In a long and eventually convoluted conversation on Twitter today, I asked Marc Andreessen some questions about his assertion on CNBC that Edward Snowden is a “textbook traitor” and that the Obama administration left the NSA “out to dry.” What began as a two-way conversation quickly become multidirectional. Here’s everything I could find from the exchange(s), though it went off on a number of tangents not captured here. (I’m updating…) The author of each tweet is the first person on the line (Twitter doesn’t offer threaded views, so it’s a bit of a mess): (UPDATE: GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram parsed the back-and-forth and came up with this take on it.)

@dangillmor @pmarca: Puzzled by your logic, @pmarca — are you more upset that US is hacking US-based companies to spy or that it was revealed to the world?

@pmarca: @dangillmor I’ll answer questions but not spring-loaded ones. 9:28 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca OK, one at a time. Does it bother you that NSA hacked US companies’ networks?

@pmarca: @mgalicki @dangillmor I don’t even know what that means. 9:33 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor That part doesn’t thrill me. 9:33 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca How do you feel about NSA sabotaging encryption?

@dangillmor @pmarca Is it OK for US to secretly modify US-made hardware being sent overseas (and, most likely, being delivered inside US as well)?

@pmarca: @dangillmor NSA has been dual mission: protect US infrastructure + spy on foreign communication. That’s obviously not sustainable. 9:35 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor As you know, at Netscape we were a big part of the fight with the NSA to overturn export controls on strong encryption. 9:36 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca If NSA secretly hacking US companies’ networks is a bad thing, why is revealing it a bad thing?

@pmarca: @dangillmor I am an unconditional fan of unlimited strong encryption worldwide and always have been, as demonstrated by us creating SSL. 9:36 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor And I think the “protecting US infrastructure” part of the mission needs to increasingly dominate between the two. 9:37 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor The vast majority of the Snowden leaks have nothing to do with US citizens or US infrastructure. 9:38 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca Netscape did important work to overturn export controls. But NSA’s response was partly to sabotage crypto for everyone.

@pmarca: @dangillmor The comprehensive leaking of US intelligence operations globally are treasonous by definition. 9:38 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor If Snowden and his allies had only revealed issues specific to US citizens & US companies, that would be one thing. 9:39 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca Even though countless US citizens are being caught up in the dragnet surveillance, and all phone records being collected?

@pmarca: @dangillmor But that is very much not what has happened. 9:39 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor Snowden fans have cognitive dissonance, are ignoring all of his leaks that have nothing to do with US citizens: most of them. 9:40 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca It would still, by the definition you used today, be traitorous, would it not?

@pmarca: @dangillmor I think phone record metadata is a very difficult and complex edge case. I don’t think it’s black and white. 9:40 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor The whistleblower case could be legitimately argued, in my view, for issues specific to US citizens. 9:40 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor There is no whistleblower case for revealing foreign intelligence operations not involving US citizens. 9:41 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor Which is the majority of what has happened. 9:41 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca The “protecting US infrastructure” mission, done right, will make spying harder everywhere, will it not?

@pmarca: @dangillmor To just ignore that or say it’s OK is a whole new definition of OK from all US legal norms and precedents. 9:42 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Some folks hold bulk surveillance of the comms of an entire country is a human rights issue. Antithetical to free press. 9:42 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor Yes. That’s why NSA fought encryption so hard in the 1990s (which, again, I was fighting for :-). 9:43 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor That’s the conflict in the NSA’s current dual mission. 9:43 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Fair enough, but revealing foreign intelligence operations is literally, definitionally treason. 9:44 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca We keep learning that foreign intelligence programs are creating mass collection of US info, or have domestic implications.

@pmarca: @octal @dangillmor Yes, that has become a very big problem. 9:45 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor That I do not like one bit. 9:46 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca Still not clear on how White House, which has neutered the NSA “reform”, has left NSA “out to dry.”

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Indeed. So how can or should vast, secret programs secure the consent of the governed, especially in an endless war? 9:48 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @digiphile @dangillmor: okay, so separate question: is treason of that sort ever justified — Pentagon Papers etc.? 9:48 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Three branches of government providing a matrix of oversight; two of them directly elected by the people. 9:49 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca Secret courts making secret rulings after hearing only govt’s case are hardly “oversight”. Congressional “oversight” has been nil.

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Representative democracy, not unilateral direct action or mob rule. 9:49 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor I read the Pentagon Papers as different: they were a historical study, vs current US intelligence activities. 9:50 AM

@dangillmor @pmarca still top secret, and govt argued would have current impact (Vietnam war wasn’t over at that point) @mathewi

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Congressional oversight of secret programs & laws is how that’s supposed to work in our republic. How’s that working? 9:50 AM

@mathewi: .@mims: Well, some of the questions that @dangillmor is currently asking of @pmarca, like is treason worse than mass surveillance? 9:50 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Right. Founders were quite clear about that bit. Not sure Jefferson would be down with secret laws & interpretations. 9:51 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Should it therefore be up to one 29-year-old analyst to make a different decision on all our behalfs? 9:53 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca that is precisely how a lot of misdeeds by government have come to light over the years. imperfect but vital. @digiphile

