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back to article Snowden dodges US agents in Moscow, skips out on flight

NSA leaker Edward Snowen's seat on the flight he booked from Moscow to Havana was empty on Monday, but if the throng of reporters who gathered at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport to interview Snowden had done their research, they would have realized he was never likely to board the plane. The flight Snowden booked was …

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Anonymous Coward

He is a super hero for revealing the wickedness of the US government. He should get a metal.

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A metal what? A full metal jacket? It is indeed a possibility.

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Joke

if

He was russian the metal in question would be Polonium 210.

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Anonymous Coward

We need to kick out the treasonous government officials who spy and snoop on all US Citizens, illegally spy on reporters, and give special effort in spying on someone who said that they don't like Obama, and make him president and elect a new congress and get a new supreme court.

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Anonymous Coward

US secretary of state John Kerry wagged his finger at Russia

That's the most work Kerry has done in 15 years.

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He did however end up with a sore finger, resulting in his 4th purple heart.

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FAIL

Ahh, the hypocrisy. The US chooses "not to live by the standards of the law" by illegally snooping on its citizens without warrant and with just a secret court's rubber stamp, but other countries better do...

Do as the US says, not as the US does.

Turning the US into a police state will be the lasting legacy of the Obama administration, unless they stop this illegal snooping now.

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A snowball has better odds of surviving Jenna Jameson's silicone cleavage that the US doing away with their spying. With enough noise from the media PRISM and it's like will just be broken up, renamed and continue. There's just too much money to be had by the president, congress and the IT suppliers.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not illegal, but it is uncool

You misunderstand. What the NSA does is not illegal. It is aainst the spirit of the constitution and the concept of freedom but it is not sgsinst the law.

This is what happens when you let lawyers run a country. They are a group for whom the highest art form is the ability to find loopholes and twist words to suit their desires.

For most of us, the law is a codification of basic principles of human decency. For politicians, the law is.a straightjacket that prevents them from behaving the way they truly wish.

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Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

No I think a lot of what they are doing is illegal. But as soon as there is any danger of anyone getting in trouble they get a "get out of jail free card" like all the telcos that got immunity when people started lining up to sue them.

Any "Problems" that come up will be fixed retroactively so no need to worry about stuff like laws or rules.

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Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

What the NSA does is not illegal. It is aainst the spirit of the constitution

Um....no. It's illegal and against both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. I'm fairly certain that the existence of a secret court goes against the Constitution to, but I'm not completely confident on that one.

They're not finding loopholes, they're just ignoring it completely.

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Anonymous Coward

What they are fundamentally doing...

The NSA/CIA/FBI are not snooping on US citizens without respective relevant court order etc, they are getting GCHQ to do it for them, likewise the NSA is snooping on UK citizens for GCHQ.

Neither are breaking their own regulations, neither is breaking their contractual agreements to share 'intelligence'.

What they are doing is immoral, but not illegal.

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Re: What they are fundamentally doing...

Oh? How do they tell the difference between a citizen and a non-citizen when identities on the Internet are so mercurial?

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@sisk Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

True they are not finding loopholes, but they are making them by adding them by tacking them onto other legislation that they claim is there to protect the citizens(the whole 10% they care about)

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Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Not Illegal?

GET. THE. FUCK. OUT.

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Black Helicopters

Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

It might not be illegal in the US, but it is illegal to do it here, and most other places outside the US. Why should we hand the grass over to the gang?

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Stop

Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool

Enough of this nonsense. The laws under which the NSA collects communication data were passed by majorities in the elected Senate and House of Representatives, signed by elected Presidents (at least two of them), and the operational procedures were reviewed and approved by the Attorney General who was appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and by a court consisting of Federal judges nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They are the law in any part of the United States where a federal judge has not found them unconstitutional.

So the NSA's actions are lawful. They may or may not be effective for their stated purpose (I suspect that they are not); they may or may not be constitutional (I believe they are not); and NSA operations may or may not be compliant with the laws and regulations. On the last, I have no opinion, and as far as I am aware the material Edward Snowden released has not been evaluated for that competent attorneys. Since the releases were selective and surely incomplete, that might be pointless.

