Driving Blind: Detain and Hold

Avatar

Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

Related Post Roulette

38 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Toobin: “There is obviously some legitimate debate to be had about the extent and the legality of American surveillance operations. But there is no doubt about the nature of China and Russia.”

    Here’s a fun thought experiment: imagine that it’s the 80’s and there is a Chinese Dissident who shows up in America saying “Russia (or China) is doing (the stuff Snowden says the US is doing)!”

    What is the US response? (Is there a debate between the “right” and the “left”? What’s the main point of contention?)Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m just relieved that at least someone on this earth has direct access to the ontological status of Russia and China, and that that person is in a position to share his knowledge with us via his job at the New Yorker.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Is there a comparison to be made between due process or representativeness of the Chinese and Russian governments in the 1980’s and the US in the 1980’s (or today for that matter)? Tiananmen Square comes to mind. And pointedly, that mention right there might’ve blocked this page in China for those who don’t use a convoluted set of Great Firewall evasion programs.

      I don’t see how Snowden’s going to China and Russia does anything other than severely undermine the argument he’s making about surveillance. You can’t run to authoritarian or near-authoritarian countries, sensitive US intelligence data in tow, and not receive withering criticism on endangering US interests.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        “I don’t see how Snowden’s going to China and Russia does anything other than severely undermine the argument he’s making about surveillance:”

        How does it do this CC?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Given Manning, I don’t know how much I’m willing to hold Snowden’s defection against him.

        And, in the 1980’s, Russia and China had a *LOT* of Mannings.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        But only we can make a Tebow.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        How about China’s hacking or forced disclosure of dissident email accounts? Isn’t that an extreme form of privacy violation? Russia’s a country where journalists are rather routinely murdered. Even a cursory glance at the subject on wikipedia shows that it’s a continuing and pervasive problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_journalists_killed_in_Russia

        Tu quoque is a weak argument, but let’s at least admit that Russia and China are hardly exemplars of surveillance or press freedom.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Given Manning, I don’t know how much I’m willing to hold Snowden’s defection against him.

        Manning was under the UCMJ which is a much harsher system of justice. Snowden, being a civilian would likely have gotten better protections. So, yeah…I don’t know if legitimizing a state like Russia by providing them with intelligence data of US operations, or giving them any semblance or moral highground in internet regulation/governance is actually a good idea.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Nob, I think everyone has at least admitted that. No one has shown what any of those things have to do with arguments against the US surveillance state.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Think that I shall never know
        A QB lovely as Tebow.

        A ‘back whose hungry heart is prest;
        Against Broncos, Buccs, the rest.

        A face that looks at God all day;
        Then throws a pass that makes us pray.

        A Captain that in winter wears
        Intangibles for his fellow players.

        Poems are made by folks you know
        But only God’s made Tim Tebow.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Three dimensions come to mind.

        First is conscientious objection (particularly in the US context) includes taking the consequences for your actions. If he objects to US government behavior such that he’s willing to illegally disclose programs, he needs to make the argument here in the US.

        Second, objecting strenuously to a surveillance program and then seeking refuge in countries with even fewer protections and more severe consequences for defying government surveillance highlights how relatively controlled the US programs are by comparison.

        Third, the whole discussion about endangering US security is elevated when sensitive materials are located in places foreign operatives can get access to them. Yes, the argument would be made that mere disclosure is dangerous, as with Bradley Manning’s leaks. But that discussion gets new legs when laptops of sensitive US information is abroad.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Nob, I think everyone has at least admitted that. No one has shown what any of those things have to do with arguments against the US surveillance state.

        I have something I’ve been chewing over called “How the US blew its moral leadership” that might address this in the future.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Dude, I’m not arguing that it’s *GOOD* that this information might end up with Russia or China. THAT IS BAD.

        But is it good that the US citizenry knows about what the government is doing? Is there any way to tell the US citizenry about what the government is doing *WITHOUT* Russia/China also figuring it out?

        I can’t help but compare this to The Pentagon Papers. I am dismayed by the general response that the sin is in the telling us what is being done rather than in what is being done.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t know how much I’m willing to hold Snowden’s defection against him.

        For the sake of argument let’s overlook the defection. Did he also have to carry even more information about the NSA and its workings with him? (Hence the Robert Hanssen level of damage accusations.)

        In my view, if you’re going to claim to be a whistleblower, then blow the whistle on misconduct. It is hard to see how blueprints for the NSA, according to the linked Cnet piece, fit that description.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Is there any way to tell the US citizenry about what the government is doing *WITHOUT* Russia/China also figuring it out?

