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On the worship of little tin gods

St. Edward of Snowden, patron saint of whistleblowers

In part this comes down to SAoT’s recent post on the death of Nelson Mandela, but mainly from an argument with Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata who appears to be so utterly blinded by the “what” of St. Edward of Snowden’s revelations that he is unable to ask the fundamental question of “why” did he do what he did.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the truth has come out about the NSA’s activities and if Snowden honestly felt that the way he did it was the only way that it could have been done then fair enough.

The problem is I find that the way that Snowden has gone about his revelations has been distinctly dubious.

This may be just the capricious nature of fate ruining the best laid plans of mice and men, but I consider that Snowden’s deliberately outing himself on the front page of the Guardian (when he could have revealed the necessary information without doing so), to be somewhat questionable.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that he is hiding under the coat tails of a country which would probably have killed him if he had committed the same offence there (as they did with Alexander Litvinenko)

I am uncomfortable that he has potentially carried US state secrets into Russia and, if so,  potentially revealed them to their state security apparatus in return for asylum in Russia.

I am uncomfortable about the sheer volume of information that he has in his possession, which he now appears to be either releasing in dribs-and-drabs to keep himself newsworthy or alternately holding back in some vain attempt to keep out of the clutches of the US Government by blackmailing the NSA from a safe haven in Russia.

Now I am, as some of you will know, a paranoid and suspicious son-of-a-bitch by nature and so it is entirely possible that my natural scepticism is preventing me from seeing the inherent beatitude of our glorious brother Snowden who shines his light of truth into the dark corners of the world.

If the general consensus is that I am being unreasonable, I promise to make amends by wearing a tinfoil hat and sitting in the corner murmuring quietly for a week (as if! Can you imagine…? :-) )


  1. I got tired of the endless Snowden worship and commented on one of the posts – I soon wished I had not said anything.

    Be careful J.G.

    As for Mr Snowden – I actually pity him. What may well happen to him.

    When the FSB have taken every last scrap of information he has got (which they will sell to whoever wants it – including terrorist groups).

    Then Mr Snowden will die.

    There will be enquiry – and the CIA will be blamed.

    And all the “clever” people will nod at the wickedness of American intelligence agencies.

    As for motives…….

    Why did not Mr Snowden make his disclosures about the NSA before (rather than after) the election – their will be no penalty for Mr Obama (and so on incentive for future Presidents not to act in the same way).

    And why tell the Guardian, New York Times, and Chinese and Russian intelligence?

    Rather than Senator Rand Paul and other Americans with a real record of supporting Civil Liberties?

    As for the abuse this comment is likely to raise…….

    I will not be reading it.

    Expressing doubts about Saint Edward of the Snow, is like attacking “BItcoin” (by pointing out that there is no Bit “coin” and there is no “mining”, and that the man behind the scheme is actually Max Keiser operating under a fake name) or defending “corporations” (companies) – it is acceptable blasphemy and anyone who commits it must be burned…..

  2. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    There is no abuse here, Paul.

    You are quite right in saying that Snowden could have gone to Rand Paul.

    PdH, for all his generosity in giving us Samizdata for free, is a deeply troubled character. He has a particular hatred of any government in general and the police in particular. I first noticed this when he commented on the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. His criticisms had no contact with reality. And when I pointed out his fallacious statements he ignored them.

    Like JG I am conflicted about dealing with Snowden.

    But at the end of one’s life, a life well lived is one in which one has acted honorably. And following JG (quite correctly, I believe), Snowden’s actions cannot be in any sense be considered honorable.

  3. Julie near Chicago says:

    Let us assume, for the sake of the argument*, that Mr. Snowden in his motivation was pure as the driven, and the only problem was that his brain was for a time incommunicado.

    The American woodwork is crawling with other whistleblowers who still hung around, thus putting themselves at risk for whatever punishment the Injured (a.k.a. The Gov) saw fit to try to inflict.

    I’m afraid I have to agree with JG, PM, and PST. Snowden’s batting 0 for 3 so far.

    *Yes, I know. “Arguendo.” But I’m tired of this silly affectation of suddenly abandoning perfectly serviceable and almost-universally understood English terms in favor of Lawyers’ Latin. If I never hear “ceteris paribus” or “inter alia” or … or … or … again, except of course in Flavius–which I will read as soon as I refresh my high-school Latin, which will be never–it will be too soon. Cheers! :)

  4. Sam Duncan says:

    Yes, I pretty much agree. It’s good that this stuff is now out in the open, but I wouldn’t trust anyone who leaks to the NYT and Guardian, ending up as an honoured guest of Vlad Putin, as far as I could throw him.

