Friday, December 27, 2013

Stretch Goals: Young Snowden Comes Again

Ack! Emmanuel Goldstein Lives!@!

By now perhaps, everybody who's interested has read Barton Gellman's extended pre-Christmas interview with (and paean to) Young Snowden in the WaPo, and many have probably also seen Snowden's Alternative Christmas Message to Britain. (How very.... erm, Alt-Royal of him, né?)

The message is strong and rather clear, if you listen with cocked ears and pay attention to nuance and verbiage.

While many wonder about the subtext in the Intelligence Community Review Panel Report, which is really quite a radical document when you get past the fact that it's come out of the government itself and most of the panel members are tied directly into the Surveillance State, the subtext running rampant through the Snowden "availabilities" is glaring, and to many, it's pretty obvious.

We could go back to Snowden's initial interviews in Hong Kong with Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, but I would dearly love to have been a fly on the wall of the interviews he gave to Guardian editors in New York before that. That was when The Story of the Century (as it has been dubbed by some wags) was solidified and massaged into its soon-to-be world wide media firestorm form. Listen carefully to what Rusbridger and Gibson say to Charlie Rose about meeting with Snowden in New York before he went to Hong Kong, how they decided to make this the story it's become, and notice how Greenwald practically doesn't figure in it at all. It's almost as if Greenwald were little more than a pawn in a much larger game the Guardian was playing.

But as we make note of these things, let's be clear about British media, including the Guardian. They don't always tell the truth. Part of the British media culture is fantabulism, what we would call "making shit up." We saw some of this more openly than usual during Rusbridger's flailing accounts of the "Government" ordering the destruction of computers at the Guardian which supposedly contained the Forbidden Snowden Materials, a story which suddenly "appeared" out of nowhere amid the report of the somewhat theatrical detention of David Miranda at Heathrow. After withholding the story for months, Rusbridgers accounts of what had happened (and his phony "evidence" thereof) simply stank to high heaven, to coin a phrase, and if they were intended to do anything but distract from the Miranda story, it seemed to be for a specific audience's entertainment. (I would say it was a fabricated incident that was intended either to cover up something else or to make clear to the Authorities that the Guardian was no longer in possession of any pertinent Snowden material -- if it ever had any to begin with.)

It may well be that the Guardian never had possession of the Snowden documents, that no media outlet has ever had possession, and that the documents have only been in the possession of a handful of journalists, Greenwald, Poitras and Gellman among them.

So what have the ongoing theatrics been about?

Well, of course, they are necessary for marketing purposes. You cannot keep the story in the public eye for very long without a dramatic arc. So it has been. But at the same time, there has been remarkably little revealed that wasn't already pretty well understood by those who care about matters of surveillance and privacy. It was already well understood, or it should have been, given all the stories in the media  (including frequently in Greenwald's columns) about it prior to the Snowden Emergence, that one literally has no privacy in electronic communications and has very little privacy in any other kind of communications. "Rights" to privacy are a matter of government and private sector whim, the amount of money one has, and one's ability to thwart the all-pervasive Surveillance State under which more and more inhabitants of the earth now live. Every bit of one's life is liable to become part of the Surveillance State's data hoard, and there is essentially nothing most individuals can do to prevent it.

Public and private sector data acquisition and storage on every one of us for all kinds of purposes has been built in to the architecture of the Internet, and it's not going away.

This was known in general years before Young Snowden's advent, something that's been pointed out repeatedly but is routinely scoffed at by Snowden/Greenwald partisans in and out of the media. "Yes, but..." is the typical opening the scoffers use, "you didn't have documentary proof until Snowden came forth, so you actually knew nothing. Bow down."

This, of course, is horseshit. The presence or absence of documentary proof in these situations -- especially when there is all kinds of other evidence to draw on, including reams of testimony -- has little effect on the truth of the matter. In fact, relying on documents to the exclusion of testimony, which became the MO of the Snowden camp, can rapidly obscure the truth. Which may have been the point all along.

As I saw what was going on, I became more and more alarmed. The obsessive focus on the NSA in the summer's stories was obscuring the truth about the extent and pervasiveness of the Surveillance State. Surveillance by the private sector is the aspect that affects most people directly, daily, and constantly. Local and other law enforcement surveillance, not directly connected with the NSA data accumulation, is the next level of surveillance that has a broad effect on individuals. There are many other forms of government surveillance that affect individuals all the time, from the IRS and state and local taxing authorities, to the Social Security Administration, to the Census Bureau and Post Office. This government surveillance activity is going on all the time and can have interesting and sometimes severe consequences on individuals and as well as whole communities.

