Monday, August 19, 2013

Is Snowden Part Eskimo?

There was a big hubbub today over the detainment of David Miranda at Heathrow airport under what I imagine is the U.K. equivalent of the Patriot Act. Read about the incident here:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/18/glenn-greenwald-guardian-partner-detained-heathrow

I want to say a couple of things. First is that not the most perfect name to have going into an interrogation? Absolutely delightful. Second is that I don't get it.

I'm hearing people say that it's completely unreasonable to hold this guy under a terrorism law. Well, except for the part where he was on his way back from hanging out with Laura Poitras, one of the people on the receiving end of Edward Snowden's stolen government secrets. Secrets of exactly the kind that terrorists would love to get their hands on.

I don't believe that Snowden is a terrorist, but wouldn't that be a great cover if you were? "Hey guys, I just stole all this data about how the government operates. Let me share the part that makes me look good while I sell this other part to Al Qaeda." Or how about this: terrorists might steal the data from Snowden, possibly even without his knowledge. I very much doubt this one man has better security than the whole U.S. government.

You might want to believe that Snowden is a fluffy bunny fighting for your rights, and honestly I think you're probably right. But if you're the person responsible for national security and a dude over in Russia is announcing to the world that he's in possession of our most logistically important information, you wouldn't be doing your job if you didn't go after that guy with everything you've got. You can't just take the guy's word that everything he's doing is for the common good. Or even if you do take him at his word, can you trust that he will be able to keep the information out of the wrong hands?

The tie to terrorism is quite tenable, even without any "maybe Snowden hearts Osama" theories. Revealing PRISM, etc., obviously compromises our national security. If you can't get your head around that, I suggest electro-shock to get the libertarian brain-slugs dislodged from your cerebral cortex. Does that mean Snowden was wrong to reveal the information? No, not if the surveillance efforts infringe on legitimate privacy rights, which I believe they do. But it's positively silly to believe that the programs gave us no edge against terrorist groups whatsoever. That edge, however dull, is gone thanks to Snowden. And we have no idea what else he has in store for us.

So when the boyfriend of the reporter who leaked Snowden's information spends a few weeks with the filmmaker who documented the whole thing, it's also plausibly tied to terrorism.

As to whether the real motivation is to intimidate Greenwald, I think that would depend on how schedule 7 has been used historically. Only if this incident is outside the norm would I lend credit to the intimidation theory.

If this schedule 7 is anything at all like the Patriot Act, I'm happy that people are so angry, but I wish they were angry in the right direction. The real problem this incident shows is that when these types of laws function exactly as their supposed, which is what happened here, the result is unjust. The anger should be over the fact that these laws exist not that they're employed in a way you don't like today.

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this. Frankly I've been surprised by the reactions on both sides.

Taking the Fifth,

S. Misanthrope

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