You may have wondered why we’ve sat on our hands when it comes to the recent wave of national security topics involving cell phones, and telecommunication in general. It’s a good question, and one we want to go in-depth on.
By far, the main reason has been a lack of staffing. Despite major efforts, we have struggled to find qualified personnel for key tasks. We’ve had to keep PhoneNews.com in Safe Mode a lot longer than we would have liked. We could still use your help there…
You may remember, years ago, we uncovered plans by the Department of Defense to create a national security wireless network, using Sprint iDEN and WiMAX as the dual backbones for voice, and data, respectively.
In part because of our reporting, the single-bid contract was forced open, and became the Networx Contracts. Sprint lost those contracts once they became open to bidding, and we became very isolated from Sprint in terms of coverage and reporting. It was a harbinger of some dark days for PhoneNews.com in terms of backlash and woes. In some ways, we’re still crawling out from under that.
So, understandably, we take covering this matter with some pause. We also have other things that are a force for good that we’re working on, and are genuinely worth protecting.
Edward Snowden: Friend & Foe
Most of our sources have corroborated the mainline of media reports. People like Edward Snowden should be viewed with a critical eye. Two times in the past few weeks, he has intentionally released documents timed to undermine the US presense.
The first time, on the eve of a major summit between China and the United States, Snowden, from Hong Kong, released documents meant to discredit the United States on a topic of interest at that summit; cybersecurity. What was supposed to be a conference about China’s wrongdoings abroad became a topic about United States domestic spying.
We don’t believe that was a mistake, or that China didn’t play a role in that coordinated blunder.
This past week, Snowden tarnished a G8 summit, focused on the US and Russia, by showing that the United States spied on the former Russian President, a man who himself is a strong ally of the current Russian President.
We don’t believe that was a mistake, either.
Snowden claims he is trying to not be a foe of the United States, and yet is strategically releasing information in a manner that undermines the Obama Administration. We may not be the most reliable advocates for the Obama Administration, but we do discredit Snowden for his efforts here. There are better ways to come clean.
Most notably, all NSA-affiliated and clearanced participants have a unique, direct line to members of Congress. They can turn whistleblower and provide information ordinarily classified from members of Congress, directly.
But Snowden didn’t do that. Why we’re not sure. He claims he’s in fear of his life. He claims the United States wants to execute him. NSA contractors have lost their jobs, have been financially destroyed for going to Congress with their concerns. We do not believe Edward Snowden here, he made no effort to disclose to Congress, something he could have done from the relative safety of Hong Kong.
That all said, Edward Snowden did uncover that the Director of National Intelligence clearly misled Congress. He won’t be prosecuted, as only the Department of Justice and the Attorney General can do that.
Considering the Attorney General is currently investigating… himself… for claiming in search warrants that a journalist (Fox News Reporter James Rosen) was a criminal co-conspirator, after misleading Congress he was not engaged in prosecuting journalists… we find it unlikely the Department of Justice is going to provide the American public with relief on these subject matters.
We wish that last one wasn’t so long winded… about as much as we wish it wasn’t true. Days like this underscore a flaw in the American system of governance; while the executive branch can charge individuals in the legislative branch, the converse is not true, except via Articles of Impeachment. This allows lesser crimes to go unchecked, regardless of president. However, the key here is Congress can disclose and investigate. Snowden chose to ignore this important option.
All of this leaves Edward Snowden being both a friend and a foe. He broke the law on disclosing information that the American people should know about. He is engaging in this patter in a most distasteful and undermining manner. He could have told Congress, which in turn could have (at the least) told the American public if they believed the law was broken. This pattern discredits what Snowden publishes.
Where we go from here…
Most of what we can independently report (in other words, new stuff you haven’t seen elsewhere) is undermined by Edward Snowden’s half-truths. Our sources don’t want to provide the whole picture, because Snowden’s picture is far from reality to begin with. We do know the breadth of the telecommunications industry’s compliance with NSA is broad. All four carriers have turned over broad information on the citizenry.
Part of our debate internally, and really individually, has boiled down to one question; are we at war? The Administration claims we are no longer in a Global War on Terrorism. If that is true, much of what we know, we should report. But, if that is window dressing, if we are in said war still, we believe it is not appropriate to disclose anything new, no matter how minor, unless there is clear abuse of power that we can document.
Nothing from what we have seen indicates that this is anything like scandals that plague the IRS, DOJ, and State Department. The abuse of power is always potential, and we believe transparency should improve. Google today filed their latest challenge asking to disclose National Security Letters, specifically with the FISA Court for the first time. We support and believe the FISA Court should grant these motions. If they don’t, we believe Google will and should appeal to the Supreme Court.
We’re also engaging in due diligence on our past, and I’m announcing today we’re preparing Freedom of Information Act requests with the DOD and FBI on our coverage of the Networx Contracts at the tail end of last decade. Matters of national security like Networx are different – they don’t reveal anything to our foes on how and when we are working in secret to thwart their acts of terror.
And, for that same reason, we’re going to monitor Congress’s independent investigation of NSA’s activities, and push for those investigations to continue. If they don’t continue, we’re going to help you let Congress know, and we’ll join calls at that time for actions to be taken. Until then, we’re going to pick up with PRISM, et al, as developments progress publicly.
Humberto Saabedra – Editor-in-Chief, PhoneNews.com
Christopher Price – Founding Editor, CEO MMV.mobi