    On a related note, I saw a bunch of people on a forum recently worrying that a new cloud-storage site based in China might also have servers in the US. ‘Cos that would be, you know, insecure. Sheesh. Whatever the NSA has done, and is doing, do they really think that China is any better? At best, at the very best, it’s likely to be exactly the same. At worst… well, it’s the People’s Republic of China, where spying on everyone very definitely isn’t unconstitutional.

    Interesting that Snowden seems to be trying to make a break for Brazil. Is he beginning to realise that those nice Russians might not be his friends after all?

  5. John Galt says:

    Thanks all, it is some relief that I am not alone in my beliefs nor under the possession of RAB’s “Imp of the Perverse”. I Guess I will have to put the book on “How to make a tinfoil hat” back on the bookshelf.

    @Paul Marks:

    “When the FSB have taken every last scrap of information he has got (which they will sell to whoever wants it – including terrorist groups). Then Mr Snowden will die.”

    I do hope you are wrong about that. Regardless of the wilfulness of his actions I am optimistic that good will come of it and that greater transparency and moderation will prevail even in state sponsored surveillance. I know that Oliver North thinks the same as you, that the Russians will kill Snowden and make it look like the CIA did it.

    I find that line of thinking hard to believe, after all this is real life, not some Tom Clancy novel, but then again I am prepared to concede that I may be being naïve


    “There is no abuse here, Paul.”

    No?…then wait a while, because as sure as eggs is eggs, my criticism of Snowden makes me an apostate of freedom in the eyes of the elect and no doubt a willing stooge of the NSA. In which case where is my paycheck? :-)

    Actually, I’m a spy for the Durham miners’, it doesn’t pay as well as it used to.

    “Snowden’s actions cannot be in any sense be considered honorable.”

    That’s an interesting question right there, can treason ever be considered honourable regardless of the merits of the betrayal? I think that Mark Anthony’s funeral oration says much more than I ever could about the treason of honourable men. Certainly the cries of “Sic semper tyrannis” are premature while the tyranny continues and Edward Snowden is no Brutus.

    @Sam Duncan:

    “At worst… well, it’s the People’s Republic of China, where spying on everyone very definitely isn’t unconstitutional.”

    I’m not sure what’s worse, violation of the constitution or not having one in the first place. It’s all very well Americans saying they are free because of their constitutional protections, but if the executive is able to ride roughshod over the constitution without even a whimper of protest from the Supreme Court, doesn’t that make a mockery of the entire thing?

    Isn’t it about time someone got constitutional on Obama’s ass?

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

  6. RAB says:

    RAB’s “Imp of the Perverse”.

    No that was Edgar Allen Poe, and I probably misquoted it. What I meant was playing Devils Advocate, and I did say that I had the urge to do that too, in the case of Mandela, such has been the Dianafication of him.

    So to Snowden… Hero? Hardly, more foolhardy, and completely fucked from now until the end of his life, the American Govt will never forgive and forget this one. Like Paul I feel kind of sorry for him.

    Why? well because he is a self righteous leftie twat who got carried away with the initial rush and glamour of what he thought he was doing… that is exposing the NSA and GCHQ for doing illegal things against citizens and indeed foreigners, while claiming that it is all for their own good and protection.

    Anyone with a couple of functioning brain cells KNOW that their Govt is watching them. All the Laws in Christendom and the American Constitution isn’t going to stop the Funny Guys doing their funny things. So what exactly was the big revelation? Something we all already knew?

    He could have made his case in a much more limited fashion. A few examples to illustrate his point and be done with it, but no, he had a rush of blood to the head. He has given away way too many secrets and worse, the names and locations of assets which in a NICE world we wouldn’t have to cultivate, but in the real one we live in, we have to, to look out for our own interests. I am not against State secrets per se you see. Some really do have to be kept to protect us from those with malign intent against us.

    He and Assange are two peas in a pod, vainglorious twats who have betrayed more than they have exposed, and will be forever looking over their shoulder till that last shovel of earth hits their coffin lid.

  7. Julie near Chicago says:

    “[H]e is a self righteous leftie twat who got carried away with the initial rush and glamour….”

    I think you may just have something there, RAB. :)

  8. John Galt says:

    I prefer it as RAB’s “Imp of the Perverse” as it has a more localised colour to it. :-)

    Yes RAB, I concur with Julie, I suspect you are right. In which case, think of the vast numbers of NSA agents and other government employed snoopers and prod-noses over the years who HAVE kept their silence, protected their data and not gone snitching to the press.

