(The Guardian via Getty Images)

Edward Snowden has stepped forward as the leaker who exposed the NSA’s secret surveillance program known as PRISM. The 29-year-old former NSA contractor is reportedly hiding in Hong Kong, hoping to seek asylum. Supporters call him a heroic whistleblower, while others say he is a criminal whose actions endangered national secrecy. Does Snowden qualify as a whistleblower? Will the U.S. try to extradite him?

Show Highlights

Guests:
Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization that defends whistleblowers
Charles Stimson, manager of the National Security Law Program and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and former deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee affairs
Rahul Sagar, assistant professor of politics at Princeton University and author of the forthcoming book "Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy"

  • OldVet

    Little known fact: The oath that any serviceman or woman, or any federal office holder swears, is to protect and defend the constitution to the best of their ability. The president took that oath and so did I and so did 20 million veterans, many still living. Most vets took that oath when we were whipper snappers and may not have closely read that document. But as grown men and women we must now recall that solemn vow. Among the lofty words are the fourth amendment copied here: Amendment IV

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” I often have to read it again.

    If you need a translation: You, your place, your stuff and your communication are secure from search and seizure unless the officer has a warrant, signed by a judge stating the particulars. (If communication were not covered, then long ago wire tapping would have been ruled OK. The Church commission made clear that is not so.) Also note it infers that no agent can violate your security, neither Facebook, Google, Twitter or any agency of govenment.

    Both Democratic and Republican administrations have engaged in this travesty. Just as they both have refrained from declaring war for 71 years. Without getting my shorts in a bunch, I ask if we are a constitutional government, or are we not? And with this the most flagrant, abject violation of the constitution… do we lie down and accept tyranny as it comes, or do we act together and recall the first three words of the law of the land. Hint: It is not We the Judges. A confession: I voted for President Obama. I also made a vow.

    The plain English of the fourth amendment ought to speak to anyone reading this. The NSA has been fishing in your and my phone and email records for years now. That is in direct contravention of the words of the fourth amendment. And if this is not so. I ask you, What did i, and those other 20 million fight for?

    • thucy

      Damn straight.

    • Chemist150

      “The oath that any serviceman or woman, or any federal office holder swears, is to protect and defend the constitution to the best of their ability. ”

      Tell that to Feinstein.

      • thucy

        Chemist,
        DiFi’s support for fund-raising-critical but increasingly irrelevant hot-button social issues has obscured what a profoundly corrupt pol she is. She should be forcibly retired.

        • RichManJoe

          Agree – both her and BB need to go. California needs to clean house.

          • Chemist150

            And Pelosi.

          • thucy

            Turns out Pelosi is wrapped up in this, she was on one of the “secret double probation” (apologies to “Animal House”) committees that ignored Binney’s whistleblowing.
            Are there any pols you can trust?

    • Cal M

      Amen, amen, and amen. The Fourth Amendment is NOT optional.

  • thucy

    How ironic that he’s named Snowden? From Heller’s Catch-22:

    Ch. 5
    “all rang out in rapid succession, and then there was Yossarian with the question that had no answer:

    “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

    Ch. 41
    “He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down
    despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.”

    ***

    They say Snowden has checked out of his HK hotel. Who knows his fate? But if Ellsberg and Manning and Snowden are any indication, Joseph Heller lives!

    • johnqeniac

      yeah, after he split from the hotel i immediately thought of the signature catch-22 line…

      where are the snowdens of yesteryear?
      where are the ellsbergs of yesteryear?
      where are the church’s of yesteryear?
      where are the morrows of yesteryear?

      where are the bernsteins of yesteryear?

      • thucy

        “Who is Spain?…Why is Hitler? ….Ou sont les Neigedens d’Antan?”

      • thucy

        “I mean it, Yossarian. You’ll have to keep on your toes every minute of every day. They’ll bend heaven snd earth to catch you.”
        “I’ll keep on my toes every minute.”
        “You’ll have to jump.”
        “I’ll jump.”
        “Jump!” Major Danby cried.
        Yossarian jumped.

  • Torremolinos

    A lot more privacy could be achieved if everyone were using Tor to anonymize their online activities. It shields your identity so that only you and the sites that you visit know where you’ve been. Here’s Firefox with Tor built-in:
    https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

    In addition, there are email clients that you can run that encrypt your emails to & from your friends automatically. The NSA hates encryption.

