Saturday 31 May 2014

Government, Snowden Unwavering After NBC Interview Allegations

As NBC promoted this week's interview with Snowden with Brian Williams, they emphasized how secretive their operation had been in order to secure the interview.  Within hours of NBC’s interview preview, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Snowden to “man up” to face the music back in the U.S. When asked about returning to the U.S., Snowden said he would obviously like to return to his family and his country but that his top priority is to see that the programs he helped expose would be reformed.

Government reaction to Snowden’s interview continues.  Politico reports that since the interview, the NSA has released the email Snowden sent to superiors about wrongdoing, which Snowden referenced in the NBC interview.  The email released by the NSA in wake of the interview is not on par with correspondence Snowden described when he sat down with Brian Williams.  Snowden and others contend the NSA cannot be trusted to be providing the public the full story given their past statements and interest in misrepresenting Snowden's actions.

Screenshot of the email Snowden sent to superiors at NSA in April 2013, as released by the NSA on May 29, 2014 in wake of Snowden's interview with NBC's Brian Williams on May 28, 2014.

The ACLU’s Ben Weizer points out in the Politico article that the NSA’s credibility is questionable considering “the NSA has told the Washington Post in December that there were no records of Snowden internally raising concerns about surveillance programs.”  In the December 2013 WaPo article, a spokesperson for the NSA stated emphatically, “After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”

Snowden responded to the NSA’s retort by releasing the following statement to NBC News on Friday.  In part, he said:
“Today's release is incomplete, and does not include my correspondence with the Signals Intelligence Directorate's Office of Compliance, which believed that a classified executive order could take precedence over an act of Congress, contradicting what was just published. It also did not include concerns about how indefensible collection activities - such as breaking into the back-haul communications of major U.S. Internet companies -- are sometimes concealed under E.O. 12333 to avoid Congressional reporting requirements and regulations.

“If the White House is interested in the whole truth, rather than the NSA's clearly tailored and incomplete leak today for a political advantage, it will require the NSA to ask my former colleagues, management, and the senior leadership team about whether I, at any time, raised concerns about the NSA's improper and at times unconstitutional surveillance activities. It will not take long to receive an answer.

“Ultimately, whether my disclosures were justified does not depend on whether I raised these concerns previously. That's because the system is designed to ensure that even the most valid concerns are suppressed and ignored, not acted upon…

“Still, the fact is that I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions - as I have always said, and as NSA has always denied…”
(For the full statement, visit NBC News.)

What we haven’t seen from Snowden are the emails he references.  If he collected thousands of documents from his time at the NSA, it remains to be seen why he does not seem to have collected correspondence he had with the NSA as he said he did.  While it is reasonable for both parties, the NSA and Snowden, to stand behind their respective stories, it does not appear we have a clear sense of Snowden’s preemptive correspondence without he or the NSA taking steps to uncover additional emails.

What do you all think about the information NSA shared and Snowden’s retort?  Comment below or tweet us @SumRando.

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