• Edward Snowden is the Most Dangerous Man in America. Good.

    July 21, 2014

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Military, Post-Constitution America

    Oh yes, yes, Edward Snowden is clearly the most dangerous man in America.

    Speaking via video link (he uses Skype!) from Russia to the HopeX hackers’ conference in New York City July 19, Edward Snowden issued a call to arms to those present. Engineers, he said, “need to think now in adversarial terms to defeat government technical capabilities.” While the government now uses technology to shield themselves from accountability, software and hardware must “become a way to express our freedoms while protecting our freedoms.”

    Technology and Government

    Snowden went on to make a number of important points regarding the new relationship technology has created between the government and the people.

    — Technology now makes it possible to publish information without the government’s ability to stop it. While the photocopier was the “killer app” of Daniel Ellsberg’s day, Wikileaks and Snowden’s own revelations show the empowerment potential of technology. Snowden reminded the audience that when the government fears its people (as opposed to the inverse), that is democracy.

    — The value of masses of documents– evidence– cannot be understated because it cannot be ignored. Only mass evidence of NSA illegal spying “brought the president to the podium, and the people back to the table of government.”

    — Snowden noted his and other whistleblowers’ attempts to “go through channels” with their concerns, but cautioned “The American Revolution was not fought for the right to channels.”

    — Secret courts interpreting secret laws to issue secret findings carried out by secret agencies in secret defines much of our world today. The government through this “exploit chain” has shut us out from the process and policies that impact our lives.

    — Via his NSA revelations, we now know a new truth about our world, that who we love, who we spend time with, who we hate is now known by people who are not held accountable, not even by the full Congress.

    Encoding Our Rights

    Snowden’s most important points were part of a call to action for technologists. He emphasized encryption, while very important, only protects content (what is written in your emails) and not metadata (information about to whom you send emails, for example.) This means, encryption or not, everything you communicate is being measured and analyzed; the government is programmatically examining our lives, in bulk, creating layers of suspicion by association. And in that sense, metadata is not about you, or me, it is about us, the collective us, all Americans and all others around the world.

    In this sense, what the NSA is doing is perhaps greater, perhaps even worse, than “merely” listening in on what you say or reading what you write. They are, in a broader sense, creating a map of how every global citizen fits in with every other citizen. Pair that with whatever content is collected, and the NSA comes close to knowing everything.

    That is why, Snowden told the crowd, the next job for us all, and Snowden’s own future work, will be to encode our rights into our technology, to take away by our own hands and intellect what the government has learned to use against us.

    The key is to divorce the connection from the connector, i.e., create unattributable communications that destroy the government’s ability to collect and analyze metadata and run traffic analysis. Snowden gave the example of Tor, a secure enough networking tool. The big weakness of Tor is that the NSA can easily see that a computer has entered the Tor network, allowing them to otherwise easily target that computer, and, if possible, target the person associated with that computer. Same with someone who makes a call using the Verizon network. Divorcing the connection from the connector means cutting those links of association, forcing NSA to have to find some other means of targeting an individual or uncovering broader patterns.


    A significant issue that holds many potential whistleblowers back is the risk of getting caught. Getting caught in this era means potentially life in prison, loss of family, loss of savings, loss of job and/or loss of status, position and identity. If technologists can lower the risk of getting caught, then that would likely make it more likely that more people would consider acts of patriotism and conscience. It is important that thousands (maybe hundred of thousands?) of people could have done what Snowden did, but only one man did it.

    Snowden then made one of his most chilling, and significant points, unexpectedly.

    He informed that crowd that there were almost certainly NSA operatives among them as he spoke. He explained that NSA has a budget just for sending people to hacker conferences, to see what they can learn, which people to look at further, and report back. Addressing those NSA people specifically, as well as the mass audience, Snowden challenged them directly to think about the world they wanted to live in, and then help build it.


    Snowden just upped his game. In addition to his own work and revelations, he is now directing how others should proceed. He is combining technology and patriotism, whistleblowing and philosophy.

    The NSA may be right; Edward Snowden may be the most dangerous man (virtually) in America.

    Note: The presentation was built around a three-way discussion among Daniel Ellsberg, Trevor Timm and Ed Snowden. I’ve only reported on Snowden’s remarks, though seeing him interact with Ellsberg was like what I imagined being in the room would have been like when Bruce Springsteen met Pete Seeger.

    Here’s the full audio of the presentation if you’d like to listen.

