Streetwise Professor

September 30, 2013

Thus Spake Edward: And If You Believe That . . .

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:53 pm

So Edward Snowden has allegedly released a statement justifying his actions.  I say allegedly because there is nothing that actually connects this statement to him:

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden spoke publicly for the first time in many weeks, sort of. The famed leaker didn’t speak for himself; rather, someone read a written statement on his behalf before a committee hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday.

Read closely.  It’s not just that Snowden didn’t speak for himself, it’s not even certain that he wrote the words read “on his behalf”: “someone read a written statement on his behalf.”  That kinda insinuates he wrote the statement, but the author of the article is obviously not willing to assert that conclusively.  It doesn’t say that Snowden “wrote the statement read . . . on his behalf.”  There was a written statement.  Someone read that statement on Snowden’s behalf.  Like a classic con or deceptive ad, you’re expected to conclude Snowden wrote the statement read on his behalf, even though that’s not what the sentence actually says.  It invites your mind to fill in the gaping gap.

Please. I could read a written statement on behalf of Pancho Villa.  Doesn’t mean that Pancho Villa wrote it, or even endorsed it.

So we have these words that the reporter suggests were from Snowden’s mouth, but nobody saw Eddie’s lips move.

Was a burning bush involved?

And for crying out loud, why does Eddie need people reading stuff on his behalf?  If he is truly a free agent, he could put videos on YouTube: as @libertylynx notes, if Al Alwaki can post YouTube videos, why can’t our Ed?

Obvious conclusion: Snowden is not a free agent.  Likely conclusion: Snowden did not write these words.

So who did?  There are some Greenwald tics (“odious” is one of his favorite words).  And some Appelbaum tics (“creative output” is one of Appelbaum’s h/t @libertylynx.)  I’m guessing a collaborative effort, sort of like Murder on the Orient Express, involving Greenwald, Appelbaum, Poitras and maybe Assange.  Or to extend the Biblical analogy: it’s widely accepted by Biblical scholars that the Word of God is actually the creation of a committee.  This statement, and the acceptance speech for the human rights award won by Snowden (and read by Appelbaum), sure have the same feel.

But let’s suspend disbelief for a minute. Let’s take it as given that these words were written on tablets handed down by Ed.


“The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time,” Snowden, via Radack, continued. “The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue, we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.

Does this make any sense?  Re surveillance of whole populations, as @catfitz notes, the surveillance of a very limited subset of information on everybody by a big machine is very different from surveillance of an individual by a pair of human eyes: the former is what Snowden has disclosed, and the latter is what we should really be focused on-and which Snowden provides no evidence occurred outside the law.  And how is curiosity the product of privacy?  And how can creative output help economies if it’s secret?  What pompous tripe.  (More evidence of Appelbaum authorship.)

And more:

“If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government but independent representatives of the public outside of government. When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world.”

First, who appointed Snowden to this role? He claims to hold others to account: to whom is HE accountable?  In fact, he ran to Russia precisely because he wanted to escape accountability.

Second, there are unintended consequences: why should Snowden’s intentions matter?  The consequences of his acts are what are relevant.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions: and like I say, Snowden’s road led to Russia, which is sort of the same thing.

And third: note the pompous, grandiose tone.

Serendipitously, I was reading World War II Magazine this weekend, and came across an article about another young, grandiose American bureaucrat with access to highly sensitive information that he believed he had both the right and the obligation to reveal to achieve some higher purpose.

Tyler Kent was a clerk who decoded highly classified messages in the US embassy in London in 1940.  Many of these messages were between Churchill and Roosevelt.  Some of these messages involved attempts of FDR to supply Great Britain with war material, arguably in defiance of the Neutrality Acts.

Kent was a Lost Cause Southerner, anti-Semite, and isolationist.  He fervently believed that the US should not become involved in any way in the European war, and that FDR was illegally maneuvering to bring the US into the conflict.  There were many Americans who believed the same thing, and who would have seized upon the documents he stole to accuse the administration of crimes  in the same way that many in the US today have seized upon the documents Snowden stole to accuse the US government of crimes.

