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More questions for Snowden and the GOP establishment takes on the 2016 primaries

By Steven Brill
June 3, 2014

Accused government whistleblower Snowden is seen on a screen as he speaks via videoconference with members of the Committee on legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

1. Snowden questions NBC missed:

In his interview with NBC’s Brian Williams last week, Edward Snowden tried to bolster his credentials this way: “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word — in that I lived and worked undercover, overseas, pretending to work in a job … and even being assigned a name that was not mine …. Now, the government might deny these things. They might frame it in certain ways, and say, ‘Oh, well, you know, he’s a low-level analyst.’”

In that segment — and as best I can tell from watching what I think were all the segments of Brian Williams’ interview — three words never came up: Booz Allen Hamilton.

Booz Allen Hamilton is the government contractor that Snowden supposedly worked for. As Talking Points Memo reported a year ago in this article, in the video in which Snowden introduced himself to the world following publication of his initial leaks, he said: “My name is Ed Snowden, I’m 29 years old, I work for Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for [the] NSA, in Hawaii.”

The same Talking Points article quoted Snowden and his collaborator Glenn Greenwald, writing in the Guardian, as saying that the only direct employment he had for any spy agencies was as a “security guard” at an National Security Agency facility in Maryland and as someone “working on IT security” for the CIA in Geneva.

Was he lying to the world and to Greenwald then, or to Williams now?  Someone ought to follow up on the contradictions that Williams missed.

He also missed a more important area of inquiry related to Snowden’s credibility. Snowden maintained to Williams that he tried repeatedly, with emails and memos, to go through channels to blow the whistle on what he thought was improper and illegal NSA spying. The claim brought quick denials from the NSA, which pointed to one vague email that Snowden had sent to an agency lawyer seeking clarification about the legal status of executive orders.

NSA officials claim that this email — which Snowden sent on a Friday afternoon and the lawyer answered the following Monday, with an invitation for Snowden to call if he had further questions — was Snowden’s sole communication with any national security officials about anything even remotely questioning agency practices.

Of course, at the time Williams did the interview, he couldn’t know what the NSA response would be to Snowden’s adamant whistleblower claims. But he might have asked Snowden for proof.

After all, it would seem that someone who had managed to smuggle millions of highly classified documents out of the NSA’s computers might have been able, and eager, to keep some proof that he had tried to go through channels.

Let’s hope the next reporter who interviews Snowden will ask about that.

Finally, there’s the Booz Allen Hamilton angle. A year ago I urged  that as a result of all the damage done by its employee, there has to be a great story related to the legal liability at risk for the consulting firm, which had $1.3 billion in national security-related contracts in 2012. I’m still hoping to read it.

Has the government gotten any of its money back? Has it tried?

2. Can the Republicans control the debates?

Last month, the Republican National Committee announced  new debate rules for the candidates competing for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich listen to businessman Herman Cain during the CNN GOP National Security debate in WashingtonThe rules are intended to limit the bloodletting that took place during the 2012 cycle, when the GOP candidates seemed to be on television once a week attacking each other. One “underdog” far-out candidate after another became the frontrunner for a week or two after getting off a few zingers to the delight of activists in the audience. Remember Herman Cain? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? Representative Michele Bachmann?

This time the GOP is going to limit the number of debates to well below the 20 held in 2011-2012.

But there’s more to the new rules than lowering the number of on-air brawls. The party also intends to remake the debates in a way that will help the eventual nominee — not cripple him (or her) the way Mitt Romney was in 2012.

Thus, the party announced this about the media organizations that would be allowed to convene the debates and the reporters who ask the questions:

We all remember the 2012 presidential primary debates and how the liberal media interrogated our candidates on issues that were often not a priority to most Americans. It was a traveling circus, because the mainstream media was in control of every aspect of those debates. They all wanted a chance to go after our conservative candidates—and some of them clearly wanted to push a liberal agenda.

The solution, the announcement continued, is that this time, “We need more conservatives involved in the debate process — most importantly, in the moderator’s chair.”

So, the GOP is going to “sanction” debates, not only to control their frequency but also to ride herd over who asks what questions.

Moreover, according to the rules that the party published with the announcement “Any presidential candidate who participates in any debate that is not a Sanctioned Debate shall not be eligible to participate in any further Sanctioned Debates.”

Huh?

Why haven’t media or political reporters asked about how this is going to work?

Which TV news organization is going to agree to exclude “liberal agenda” questions, whatever those are? Many would guess that Fox News will play along, but even asking Fox chief Roger Ailes and his crew what they might agree to in order to televise a “sanctioned” debate might produce an interesting answer.

It’s hard to imagine that Fox, much less any other broadcaster, will agree in advance to exclude a candidate who participates in an “unsanctioned” debate.

Suppose it’s near the end of the primary season and the field has been reduced, say, to Senator Ted Cruz, former Senator Rick Santorum and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with Cruz slightly in the lead. Suppose, too, that Cruz, who revels in his iconoclasm, had participated in an unsanctioned debate early in the season with a few candidates who have since dropped out. Which network is going to exclude him when it gets down to the wire and feature only Santorum and Bush?

 

PHOTO (TOP): Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on the computer screen as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

PHOTO (INSERT): Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) listen to Herman Cain during the CNN debate in Washington, November 22, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Comments
7 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Regarding Mr. Snowden, I”d also like to know who paid him and instructed him on how to steal all those NSA files. No low-level analyst would have such access without BIG help.

Regarding the republicans, there goes another nail into the coffin of free speech. The people in control have all gone mad in their lust for power and any media organization that allows itself to be controlled by them far beyond any semblance of honor. Fellow Americans, we must send every conservative home in the next elections and restore democracy in America.