    Do we praise their loyalty or curse their collusion? As I said at another place, if there is any point in having a state in the first instance, it’s primary duty has to be defence of the realm. In such a circumstance, state secrets are still necessary to avoid penetration of our border defences.

    Thus even in a minarchist state, there would have to be some degree of both internal and external secret service and associated action service to protect the state from the machinations of another Hitler or Stalin.

    This is not in any way a justification for NSA spying, which is so broad in scope and reach as to make the East German Stasi look like a scout troop.

    I’d rather the extent of these programmes were rolled back right now, before they really do get out of control.

    Another question is, “are Assange and Snowden the dissidents of the post Cold War era”? Because if they are they are a piss poor lot compared to the likes of Havel, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov et al. At least Bradley/Chelsea Manning stood up for what he did, even if his reasons for doing it were somewhat confused.

    I thought the whole point of vetting people for work in the security services was to identify and exclude the irrational, disturbed, vulnerable and messianic?

    P.S. RAB – We all know you’re actually an MI5 spy, sent into the heart of the libertarian community to root out the evil-doers, but you’re nice and you’re funny, so you can stay. :-)

  9. PeterT says:

    Ask yourselves this: if a would be Snowden read the comment thread above and was put off from doing what Snowden did, would that serve liberty? In fact, the idea of Snowden reading the above comment thread dismays me, given the personal sacrifices he had to make.

    I do not think anybody knows Snowden’s inner motives. Unlike with Assange, there is not, or at least I haven’t noticed it, a reasonable amount of evidence that the guy is a vainglorious prick. From what I can tell Snowden followed his conscience then fled to wherever he could. I will grant you that fleeing to Russia is a bit odd; I do not know why he couldn’t just go to Ecuador on holiday and not return. But maybe he panicked and just got on the first flight and then took the first amnesty offer.

    We too are beggers and so we cannot be choosers. Anything or anybody that hurts the enemy is welcome. It happens seldom enough so lets be happy when it does.

    The amount of uncertainty about motives, especially when the media is awash with speculation and propaganda from all sides, is so large that I think there is a good argument for judging a man on the basis of his actions alone. A dose of salt may be required but let’s not try and project motives onto him.

  10. John Galt says:

    Lets look at other intelligence agents who have mysteriously, nay almost accidentally ended up in Moscow, like say, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess among others.

    If he’s not a traitor or a vainglorious prick then he is most certainly a naïve idiot. None of these is a synonym for hero.

  11. RAB says:

    Yes naive idiot does it for me too. He has just found out what a small world this is, and a big lesson in what freedom is too. Those parts of the world that would allow him the most freedom, will now arrest him on sight, and those who accord their own citizens the least will welcome him with open arms until he has been milked for all the propaganda purposes he is worth and information he carries. And when he finally is milked dry he will be confined to a smelly little bedsit in Moscow, or wherever… ignored and treated with suspicion, just like Philby, because nobody likes a traitor do they?

    Curses John! You have uncovered my little secret. I am known as P in the Organisation, and my main job is to mind Q.

  12. John Galt says:

    As the old Arthur Conan Doyle joke goes “All is discovered, Flee at once!”.

    I seem to recall that Guy Burgess drank himself to death and Kim Philby nicked Donald Macleans wife. What a bunch of shitbags they all were.

    I wonder what fate has in store for Snowden? Only time will tell.

  13. Mr Ed says:

    I have a germ of a film plot, a sunbed is brought into the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, whereby Mr Assange tans himself and brushes up on Spanish. The next best thing to an Ecuadorean Assange lookalike is appointed as a diplomat in London, and after a few months the Anoited leaker swaps passports and breezes out onto a flight to Quito. Think Passport to Pimlico/The Knowledge rather than Day of the Jackass. Surely someone will get me funding?

  14. Mr Ed says:

    Snowden is like a little Hobbit working for the young Saruman who feels uneasy about his Lord’s plans, so he grabs a palantír and treks off to Mordor.

  15. single acts of tyranny says:

    Or maybe, he is telling the truth because the lies sicken him, as they do me. No saint, but no murdering drone bombef for sure.

    I doubt he wants to be in Russia, but where else could he really go?

  16. Mr Ed says:

    SAoT. A lot of Guardian types have historically longed to be in Russia, or Russia to be with them, and for us to be in Kolyma. However, he was right to flee the US, he just might not have thought through the next 50 years of his life very clearly, or simply had a short time preference.

