If the intrepid reader is anything like me — intrepid — then in the fog and smoke and mirrors of the war in Ukraine he or she has been wondering where the heck Edward Snowden is, right? Our intrepid whistleblower with whom I have some stuff in common, including being a high school drop GED guy, a former Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (and MCT), a sense of permanent exile (but then, I’m a poet), and a pacing anxiety about what might happened to Ed’s forebear Priscilla Mullin, the only unwed woman on the Mayflower with all those ogling Puritan Pilgrim men looking to get their legacy going.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear from Ed about what’s going on in Russia right now? What’s the low-down among the hoi polloi? Are they for the war? Agin it? Is Putin looking vulnerable in 2024? What are the latest real polls? Is he the Pinochet enforcer Greg Palast recently called him? How is Ed personally doing? How’s family life in exile? Any projects on the burner?
Last year, through a news feed I got from Freedom of Press Foundation, where Snowden is the president of the board of directors, Snowden was busy raising funds for Julian Assange’s release with a crypto-currency effort (Etherium) — AssangeDAO. In a tweet, Snowden explained the effort this way: “”Its prime purpose is to raise funds to bid on the Censored NFT by Pak, whose proceeds will benefit Assange’s legal defense fund.” He raised almost $50 million for Assange’s defense.
Did you bid reader, toss any busker money his way? Did he strum his blues in vain another year? What’s that? No, I didn’t bid on the NFT or otherwise send money. But maybe I’m still sore at him for not responding to a letter I wrote to him at Belmarsh, with my little Heine poem translation and pleading for him to keep on keeping on, as the Bard from Duluth tells us we must. I did write a review of his new collection of sayings from OR Books, Julian Assange In His Own Words. If you buy it, he’ll get some money. You believe me, don’t you?
Anyway, Ed’s last Substack entry was back in December just before Christmas. It’s a potent little piece that goes on in a pleasant way about faith and “bad faith.” It’s seasonal and implies (IMHO) sensible questions to ask yourself: Like did you really need to spend all that money at the mall just to show Jesus how much you love that time of year. Listening to that music that date-drugs you and date-rapes your wallet. That sometimes gives you the queasies. That’s too much like villagers bringing sacrificial offerings to the beach to placate the voracious oceanic gods of perverted desire…Right, anyway, the Substack article also had a photo of Snowden’s kid, Emoji, who is one year old now. The photo caption reads: “At least he’ll know how to keep his privacy.” Was that a dig?
Snowden does add in the comments section that he’s been doing things and that’s why he’s been somewhat quiet. Well, that’s pissah, but I did wonder for a moment just what my five bucks a month subscription to his substack was buying me. He goes,
Thank you, especially to all of my regular readers for supporting my work during what must have felt like a very quiet period these last months. I’ve been working quite hard behind the scenes, and have a great deal planned for next year that wouldn’t have been possible without you. You’ll be the first to hear when it’s ready.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays.
(Get thee hence, I said to the angels of my worser nature, who were conspiring to make me turn on Ed. He’s got goodies ahead, let him work without such insufferable implied rebukations and pseudo intellectualism, The world jutht doesn’t need it. Stick to poetry.)
Has he gone underground? Will he re-emerge like Dylan after the motorcycle accident? Or Abbie Hoffman after he worked out a deal with the Carter administration and before Reagan took the whipping helm, and then paid the president back by taking his daugher Amy by the hand and getting her arrested at an old timey protest at UMass-Amherst to keep the criminal CIA from recruiting the best and brightest second-tier students money couldn’t find and successfully arguing the Necessity Defense in Northampton court and making the trial about Them Them Them! and their illegal killing ways in Central America. Or would he be all bearded up and Dostoyevskian and complaining, apropos of the wet snow, about his liver spots, his neo-thoughts now pacing contradictions?