    The real hamartia or tragic mistake of global society today is that people’s craving for attention and connection in our increasingly isolated lives is leading people directly into the hands of the police state that America has become, not to mention other countries that spy on their citizens. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and now even Apple are quite happy to cooperate with the NSA and betray customers.

    On Monday Apple introduced some new gadgets, which I’m normally thrilled to hear about, but all I could think of was Apple’s collusion with the NSA.

    • OldVet

      My sense is that if you are big, you get squoze. That is what Rupert Murdoch did and it built his empire. He even got away with hacking the queen. Where is Dana Priest in this? In her Top Secret America series she writes about 300 security agencies, 800,000 top secret clearances; and private contractors granting clearances… How could anybody keep track of that? It is a self licking ice cream cone. We need a rerun of the Church commission. Once the camels nose is in the tent, tyranny if not the next, is the following step.

  • thucy

    For those who argue that Snowden did not have to leak the documents because he could simply have brought the complaints forward to his supervisors (up the chain of command INTERNALLY) recall what happened to William Binney, a highly-placed 32-year NSA veteran, who did try doing the right thing, and did go up the chain of command.
    Binney testified to congressional committees about:
    1) corruption within the NSA
    2) NSA programs initiated solely to boost ptivate contractors’ revenues, and
    3) previous minimizations removed to boost revenues of private contractors
    And look what happened to Binney for doing proper. He was all but fed to the sharks.
    Snowden has got himself into worse trouble. But don’t claim he should have gone to his supervisors, that’s been tried.

    • tkejlboom

      Definitely. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. It beggars the imagination to believe this policy would actually exist. It certainly doesn’t exist in private industry. At least everywhere I worked realized that conflict of interest well before I ever started working at them.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    My question is this. What would have happened had he visited his congressman/woman, or even one if his Senators? Or someone like Senators Al Franken, Rand Paul or someone else who was libertarian minded. Are their Senators who would have taken his cause to heart?

    Also puzzles me that he didn’t do his homework better when seeking some place that has a firm anti extradite law. Not sure that Hong Kong which is a part of China, would want to risk irritating US China relations to protect him.

    • thucy

      Beth,
      Good question, but William Binney already tried that and guess what happened? He was “maliciously prosecuted” in retaliation by the FBI. They also raided his house while he was in the shower, pulled out their guns on his wife who was dressing for a party, and held a gun to his head while he was still in the shower.
      I’ll get you links for all that.
      I agree that Hong Kong was a poor bet, but there are security complications for him even with Iceland and Venezuela.
      The real point, Beth, isn’t Snowden, but what these documents mean and how we as a country resolve (or don’t resolve) what should be a more rational approach to security.

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        Thank you Thucy for telling me of Mr Binney. I have so hated the whole Patriot Act which is anything but patriotic.

        • thucy

          I thought the Binney story was something you might appreciate! Glad I got it right.

    • Chemist150

      It make me wonder if he should hide or stay public. If you’re public, you’d have reporters following you around all the time. If you’re hiding, you could be killed without any witnesses and no one be the wiser.

  • Chemist150

    If what he exposed is true, he is a whistleblower and FISA court, NSA and contractors are the traitors by definition by violating the Constitution.

    Who has not received a spam email from Mexico trying to sell Viagra. If they wanted to spy on you, all they’d have to do is set up a fake email and email your address from a foreign country.

  • thucy

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Binney_(U.S._intelligence_official)

    “William Binney is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA)[1] turned whistleblower who resigned on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency.

    In September 2002, he, along with J. Kirke Wiebe and Edward Loomis, asked the U.S. Defense Department to investigate the NSA for allegedly wasting “millions and millions of dollars” on Trailblazer, a system intended to analyze data carried on communications networks such as the Internet. Binney had been one of the inventors of an alternative system, ThinThread, which was shelved when Trailblazer was chosen instead. Binney has also been publicly critical of the NSA for spying on U.S. citizens, saying of its expanded surveillance after the September 11th, 2001 attacks that “it’s better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had”[7] as well as noting Trailblazer’s ineffectiveness and unjustified high cost compared to the more effective yet far less intrusive and less expensive ThinThread.[8] He was furious that the NSA hadn’t uncovered the 9/11 plot and stated that intercepts it had collected but not analyzed likely would have garnered timely attention with his leaner more focused system.[5]After he left the NSA in 2001, Binney was one of several people investigated as part of an inquiry into the 2005 New York Times exposé[9][10] on the agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program. Binney was cleared of wrongdoing after three interviews with FBI agents beginning in March 2007, but one morning in July 2007, a dozen agents armed with rifles appeared at his house, with one of them entering the bathroom where Binney was toweling off after a shower, pointing a gun at him.

