Snowden paper

Edward Snowden, depending on who you are, is either a “patriot” or a “traitor.” Until this point I have refrained from commenting on the man because sometimes it is best to take a step back and let the dust settle before charging forward. Now that it has, one thing is clear: The media made the 2012 election about the “war on women” and gay rights in between rounds of cudgeling Mitt Romney (justifiably, to an extent) for his “47 percent” line. Days were filled with on-air jokes about “Big Bird” and other immature sideshows, all the while the NSA was expanding its surveillance on millions of innocent Americans.

Did any serious journalist put pressure on President Obama in the run up to the 2012 election over his expanded drone program, the National Defense Authorization Act, or his “Terror Tuesday” kill list (also called the “Disposition Matrix”)? While the ultimate blame for failure rests squarely at Romney’s feet (the man’s plan for winning over Hispanics was to essentially tell them he hoped they’d all self deport), one can not deny that the mainstream media bent over backwards to keep Mr. Obama’s Bush-on-steroids approach to certain aspects of national security under wraps.

Imagine what the 2012 presidential debates would have looked like if Bob Schieffer and Candy Crowley read magazines like Wired and then asked the candidates substantive questions on national security:

In May 2010, a little more than a year after President Obama took office and only weeks before Stuxnet became public, a new organization to exercise American rule over the increasingly militarized Internet became operational: the US Cyber Command. Keith Alexander, newly promoted to four-star general, was put in charge of it. The forces under his command were now truly formidable—his untold thousands of NSA spies, as well as 14,000 incoming Cyber Command personnel, including Navy, Army, and Air Force troops. Helping Alexander organize and dominate this new arena would be his fellow plebes from West Point’s class of 1974: David Petraeus, the CIA director; and Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. …

What’s good for Alexander is good for the fortunes of the cyber-industrial complex, a burgeoning sector made up of many of the same defense contractors who grew rich supplying the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With those conflicts now mostly in the rearview mirror, they are looking to Alexander as a kind of savior. After all, the U.S. spends about $30 billion annually on cybersecurity goods and services.

That’s a lot of money and a lot of power concentrated in one place. Is it necessary?

In May, Alexander discovered that four months earlier someone, or some group or nation, had secretly hacked into a restricted US government database known as the National Inventory of Dams. Maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, it lists the vulnerabilities for the nation’s dams, including an estimate of the number of people who might be killed should one of them fail. Meanwhile, the 2013 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” gave the US a D on its maintenance of dams. There are 13,991 dams in the US that are classified as high-hazard, the report said. A high-hazard dam is defined as one whose failure would cause loss of life. “That’s our concern about what’s coming in cyberspace—a destructive element. It is a question of time,” Alexander said in a talk to a group involved in information operations and cyberwarfare, noting that estimates put the time frame of an attack within two to five years. He made his comments in September 2011.

That still doesn’t answer the question, but it does provide an important lesson: any cyber assault the U.S. government can dish out on its own people is also generally possessed by its enemies. And that includes “zero day exploits” being used against us:

According to news reports, [defense contractors are] developing ways to break into Internet-connected devices through chinks in their antivirus armor. Like safecrackers listening to the click of tumblers through a stethoscope, the “vulnerability researchers” use an extensive array of digital tools to search for hidden weaknesses in commonly used programs and systems, such as Windows and Internet Explorer. And since no one else has ever discovered these unseen cracks, the manufacturers have never developed patches for them.

Thus, in the parlance of the trade, these vulnerabilities are known as “zero-day exploits,” because it has been zero days since they have been uncovered and fixed. They are the Achilles’ heel of the security business, says a former senior intelligence official involved with cyberwarfare. Those seeking to break into networks and computers are willing to pay millions of dollars to obtain them.

Scary stuff, huh? It’s a shame that multiple news cycles were spent talking about the doomsday scenario predicted by women like Sandra Fluke, who gained a prime time slot at the Democratic National Convention because a radio host called her a slut. But why assume the nation would want to discuss the buying and selling of “zero day exploits” when there are Big Bird jokes to crack?

