Sunday, June 9, 2013

Boundless Informant on Global Anglican Surveillance

UPDATE: Are cracks appearing in the story of the whistleblower? Is the journalist he talked to, Glenn Greenwald, reliable? Check here.

ALSO: Edward Snowden should not have broken his vow to keep a secret. But should the Director of NSA have told the truth rather than a direct lie? Read here.

ORIGINAL: Before anyone outs me, I confess. Barack and me have got this thing going, keeping an eye on global Anglican affairs with the aid of a nifty iPhone app called Boundless Informant.

However there are limitations.

"Current technology simply does not permit us to positively identify all of the bloggers or locations associated with a given communication (for example, it may be possible to say with certainty that a communication traversed a particular path within the internet. It is harder to know the ultimate source or destination, or more particularly the identity of the person represented by the TO:, FROM: or CC: field of an e-mail address or the abstraction of an IP address)"

Also, Barack and I admit that some Anglican gossip permeating the internet has affected the course of blog discussions:

""The continued publication of these allegations about highly classified issues, and other information taken out of context, makes it impossible to conduct a reasonable discussion on the merits of these programs.""

PS You are safe posting comments here. Only 5000 workers in the NSA know where you live and what secrets your computer holds :)

PPS This is the bloke who blew the whistle on the little surveillance op Barack and me had going.


Bryden Black said...

"Everything else being equal/ceteris paribus": how many 29 yr old Christians would go to such lengths - would be actually 'formed' well enough to go to such lengths - in their own 'witness to the Lordship of Jesus' as this man?

Andrew Reid said...

If you are a canon law abiding Anglican, you have nothing to fear :)

This reminds me of that scene in The Simpsons movie, where Homer calls Marge while on the run, and they cut to the 1000s of NSA people listening in on phone calls, and one of them stands up and says:
"Hey everybody, I found one! The government actually found someone we're looking for! YEAH, BABY, YEAH!"

Anonymous said...

The U.S is at war.

Does treason during war still carry the death penalty?

In more civilized times, before the English language. was corrupted by the cancer of effete, Marxist/liberalism, a man who betrayed his country during war was rightly called a traitor, considered by all to be the lowest form of pond scum.

Now we call them "whisteleblowers" and "activists."

I pray for a return to more honest times.

Blessed be the Lord who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
You make a good point.

Here is another: a week or so ago, President Obama gave a speech in which he said the war on terror was more or less over.

Has Obama effectively lied to his people about the state of the world?

I can write this question safe in the knowledge that it might be relayed back to him :)

Anonymous said...

The US is at war - but its government doesn't know with whom. Presumably with its own citizens and those of the UK. Maybe when being a conservative Christian has become an indictable offense (along with a being a Tea Party activist) there will be enough electronic evidence to identify the guilty. Who would have thought the US Government could surpass the Stasi? Orwell, thou should'st be living at this hour!

Martin Le Carre

Anonymous said...

The NSA, the CIA, GCHQ: the United Stasi of America.

Martin Niemoeller

carl jacobs said...

If this was really about principle, then Mr Snowden wouldn't have fled to Hong Kong - of all places. He would have stayed and allowed himself to be arrested. He should be returned and prosecuted - one way or another. And then he should be confined in a very small solitary cell until he dies.


Peter Carrell said...

That is the meanest thing I have ever read here on ADU, Carl.

What secret has he revealed other than that there is a giant spying programme going on - one which citizens have a right to know exists (and one which, being righteous living folks, no citizen should fear)?

Bryden Black said...

One of the outcomes of this whole affair might just be a more considered appreciation (puns intended) of what constitutes "freedom" at all at all: see my earlier comment on the Marriage thread, June 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM. For what DO we mean by freedom of conscience and freedom of religion exactly folks?! And therefore how DOES one 'protect' such freedoms ...?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Carl. Treason is treason. Well, not the small cell part, a firing squad is more humane.

And what does "citizenship" really mean at a time when Islamic leaders who support terrorism and openly call for the forceful imposition of Sharia Law are considered citizens of Britian?

What does citizenship mean when a first generation immigrant Muslim who joins a terrorist group has a piece of paper calling him a citizen if the USA?

National identity is more than just a piece of paper, no matter what the Marxist global elites claim.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl and Shawn
While I generally support an 'open society' with as few secrets as possible, I acknowledge the importance of commitments.

If the whistleblower concerned has broken his word, then he should face the full effect of US law on that matter.

Shawn: you make a good point re citizenship. To whom are people loyal? There are Muslims (to give one instance) who claim the citizenship of (say) the USA or Britain (and all entitlements thereunto) while professing a greater loyalty to 'Islam' (understood as a giant nation not confined to any land).

carl jacobs said...


I know the promise he made because I also made it. I know the trust he betrayed because I kept it. He is a citizen of the United States. He was given a trust by the US Gov't on pledge of loyalty to keep that trust. He doesn't have the authority to decide that which citizens have a "right to know." I have no sympathy for him at any level. Justice may be harsh but justice in this case is well-earned.