Moreover, Kent was in contact with right wing elements in Britain that were opposed to Churchill and supported a peace with Germany: he and they were hoping Kent’s documents could be used to discredit Churchill and isolate his government from American support, thereby achieving their objective, much as Snowden is directly and indirectly connected with various anti-US and anti-German elements in the US and Germany, and as Snowden documents were used (unsuccessfully) by Der Spiegel in an attempt to sway the German elections.  Last, but not least, Kent was deeply enmeshed with Russian intelligence forces: his mistress was NKVD operative, he circulated in groups that were deeply penetrated by Soviet intelligence, and the only question is whether Kent was a knowing or unwitting tool of the NKVD.

So more than 70 years apart we have young, grandiose individuals who believed that their theft and disclosure of highly classified information was a righteous act aimed to end the criminal acts of the government that they had sworn to serve.  Both Kent and Snowden claimed that their intentions were entirely idealistic.  Both were objectively, if not subjectively, serving the interests of truly malign powers: and the most plausible interpretation is that somewhere along the line, they became objective servants of malign powers that were enemies of the US.

Another revealing aspect of the story.  Kent’s treason was discovered by MI5, which had thoroughly penetrated the pro-Nazi groups that Kent was in communication with.  MI5 soon began to spy on Kent quite closely, and eventually raided his apartment, where they found the documents he had stolen.  Suitcases full of them: the 1940 equivalent of USB drives.  (They also found a Russian emigre woman who was almost certainly an NKVD agent: Kent was wearing his pajama bottoms, and the woman his pajama top.)

This, boys and girls, is exactly why allies spy on allies.  Because not everyone who works for an ally is an ally.  In fact, some are the most dangerous of enemies.

And the US was damn glad that the Brits were spying on an American.  I am convinced that say, the Germans, are quite happy that we are spying on them, for they know they have people working for them who are actually working against them.

One final note.  Churchill used the Kent episode to convince a hitherto reluctant Home Secretary John Anderson to support a parliamentary act authorizing the arrest and detention of suspected Nazi supporters.  Unintended consequences are a bitch.

Kent was tried by the British.  Note this further parallel:

Some Americans saw Kent as a martyr whose only sin had been to act boldly in an effort to keep their country out of a European War.

Ambassador Joseph Kennedy was hardly so sympathetic: “I wouldn’t have favored turning Kent over to Scotland Yard or have sanctioned his imprisonment in England.  I would have recommended he be brought back to the United States and shot.”

Edward Snowden need fear no such fate. Other than that, he has a lot in common with Tyler Kent.  A lot.

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  1. About the wording: “odiozny” is a very cliche’ term in modern Soviet Russian propaganda, up there with “marginalny” and “ekstremisty”.

    Comment by Ivan — September 30, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

  2. The really suspicious p\rt of his career, the way I see it, the five years Kent spent at the US Embassy in Moscow. If Kent had been recruited by the Soviets, it would have been there and then. It was in Moscow that he had an NKVD/OGPU mistress. (I have not seen any suggestion that his London mistress, Ann Wolkoff, was an NKVD agent. Since she sent copies of documents shown to her by Kent to Berlin, I assume she worked for the Nazis. It is true however that the NKVD recruited widely among white Russian emigres in the 1920s and the 1930s.)

    But did Kent intend to release his trove to the public, like Snowden, or only to a limited circle of anti-Roosevelt, anti-Churchill politicians on both sides of the Atlantic? Did he intend to commit treason, that is? Also in contrast to Snowden, Kent was highly educated and came from a patrician Southern family (educators and doctors rather than planters).

    Comment by Alex K. — October 1, 2013 @ 2:10 am

  3. Amazing story about the Kent, thanks for that. Apparently, technology changes during the decades but people who use them – not so much.

    Comment by deith — October 1, 2013 @ 3:45 am

  4. Actually, I’d say the hamstringing of western economies, and the deaths of large number sof the old, poor and weak through deliberately-induced fuel poverty, both due to global warming alarmism, are much greater threats to much more basic human rights than that of malcontents to go about their sedition in peace.

    A bolus of sanctimonious little pricks, I’d say.

