Tag Archives: privacy

Snowden Claims “All Governments Break the Law,” Comments on Russian Hysteria

Dearborn, a town in Michigan with fewer than 100,000 residents, has one of the largest Muslim populations in the U.S. An astounding number of people in Dearborn are on the U.S. government’s watch list. That these two exist at once should come as no surprise, said writer Jeremy Scahill, as he opened the eighth episode of Intercepted and began interviews with Muslim rapper Kayem and Edward Snowden.

With Kayem, he talked about the surveillance state and targeting of Muslims. Kayem talked about how he’s been needlessly harassed, forced to go through insane scrutiny during airport security (which recently went so far as to prevent him from boarding), and placed on watchlists. He joked that he tells friends, “If something happens and I’m in the news…I didn’t do it!” laughing about the degree to which he’s been wrongfully targeted as a Muslim-American. Scahill chimed in.“The ‘Shaggy’ defense––it wasn’t me!” they laugh, as they found a way to mix glorious hip hop references into an otherwise-difficult conversation.

As the interview progressed and Snowden appeared via video call, Scahill’s questions centered around Russia hysteria and the rise of Trump. Snowden gave many familiar answers related to the value of transparency and the clear constitutional problems associated with mass data collection. Snowden’s thoughts on Trump, though, were less alarmist in comparison to many political observers––perhaps because every aspect of mass surveillance is alarming, Snowden remains unsurprised by the alarm of someone like Trump being elected.

“This isn’t actually new,” reminded Snowden, reinforcing the idea that unchecked abuse of power has pretty much always been happening––this time, though, the Trump administration is “so inept” that they’re honest about their wrongdoing or so bad at hiding it that it’s clearly visible to us. Perhaps visibility of power expansion and incompetence, although awful in the short term, can invigorate longer term structural change.

“All governments lie,” Snowden continued, “and all governments break the law.” If anything, the transparency with which we see the incompetence of the Trump administration might remind us that limited power is always better than its rampant, unchecked alternative. The problem is deeper though––many government officials, despite wrongdoing, have never seen the inside of a courtroom in a criminal proceeding.

But part of the problem with the current administration––and mainstream media reporting––is unbridled Russia hysteria. “MSNBC has basically transformed into a Cold War opponent of the Soviet Union,” laughed Scahill.

Snowden is no stranger to Russia-related fear mongering. When critics fabricated theories about his connection to Russia after the U.S. revoked his passport mid-transit to Latin America, his credibility was put on the line––with no evidence presented by said critics. In an effort to smear him, he was painted as a potential NSA contractor-turned-Russian spy.

Although frustrating, Snowden made it clear that he thinks skepticism is good. Reducing standards for evidence tends to be a bad thing and being conscientious arbiters of which information is true and false is crucial. But both Scahill and Snowden remained fiercely critical of the media’s handling of Russia-related topics, talking about how Russia has been an easy scapegoat for the past few years, given Cold War history, lack of public trust in Putin, and general uneasiness about the Putin administration’s unpredictability.

This makes even more sense put into the context of recent events: as of this month, Politico has started a histrionic Russia timeline, politicians and journalists have been quick to discredit Wikileaks’ trove of CIA documents due to Russian connections, and MSNBC has been fixating on Trump’s relationship with Russia, at the expense of other news. Many in the media are thoughtlessly jumping to quick conclusions about Russia instead of accurately assessing the foreign policy landscape. When hysteria wins, we all lose. Perhaps we should heed Snowden’s advice and be better skeptics, clear-headed arbiters of fact and fiction intent on thinking for ourselves.


Liz Wolfe is Young Voices’ managing editor.

Encryption showdown: Burr-Feinstein vs McCaul-Warner

The encryption battle line has been drawn.

On one side of the showdown we have a senator, who despite representing America’s tech heartland constituency, doesn’t understand rudimentary principles of technology. Joining her is another senator, who is in a hotly contested race, and since pushing the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act last fall, has been consistently seeking issues he can co-opt to remain in the limelight during the re-election cycle.

On the other side, we have a bill supported by one of the few technology entrepreneurs in Congress and the House Homeland Security Chairman—both of whom have repeatedly expressed a clear interest in arriving at a rational compromise to this debate, while expressing intellectual humility with regards to Congress’s ability to effectively and competently address the encryption issue on its own.

Over the past few months, Chairman McCaul and Senator Warner have been open and frank about what their proposed legislation would involve: bringing together economists, cryptographers, law enforcement officials, privacy advocates, and the tech community to talk through the issue of encryption. No mandate to produce any particular legislative recommendation is included in the Commission’s charge, only empirically-driven reports. Any recommendations that would be offered would require a majority vote of the commissioners, approved of in a bipartisan fashion. Senators Burr and Feinstein, however, have taken a decidedly more cloistered approach to constructing their legislation.

Read the rest on The Hill, here.

4 Reasons to be Optimistic About Encryption’s Future

As the legal dispute between the FBI and Apple continues to dominate headlines, there’s a great deal that privacy advocates and consumers should be concerned about. What if the FBI gets it way? Does that set a terrible precedent that will trickle beyond cases involving terrorism? Is this the first step towards opening a backdoor into encryption? How will that decision impact the tech sector? The litany of questions goes on and on.

But rather than focusing on the potential worst-case scenarios, here are four reasons that, no matter the outcome of the legal battle being waged, we should be optimistic about the future of encryption.

Read the rest on The Huffington Post, here.

Why you should join Apple in the fight for privacy

The dispute between Apple and the FBI is not about law enforcement being able to access the contents of a single terrorist’s iPhone. It’s about creating a legal precedent, which has the potential to affect our entire digital eco-system.

In a column earlier this week, Abby Schachter, US editor of CapX, claimed that Apple is on the wrong side of the fight against terrorism. This hyperbole is just plain wrong. Apple is not just standing up for privacy, it’s fighting for the very foundation of our digital world.

Law enforcement requires the ability, under certain circumstances, to compel individuals and organizations to hand over evidence pertaining to a crime. Such court orders are relatively routine. But the FBI’s latest request goes well beyond this.

Read the rest on CapX, here.