I got my answer to some questions just a few days after the questions arose from the fecund loamy loam compost/potter’s field of my mind. Edward is still alive and kicking, but off-radar mostly for a purpose. Probably recharging his batteries. Maybe working on another Emoji with his dancer-cizing wife, who he shared his memoir with, without attribution, probably for her protection. (No, I kid, call me Don Rickles, Mr. Hockey Puck himself.) Turns out Edward showed up, by Internet, of course, at Camp Ethereal 2022, which was taped on February 27, to discuss the up-and-coming value of cryptocurrency as a means, among other things, to get around unwanted and illegal government snooping and control. If it’s set up properly, you can’t really freeze cryptocurrency, due, in part, to its decentralized nature.
Snowden has been a fan of cryptocurrency for a while now. It may be something he picked up from Assange, who made a ventriloquist’s plea — and a virtue — out of it, with his call for kryptonite against the world’s presumptuous Übermenschen in his Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet. Snowden and Assange have had sibling-level differences over the years, personality quibbles over breadcrumb sins (h/t Dylan), with Snowden changing his mind about dumpin’ at Wikileaks because he thought the publication had “changed’” after the US State Department arranged to have donations to Wikileaks sealed off and corporate buddies to State, Mastercard, VISA, and PayPal (Peter Thiel), closed their transactional taps. Assange saw it for what it was: A declaration of war against his publishing organization.
Curiously, Snowden doesn’t mention this funds freeze in his memoir, Permanent Record, but does say, of his reason for seeking out MSM allies,
[W]hen 1 first considered coming forward, the whistleblower’s forum of choice was WikiLeaks. Back then, it operated in many respects like a traditional publisher, albeit one that was radically skeptical of state power. WikiLeaks regularly joined up with leading international publications like the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and El Pais to publish the documents provided by its sources…Due to the governmental backlash and media controversy surrounding the site’s redaction of the Manning materials, WikiLeaks decided to change course and publish future leaks as they received them: pristine and unredacted. This switch to a policy of total transparency meant that publishing with WikiLeaks would not meet my needs…. [page 188]
Glenn Greenwald went on to discuss meeting up with Snowden in Hong Kong and developing Snowden’s revelations for The Guardian in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Nowhere To Hide, a title taken from 70s glam senator Frank Church, who first warned of the impending Surveillance State and its power, if nothing was done. Nothing was done. Anyway, that’s just water under the bridge over the river Kwai now.
At Camp Ethereal 2022, Snowdren waxed on about the virtues of using cryptocurrency and its use for evading State Department-type attacks on liquidity and function. Few people believe that a government should have the power to give itself the extra-Constitutional right to freeze the accounts and money activities of a legitimate organization, simply because it “assesses” to the MSM that the organization in question is criminal, which was the case with Wikileaks.
In an online article from Decrypt magazine a few days ago, “Governments See Crypto As An ‘Evolving Threat’: Edward Snowden,” the super-leaker tells an audience by way of an interview with Marta Belcher, president of Filecoin Foundation and general counsel at Protocol Labs. This is not merely Snowden’s speculation. Last October the Biden administration aired its concerns about cryptocurrency workaround US controls. The Treasury Department issued a report that said, in part:
“These technologies offer malign actors opportunities to hold and transfer funds outside the collar-based financial system. They also empower our adversaries seeking to build new financial and payment systems intended to diminish the dollar’s global role,” the report added.
The astute follower of the esoteric doings of the US Deep State (yes, it really exists — Snowden even alludes to it in his memoir) will recall that several years back now the Obama administration was was waxing raunchy over the ability of such encrypted networlds as the Tor Onion that they tried to spook people into believing the system had been cracked by the gubbeners of excess. “TOR Anonymity: Things Not To Do While Using TOR Browser” is self-explanatory, its main ‘watch out’ being endpoints, which are vulnerable, especially if you have a rootkit on your computer making Tor pointless. VPN safety has also been scarified: “How the NSA can break trillions of encrypted Web and VPN connections”. Again, the real problem is end users. Algorithmic activity can reveal who is potentially ‘subversive,’ leading to their being placed in a dossier for further ‘working’ by nefarious forces who will leave you out in the cold to freeze your assets off.
