Read Snowden’s comments on 9/11 that NBC didn’t broadcast
Published time: May 30, 2014 17:13
Only around a quarter of the recent NBC News interview with former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden made it to broadcast, but unaired excerpts now online show that the network neglected to air critical statements about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
When the four-hour sit-down between journalist Brian Williams and Snowden made it to air on Wednesday night, NBC condensed roughly four hours of conversation into a 60-minute time slot. During an analysis of the full interview afterwards, however, the network showed portions of the interview that didn’t make it into the primetime broadcast, including remarks from the former National Security Agency contractor in which he questioned the American intelligence community’s inability to stop the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In response to a question from Williams concerning a “non-traditional enemy,” Al-Qaeda, and how to prevent further attacks from that organization and others, Snowden suggested that United States had the proper intelligence ahead of 9/11 but failed to act.
“You know, and this is a key question that the 9/11 Commission considered. And what they found, in the post-mortem, when they looked at all of the classified intelligence from all of the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed as an intelligence community, as a classified sector, as the national defense of the United States to detect this plot,” Snowden said. “We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we have.”
“The problem with mass surveillance is that we’re piling more hay on a haystack we already don’t understand, and this is the haystack of the human lives of every American citizen in our country,”Snowden continued. “If these programs aren’t keeping us safe, and they’re making us miss connections — vital connections — on information we already have, if we’re taking resources away from traditional methods of investigation, from law enforcement operations that we know work, if we’re missing things like the Boston Marathon bombings where all of these mass surveillance systems, every domestic dragnet in the world didn’t reveal guys that the Russian intelligence service told us about by name, is that really the best way to protect our country? Or are we — are we trying to throw money at a magic solution that’s actually not just costing us our safety, but our rights and our way of life?
Indeed, the director of the NSA during Snowden’s stint there, Gen. Keith Alexander, reportedly endorsed a method of intelligence gathering in which the agency would collect quite literally all the digital information it was capable of.
“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’” one former senior US intelligence official recently told the Washington Post. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . .And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”
In recent weeks, a leaked NSA document has affirmed that under the helm of Alexander, the agency was told it should do as much as possible with the information it gathers: "sniff it all, know it all, collect it all, process it all and exploit it all,” according to the slide.
“They're making themselves dysfunctional by collecting all of this data,” Bill Binney, a former NSA employee-turned-whistleblower himself, told the Daily Caller last year. Like Snowden, Binney has also argued that the NSA’s “collect it all” condition with regards to intelligence gathering is deeply flawed.
“They've got so much collection capability but they can't do everything. They're probably getting something on the order of 80 percent of what goes up on the network. So they're going into the telecoms who have recorded all of the material that has gone across the network. And the telecoms keep a record of it for I think about a year. They're asking the telecoms for all the data so they can fill in the gaps. So between the two sources of what they've collected, they get the whole picture,” Binney said.
Although NBC neglected to play Mr. Snowden’s remarks to Williams in which he questioned the efficiency of modern intelligence gathering under the guise of being a counterterrorism tool, it did air on television other remarks from the former contractor concerning the terrorist attacks.
“It’s really disingenuous for the government to invoke and sort of scandalize our memories to sort of exploit the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up and our Constitution says we don’t need to give up,” he said in an excerpt broadcast on air.
Snowden’s latest interview corroborates good intentions, says attorney
Published time: May 30, 2014 04:40
A panel of experts sat down with RT Thursday to analyze the first interview Edward Snowden gave to US media, a conversation that touched on the NSA whistleblower’s motivation to leak classified documents and how his actions have been misrepresented since.
Norman Solomon, director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, attorney Bruce Fine, and Jesselyn Radack, director of national security and human rights at the Government Accountability Project and one of Snowden’s attorneys, described Snowden as a hero who put his life on the line to expose abuses committed by the surveillance state.