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? Is Moe Lane of Red State on to something?

[Other countries are spying on] us and that is how the game is played, and I didn’t ask for a twenty-something arrested-development anti-American man-child to arrogantly decide that American national security was less important than his frankly puerile transnational fantasy ideology. In fact, I would like the American government to go collect said man-child, and try him for espionage, please.

I would say Mr. Lane makes a rather astute observation: Edward Snowden could have held a press conference with Ron Paul and Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders and a wide range of pundits from across the political spectrum. He would have been hailed as a hero. From there he would accept the consequences, and if that involved a perp walk (imagine the fallout for the Obama administration for making such a move), so be it.

Instead, he went to China. And then to Russia. And now … who knows.

All we do know is that Edward Snowden is talking to people who do not care about the well being of Americans and who certainly do not care about the well being of individuals within their own countries. Snowden has sullied his own reputation by hiding behind thug regimes of the highest order.

In 2016, should Hillary Clinton become the Democratic nominee, history will repeat itself. The media will not want to talk about national security because a.) a female candidate is the perfect excuse to return to the “war on women” mantra and b.) talking about dead American bodies in Benghazi makes it hard to assume the mantle of Greatest … Secretary … of … State … Ever. “For-Eva Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva?” When this happens, remember Edward Snowden and demand more. The fate of the nation depends on it.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

20 comments

  1. the “war on women” is both a political vehicle for democrats to pummel republicans, and an actual legislative assault by multiple republican-held state legislatures.

    that said, glad you’re finally weighing in on the constitutional crisis we’re facing in regards to the blatant violations of the increasingly privatized surveillance state.

    1. The problem with the media, whether it’s with the NSA leaks, the Newtown massacre, the Trayvon Martin killing, or any number of other stories, is that too many people jump to conclusions or act like “experts” on issues they have no idea what they’re talking about. Then, instead of admitting they were wrong, half the time they try and paper over their errors with new justifications for what they said out the gates. I write on issues that I feel comfortable talking about on a timeline of my choosing. Not writing a specific blog post on the timeline of someone else doesn’t mean I don’t care about the constitution or the issue more broadly speaking, and it would be a huge mistake to let others coerce me into writing before I had my thoughts adequately organized.

      I see these as probably the two main takeaways from this piece:

      While the ultimate blame for failure rests squarely at Romney’s feet (the man’s plan for winning over Hispanics was to essentially tell them he hoped they’d all self deport), one can not deny that the mainstream media bent over backwards to keep Mr. Obama’s Bush-on-steroids approach to certain aspects of national security under wraps. …

      Any cyber assault the U.S. government can dish out on its own people is also generally possessed by its enemies. And that includes “zero day exploits” being used against us.

      That second point is very important, because the people who seemingly want to dismantle the NSA don’t really have an answer for that. On some level I think most Americans don’t mind monitoring much of their online activity provided there is an open and honest discussion about what the threats are. I understand the NSA not wanting to have that discussion. That is logical, given its mission. What I find unacceptable is a media that overwhelmingly clamored for more transparency suddenly shutting up in 2008 with the election of President Obama. Worse, Obama specifically campaigned on being Mr. Transparent. If he simply apologized for some of the worst things in said and implied about Bush on national security grounds, I’d cut him slack. Instead, he gets in front of the microphone and acts like Mr. Grumpy-pants when he’s asked about Snowden. So … he knows that Bush was right about a whole heck of a lot in a brand new world (both in terms of national security threats and emerging technology), but he’ll only say it through his body language.

    2. You seem to spend most of your time looking for individuals or groups to define as enemies. And so, the universe gives them to you. Ask and you shall receive…

  2. One way to win a debate that you cannot otherwise win is to shift attention to other things and vilify your opponent. The Democratic marketing plan has been nothing short of Amazing even if it is sickening. The Republican and Independent parties need to determine if they will stick with the high ground or go to that level to compete. Another thing they need to do is to generate more media outlets and dispel some of the blatant falsehoods that have been pushed on them. They need to remove the segregation game. I also find it rather funny that the people that complain the most about others calling them intolerant tend to be the least tolerant people.

