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

20 thoughts on “A Twitter conversation with Marc Andreessen re Snowden, Silicon Valley

  1. My perspective on Snowden is a little different than the perspectives I’ve seen here. My background? Radioman, USN, 1969-1973. I remember quite clearly that I wasn’t to talk/write about what I was doing, and how I was doing it. Then, in 1985, came the Walker affair.

    And now this Snowden character. How can he possibly be trustworthy? After all, as part of his job, he did indeed promise to keep the secrets. Instead, he is in Moscow, disclosing more data, and probably means and methods to the Russians. So, is it treason? In my opinion, yes, it is.

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