Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: A comparision.

CIA whistleblower, Philip Agee:

Reforms of the FBI and the CIA, even removal of the President from office, cannot remove the problem. American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force – without a secret police force. The argument is with capitalism and it is capitalism that must be opposed, with its CIA, FBI and other security agencies understood as logical, necessary manifestations of a ruling class’s determination to retain power and privilege. (source)

Edward Snowden:

SNOWDEN WIRED(source)

 

Related

Confronting Snowden’s Remarks on Manning

Another Snowden News Story, Another Lesson in Proper Whistleblowing

In Conclusion

Good Whistleblower/Bad Whistleblower

Take Your Drip and Stick It

A Heat Vampire in Search of a Movie Deal

 

 

 

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34 Responses to Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: A comparision.

  1. walterglass4 says:

    There’s part of me, a small part, that’s a little queasy with comparing anyone to Phil Agee, surely one of the most clear-eyed and courageous public figures the US has seen in the last century.

    But then there’s another part of me that thinks one can fall far short of Agee’s example without fucking an American flag on the cover of Wired Magazine.

    • Tarzie says:

      There’s a small part of me that is made queasy by your queasiness. Considering the concerted effort on multiple fronts to drain left politics of all meaning, to remake it as something that one would be hard-pressed to even call liberal, it is impossible to pull figures such as Agee from the memory hole too often. But my point wasn’t really what a great guy Agee was compared to Snowden. I simply want to highlight how radically different his discourse was. How different THE discourse is. The comparison isn’t unfair because this isn’t a contest about virtue.

      Agee’s statement about how capitalism requires a security apparatus is undeniably true and one needn’t betray the CIA or be super informed to figure that out. It’s also something that you will never hear Snowden, Greenwald or any of their more highly placed admirers and colleagues say. To the contrary, Greenwald and Snowden have made it clear again and again that they believe the security apparatus is necessary. They have stressed their interest in keeping its agents unmolested by the people they spy on. It’s bulk collection they mind. Put another way, they mind that people who are actually useful/harmless to capitalism are getting caught in the net also. The difference between them and Agee isn’t small. It’s a universe.

      As for hugging the flag, that’s only Snowden’s latest public act of fellatio. I had planned a post long ago comparing Snowden’s statements to Agee’s and others’ then shelved it. But this Wired cover just made it too easy, encapsulating as it does both Snowden’s subservience and the schmaltzy marketing of the shiny non-story that never ends. A picture, a thousand words and all that.

      • walterglass4 says:

        It’s fair to pull virtues out of this, so I’ll scratch the courageous part and focus on the clear-eyed. To be specific, my queasiness stems from extrapolating this out and imagining how, say, Chelsea Manning might suffer from comparison to Agee’s absolute lucidity. But of course Manning isn’t busy branding herself as an uber-patriot for creepy tech magazines. There’s not a universe of difference there.

      • Tarzie says:

        I thought of Manning, too, but I think she compares well. Not the radical Agee was, but clear-eyed enough. She certainly was onto imperial malfeasance as a feature not a bug. She understood the scope of the problem in broad strokes. That’s all I ask, really. There’s reformism that comes simply from excess optimism about reformability. Then there’s reformism that comes from general accordance with how things worked before some imagined decline. If Manning is a reformist, she is a reformist of the first type, which is far better than the second type, which is where Snowden and Greenwald fit.

      • walterglass4 says:

        Spending a lot of time in the film world, I’m very much at ease with making large allowances on political stuff. Finding a reformist of the first type in that world is an absolute thrill and a rarity.

        I laughed for a really long time when I first saw this post, not just because that Wired cover is completely ridiculous, but also because Agee’s statement is so perfect I can’t believe he was a real person. No wonder he’s discussed so much less than Ellsberg.

      • walterglass4 says:

        To clarify, I’m at ease making political allowances for people who do otherwise good work, as Manning did and does.

      • Tarzie says:

        Despite my rep for purism, I happily make allowances also. I would commpletely forgive Snowden and Greenwald their second class reformism if they weren’t such reactionary assholes, constantly shoving their liberaltarian ideology down everyone’s throats. I sincerely believe they do more harm than good.