  • Cal M

    Michael, two thoughts on the leaks:

    1) We’ve spent the past few months hearing about how the 2nd Amendment is sacrosanct. I think a lot of Americans are wondering why the FIRST & FOURTH aren’t equally as important.

    2) Those saying Mr Snowden “damaged our national security” are making a laughable claim. Does ANYONE think that potential terrorists don’t know about phone & Inet monitoring? It’d be funny if it weren’t so serious.

    Thanks as always for a great program.
    Bill, Oakland

  • johnqeniac

    if we ask the question: is snowmen a hero or a traitor? then we should be asking the questions: is the DNI a hero or a traitor to the constitution? Is obama a hero or a traitor to the constitution?

    • OldVet

      Who has done more to countermand the constitution on its face? Who had (or allowed) the DOJ to seize phone records of a hundred AP reporters (that violates both the first and fourth amendments). I praise Snowden for doing his act Now to save the constitution from the trash bin. At least we are talking about it!

  • johnqeniac

    god i hate auto-spell correct….

  • Chemist150

    Remind this professor that the citizens are the final check and balance on what is Constitutional.

  • Chris OConnell

    Snowden was not MISGUIDED. It is guided behavior. He believes in the 4th Amendment. He is not pursuing his narrow values. This Princeton Professor gets us off to a bad start.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    I’m surprised no one has brought this up yet, but –

    we should remember that the Holocaust was legal. I am certain that no one here would argue that this legality made those actions right, or even non-criminal. In other words, there is always a point at which it is morally right to go against morally repugnant laws.

    I salute Mr. Snowden for his courageous actions, and wish him well. steph

  • Chemist150

    Treason is NOT defined as waging war on the “federal government”
    It’s waging war on the “united states”. That includes the people.

    If the NSA and contractors is undermining the Constitution, who is waging war against the United States. United states are the citizens of this country.

    • thucy

      Thank you.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    oh yeah – slavery was legal, too.

    just sayin’. (Even though i’m a college dropout.) steph

    • thucy

      you may be a college drop-out, Steph, but you’re clearly smarter than today’s two male guests.

  • erictremont

    Richard Nixon famously said (when defending his attempted cover-up of Watergate), “If the President does it, it is legal.” Edward Snowden reminds me of NIxon, i.e., “If I think NSA’s activities are immoral, I am entitled to violate my pledge not to divulge government secrets.” I do hope Snowden is sent to Gitmo, his conduct is inexcusable.

    • tkejlboom

      Uh, your source was IMPEACHED for acting on that statement. I believe that thoroughly discredits the philosophy. Your entire statement seems very jumbled. I think you’re confusing abuse of authority and abuse of access.

      • erictremont

        Snowden has at least one thing in common with Richard Nixon: he is a paranoid narcissist.

    • OldVet

      Read the top post above.

  • Matt Weems

    Did the Pentagon reveal criminality? I thought they just revealed lies to the public. I think the letter of the law on whiste-blowing is too narrow, if the leak reveals the government operating against the interests of the public, or lying to the public, it’s legitimate to leak it, even if the methods and lies are legal.

  • Ben

    The idea that Snowden did not uncover any wrongdoing is complete nonsense. Widespread blanket surveillance of all Americans is not only wrong, but also dangerous. If one person is willing to blow the whistle on PRISM, is it not possible that another might leak information gathered in the program to the highest bidder? Certainly there are many organizations both foreign or domestic who would love to get their hands on this data, and we’ve put it all in one place to create the world’s most lucrative digital target. Without proper oversight and analysis of the system at large, it’s just a matter of time before such devastating abuse takes place.

    • tkejlboom

      The moral of the IRS debacle is that the entire government need not be aligned against an individual to commit a grave wrong. It takes a great effort of responsible action to responsibly handle such sensitive information. That’s why the government is not permitted to collect it.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    The guest just stated (17 minutes into the show) that Snowden stated that he did what he did b/c he stated that he “wanted the American people to know what was going on” – that he did not say that he leaked b/c the gov’t acted illegally. The ommission of a statement on illegally does not mean he didn’t mean that in addition to what he said or that he cannot assert that reason later. In other words, he could have many reasons and they do not need to be said at the outset. Every first year law student that learns about “arguing in the alternative”, where one can assert multiple legal justifications that are not all consistent, but stand on their own individually.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    In 2007, on Meet The Press, a national program, then Senator Joe Biden is quoted as saying the collection of meta-data is intrusive and should be illegal. Biden gave examples of “pattern collection”, and said that collecting patterns of Americans behavior has nothing to do with Al Quaeda and should be stopped. The clip was re-aired Sunday on Harry Shearer’s Le Show; it’s linked here (fast forward to 10 minutes into this show):
    http://j.mp/11RrIw0

    What would Vice President Biden say today?