Posted by njglea | Report as abusive
 

Nobody is ever going to ask Ed questions like that, because most of the media wants to serve more BS to the public. Because they know that most of the people paying attention to the story, are the ‘tinfoil hat’ crowd, that thinks the government is watching their every move. And obviously, those people think Ed is a big hero. So no media outlet is ever going to bend over backwards to show what he really is, because all those people would stop watching.

Ed is the typical wannabe failure. He’s like the nuts that want to be a cop… Get rejected because they’re not good enough… Then spend the rest of their lives trying to get revenge on the same people they once idolized… and sometimes in violent ways. He tried joining the military, because he supposedly wanted to do the whole ‘spec ops’ thing. He instantly washed out of that. Of course, he tries to claim that he left on his own, but no… He was booted. Guys that do well in that world, are kids that grew up rolling around in the dirt and mud with their dads out in the wilderness. Guys like that take one look at some soft skinned, milk toast guy like Ed, and they instantly know what he is… A guy that will turn tail and run, the second things get tough. So they probably froze him out, then he washed out. So that was failure #1. He then gets what basically amounts to a glorified computer repair job with BAH. Once again, he got to be around his heroes with the CIA, but more than likely, they froze him out as well. He wouldn’t be considered one of them, and technically couldn’t be. So that was slap in the face #2. Then undoubtedly, the same thing happened at NSA… Worked with them, but never would have been accepted as one of them. Slap in the face #3.

So there’s ED, failing at becoming what he most wants to be… Some sort of James Bond spook. So then he goes into… ‘If I can’t be them, I’ll destroy them’ mode. It was only a short time trying to pass info to American media outlets, before he decided that wasn’t getting him enough attention, so he went off to hand out info to the Chinese media… and I’m sure his intent was to keep doling out little bits and pieces for years, trying to make the US look as bad as possible. Nothing he has disclosed was all that earth shattering. At least not for anybody who has ever bothered to actually know anything about the NSA. But to the people who think every helicopter flying over their house is somebody watching them… It was just verification of some insidious thing that they already thought was happening. ie: Ed is a big hero.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive
 

Societies grow into systems. The systems require management and are therefore increasingly wielded like a tool or a weapon, by those who have power. The rest of the population is still needed to do specific things. But the citizens are not needed to contribute to the form or direction of the society . The more ” advanced ” the citizen becomes, the more irrelevant the citizen becomes . John Rawlston Saul – Voltaire’s Bastards

So here was a guy who woke up one morning and saw precisely that – the system being wielded like a weapon – and decided to do something about it . One day enough Americans will wake up from the American Dream like Mr Snowden and when that day comes the whole sentimental fantasy world that is America will crumble to dust .

Posted by Argentein | Report as abusive
 

Nobody is ever going to ask Ed questions like that, because most of the media wants to serve more BS to the public. Because they know that most of the people paying attention to the story, are the ‘tinfoil hat’ crowd, that thinks the government is watching their every move. And obviously, those people think Ed is a big hero. So no media outlet is ever going to bend over backwards to show what he really is, because all those people would stop watching.

Ed is the typical wannabe failure. He’s like the nuts that want to be a cop… Get rejected because they’re not good enough… Then spend the rest of their lives trying to get revenge on the same people they once idolized… and sometimes in violent ways. He tried joining the military, because he supposedly wanted to do the whole ‘spec ops’ thing. He instantly washed out of that. Of course, he tries to claim that he left on his own, but no… He was booted. Guys that do well in that world, are kids that grew up rolling around in the dirt and mud with their dads out in the wilderness. Guys like that take one look at some soft skinned, milk toast guy like Ed, and they instantly know what he is… A guy that will turn tail and run, the second things get tough. So they probably froze him out, then he washed out. So that was failure #1. He then gets what basically amounts to a glorified computer repair job with BAH. Once again, he got to be around his heroes with the CIA, but more than likely, they froze him out as well. He wouldn’t be considered one of them, and technically couldn’t be. So that was slap in the face #2. Then undoubtedly, the same thing happened at NSA… Worked with them, but never would have been accepted as one of them. Slap in the face #3.

So there’s ED, failing at becoming what he most wants to be… Some sort of James Bond spook. So then he goes into… ‘If I can’t be them, I’ll destroy them’ mode. It was only a short time trying to pass info to American media outlets, before he decided that wasn’t getting him enough attention, so he went off to hand out info to the Chinese media… and I’m sure his intent was to keep doling out little bits and pieces for years, trying to make the US look as bad as possible. Nothing he has disclosed was all that earth shattering. At least not for anybody who has ever bothered to actually know anything about the NSA. But to the people who think every helicopter flying over their house is somebody watching them… It was just verification of some insidious thing that they already thought was happening. ie: Ed is a big hero.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive
 

Non liberal media questions will include:
* tell us how much you love the United States?
*which is better: a hand gun or rifle?
*tell us why taxes are bad
*what is your favorite color
*do you think Obama was a good President?

Posted by falconium | Report as abusive
 

Comment on just what exactly?

This is just nit picking and stirring up mud. It means exactly nothing.

If mainstream media spent as much print examining the abuse of the American public, we would be seeing some reforms already.

Overlooking the main story and nit picking the details only bolsters Snowden’s assertions and pose as big government’s tool.

Posted by JohnStarkMD | Report as abusive
 

Snowden’s an out-and-out thief pretending to be a patriot.

As to my GOP party, I’m afraid it just doesn’t get it It’s heavily tainted with far right views and behavior. It’s “Shining Star” Cruz would have gladly put government out of business in order to stop ACA (Obamacare).

Left or Right, none of the professional politicians have the guts to oppose the NRA and we continue to have cumulative mass murders across the country of over 600 people per week.

Posted by act1 | Report as abusive
 

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