At no point during the obsession with NSA surveillance was the pervasive extent of public and private surveillance made clear in the major mass media outlets hawking the Snowden Revelation stories. It still hasn't been. Now and then, there would be brief mention of law enforcement and private sector cooperation with the NSA (though how it worked was never entirely clarified), and occasional mention would be made of FBI overreach and misbehavior, but beyond that, practically nothing was said about the Surveillance State as a whole and how it interrelates and interacts to affect and control so many people's lives.

So much was being left deliberately unsaid, it seemed to me the point of the firestorm was to enable something (I knew not what) to take place in the shadows, protected from view by the glare of the NSA scandal spotlight.

Comes Snowden in his Gellman interview and he seems to be acknowledging there was "something else" on the agenda.

Yes, well. That was obvious.

But what was/is it?

Let us examine. There is this term, for example, that Snowden uses in one of his more widely quoted quotes:

““For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember,
I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.Washington Post

And what, we may ask are these "stretch goals" of which he speaks?

Well, there's no way of knowing what he's referring to exactly, as he seems to speak in koans and technobabble when not declaiming a prepared text, but the term "stretch goals" is something to be wary of. As I understand it, it's a business term that is a way to demand the impossible from staff, primarily sales staff, as a means to ensure "creative" thinking about problems. So if all we are looking at now are "stretch goals" -- the mission having been accomplished -- then perhaps he's describing the motivation for this whole affair.

As has been pointed out a number of times, neither Snowden nor Greenwald have ever called for the abolition of the Surveillance/Security State, far from it. All they've ever said they wanted was for the public to be well informed enough about the surveillance they are under to have a "debate" about it. Greenwald said a couple of weeks ago that the "debate" has happened (though how it could when 90% or more of what actually constitutes the Surveillance State has been largely ignored), and Snowden is now claiming his "mission" is complete.

The Surveillance State "debate" has led to a number of proposals in congress, and to an extensive report to the President regarding recommendations for "reform" of the intelligence community. Apparently, that's all that the makers of this hoo-hah ever wanted from the  public disclosure of some of the NSA materials Snowden took but says he no longer has.

Of course there is the little matter of Omidyar's Baby HuffPo -- which may or may not ever see the light of day -- and what it will be devoted to, but at this point, what its function may be in realizing Snowden's "stretch goals" is anyone's guess. From outward appearances, it may have nothing to do with them.

According to what I have recently read, the Omidyar First Look Media Project was initially incorporated in Delaware in August, well before Greenwald and "Pierre" say that they came together for this very purpose. Because incorporation takes a while, especially in a case as complex as the Omidyar project, it's likely that the project was greenlighted sometime in the spring or even earlier, which would be about the time that Snowden went to work for Booz Allen in Hawaii and began collecting documents about the NSA's overreach. Just as a side note "Pierre" has a home and a media outlet in Hawaii. Whether Snowden was aware of it, I don't know, although I assume everyone in Hawaii knows about it.

Wouldn't it be something if this whole thing was engineered by "Pierre" -- whose companies are supposedly tied in rather intimately with the Security/Surveillance State in somewhat unusual and surprising ways -- as an exercise in Billionaire Power over government?

Oh. My...

And the "stretch goals" of this exercise would be???


  1. Cher Che,

    I've wondered about Snowden's prior employment; specifically with the CIA. He supposedly (one may never be entirely certain what parts of his persona are factual at this point) was first hired by the CIA, and then went to Booz. Perhaps he is just a CIA plant sent into the NSA archipelago in order to rearrange the furniture in some way. Discredit the NSA so that it will be eventually absorbed into the CIA, keeping the CIA as the main - or only - agency with such powers?

    I haven't actually thought deeply about the matter, quite frankly; more like idle musings on my part.

    I also have wondered about Omidar's relationship with the CIA, if any. I just discovered that Amazon (freaking Amazon, man!) has contracts with the CIA. Perhaps Paypal/Omidyar likewise have some relationship there.

    Just wonderin' aloud here. Nobody seems interested in Snowden's job history or particularly interested in that stint with the CIA, although if any entity were to be capable of waging turf warfare and give a guy training in insider espionage, it would be they.

    Very interesting about the Omidyar First Look corporate timing. One might say peculiar.

    You are doing the best writing on the Snowden/Greenwald thing by far, Che.


    1. Well, Teri, I'm just trying to puzzle out what's going on. I have some experience with government and the way it handles secrets, and this matter, as well as the Manning Thing, don't scan right.

      When I realized that both Snowden and "Pierre" lived in Honolulu, and "Pierre" has had a supposed gonzo investigative media outlet there for some time, one that has at least a local reputation for blowing the whistle on public sector wrong-doing, I began to wonder.

      And then I found out about the incorporation of "Pierre's" First Look Media venture in August, a process which had to have started at least 90 days or more beforehand, just about the time Snowden went to work for Booz with the express intent of collecting documents from the NSA, I wondered if perhaps, just maybe, Snowden and "Pierre" had made some kind of connection well before any of this shite hit the fan.