        Yes. I’m arguing that physically carrying the blueprints to the NSA’s operations (again, according to the linked Cnet piece) to Chinese and Russian soil was not necessary to blow the whistle on alleged NSA misconduct. Snowden could have stayed in the US and faced the consequences for his actions. Here’s Cnet,

        Snowden has “literally thousands of documents” that constitute “basically the instruction manual for how the NSA is built” that could aid in duplicating or evading NSA surveillance tactics, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald told the news agency on Sunday.

        Are these actions essential to the disclosures Snowden sought to make?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        So you don’t see that as evidence of misconduct in itself?

        Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of information out there that shouldn’t be public knowledge that might come across as “shocking”. I mean, I’m sure that we have a plan in a file cabinet somewhere for what we’d need to do if we wanted to invade each and every country on the planet.

        If it came out that we have a plan to invade Canada, including which water routes to cut off, which cities were most expendable, and so on (Target Number One: The Confederation Bridge), this would cause outrage for a non-zero number of people. My response would be something to the effect of “well, of course we have a plan in a file cabinet for that. I’d be shocked if we didn’t.”

        In that vein, I suppose I could see how it’s possible to find out that the government is doing anything at all and respond “well, of course it’s doing that.”

        With that said, those plans are evidence of misconduct in and of themselves and when you add onto that the fact that Internal audits have demonstrated that these guys cannot operate without routinely breaking the law, red flags should be going up. Especially when it comes out that the internal audits that say “we can’t do this without routinely breaking the law” are kept just as hidden.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Snowden could have stayed in the US and faced the consequences for his actions.

        And given Manning, I don’t know how much I want to hold that against Snowden.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        But is it good that the US citizenry knows about what the government is doing?

        Missed this question. Yes, it is better that the US citizenry has more information on surveillance than before. That the national security leaders, congress and executive, failed to anticipate these debates and take steps to open up the process as far as is possible is a failing on their part to be sure.

        Now here come the caveats. But it isn’t yet clear what price we’ve paid to get this information. What if the cost goes beyond Toobin’s proposed thousands of man hours? What if the cost is China and Russia also have NSA-level capabilities? What if the cost is that China and Russia now successfully circumvent the NSA’s capabilities?

        We could have had the debate with less potential damage to US security. In my view, the failing of leaders I mentioned to open up and discuss these issues does not excuse Snowden’s reckless behavior.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        In my view, the failing of leaders I mentioned to open up and discuss these issues does not excuse Snowden’s reckless behavior.

        But this is saying “Snowden had to choose between letting us know and staying in prison for the rest of his life *OR* not telling us and not going to prison.”

        The fact that he chose “telling us *AND* not going to prison for the rest of his life” doesn’t shock me. I spend more time wishing that Manning was treated better than wishing that Snowden would be willing to go to jail too.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Snowden could have stayed in the US and faced the consequences for his actions.
        And given Manning, I don’t know how much I want to hold that against Snowden.

        Again, Manning was a uniformed military service member, which put him under the UCMJ. Snowden, being a civilian would have substantially different rights. Hell if they tried to do the same thing to Snowden as what was done to Manning, attorneys would have a field day with it.

        Defecting with detailed documents on the NSA’s surveillance capabilities is a step beyond the pale. This isn’t the Pentagon papers. It would be as if Elsberg had gone to Moscow carrying all the contingency war plans that the Pentagon in addition to what he had actually released.

        There’s a difference in scope here.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Jaybird, was this (at 1:51pm) “So you don’t see that as evidence of misconduct in itself?” in reply to my question, (at 1:36pm) “Did he also have to carry even more information about the NSA and its workings with him?”

        Because I think still outstanding is that even granting Snowden’s fleeing to avoid life in prison, Snowden still didn’t have to make the disclosures in this particular way and carrying along with him sensitive information.

        (Also for what it’s worth, we are in agreement about the mistreatment of Manning.)Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Would anyone here be confident enough to bet there life that Snowden, if he had never fled the country, would NOT have been treated as an enemy combatant?Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        In a hypothetical, what would the reaction be to a leaker who leaked information that led to armed conflict and ratcheting up tensions (let’s say a leaker goes to Moscow with information that the US has been behind Russia’s string of submarine accidents and has also been hacking into the FSB’s computers)? Let’s say this was information classified on a top secret level and shouldn’t have been made public in the interest of not having a shooting war. Would creating a shooting war contrary to that be a good thing? Would we consider it whistle blowing or defection?

        Or say a general leaks documents to the press because he’s unhappy with how an operation is going. Is that whistleblowing based on his military judgment, or is that a form of coup? Should uniformed personnel be held to a higher standards of when they get involved with policy making through unauthorized disclosures? What about the selective use of leaks by the government itself?

