The NSA will eliminate 90 percent of the system administrators who maintain the agency’s networks, according to the agency’s director Keith Alexander.
As I continue to read about the fallout over the leaks of NSA information, I keep being drawn back to a singular point: his actions taken in facilitating the leaks are criminal. So I set about examining all my questions and assumptions about the why/how of the situation, and here is what I came up with…
1) Why reveal your identity at all, if you didn’t want it to be “about you”? Well, if you’re worried about a drone strike taking out your hiding place, you do whatever you can to keep as many cameras pointed at you 24/7 as you can. Point cleared.
2) Why go to a hostile country—known to covet the exact information you have smuggled out—to reveal your identity? See answer to #1, and consider what would happen if “aggressive action” were taken against such a person on foreign, hostile soil. No other country on the planet could realistically stand up to US pressure over the long haul. Point cleared.
3) Ok, so you’ve now taken state secrets—with potentially devastating impact—into the very places that are known to covet such information, and you have a reasonable expectation that those states won’t get a hold of it almost immediately? Here we have a problem. If the intelligence services of either country (China, Russia) are worth a tinker’s damn—and I happen to think they are—then you’d have to be a damn fool to believe they won’t swipe everything you have. Here is where I see a big problem. Criminal, treasonous act? I’m leaning that way.
Without evidence of foreign coercion I won’t make a case for him being duped into stealing state secrets for a foreign power, but you have to wonder.
4) You’ve distributed the information to several people around the world, as a fail-safe…and you think that is secure? Personally, I believe no level of encryption is truly safe from the big 3. Very few better options are available as a personal safety “guarantee”, but here is another crime. Distributing the secrets you’ve stolen, no matter how encrypted they might be makes each of the receivers complicit as receivers of stolen property.
5) You claim that the intentions were to “spark dialogue” and “end injustice,” but where is the justice for the people your actions have endangered around the world? These leaks have real life-and-death implications for NSA agents operating around the world. They have real financial implications for the companies outed, and the government employees who will lose their livelihood. They have real implications for the entire US who now has one of its key intelligence services vivisected in front of the world. People will die as a result of this. Probably already have, but we’ll never hear about it out here in the public. Billions of dollars will be lost in both the public and private sectors. While his direct complicity in some of these things may prove to be dubious, the image of him as a “hero” fades a good amount once you really follow the implications.
6) What is your end-game here? You’re now labeled a state criminal by one of the most powerful nations in the history of the world. You’ve had to seek asylum status in a country with terrible human rights and a very poor record on privacy. Oh, and that state’s current leader is an NSA equivalent…the very organization you’ve sought to destroy. You wouldn’t think Russia is doing something similar, now would you? You can never return home except in chains, nor will you ever be able to stop looking over your shoulder. His prior history—insomuch as it has/can be revealed—doesn’t point to him being a true altruist. So is the value of fame/infamy that high?
7) In the end, was what he did really a crime, and should he have to answer for the crime regardless of the intentions and/or outcomes? And here is where the real debate lies, though I’m not sure how long of a debate it will be. The facts are that he intentionally misrepresented himself to place himself in a position of access to the data (lesser crime). He then collected the data over time, using methods clearly against the terms of his employment, and removed said data from the premises of his employment (probably a crime in itself). He openly violated the terms of his security clearance (definitely a crime). He distributed stolen property to others (crime). He distributed those classified materials to foreign nationals (big crime). He did not follow whistle-blower procedure by taking the information to congress, thus invalidating his legal whistle-blower status and foregoing the protections offered therein (making all of the above items into crimes, if they weren’t already).
Given the above, I cannot help but think of him as a traitor.
If he followed procedure and brought it to Congress, there is a non-zero chance that it would have been covered up, and he would have disappeared from the face of the Earth. But the way he allowed all of this to unfold brings into question his true motives. If he knew what he was doing was the right thing to do, and still respected the US and the rule of law, he would have stayed here in the US to face the consequences of his actions (while live-streaming his whereabouts 24/7 and surrounding his home with journalists from around the world). By running the way he did, he acknowledged that his actions were criminal and that he was not willing to truly stand trial for his belief in making the system more open and transparent. Instead, he took the road of fame-and-infamy which allows his very character to be called into question.