For now, it would be better if everyone stopped repeating untruths as if doing so somehow would make them true.

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Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

"You misunderstand. What the NSA does is not illegal. It is aainst the spirit of the constitution and the concept of freedom but it is not sgsinst the law."

Oh, it's illegal. The NSA took some of their legal arguments they came up with to expand their data collection to the FISA court several years back, *and the FISA court turned it down*. They went ahead and followed this legal fiction anyway. It's also unconstitutional, as it stands there is not any accountability for how this system is used. The big problem is this system was built without consultation, and operated outside of any sort of oversite now that even FISA did not approve of their behavior.

I'm glad Snowden got this information out, but really even his being able to get this much information packed away indicates to me the NSA is probably not compartmentalising stuff the way they should be either.

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Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool @tom dial

"Enough of this nonsense. The laws under which the NSA collects communication data were passed by majorities in the elected Senate and House of Representatives, signed by elected Presidents (at least two of them), and the operational procedures were reviewed and approved by the Attorney General who was appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and by a court consisting of Federal judges nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They are the law in any part of the United States where a federal judge has not found them unconstitutional."

Bull Pucky. No law can be made in opposition to the US Constitution without the express permission of all of the individual states. Period. Such is the rule of the highest law upon which the USA was founded.

Furthermore, any member of the Executive or Legislative branches that voted/signed to approve "laws" in violation of the Constitution have thus also violated their oaths to uphold said Constitution.

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Holmes

The police state of America?

I don't think you're giving enough credit to the big dick Cheney, but President Obama clearly failed to undo the damage he inherited. In short, the shock of 9/11 had already been used to drive the government to new depths of secrecy and the Constitution had been more undermined than ever before and Obama failed to undo the damage or reverse the trend. I think the historians' question will be whether or not Obama even slowed it down a bit.

My current view on this is that Cheney and Rumsfeld won by basically playing clever bureaucratic poker. It's relatively easy to redirect the government a little bit through your political appointees, but the problem is that your political appointees leave office when you do. The innovation was to use those political appointees to target the career civil service. In theory, the civil service is supposed to be hired on the basis of competence with a focus on doing whatever they are told to do, but Cheney made it a high priority to change the retention and hiring processes. The existing civil servants were actively harassed and encouraged to quit, and the hiring process was "adjusted" so that the post-Cheney government was strongly tilted in a new direction.

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You are woefully mistaken if you think stuff like this is solely Obama's fault, plenty of it is but if you think electing the other lot will help, it won't. The comments above re lawyers are entirely correct. There is an entire civil and military service behind each administration that by and large doesn't change with each new potus. Whilst the repubs love to act as champions of the constitution they are no better or worse than them dems.

By all means hate Obama, but don't be fooled into thinking you'll get anything but more of the same elsewhere. The current fad of blaming him for stuff like the IRS (what they did was wrong and they deserve jail for it) is counter productive. Put aside prejudice for a second, the repubs said they would cut irs funding. Do you honestly think Obama needed to say anything to the irs? Go after the real crimes.

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@allen dyer

True, but what countries do you think aren't currently either doing the same or trying to bury plans to do the same. It's not like Russia, China, the UK etc can turn round and say oh we would never do anything like that.

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Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

True, but they only get out of jail free if they're rich, a corporation or another politician.

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Anonymous Coward

"Turning the US into a police state will be the lasting legacy of the Obama administration"

Most of this stuff was started by George Bush, actually. Reagan did some underhand stuff but you could not accuse him of wanting to spy on his own people.

Agree, however, that despite being a supposed lawyer, Obama acts like a Mafia Boss.

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Big Brother

Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool

When you talk about how it's an elected Senate and House Of Representatives signed by elected presidents and so on, who could the electorate have voted into power who would have resisted this legislation? Because of everyone in all the parties that the electorate could vote for stands in favour of it, then it's not really relevant whether or not they are elected is it? Voters had no choice at all.