    Just my two cents.

    1. Here is was one of the key points in my response to Lizard19:

      Any cyber assault the U.S. government can dish out on its own people is also generally possessed by its enemies. And that includes “zero day exploits” being used against us. …

      That […] is very important, because the people who seemingly want to dismantle the NSA don’t really have an answer for that.

      Here is his reply:

      the Bush and Obama administrations are both enemies of the constitution.

      It is much easier to call someone an “enemy of the constitution” than it is to have a conversation about emerging technology, how to balance the need to maintain our individual liberties while also providing security (i.e., our right to life). These are incredibly complex issues. I have serious concerns when it comes to national security, spying, etc. … but I also know that the knee-jerk reaction to demonize those we disagree with does nothing to help bring about an acceptable resolution.

    2. this country is a domestically hollowed out husk of its post WWII peak, and our ability to project power for the primary benefit of western corporate interests is diminishing, which makes us that much more dangerous. Obama is going to have to escalate his Syrian intervention, and domestically social unrest is expected as the QEforever pump-priming fake economy continues to deteriorate for most Americans while a slim few make obscene amounts of fraudulently acquired wealth. the NSA spies on us because those in power know opposition to their corrupt reign is inevitable.

      funny how the Army continues to block the Guardian website. isn’t that the kind of crap they pull in China?

      @truthwillwin1, if you are really interested in truth, forget the Democrat/Republican binary.

    3. Lizard19, how do you propose the federal government should deal with state sponsored cyber-attacks that happen every day on our infrastructure, private corporations and on military installations housing our most sensitive information?

    1. That wasn’t my question.

      I find it interesting how you’ve cast yourself in previous comments as a serious thinker when it comes to issues of national security while I, on the other hand, merely write on comic books and Paula Deen. And then, when the post you’ve craved manifests itself, the in-depth commentary you’ve thought long and hard about is nowhere. One reply filled with platitudes about how we’re not the country we were during World War II (back then we didn’t have the capability to collect meta data, so we collected Japanese people instead), an then this:

      The Bush and Obama administrations are both enemies of the constitution.

      building a defensive capability doesn’t require storing vast amounts of metadata in Utah.

      This is a straight forward question: How do you propose the federal government should deal with state sponsored cyber-attacks that happen every day on our infrastructure, private corporations and on military installations housing our most sensitive information?

      Given your previous statements I didn’t expect a thesis, but I expected something quite a bit more substantive. I would love to hear Lizard19’s plan for dealing with “zero day threats,” but perhaps it’s not meant to be.

      I think the reason why it’s not meant to be (at least until this point) is because you’ve already nicely demonstrated to anyone who has read your previous comments that for all your talk of “enemies of the constitution,” perhaps the world is a bit more complex than snippet-replies better suited for a “Bad Religion” album.

      “Don’t want to beee, the em-P.I.R.E. … don’t want to beee, the Li-Z.A.R.D.”

    2. Because I’m in a good mood, I’ll talk to you in your native language: Artist

      While you seem to be of the “Rage Against the Machine” mindset, the wavelength I operate on is more Nico Vega: “Beast”

      I will be right to you, I will be right to you, I will be right to you, and together we can stand up to the beast.
      You see…Suppression is a mother f*cking prison — so I hand you the key to your cell.
      You’ve got to love you neighbor, love your neighbor.
      And let your neighbor love you back. Come on now!

      Stand tall for the beast of America.
      Lay down like a naked dead body, keep it real for the people workin’ overtime
      They can’t stay living off the government’s dime.
      Stand tall for the people of America.
      Stand tall for the man next door, Cause we are free in the land of America, we ain’t goin’ down like this.
      Come on now!

