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This is my attempt to respond to a lot of the confusion and misinterpretation I get from pretty much any discussion I’m involved in regarding Snowden and/or the NSA.

To my knowledge, I haven't made any statements expressing any real ideology, or support for anything the intelligence community is doing. I’ve explicitly tried to avoid that because I either lack the full context or don’t want to run afoul of professional obligations. Accepting that, in various forums I have done the contrary and noted several intelligence reforms that I've long supported (eg. PATRIOT act reform/repeal, shorter classification duration, data retention limits, improved oversight, greater transparency etc.). The truth is that I probably want the intelligence community to be in a place that‘s essentially the same as what many of my friends speaking out against it would want. I just think we mostly differ on where we perceive it today, and what the immediate effects of the current situation are.

I have been a vocal critic of how bad the reporting has been on the Snowden leaks (and have been a big critic of Greenwald's for many years). Many of the stories I’ve read cherry-pick information grossly out of context to create narratives that are often totally inaccurate (the categorically false claims of Google providing NSA backdoors being a prime example). I don't see why people are comfortable taking these stories on faith, and not demanding the reporters provide real evidence and actually be transparent with the source documents. I do get why reporters are releasing the stories this way; the sensationalist trickle of piecemeal information pumps up their profile and gets more readers. However, the cost seems to be any chance at getting broad dissemination of accurate information or a meaningful discourse.

I know I've shown very little patience for falsely premised arguments about legality or the general operation of intelligence collection. The fact is that the basic laws governing US intelligence are public, and the most central ones date back to the middle of the last century. Plus, FOIA has made it such that redacted copies of directives like USSID 18 have been posted publicly since roughly the advent of the Web. So, there's a wealth of authoritative information for anyone looking to have an informed opinion on the subject, and no excuse for the gross ignorance shown by so many people who claim to care.

I do want to point out that based on my past professional experience, the members of the five eyes intelligence community (US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) are generally good people just trying to do the right thing. They have a very difficult mission and have to walk a very fine line in how they carry it out. They are very concerned with privacy and individual rights, and I think many of the genuinely substantive details in the leaked documents support that by showing things like rigorous adherence to oversight and strong procedures for preventing abuses. I don’t think anyone should argue that members of intelligence community are beyond reproach, because mistakes are made and even the best groups can have a few bad apples. But, I am really saddened by and see no justification for the outright demonization of the intelligence community that is now the norm.

Finally, I really don't see a reasonable argument that Snowden is a whistleblower. I could go into various discussions of his intent and history, but the core issue is that to my knowledge he hasn't revealed substantive abuses or illegality under current law. And none of the leaks have provided any meaningful revelations to anyone who had invested minimal academic rigor in researching the already available information. Meanwhile, the leaks are actively harming US interests and US based companies, with no benefit in sight. Worse, all the noise from this is making the subject toxic, and likely to slow down or even halt some of the intelligence oversight improvements that had been underway for the last several years.

So, that's all I’ve got for now. I don't intend on responding to further replies, because I've already spent far too much time discussing this subject.
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