The Snowden Test

Edward SnowdenDavid Thrussell,  Contributor
Waking Times

No doubt you know the basic story.

Beginning June 5th 2013, a series of explosive articles ran in The Guardian (and subsequently a handful of other newspapers/magazines) detailing a vast web of global surveillance (engineered by the U.S. National Security Agency and U.K. partner GCHQ). The revelations were backed by large troves of primary information (code-names/programme descriptions) and internal documents (charts and diagrams) apparently directly sourced from the NSA.

A storm of controversy soon erupted over the breadth and ubiquity of this global surveillance. Forthcoming details on the myriad of previously secret programmes made it clear that email, text, phone data and communications were being scooped-up, recorded and analysed on a mammoth and almost unimaginable scale around the world.

On June 9th, 4 days after the earth-shaking leaks began, the then 29 year-old Edward Snowden identified himself as the source of the leaks. Secreted in a Hong Kong hotel room, Snowden volunteered his motives and personal history to a voracious media and public. What followed in the succeeding 2 weeks resembled an international spy-thriller, as Snowden fled from one safe-house to another throughout Hong Kong, always one step ahead of the press and (presumably) U.S. law enforcement.

The details are sometimes contradictory, but apparently Snowden then boarded a flight from Hong Kong June 23rd en route (via Moscow and Havana) to safe haven in South America. Oddly, sometime during that flight the U.S. government revoked Snowden’s passport, causing him to be stranded in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. After a lengthy period (somehow, and somewhat miraculously, avoiding both assassins and journalists for over a month) Snowden received legal asylum and left the airport to begin a new life in the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, various news outlets continued a drip-feed of dramatic and ‘Orwellian’ revelations.

Snowden had become an iconic figure. Celebrated by ‘progressives’ as a whistleblower and hero, derided by ‘conservatives’ as a traitor and fugitive – he lives presently (we’re told) with his girlfriend in Russia, and appears (sporadically) as an advocate of communications privacy and government accountability.

Further theatrics were provided by the incidents of an Ecuadorian Presidential plane being forced to land, numerous international political leaders’ communications being routinely tapped and fierce debate about the probity of Snowden’s actions and the actual spying regime he exposed. American conservatives and pundits denounced his ‘treason’ and pleaded for his ‘extrajudicial assassination’ while others hailed his patriotism.

Snowden ID

It was a thrilling, captivating and microscopically reported tale.

Yet somehow…it doesn’t quite stack up. Some thread of doubt remains, some scent of faint incredulity lingers.

Questions provoked by the official narrative are partly logistical, partly philosophical and decidedly pragmatic.

For starters: are we really to believe (especially in light of his own revelations of an all-pervasive clandestine surveillance regime) that Snowden, after booking a flight to Hong Kong (and soon after  – numerous hotel rooms) all admittedly on his own credit card, could not be immediately traced and apprehended (or ‘neutralised’) shortly after (assumedly) the entire U.S. security apparatus had been alerted to his actions and movements? Is it really plausible that possibly the world’s most wanted man (at that moment) could just ‘go-to-ground’ and evade the ‘all-seeing-eye’ for a full fortnight in a cosmopolitan and highly-accessible city?

Some sources report that Snowden gave up his rental home in Hawaii (as he was ostensibly ‘transferring jobs’) just days before he ‘fled’ to Hong Kong and global infamy. How convenient.

Snowden also comes from a family steeped in security state nomenclature. His grandfather was a rear-admiral and subsequently a senior FBI official (present at the Pentagon on September 11th 2001) while apparently “everybody in my family has worked for the federal government in one way or another.” Snowden himself enjoyed stints at the CIA and NSA before landing at defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Surely it would be starkly traumatic for one so tethered to the military-industrial-complex, to suddenly turn ‘traitor.’

Still other questions rudely interrupt the ostensibly chivalrous tale.

To put it bluntly, Snowden is possibly just a little too young to be a convincing whistleblower. 29 year-old whistleblowers are statistically a rare thing indeed. By definition – zealots must start with zeal. Only over time is it plausible for the zealot to become wizened by the ugly machine of which he is but a cog. Just a handful of years before turning tumultuous ‘whistleblower’ Snowden was to be found on internet tech-forums waxing enthusiastically about the security state. His ‘gestation’ from true-believer to ground-quaking operative seems unusually and unconvincingly brief.

READ: Poisoned Mind: Social Media in the 21st Century

Fellow whistleblower William Binney is more likely (at least by age) to be the real deal. Over three decades in spy-craft he reportedly became increasingly frightened by the metastasising spectre of the national-security-complex. His revelations, while similar in tone to Snowden’s and predating them by over a decade, were greeted with little fanfare (and considerable personal harassment and marginalisation).

