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Posted on on June 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Edward Snowden Won’t Undo the Patriot Act.

By Frank Rich, New York Magazine – we have here only the relevant part of his this-week column.

15 June 2013


Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: Edward Snowden ignites a debate, Chuck Schumer makes his LBJ play.

ate last week, we found out that the source of the major NSA leak was a 29-year-old, Ron Paul–supporting defense contractor named Edward Snowden. Both John Boehner and Dianne Feinstein have labeled Snowden a traitor. The Times editorial board has come to his defense. What do you make of him?

Isn’t it something of a commentary on the might of the American surveillance state that a 29-year-old high-school dropout could elude an international law-enforcement dragnet for as long as Snowden has? As Seth Lipsky wrote in the New York Post this morning, it’s a plot out of Catch Me If You Can. That said, it’s preposterous to label this 29-year-old IT guy a traitor at this point. As far as we can tell now, he hasn’t handed over state secrets to an enemy. The revelation that the government is using data mining in itself does not seem to have damaged our security; surely terrorists aren’t total idiots and have figured this out too. Nor is Snowden a hero. His leak is unlikely to rescue America from the Orwellian excesses of the Patriot Act that have haunted us for more than a decade. What Snowden has done instead is far more prosaic: He has revealed a post-9/11 security regimen that few sentient Americans seem to find surprising and that many seem to want. Snowden’s flair for self-dramatization, and that of his fans in the news media and politics, should not be confused with the somewhat more mundane reality of this whole incident. His main civic contribution thus far is – in the words of President Obama and countless others – to open up a debate about the state of privacy in America. I fear that debate will not survive August.

The tech industry is currently both wildly popular and widely trusted. Do you think that a scandal that involves such giants as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft will do serious damage to their clout and their bottom lines?

In a word, no. Americans love these companies – well, maybe not Microsoft – and spend much of their day handing over money and personal information to them.


The Senate voted on Tuesday to begin debate on bipartisan immigration reform. President Obama has staked a lot of political capital on this bill. Would its passage shift the narrative of his second term in a significant way?

Remember when there was all that hoopla and optimism about Senate Republicans voting to allow debate on gun-control legislation? It turned out to be a nonevent since the GOP had no intention of letting any supposed threats to the Second Amendment become law. So yesterday’s vote to advance debate on the immigration bill in the Senate may also prove much ado about very little. Even if the bill does get through that chamber, I have yet to see any persuasive evidence that a meaningful bill will get past the radical right GOP base in the House. We’ll see. What we do know is that politicians of both parties have a big stake in immigration reform. As you indicate, a solid law would be a boon to Obama: It would be a major achievement, defying the expected second-term doldrums, and would join Obamacare as a potential historical marker for his presidency. It’s also in the career interest of Senate Majority Leader–in-Waiting Chuck Schumer, the manager of this bill, to pull off an LBJ-like triumph. And it is in the interest of the Republican Party as a whole (and its putative presidential candidate Marco Rubio) to sign on to a law that has a shot at inducing Hispanic voters to give it a second look after a decade of Republican politicians smearing Latinos en masse as freeloaders, “wetbacks,” and thugs. As everyone knows, without Hispanic voters the GOP will be in the political wilderness for years to come. So the bottom line is this: Here is a rare example where it’s to both parties’ political advantage (not to mention the nation’s advantage) to get something done. If they fail on this one, it’s probably safe to assume that no governance will happen in Washington until another election or two shakes up the current political alignment.


Comments  Guideline: Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

– by The RSN Team

+33 # fredboy 2013-06-15 13:14

Amazing how the Congress, President, and American people allowed them to give this “act” a name completely opposite of its intent and impact. It is the most unpatriotic legislation passed during my 65 year lifetime.
+7 # bcwik 2013-06-15 14:05

After 71 years, I can agree with you completely. But then they were good at that back in those days. If something was called the Wilderness Preservation Act, you can be sure it was designed to do the exact opposite.
+7 # sanantone 2013-06-15 13:25

Sorry, Mr. Rich, but this sentient American (lawyer, NYT and Nation subscriber, longtime reader of your columns) is surprised at the scope of what has been revealed and disappointed in your apparent trivializing of it. Further, it is my fervent prayer that this talking-point of describing Mr. Snowden by his academic history, as if he were a knuckle-dragging illiterate rather than the intelligent, articulate young man seen in his interviews, will stop.
0 # Quickmatch 2013-06-15 15:32