      You need more love, Lizard19. I’m not joking.

  3. @lizard19
    I am plenty aware I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I tend to align more with a conservative Libertarian stance for most issues. One thing you mentioned bothers me:

    ” a slim few make obscene amounts of fraudulently acquired wealth”.

    I do not mean to put words in your mouth but to me this statement tends to project that the wealthy have only became or maintain wealth from fraudulent means. I hope that is not what you mean by that statement because many people have worked very hard to acquire their wealth. You seem to have a very negative view on things where as I tend to like to find the opportunity out of every situation to excel.

    As for the other issue this might shed some light on it:

    “US central command is among other DOD organizations that routinely take preventative measures to safeguard the chance of spillage of classified information on to unclassified computer networks, even if the source of the information is itself unclassified,” said US army Lt Col Steve Wollman, a spokesman for central command. “One of the purposes for preventing this spillage is to protect Centcom personnel from inadvertently amplifying disclosed but classified information.”

    “The US military’s online filters for classified information are not new. In 2010, the air force’s protectors of “network hygiene” blocked access to the websites of news organizations that published classified material acquired by radical transparency group WikiLeaks, including the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.”

  4. in this new world where Bush was allegedly right about so many things (according to Doug) things are certainly complicated, and I’m sure that’s why the Obama administration is forced to now openly arm Al-Qaeda affiliated extremists in Syria.

    regarding zero day exploits (nice new boogeyman term) the best offense is a good defense, like I said. the reason we, as Americans, should be even more concerned about other nations wanting to cause us harm is because our “elected” leaders have already involved our country in a global cyber war. the military moved to define cyber attacks as an act of war in 2011. that makes the stuxnet attack on Iran an act of war.

    does that justify massive data collection by the NSA and its corporate contractors?

    @truthwillwin1 the growing disparity between extreme wealth and rest of the US population has not been fueled by hard work. this Business Insider article is worth reading.

    the economy continues to be a giant scam cooked by the big banks, ratings agencies, and the fed’s regular infusions of fiscal methadone. both parties are, by design, incapable of addressing the systemic fraud that still threatens not just Americans, but the global economy.

    1. Once again, a clear-cut question: How do you propose the federal government should deal with state sponsored cyber-attacks that happen every day on our infrastructure, private corporations and on military installations housing our most sensitive information?

      Lizard’s answer? Zero day exploits are a “boogeyman” and:

      “[T]he best offense is a good defense.”

      *Lone man clapping in an auditorium* Clap. … Clap. … Clap.

      I’m so glad that Truthwillwin’s comment gave you the out you needed to get back to your obsession with wealth disparity. Have a nice day, Lizard19.

    2. Here’s my answer: You’re hilarious. And exposed.

      I asked you as very straightforward question that would have required you to come up with a semi-coherent plan for protecting the nation from very real cyber threats. You responded by going off on a tangent that allowed you to get back into your comfort zone (i.e., complaining about everyone and everything). During said rant, you asked me a question and then — hoping no one noticed your redirection — asked me why I haven’t responded to it. Classic.

      Like I said, have a nice day.

  5. your narrow focus on zero day exploits is interesting, and I did answer your question.

    you also tend to be slippery when I ask you direct questions, but I’ll try it anyway: what did Bush do right in regards to national security?

    1. There’s a reason why I told you to have a nice day. Try to have a productive dialogue after the next post on national security. I know you can do it.

  6. this whole NSA thing started long before Obama, i hope you aren’t saying this squarely falls on the Obama Administration. Despite Snowden’s ‘holier than thou” appearance, he also leaked out that the US Govt was spying on the rest of world. and vital information that could have lead to americans dying. He’s a traitor in that aspect and he should be tried for it.

    1. Kyle, as the title says, I blame the media. They have the power to concentrate on anything they want. Media have a responsibility to force politicians to talk about the most pressing issues of the day. Instead, we got ample amounts of Sandra Fluke and Big Bird.

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