By contrast, Snowden was granted immediate and enthusiastic access to the most venerated organs of ‘controlled opposition’ and officially sanctioned stenography. Each outlet sticking dutifully to their established charter and brand demographic.

While (by some sleight-of-hand) still able to present itself as ‘progressive’ and ‘independent’, the New York Times is neither. Socially liberal yet aggressively war-like in foreign policy tastes (just how elites like it), the NYT has led the charge to countless illegal and immoral invasions/wars/actions and interventions, baying for rivers of blood from Iraq to Syria and beyond.

Likewise, the U.K Guardian gives oxygen to a raft of somewhat nebulous social concerns with po-faced righteousness, while yet being a clamorous cheerleader for bombing and murder from Libya to Ukraine (how many times can one newspaper repeatedly invent the ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine’ and retain any kind of credibility?).

Similarly, there is something decidedly absurd about the pretence of exclusive Snowden techno-anarchist sound-bites gracing the pages of neocon-beltway-bible The Washington Post.

And yet those glorified minarets of state/private propaganda champion a supposedly dangerous traitor/whistleblower absconded into enemy territory? It doesn’t add up.

Indeed, The Guardian tasked one of its most voracious experts in officially-sanctioned fellatio (Luke Harding), to mint the approved novelisation of poster-boy Snowden’s exploits. Harding’s long stint of feeble, flaccid journalism in thrall to MI6 and deep-state enabling has finally found just recompense in a big-time Hollywood pay-cheque (his book adapted for Oliver Stone’s forthcoming Snowden biopic).

As a blunt instrument of propaganda, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” might indeed make Leni Riefenstahl blush, but could the Snowden gambit be a far more insidious and subtle secret-state strategy?

In purely practical terms alone, the ‘Snowden revelations’ have been an unmitigated victory for the national security state. A global public that was previously blissfully unaware of its position as central target of mass surveillance has now been thoroughly (and generally, comfortably) acclimated to that very idea. A raft of recent studies conclude that the Snowden revelations have had a marked chilling effect on people’s online habits and expressions of dissent.

Indeed, for a permanent cyber-Panopticon to be truly effective as a means of social control, the inmates (the global public) must be at least peripherally aware of its existence. Assuming it does actually exist and one of its aims is (logically) the abortion of popular dissent (through mass scale self-policing), a gargantuan surveillance apparatus also has clear uses as a giant blackmail machine (this would neatly explain the perpetually compliant response from the legislature and judiciary) and as a profound and unimaginably effective tool of social engineering.

Snowden - 4

Perhaps we are already there? Various leaks about Facebook and the Pentagon’s partnered experiments in ‘crowd herding’ and ‘emotional contagion,’ along with the underreported long-term history of tech corporations (Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc.) co-parenting with the NSA-CIA-Pentagon-DARPA nexus, hint that the entire electronically mediated womb-environment of today might just be one vast dark Psy-Op (interestingly, Vladimir Putin once referred to the internet as a ‘CIA Project’).

Software already exists to constantly monitor social media, analyse (in real-time) public trends and responses, and generate automatic (i.e robotic) comments/posts supporting (or denigrating) a chosen policy/worldview/opinion/initiative/product. We know (ironically largely via Edward Snowden), that our rogue intelligence agencies have been busy launching battalions of cyber-warriors and studying the psychology of online relations and the very architecture of our intrinsic belief systems.

After endless reams of circus commentary and vast volumes of hot air, the net result of the Snowden saga has in fact been the legitimation, legalisation and expansion of the very same unwarranted, unconstitutional, unnecessary (and surely intrinsically illegal) indiscriminate surveillance regime.

‘Mission creep’ has become a stampede, as supine governments rush a candied ‘national security’ wish-list of mass surveillance (and police state) initiatives past a bewildered and disenfranchised public. Nowhere is this more rudely obvious than in Australia, Canada, the U.K and the U.S itself, all of which have increased the state’s options for surveillance and data retention in the months since the ‘Snowden revelations’ (while performing a pantomime of ‘debate’ and ‘consultation’).

The ‘terrorist’ bogeyman (looking understandably tired and unconvincing) has been trotted out yet again to justify all this breathless chicanery. That these nations are all working from the same international (intelligence agency?) playbook seems in little doubt – the timing, wording and circumstances of (for example) recent surveillance ‘reforms’ in Australia, Canada and France being so strikingly similar. Likewise, a similar series of dubious provocations, sieges and ‘terrorist’ attacks predictably and magically manifested themselves just prior to the legislation being tabled – the public must, of course, be cajoled in the right direction.

