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Dec 11 2013

Edward Snowden runner up for Time’s Person of the Year

So Time magazine has chosen Pope Francis as its Person of the Year. I can’t say that I am surprised. It is just the kind of choice they like, that will generate interest and perhaps hits and sells magazines, but not arouse any great controversy.

The newness and high visibility of the pope enabled them to avoid the awkwardness of having to decide what to do about Edward Snowden because if there is one person who has had a massive impact on world events, it is undoubtedly he. Snowden was relegated to runner-up, which must have come as a huge relief to the authoritarians.

In a profile of Snowden and his revelations, Michael Scherer inserts this extraordinary statement:

The NSA, for its part, has always prided itself on being different from the intelligence services of authoritarian regimes, and it has long collected far less information on Americans than it could. The programs Snowden revealed in U.S. ­surveillance agencies, at least since the 1970s, are subject to a strict, regularly audited system of checks and balances and a complex set of rules that restrict the circumstances under which the data gathered on Americans can be reviewed. As a general rule, a court order is still expected to review the content of American phone calls and e-mail ­messages. Unclassified talking points sent home with NSA employees for Thanksgiving put it this way: “The NSA performs its mission the right way—­lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.” Indeed, none of the Snowden disclosures published to date have revealed any ongoing programs that clearly violate current law, at least in a way that any court has so far identified. Parts of all three branches of government had been briefed and had given their approval. [My italics-MS]

Surely Scherer is being disingenuous here. What we have clearly seen is the façade of law-like behavior in which the government has used evasions, half-truths, extreme distortions of language, and outright lies to claim legality while engaging in widespread and illegal activities.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Loqi

    Yeah, Snowden just revealed that everything in the NSA is all hunky-dory. No violations happening. Nothing to see here, folks.

  2. 2
    Chiroptera

    …and it has long collected far less information on Americans than it could.

    And I’ve embezzled less money from my employer as I could, but that’s not really the point.

    And I think I’ve said too much.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    Actually, a lot of their choices have generated considerable controversy: “The Protester” in 2011, Vladimir Putin in 2007, Kenneth Starr in 1998, Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 and 1989, Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and 1985, Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia in 1974 (as the oil embargo was starting and Americans were faced with high gas prices for the first time), Nikita Khrushchev in 1957 as the Cold Was was ramping up, Joseph Stalin in 1939 and 1942, Adolph Hitler in 1938.

    A full list is available in the Wikipedia at Time Person of the Year

  4. 4
    wtfwhateverd00d

    I don’t think it’s controversy they are avoiding. I do think Francis seems to go where no Pope has gone before.

    But I think they avoided Snowden because of Time’s history of complicity with gov’t propaganda and perhaps even spying.

  5. 5
    colnago80

    but not arouse any great controversy.

    That may be the case generally but he has aroused considerable controversy among conservative Catholics who think that he is a closet Marxist and all together too friendly toward the Jews.

  6. 6
    elpayaso

    “He’s God’s Infallible Messenger….til he says something we disagree with”

    really, it was awfully nice of the Satanists to offer to do a memorial in OK to provide a Prod-fundy counterpoint to the hypocrisy being displayed……

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    The NSA, for its part, has always prided itself on being different from the intelligence services of authoritarian regimes

    It’s true. They pride themselves on being sneaker and better and having better tradecraft.

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    Surely Scherer is being disingenuous here

    “Surely” is too kind.

    revealed any ongoing programs that clearly violate current law, at least in a way that any court has so far identified

    Yeah, because they’re secret – deliberately, in order to shield them from judicial review. Like any good authoritarian bootlicker, Scherer starts from the premise that everything is OK – which is manifestly the opposite. How can we know this? Simply because if the police state wasn’t doing wrong, why is it bending over backwards to conceal its actions from oversight?

    My bet is that not only have laws been broken (by nameable individuals who made decisions they were not allowed to make) but there is rampant fraud, waste, and abuse going on in the implementation. There have been a lot of happy beltway bandits selling a lot of platinum-coated cat-5 cable to build these great big systems that have accomplished relatively little aside from collecting a great deal of porn and information that might ruin a political career or two. Keep the gravy train rolling!!! CLASSIFY THE GRAVY TRAIN! FULL STEAM AHEAD!

  9. 9
    lanir

    Meh. That’s rotten journalism because it entirely ignores facts and just prints propaganda. The last decade or two have taught America a few things about our brand of the “rule of law”.

    1. Too big to fail.
    2. Too secret to sue.
    3. Laws are for little people.

    That’s the mantra. Let these concepts guide your actions and the odds are in your favor.

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