Snowden raised concerns with supervisors before going to the press

It’s still hard for some of us to grasp the motives behind Edward Snowden’s decision to go straight to the press.

Some question why government officials were never warned that pressing concerns related to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs had to be addressed , and some even question the goals behind the final disclosure of the confidential programs to the press.

While all questions are valid and should be addressed timely, recent reports show that Snowden’s recent testimony to the European Parliament assured the public that his concerns had been discussed with at least 10 officials before he decided to go to the press. According to the report, Snowden would have a hard time pursuing any further whistleblowing mainly because of his status as a contractor.

According to the testimony, the decision to go to the press to leak confidential documents only came to Snowden after he exhausted all other formal avenues.

When asked about the circumstances, Snowden replied that he “had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.” Edward Snowden’s status as an employee of a private company hired by the U.S. government makes it impossible for the contractor to be protected by whistleblower laws, which are only valid to U.S. government direct employees.

Snowden claimed that because he encountered these legal issues, he feared he “would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.”

Ex-NY Times editor: Yeah, the Obama administration is pretty much the worst when it comes to transparency

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest probably isn’t having a great day. Over the weekend, the newly installed chief spokesman for the administration told ABC News’ This Week that President Barack Obama is “absolutely” the most transparent president in history.

Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson, however, disagrees. She appeared on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren and gave a scathing critique of the Obama administration’s record on transparency.

“I have never dealt with an administration where more officials — some of whom are actually paid to be the spokesmen for various federal agencies — demand that everything be off the record,” said Abramson. “So that’s secretive and not transparent.”

“But the most serious thing is the Obama administration has launched eight criminal leak investigations against sources and whistleblowers. And they have tried to sweep in journalists, including — it’s almost the one-year anniversary exactly that your colleague, James Rosen, had his record secretly looked at by the government in a leak investigation,” she added.

This isn’t the first time Abramson has criticized the administration on transparency. In January, she said that the Obama White House is “the most secretive” that she’s ever covered in her 22-year career, which dates back to President Ronald Reagan.

NY Times reporter calls Obama administration the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation

Recent reports from the Associated Press and Cause of Action have explained in great detail that President Barack Obama hasn’t come close to living up to promises of greater transparency, a result of the White House’s effort to control information requested by the press that could prove to be a political headache or embarrassing.

The administration’s obsession of controlling of information isn’t limited to what documents are released. It also extends to how the administration tries to control the press, as James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times, recently explained at a conference (emphasis added):

New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” Risen said, to “create a path for accepted reporting.” Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, “will be punished.”

The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created “a de facto Official Secrets Act,” Risen said, and the media has been “too timid” in responding.

NSA: Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, and Deceive

This past Monday Alice Salles posted a very disturbing article about the NSA and GCHQ intercepting and storing webcam images from supposedly private web chats. Between 3 to 11 percent of these images contain sexually explicit content. What would the NSA and GCHQ possibly want with these images apart from a few individual agents getting their jollies?

According to secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, it seems that these images are to be used to embarrass any would-be critics of the NSA, GCHQ, or anything else the federal government doesn’t want the citizens to get too uppity about. Glenn Greenwald explains:

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

NSA Story Causes Politicians to Break Ranks, Gives Voters Hope

The story of Edward Snowden/NSA data collection is difficult for anyone who understands the need for surveillance as a security measure, but who also abhors the thought of living under a “surveillance state.” Whistleblowing takes great courage but carries the unfortunate side effect of exposing anything that may have been good about the program — which, in this case, is, admittedly, hard to find given the domestic thrust of the NSA’s activities.

But what’s particularly interesting is how the program has not only gotten the average citizen to reexamine what they’ll live with in the name of security, but how it has started to align and divide lawmakers and politicians who must take a stance on behalf of their constituencies and — hopefully — their own consciences.

Bloomberg’s Businessweek offers an interesting piece detailing just how the NSA fiasco has gerrymandered the usually predictable party lines:

While some leading Democrats are reluctant to condemn the dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records, the Republican Party has begun to embrace a libertarian shift opposing the spy agency’s broad powers. But the lines are not drawn in the traditional way.

The Republican National Committee and civil libertarians like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have joined liberals like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on one side of the debate — a striking departure from the aggressive national security policies that have defined the Republican Party for generations.

Obama bragged that he’s “really good at killing people”

How many Nobel Peace Prize winners have you never heard of brag about being “really good at killing people”? Granted, the history of the award is kind of checkered, with some questionable winners in the past.

But a new book, Double Down: Game Change 2012, reveals that President Barack Obama bragged about the drone strikes that he ordered in Pakistan, allegedly commenting that he’s “really good at killing people.”