      As for "Pierre's" connection with the Security/Surveillance State, it's apparently extensive and deep through both eBay and PayPal, and there may be other connections as well through his foundations and nonprofits.

      From what I've seen, it's primarily with DHS, DEA, FBI and local law enforcement, but because his companies are transnational, the NSA must be involved as well, yes? Of course. CIA, too? Could be. Probably is.

      I'm seeing the situation now as one of integrating the entire Surveillance/Security State under a single umbrella, ultimately as corporate-controlled as the CIA has always been. "Pierre" is the key element, not Snowden or Greenwald or any media outlet.

      But things are still in flux, so where denouement winds up is anyone's guess.

  2. But wouldn't it be a mite peculiar if GG and Snowden knew nothing of Omidyar's connections? And GG has said that he is "pretty sure" that Paypal has some mention in the NSA documents, although he won't admit that he knows any details. I actually would assume both of them are well aware with whom they are aligning.

    1. Snowden certainly would have known all about Omidyar, and probably knew more about him than even his wife did. Spycraft 101. Snowden was a nominal NSA apparatchik, working for a private contractor in Hawaii, but he had come from the CIA, at least according to the Story as it has been told (whether true or not, who knows?) The Surveillance/Security State exists for the comfort and convenience of the Overclass, not -- at all -- for the protection of the Rabble from the Bad Guys. Those involved in the higher reaches of the S/S State know who the main players are.

      I doubt seriously that Greenwald had heard the name "Omidyar" or had paid attention to it before he hooked up with Snowden sometime between 12/12 and 3/13. (Timelines are still pretty flexible regarding when, exactly, Snowden and Greenwald were in communication with one another. So far as I can find out, Greenwald and Poitras -- and McAskill, but he's typically left out of the story -- first met Snowden in Hong Kong in June of 2013, but previously, date not stated, Rusbridger and Gibson of the Guardian met with Snowden in New York (McAskill may have been there too, not sure).

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if Snowden was the one who matched up Greenwald/Poitras with Omidyar; but that's my speculation.

      Someone is keeping Snowden in relative luxury in Moscow -- which is one of the most expensive cities on earth. Someone is paying Snowden's bills, and they have to be massive. Who? At first, I think it was assumed WikiLeaks was picking up the tab, but I imagine they're stretched to the limit as it is -- what with the continuing PayPal blockade (despite "Pierre's" Twitter claims that it was lifted years ago) and what with all and the costs of Julian's upkeep in London and his legal defense and whatnot.

      The Russians of course could be taking care of Snowden's expenses as a courtesy, but I doubt they are. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Omidyar is paying for Snowden in Moscow.

      Greenwald won't comment on how Snowden's expenses are being covered in Moscow. The story was that Snowden paid his own way to Hong Kong, but who was paying for his flight from there was never clarified.

      All I can say at the moment is that things are not as they seem... but they hardly ever are anymore...;0

  3. One thing that really pisses me off is how GG is hoarding the cache. Think about it in a certain way and not only do the documents belong to the public simply because they should (transparency and governmental overreach and all), but they belong to us because we paid for the stuff. It was our tax money that went into the NSA, Maybe they didn't use the money in any benevolent way, but we PAID for this shit. The thought that the documents are being held by Greenwald to make profit on his book and/or his new adventures in news media-land, really peeves me. As does the idea that just a few people who have seen all the stuff think they are suited to decide for all of us what we will be allowed to see.

    And as you have pointed out so well, these are simply the tip of the iceberg and not even the most interesting part. But they belong to the people, not Greenwald personally.

    1. I agree. Every one of the purloined documents is the property of the People of the United States of America -- as Snowden well knew when he took them, and as Manning knew when he (as he was then) took the documents he gave to WikiLeaks.

      At least the Manning documents are in the public domain, though very few seem to care about them any more. The reasons why have to do with their nature. They aren't that intrinsically interesting, as I suspect the bulk of what Greenwald et al are sitting on is pretty dry and dreary and not very newsworthy. I suspect, also, they don't really know what's in the hoard from the NSA because they don't necessarily know how to interpret them, whereas people who might be able to, like Binney and Drake and others, have essentially no access to them.

      I suspect what we are being allowed to see glimpses of is just enough to keep the OUTRAGE!!!!™ at a slow boil, but not enough to jeopardize contracts and whatnot.

      I noticed that Barry Eisler has taken up the cudgel in Greenwald's defense. Eisler is "ex"CIA -- and has been a Greenwald supporter from way back. Don't know when I first encountered him, but it was early-early on in the UT days.

      And of course Eisler has his fingers in quite a few "progressive" pies...

      Make of it what you will.