Is it not possible that we have been completely gamed? The mysterious and messianic figure of Edward Snowden, introduced to acclimatise the global public to the very idea of an endless, all-pervading surveillance state (entirely unaccountable with unstated goals and limitless technology). Snowden as ‘progressive’ Trojan Horse (perhaps much like Barack Obama before him) to activate and mobilise the public passion, only to see it hijacked and channeled into Room 101. After much ‘debate’ from captured politicians and a puppeteer punditry the (entirely noxious) ‘security regime’ is solidified and expanded – the illusion being, that ultimately ‘democracy’ functioned and the population actually ‘chose’ omniscient observation – for the ‘greater good.’

Snowden himself perhaps reminds one of an articulate Lee Harvey Oswald-like character, a brave young patriotic warrior in deep-cover embrace with the Russian bear, dancing a dangerous and duplicitous deep-state deception. Knowingly (or unknowingly) a tool of clandestine forces. Snowden should bear in mind that he too, if he outlives his usefulness, might be thrown to the lions (just like Oswald was).

Imagine for a moment that the Snowden saga is a test. Having built a labyrinthine structure for social control (a compliant media and cowered public that cheerfully delivers itself up to enormous data-mining projects like social media): in fact, an almost entire reality-set constructed and delivered electronically – surely one would be tempted to test it? To see if complete movements, debates, paradigms and world-views could be generated out of whole virtual cloth and controlled? A test-tone, a electro-static ripple, a tremulous shock-wave to the online body electric.

Would it really be possible to introduce an idea (global omniscient surveillance) itself intrinsically repugnant, and yet shepherd it through a controlled release (and discourse) to have it ultimately accepted, completely present and yet essentially invisible? To test the various nuances and feedback loops in media (and online social media) that now might just grant remote Panopticon control of an entire population and their ‘internal landscape’? An electronically mediated ‘reality’ where ideas and beliefs are mere manifestations of algorithms and software?

Conservatives, progressives, activists, lethargists – all actors in the traveling circus of ‘representative democracy’ and ‘online society’?

About the Author

David Thrussell is a poet trapped in the body of a hillbilly. Or a hopeless romantic hidden in the twisted frame of a dark electronic musician. Late at night Thrussell fantasises that actually he lives next door to Hieronymous Bosch in Medieval Europe and has hallucinated the whole dreadful modern era while suffering from acute ergot poisoning. We are not entirely convinced that this is not the case. The world knows him (if it knows him at all), as the creator of a seeming multitude of obscure recordings (Snog, Black Lung and Soma among others) and film scores. He has written previously for New Dawn, Wax Poetics, Fortean Times and numerous other publications.

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This article (The Snowden Test) was originally created by David Thrussell. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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  • AnotherLover

    I didn’t have to wait for Moscow. The glowing press coverage from the very beginning told us all we needed to know, frankly.

  • Defiant

    Snowden is a criminal traitor. I have NO problem with whistleblowing to inform the citizenry of government duplicity. However, Snowden did a MILLION times more damage to our national security than was necessary to inform us. THAT’S why he’s no hero to me.

  • Marie Beckett

    I have to admit I went back and forth on this one for awhile…..but anything that makes it to the MSM will either be a lie or be spun into a lie. Out of curiosity, what is your opinion of Karen Hudes? She has been nowhere to be seen for awhile after being on every “alternative” news site in the beginning.

    • Dimitri Ledkovsky

      One should be skeptical of anyone in “fix the system” mode. Change without a dose of authoritarianism at this juncture in time seems to be beyond organized society’s grasp.

  • AnotherLover

    I really like the author’s reasoning as to “why” the Snowden story was fabricated. It was very carefully done so as to avoid any legal liability. And it serves the purpose, as the author notes, of informing the inmates they are under surveillance.
    I’m also of the opinion that it fulfills peoples’ longing for a hero. Too bad it’s totally fake. Anybody that wants to grab the US by the sack and reveal national security information to the entire world is going in a deep, dark hole, full stop. But the Snowden story keeps the hope alive for the little guy. It makes the intelligence apparatus of the US look weak. Is it? I don’t think a single government on Earth would say so. I think the US intelligence apparatus is damn near omnipresent. Hmmm? Could there be a tactical advantage gained by feigning weakness? How would it help for your enemy to think you’re weak, when you’re actually quite strong? Yeah, chew on that if you haven’t spit it out already.
    Snowden, Assange, Manning. Which one is the real whistleblower? That’s right — the one that’s in jail.