White House officials have already denied some of the accounts in the book, though this particular allegation went without comment over the weekend. Dan Pfeiffer, a chief strategist for President Obama, did talk about the book during an appearance on ABC’s This Week.

“Well, look I haven’t read the book. So I don’t know all the details of it. There’s no question the first debate did not go as well as anyone would have hoped. But he bounced back in the second and the third. It took work to get there. It took work from the president and his team,” Pfeiffer told host George Stephanopoulos, who followed up with a question about leaks.

“[W]e are not the first White House to deal with leaks. Every White House has dealt with it. I think we have been more leak-free than most. And where we find them we try to stop them,” said Pfeiffer, adding that that President Obama is “always frustrated about leaks.”

“I haven’t talked to him about this book. I haven’t read it. He hasn’t read it. But he hates leaks. Everyone hates leaks. Because the point is we should be able to work together to get the American people’s work done,” said Pfeiffer after another follow-up. “I think anyone who leaks has to pay the price. I don’t know who leaked in that book.”

Obama Administration’s war on leaks hurting press freedoms

The government’s prosecution of leakers and whistleblowers has undermined President Barack Obama’s promise of open government and transparency and undermined freedom of the press, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The picture painted of the Obama Administration in the report is certainly a damning one.

“In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records,” wrote Leonard Downie, Jr., a former executive editor of the Washington Post, in the report, The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America.

“An ‘Insider Threat Program’ being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” he noted. “Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way.”

Obama heckled by protestor during speech

Obama heckled

During the unveiling of his new college unaffordability policies yesterday in Syracuse, President Barack Obama was heckled by a protester upset about the prosecution and conviction of Pfc. Bradley Manning and briefly lost control of the situation.

You can watch the video below. You can’t hear the protester very well at all, but President Obama got frustrated as he tried to calm down the audience.

“No, no, no, that’s fine. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Obama told the crowd amid a chorus of very loud boos.

“We’re okay. We’re okay. That’s okay. Hold on a second. Hold on. Hold on. Hello, everybody, hello.  Hold on. Hold on a minute,” Obama said loudly as he struggled to regain control. “Hold on a minute. Hold on. So, now — hold on a second. “

“Can I just say that as hecklers go, that young lady was very polite,” he added as the crowd started to pay attention again. “She was. And she brought up an issue of importance, and that’s part of what America is all about.”

Intimidation: UK admits detention was over leaked NSA documents

Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda

The detention of David Miranda at London’s Heathrow airport was retaliation for the leaks of sensitive National Security Agency (NSA) documents that exposed the vast surveillance the United States government is conducting of innocent Americans, the United Kingdom has admitted.

Miranda — who is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who received the NSA documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden — was detained for nearly nine hours on Sunday at the London airport as he was trying to board a flight back back to Brazil, where the couple lives. The UK used an anti-terrorism law as the basis for the detention and seized Miranda’s effects, including his laptop computer and cell phone.

Greenwald has extensively covered the NSA’s expansive surveillance apparatus at The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper. The UK government admitted that it detained Miranda because of the NSA documents, claiming that it has a “duty to protect the public,” ostensibly accusing the Miranda, Greenwald, and The Guardian of aiding terrorists because of their coverage of Snowden’s leaks.

British Prime Minister David Cameron received regular updates about Miranda’s detention and, apparently, the UK government tipped off the White House in advance about the action they were planning to take.

Poll: Americans’ views shift in favor of civil liberties

Americans are not willing to trade liberty for security, despite overtures from President Barack Obama and politicians from both sides of the aisle, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac. They also reject the notion that Edward Snowden, the man who linked the information about the NSA’s broad surveillance techniques, is a traitor to his country.

“In a massive shift in attitudes, voters say 45 - 40 percent the government’s anti-terrorism efforts go too far restricting civil liberties, a reversal from a January 14, 2010, survey by the independent Quinnipiac University when voters said 63 - 25 percent that such activities didn’t go far enough to adequately protect the country,” the polling firm noted in a release on Wednesday (emphasis added).

“There is a gender gap on counter-terrorism efforts as men say 54 - 34 percent they have gone too far and women say 47 - 36 percent they have not gone far enough. There is little difference among Democrats and Republicans who are about evenly divided. Independent voters say 49 - 36 percent that counter-terrorism measures have gone too far,” added Quinnipiac. “Some of the largest growth in those concerned about the threat to civil liberties is among men and Republicans, groups historically more likely to be supportive of governmental anti- terrorism efforts. “

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