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Government News

Why the Snowden Situation Shows 'Protected Disclosure' Is Critical (zdnet.com) 239

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of NSA leaks debacle, New Zealand's Inspector General of Security and Intelligence has developed a process to enable whistleblowers to act safely. "The Edward Snowden disclosures demonstrate how critical it is to have a clear path, with appropriate protections, for disclosing information about suspected wrongdoing (PDF) within an intelligence and security agency," Cheryl Gwyn says. The Inspector General's powers were boosted after it was discovered New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau had been spying illegally on Kim Dotcom and others. "Edward Snowden has consistently said it was impossible for him to make internal disclosures about what he believed was wrongdoing due to the lack of whistleblower protections he faced in the U.S."
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Why the Snowden Situation Shows 'Protected Disclosure' Is Critical

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  • Prison!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What really needs to happen is that people responsible for illegal activity, including spying, need to go to fucking prison, just like any one of the great unwashed goes to prison for breaking laws. These people break these laws, which then requires some whistleblowing because they know they can do it with impunity.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You need spies in order to catch the other side's spies. Unless you don't know what "spying" means and you're conflating it with something else, you're off your rocker.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        So ignoring the law and becoming a criminal organization is fine as long as there is some abstract goal behind it? You would the also be perfectly fine with what the KGB, the Stasi and the GeStaPo were doing?

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Judging by their post, and the replies of a few others, why yes, yes they *would* be okay with the Stasi, KGB, etc... So long as they believed it was for their own good. Remember, some of the best agents those people had were civilians, after all.

          I watched a documentary (several in a row so I'm not sure which but I think it was titled Gestapo) where a lady ended up in prison for political reasons. After the fall of the Wall and the ensuing disclosures, she learned that it was her husband who had done all th

          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            If fall-of-the-wall was in there, then it was the Stasi (hard to keep track of all that fascist scum, I know).

            One important factor of fascism is to make sure the population is mostly in their side. As people are stupid and external enemies can be easily created (just look at the US today, or northern Korea, same principle), this is pretty easy.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        You need spies in order to catch the other side's spies.

        That's like saying the only way I can catch a burglar is to break into his house and find my stuff. Nope. If I catch him in the act, that's good enough. And it's perfectly OK for me to watch my own house to catch him.

    • They will get some lawyer to right a secret opinion that what they are doing is legal then point to the secret opinion paper that they can't show you that what they are doing is legal. Oh, can't show you the paper because what we are doing is legal because what we are doing is secret but trust us we have the opinion paper.

      Waterboarding not being torture, yeah right.

  • Impasse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sshir ( 623215 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @11:16AM (#50863213)
    It's an impasse of sorts in Snowden case: in order to serve justice, US needs to modify Espionage Act to allow "public interest defense". But if it is allowed then Snowden's lawyers will pull all the dirt about NSA dealing and the case will escalate to Supreme Court (Snowden has standing after all) were all this shit might be declared unconstitutional. And US government cannot afford that risk, thus no justice for you, Snowden.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Having standing and having a crooked judge admit you have standing are very different things.

    • And US government cannot afford that risk, thus no justice for you, Snowden.

      There can't be justice, broadly, until the Espionage Act is repealed. The US managed to survive without it up until 1917, and the very worst abuses of said government are protected by it.

      Of course the Espionage Act cannot be repealed without imperiling those in power and their beneficiaries. So, even though it will lead to such a untenable situation that they will eventually lose their power, rapidly, the current system has no mec

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter if you have a means to report it. Nothing will -ever- happen to stop the activity. The 'system' as a whole has an invested interest in assuring that any such disclosures never lead to actual repercussions. No matter how protected it is, you will be outed as the one who complained and you will be dealt with either by being framed, arrested on some technicality and having the book thrown at you or simply find yourself unable to work in your profession again because apparently you no longer g

    • by Shadow IT Ninja ( 3891909 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @01:56PM (#50864625)
      This is more or less, what Tom Drake said. Drake, who was a high level NSA official, started to address the agency's illegal activities by going through proper channels. When that failed, he and others within the NSA, leaked information to the NY Times while being very careful to limit the disclosures to things that were not too sensitive but still showed illegal activity. There were congressional hearings and the NSA denied everything. They got away with it because Drake's leaks did not include enough detailed evidence. At this point, they could have cut back those activities, which they had denied doing (but were, in fact, doing) because the process clearly pointed them out as illegal and unwanted by the American public. That's where Snowden came in and provided the detailed evidence. I think that no small part of his decision to flee had to do with creating a dramatic effect. His being on the run helps to keep the issue in the public spotlight. If that stops working, he may choose some opportune time to turn himself in if it can be done for further dramatic effect. So, I think there is actually some benefit for a whistleblower, like Snowden, to break the law to the point of an act of civil disobedience. Meanwhile, Tom Drake was protected as a whistleblower although he had a tough time with his legal defence for a while.
  • Perhaps New Zealand could offer Mr. Snowden citizenship as he has shown that he is willing to suffer for the public good. People do have the right to know and the cowardly posture of the US in dreading any potential event is silly. To be part of this world both as individuals and as nations we have to be abl;e to accept some level of risk. No nation has ever had perfect security and the US has gone way too far in that regard.
  • In regards to Snowden, unless you can find a congressman or senator to help and forge away ahead for you, you have nothing. Plenty of other resources for other branches of the government, even for commercial businesses.
  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @11:40AM (#50863401)