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    Copyright Β© 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • pitchfork said...


      quote”The NSA may be right; Edward Snowden may be the most dangerous man (virtually) in America.”unquote

      With all due respect Peter…no, Obama is the most dangerous man in Amerika. Edward Snowden is his most dangerous arch enemy. What the history of the world will show though..is Snowden will go down as the most courageous person in history, whereas Obama will go down as the most despised President ever. At least till now.

      As to our digital world, I’m sure those scientists who invented the networking software used to power the Internet at Darpa for the USG, never had a clue it could become the means for undermining the very secrets that even DARPA maintains, notwithstanding the possibility of exposing mindnumbing acts of the USG, as Snowden has amply illustrated. However, there is something else that may show the folly of putting our complete trust in digital, that should it come to pass, will put this world back into the dark ages. A coronal mass ejection of biblical proportions could possibly render the entire worlds communications and digital storage systems totally moot. ..

      …except for DOD/NSA’s of course. Their systems are built within Faraday cages.
      And THAT is the scary part. However, if and when an EMP does happen, the USG will be the least of our worries. Insert rolling eyes smiley here.

      Meanwhile, the most dangerous man in the world continues his support of NSA while his arch enemy tries to digitally negate it. Go Snowden!!!

      07/21/14 12:59 PM | Comment Link

    • jo6pac said...


      pitchfork said… 1

      I second that.

      07/21/14 4:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The guy who tells Obama what to do- yeah, that guy.

      07/21/14 4:34 PM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...


      Government is not an entity, but a beehive, a colony.

      If Snowden issues a call to engineers “to think now in adversarial terms to defeat government technical capabilities,” that is a recasting of the blame game heaped upon scientists whose works have been co-opted through time for bad and/or good ends, depending upon your perspective.

      An engineer is not an adversary — he’s an engineer.

      And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

      07/21/14 10:23 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote”An engineer is not an adversary β€” he’s an engineer”unquote

      Says Hitler to his crew of U2 missile engineers who, in their inimitable stalwart subjugation to engineering cannot fathom their complicity to the murder of thousands.


      07/22/14 12:26 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Hey Peter, congratulations! You hit the big time. Your Huffpost article on “parallel construction” is right in the heart Google news! Good article which brings to the forefront one of the MAIN domestic illegal acts of the NSA, which most people arn’t even aware of unless they’ve been following Snowden’s revelations for the last year.

      I started to post a comment/question, but realized this was the Huffpost. Unfortunately..I’ve been banned there too.. πŸ™ Haha. Thank god you are more forgiving of “expression” filled commentary. πŸ™‚
      (knocks on wood)

      Anyway, As I’m sure you will post the article here too, I’ll refrain from my usual verbose opinions. But..I do have a question.

      The actual title of your article is what drew me in to read it. Here it is….

      quote”Parallel Construction: Unconstitutional NSA Searches Deny Due Process”

      Reason is, it suggested that some legal entity had ruled on it’s constitutionality, and I was really interested what entity and when it occurred. Unfortunately..after reading your article, I discovered..there was no such ruling. This was entirely your “opinion”…no? Well, that kinda let me down. However, I was really glad to see this subject come up on Google news. Maybe a lot more people will become aware of this insidious use of NSA authorities, which to me, IS totally illegal. After all, NSA’s mandate is FOREIGN SURVEILLANCE..no? Also, maybe this will help in the fight to reign in these bastards.

      Anyway, just wanted to let you know, and give a heads up to anyone reading your blog.

      Meanwhile, I see NUMBSKULL Senator Barbara Mikulski totally stuck her foot in her mouth, to the point I literally laughed my ass off, as she’s one of the most NSA ass kissing Congress schmucks around. I even sent here an email last night congratulating her on her Great Moment in Monumental Stupidity. Check it out…


      NUMBSKULL is a massive understatement. πŸ™‚

      07/22/14 9:16 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “The NSA may be right; Edward Snowden may be the most dangerous man (virtually) in America.”

      TIME and again, we project the very worst in US:

      07/22/14 4:30 PM | Comment Link

    • Helen Marshall said...


      Well said, Pitchfork. Peter, you outdid yourself with this one.

      07/22/14 4:43 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Edward Snowden is the Most Dangerous Man in America. Good.

      He’s not…since he’s not IN America. You never see Peter and Edward Snowden in the same place at the same time. Hmmmm…

      07/22/14 11:29 PM | Comment Link

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