Current and former NSA officials have blasted Snowden for supposedly failing to take his complaints to his supervisors and instead leak so much information to the press. The US government published documents one day after Snowden’s interview with NBC, though, indicating that the former contractor did, in fact, communicate some of his concerns to NSA bosses. The panel was asked whether the new information, and the notion that it proved part of Snowden’s story, helped improve his legal standing.
Bruce Fine: It certainly does, it shows that he wasn’t reckless and immediately went to Hong Kong and disclosed the information but that he understood the rules of the game and exhausted them without result and it gives credence to his rendition and narrative that he is not the first to tell the whole story. Tom Drake basically confronted the same problem and that has repeated through the whistleblower regime. It is not the case that whistleblowers characteristically leak to go public and not go internally. They are not reckless people they are conscientious and I can state that I think Mr. Snowden’s demeanor gives special strength to his narrative. There’s nothing that looks exaggerated or frantic and he doesn’t use words that display antipathy towards the United States or others and that, as I said, strengthens the credibility of the entire story.
Jesselyn Radack: I was really glad that America was able to hear more about his background, including being undercover at both the CIA and NSA and also his attempts to go through channels internally with the facts that NBC was able to get the NSA to admit to. That argument about not going through proper channels has been a thread throughout the debate throughout the last year so I thought that was really significant that he talked about how his attempts had been thwarted and really amounted to nothing.
Government officials and an alarming number of media pundits have repeatedly asserted that the vast trove of documents Snowden turned over have done serious harm to US counter-terrorism efforts abroad. Snowden, in his conversation with NBC’s Brian Williams, said that such claims have never gone past vague generalities.
Norman Solomon: For one thing there’s no evidence that any harm has come from the revelations due to the work of Edward Snowden. Secondly, the huge damage that is done by secrecy vastly overwhelms even the claims of damage that have come from top US officials in the cases of Edward Snowden as well as Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning. I think we should also recall as a footnote that as a senator Mr. Kerry voted for the invasion of Iraq, an invasion based on lies, and if we had whistleblowers with courage based in a similar space inside the government as Edward Snowden then perhaps the invasion of Iraq could’ve been avoided. So I think that one of the problems we’re getting with the demagoguery of Secretary of state Kerry right now is that the real threats in terms of public information from the government for the safety and well-being of Americans and others around the world come from a failure to disclose information to the public rather than the other way around.
It is for those reasons, the trio of experts told RT, that the public should be skeptical of the NSA’s ongoing claims that Snowden is in some way lying or otherwise distorting the reality of the situation.
Radack: Throughout this whole narrative over the last year one person has been consistently telling the truth and that’s Edward Snowden and a number of people have been consistently lying and those are people associated with NSA and the intelligence communities. Moreover, pretty much every whistleblower in this area is smeared with the idea that they have harmed national security, that Tom Drake was going to have the blood of soldiers on his hands. Yet in Chelsea Manning’s case, for example, when it came time to produce a damage assessment during the court martial the US was unable to do so. If you carefully parse the words that it talks about when it talks about this damage usually they couch it in terms of “it might cause some damage in the future.” Again, it’s impossible to prove a negative, so by saying these assertions without anything to back up it I don’t take them at face value at all.
Solomon: Before Edward Snowden stepped forward the Justice Department went to the Supreme Court and falsely asserted that the ACLU and other groups had no standing because there was no reason to believe that they were being spied on and yet we now know that those groups and millions of other groups and individuals were being surveilled and yet at this moment the Justice Department has continued to fail to do their legal duty and go back to the US Supreme Court and correct the record in a 5-4 case that the Obama administration won partly on the basis of their lies.
Fine: I think you also have to ask about motives: What would benefit Edward Snowden if he gave and shared this information with the Russians? He clearly would like to leave, he never had any intent to arrive there in any event, the revocation of the passport and blockage of any entry into a Latin American country kept him there. What’s his motive to lie about this? How does this benefit him? And think on the contrary, how it benefits all his detractors to make up or throw these insinuations out there.