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor If Congress & @WhiteHouse extended whisteblower protections to national intel contractors, perhaps next one won’t do so. 9:54 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor @mathewi Easier to have perspective 40 years later, for sure. 9:54 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Of course. 9:55 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor And that then justifies an unlimited pass for treason? 9:55 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca i think that greatly overstates it. 9:57am

@digiphile: @pmarca @mathewi @dangillmor Pentagon Papers published by @NYTimes in 1971, *during* the Vietnam War. Showed admin lied, war scope expanded. 9:56 AM

@pmarca: @prestonrhea @dangillmor No, those aren’t national secrets. 9:56 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor What has the administration does to support them? 9:56 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor So a limited pass for treason? 9:57 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca whistleblowing

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Could an act of treason revealing secret programs / laws be warranted if SCOTUS or Members of Congress kept in the dark? 9:58 AM

@mathewi retweeted: @pmarca still top secret, and govt argued would have current impact (Vietnam war wasn’t over at that point) @mathewi 10:00 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor I think there is such a thing as whistleblower actions but I think in nat’l sec they have to be carefully defined. 10:01 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca whistleblowing about grossly abusive foreign intelligence practices not treason, then? how do we refine it? @digiphile

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor So operations vs US citizens not properly disclosed to oversight, there’s a strong pro-whistleblower argument. 10:01 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor But the vast majority of what Snowden has done is way beyond that. 10:02 AM

@pmarca: @adikamdar @dangillmor Probably so :-). 10:02 AM

@tcarmody: @pmarca @dangillmor @digiphile I think you’re confusing “operations vs US citizens” and “operations that violate US law.” 10:05 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @dangillmor: treason may be a crime, but mass surveillance of US citizens is also a crime — is the former justified by the latter? 10:06 AM

@pmarca: @tcarmody @dangillmor @digiphile Indeed, the difference between those two concepts itself is interesting and important. 10:06 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor The vast majority of what Snowden has done has nothing to do with surveillance of US citizens. 10:06 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca not arguing for zero secrecy, but what our govt does with our money and in our names is highly relevant to US citizens. @mathewi

@sarahjeong: @pmarca @dangillmor I’m not a US citizen and I think I’m a person with rights 10:06 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor His supporters give him a complete pass on all of that and I just don’t understand it. 10:06 AM

@pmarca: @sarahjeong @dangillmor Indeed you are, but every country legally differentiates between their own citizens and foreigners, including yours. 10:07 AM

@tcarmody: @pmarca @dangillmor @digiphile Operations against noncitizens that violate US law are a real concern in this case. 10:08 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @dangillmor: Okay, but you didn’t answer my original question 🙂 10:08 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor @digiphile I think revealing foreign intelligence operations is the very definition of treason. 10:08 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor @digiphile I don’t even know what’s controversial about that statement. 10:08 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Support for whistleblowers is key component of representative democracy, as we think of it today. 10:09 AM

@tcarmody: @pmarca @dangillmor @digiphile the problem again is when foreign intelligence operations violate the laws of your country. 10:09 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor @mathewi Of course. Which is why we have three branches of government, two directly elected, to maintain oversight. 10:09 AM

@tcarmody: @pmarca @dangillmor @digiphile If you swear an oath to the Constitution, unconstitutional operations could themselves be considered treason. 10:09 AM

@pmarca: @tcarmody @dangillmor @digiphile Most of the operations Snowden has revealed are not in violation of US law. 10:10 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca most haven’t been ruled on by courts other than the rubber-stamp FISA court, if even that @tcarmody @digiphile

@dangillmor: @pmarca …and key members of Congress have said White House has grossly expanded interpretation of laws they passed @tcarmody @digiphile

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Operations vs the foreign nationals of other countries are also rightfully subject to oversight & disclosure to Congress 10:10 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Yes! 10:10 AM

@sarahjeong: @pmarca @dangillmor In the United States, many constitutionally guaranteed rights (inc. 4A) apply to non-citizen residents as well. 10:10 AM

@pmarca: @digiphile @dangillmor Yes, but that is not an unlimited pass to leak every government secret. 10:10 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @tcarmody @dangillmor U.S. law also once allowed slavery, denied women the vote or minorities rights. Not all that’s lawful is just. 10:11 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor Which one? 10:11 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Many shades of gray. Most #OpenGov advocates acknowledge Snowden’s path to disclosure suboptimal: 10:12 AM

@pmarca: @dangillmor @tcarmody @digiphile Your opinion that the FISA court is meaningless is neither uniformly shared nor based on any law. 10:12 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @dangillmor: whether Snowden’s act of treason is justified because it revealed a much larger crime, i.e. mass surveillance 10:13 AM

@pmarca: @paleofuture @mathewi @dangillmor It was literally a historical study. 10:13 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor There are no unlimited passes to leak every secret, even for POTUS. 10:13 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor Snowden has committed many acts by revealing many secrets. 10:13 AM
390697 is your Twitter login code. 10:13 AM