    Comment by Green as Grass — October 1, 2013 @ 7:30 am

  5. @deith-thanks.
    @Alex K. Not saying that they were doppelgängers separated by 70 years. But there were substantial parallels. The most interesting of these being (a) their arrogation to themselves of decisions about what documents the US had a right to keep secret, (b) their theft of these documents, (c) their belief that their acts were righteous and justified, and (d) the fact that many contemporary Americans did/do believe that their actions were justified. The biggest difference is the one you highlight: Kent targeted his disclosures much more narrowly, though if he were to have succeeded in his aims they would have almost certainly have become public. The other main issue that I wanted to focus on was about spying on allies.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 1, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  6. @Green-well put. Millennial narcissists believe that indulgence of their every whim is the most fundamental obligation of society, and that they possessed of unique moral and critical faculties. Snowden epitomizes that. FWIW, and slightly OT, I saw a poll the other day that said that half of Millennials prefer socialism. Another poll confirms their statist leanings. I imagine that this reflects bleak job prospects, but even if so, their diagnosis of the cause and the cure is completely inverted.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 1, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  7. ” I imagine that this reflects bleak job prospects, but even if so, their diagnosis of the cause and the cure is completely inverted.”

    Oh, I don’t know. Thoroughly anti-Socialist countries can have high unemployment:

    “The point estimate for the unemployment rate at which core inflation remains constant is about 12%. The figure makes clear however that an unemployment rate below 8-10% has been typically associated with large increases in inflation. This is indeed what we saw earlier
    when looking at inflation in the boom. While the approach underlying Figure 15 is very crude, most econometric estimates of the Latvian nat
    ural rate find it to be quite stable, and to be around 10%. Thus, using this metric, the actual unemployment rate is rapidly approaching the natural rate.

    This raises a final question, which, while not central to the issues of this paper, is nevertheless intriguing: How can a country with a low minimum wage, weak unions, limited unemployment insurance and employment protection, have such a high natural rate?”

    Comment by PailiP — October 1, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

  8. Tyler Kent .This was apparently the guy who got Archibald Ramsay, MP a five-year internment on the Isle of Man. I may have to re-read The Nameless War in the context of better understanding the related events .

    Much of the book consisted of an antisemitic conspiracy theory re-interpreting the whole of modern history as a Jewish campaign for world domination, quoting extensively from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion whose authenticity he took for granted, and adding such assertions as that Calvin had been a Jew whose real name was “Cohen”, that Cromwell had been “a paid agent of the Jews” and that the entire English Civil War and the execution of Charles I were staged for the sole purpose of allowing Jews to return to England. The book is still current in extreme-right circles.

    Comment by Dr. Heywood R. Floyd — October 2, 2013 @ 2:35 am

  9. @Heywood. Very interesting. Yes, the discovery of Kent’s activities resulted in Ramsay’s internment. As I noted in the post, the Home Secretary had resisted Churchill’s efforts to round up Nazi sympathizers, but after Kent’s arrest, parliament passed a law authorizing such detentions.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 2, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  10. There’s a good argument to be made that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion have a latter-day equivalent, in the periodic assessment reports from the IPCC.

    – Both publications, from a position of prejudice, ignorance, and abject moral incompetence, set out to influence and / or justify government policies towards deeply harmful ends;
    – Both are mendacious, misleading, and riddled with propaganda and rumour dressed up as facts;
    – Both fabricate data in support of their agenda;
    – Both purport to be the work of an authoritative panel privileged with unusual knowledge of a certain agenda;
    – Both are in fact written to serve an unacknowledged political goal;
    – In both cases it is unclear whether the authors believe any of their crap, or understand how it will be used.

    Is there any good academic reading on millenarian cults and why they are so persistent?

    Comment by Green as Grass — October 3, 2013 @ 2:47 am

  11. AGW is more insidious in that it is easily seen to be overstated and is so widely accepted. The current satellite data shows the Antarctic ice cap to be larger than it has been since measurement began. The Arctic ice cap is currently within 2 sd’s of the thirty year average (paleo deviations are much much greater). AGW and the “Tea Party” are the current liberal bogey men.

    Comment by pahoben — October 3, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

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