You frankly have no idea at all what impact he has had on the ability of the US to protect its interests and its citizens. You have no understanding of the intelligence that will be lost because of this revelation. You have no comprehension of the opportunity cost. That cost is the wasted investment in terms of both time and money. That cost is the visible betrayal that might tempt others to do the same. That cost is mostly the attack that is not discovered because some fool opened his mouth - because the enemies of the US discovered how to protect their information. Perhaps you are willing to let Americans get killed so that your internet privacy can be protected. I'm not.

If someone ends up dead because of this, then Mr Snowden should be hung by the neck until he is dead. That isn't mean. It's just. Welcome to the world of National Security where there are real consequences to real betrayals.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I take protection of citizens seriously and thus (1) I do not suggest the USA should not conduct meaningful surveillance to protect its citizens; (2) I support NZ being part of the global eavesdropping alliance of which the USA is a part (and for which we have a specific base near Blenheim); (3) I do not suggest an employee or contractor to the USA government should break his or her undertaking.

However I think governments could be more forthcoming about what they do as part of the surveillance they undertake.

I do not particularly value internet privacy in the sense that I assumed that governments have the power to find out what is going on. For me, all that has happened in the last few days is that I am confirmed in believing that all is transparent to those who wish to see and have the power to do so.

Anonymous said...

Oh, he should definitely be prosecuted for treason, but only after we finish all those ahead of him in the line. That would include every appointed member of the current US administration, the POTUS, VPOTUS, almost all of Congress, and a lot of government executives. I would estimate that we have about 5000 in line ahead of this man, beginning with Obama himself. That is where the treason has all its roots, and there is no point in dealing with the little people if you are going to let the big ones escape without a scratch!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with fatherd. If the US Govt has suspicions about, say, a Muhammad al-Jihad or a Gerry O'Semtex (no, they would never follow up an Irish terrorist), they should investigate such figures. But the country is hamstrung by the mad left-wing political correctness that makes them search octogenarian ladies boarding planes and treats everyone as a suspect. Little by little your liberties disappear while someone builds up a vast database about you. Isn't this cause for concern?
The US created these problems for itself by letting in bogus refugees and bogus students. What happened to 'We the people'?
The Govt is meant to be your servant, not your master. Under Obama, overreach and corruption have spread out of control.


mike greenslade said...

Kia ora Peter,

Martin is quite right. The problem of letting in bogus refugees has been a problem for Americans since the 1490's.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Carl,

I would usually agree with your perspective on breaking laws regarding classified information. If someone chooses to work in that field, they accept that classified information is just that - classified. It can't be revealed because it would put people at risk or damage the nation's security. I briefly worked in Australia for a project that required me to go through a security clearance process so I'm not ignorant of these issues.

However, this case throws some light on the mutual responsibility that comes with classified information and covert activities. The government has a responsibility not to abuse the classification system to protect information that ought not be classified. It also needs to be accountable and transparent to the relevant authority (in this case, a Congressional Committee). Snowdon claims the NSA has routinely lied about the scope of surveillance in America, and that their surveillance activities go beyond reasonable limits. I don't know what other internal options were available, but in a situation where the govt agency is alledgedly committing perjuroy and abusing its powers, that may justify a limited disclosure to the public.

Anonymous said...

The NSA has lied? I am shocked, shocked.
What's next - the CIA killing people? Drone assassinations? Abandoning diplomats? Wiretapping journalists? Political interference in the IRS? Let's hope not. Hope and change!


Anonymous said...

What if the "public" are idiots?

I'm not generally inclined to trust the modern liberal democratic state at all. Nevertheless, the one and only legitimate reason for the state is national defense. And while I agree that there must be accountability and rules, I do not believe that public disclosure is ever a good idea when it comes to national defense and security.

Snowden had a choice, and he chose to place his countries security at risk and run away like a coward. The was a right and wrong way to do this, and he chose the wrong way.

Issues of national defense cannot be left to the whims if democracy, let alone a deeply perverted and corrupted form in which any person gets a say and in which the enemies of the West can easily get bits of paper calling them "citizens" and allowing them to vote.

The individuals who brutally murdered a British soldier recently, on the streets of his homeland, were probably considered "citizens" and allowed to vote. And they gained such rights because a significant part of the population think that situation is just fine. The murder was Liberal multiculturalism unmasked for all to see.

So why should such people get a say on issues of national defense?

Democracy, Liberalism and the "open society" are killing us.

Anonymous said...

Go the drones!

Assassinating terrorists is a good thing surely.

Andrew White said...

I think you're being unreasonable, Shaun.

This guy believes that a large and powerful government organisation is corrupt and abusing its power. Is it so unreasonable for him also to believe that it does not have a vested interest in treating him fairly, and may be willing to "disappear" him if he raises the issue too publicly? If so, fleeing to a country from which extradition or stealth arrest will be difficult doesn't seem that reprehensible.

Note that I'm not claiming whether the source accusations are true or not. Just that if he reasonably believes them to be true, then the response is not inappropriate.

As for treason, that is an interesting claim in this context. Are the citizens of a representative democracy responsible to the current executive or the citizens as a whole? When an arm of the executive sets itself against the citizens, who decides which part is acting treasonously?