  • AnotherLover

    Oh, I’ve felt so alone, for such a long time… Glad to see the article. It’s pretty good. Re-do it.

    Make the salient points, and cut the rest. Seriously, do it. This article could be straightforward and hard-hitting, but it has too many roundabouts. It’s twice as long as it needs to be, and three times as distracting.

    An interesting point, Snowden’s family. The late, great Dave McGowan showed those same types of family connections among the small group that became the very first hippies in the nation. They mostly hailed from Arlington, VA and Washington, DC, and had intelligence/chem weapons/ and possible literal MK-ULTRA involvement as well in their immediate families. Anyhoo, the family connection definitely leans more towards “operative” than “rebel.”

    I hope you re-do this article. It makes important points that people are maybe finally getting ready to hear. I and, I’m sure, many others have reached similar conclusions as yours. But we are a slim minority by all accounts. There’s a lot I like in this article, it just has to be shorter and more concise. You’re dropping a bomb. It doesn’t help to throw a ton of hand grenades at the same time. The bomb will work just as well, and even better, since it’s the main point. Just let it do its job. It’s like the backhoe can’t get in for all the shovels in the way. But I’m glad to see the article and there’s a lot I liked about it besides just the main conclusion. Thanks for writing.

  • Hugo Spinoso

    wether he knows this or not, the mass data surveillance will show that the study could have been done before all this, wich will have two possible outcomes rejection or acceptance.

    In the case of acceptance or self censorship they will keep pushinhg the same narrative, the need for security as this will imply a passive population.

    On the other hand if there is rejection it will not matter as long as the root causes of how to accomplish this are not adressed, they will start continues debates over acceptance and jurisdiction but none of this will actualy stop the mass surveillance how will you know?.

    In both secenarios the mass surveillance can continue and used for whatever reason, difference being the first case will allow to do it easily, for example lets take the fbi and local police laws to carry surveillance operations without a warrant, if its accepted, they will be able to do it to anyone and use the information however they want at a local and a federal level, if its not, someone else could do it, like the nsa and send the info to any other agency or simply “tip them off” for suspects and then release the information to validate wherever it is they want.

  • tamarque

    Snowden is not the youngest whistleblower. We have the young military man/woman who is now serving a very long sentence. She did her revelations before Snowden altho in close proximity in time. What needs to be considered is how the system will use anything to its advantage as best it can. So the general perspective here needs to be challenged. Perhaps the ruling elite just use these little ‘abberations’ to their advantage and are using the media, which they control, to ensure the public reaction is muted and it becomes an accepted thing to be spied upon. The self-monitoring of opinions is truly an act of compliance to the forces of repression.

  • xyz

    Mossad boy?

  • The personality level perspective is inherently a ‘game’ whose fundamental tenet plays out in fragmented or segregated conflicts of apparent power struggles – while the ‘power’ operates from the shadow.
    Where you ‘read’ your reality-experience from is the measure of what you receive as your sense of existence. If an exclusive ego-centricity of private and authoritative control is your presumed starting place – so will you ‘read’ and experience your private control-defined reality.
    The lure of the dynamic of conflict is the certainty of guilt – and this is the root of ‘power in the world’ – for victim of a believed unfair attack claims hate justified as power of protection and retribution.
    The attempt to manipulate or coerce Life can only reflect the same measure, and promise of total control is the imminence of utter defeat – for the denial DEPENDS upon that which it denies and has no presence in the movement of Life apart from giving power to denial of It.
    In asserting an identity of masking and controlling Life – to redefine Life in our own image and as our self justification, we give power of presence away for promise of conditional outcomes that soon reveal their hollow transience without a truly shared presence.
    If the one reading me here would understand the reversal by which they live apart, then the urge or drive to operate power or control must be recognized loveless – by the love that you are beneath the mask.
    Reaching to or perhaps I should say synchronizing with the one beneath the mask is not a plea or persuasion, nor any kind of leverage or coercion based on moral guilting or judgement – but is the very act of extending a quality of presence that really comes through us and not from and by us – as we have conditioned ourselves to believe ourself to be. Perhaps considering this reveals how much we ‘love’ to hate – for who would extend worth to those judged love’s enemy and undeserving?
    But beneath all that we hate in the world are resonances of what we hate in ourselves – as we have judged and believed ourself to be.
    The blame game is a sort of negative pass the parcel – no one wants to be the sacrificial victim to another’s specialness – yet few recognize that addiction to self-specialness (I WANT IT THUS!) necessitates, dissonance, conflict, loss of awareness to a mind-set seeking power to validate itself.
    The script of the world is very fragmented and very complex – but its core stories are our archetypes of human experience. The truth is not found in stories set to prove themselves true – yet the release of the insistence of judging and controlling the narrative opens a relational communication in which a Gift of shared being – true presence – recognizes itself in the giving.
    Look into and receive through the eyes of those you meet or encounter through the extension of your appreciation and gratitude for being – and you will not be coming from a masking of fear, hatred, concealed rage or unworthiness. For these ‘communicate’ hidden strings of demand or denial that are felt as lack of acceptance and unsafe – meriting distrust and defence.
    As for what to believe – never believe from the outside in – but go within by releasing the insistence of reaction and truly allow truth to rise as presence – without demanding what form the ‘answer’ should be – or the filters of our fears lead to mis-interpretations given power of true.
    You can say everything in a world of apparently conflicting choices is a test to see if you want to persist in choosing conflict. Releasing the identity in conflict allows the underlying feelings to rise to be accepted rather than denied. This may seem more challenging than dealing with a world under threat of evil forces – yet it is an entirely different foundation from which to live – and grows a way of being that is truly felt presence – for presence is the point of true relationship and communication – regardless the ‘world’ believes this to be the ‘sacrifice’ or total loss of power or indeed of one’s life.

