Everyone concerned with the PRISM revelations should now be contacting their representatives and encouraging their friends to do the same. That’s what should be happening, and it seems to be happening en masse– in Germany and the US at least.
Supporters of the NSA’s abusive programs are trying to distract from Snowden’s important revelations by drawing attention to Wikileaks, which is an organization that is difficult to understand. I think that Lonnie Snowden said it best:
“I don’t want to put him [Edward] in peril, but I am concerned about those who surround him,” he says. “I think WikiLeaks, if you’ve looked at past history, you know, their focus isn’t necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It’s simply to release as much information as possible.”
Julian Assange is the weakest link for anybody defending Snowden’s actions from NSA shills.
I should say, Assange is the weakest link that American talking heads are willing to spout about. There’s one more. His name is Jacob Appelbaum and you probably know him from his promotion of the Tor network.
What is Tor? From their website:
Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others.
Jacob Appelbaum released an interview with Snowden to Der Spiegel about Tempora and German intelligence cooperation with the NSA’s abusive programs. Read an English version here.
Appelbaum explains how he was granted such an interview:
“In mid-May, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras contacted me,” Appelbaum said. “She told me she was in contact with a possible anonymous National Security Agency (NSA) source who had agreed to be interviewed by her.”
“She was in the process of putting questions together and thought that asking some specific technical questions was an important part of the source verification process. One of the goals was to determine whether we were really dealing with an NSA whistleblower. I had deep concerns of COINTELPRO-style entrapment. We sent our securely encrypted questions to our source. I had no knowledge of Edward Snowden’s identity before he was revealed to the world in Hong Kong. He also didn’t know who I was. I expected that when the anonymity was removed, we would find a man in his sixties.”
There are a few things different between Appelbaum’s interview and the interviews that Greenwald and Poitras published. First, you’ll notice Snowden’s language is more crass. Second, there was no release of documents involved with Appelbaum. Appelbaum claims that Snowden was willing to have Appelbaum publish their conversation at Appelbaum’s convenience.
Now, at face value, Appelbaum’s interest in Edward is very understandable. Appelbaum is famous for supporting internet freedom. Things get less comfortable when you dig deeper though: Appelbaum’s Tor project is part of the US Naval Research Laboratory and is funded by outfits like the NRL, Google, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (that’s a .gov link!), the (US) National Science Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Shinjiru International (Microsoft endorsed), The Knight Foundation, Radio Free Asia and the National Christian Foundation (!?). Read the full list of sponsors here.
Appelbaum spends his time educating US law enforcement (like the FBI– team sport!) on how to monitor websites without revealing that the government is watching, as well as helping dissidents– particularly dissidents in countries hostile to the US– send information securely.
Why would Poitras go to a guy who is funded by the US military, the abuse-complicit company Google, US propaganda outfits, and a faith-based tax avoidance operation to vet Snowden? Oh yeah, and Appelbaum’s famous for educating the FBI– that organization from the Verizon tap order.
Appelbaum stood in for Assange once when the Wikileaks head couldn’t make it to a speech– read Rolling Stone’s saccharine piece on Appelbaum here. Yet, despite all the weirdness around Appelbaum, Beltliners keep pounding the Assange drum.
Washington: Why not sling mud at Appelbaum? Or is he a little too close to home? Oh yeah, and now Human Rights Watch is ‘handling’ Snowden’s case from the US of A– sort of like how the FSB is ‘handling’ his case from Russia.
Sadly, Edward Snowden has a lot of dangerous people around him. Some are playing damage control, others are trying to make hay. These games are impossible for Snowden to avoid, because what he did is so important.
Eyes on the prize everyone: Snowden’s revelations are about constitutional rights and reining in civil servants who have lost touch with reality. Call your senators, congressmen and push for the deepest intelligence funding cuts you can. Lobby like your life depends on it.
I forgot to add that Poitras contacted Appelbaum in order to vet Snowden on the technical details of the whistleblower’s NSA experience. Here’s how Appelbaum describes it:
“She [Poitras] was in the process of putting questions together and thought that asking some specific technical questions was an important part of the source verification process. One of the goals was to determine whether we were really dealing with an NSA whistleblower. I had deep concerns of COINTELPRO-style entrapment. We sent our securely encrypted questions to our source.”
“The following questions are excerpted from a larger interview that covered numerous topics, many of which are highly technical in nature. Some of the questions have been reordered to provide the required context. The questions focus almost entirely on the NSA’s capabilities and activities. It is critical to understand that these questions were not asked in a context that is reactive to this week’s or even this month’s events. They were asked in a relatively quiet period, when Snowden was likely enjoying his last moments in a Hawaiian paradise — a paradise he abandoned so that every person on the planet might come to understand the current situation as he does.”
So presumably, Poitras thought that Applebaum would know the ‘right answer’ to the technical questions he asked Snowden. (Or at least she believed that Appelbaum would know if an answer was within the NSA’s technical capabilities.) We’re only given some of the questions and answers. So which of these technical questions might Appelbaum know the ‘right answer’ to?
1. Are German authorities or German politicians involved in the NSA surveillance system?
2. But if details about this system are now exposed, who will be charged?
3. Did the NSA help to create Stuxnet? (Stuxnet is the computer worm that was deployed against the Iranian nuclear program.)
4. What are some of the big surveillance programs that are active today and how do international partners aid the NSA? Follow up: Is there a way of circumventing that? ['Cause we all know Tor is weak!- a.nolen]
5. Do the NSA and its partners across the globe do full dragnet data collection for telephone calls, text and data?
6. The NSA is building a massive new data center in Utah. What is its purpose?
7. Do private companies help the NSA?
8. Are there companies that refuse to cooperate with the NSA?
9. What websites should a person avoid if they don’t want to get targeted by the NSA?
10. What happens after the NSA targets a user?
If I was in in Appelbaum’s position, I wouldn’t want to admit knowing the right answer to ANY of these questions.
Appelbaum doesn’t differentiate between 1) questions that he used to decide if Snowden was a legit NSA employee (i.e. if Snowden could possibly know what he is talking about) and 2) questions that Appelbaum just wanted to get on record. (For his own sake or Snowden’s, I wonder.) Appelbaum does admit to presenting the questions in Der Spiegel in a different order than which he asked them, though again, we’re not told how the order was changed.
Why not tell us which questions convinced you of Snowden’s authenticity, Jacob? Are the rest of us just too stupid to understand the “highly technical” parts? When were you sure that Snowden wasn’t a “COINTELPRO-style” trap? The public would love to know.