Historically speaking, the Magna Carta was treason. As was the American War of Independence. Or the liberation movement in East Germany. Or even running a house church in a communist country, or trying to leave such a country. It's easy to throw around words such as "treason" from a distance, but if someone can be reasonably construed to be attempting to "do the right thing" illegally, a somewhat more sympathetic examination is warranted.

Bryden Black said...

A pertinent question on an international Christian blog site: given the fact that Christians have dual-citizenship, irrespective of their country of domicile, on the basis of e.g. Phil 3:20 (suitably powerful, given especially the context of Philippi as a Roman colony and Paul’s being under Roman open house arrest when he wrote the letter), a question for all of us but perhaps especially Shawn and Carl, whose responses to date have been most forceful - are their any conceivable circumstances in which the internal conflict of conscience would be so great that you would be forced to side against one’s country of domicile?

I ask the question not in any hypothetical manner either! I’ve already been through one civil war, and so know first hand what it is like to be seriously torn ...! Nor is Dietrich Bonhoeffer a justly famous Christian for no reason.

Bryden Black said...

Mike - tone marks galore warning signs!

I take it you don't approve of the Crusaders' theme music then?!

carl jacobs said...

Andrew Reid

It is a fact of life that people must lie to protect classified information. It happens all the time. I did it. It was just part of the job. You lie. You evade. You stonewall. You tell half-truths. You let people reach a false conclusion and confirm them in it. People will ask innocent questions and you want to give them an answer that satisfies. That answer doesn't have to be true. It merely has to deflect the line of questioning. Some people don't have a need to know. That includes a lot of congressmen, believe it or not.

Your question is really about policy. It's not about access to information. If he had a question like this, he could have gone to his security office and asked advice. They would have said "This is above your paygrade. You can't make that decision." And it is, frankly. He doesn't have the access to know who really knows what. If he thought fraud was involved he could have called a hotline. I suspect he didn't do so because he didn't think the avenues provided would have produced the desired result. So he fled and went public. He betrayed his trust because he decided he knew better. Upon what authority may he stand to make this decision?

There is only one way for this to possibly work. He goes to a Congressman. He tells his story. He voluntarily surrenders. If he thinks the principle is important then he must sacrifice himself for it. He must offer up himself as bona fides. But he didn't do that because he didn't expect it to work. He didn't like what he saw. He didn't want to suffer consequences. He decided to act on his own authority. He decided to protect himself. He really isn't any different from Jonathan Pollard who also thought his motives were pure. And that guy should have been executed.


Tim Chesterton said...

Good grief! I think Jesus just left the building!

carl jacobs said...

Whatever, Mr Chesterton.

Here is how this stuff happens. You are flying on an airplane and the guy next to you says "What do you do?" The last thing you want to say is "I work on stuff I can't talk about." So you talk about a project you worked on ten years ago. You talk about another project in your department. You use anything you can credibly talk about. It's a lie. But the guy next to you is happy, and that is all that matters. Do I feel guilty about it? Not in the least.

Bryden Black

Pollard got people killed. He decided that he was correct to give secrets to the Israelis. He had a divided loyalty. He thought "What could it hurt? The Israelis are our friends." The damage he did was extraordinary. But he decided to act on his own conscience. He decided he wasn't bound by his oath because he had a higher duty. Was he correct in his judgment? How should I judge his actions? In terms of his conscience or in terms of the outcome?

In answer to your question, I would say that a man is bound to obey temporal authorities unless those authorities exceed the limits placed on their authority by demanding what God rejects, or rejecting what God demands. The Gov't was acting within the rightful scope of its authority in this manner. We have no God-given right to be free from gov't surveillance of this type. Paul told us to obey Caesar for goodness sake. So Mr Snowden had no right to do what he did. If he didn't like what was going on, he should have resigned. Alternatively, he could have done what I suggested earlier and given himself up.

What he couldn't do is flee to Hong Kong and betray his trust.


Anonymous said...

Andrew, it is also easy to make excuses for people like Snowden or Asaange when your not affected by his disclosures.

I grew up in the US military, my father served for twenty years. I have other family members currently serving.

So these are not abstract issues for me. Loose lips really can cost lives, let alone ships.

I'm not concerned about issues of "representative" democracy, as I do not support it in the first place. I define nation and national identity in a way that really has nothing to do with the state or abstract notions of citizenship.

Moral equivalency arguments are morally bankrupt. Yes I know that some think words like treason are too subjective, or that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I disagree. Judas was a traitor, objectively so.

Snowden could have chosen to really put his money where his mouth was and stayed and fought.

He ran.

Running away, for ANY reason, is gutless. Even IF the rather fanciful idea that he would have been "disappeared" was true, he should have stood his ground and fought.

You may say that is easy to say.

But I say any man who runs from any fight for any reason is barely a man at all.

Snowden was not trying to do the "right" thing, he was doing what Assange, the New York Times and every other liberal traitor has been doing, placing his ego and whatever vapid liberal tripe was rolling around in his head at the tine before his country and his people.


Was everyone who is supporting Snowden on another planet or in a coma when only a few weeks ago when Muslim immigrants set off bombs at the Boston Marathon killing innocents?

Remember that little incident?