  17. Julie near Chicago says:

    RAB, so you are, IRL, P? And you’re to mind Q. It’s therefore not unreasonable* to conclude that you mind your P’s and Q’s, assuming that, as a libertarian, you do believe that you are and belong to yourself, which is to say, that since you are P, therefore P is yours. I trust that is clear. :>)))

    *I wrote it this way to show that I too can swim in literary waters. “It’s therefore reasonable”? Tchah! What kind of erudition does that display!

    Now, the thing that caught my attention in the first place. You say your job is “to mind Q.” Leaving out of it the personal jealousy that your exalted position has brought on, there are various things that this statement could mean.

    1. You are to mind Q, that is, to look after him. As a mother or a baby-sitter, or even a butler, might.

    2. You are to mind Q, that is, to pay attention to him, to keep him in mind, to be mindful of his thoughts, needs, and wishes.

    3. You are to mind Q, that is, to do as he says. As a child minds his mother. (When it suits him, that is.)

    N.B. I live to parse. :)

    So the question is, which of these functions has M assigned to you? Since the only person I ever heard of who can do all three is Jeeves, and even he has been known to miss out acting strictly in accordance with Sense 3.

    N.B.2. After I submit this comment and perhaps enjoy a bit of lox on well-buttered toast, I believe I will commit suicide, as I’ve recently read that M, a.k.a. Judi Dench, is a lifelong hard-leftist or perhaps even a neo-Communist. If anyone has contrary information, please signal me at once. You would save my daughter from having to clean up a terrible mess off the kitchen floor.

  18. John Galt says:

    Don’t forget Julie, “Moscow Rules” or we’ll have a Karla trained hood from the 13th Directorate all over us. :-) Those were the days, spies, moles and defectors, proxy wars and home in time for tea.

    Compared to the Cold War all this nonsense with Asange, Manning and Snowden is just so much petty squabbling, little more than kids playing at espionage rather than the real thing.

    As for Judi Dench (a Dame of the British Empire no less), as with most of the British acting establishment, she’s a mild-lefty with the usual moral outrage about politicians not supporting “The Arts”, but as for politics she’s thinks they are all as bad as each other, so no, not really a hard lefty.

    Are you sure you’re not thinking of Vanessa Redgrave? Because she is an ultra left-wing Trotskyite nutjob. She was the one who set-up the Workers Revolutionary Party with her brother Corin Redgrave and got fired by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for supporting the PLO.

  19. RAB says:

    So the question is, which of these functions has M assigned to you?

    None of the above… M told me to keep a very close eye on him, cos none of his gadgets have worked for more than ten minutes in the last 30 years. We think the bastard has been working for Smersh all along! And Smiley agrees, in a beery Irish Stout avuncular sort of way.

  20. single acts of tyranny says:

    To answer JG, in my opinion anyway, unless Snowdon has a secret stash of cash and good fake identities, he’ll rot in Russia until Putin decides to trade him.

    By the way, are you the same John Galt who posts on the Daily Anarchist blog ?

  21. John Galt says:

    Yup SAoT, completely agree, his temporary asylum will probably become a cage if he ever tries to leave. I’ve absolutely no sympathy. He’s made his bed, he can damn well lie in it.

    With respect to my namesake over at the Daily Anarchist, I’ve read some of his stuff, but I think that he’s more of a Rothbardian than I am, probably one of my many American cousins. :-)

    There are a lot of nutters commenting on the Daily Anarchist, I prefer the quieter and more pleasant surroundings of CCiZ.

  22. PeterT says:

    Still quite can’t believe what I am reading from a supposedly libertarian blog.

    The idea that Russia and China pose a threat to us in comparison to the active hurt being imposed on us by our own governments is ridiculous. Neither are nice places but if you don’t live there it’s of limited relevance.

    Also, by the by, the word ‘treason’ has no place on a libertarian blog. ‘No treason’, remember.

  23. John Galt says:


    Thanks for your feedback, It is perfectly reasonable for anyone to question the accusations of treason against Edward Snowden but when someone tells me I can’t use a word which I deem appropriate to the discussion, such as ‘treason’, my only reaction is to say go fuck yourself.

    We have enough problems with politically correct censorship of words which we may or may not use in daily life because of libtard bansturbators without putting up with that kind of bullshit on a libertarian blog.

    Feel free to try a different approach.

    P.S. If you read back through the comments I actually used treason in reference to the assassins of Julius Ceasar

  24. Watchman says:

    I see the problem here as a combination of the cult of celebrity with the love of freedom – Mr Snowden seemingly wanted to be known rather than simply to do good (passing the information to any number of US politicians would have worked, and gained him some measure of protection). But celebrity is perhaps an enemy of freedom – it certainly is something that the statists require (leaders, prophets, gurus – they need them in a way others do not), and to seek both seems to lead to neither (or rather to the nebulous status of an admired figure in the Guardian). The story becomes the (wo)man, not the information.

