Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Ego of Self-Exoneration

"When we combine these steps [of leaking to media] in aggregate there is a very strong case to be made that the public interest was maximized and the public risk was minimized."
"Very little harm has been done."
"We're losing our way as a society. If we don't stand up, if we don't say what we think those rights should be, and if we don't protect them, we will very soon find out that we do not have them."
"[The recent] departure from the traditional models of intelligence gathering [which once involved use of] extraordinary powers only in extraordinary circumstances [speak of the erosion of privacy]."
Edward Snowden, American cyber-espionage whistleblower
Edward Snowden's address to a world affairs conference at Upper Canada College, just days after his revelations about a massive Canadian online surveillance program known as Levitation, showed him to be as grandiose of vision as Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, but more modest and cautious in his tone.
Matthew Sherwood for National Post   Edward Snowden's address to a world affairs conference at Upper Canada College, just days after his revelations about a massive Canadian online surveillance program known as Levitation, showed him to be as grandiose of vision as Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder.

"The chances of you dying in a terrorist attack are infinitesimal."
"And yet your government continually hypes the threat."
Glenn Greenwald, journalist
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes   Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has broken many Snowden stories, and who also addressed the conference via webcam.

The two individuals who have excelled in the sanctimonious denunciation of governments who, facing exterior and interior threats of violent atrocities, undertaking extraordinary vigilance and intelligence gathering in prodigious efforts to forestall Islamist jihadist attacks on their territory and their people, speak from the lofty perch of the liberal left for whom no government nor its security agents are ever considered to be examples of administrations 'by the people, for the people'.

They indulge in their right to practise freedom of speech in free, liberal societies, enjoying the art of condemning the very processes and systems that gain them the freedom to speak as they will, and generally speaking ill of governments they would never have voted for, but the majority of people with whom they share a democratic social contract, obviously have, in belief and trust.

What they have in fact accomplished is to demonstrate quite effectively that actions once deemed treasonable and thought deserving of capital punishment, now are countenanced out of necessity, even though revealing the existence of purloined files and state secrets do harm to the integrity of the protections that free states must engage in; surveillance, investigations, coalitions with like states in exchange of vital data, and the capture of mega-data.

If people living in the free world expect and wish to live their lives unmolested by the malign intentions of religiously- or ideologically-inspired mass violence, they must trust that their government is capable of formulating and acting upon plans with their security agencies to keep them safe from harm. These are not totalitarian governments, those of the United States and Canada.

And while it is human nature that when  people gain high places and are entrusted with safeguarding a country, there are temptations to overstep authority, the penalties for having been found out when such incidents occur, ensure that most people decide that corrupt policies defeat any purpose. When an electorate chooses, through the ballot box, to install political parties and their representatives we do so with some element of trust.

Investigative journalists often reveal that trust to be in small or in large part, misplaced, and then the electorate resorts once again to the ballot box. North Americans live ordered lives enhanced by laws that protect our human rights of equality, respect and freedoms. These are not fragile, but guaranteed rights in our societies.

And these are rights that must be protected against the malign intentions of terrorist groups determined to replace what we value with their idea of how societies should function; in thrall to a religion that dominates every aspect of public and private life. And Islamist jihadists are prepared to inflict pain and hardship, mass slaughter and slavery in their campaign to achieve a sharia-led caliphate.

They are dedicated to their mission of conquest through jihad.

In Canada, as in the United States and throughout Europe, cells of Islamists with violent intentions sometimes succeed in committing their crimes, and more often, thanks to the dedicated work of law enforcement and surveillance, are apprehended while their crimes are still in the planning stages. There is little comfort in Mr. Greenwald's assurances of infinitesimal chances of dying at the hands of jihadists.

That many do, is proof enough that those incidents occur and we would prefer they not.

Edward Snowden is viewed as heroic by people who commit to the leftist ideal and ideas that government that is not far-left is one that stifles freedoms in the pseudo-pursuit of state security. How heroic is he, having fled initially to an Asian regime whose human rights record is abysmal, and from there to eastern Europe where Russia welcomed him with open arms for his propaganda value?

While he accuses his own country of abusing the trust of its citizens in planning to scoop and snoop their private business, he escapes any method of lawful punishment for having stolen state secrets and revealing them to the world, in the process doing harm to his country's surveillance and law enforcement establishment, along with revealing details of the administration's espionage services, while seeking protection from a country whose government is oppressive, dictatorial and internationally acknowledged as dangerously threatening to its neighbours.

Glenn Greenwald's description of the Canadian political climate of "fear-mongering" as a justification of cyber security overreaches exemplified as far as he is concerned in a new federal bill to expand domestic security responses, is permitted him because such accusations can be made in a free and democratic country without fear of state-sponsored recrimination that could be the death of some journalists, as happens in Russia.

The Toronto private school that arranged for Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald to address a world affairs conference at Upper Canada College, a prestige academy for elite families' offspring, may have felt that they are preparing their graduates for life in the real world, a real world where a Conservative-led government is held in contempt and its values held to be degraded, but this is a spurious coup for the student body.

Matthew Sherwood for National PostMatthew Sherwood for National Post

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