  2. b-psycho says:

    They might as well pardon him & give him his old fucking job back by now. It’s not like anything was damaged or changed.

  3. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Snowden isn’t fit to shine Agee’s shoes.

  4. forest says:

    Snowden says. “The fact that the government’s investigation failed—that they don’t know what was taken and that they keep throwing out these ridiculous huge numbers—implies to me that somewhere in their damage assessment they must have seen something that was like, ‘Holy shit.’ And they think it’s still out there.” Smells like a Promise of Fireworks to me.

  5. roastyagain says:

    Snowden the hero – ok with capitalism. ok with surveillance. ok with empire. ok with all of it.

    He’s the definition of liberalism – not concerned with systems, but extremely concerned with attacking one small apex of the system that (surprise surprise) mainly affects him and his ilk. Going after the nebulous and inherently racist category trope of “terrorists”? Sure, he’s cool with that. But heaven forbid that the NSA spy on regular old suburban white people!

    Anyway, I’m still convinced he’s a CIA plant to make the NSA look bad – CIA needed someone to shake the shiny toy at the Blackhat / Defcon crowd to distract from all the bad shit they’re currently doing, what better way to do it then make that shiny toy another agency?

    I mean hell, listening to Snowden boosters you’d think we were just one agency shutdown shy of utopia.

    • Happy Jack says:

      While I wouldn’t discount the activities of the CIA, those overseas have more to fear from JSOC. Here in the US, the FBI and joint operation centers with local police are more dangerous than the CIA.

      I’m more inclined to accept Snowden as he presents himself, a patriotic reformer willing to go this far, and no further.

      • Tarzie says:

        While I wouldn’t discount the activities of the CIA, those overseas have more to fear from JSOC.

        Someone’s been spending too much time with Jeremy Scahill. Maybe you should tell those who’ve been tortured or the families of drone victims that it really could have been much worse.

        I can’t think of a proposition more baseless than that Snowden is no more nor less than what he says he is, especially when you consider how his own story varies depending on the day. Believe the story about how be became disillusioned? Did you believe him when he said he was a lowly system administrator, you know, at the beginning, months before he announced on NBC that in fact he’s a career intelligence operative? Which Snowden are you taking at face value exactly? Is your faith based on the famous truthfulness of career intelligence operatives?

        I have no particular allegiance to roasty’s theory or any other, but there is certainly no question that the entire security apparatus has benefited tremendously from the the singular focus on the NSA, and the CIA benefited especially, considering how much attention Snowden diverted from its torture scandal. Snowden could have blown whistles on the CIA too, but didn’t because, well, “When you leak the CIA’s secrets, you can harm people.” Sounds legit.

      • Happy Jack says:

        Someone’s been spending too much time with Jeremy Scahill. Maybe you should tell those who’ve been tortured or the families of drone victims that it really could have been much worse.

        Scahill? Heh, only if it would have been when he was in high school. I noticed long ago that the CIA had a battleship mouth and a rowboat ass. When the station chief in Beirut was killed, the US didn’t send the college boy Bob Baer to extract revenge. They called Dick Marcinko. The military is where to look for men who’ve done the deed, not Yale.

        I’ve always believed the CIA was nothing more than bag men and errand boys of the executive branch. They give a cover of denial to US policy, but that’s about it. You don’t need a Kermit Roosevelt for regime change. A Victoria Nuland and a Pierre Omidyar can accomplish the same thing, although her communications aren’t as secure.

        Drones are operated by the military. Even if the CIA selects the target, the killer is a pilot, not an Ivy Leaguer. Hell, Obama doesn’t need the CIA picking targets, he’s got Terror Tuesdays. As for torture, most of the known victims I’ve read about like Arar, Omar, and al-Libi were outsourced or renditioned as they call it. The people of Egypt, Syria, et al, don’t need me to tell them their security services are dangerous.

        Is your faith based on the famous truthfulness of career intelligence operatives?