    Compare this with whoever leaked the Climategate emails – we still don’t know who this was, but despite attempts to focus on the ‘theft’ by those who wanted to ignore the contents, the lack of a person forced us to rely on the contents of the emails to speculate about his or her motives. That was effective (in the limited sphere of those interested in that debate). Mr Snowden instead allowed himself to become the story – and gave the US Government something to target and to distract from their actions.

  25. John Galt says:

    Yes, I think that is a reasonable summation, we’ve speculated on the rationale around why he revealed himself. I personally thought it was as you say, to gain hero celebrity status, which he has achieved in some quarters – speak to Perry over at Samizdata.

    Perry asserts that his revealing himself was necessary to give his revelations credence, but I’m not buying that. It is certainly possible to reveal yourself to a journalist to prove your credentials and then demand anonymity as a protected source. Having your mugshot plastered across the newspapers of the world is, well – bloody stupid really.

    Instead of talking about the NSA Revelations in the Guardian, we are talking about the antics of Edward Snowden, so you are right, him revealing himself as the source is a distraction.

    The NSA would probably have revealed him at some point anyway, but since we’re talking about his motives…

  26. Julie near Chicago says:

    RAB, your position then would have been properly cast under Function 2, except that YrsTrly blew it by not breaking that understanding of “minding” down into its three variants. In this case, “Pay attention and report back.” I had thought of Function 1, as in “mind the little bugger doesn’t blow up the entire HQ,” though.

    In any case, I quite understand. Although I will say that although Q’s widgets were inclined to wonk out in the lab, they seemed to work pretty well for James in the field. And I am still immensely jealous of you, nay, downright envious! (But not to the point that I would shoot Q so that you can’t have him! )

    Dame Judi. I was aware of the honorific. I am unfortunately also aware of the unfortunate attitudes and opinions of Miss Redgrave. But the allegations regarding La Dench surprised and disappointed me — How could M possibly be one of Them? (I know I know, the character is not the person.) Anyway, I’m glad to get your correction. Now I can indulge in more lox knowing that the world is no worse than it was yesterday. :>)

    JG, I gots to say, hanging around in Zanzibar is surely an eddiction. [Typo: I meant to type "eddication," but the typo is also true and more amusing, so it stands.] As one who is not a follower of Mr. le Carré, I’d never heard of “Karla” nor the 13th Directorate either. So I went looking. I interviewed a “Karla Homolka” for the part, but found her wanting. But at least now I have the context. There is no such thing as useless knowledge.

    The only remaining question is, Where did the Canadian murderess get the name “Homolka”? The only Homolka I know is Oscar. And he was very good at it too. :>)

  27. Julie near Chicago says:

    JG — On re-reading, I see that you are also my informant re la Dench. Grazie! — Do you like lox? We can get trimmings here at a very good price. ;)

  28. John Galt says:

    Julie – you don’t want that fake American rubbish, you want to see if you can find a decent Norwegian delicatessen and get some gravlax, served with lemon, pepper and capers its lovely.

    Used to get it for breakfast every Sunday when I lived in Essen, Germany.

  29. Julie near Chicago says:

    JG! What are you saying! Gravlax–with a bagel and schmear?! Oy, my mother-in-law would be spinning in her grave. Nothing but honest-to-Gott real Jewish lox on our bagels, denks!

    On the other hand, one year my (Jewish) Honey and I ended up going with friends to the fancy-schmancy Four Seasons buffet for Christmas dinner, and we were happy to down all the gravlax we could stuff into our tummies. I mean, after all, Christmas isn’t particularly a Jewish holiday, now is it. ;)

  30. RAB says:

    Well, apart from Jesus being a bit Jewish on his mother’s side of course. Who knows about his dad? Came disguised as a thunderstorm, and left faster than a thunderbolt. No sexual manners or foreplay at all, these Supreme Beings. ;-)

  31. Julie near Chicago says:

    I know, RAB, it’s a Mystery. You’d think the guy would at least merit a fancy lunch or something. And after all, wasn’t his last fancy supper a Seder?

    I do have to say I think his Father was also Jewish*, though. Supposedly. I mean the real Father, not the mere biological creature she was married to. On the other hand, the way they tell it nowadays, He is pretty ecumenical. Although to be absolutely honest, I don’ think He answers to no name w’at starts wit’ “A.”