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Re: The police state of America?

What incentive would Obama have to do anything but expand the surveillance powers the previous administration gave him? He inherits a lot of power(all that really matters once you get the office) and doesn't have to spend any political capital. He has the added bonus of an American public that is half asleep and half retarded, so he could do anything and still be remembered as the greatest president of our time. It is why laws never get repealed and we can only expect the next president to be even worse, regardless of party or ideology.

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Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool

But they have a warrant: It says to hand over anything and everything. That makes it legal. The place is described (everywhere) and things specified (all of it).

It's obviously violating the spirit of the constitution, but that isn't important. The law isn't about spirit, and it's barely about intent. It's about what the words actually say.

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Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool

They can make it "legal" (if it isn't already) and they can fool the (supine) American voters with the usual Four Horsemen but they can't undo the damage internationally.

Of course anyone who thought about it knew the NSA were tracking everything entering and leaving the US but we didn't think about it. Nor did we realise that they were looking at corporate data from the inside.

But now we are thinking about it. The backlash has begun: companies and individuals are switching from US IT and cloud providers to ones in their own country, or personal clouds, or third countries with less sophisticated spying capabilities. The EU will be forced to terminate the discussions on companies being allowed to store personal data in the US without telling their customers. Encryption is becoming more routine (and less suspicious) -- how many downloads of Https-Everywhere have happened since Snowden?

People are thinking and caring more about what data is stored and transferred, by whom, and where.

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Childcatcher

Re: @sisk It's not illegal, but it is uncool

Sorry, but this doesn't stand in isolation. The process is essentially legal until it is found to violate the constitution by the courts. The SCOTUS does not grant advisory rulings, so this would have to go to trial and make its way all the way up the chain for there to be a change in its legality. Both the other branches of the US government have signed off on this, so that means it is within the bounds of law, including constitutional law, until found to be otherwise. It is a process (I know that sounds trite, sorry).

I cannot imagine this issue will not be challenged in court, multiple times, so we should get to find out if it is in fact legal. We should also continue see the political ramifications play out. These are, however, mostly separate issues.

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Anonymous Coward

@spearchucker jones

I'm sorry, I cannot possibly accept your argument without photographic evidence of snowball non-survival, or alternatively a properly peer-reviewed study involving a statistically significant number of snowballs.

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lcb

Re: It's not illegal, but it is uncool

"What the NSA does is not illegal."

I think you what you probably mean (or at least, would mean if you knew) that what the NSA does is not illegal unless caught and any evidence involved can't somehow be demeaned in the courts' version of distant, bureaucratic terms. That's a different concept of legality to the standard one, especially when coming from the authorities, the same institution in vague terms as who, to extents, controls the law.

There are two meanings of this - that something is "not illegal" because one is not caught at it. And I guess that both are relevant here, the authorities likely at times at least to be involved in the first and attempting to place it in the context of the second.

The first is simply that something is not portrayed as illegal because it has not been communicated about, acknowledged for what it ought to be, or reprimanded. These kind of terms are weak actually, as this kind of "not illegal" is as good a disturbed strangler's opinion that he is not on the wrong side of the law because it has not told him that. It doesn't need to be said that this type of "not illegal" is only utterly a misnomer.

The second type of "not illegal" also finds itself based by those who live under its auspices around the idea that one is not on the wrong side of the law because, it can be alleged one can only reasonably conclude one must be told by the law this. It may involved perceiving there are grey areas in the law. It may involve perceiving that parts of the law either have not been interpreted properly yet to clearly mean one thing or the other. Or that one's own interpretation, in the circumstances (always considering the importance of a particular aim) can have to be the right interpretation. Always in the circumstances, placing their context or the aim higher that any other considerations.

While there can be times when type two "not illegal" might be fair enough (maybe), and also those operating within its assumed "shelter" will suggest that one does not know anyway unless one goes to court, of course many involved persons know that they are only using the idea, and more falsely than in true terms.

As mentioned at the top, of course type 1 may often be pretended to somehow have been conceived to have been within type 2 "non illegality".