  • Seth

    Why do you have two guests who seem to believe that if politicians approve of something that it is legal and constitutional? These same two guests are bringing out the same tired tactics: ad nominee attacks (he’s a high school dropout!), and arguing that monitoring metadata isn’t significant. Metadata analysis can tell the government more about me than listening to the content of my calls.

    How about inviting guests that will look at the broader implications? Germany has raised serious questions about the US government spying on its citizens. And even the tech companies are concerned that people will no longer trust and use their products.

  • qfg77

    Your guests argued that because Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary were involved in this domestic spying case, it somehow makes it OK. Where is the public here? Where was the debate? Heck, we didn’t even know there was anything to debate! We elect our officials, but do they have the power to do things secretly and against their own people?

    • OldVet

      Spot On! The constitution begins with We the People, not we the judges nor we the spooks. I hope to see millions in the streets on July 4th. That is ours. That flag is ours. and the Auction Party, with both Democratic and Republican wings has stolen it.

  • tkejlboom

    Uh, so all of these programs were in effect when Boston happened. So, I guess the answer the question the host posed regarding “calls” to Chechnya is that these egregiously transgressive programs aren’t doing a good job of protecting us.

  • Seth

    I’d like to hear whether people are going to abandon services from Google, Facebook, and others. This weekend I switched my search engine to DuckDuckGo, I’ve begun shutting down my Facebook account, and I’m going to leave GMail. There are other services and open source software that respect our privacy better than these tech giants.

    • Chemist150

      I switched from Verizon several months ago.

    • Chemist150

      I posted on facebook “happy apocalypse, it only happens once” for the end of the Mayan calender with a image of me opening my apocalypse brew that I brewed myself.

      A couple weeks later, I had a “religious” person come to my house and ask if I believed the end of the world/apocalypse stuff and wanted to talk to me about “facts”. Being that church should have been in service at that time, I found it curious but I told her that I did not take any of it seriously (I was showing off my brew and trying to be funny) and that I was an atheist; thus, hinting I did not want to talk to her.

      In light of the current revelations, I have to wonder… It’s not like I’m shy about my beliefs and that can be threatening to some.

  • Jeff

    The difference is Rosa Parks stayed in the country and fought the battle. Mr. Snowden left because he knew what he was doing was wrong. Jeff

    • OldVet

      Actually he fled a rigged system in this land of speedy trial. Look what happened to Private Manning, or the other whistleblowers

  • Pete

    How come Conservative Heritage Foundation Ideologues are so frequently part of NPR discussions? Why not have Louis Gohmert on for a change?

    • OldVet

      Or Jerry Mander, or Margaret Flowers or hey, this is San Francisco, how about Paul Cienfuegos.

  • RichManJoe

    After the AP surveillance of phone records and after these revelations, I
    went back and read the amendments to the constitution. WRT the press,
    there is no wiggle room – the rights of a free press shall not be
    abridge – period. There is no balancing free press and national
    security. The government is clearly in violation. The fourth amendment
    states unreasonable search and seizure, along with a warrant produced
    by a judge and under oath stating why, what and where the seizure is
    necessary. Having read these amendments, I am starting to believe what
    the second amendment proponents have been saying all along – that the
    government is slowly whittling away our liberties.

    I think we
    need an amendment that requires that any law abridging the amendments
    requires 75 percent of the states approving the law, the same as
    required to pass an amendment.

    I also question where the
    loyalties of the president, congress and government employees are, as
    they all took an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the
    United States.

    • thucy

      I have always been for strict gun control, but watching Obama turn into Bush III, I have begun to wonder if I don’t feel more at ease knowing a bunch of people have weapons – it’s a drop in the bucket compared to police and military force, but on principle, the citizens must have self-defense, however weak, against a “potentially” abusive gov’t.
      Just don’t ask me to learn how to use a gun – as Lewis Black says, “my people aren’t good with tools.”