    As several news articles have pointed out, the very same man who Snowden saw lying to Congress about the extent of the spying would have been the one Snowden would ultimately be reporting to, were he to report his concerns. Sure, they might have then fired Snowden as a result - but it's also entirely possible they wouldn't. The main thing is, there was no chance whatsoever that the NSA would decide to come clean and tell the truth because a junior IT guy pointed out they were lying. They knew they were lying at much higher levels and were ok with that.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Snowden had several legal options he chose to ignore. Every employee that works around protected data is briefed on legal paths of whistle-blowing that are outside of the chain of command. Legal reporting has protection against reprisal and isn't treason. He could have presented his case to IG, FBI, Congress, Congressional Committees and Sub-Committees... There were hundreds of routes available that did not entail dumping classified data out to the public that placed lives at risk and would not be consid

      • None of those routes would have resulted in anything but "complaint dismissed because the NSA's internal investigation says they did no wrong."

        In fact, other NSA employees before Snowden did blow the whistle...

    • Or they would respond like they did to Thomas Drake and try to put him in solitary for the rest of his life.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @12:02PM (#50863599) Homepage
    With very few exceptions (see below) real espionage is NOT done publicly. Russian/Chinese/ISIS etc. spies don't break into X secret government and then publish for the world to see. It simply isn't done that way.

    Why? Because such disclosure defeats the most important goal which is to not let the victims know they have been owned. If the victim knows they were owned, they fix the hole and you can't do it again. No temporary knowledge is ever worth what you can get next year and the one after that.

    If you go public, then you are almost always not engaged in espionage, you are a Whistle Blower.

    The few exceptions are the revelations of specific details such as plans on how to build top secret physical objects, copies of top secret computer code, or the names of undercover agents. That type of information should never be disclosed, not even publicly.

    General methods, avenues of attack, etc. simply do deserve the same level of protection. The fact that we do X is never really secret, no matter what the government says.

    Part of it is the reputation issue. China's main problem is that they care more about their politicians' reputation than what the politicians are doing.

    America should NEVER make that mistake - what someone actually does is always far more important than their reputation - and that includes the reputation of government agencies.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      It simply isn't done that way.

      Sometimes it is. [youtube.com]

      • No it wasn't. That was not a person doing espionage and revealing his info to the world. Instead, the person that did the espionage gave it to the US GOVERNMENT.

        The US government kept it secret for weeks. Then the US government made it public, not the spy.. I repeat, real spies NEVER reveal their information publicly.

        Moreover, this is arguably an example of the 'few exceptions' I mentioned - it was specifics - the physical location of secret nuclear missiles - not techniques.

  • appropriate protections, for disclosing information about suspected wrongdoing (PDF) within an intelligence and security agency

    Disclosing "within the intelligence agency" would have been pointless; it would simply have been swept under the rug, protections or not.

    The only thing Snowden could do with this information is disclose it publicly if he felt it was sufficiently important, and if he was willing to pay the personal price and hope for leniency eventually. That's what he did. Now, you may agree or disa

  • "In the wake of NSA leaks debacle, New Zealand's Inspector General of Security and Intelligence has developed a process to enable whistleblowers to act safely".

    'New Zealand's Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, said a formal internal policy for handling protected disclosures, or "whistleblowing", has been developed by her office in liaison with security agencies.'

    ROTFLMAO .. see an example of the 'formal internal policy' in action:

    a. Inform senior management of acts of malf
  • Snowden isn't a good example.. the man had taken the job with the intentend of finding classified information and bringing it out in the open (and all for his own pleasure/15 minutes of fame (which became a bit more than 15 minutes))..
    I think there is a difference between somebody working at a company/institution for many years and stumbeling upon that information, or entering a position and signing a NDA knowingly you're not gonna break the NDA..
    In reality Snowden is not a hero, but a traitor (even though

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.