@digiphile: @pmarca @dangillmor Reasonable people acknowledge the need for some government secrecy, especially on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. 10:13 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor The majority are self-evidently treason as they reveal foreign intelligence operations not involving US citizens. 10:13 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor There are a handful involving US citizens that may deserve whistleblower status. 10:14 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @dangillmor: okay then, a hypothetical: if he had only revealed surveillance of US citizens, would his treason be justified? 10:14 AM

@digiphile: RT @michellequinn @pmarca @dangillmor Traitor or not, Snowden could have picked another path – conscientious objector 10:14 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor But even those are complex, and not just slam dunk black and white “he’s a hero”. 10:14 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca We differ on this, but IMO Snowden has done more to honor oath to “defend and protect the Constitution” than the others @mathewi

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor Like I said, for example, I don’t think phone metadata is a black and white issue the way it’s being portrayed. 10:15 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @dangillmor Another example, the early PRISM reporting was spectacularly wrong, which has stuck. 10:16 AM

@mathewi retweeted: @pmarca …and key members of Congress have said White House has grossly expanded interpretation of laws they passed @tcarmody @digiphile 10:16 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca but that’s on the reporters, not snowden. @mathewi @dangillmor 10:16 AM

@pmarca: @vhokstad @mathewi @dangillmor Every country legally differentiates between citizens and non-citizens. 10:17 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor A lot of people think that he revealed US Internte companies voluntarily giving NSA unlimited access. 10:17 AM

@dangillmor: @pmarca we still don’t know how voluntary US companies’ cooperation has been. part of the problem. @mmasnick @mathewi

@mmasnick: @pmarca do you may any distinction between snowden and the reporters? @mathewi @dangillmor 10:17 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor Which is not actually true. 10:17 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca i know. i’ve written exactly that. but, still, that’s the reporters. not snowden. @mathewi @dangillmor 10:18 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca also, can you explain what’s “gray” in the phone metadata? @mathewi @dangillmor 10:20 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor But it has really affected what people think Snowden has revealed and whether he’s a hero or a traitor. 10:20 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor It’s within NSA remit to monitor SIGINT into and out of the US involving foreigners. 10:21 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor So how to fulfill that mission when one person in the communication chain is an American citizen? 10:22 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor It’s a very complex issue. Smart people in government have grappled with it for decades. 10:22 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor I’m not saying surveillance of US citizens is right. I’m saying this particular issue is complex. 10:22 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca not that complex. 4th amendment is kind of there for a reason. @mathewi @dangillmor 10:23 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @mathewi @dangillmor Well, I disagree. 10:23 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @mmasnick @dangillmor: I agree it’s a complicated issue — which is why calling Snowden a traitor isn’t all that helpful 10:24 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca does 8 years of the program not being once useful in stopping anything clarify it? @mathewi @dangillmor 10:24 AM

@pmarca: @mathewi @mmasnick @dangillmor Do you think that revealing foreign intelligence operations not involving American citizens is treason? 10:24 AM

@mmasnick: @dangillmor reporting mistakenly thought it was access across all servers, rather than responsive to 702 orders. @pmarca @mathewi 10:25 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @dangillmor @mathewi Correct. 10:25 AM

@mmasnick: @dangillmor big difference and @pmarca is right that it has influenced discussion. but still… @mathewi 10:25 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @dangillmor @mathewi Internal NSA analyst training slides were misinterpreted both by Snowden and by WP/Guardian. 10:26 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca not clear that snowden misinterpreted. where do you get that from? @dangillmor @mathewi 10:26 AM

@froomkin: .@dangillmor grilling of @pmarca over Snowden turns into neat Twitter colloquy: 10:26 AM

@pmarca: @mmasnick @dangillmor @mathewi On that note, enough on this topic for now from my end :-). 10:26 AM

@mmasnick: @ChaseTheTruth 4th amendment is against unreasonable *search* and seizure. not just criminal prosecution. @pmarca @mathewi @dangillmor 10:27 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @mmasnick @dangillmor: Sure it is, because it meets the technical definition of that term. But parts of what he did were justified 10:27 AM

@mathewi: @pmarca @mmasnick @dangillmor: No, wait — don’t go! I have more questions 🙂 10:29 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca treason requires *purposely* aiding enemies. revealing intelligence does not necessarily do that. @mathewi @dangillmor 10:29 AM

@mathewi: @mmasnick @pmarca @dangillmor: And at least some in Congress have tried to argue that leaking to the press fulfills that criteria 10:31 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca more to the point, he revealed intelligence to US reporters. and they to the public. @mathewi @dangillmor 10:33 AM

@mmasnick: @pmarca he did not reveal to the “enemy”, which is a key part of treason. @mathewi @dangillmor 10:33 AM

dangillmor: @Hey, all — give @pmarca a lot of credit for directly and publicly discussing this stuff. A lot of other folks wouldn’t have done that.

@mathewi: Agreed MT @dangillmor: give @pmarca credit for directly and publicly discussing this stuff. A lot of other folks wouldn’t have done that 10:43 AM

@digiphile: @BradMossEsq @pmarca @dangillmor it’s relevant to any other number of American laws, strategic interests, and it’s worth noting, values. 10:47 AM