Edward Snowden Takes Victory Lap in New York Times Op-Ed – By Margaret Hartmann June 5, 2015 2:29 a.m. 

Edward Snowden. Photo: The Guardian

Edward Snowden. Photo: The Guardian

It’s been exactly two years since Edward Snowden’s first leak about the NSA’s collection of phone metadata appeared in the press, and in an op-ed that appears in Friday’s New York Times, the former NSA contractor reflects on what he’s accomplished. Recalling his time preparing for the first leak with three journalists, he writes, “Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations. Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong.”

Snowden goes on to note that the disclosures created a “change in global awareness,” and lauds the legal and technological steps taken against mass surveillance, particularly in the U.S.:

In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.

This is the power of an informed public.

He concludes that while the right to privacy is still being threatened around the world, the disclosures continue to chip away at the surveillance state (hours earlier, the New York Times and Pro Publica published the results of a joint investigation based on Snowden’s trove of documents):

We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.

It’s an enticing thought, but U.S. politicians will probably redouble their fearmongering efforts as we get closer to the 2016 election.



Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrives for a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, April 16, 2015. ANDREW HARNIK/AP

Nearly two years after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the agency had penetrated the internal systems of Facebook, Google and other companies, tech executives still harbor hard feelings. That’s led to a strained relationship with the Pentagon. “The Snowden issue clouds things,” United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter acknowledged during a visit to WIRED’s New York offices Monday.

Nevertheless, with cyberterrorism on the rise, the Pentagon has never needed tech’s know-how more.

To be fair, Snowden’s explosive revelations are not the only reason Silicon Valley and the Pentagon don’t always get along. For one thing, the institutions that reside within each world operate very differently. The military moves slowly, while startups move quickly. Military personnel adhere to an immutable job hierarchy, respecting traditional career paths, while techies often skip college, change jobs frequently, and start their own companies.

Carter has made it his mission to build a stronger working relationship between the Defense Department and techies. His visit to Silicon Valley last week, in which he delivered a speech at Stanford and stopped in at Facebook and Andreessen Horowitz, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that a defense secretary has toured Silicon Valley.

Carter has suggested reforming the military’s personnel system so he can take better advantage of private sector talent. And he wants to make it easier for the Pentagon to approve outside contractors, a process that currently takes up to two years. “For many companies, that’s an eternity when you are living on a shoestring budget,” he told WIRED. As a result, the defense department too often works with legacy vendors skilled in winning its contracts. “If what we reward in terms of federal moneys are people who have the knack for working with us rather than people who do the best job, that’s a disaster.”

A New Strategy

Carter’s tech forward perspective comes from personal experience. The physicist-turned-Pentagon chief had just moved to the West Coast, where he was a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a lecturer at the university, when President Obama called him back to Washington DC in February to serve as defense secretary. Before that, he spent part of 2014 advising large investment firms on technology and defense investments as a senior partner with the consulting firm Global Technology Partners.

While Carter was speaking at Stanford, the DOD revealed details of a new cyber strategy—the first update since 2011—that calls for 133 teams of military, civilian, and defense contractors to be in place by 2018. To help its recruiting efforts, Carter is creating a Silicon Valley office, the Defense Innovation Unit X, not far from Google’s headquarters. The outpost will scout for new and emerging technologies, help startups find new ways of working with the military, and serve as a West Coast base for recruits.

If what we reward in terms of federal moneys are people who have the knack for working with us rather than people who do the best job, that’s a disaster. Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense

The Pentagon also has established a branch of the U.S. Digital Service, which puts techies to work on tough government problems for short periods. Already, 16 people are helping out in three teams. One, for example, is focused on making the health-record systems of the DOD and the Department of Veteran Affairs interoperable. “The technical community likes the problems we work on,” Carter said. “I’ve been taking them in on a temporary basis, saying, ‘Come do this for a year. You don’t have to be with us forever.’”

Carter also is helping the Pentagon invest in new technologies. He pointed out that the government can’t keep up with VC firms, but nonetheless, “I want to get more in that business.” Right now, the Pentagon makes small investments through In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit that has worked with the intelligence community to fund start-up companies working on security-related emerging technologies. “If that’s successful we’ll scale that up,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carter is addressing the legacy of Snowden’s actions by engaging tech’s leaders in conversation. The two communities need each other, he said, and his initiatives are, in part, a way he hopes to improve the relationship.

A Decade After Blowing The Whistle On The FBI, Vindication – Carrie Johnson EVIE STONE APRIL 15, 2015 4:03 AM ET

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at Apr 15, 2015 3.36

Kobus alerted his managers that a supervisor was allowing favorite employees to take time off for their birthdays, so the government had to pay more for other people at the agency to work overtime. "You know, this is not our money. This is the taxpayers' money, and I want it to be correct," he says. Courtesy of Robert Kobus

Kobus alerted his managers that a supervisor was allowing favorite employees to take time off for their birthdays, so the government had to pay more for other people at the agency to work overtime. “You know, this is not our money. This is the taxpayers’ money, and I want it to be correct,” he says.
Courtesy of Robert Kobus

Robert Kobus doesn’t fit the stereotype of the disgruntled employee.

He’s worked in administrative jobs at the FBI for 34 years. And Kobus says he’s seen the bureau at its best.

“My sister Deborah Kobus was a 9/11 victim and the FBI treated me so well during that time,” he says. “You know they really cared. I had a lot of friends, I know how important it is to have a strong FBI.”

His sister died in the World Trade Center’s South tower. He proudly wore his FBI jacket when he helped walk out the last piece of steel at the site.

But just a few years later, Kobus noticed a problem — a small-time problem — that could have been fixed right away. He says a bureau supervisor in New York was allowing favorite employees to take time off for their birthdays, so the government had to pay more for other people at the agency to work overtime.

“You know this is not our money this is the taxpayers money and I want it to be correct,” he says.

Kobus documented his concerns in an email. He says he hoped new managers would fix the problem. Instead, the new supervisors were furious with him.

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Ex-CIA Officer John Kiriakou: “The Government Turned Me Into a Dissident” -Vice News Published on Apr 2, 2015

In 2007, John Kiriakou became the first Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official to publicly confirm that agency interrogators waterboarded a high-value detainee, terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah — a revelation that had previously been a closely guarded secret.

Five years after this unauthorized disclosure to ABC News, the veteran CIA officer pleaded guilty to leaking to journalists the identity of certain individuals who were involved with the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program. He was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison.

VICE News caught up with Kiriakou for a wide-ranging interview just a few days after he was released from prison. He detailed how his CIA training became a technique for survival behind bars, and how the government turned him into a “dissident.”