Saturday, June 29, 2013

Edward Snowden’s fate remains in limbo — MSNBC

Edward Snowden’s fate remains in limbo — MSNBC

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Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong in this illustration photo June 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Bobby Yip)
Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong in this illustration photo June 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Bobby Yip)
Most frequent travelers tend to rush through airports, but Edward Snowden is a man without a plan as he waits for geopolitical forces to decide his fate—the former National Security Agency contractor is believed to have spent the past week in the international transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
Snowden, who was charged last week with espionage, has been on the run after being holed up in Hong Kong for blowing the lid on the United States’ surveillance secrets. The 30-year-old American flew to Moscow last Sunday, and was supposed to seek asylum in Ecuador by way of Cuba the following day, but he never made his flight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said Snowden would not be extradited back to the U.S. and that the airport’s transit zone is technically not Russian territory. But such claims of an airport “no-man’s land” are “more than disingenuous,” says Washington Post reporter Greg Miller.
“What’s unclear is the extent to which Snowden is in position to dictate his own fate—to what extent he can control the outcome here,” Miller told MSNBC host Richard Lui Saturday.
Snowden’s father, Lonnie Snowden, wrote a letter to the Department of Justice pleading and negotiating for his son’s return. In the letter Lonnie asked that his son not be held in jail before trial, not have a gag order, and be given the right to choose the location of his trial. But according to former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs PJ Crowley, the chances that the U.S. government would follow through on those requests are slim.
“Snowden at one point had his own options, but now I think they’re narrowing,” Crowley said. “He is sitting at the airport in Russia at the behest of others who will make choices for him.”
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Edward Snowden may be the last of the human spies | Christopher Steiner | Comment is free

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Automated computer surveillance
'Edward Snowden and the teams of analysts at the NSA, CIA and GCHQ who sit in front of our stores of electronic intelligence will hardly be necessary in 15 years.' Photograph: Colin Anderson/Getty
Kurt Vonnegut once opined: "Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power." That power corrupts is hardly debatable. For that reason, the evolution of espionage has run in parallel with the development of organised tribes of human beings that we now refer to as countries.
Human nature makes it predictable that organisations such as the NSA would be cataloguing phone calls and other electronic interactions between humans. But Edward Snowden's revelations also tell us how far electronic snooping has yet to go. While the din of outrage still resonates, we should be thankful that Snowden – a human being – actually exists. In the future, the world may never be alerted to such breaches of privacy because there will be no humans involved in spying at all. Just asalgorithms have conquered our stock markets and our musical tastes, so too will they conquer surveillance. Even the most human of tasks, snooping, will become the province of the bots.
While it's true that the surveillance Snowden spotlighted is of a new and digital variety, it still required human levers to give it any meaning. The , for example, using its call log data, would take an interest in people who repeatedly dialled the phone numbers of known troublemakers. Human agents would query the call-logging database and find out who a prime target in Yemen might be speaking with inside the US. The data is collected passively and electronically, but much of the intelligence and the methods to derive it come straight from human minds. But what will happen when a machine makes the rules?
In the late 1940s, Vonnegut observed how General Electric was replacing human machinists with computer-operated milling machines to cut rotors for jet engines. This passing of duties from humans to bots led Vonnegut to imagine a world where human chores of all manners would cease being the labour of men and become strictly the work of machines. Power and income, then, would be concentrated among the few who controlled the machines. Snowden and the teams of analysts at the , CIA and who sit in front of our stores of electronic intelligence will hardly be necessary in 15 years. Algorithms will have replaced them, leaving only a few humans, like General Keith Alexander of the NSA, left to watch the house.
Underneath those top humans will be machine-learning algorithms that dance across the data of humanity like a spider tending a web. They won't be programmed simply to search for call patterns or numbers; they will learn what patterns and numbers are significant by ingesting news, conflicts and terrorist threats in real time, comparing that to activity seen on computer and phone networks. Algorithms that trade stocks at the speed of light already read specially tailored news feeds from Bloomberg and Reuters; the intelligence world, although less lucrative than that of Wall Street and the City of London, will not be far behind.
Algorithms are more efficient than people; they can find relationships within data streams that a human eye couldn't spot in 20 years; they're indefatigable – and they're cheap. Also on the positive side, algorithms aren't much for drama, counter-espionage or leaking. They do their jobs and don't ask questions. But they can make mistakes that border on inexplicable. Just as an algorithm belonging to Knight Capital in 2012 went berserk and lost that firm $440m (£288m) in 45 minutes, an algorithm could finger thousands of innocent people to be targeted for extra surveillance, or worse.
But these things can and do work in what would seem to be incongruous arenas. The CIA has been using algorithms that run on a thread of mathematics called game theory for more than two decades. The man behind these strings of reason and mathematics, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a political science professor at New York University, says that analyses driven strictly by human observation are flawed by their very nature. Human analysts, he points out, have appetites for meaningless information such as personal gossip, backstories and tales of failure and conquest. Algorithms couldn't care less about these things, of course – a fact that helps them do their job better than humans. A CIA study found that Bueno de Mesquita's algorithms were right twice as often as its own analysts in making predictions about future intelligence events. The study spanned more than 1,700 predictions made by the algorithms – a task the bots dutifully performed without billing even one hour of overtime.
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PRISM NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s gross miscalculation | Washington Times Communities

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL, June 29, 2013 – When Edward Snowden elected to release classified information to the world, he apparently saw himself as a Lone Ranger or Robin Hood-type hero, saving the world from big government eavesdropping.
Snowden presented himself as a reluctant champion, stepping forward only as a last resort, forced by a sense of duty to save the world.

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