Anyone think that makes Sniwden whining about over the top security just a little sick?

I do.

If this had been peace time that would be one thing.

But after Sept.11 and.especially after the Boston Marathon, Snowden does not deserve "sympathetic" examination.

He deserves bullet.

How many more have to die because the State is being hamstrung and tied up by liberal hand wringing about "civil rights" and the supposed evil of racial profiling, or whatever measure to prevent another Sept.11?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

nope, just Elvis. :)

Anonymous said...



This is not one of those times though.

For me it would have to be a far more serious issue, such as mass murder/genocide.

Anonymous said...


Your last post nails the issue perfectly. He had other options, long before he had any reason to be concerned about "disappearing."

His actions look like a publicity stunt to get attention, and as you rightly say, he could have easily found a way to express his concerns.

Bur then he would not be a celebrity.

The whole affair reeks. If he gets a book publishing deal I will not be surprised.

Perhaps Sean Penn can play him in the movie.

Tim Chesterton said...

Question: Do you folks think the teaching of Jesus actually has anything to do with this stuff at all? Because when I look at what he said in the gospels (about loving your enemies, about letting your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no' and so on), I can't honestly detect that being a Christian makes any difference to the way you are talking about this.

Can you honestly see Jesus saying 'assassinating terrorists is a good thing, surely?' Really? Would the real Jesus who we read about in the gospels say a thing like that?

I'm sorry, but I find it unbelievable that people who one minute are jumping all over gays and lesbians for ignoring 'the clear teaching of scripture' can turn around the next minute and talk about these sorts of issues as if the teaching of Jesus had absolutely no relevance.

Peter Carrell said...

Good question, Tim!

To all: I would prefer we omitted talk about executing whistleblowers.

They may or may not deserve to be, but let's leave that for the relevant judges, juries and police forces.

The question here is what limits if any apply to governments in the discharge of their duties to protect their citizens?

carl jacobs said...


The question here is what limits if any apply to governments in the discharge of their duties to protect their citizens?

This question is exactly backwards. The burden of obedience to authority falls upon those under authority. The question that needs to be asked is "When can a man rightfully defy authority?" When he does so, he has to root his defiance in some superior authority. For example, when may a soldier disobey an order. When the order is unlawful. Who defines an unlawful order? Not the soldier but command structure above him. What if that commmand structure defines as lawful that which is unlawful? And thus the question is clearly put in terms of superior authority. What is the superior authority that defines as unlawful that which is lawful? This is the critical piece that is missing from Mr Snowden's case.

Typically these actions are not rooted in conflicts over law but over policy. The dissident decides that a gov't policy is wrong according to his own understanding. (In this case "The gov't shouldn't be spying on people.") However, his superiors have the authority to make policy and he doesn't. He wants to change the policy but he has no institutional leverage. What he can do is expose to the light that which must be kept secret for the policy to be successfully implemented. So he violates his oath. He isn't doing this for the sake of conscience. He is attempting to change the policy of the gov't by force. He is engaging in an act of politics.

Now what authority gives him the right to do this? To what may he appeal?


Anonymous said...

Carl has indicated that a servant (military man, or any one under authority) may violate an order when it is unlawful, but he indicates also that he believes that the secrecy oaths, etc. of the government constitute lawful orders. I am inclined to agree, up to the point where the individual knows that the government policy is in violation of a higher authority, in this case, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights is intended to protect Americans from government intrusion into their lives, most particularly the 4th Amendment, but others as well. When is becomes clear to any individual that the government is in violation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then that individual has the right, indeed the obligation, to disobey the US government.

There are many in the US who see the government clearly in violation of both, but simply lack the courage to oppose the government openly. This man has found the courage.

As for willingly lying about the work you do, as a necessary part of working for the US government, I cannot reconcile that with Christianity at all. I have worked for the US government at points during my life, but I have always declined to accept any position that would require me to be dishonest about my work. I do not find any Scriptural support at all for lying "when necessary for the security of the US." There just is no exemption. Either we are truthful, honest Christians, or we claim the father of lies; there is no middle ground.

Anonymous said...


Yes I can see Jesus saying that killing terrorists is a good thing. I do not believe that loving our enemies requires us to do nothing while terrorists plot to commit mass murder.

And I have not been all over gays and lesbians, I have been critical of Liberals. Many "gays and lesbians" do not disobey Scripture.


I find your suggestion massively offensive. And I refuse to go along with it.

You may define the issue that way, but neither Carl not I do. And it is wrong to insist that we do. Unless we are engaged in ad hominem against other posters you have no right to demand that we define issues the same way you do.

Do you have family members living in the US or serving in the military?

If all you want is a conversation that goes only where you want it to go then what is the point of having one in the first place?

Carl and I have raised serious points. They deserve better responses than "Jesus has left the building" and "don't talk about that."

Anonymous said...

Hi farthrd.

You make some important points which I will try to answer.

Generally speaking I am opposed to intrusive and authoritarian government. I believe that the only legitimate function of the State is to wield the sword, that is, to provide for national defense, security and law and order. So I would happily privatize everything else.

Good point to about lying. That said, here are some questions that come to mind.