    (To tell you the truth, Alan’s distinctly Jewish aunt and uncle always had a very nice Christmas tree, and their branch of the family always got together for Christmas dinner. Speaking of multi-culti and all. Imagine what happens when Mama’s boychik, her only child yet, is the first of his generation to marry a goy. Oy, the heavens fall! Which is pretty hilarious, because in Mama’s case the heavens fell, the earth stopped on its axis, life as we know it almost came to an end and her very Orthodox parents almost threw her out because SHE married — a lapsed Lutheran! LOLOL!!! Anyway, we broke the ice for our generation, and all the cousins married goyim.)

  32. laird says:

    JG, I’m glad to see that you’ve found a congenial home for your spin on matters Snowden. I still disagree, but I’ve made my position as clear as I can over at Perry’s place and won’t repeat it here (wouldn’t want to disturb all the collegiality here anyway). Just be aware that I’m lurking here, watching you!

    But I do agree that Snowden is no Brutus. Brutus was more (immediately) effective.

  33. John Galt says:

    You’re welcome any time Laird. I just got sick of Perry whining on without addressing any of the points I made.

    I know I am in a minority on Snowden, even among fellow libertarians, but unthinking adulation is as dangerous as unbalanced criticism.

    I am prepared to argue my position with anyone, but when the other party refuses to debate and simply responds with logical fallacies and ad hominem accusations on my libertarianism it just becomes a bit pointless.

    I have not abandoned the thread over at Samizdata, simply stated clearly and categorically my position both there and now again here.

    I don’t think the response here is different because my audience is substantially different, but rather because the debate is not being undermined.

    You’re view may differ obviously, but feel free to share either way.

  34. John Galt says:

    On the matter of Brutus, I think action against tyranny is a necessary evil, even when it comes to the murder of a tyrant, but it is possible to achieve honourably and thereby without treason, but they failed to do so on the battlefield during the civil war of 49/48 BC.

    Brutus accepted Caesar’s forgiveness, renewed friendship and even positions of responsibility within his government, yet in the end stabbed him in the shadows of Pompey’s theatre in a vicious and cowardly attack. That is why Brutus is a traitor, not because of what he did, but the treachery he used to do it.

    For Snowden matters are less simple, but in essence he gave his oath that he would protect the secrets of the United States and in return was given money and a position of some status. When he decided that the activities he was undertaking were (in his opinion) a violation of the constitution, rather than following a path which would ensure those secrets remained protected, through a direct complaint to the senate oversight committee or other mechanisms, he revealed the information to a foreign newspaper and fled to a foreign country, first to Hong Kong, China and then to Moscow, Russia.

    While he may not have intended to do so, in the eyes of the United States government, Edward Snowden’s actions amount to treason. Now whether those accusations have merit or not, they have been made by the United States government and in fairness he has fled to evade those charges, again I would argue that these are not the actions of an honourable man.

    Rightly or wrongly as a paid government employee, an intelligence agent of the United States he has breeched his oath, taken the money and lots more secret intelligence, which he is still releasing and fled to seek asylum with a country that, if not an open enemy of the United States, is at least a geopolitical opponent.

    Despite his assurances to the contrary, we do not know, probably can never know if he has given information to the Russian intelligence services or not, but they have granted him asylum and I would argue that there is no smoke without fire.

  35. Watchman says:


    Contrary to what a lot of idiots (including Islamic ones) believe, Allah is not the name of God. It is in fact the Arabic word for the concept God. So the wonderfully mistranslated ‘tenant’ (it is not one of the five pillars) ‘there is no God but Allah’ is in fact (and I learnt this whilst observing a Muslim RE teacher who was really irritated that it was not on the curriculum) ‘there is no God but God’, and is a statement of nothing more than Monotheism (I’ve also checked the passage in an interlinear translated version of the Qu’ran, and the same word is seemingly used in both places – albeit due to the structure of Arabic not entirely identical). This is clearly the same god as the Jews and Christians have, as Islam recognises Abraham and Jesus as prophets…

    There is a name of God in Islam, but as with portrayals of him, it is not meant to be used (not sure how it is passed on…). Totally unsurprisingly it seems to be based on the constonants JHW (so Jehovah or whatever…).

    It tells you a lot that both most Islamic teachers and their opponents are happy to agree on mistranslating a key text in order to differentiate Islam from other religions. My view is that by falling into their trap (presumably not deliberately) you are helping produce a situation where individual Muslims cannot feel anything other than Muslim, and are therefore manipulable by those who are spreading this misinformation for their own end.