To answer Nicho, I think there are times when spying, invading privacy and so on are not against the law, you're right. Though is it not the case that this is more the exception than the rule? I think privacy laws and, actually, everyday laws favouring the sovereignty of the citizen can not be flouted generally, as a rule, otherwise it seems they are not really law, but wish and ideal.

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Anonymous Coward

It's just a matter of time

The crims always make a mistake and it costs them their freedom.

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FAIL

Re: It's just a matter of time

Might have happened already if the US government bureaucrats weren't incompetent and would have revoked his passport sooner or even more important put him on interpol lists. Not really taking a side in all this but the US government reaction to this has been very strange if this guy really was a big threat as they are making him out to be.

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Re: It's just a matter of time

What puzzles me is why he didn't pick his refuge country first and go there before releasing his statement. Why make himself a target first?

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Re: It's just a matter of time

Because he is just another Assange. Falcon and the snowman all over.

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Re: It's just a matter of time

...But the congress and president who were aware are still free

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Re: It's just a matter of time

If a US citizen doesn't have a valid US passport, that would make it very difficult for them to get back into the US from a foreign visit. However, it would not stop them entering a foreign country if the government of that country was sure of their identity and was willing to let them enter.

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Re: It's just a matter of time

I've come back into the States twice without my passport. There's an affidavit you sign stating your identity and where you have been since you left the country. They validate your info, rummage through your bags, say 'tut-tut don't do this again' and send you on your way; took less than an hour both times. It is illegal for them to deny a US Citizen entry into the country.

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Pint

Re: It's just a matter of time

> It is illegal for them to deny a US Citizen entry into the country.

Correct. They just put you on the no-fly list while you are abroad.

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Re: It's just a matter of time

"Not really taking a side in all this but the US government reaction to this has been very strange if this guy really was a big threat as they are making him out to be."

I don't find it that strange at all. When a bureaucracy reaches a certain size, it becomes almost impossible for that bureaucracy to act with alacrity no matter how much it may want to. Bureaucracies are cumbersome beasts, and it takes them a while to get their collective arses in gear.

Even when they're really pissed off.

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Flame

Re: It's just a matter of time

Very strange? Not really, if you consider that the bureaucrats who pushed it ahead in a spirit of being beyond moral or legal judgment wound up handing a hot potato to all those equally unprincipled politicians. The result is a predictable outcome when no politician or bureaucrat wants to be the last one holding the potato. It's now an avoidance game and has no more to do with being right, effective, moral or legal than building that data-amassing digital spider web did in the first place.

Have you noticed that in the U.S., at least, criticism of the NSA's actions already centers on their getting caught at it or on their failure to prevent some dangerously principled contractor's employee from telling the truth about them? Even the reg calls Snowden a leaker, not a whistle-blower.

If you believe the desperately patriotic posturing of those in power, or their twisted legalistic justifications ("Congress passed the law, go talk to them"), you probably believe the Pentagon's little fables about wanting to win wars, too. Unfortunately, the closer I look at any of this the more it seems like it's really about piping money to various favored contractors, building influence and avoiding responsibility. That's all.

So Snowden's a leaker and a runner, not a whistle-blower. And yet everything he has said in the course of taking the huge risks he took indicates he acted, rightly or wrongly, out of principle. Funny this key question of motive has escaped the notice of everyone in authority and even many who are sympathetic to him.

I keep coming up against jaw-dropping hypocrisy. I mean really -- 'US secretary of state John Kerry wagged his finger at Russia, saying it would be "deeply troubling" if Russia had advance notice of Snowden's arrival and chose "not to live by the standards of the law."' Good gawd. It beggars credulity.

So Snowden was principled? Never fear, by the time they're done spinning his character in every direction but the inconvenient truth, we'll all believe he eats babies and sells their skins for soft ladies' gloves, to borrow a riff from Swift. Then all the bureaucrats and politicians will go back to the money pipeline business as usual.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: It's just a matter of time

Sad but true. Non-techies just don't seem to give a damn about what the NSA and GCHQ were up to between them. It also doesn't explain why the national newspapers (less the Guardian) aren't bothering to follow up the PRISM story and not concentrating on Snowden..