    But the thinking of mask of power in the world operates the sacrifice or denial of awareness of love’s presence. When you demonstrate integrity and willingness to yourself by living it – you have a basis for greater trust. The mask would have you rehearse in thinking so as to justify staying in the mask. But what you step or stand forth in willingness is your accepted true of you and grows the capacity to see the tricks of the mask.

    Let the dead bury the dead means bring your whole attention to the Living – for where you choose to give or focus your attention is your living will… or your willingness to let old and conflicted conditionings run in place of your Life.

    • David Fiske

      “Look into and receive through the eyes of those you meet or encounter through the extension of your appreciation and gratitude for being”
      -“Let the dead bury the dead means bring your whole attention to the Living – for where you choose to give or focus your attention is your living will… or your willingness to let old and conflicted conditionings run in place of your Life.”

      Excellent. Well done!

    • Marie Beckett

      Hi Binra, are you familiar with the Enneagram?

      • Broadly – yes. There are many expressions and reflections of the underlying ‘archetypes’ of human personality patterning – including enneagrams. I feel that mere ‘study’ can miss the oracular recognition of ourselves in a shifted perspective for which we have become ripe or open to receive.
        Perhaps the orientation of ‘study’ can be a desire to understand, define and control – that reinforces the identification in power struggle at expense of relational recognition (communication).
        Every moment is unique and yet often responded to in terms of past association – because we forsook the capacity to feel our way in believing we had lost it and must find it all by our self. Inner conflict does lose access to the way of balancing within wholeness – such that a hatred and denial of the other generates a hated response of denial. In self-concept, anything that does not find acceptance and embraced is ‘othered’ – to then become a reflection of a lack of acceptance and embrace in one’s experience. Consciousness seems to arise from a rejection and denial of its own ‘Mother/Father’ – but I sense this is a mentalisation in substitute for truly shared Presence.
        Accepting false currency as true is an adulteration and dilution of Worth – with a corresponding inflation of presentation over and against a hollow indebtedness. Defending presentation against presence is a kind of insanity from which to be weaned – where the falsity of the investment in the mask allows a re-evaluation or true accounting.
        BUT – the persona can be used as an extension and expression of the wholeness of being that it was first set up to protect against. In the Enneagram all types have both strengths AND liabilities. This is to say that our liabilities are transformable – no matter what – but the way of that is in relation to the whole – and this inevitably meets the denials that are associated with the ‘other’ in a fresh willingness that can be tangibly recognised – and not just cleverly articulated manipulations.

  • Pete

    To put it plain and simple, Snowden does not and never did exists! It’s another load of governmental “test them” bullshit. All they (governments) want to know is how far they can push us! Don’t let them get away with people, stand up to your government!!!!

  • E Mitchell

    Snowden is and was a distraction. We all knew the surveillance was taking place….so they “let the cat out of the bag” (knowing we know anyway) while doing the “important” stuff and keeping our eyes elsewhere. It also gave credibility to Wiki Leaks….run by the government and it’s Israel agenda. Do you honestly think that CNN, BBC etcetera etcetera would be allowed to publish the Snowden story if it were not planted? Get serious! Use your logical senses. The whole thing smacks of BS.

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