      • johnqeniac

        same here. I am astonished that having been in favor of gun control all my life, I am now against it because of the attitude not of the right, who are totally predictable, but the liberal power establishment Obama, and their assault on the Bill of Rights. It’s like bizarro world.

  • Skye Pelicrow

    If this govt program is legal—purportedly because two vastly
    different administrations have authorized it—then why’s it been kept secret without public debate? Either we’re considered too ignorant to know what’s best for the State (and therefore ourselves, an argument commonly used by those wielding power since democracy’s inception) or it is, in fact, illegal. If the former, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to blame the ignorant by withholding information and akin to standing up and proudly proclaiming, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an [un-]educated electorate.” If the latter…well, enough said. But neither is acceptable in a democracy.

  • James C

    I really feel Mike gave this guy a pass he did not deserve. I mean, he may be a professor but his dismissal of leakers as misguided young people was in my view sadly misrepresentational. Bradley Manning was a g-damn analyst, and his analysis indicated that the strategy needed modification, he did attempt to go through channels and when this was blocked, he took it upon himself to inform the public directly.

    As far as I am concerned these men, Snowden & Manning, are patriots, in the best traditions of our country, and these endless attacks by government shills fail to move me. I am disappointed by the program – having listened for many years I was expecting a less biased perspective. I never expected the endorsement these young men deserve, but I did expect more even-handedness. Where was the advocacy for transparency? Apparently in the same place as Obama’s advocate, the Transparency Czar position – nonexistent.

  • Larry Vollintine

    I have a few questions: When the NSA/CIA/FBI approach a FISA judge seeking a warrant to approve (or extend) a general data collection program, the judge relies on the representations of the person/agency seeking the warrant. Once granted, who follows up to make sure that the conditions and limitations imposed on the warrant (either by the statute or by the judge) are adhered to? The agency itself? Is there not some independent review of the adherence to the terms of the warrant by the FISA court? And, what information would be submitted to prove a negative, that the agency didn’t violate the terms of the warrant? What sanctions are imposed for a violation or if misrepresentations were made to the judge? And who makes sure the sanctions are complied with? If the agency didn’t adhere to the limitations on the warrant, and the privacy or 4th Amendment rights of a US citizen were violated, and let’s assume that the person learned about the violation, how would the citizen go about seeking redress? What court could he/she sue in? Would a public court have jurisdiction or would just the FISA court have jurisdiction? And, how would the citizen prove his/her case? Didn’t both the Bush and Obama Administrations oppose cases brought by US citizen’s in the past arguing that since the program was secret, or that they couldn’t/wouldn’t confirm it’s existence, or that it didn’t exist at all, the citizen couldn’t prove his/her case and so it should be thrown out? Or am i wrong? LRV

    • thucy

      This would be a great question for Forum to follow up on….
      BTW, I thought today’s show was excellent, even though the deck was stacked in favor of the industries that profit off of the intelligence-gathering sector at taxpayer expense. Seriously. I’d rather know what the meretricious volke from the Heritage Fdtn. are saying, than be surprised later.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Does anyone know of a reliable defense fund for Mr Snowden? I would gladly donate.

    • thucy

      There is one, but I don’t know whether it’s been vetted. You could also donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

  • erictremont

    “Edward Snowden, the NSA turncoat, sounds coherent and measured at first blush, but the more he keeps talking the more he emerges as a paranoid narcissist with a messiah complex. He believes that there is a vast, overarching conspiracy within the U.S. government to abrogate the liberties of ordinary citizens, and he is the only person who has the courage and the idealism to expose this monstrous misdoing….He does not offer a single instance of actual abuse by the NSA: say, a colleague using all of this high-tech equipment to spy on his ex-wife or to blackmail some anti-government activist. Instead he assumes that because surveillance capabilities exist, they will be misused—and therefore they should not exist at all. One might as well disarm the police because we know that occasionally a cop will commit misconduct.”

    Source: Max Boot
    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/06/11/edward-snowdens-parallel-universe/

    • johnqeniac

      “Max Boot sounds coherent and measured at first blush, but the more he keeps talking the more he emerges as a paranoid narcissist with a messiah complex.”

  • Alex Sack

    Hey, Mr. Princeton: No high school diploma/”formal training in law”? You mean like the politicians had that brought us Guantanamo? Iraq? Drone strikes on American citizens? Sure, I trust this and all future administrations with my info… Reminds me of a good book set in the mid-80’s.

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