Snowden and Belcher had an interesting exchange on the importance of finding ways around the hindrances government is placing i n our way — he says, “at the flip of a switch, we are vulnerable to being unable to sort of take anything out of our wallet.” Snowden first talks about the purpose of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, as a response to what had been done to Assange and Wikileaks in 2010:
You know, one of the things that I think is interesting is you look back in the sort of pre freedom of the press foundation world and why it was created. And it was because there was a financial blockade being run against WikiLeaks and they were being cut off from Visa and MasterCard. And what we saw were basically financial sanctions being applied against non-governmental organizations and in this case, a press organization for really, I think the first time in modern history.
Snowden is rightfully sensitive to this kind of funds cut-off, as his memoir was targeted by the US government, who took umbrage at his “profiting” from his crimes of stealing information for revelations. He’d signed a ‘prenup’ with the gub; he needed permission, they said, to discuss his CIA/NSA work in a book for publication. They seized him by the hairys. Here he is discussing the topic of government overreach with Belcher:
He goes on to discuss “gates of permissions,” gates of “linguistics” (gobbledygook as argot), and how present monetary policy and control is obsolete and will be changing — hopefully without violence. The full interview is only a little over a half hour and worth the viewer’s consideration, as it’s relevant to the US response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The interview with Snowden is most fruitful when he is talking with Belcher about the “gates of permission” and thor growing influence on ordinary lives. He reminds us that the application of account freezes had largely been for illegal activities, such as money laundering, but sees that there is more now:
Or are we seeing it broadened out and really commercialized… And financial institutions deputized in [a] real way… Basically popularizing the practice of stopping trade without permission…We have to click okay to continue. We have to go through all these gates. We have to, you know, deal with Click Wrap and De-Platforming and all of this other stuff and people go, well, my house, my rules, but the ‘my house, my rules’ only works when you don’t have to be in this place to survive. And what we see today [is ] that the public commons are being gated off and [you need] permission and you can’t live a normal life in the world as it is. You can’t survive, you can’t get a job, you can’t communicate, you can’t bank, you can’t interact. You simply can’t survive without being able to pass through these gates of permission.
This is a disastrous direction for liberty to take.
That’s a general take, but Snowden’s more disdainful, in particular, about the way the recent Canadian truckers’s protesting was handled by the government. He says,
Somebody should be able to send something to anyone for anything. And that shouldn’t be something that we can interfere with. That shouldn’t be something, you know, the government of Canada or whatever can say, we’re going to cut this off because if we do that, everybody’s going to start doing it.
Snowden expresses shock and dismay that Canada was involved, given its liberal reputation:
I was similarly completely shocked over the past few weeks by the government of Canada’s response to protests, to proactively require financial institutions to proactively freeze accounts of protesters or anyone supporting protesters. Right. So financial institutions were required to freeze protesters accounts even if they hadn’t done anything illegal…But one of the things I think people don’t really realize is, well, outside of government actors doing that actually all the time, financial institutions will, of their own accord, cut off access to financial services for perfectly legal businesses because some bank executive find something objectionable.
They go on to cite PayPal as an obvious example of such whimsical financial decision-making. PayPal was a keen choker of Wikileaks’s money back in 2010. CEO Peter Thiel sided with the government claim without legal basis and acted accordingly. In an interesting irony, Thiel now funds the Rumble platform, which many wits regard as a righty-oriented site, but it’s home to Glenn Greenwald, who earns six figures from Thiel’s investment arm to be Rumble’s star. Greenwald recently wrote at the site about the Canadian government’s illegal freezing of assets of truckers. I wrote in more detail about this irony earlier.
There are, of course, other ironies, regarding money control that are pertinent to current affairs in the world. Joe Biden once crowed about how he personally threatened to withhold $1 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine if it didn’t fire a prosecutor investigating corruption into the Burisma Gas company that his son was sitting on the board of directors for. “The son of bitch got fired,” boasted Biden. Check it out; it’s funny:
Trump tried to pull the same shit by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky turned up dirt on Biden. This move got the son of a bitch impeached (the first one). In January 2021, the Ukrainian prosecutor who got fired tried to have Biden brought up on charges in Ukraine for interfering in the internal affairs of the state.
Funny old world, isn’t it?
Ed stay healthy.
The full Decrypt interview between Snowden and Belcher is here.