Edward Snowden, the former CIA agent and NSA contractor who blew the whistle on mass surveillance, has published a book this Tuesday.
“If there was a moment of epiphany, it came when he was asked to put together a presentation on China’s ‘utterly mind boggling’ surveillance capabilities. As he did this, he says, he had ‘a sneaking sense I was looking at a mirror and seeing a reflection of America’.”
So says the Guardian, with the book apparently containing no new leaks, but the government has opened proceedings because they say “Snowden published his book without submitting it to the agencies for pre-publication review, in violation of his express obligations under the agreements he signed.”
They argue Snowden voluntarily signed an agreement with both CIA and NSA to submit for review any publication or speech. They say he has not done so, therefore:
“Pursuant to the terms of Snowden’s secrecy agreements, all rights, title, and interest in any and all royalties, remunerations, and emoluments that have resulted, or will result, from Permanent Record have been assigned to the United States Government.”
They do not request withdrawal of the book, nor for its sale to be stopped. They only request any money made for it is sent to the government rather than to Snowden. To facilitate the mechanics of that, they have added the publishers to the proceedings.
Snowden has not publicly addressed that monetary aspect, stating instead:
“Hours after the United States government filed a lawsuit seeking to punish the publication of my new memoir, PermanentRecord, the very book the government does not want you to read just became the #1 best-selling book in the world. It is available wherever fine books are sold.”
Following a number of further Tweets by Snowden regarding this lawsuit, which requests proceeds from speeches as well given since 2014, Snowden said:
The meme in this context has an obvious meaning, can’t seize bitcoins provided you have actual possession of them.
That may well apply in regards to the speeches, but as the book proceeds go through the publishers, presumably they will have no choice – bitcoin or gold – but to hand over the proceeds if the court so orders.
Meaning this book may well be an altruistic work and a tax gift to America six years on since they were informed of mass collection of information.
Almost nothing has come out of that revelation. Some in fact argue the situation where there was implicit knowledge of surveillance, but no public proof of it, was better as it would have exerted pressure on the emperor to pretend he has clothes.
It’s public revelation, instead, has sort of made it all kind of accepted, not least because there is little the public can do as the matter sort of personalizes or polarizes on the whistle blower.
While had such secrecy been maintained, there may well have been internal pressures to safeguard, limit, and much more, in addition to public pressures for in the age of 4chan little can be truly secret.
The timing of these revelations, moreover, for many was off. If we go back to those times, in Britain especially it felt like students were about to take to the streets just before Tony Blair pre-emptily resigned in 2007. When riots then broke out in London in 2011, there wasn’t that pressure in the air, so it was contained due to no public support. There was even less such pressure in the air when mass surveillance was revealed in 2013.
That’s with hindsight, but the arguable failure of Snowden and Assange, while Nakamoto clearly succeeded, does have a very clear lesson for this generation.
To articulate it is to generalize and generalization is usually wrong for some circumstances, but the problems are generally know, the question is usually what are the workable solutions.
Where mass surveillance is concerned, the solution is obviously peace, thus making it unnecessary. To secure peace, a generation that has shunned politics now needs to be involved in politics and fully.
We are a democracy after all, we have peaceful and legal means of changing things. Not just for ourselves or our own countries, but the entire world for when freedom strengthens here, authoritarians collapse elsewhere.
It is that political awareness and that necessity of involvement in the only peaceful method of organizing that we know, which will provide actual solutions and the means of implementing them.
That Snowden stood, that Assange stood, that some journalists stood and many others, some of whom paid for it with their life or imprisonment, has arguably contributed to the raising of that political awareness.
For their mistakes and correct courses of action have laid a far better understanding of what may be the solution, which in a democracy necessarily has to begin with the pen, so collected into a voice, in a political party, and thus the people’s free choice at the ballot box.