It would be literally impossible for anyone to work in the military or national security without at some point having to be deceptive. Does that mean Christians can therefore never work on the military or national security? I know some Christians think so, but does that make us freeloaders, happily accepting the benefits of law and order, bur unwilling to do anything to help secure them?

Keep in mind that the question would apply to the police as well. Undercover work for example.

Now here is a moral hypothetical.

Your serving or working for the U.N on a peace keeping mission in a country torn by civil war. A large group of civilian refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, are making their way towards a sea port to get out of the country.

A heavily armed group of rebels is moving to intercept the refugees in order to kill every last one of them.

You cannot get any units to them in time, but you do have an agent undercover with the rebels, and by feeding them some disinformation you can divert them and save the refugees.

Which means lying. What do you do? What would Jesus do?

Here's another. Your a German citizen in 1943. Your fleeing the country with your neighbor who is a Jew.

In order to escape your going to have to lie and say that your neighbor is not Jewish.

What would you do? What would Jesus do?

Bryden Black said...

Carl; you make good and necessary points. Yet I sense they operate at what I will call a micro level. “Fatherd” also reminds us of the macro framework within which such legislation and authority duly functions, and of which I am reasonably familiar even as foreigner.

When I was 11 my grandfather, who was a bit of a polymath including being a history buff (all with English/Kiwi understated tone!), took me to the field of Waterloo and talked me through the battle. One of his heroes was Napoleon, primarily due to his legal reforms, although he also rubbed it into me: “learn the lesson of Napoleon’s failure because of his overreaching ...!” [1812 and all that] To cap it, he gave me at 12 a copy of The Spirit of ’Seventy Six: The Story of the American Revolution as told by Participants (1958). I love(d) it! Lastly, I have already mentioned on ADU Os Guinness’s latest, A Free People’s Suicide, brought out last year, which is an extremely good appraisal of American political culture. But I’ll let you be the judge ...!

All of which is to say, Carl (and others), please recall Isaiah’s “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you ...” (51:1-2); and please avoid Deuteronomy’s “forgetfulness”. Curiously, the world still needs the US (again, with noted tone)! But which US and how is seriously under the microscope these days. This latest Snowden incident is but another piece of the jig-saw. THE Question is: what will the picture on the lid finish up looking like?

Bryden Black said...

Shawn (June 12, 2013 at 6:00 PM); let's leave Hollywood SERIOUSLY out of this, please! They stuffed up Green Zone horrendously!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl and Shawn
When I stated what I see as 'the question' here, I had not intended to constrain people to agreeing with me!

What I could have said by adding a few more words in, is "for me, the biggest question at stake here is ..., but there are many other questions at stake, as are being discussed here."

I stand by my saying it is the biggest question at stake because every democracy faces the question of how to preserve democracy and the freedoms enjoyed within a democracy (including freedom from war) without the democracy becoming a dictatorship.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the clarification.

Perhaps this is in part a matter of subjective perspective. I suspect that those who are or have served or who have family serving currently in the US military are likely going to see the issues differently.

carl jacobs said...


... where the individual knows that the government policy is in violation of a higher authority, in this case, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Except that determining the constitutionality of a specific action is not vested in Mr Snowden. He doesn't have the authority act on his own judgment. You are implicitly locating that authority within Mr Snowden. It is also true that the constitutionality of certain actions falls under the general rubric of policy and not law. There are bitter divisions of such matters. One has only to consider the abortion conflict of the last 40 years to see this.

Let me illustrate. You might notice that my avatar is the shield of Strategic Air Command. My first job in the military was to stand alert in readiness to commit nuclear weapons against their targets if so ordered. The order to commit was a lawful order and I was bound on oath to obey it. Now, the Constitution says that Congress has the power to declare war. It says the President is Commander in Chief. So the question arises. Given the implications of nuclear war, does the lawfulness of a Commit order from the President depend upon a prior Declaration of War by Congress. Could I have taken the authority upon myself to interpret the Constitution and refuse the order? No, I could not. That would not be a defense under the UCMJ. People given the authority to determine the matter have already made the decision. I did not have the authority to overturn that decision.But that is exactly what Mr Snowden decided to do.

Now, to answer a point made b y Bryden Black. Yes, I have dealt with these issues at the micro-level. And deliberately so because that is the level at which individuals will deal with these decisions. Mr Snowden's decision was a "micro-decision." He chose to usurp rightful authority to act as he did. He usurped that authority because he decided he knew better. If he had stayed and accepted the consequences, then I could at least find some respect for him. But this is politics by any other name.


Peter Carrell said...

Incidentally, all, we are making much of Mr Snowden's actions, but Mr G's actions as a reporter are of interest as well. He has come in for some stick on the internet as an activist who may have over egged this particular pudding. (I am not using his full name because apparently he keeps a close eye on those who critique him and even has interesting names by which he counter-critiques in comments ... but all from the same IP address ...).

carl jacobs said...


Yes, you probably don't want me talking about the Enemy ... uh ... journalists. I would end up ranting about Vietnam. Journalists are down there with communists, lawyers, car salesmen, leeches, Arminians ...