    To bring this back to topic, another case where the focus on personality (in this case the presumed name of a God) takes away from the actual content. There is a reason why Christianity, Judaism and Islam (along with other monotheisms) do not name their God – as a universal concept he is much easier to meditate upon. Naming and putting a face to things fixes them much more – it makes it difficult to concentrate on the issue if there is a particular image there. So Islam headed up by Allah is divisive, and it ignores the fact that at core it is simply just another monotheism (complete with observed and unobserved rules, strange bits and attractive bits) – it allows those who want people to be grouped by ‘identity’ to segregate individuals from one another; an NSA leak by Edward Snowden is about just another hero/villain (complete with fan boys and haters, media attention and debate about motives) – it allows the US government to divide people from one another by their views about Mr Snowden and to ignore the actual issue.

    Don’t fall into the trap of labelling people and putting names or faces to concepts – this is a way of dividing and controlling (albeit I don’t think this is particularly conscious – we are not ruled by evil geniuses…). Mr Snowden’s rather too serious face is not the representation of NSA wrongdoing (whatever he might intend) – it is the government’s excuse to not address the issue. The misuse of the noun allah as a proper noun is not a useful way of categorising Islam – it is a way to try to stop Muslims living alongside everyone else on the same terms by making them different.

  36. NickM says:

    “On the matter of Brutus, I think action against tyranny is a necessary evil, even when it comes to the murder of a tyrant”

    I would regard the killing of a tyrant as a necessary good. Would not have stuck a cap in the ass of Hitler, Mao or Stalin?

    Edward Snowden is not Edward Snowhite but I guess he was scared. Paul Marks suggested he should have given the info to someone like Rand Paul. Yes, that would have been ideal as long as Senator Paul didn’t meet with an unfortunate one.

    JG, I think you are missing the Big Point. When the likes of ES feel so scared as to bugger off to Russia (and nobody seeks asylum in Russia except in desperate circs). The big point is of course that if you have an organization in which being a whistle blower makes you have to flee the country you have no checks and balances. Considering Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s fate I’d have been scared too. But the bigger picture is the lack of accountability, the lack of checks and balances. The NSA sounds like an NHS fiefdom where a “little person” saying “hang-on a minute!” gets squished. Just like that breast cancer surgeon using dangerously unsafe techniques got away with it for years despite junior doctors and nurses objecting. But because he was a consultant and that is one step below God in the NHS roll-order nobody cared.

    That is the real issue.

  37. Watchman says:


    Is killing a tyrant on your own judgement actually acceptable? Surely that logic allows the Shopkeeper who blames the PM for the economic crisis (about 200 years ago…) or the left-wing radical who has drifted aimlessly since leaving university but passionatly believes in his cause to kill the current PM because they see them as a tyrant?

    Not sure there is an answer to the problem of how do you define when resistance is acceptable, but self-selected violence is always unlikely to be the answer. Not least because violence is the opposite of consent, and society needs consent to function.

    And as for Brutus, he was just another one of the wanabe tyrants – Roman society required leaders to provide rewards for followers, so the powerful had no choice, and no way of stepping back (your clients could not honorably desert you when alive, so there was an obvious solution to that problem…). Treachery or not (and he did kill his patron), he was not fighting for freedom, just using the myth of the Republic to promote his own cause.

  38. NickM says:

    Why do you think I mentioned obvious tyrants? It is obviously morally right to kill tyrants. As to who is or isn’t one is not always obvious. Life is not obvious. Life is difficult – morally.

  39. Mr Ed says:

    The common law of England has always permitted reasonable force to be used in defence of self or another. It is lawful to use lethal force in self-defence if facing a vital, unlawful and imminent threat. However, if one finds, say, a foreign mercenary in the UK on his way to start a death squad in Rwanda, not an entirely far-fetched scenario, it would not, I submit, be lawful to kill him quia timet (for fear of what he is about to do) – leaving aside the extension of legal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity.

    So had you killed Lenin were he visiting England in 1921 (and ignoring diplomatic immunity) you would probably have hanged upon conviction. I would submit that you ought to have had a defence to the charge of murder, of reasonable force in defence of others by killing ‘…one of those degenerates who happens only once in a thousand years… …one of the most bloodthirsty degenerates who ever lived..’ (to quote a Czech character in Victor Suvorov’s The Liberators after the 1968 Soviet invasion), provided of course that you reasonably and objectively feared that he would go on to kill (whether in person or as the directing agent).

    The moral case for tyrannicide is self-evident.