        I don’t know that I’d use the word faith. My observation is that Snowden has never to my knowledge expressed a desire to burn the house down. At times he may have said reforms are the way to go, later he says technology is the savior, but he’s never said he wants to tear it down. In that regard he sounds no different from Tice or Drake. So yes, he’s sounded and acted like a goo-goo reformer of the system.

        While I agree the focus has been on the NSA, I’m not sure what kind of heat is going to be applied to the CIA. Jose Rodriguez came out of the shadows a year before Snowden, admitted the torture and destroying evidence of it, and not only wasn’t arrested, but he wrote a book and appeared on 60 Minutes. Unless I missed it, I haven’t seen any pitchforks outside Langley or investigations of any kind.

    • Jay23 says:

      Do you read Jon Rappoport’s blog? His Snowden as CIA-plant hypothesis was a fun read if nothing else: http://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/rappoport-replies-to-a-salon-com-charge-that-hes-a-conspiracist/

  6. diane says:

    … American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force – without a secret police force.

    I sense many of us commenting here have held this belief ever since, at the very least, their first Jawb, or Jawb loss – though, more likely, many realized it .. in watching their parents thoroughly stressed over their jawbs, or lack of – despite the fact that they never, ever deserved to be treated so fucking shabbily in order to barely survive.

    Thank you for the valid and thoroughly damning comparison.

    Yup, Snowden/Greenwald and their mentors, do not deserve to even crawl in Philip Agee’s shadow.

    • diane says:

      (and, certainly at the very end of the day, the very same applies to the near entirely ‘White Male Crews’ of: Yasha/Levine/Carr/Lacey/Pando; Valleywag/Gawker/Nick Denton; Business Insider; ZeroHedge/Aurora [Inve$tor’s] Advisors/‘Naked Capitalism[!]’, etcetera, et al …who keep finger wagging about a perfected $mart and Karing Inve$tor$ ‘paradI$e.’

      They, also, do not deserve to even crawl in Philip Agee’s shadow anymore than Snowden/Greenwald do.)

  7. Dirty says:

    If the US DOJ ever offered a full pardon to Snowden and stated, albeit with feigned gravity, he “stimulated a valuable debate” and everything remained as is, Snowden would gladly return to the US and secure a well paid job with Google or any other tech agency tied to National Security. He doesn’t want the system destroyed, he just wants it better–a psychotic viewpoint, IMO.

  8. Dirty says:

    The Agee quote is Kryptonite to Manning, Scahill, and Snowden types. They desire a better system, love the Constitution, Markets, and the “Rule of Law”(“THAT’S WHAT THE FLAG STANDS FOR!”). Agee’s words show the system is not worth “improving”. Snowden’s fondling flag pic is a crass appeal to Constitution fetishists and jingos who get erections while reciting the pledge.

  9. robertmstahl says:

    This, again, is incredibly timely! I cannot keep perspective without you, Silber, and Floyd. Did you read Bamford’s article?
    http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25310-the-most-wanted-man-in-the-world

  10. Peter says:

    This comparison is as economical as it is accurate. Nice.

  11. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    The Intercept: Making Capitalism Edgy.

  12. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    I don’t understand all the Twitterminology, but did you know you have more people “FOLLOWING” you than Greenwald?

    • Tarzie says:

      Ha ha. That’ll be the day. ‘Following’ means, people I follow. ‘Followers’ is the number of people following you. Greenwald is closing in on 400,000. I’m around 2,100.

  13. Bitman says:

    From WIRED source:

    In the meantime, Snowden tells WIRED—perhaps with a certain amount of schadenfreude—that the government’s overestimation of the size of his leak has left it to imagine the worst. “I think they think there’s a smoking gun in there that would be the death of them all politically,” Snowden says. “The fact that the government’s investigation failed—that they don’t know what was taken and that they keep throwing out these ridiculous huge numbers—implies to me that somewhere in their damage assessment they must have seen something that was like, ‘Holy shit.’ And they think it’s still out there.”

    Translation of quote above in the context of the “breadcrumb” narrative: “Look, I’m not trying to ruin you guys. Maybe I should have left a thicker breadcrumb trail (my bad!) but come on, I’ve SHOWN you what I took. So you can let me back in the country and maybe even back in the club as soon as you figure out I was signaling to all of you all along exactly what I took.”