OK, maybe not Arminians. The spirit was willing. The flesh was weak. ;)

Peter Carrell said...

I thought leeches had their merits ... :)

Bryden Black said...

OK Shawn (and Carl); your questions June 13, 2013 at 9:53 AM.

See firstly my last remark June 12, 2013 at 2:38 PM re Bonhoeffer. No hypothetical there.

In the same vein (and to make the shades of slippery grey more black and white to help us), I don’t know if you’ve come across this most helpful assessment by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen: Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996). It is an important foil to the likes of the Bonhoeffer family, in showing how imperceptibly, little by little, yet incrementally, plain ordinary ‘decent folk’ began to side with National Socialism.

Precisely because the last creature to ask questions of the water is the fish; and precisely because the first time the fish knows itself to be the creature it is, is when it is caught and on dry land: just so, we humans - dominated by our media outlets especially, on all sides! - require that vigilance summed up by Jesus himself, being as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. I fully expect this story, and of both S & G, to precipitate much wringing of hands. The problem however has to do with the lack of ‘filters’ for the most part in gauging what are for all of us our respective “plausibility structures” (Berger), or our “available believables” (Ricoeur). Already, we’ve a few examples on this thread ... Since the God’s-eye-view ain’t available to us mere mortals; and any cultivation of habits of the heart to alleviate the problem seems rather more scarce today than of yesteryear ...

PS As for being secretive: all confessors hold their secrets! Members of the military et al are not the only ones who practise this craft! Thought you'd like to know!

Andrew White said...

Based on the evidence I've seen (all filtered through the media, of course, so of uncertain veracity), I don't have much respect for Asange. He strikes me a rabble rouser, who's all for exposing other people's embarrassing secrets but doesn't see the humour when the same is done to him.

In this latest case, I don't think the evidence is in yet. Acting from self-interest or self-aggrandizement is very different from a genuine concern about immoral behaviour.

My bigger concern is that it's very easy to make judgements based on whether we're for the "little guy" or the "big guy". The scripture rebukes both of these positions, and instead calls us to be on the side of truth and righteousness. Which often requires us to speak in generalities and reserve judgement while we wait for all the facts to out.

Anonymous said...

I must protest Carl's slur on the character of my fellow Armenian used car salesmen and communist lawyers. We are not weak, though some us have dyslexia.

Martinos Shakedownarian

Anonymous said...

Hi Bryden!

I love your posts, but I often understand only parts of them at best!

Re: Fish and swimming in cesspools

Exactly one of the reasons why I prefer military values to those of Cultural Marxism. The military, while an arm of the modern state, is often the true repository of the soul of a nation, in part because it carries the collective memory of a people through it!s remembrance and preservation of history and tradition. That, combined with the militaries martial and hierarchical natue makes it one of the last holdouts (along with the Church) against the current cultural tide.

Of course military values alone are not necessarily Christian values. Like all things they must submit to the transforming/redeeming power of the Gospel. But they can be, and on that topic I would recommend 'The Virtue of War: A Christian Answer to the Peace Movement' by Akexander F.C Webster and Darrell Cole.

Of course there is an order to things. The Warrior must not replace the King. This was the fundamental error of Fascism and the cause, in part, of Fascism's evil and barbarity, just as Communism's evils resulted in part from the attempt to replace the King with the Worker/Farmer. Metaphysically speaking of course!

Re: Availiable believables.

Yep, totally lost me there mate! I have no idea what this means. I'll have to do some research. I'm not familiar with Ricouer or his work.

@Andrew White.

Hi Andrew. Yup, totally fair point. We are just engaging in speculation at this point, and the wheels of justice, however badly, must be allowed to take their course. It may come about that Snowden has a legitimate case.

That said, my issue is less the content of his claims than the way he chose to act. From my pov he acted wrongly, regardless of any other issue concerning his claims.

And as I said, given a few factors such as the "journalist" connected to him, the whole thing just looks hinky to me.

Anonymous said...

Armenian used car salesman, along with modern art, are one of the best reasons I have seen for the right to bear arms ;)

Bryden Black said...

sorry Shawn! Peter Berger uses the expression "plausibility structures"; they are those features of any community where certain things are deemed to be the case and others not, they are "implausible".

Paul Ricoeur just says the same kind of thing via his expression "the available believable", what's just there - available - to be believed.

Now; ALL communities are characterized by these 'structures' or patterns of thinking and behaviour: from Boy Scouts and Rugby Clubs to Army Corps to entire nations.

Postmodern folk deem these to be 'constructed'; "realists" instead deem them to have some kind of direct link with 'reality'. And all points in between ...

Anonymous said...

"Ye all have a right to bare arms - unless ye have some terrible tattoos."

St Martinos of Yerevan, patron saint of Armenian dyslexics

Anonymous said...

Mr Shawn,

You have gone too far this time! But I will forgeev you if you buy one of my second-hand paintings:

Akoghlan Martin

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn said: 'Yes I can see Jesus saying that killing terrorists is a good thing. I do not believe that loving our enemies requires us to do nothing while terrorists plot to commit mass murder.'

Shawn, I would challenge you to produce a single saying of Jesus, or a single action of his, that would justify your view that he would support the killing of terrorists.

