Snowden invitation. You can read the letter for yourself. It's wall-to-wall bullshit, and should hve been prefaced by the qualification, "speaking as a certified imbecile and pathological liar." Pompeo is himself a former defense-industry profiteeer, and he clearly shares the Koch Brothers' vision of America as a mere shell to support the private greed and selfishness of the country's overt and covert "national security" industries.
The letter strings together the usual lies and obfuscations about Snowden's revelations, but pitched at screeching-hissy-fit level, with such idiotic lies as "Mr. Snowden cares more about personal fame than personal privacy" (right, he really engineered himself a cushy, pampered life) and "Mr. Snowden had -- and was fully aware of -- multiple opportunities to correct what he perceived as unlawful practices, but he chose not to go to his superior, to Congress, to the Inspector General, or to anyone save for Russia and Team Greenwald" (the fact is that Mikey P is clueless about what Snowden did or didn't do; he's just pulling this doody out of his stinky butt). There's really no excuse for a congressman to be mindlessly repeating these lies unless he's truly that ignorant or that dishonest -- or, more likely, both.
Here's the key paragraph:
Mr. Snowden's appearance would stamp the imprimatur of your fine organization on a mn who ill deserves such accolades. Rewarding Mr. Snowden's behavior in this way encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited. Such lawlessness -- and the ongoing intentional distortion of truth that he and his media enablers have engaged in since the release of these documents -- undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSQ and the ACLU purport to foster.Ironically, or maybe just inevitably, what Snowden had to say underlined the extent to which one of the gravest threats to our national security is lying sacks of imbecilic and war-profiteering filth like the lying buttwipe Pompeo.
My attention was drawn by a pass-along of the above video clip dealing with how we might achieve meaningful intelligence oversight. You could use a treasonous liar like Mike Pomepo as a poster blimp for the provocative statement that the biggest obstacle to meaningful intelligence oversight is that "the overseers aren’t interested in oversight."
It's not hard to understand why an America-hater like Mike Pompeo doesn't want Americans to hear Edward Snowden. Set his words alonside those of lying filth like Mike P, and people with working brains -- even people who are troubled by the means by which the documents released by Snowden were obtained and who are concerned by unilateral declassification -- will increasingly understand who really has America's best interests at heart.
The folks at "Inside" blog did the dirty work of producing a rough-and-ready transcript of the Snowden segment of the SXSW program. I did a little cleaning up of the transcript of this portion, then decided it was good enough.
The clip begins with Ben Wizner asking Snowden a question from World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Burners-Lee, who wanted first to thank Snowden ("he believes that your actions have been profoundly in the public interest"). Here's the question:
If you could design from scratch an accountability system for governance over national security agencies, what would you do? It is clear that intelligence agencies are going to be using the Internet to collect information from all of us. Is there any way that we can make oversite more accountable and improved?And here's how the discussion proceeds (I've done just a little highlighting):
EDWARD SNOWDEN: You know that's a really interesting question. It's also a very difficult question. Oversight models, these are things that are very complex. They've got a lot of moving parts. And when you add in secrecy, when you add in public oversight, it gets complex.Is it any wonder that people like Koch stooge Mike Pompeo don't want Americans to hear this?
We've got a good starting point. That's what we have to remember. We have an oversight model that could work. The problem is when the overseers aren’t interested in oversight, when we’ve got seven intelligence committees that are _____ to the NSA instead of holding them accountable. when we have James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, in front of them, and he tells a lie that they all know is a lie, because they are rigged on the program, because they have the questions a day in advance, and no one says anything, allowing all Americans to believe this is a true answer. That is an incredibly dangerous thing. That’s the ____.
When I would say, "How do we fix our oversight model?," "How do we structure the oversight model that works?," the key fact is accountability. We can’t have officials like James Clapper who can lie to everyone in the country, who can lie to the Congress and face no, not even, not even a criticism. Not even a strong worded letter.
The same thing with courts. In the United States we have open courts that are supposed to decide and settle constitutional issues to interpret and apply the law. We also have the FISA court, which is a secret rubber-stamp court. But they are only supposed to approve warrant applications. These happen in secret because you don’t want people to know, hey, the government wants to surveil you. At the same time, a secret court shouldn’t be interpreting the Constitution when only NSA’s lawyers are making the case on how it should be viewed.
Those are the two primary factors that I think need to change.
The other thing is we need public advocates. We need public representatives. We need public oversight. Some way for trusted public figures, sort of civil rights champions, to advocate for us and protect the structure and make sure it has been fairly applied. We need a watchdog that watches Congress. Something that can tell us, hey, these guys didn’t tell you that; he just lied to you. Because otherwise, how do we know? If we're not informed, we can’t consent to these policies. And I think that is a danger.
BEN WIZEN: For what it’s worth, my answer to Sir Tim is "Ed Snowden." Before these disclosures, all three branches of our government had gone to sleep on oversight. The courts had thrown cases out. As he said, Congress allowed itself to be lied to. The executive branch did no reviews.
Since Ed Snowden, and since all of us have been read into these programs, we are actually seeing reinvigorated oversight. It is the oversight that the Constitution had in mind, but sometimes it needs a dusting off. And Ed has been the broom.
CHRIS SOGHOIAN: I just wanted to also note that without Ed’s disclosures, many of the tech companies would not have improved their security either at all or at the rate that they did.
The PRISM story, although there was a lack of clarity initially on what it really said, put the names of billion-dollar American companies on the front page of the newspaper and associated them with bulk surveillance. You saw the companies doing everything in their power publicly to distance themselves and also show that they were taking security seriously. You saw companies like Google and Microsoft and Facebook rushing to encrypt their data-center-to-data-center encryption -- connections, rather. You saw companies like Yahoo finally turning on SSL encryption. Apple fixed a bug in its address-book app that allowed Google users’ address books to be transmitted over networks in unencrypted form. Without Ed’s disclosures, there wouldn’t have been as much pressure for these tech companies to encrypt their information.
There are going to be people in this audience and people listening at home who are going to think what Ed did was wrong. But let me be clear about one really important thing: His disclosures have improved Internet security. And the security improvements we've gotten haven’t just protected us from bulk government surveillance. They've protected us from hackers at Starbucks who are monitoring our WiFi connections. They've protected us from stalkers and identity thieves and common criminals.
These companies should have been encrypting their information before, and they weren't. And it really took, you know, unfortunately the largest and most profound whistle-blower in history to get us to the point where these companies are finally prioritizing the security of their users’ communications between them and the companies.
We all have Ed to thank for us. I really just cannot emphasize enough, without him we would not have Yahoo users getting SSL; we would not have this data going over the network in encrypted form. It shouldn’t have taken that. The companies should have done it by themselves. There should have been regulation or privacy regulators who are forcing companies to do this, but that isn’t taking place. It took Ed to get us to a secure place.