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Re: It's just a matter of time

I thought they aren't following up because our government, bastion of free speech that it is, sent out a gagging notice to all the papers and major media outlets threatening them with the official secrets act?

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Re: It's just a matter of time

"Even the reg calls Snowden a leaker, not a whistle-blower."

Was pondering this myself. Is he a tout, a leaker, a whistle-blower, or a witness?

They all broadly mean much the same, yet the perceived needle goes from "dirty and unacceptable" to "valued and essential" as you move from left to right.

Why the majority of the media seems to push the needle over to the left of this scale without questioning if the right of it is the proper place is disappointing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's just a matter of time

No, because any judge with an ounce of sanity would, as in earlier cases, agree that what you can freely read about on the Internet in publications from countries like Canada cannot be subject to such an order. The last one I remember was when the government tried to D-notice the name of an army officer, and it was in all of the US papers, thus making them look ridiculous. And that's without Spycatcher.

People don't give a damn because most people have no concept of cause and effect. They cannot draw the path from "Government reading your emails" to "official takes a dislike to you and trawls through for anything they could use to upset you".

The authorities can, however. How do you feel the average Council official feels about being able to get the goods on those annoying members of the public?

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WTF?

Re: It's just a matter of time

I would describe myself as a techie and frankly, I don't give a damn about what the NSA and GCHQ were up to. For me, the real question is, knowing what the NSA and GCHQ were set up for, i.e. to monitor communications in order to intercept information on potential threats both eyternal and internal (at least, this is what I have always thought they were meant to be doing), why is anybody surprised that they are in fact doing it? What did people think they were doing?

I've always assumed that any form of communication I have used is subject to monitoring. I have also assumed that, given the volume of traffic that has to be monitored, any such monitoring cannot be very efficient without either enormous resources or some way of homing in on the rogue elements (which is where MI5, SIS, CIA, FBI etc come in).

Maybe I'm paranoid, maybe I'm naive to think this is technically possible (although I would argue that as time passes it is increasingly possible to monitor all communication), but should I really be shocked that agencies set up to monitor potential threats might have to monitor everybody in order to find those threats?

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Re: It's just a matter of time

He did. That's why he was in Hong Kong, which is technically part of China, a country that would not respect an extradition request from the US (anything from the US would be considered politically motivated to China: grounds for a refusal). Snowden's big fear instead is extraordinary rendition: the CIA simply plucking him out of wherever he's hiding, laws be damned. That's another reason he's in Chinese territory and working through countries like Russia: attempting to perform extraordinary rendition in either country is likely to open a huge can of political worms.

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Assyrian Archimedes screw

I think Bush launched the US down this disastrous path. Whatever, US officials now seem very hazy about the rule of law etc. Consider the demand to Hong Kong that they deny Snowden his right to an extradition hearing "to uphold the rule of law" - law presumably meaning White House diktat.

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Just a supposition on my part

The NSA has much, much bigger problems than Snowden, and that's why they want him so badly.

All those files that he's leaking just didn't fall into his lap, They've even admitted that he didn't have the authority/clearance to access them.

So, IMO, somebody higher up has misgivings about the types of things the NSA has been up to, but is working to take down the NSA from the inside, rather than fight it from the outside.

Whether it's one well placed individual, or a cadre of like minded employees fudging a clearance here, covering a leak there, so that someone like Snowden could pull the coupe he did, who knows? And the NSA is dying to find out.

That's why they're so keen on getting him. Names, leads, anything he knows that could expose the source.

Whether they get Snowden or not, there's a good chance the events, or even suspicions of events is going to cause the NSA to implode, and the big guys at the top need something, anything to cover their asses when it does. and right now Snowden is their best key.

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Re: Just a supposition on my part

>is going to cause the NSA to implode

I wish but alas dream on. The name may someday change but short of a collapse of society this route is set.

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