What I am discovering from this issue is that we all appear to be situation ethicists. Those who are more on the Conservative end of the spectrum appear to be literalists when it comes to homosexuality but play fast and loose with the actual words of Jesus when it comes to war, killing, and lying. Thos eon the more liberal end are the opposite.

To put it another way: on the issue of war, killing and lying, I am a Conservative (i.e. I believe I am bound by a literal interpretation of the words of Jesus), whereas Shawn and Carl are liberals - i.e. they believe that the situation justifies disobedience to the literal meaning of the words of Jesus. On the other hand, on the issue of homosexuality Shawn and Carl are Conservatives, and I, though not a liberal, am inclined to be more sympathetic to a liberal interpretation because of my experience with a daughter who is a lesbian.

Peter Carrell said...

Your point is excellent, Tim.

This conversational thread has been fascinating re approaches to the Bible in connection with real life and urgent ethical issues.

Another way to describe what has emerged here is that on some matters it appears the Christian answer is black/white; but on others it is grey.

Who determines which is which?

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it's a conservative vs. liberal thing at all. Those in the Anabaptist tradition do seem to operate a 'canon within the canon' where the words of Christ in the Gospel are concerned but I've never thought pacifism could be so established. The NT doesn't endorse that outlook - and the Roman Empire certainly wasn't Christian; nor do I think Christ was commanding pacifism in his words on 'living by the sword' etc. Instead we have to work out an integrated NT ethic which certainly allows for legitimate force while recognising the taint of sin upon every human enterprise.
Opposing a Kantian absolutism on lying doesn't make one a situation ethicist; rather it is about understanding the nature and purpose of truth telling.

Andrew White said...

IMO: a very wise comment on the whole issue:

carl jacobs said...


Your point is excellent, Tim.

No, it isn't. It's hardly a point at all. It's positively wooden-headed.

Let me address this issue of lying. Consider the following nefarious statements of sinister untruth:

1. "Marsha, we need to go to Tom's tonight. He needs my help hanging some dry-wall, and they said they would feed us dinner." BUT IT'S A NEFARIOUS LIE! John has planned a 20th anniversary surprise party for his wife. The key word being 'surprise.'

2. "Sweets, I have to present an award tomorrow tonight for the company at the Hilton. Would you like to come along?" BUT IT'S A NEFARIOUS LIE! The speaker wants to propose to his girlfriend, and has a special dinner planned at the Hotel's restaurant. He just needs to get her there unawares.

3. "OK, Rocko, we found the jewels where you hid them, and we found your fingerprints on the case. You might as well come clean, and get ahead of this." BUT IT'S A NEFARIOUS LIE! The police did find the jewels, but there were no usable fingerprints on the case. They are trying to elicit a confession from the robber.

4. "Mommy, what's Daddy doing?" says little Jimmy as he wanders into his parents' bedroom one night and catches them in flagrante delicto. Well, insert your own version of Mom's answer, but I guarantee you that IT WILL BE A NEFARIOUS LIE!

5. "Nah, I can't come tomorrow tonight. I have to visit my In-Laws" says Sergeant Bob. BUT IT'S A NEFARIOUS LIE! Bob is practicing good OPSEC (look it up, Mr Chesterton) because his unit is deploying tomorrow and he can't tell anyone about it. He can't even hint at it. He needs to show an appearance of normalcy. He therefore needs a plausible excuse. Walls have ears and all that. People can get killed went he wrong sort of information gets disseminated to the wrong people.

Do I really need to go on? I could multiply this list seven fold. The literal communication of false information is not what the commandment proscribes.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

I understand your point, but in thise case I do not believe it applies, as I do not think your analysis is true of me.

Your assumption is that Jesus said certain things about war and killing that, I assume (correct me if I am wrong) you believe establish some form pacifism.

I see no evidence of this myself, and I never have, and here's the important point, this has nothing to do with politics. I did not see any evidence for pacifism in the Bibke long before my "conversion" to Conservatism.

So I do not see that I am playing fast and loose with what Christ taught at all.

Now strait off the bat I see a problem with your point, because you begin by doing the very thing you believe I am doing, selectively approaching Scripture.

The words of Jesus begin on the first page of Genesis. There can be no canon within the canon which is not merely subjective convenience.

So in answer to your question, Jesus/God commands war and killing in the book of Joshua, and many, many other places.

"Blessed be the Lord my Rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle."

As to the sermon on the mount, a careful and serious reading of what Christ is teaching imo cannot be interpreted as pacifism.

What Christ is dealing with is the problem of the cycle of revenge, a serious problem in clan based societies from the Hebrews to the Scots to the Appalachians.

Christ commands us not to respond in kind to personal insults against our or our families honor. That is why he uses a very recognizable symbol of personal insult, the slap on the face.

Christ is not commanding us to stand around doing nothing while an intruder murders our families, abuses our kids, assaults the weak and the elderly, or, for that matter, plots and carries out acts of terrorism. That is not the Gospel. That is not virtue, it is evil and cowardly.

Aslan is not a tame lion!

Anonymous said...


in the hypothetical situations I described above (UN peacekeeper, fleeing Nazi Germany), what would you do? What do you think Jesus would command you to do?

