Tuesday, October 08, 2013

My Rant on the Snowden Fiasco

I want to talk about the following article, which has every bit to do with integrity and confidentiality:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/10/lavabit_unsealed/ - Edward Snowden’s E-Mail Provider Defied FBI Demands to Turn Over Crypto Keys, Documents Show

Specifically, I'd like to refer to the comments made, at the bottom of the article.

Now, I'm a geek at heart.  I'm also a US military veteran (which means I'm an ex-government worker).  What has America done to warrant the level of hate and distrust that is contained within those comments???  People forget that in order for them to speak such venom, someone has died for them to have that right.  People die every day for the freedoms of the US citizen, and they're not just military.

Up front, I'm going to say that I don't give a crap about Snowden.  He's definitely not a hero or martyr, IMO.  You can spout off all the polls and opinions you like about that...it's not going to change my mind about him.  You can be a true hero and martyr without being a traitor to your country (and then running to another country to escape reprisals).  I say this while still being a geek at heart because I somewhat understand the nature of the US government and why they do the things they do.  And if you think the US government isn't nice to it's citizens, you should check out some of the things other countries do to people like Snowden.  There are US spies, but EVERY country has spies.  There are US soldiers tangling with civilians in other countries around the world (just as there are with other countries' militaries).  Shit happens sometimes.  The bad things are handled by our government, but there is no campaign to ruin  peoples' lives overseas, just as there is no general campaign to hide things.  The government hides things not because it's trying to hide things from it's citizens, but because it's trying to hide things from it's competition (other countries).  Because it's hiding data from other countries, by default, US citizens aren't going to see it.  You want transparency?  That's not going to happen with classified material.  Some people want disclosure of all government things, because they distrust what they don't see...that's not going to happen...in ANY country.  Some people think that if you're a geek, you should be concerned.  I'm not, and I'm a geek.  The government is not concerned with little me or the things that I'm doing (which is nothing that needs to be hidden).  I certainly don't broadcast my activities, but I'm pretty sure that the government doesn't have a folder on me in a file system somewhere.  I'm insignificant.  Are they data-mining, looking for certain patterns?  More than likely.  Are they looking for certain people or certain activities?  Probably.  Are they tracking EVERYONE, on a "just in case" basis?  No.  Besides all that, I'm not going to be living in a fortress like I'm some doom's day survivalist.

Now, the owner of Lavabit (Levinson) did what he thought was necessary to keep his personal and business integrity.  There's nothing wrong with that, even though I disagree with what Snowden did.  I might have done the same thing as Levinson.  He has to worry about his reputation as a business owner of data security an integrity, so he took the hit (and that might help him in the future).  I consider him more of a hero than Snowden, because Snowden wasn't under any type of obligation to share classified data to the public, but he did anyways, throwing his oath in the trash can.  Levison was under obligation to project his client base from disclosure (he owned a business and probably had contracts that bound him to ensure data integrity and confidentiality).  Snowden is looked at as a whistleblower and hero...WTF???  How can you sign a statement of non-disclosure and swear that you'll not reveal classified information, and still be considered a whistleblower/hero if you do??  How could you work for a secretive agency, by choice, and NOT know that you might see data that you might not want to be aware of?  Really?  People should always think along those lines when working for any of the 3-letter agencies.  Would you work for the mob and be surprised later on that they cut off thumbs occasionally?  Just sayin'.  Some of what the US government does is NOT pretty.  And how can you have an ounce of integrity if you release that type of information to the public, knowing that you're damaging international relations.  Snowden probably thought Russia was his friend...I'm pretty sure he doesn't think that now.  I'm sure Russia has made it clear to Snowden what they expect out of all of this is, and if not, they're definitely not patting him on the back and paying all of his tabs.  They're probably questioning him and trying to benefit from his loose lips.  Russia certainly isn't doting on Snowden because they're sympathetic and want to help out as an act of goodwill.  The Russian government is trying to insinuate it's nose into the issue and is looking to gain knowledge that they can take advantage of.  And just because Snowden did this doesn't mean that countries like Iran are now our friends...they hate us even more and aren't thankful that some traitor spilled the beans.  If you were iffy on whether you'd be shot while walking down a crowded street in a Pakistani city, there should now be relative certainty that you'll at least get shanked...and all because of "whistleblowers" like Snowden and Manning (who I can't stand because he was actually a soldier and fellow intelligence analyst and did the worst thing a soldier and analyst could do).

I'm certainly not saying that our government is totally innocent of atrocities, especially since I'm not privy to everything that goes on in the government.  But I'm pretty sure that not everyone within the government is guilty.  That's not saying that everyone that knows certain classified tidbits should just spill the beans regarding topics they don't understand, either.  Maybe there should be a national whistleblower hotline for crap such as this, so that someone internal to the government (that can't be touched by law) can screen such concerns.  But really, I've more respect for a gangbanger that takes the heat for a crime of his peers than someone like Snowden or Manning.  And I think that the government needs to learn from this and screen soldiers and contractors a LOT better.

Unlike most geeks, I'm not down with the "down with The Man" attitude, and I honestly think that military service should be mandatory for every male citizen (and maybe even females), because it would only help them to understand the government...they might not like it after 2-3 years of mandatory service, but they'll definitely have a better understanding.  They'd learn things that history books don't typically explain or expand on.  Not that I know much about traveling and the international community (and how other countries out there hate us ALL)...being as I traveled the world for 10 years while I was in the Army and another 10 years after I got out, following my wife as the Army sent her places.  I'm going to speak generally for a second.  The average US citizen has never left the US other than to maybe vacation for a week or two.  I'm sure there are many citizens that have stayed in other countries for at least a year, but compared to the whole citizen base, that number is probably a relatively small number.  The average citizen is spoiled.  They know nothing of protecting themselves while abroad.  They show off how rich they are (thereby making it easy to be target by thieves or terrorists).  They know it all but usually don't know any language or culture other than their own (while many others of the world know 2 or more languages).  They act arrogant.  Outsiders see all of this, so they already have a negative picture of us.  Mix it in with the occasional misunderstanding or soldier that kills a foreign citizen (purposely or not, self-defense or not), and guess what...they think ALL of the US is corrupt.  Not just the government...ALL.

Now, Manning was in the military when he did what he did.  He was also a Private (in rank).  I'd also guess that he was was a loner...there's just no way he could've shared his thoughts of the US government and been a popular and mentoring soldier...not doing what he did.  It's a bit difficult to look up to people like that as a soldier peer.  So he gained new friends (anarchists, I guess)...well, that still doesn't help him or Snowden.  At least Manning doesn't have to run.  Snowden will eventually tire of running...it's going to be a hard life for him, IMO, even living in Russia.  God forbid if Russia tires of him and decides to put him out.

In my opinion, these "down with The Man" types are just doing the dirty work for the foreign malcontents.  We're easier to conquer if we're divided.  This is why we're no longer really a world power (and have to borrow money from China).  We won't force our government to take care of what they're chartered to do, yet we rant about how much they need to go away.  If the government disappears tomorrow, this country will tear itself apart in very short order.  People nowadays don't have a spirit of nationalism, either.  I rarely see youngsters speaking about political issues without extreme venom, which is horrible, since this country should be thriving on political debate (competition always makes things better in the end).  If either the Democratic or Republican party died tomorrow, this country will be in a serious world of hurt, because there will be no balance.  Our job as citizens should be to have a sense of nationalism (even if you don't believe in government) and to keep to the government honest, since they work for us.  That requires hard work (not just internet ranting such as was witnessed in the comments of the supplied URL).  Go out and volunteer and be involved with working the issues.  Help out your political parties.  Be involved with US soldiers.  Be a good US diplomat while overseas (we're ALL representatives of the US and everything we do, good or bad, is watched).  In fact, with the internet binding the nations tighter, it may do well to be a good US diplomat while online, since your internet buddy may well be a foreign national.

Because I'm a geek, most of my peers assume I hate government, but it's kinda funny, because even geeks have governance.  It's all around us, yet we never rant about things such as ToS, GNU, computer AUP at your workplaces...  But when anyone mentions US government, the whole community gets bent.  Most rules are generally put in place because someone violated some unwritten trust or there is the chance that someone will do something unwanted if it isn't disclosed that it shouldn't be done.  In the case of intelligence and security, disclosure can get someone killed in the field.  I know you're saying, "Well, Snowden did that, so your argument is busted," but that's where Snowden and Manning screwed up.  They put people's lives in danger...and not just Americans, but possibly people overseas who assisted the US.

I'm thinking I'll moderate the comments, because this type of subject-matter tends to bring out the ugly comments from people.

But I'm done with this.  I've said my bit.

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