  40. laird says:

    JG, I believe that Snowden’s (formal) oath to uphold and defend the Constitution is superior to any contractual obligation (not an “oath” in any sense) to protect what the US claims are its “secrets”. Obviously you feel differently, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    But as to following a different path of disclosure, delivering the information to a Rand Paul (assuming that Snowden could have gotten access to him) might have worked. But as to delivering it to the Congressional oversight committees, that’s a bad joke. They were enablers of the NSA from the start, and since the release of Snowden’s information their response has been to vilify him and propose legislation which would codify and expand the NSA’s illegal actions. There might be a few individual exceptions (such as Sensenbrenner, although he has already demonstrated that he was too gutless to do anything meaningful about the NSA’s activities), but most of them are completely on board with this unconstitutional behavior. Going to them would have been a total waste of time and an unacceptable risk. Snowden chose instead to follow the Daniel Ellsburg model, and I don’t fault him for it.

    By the way, Snowden is not a “traitor” in the strict legal sense. A traitor is one who commits treason, and “treason” consists of making war upon one’s own country or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. Russia is not our “enemy” in a legal sense, and nothing Snowden has disclosed has given aid to any of our real enemies (such as al Qaeda). They already knew that the US government was watching them. The only ones who didn’t were the American people. We know now.

  41. Mr Ed says:


    Mr Snowden, it seems, was being contracted by the United States to violate the Fourth Amendment. He would thereby have been party to unlawful and unconstitutional activity by staying in post. What force has an oath if it amounts to swearing to violate the Constitution? Surely none.

  42. John Galt says:

    The fourth amendment has been so bastardised in recent years that it’s very hard to understand what little of it is left. The vast majority of the NSA’s actions and the actions of other government bodies such as the TSA I would argue are a violation of the fourth amendment, but congress doesn’t agree and I’m not sure the weak, lily livered souls on the Supreme Court agree either.

    Bush the younger wiped his arse on the constitution and Obama is following in the same footsteps. The constitution is only relevant when it supports his purpose (Marxism), but when it defeats it then it becomes an outdated piece of paper.

  43. evilhippo says:

    “You’re welcome any time Laird. I just got sick of Perry whining on without addressing any of the points I made.”

    I addressed them all actually, as did several other people, you just didn’t like the answers.

  44. laird says:

    JG, I agree completely with your last comment.

  45. John Galt says:

    You keep telling yourself that Perry, but I’m not an idiot and neither are the folks at CCiZ.

    If you think using logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks are the mechanisms of debate then you are deluding yourself. This is exactly the behaviour of our enemies and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  46. CountingCats says:

    and neither are the folks at CCiZ

    Hey, don’t drag me into this.

    I’m happy to watch, but I’m staying out of it. I haven’t even read the original dispute.

    If you are going to break the furniture then take it outside.

  47. John Galt says:

    Apologies, Cats. I was referring to the community of the realm here at CCiZ (posters and commentators alike) rather than the big cheese and feeder of Dennis.

    Not decided whether I like in-line comments yet or not though :-)

  48. CountingCats says:

    I was referring to the community of the realm here at CCiZ

    I acknowledge that, but I was pointing out that the implication of that was that you were also including all the the individuals, as individuals.

    The collective, what you refer to as the community, after all, has no existence outside the individuals which make it up.

    Now, you chose to speak on behalf of that collective. An act which I found extraordinary, especially coming from you – my experience is that you truly understand these issues. I told you not to speak on my behalf, but I did not say anything about your not speaking on anyone elses behalf, because I do not speak for them. If they object to being dragged into the matter they are capable of raising their own objections. I do not speak for them, therefore I cannot do it.

    You said: I was referring to the community of the realm here at CCiZ (posters and commentators alike) rather than the big cheese and feeder of Dennis.

    However, in referring to the collective you were referring to me, by definition. Just as you were referring to RAB, Lynne and NickM.

    Now, were I to read the relevant discussion I may support you, I may not, or I may not care, but you cannot know my position until I communicate it.

    Drag the argument over here by all means, you don’t need my, or anyone elses, agreement for that, but remember, tolerance does not denote agreement or approval.

  49. CountingCats says:

    As to feeding the cat, I wish I could find something he will eat more than once.

    I open a tin of something, and he tucks into it. I give him some later, and he nibbles. I give him some more, for his next meal, and he looks at me and whiles plaintively, as if I haven’t fed him for three days.

    I can’t even rotate meals from multiple sources.

  50. Mr Ed says:

    Mr Snowden has a Christmas message for the world. I haven’t bothered to watch it yet, but it is nice of him to think of us.

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