Your credentials seem to place you in the group of not-ignorant Americans, yet you were surprised, therefore ignorant of the scope. There were stories out o fthe Utah Data Center in 2011, Room 641A was the subject of a Frontline story back in 2007. Perhaps your subscriptions to the NYT and Nation and your LLD degree qualify you as an intelligent and thoughtful, educated American above and beyond the mean, but that overlooks the interest to which you place your intelligence, which was apparently not in the cyber tech area. As a late comer to this data collection scene you and most like you would be surprised; the earlier you were introduced, the less the surprise. The 1999 Qwest commercial with the punch line “Every movie ever made in every language at any time” seemed extrordinary; fourteen years klater it’s a quaint yawn. Collecting 712 billion minutes of voice, 6 billion text messages and sorting 112 billion emails a day is the inevitable advance since 1999–and it’s not reading or listening to that collection, but super computing an analysis to determin which, if any should be. Ho Hum, yes!
+5 # Candide 2013-06-15 13:31

In spite of the many slackers and anti-public philosophies in mainstream media, many of us have had it with the disgusting hostility to our constitutional rights and to our desire for a clean environment.I recently learned that the founder of Facebook is for the tar sands pipeline. That postpones my joining in with such a “service” for several more years at least.With any luck, and with the help of imaginative advocacy, a resistance movement will spread to reject the Stasi style intrusions and the inane politics of fear.
+3 # anarchteacher 2013-06-15 13:43 Mockingbird (or its 2013 equivalent) is alive and

The New York Times’ Frank Rich joins the hundreds of lemming-like regime hacks attacking Edward Snowden and defending the NSA. The National Security State pleads it no longer pays these scurrilous scribes or have them on retainer as agitprop flacks as it did for decades in the past.….

Yeah, just like how the Fed never buys statist economists to burble on about its munificence and virtues.

+4 # angelfish 2013-06-15 13:43

What is that Ben Franklin quote? “He that gives up a little freedom for safety, will have neither safety OR freedom”, or words to that effect. Big Brother has been watching us ALL since the advent of the “Cold War”. Sadly, the spies with the most money STILL win. Eventually, it will ALL come down to Economics. Money TALKS and RULES while the rest of us toil in the our own private gulags. I stand with Patrick Henry on this. “Give me Liberty or give me Death”. As far as calling it the “Patriot Act” Washington is MADE of useless, False titles such as this one and “Citizen’s United”. WHAT citizens? United Where? BULL-PUCKEY! ALL of it! Sheer BUll-Puckey!
+6 # ChristopherCurrie 2013-06-15 14:02

The American public may not be so tolerant of the NSA’s “record everything” program when they find out the degree to which it has been abused. Such abuses would, of course, be “classified” to protect the guilty.
+1 # CTPatriot 2013-06-15 14:18

And Frank Rich, much like Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, reveals himself to be nothing more than a subservient “house liberal” whose job is to help the establishment from the left the same way turds like David Brooks help it from the right.Nothing to see here people. Everyone just loves them some warrantless search and seizure!! Who cares about a trivial thing like the constitution?! It’s A-OK because most Americans (according to Rich) don’t mind the invasion of their privacy. And most of those Americans don’t mind the invasion of their privacy because pundits like Frank Rich have been telling them it’s no big deal. That and “be afraid”!! The boogeyman is out to get you unless you give up all your liberties!!
+4 # L H 2013-06-15 14:39

Since the book, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was published in 1949, about “a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking”(Wikipedia), don’t you think this outcome has been on the planning board, in the works since 1949, and before? I do.Follow the money. Who profits from all the wars including the world wars? Who owns the banks, the Fed? In fact, was the Civil War really about making a Centralized Banking system dominant, getting rid of state bank sovereignty? It all points to centralized control.Do we really want to “approve” and ignore this, to surrender democracy to central control??? Listen to Daniel Ellsberg interviewed by Ellsberg: ‘We’re In The Abyss’. Time to WAKE UP!
+3 # L H 2013-06-15 14:52

Quoting Brad of Who are we targeting in the “terrorism state”? Terrorism or democracy? Seems clear that democracy is being targeted… that includes individual sovereignty. Remember there are more of us, but we have to know what’s going on, be knowledgeable!
0 # anntares 2013-06-15 15:19

Yes, since 9/11, I’ve assumed defense strategies had to change and tech programs were scanning emails and phones for key words on the assumption that saving innocent lives trumps free speech and search warrants. I just hope we can set up protections in case any extremists- left, right, or psychotic – get into the White House or takes over Congress. I think of the vast rooms and endless rows of Nazi information folders in the movie “THe Sorrow and the Pity.”
0 # jwb110 2013-06-15 15:48

This isn’t just about the citizens of this country. It is about the surveillance of other countries without their knowledge or
over-site. It can get pretty hard to convince “allies” to come to your aid and defense when you have been treating them as though they were the “enemy”. Just because democracy is, for many in the US, a freedom that isn’t worth trading their Prada for, doesn’t make it mean the same thing worldwide.
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