    The “smoking gun” bit is only interesting therefore in the context of his stated desire to return to the US. Snowden understands that he’s playing to two distinct audiences: to appeal to and remain relevant to the public, his journalistic handlers (for his brand and theirs) have to present him as dangerous to the state and as the avatar of the public interest in transparency and rule of law; to keep the respect of and not fully piss off the security apparatus he has to show he’s both technically savvy enough to have BEEN a real problem for them, AND ‘responsible’ enough to have chosen not to be.

    He’s clearly signalling that there isn’t any “holy shit” material out there (whether there is or not). So long as he believes he has a chance to return to the US under what he would regard as reasonably lenient circumstances, there is close to zero chance anything earth-shattering comes out.

    And since it’s not, FLM and the others have the perfect excuse to keep on keepin’ on with DrippyLeaks.

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  15. diane says:

    Mike Honda! (Yasha Levine/Pando/Exiled fave [1]) …and decades long Sly Con Valley Incumbent DemoRat Institution Congressional Minority[!] * has a solution to the US’ Gaza/Fergusons:

    08/06/14 Rep. Mike Honda Introduces Bill Banning Civilians from Buying Body Armor [to withstand the stunningly militarized and criminal ridden: Po Po]

    Bill sponsor date: 07/31/14. Titled: H.R.5344 – Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

    Yup rather than call out and undo the deadly, horrifying, … thoroughly Monetized, Militarized, and Internationalized (the Mossad (priceless the li’l billy gates crew does not know how to spell Mossad in the ‘English Language’), Belgium, et al involved Sly Con Valley and perimeters: UrbanShield!, ..et al, … across the The Land of The Free [[Slave] Trade]].

    [1] And anyone who wants to counter with lesser evil lies, re squeeze bag Ro Khanna (sic?), or Stanford’s Bitch: Vanilla Singh, needs to be immediately punched in the teeth.

  16. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    livefeed block the boat at port of oak
    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/brightpathvideolive

  17. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Zim ship left the port. Blocked for 4 days updates @blocktheboat

  18. Hieroglyph says:

    “American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force – without a secret police force.”

    I thought this a good quote at first. However, it stuck in my mind, and strikes me as somewhat representative of an issue. And the issue is that capitalism and neoliberalism are not the same thing. After all, there is a difference – though perhaps an overlap – between being a hard-right ideologue and a psychopath. ‘Capitalism’ strikes me merely as the way society is administered for the benefit of the wealthy; the logic of supply and demand, private ownership, and mass unemployment as a controlling technique are just how things are done, and how it works. Neoliberalism, on the other hand, is essentially a bizarre mix of nihilism, greed and pathological arrogance, amongst other negative motivations. Capitalism is a – deeply flawed – philosophy. Neoliberals are just lunatics.

    “The argument is with capitalism and it is capitalism that must be opposed, with its CIA, FBI and other security agencies understood as logical, necessary manifestations of a ruling class’s determination to retain power and privilege.”

    Capitalism existed well before the CIA, FBI and whoever else. Sure, every capitalist society has had a coercive force, probably the police, and some limited secret ‘agency’, to do the necessary dirty work. Egypt, Greece, Rome, British Empire, whoever, it’s all pretty much the powerful finding ways to dominate the weak. But I think the powerful have as little time for ‘capitalism’ as they do for ‘communism’. I would personally subsitute ‘American Capitalism’ for ‘American Oligarchism’, and think this more than a word game. These neoliberals, no mistake, have as much contempt for the principles of capitalism as they do for the principles of socialism. Many are ex-Bolshies (in the Bush cabinet), after all.

    • Tarzie says:

      I see your point. It’s gross inequality and concentrated power that requires police. Agee could have been more precise, certainly. However, I don’t agree that this is not capitalism, so I can live with his imprecision. The kind of pure capitalism libertarians envision would require policing as well.

      I also don’t agree that neoliberals are lunatics. Neoliberalism is graft. It could not be more rational. Look at the dividends Omidyar’s recent adventures in India immediately started paying.

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