        There’s something of a minefield here.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Would anyone here be confident enough to bet there life that Snowden, if he had never fled the country, would NOT have been treated as an enemy combatant?

        Yes, I would.

        Hell if they’re not holding Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, why the hell would they get away with doing that to Snowden?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Ethan,
        our government, among others, is perfectly capable of ordering assassinations of private citizens (mostly in other countries, mind). I’m not sure “enemy combatant” is the worst we can throw at him.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Would anyone here be confident enough to bet there life that Snowden, if he had never fled the country, would NOT have been treated as an enemy combatant?

        Doubtful he’d be treated as such. For instance, here’s Harold Koh speaking to ASIL (emphasis mine),

        Some commentators have criticized our decision to detain certain individuals based on their membership in a non-state armed group. But as those of you who follow the Guantanamo habeas litigation know, we have defended this position based on the AUMF, as informed by the text, structure, and history of the Geneva Conventions and other sources of the laws of war. Moreover, while the various judges who have considered these arguments have taken issue with certain points, they have accepted the overall proposition that individuals who are part of an organized armed group like al-Qaeda can be subject to law of war detention for the duration of the current conflict. In sum, we have based our authority to detain not on conclusory labels, like “enemy combatant,” but on whether the factual record in the particular case meets the legal standard. This includes, but is not limited to, whether an individual joined with or became part of al-Qaeda or Taliban forces or associated forces, which can be demonstrated by relevant evidence of formal or functional membership, which may include an oath of loyalty, training with al-Qaeda, or taking positions with enemy forces. Often these factors operate in combination. While we disagree with the International Committee of the Red Cross on some of the particulars, our general approach of looking at “functional” membership in an armed group has been endorsed not only by the federal courts, but also is consistent with the approach taken in the targeting context by the ICRC in its recent study on Direct Participation in Hostilities (DPH).

        Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Of these two, which one got charged with “Treason”:

        Bradley Manning
        Nidal Hasan

        I find that somewhat illuminating.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        You can certainly argue that he was charged with treason, but I don’t think you can argue that he was charged with “‘Treason.'”Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    How is Goldberg’s joke (that if Mubarak gets out of jail, he’ll consider running for president of the US) tasteless or indefensible? I’ll grant you “pointless”.Report

  3. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto
    Ignored
    says:

    Note that draconian use of the Official Secrets Act isn’t all that new in the UK. The prior restraint power from it has been used to scare newspapers out of publishing stories that had classified information in the past. The censorship laws in the UK are actually pretty fucked up.

    Comparatively, actually I’m surprised the Guardian’s been able to go as far as it has without the Home Secretary slapping an executive warrant on them.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    As a member of the group that is the victim of everyday conspiracy theories of the right and the left, I do not support the contention that grass roots groups purporting outlandish theories aren’t dangerous. Its these grass roots groups that gotten millions of my people killed or harmed. These groups are dangerous and should be treated as such.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    Re Jeff Goldberg, I think that the current events in Egypt were sadly foreseeable. More than a few commentators were right that the Arab Spring would quickly lead up to an Islamist Winter. Looking back, all the enthusiasm among liberals outside of the area involved a fair amount of projection about what we wanted the Middle East to be rather than actual analysis of the facts on the ground. Islamist governance, for all its faults and they are legion, is actually popular in Muslim-majority countries.

    The best solution is to let the Islamists take over Muslim-majority countries and make a hash of things like they did in Iran. Nothing deflates the popularity of Islamism as actual Islamism put into practice. The second best solution is to allow the different forces in Muslim-majority countries fight among themselves until one achieves victory. In no case, should the United States or any other power intervene on one side or another besides trying to keep the conflict contained in a particular area rather than spread.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      “Islamist governance, for all its faults and they are legion, is actually popular in Muslim-majority countries.”

      Its not so much that it’s popular as that its organized – and secular anti-establishment forces are not. (and if secular forces are organized, they tend to be reconstructed or even un-reconstructed Marxists). And as the saying goes, say what you will about the merits of Islamist governance, at least it’s an ethos – vice most everyone else who are only in to get in on the spoils.

      “In no case, should the United States or any other power intervene on one side or another besides trying to keep the conflict contained in a particular area rather than spread.”

      The caveat kinda begs the question. As mentioned elsewhere on this site recently, kicking out Mosaddegh *was* a method (the preferred method) of preventing revolutionary conflict from spreading.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        I do not necessarily want to stop the spread of revolutionary conduct. We can’t impose our values or stability on the region by force,. It doesn’t work and only causes more problems.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      “Arab Spring would quickly lead up to an Islamist Winter”
      … such words send shivers through my heart, though I doubt anyone here has enough reading of history to know of what I speak.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *