Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"[He] shall not seek and [he] will not accept..."

The histrionics surrounding the spitballed notion that Young Snowden might receive amnesty in order for the Spooks (of which he is one, let's not forget) to persuade him to return to this country with the "rest" of his hoard of NSA secrets is interesting.

When the notion was first floated on the CBS Evening News last Friday, few seemed to notice. If I hadn't seen the "60 Minutes" segment which was presented on the CBS Evening News during which the idea was floated, I doubt I would have known about it until Monday, as I've sworn off "60 Minutes" for cause.

It's a fairly radical idea coming from the desk of someone charged with dealing with the Problem of Snowden and His Hoard, but there you are. We live in interesting times. The discredited leaders of the Agency are all in a dither over it, running around with their hair on fire denouncing the Very Idear as nonsense and perfidy and a terrible precedent, yadda, yadda. Which I'm sure it is, but at this point -- unless arrangements that we know not of have already been made -- it's an "idea" being run up the flagpole to see what the response will be, it is not an offer.

Outside the Agency, the keening and garment rending is just as strong, especially on Team Greenwald's bench where the idea is being met with fierce resistance and denunciations. Of course if Snowden counter-defects back to the USofA, it could be interpreted as a slap in Greenwald's face for so crassly cashing in on the Hoard. Which leads me to wonder. Has a deal been attempted? In other words, are Spooks in contact with Snowden directly? Oh my goodness if they are. Would he be willing to follow through with the request of his father's (I believe it was) that he be granted legal amnesty in order to return to the USofA and escape from the clutches of the Putin Security State, and not be prosecuted at home?

Of course the Greenwald camp would say "@NO! NO! NO! " But Snowden is the one for whom this is an issue, not Greenwald or his pep squad. (Well, there have been hints -- mostly from Greenwald himself -- that he is in some legal jeopardy, too, but what exactly that might be is unknown). As far as I know, Snowden has been mum about the idea. If there were real negotiations going on, I would expect the principals to keep it to themselves and for their representatives to distract attention from the actual terms and conditions.

But it's not just Greenwald's partisans naysaying amnesty. It's a raft of corporate/legal interests, too, as well as elements within the Security State which claim they don't want Snowden/Greenwald to "get away with it," and thus encourage others to do likewise as Snowden has done.

Encouraging others to do likewise as Snowden has done is supposedly the whole point of the exercise, however, at least from the Greenwald end of these events, and for the Spookeries and Team Greenwald to be on essentially the same side of the question of Amnesty for Snowden is interesting -- to say the least.

For them all to chorus "NO!" in unison is very evocative of collusion and collaboration.

Which of course we're not supposed to notice. Or if we do, we are supposed to overlook it. "It's just business," after all.

Along those lines, Mark Ames over at Pando continues to stir the pot. Without actually stating as much, Ames puts the lie to the often heard argument that "corporations can't arrest, prosecute, jail or kill you; only the State can." Of course, this has always been nonsense, meant to trip and snare the gullible, but Ames demolishes the notion by pointing out in great detail how one giant corporation, the one that "Pierre" Omidyar chairs -- eBay -- is in constant collusion with police and surveillance agencies around the world, quite proudly and openly, to monitor online transactions through eBay and PayPal, and to apprehend evildoers thereby. In other words, there's no dividing line between state authority and power and corporate ability and power -- they are in service to one another, and when it comes to apprehending evildoers, they operate as the same entity.

Under the circumstances, of course one should be as concerned about corporate surveillance as one is ordered to be about NSA surveillance. They are essentially indistinguishable, and they can have very similar consequences for those who are ensnared. Yet corporate defenders continue to yammer on about how "only the state" element in the constant surveillance state is scary. The corporate element is benign.


Given that eBay is actually one of the megaCorps most heavily involved in direct surveillance of individuals online and given the fact that it is effectively indistinguishable from the Surveillance State itself, and it uses State Power to apprehend and prosecute suspected evildoers, the argument that somehow eBay, "Pierre," Greenwald, and the rest are or will be bystanders, observers, or simple investigative reporters as diligent about Corporate Power as they are about State Power is patently absurd. No, that isn't how it works. Nor is it likely that the New Model Daily Planet they intend to create will go after the fused Corporate/State Power (as in the eBay example) with anything like the diligence they intend to apply to State Power alone.

The point, obviously, is to attack State Power -- at least to the extent that it interferes with or questions Corporate interests -- and to sell it as "protecting your liberties."

We'll see whether Snowden succumbs to the blandishments of the Security Apparat. It's quite possible he will, especially if he believes that "his work is done," that the debate he and Greenwald asserted they wanted has been engaged and thorough and that the reforms and protections of "liberty" they were demanding have been addressed.

Time will tell.


  1. I really cannot see any mechanism to grant him amnesty, short of an act of congress. The president certainly has no such power. The most that president Obama might do would be possibly grant him clemency or a pardon if he were to submit to the verdict of a federal court. This isn't a dictatorship. Personally, I don't think Snowden ever was counting on being forgiven by the federal government. He continues to cast about his wares to just about anybody who is willing to listen. He probably would have been better off if he had come home to face the music a long time ago. He is truly a man without a country.

  2. According to what little I've been able to suss out about it, there are a number of options wrt Snowden that prosecutors and/or the president can pursue:

    * He can be pardoned outright, much as Ford pardoned Nixon
    * He can be offered full immunity from prosecution either in exchange for something (the hoard he is supposedly still holding, say) or straightforwardly without an exchange
    * He can be offered partial immunity in a deal which would require him to a) return to this country; b) appear in court on some minor charge for which he would plead guilty and receive a light or suspended sentence; c) turn over all documents still in his possession and/or the encryption keys to any he has placed elsewhere; d) agree not to discuss any of the NSA documents or their contents in future; e) agree to refrain from receiving any monetary reward or publication advance (to "tell his story") for a period of years.

    If there are any negotiations under way (and I wouldn't be surprised to find out there are), they are probably along the lines of the third option, as this sort of deal is not unusual in certain high profile NatSec cases.

    If Snowden agreed, it could be a win-win for him and the government. But my sense is he's living pretty well in Russia and nothing he could be offered by prosecutors would match or better whatever deal he already has. The issue for him may be the limitations of the Russian deal, however.

  3. Thanks for the rundown. You might be right, if he is granted permanent asylum. He does seem to take to it well, reading Dostoevsky in Russian! He was living for some weeks with his wikileaks protector, Sarah Harrison who is really a very pretty girl. She has flown to Berlin for the present.