Anonymous said...

In addressing my previous comment, carl jacobs said...

... where the individual knows that the government policy is in violation of a higher authority, in this case, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Except that determining the constitutionality of a specific action is not vested in Mr Snowden. He doesn't have the authority act on his own judgment. You are implicitly locating that authority within Mr Snowden. It is also true that the constitutionality of certain actions falls under the general rubric of policy and not law. There are bitter divisions of such matters. One has only to consider the abortion conflict of the last 40 years to see this.

Carl, I would take the strongest possible exception to your assertion that, "... the constitutionality of certain actions falls under the general rubric of policy and not law." The US republic was intended to be a nation of laws, not of policies to be made by non-representative executives.

But to get back to the more important point, every person ultimately has the authority, within himself, to determine how he will act. This is given to us in our human nature by God. There will be some, such as apparently you are yourself, who will feel both bound and absolved by an oath taken. Others will recognize that, oath or no oath, they are still moral agents and must make deliberate choices in all of their actions. With the latter perspective, it is difficult to say to oneself, "Christ will not hold me accountable because this horrendous action I am taking has been approved by competent authority." For a person with this point of view, the only such "competent authority" is Jesus Christ Himself, and we know that He has not signed off.

I do not condemn the leaker for his actions at all. I applaud him for them. It has exposed a rapidly developing tyranny in the US government that may yet be stopped by his action. Thanks be to God that we have people willing to stand up and expose this danger. Even though he did not "stand and fight," he has taken action at great cost to himself. He probably realizes that if he stayed to fight, he would be smothered by the US government, hustled away on an unrelated charge (as happened to that unfortunate film maker who made the Innocence of Muzlims). At least as long as he remains free, he can speak out and get the word out, unlike the film maker who has totally disappeared on charges of a parole violation or some such.

-- Fr. D+

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
If your point is that in some situations one is justified in doing what one is not justified in doing in another situation then I think Tim's point precisely holds, because how we judge each such situation will vary from person to person.

I may feel comfortable lying to you re a surprise party. I see nothing in Christian ethics which suggests that I may expect you to either be comfortable in tell such a lie or refrain from judging me for doing so.

carl jacobs said...


Tim Chesterton's point was that I was being fast and loose with certain parts of Scripture and rigorous with others. This is a standard liberal apologetic in defense of a statement like this:

I, though not a liberal, am inclined to be more sympathetic to a liberal interpretation because of my experience with a daughter who is a lesbian.

It's the "We all do it" defense.

I'm not looking to find ways to slip around Scripture. My point has nothing to do with situation. It has to do with the ontology of truth telling. It has to do with the purpose and intent behind the communication. It is exactly analogous to killing. "Thou shalt not murder" does not translate into "All killing is wrong." That would be an impossible contradiction since the punishment for murder was death.


Anonymous said...

"I do not condemn the leaker for his actions at all. I applaud him for them. It has exposed a rapidly developing tyranny in the US government that may yet be stopped by his action."

This expresses exactly the disquiet that a lot of people feel about the Obama administration that keeps accreting de facto powers to itself unchecked and using the colossal power of the Executive and its political allies to out-Nixon Nixon. The Benghazi coverup, Clinton's lies about the film maker, and the IRS scandal all point to gross abuse of power, against which the individual can seem powerless.
For a long time I have suspected that Obama was far from what is acolytes claimed him to be, and the events of recent weeks serve to confirm my instinct.


Anonymous said...

As much as I despise the Obama admin, I repeat my as yet unanswered questions; in the wake of Sept.11, the British bus bombings, the Boston Marathon bombings, the murder of the British soldier recently, not to mention the literally hundreds of near miss incidents over the last decade and more ( anyone remember the attempt to poison with biological weapons the water supply in Italy???) can anyone seriously complain about necessary measures in wartime? Since when has the suspension of civil liberties during war been considered tyranny?

Peter Carrell said...

A comment from Ron, pruned of some needless speculation about the lives of others:

Just looking in on this post, from the Island of Corsica, I'm amazed how obessed some Christians can get about a purely political situation that is hardly relevant to anyone - excepting those who are intimately concerned with the situation.

Kurt said...

“For a long time I have suspected that Obama was far from what is acolytes claimed him to be, and the events of recent weeks serve to confirm my instinct.”—Martin

Indeed. But don’t blame me, I voted for Jill Stein.

“I do not condemn the leaker for his actions at all. I applaud him for them. It has exposed a rapidly developing tyranny in the US government that may yet be stopped by his action. Thanks be to God that we have people willing to stand up and expose this danger. Even though he did not "stand and fight," he has taken action at great cost to himself. He probably realizes that if he stayed to fight, he would be smothered by the US government, hustled away on an unrelated charge (as happened to that unfortunate film maker who made the Innocence of Muzlims). At least as long as he remains free, he can speak out and get the word out, unlike the film maker who has totally disappeared on charges of a parole violation or some such.—Fr. D+

Right on, Father! Well said!!!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

I believe he ran because it was in the script. Never, ever trust anything in which a left wing "journalist" is involved.

If another Boston Marsthon type attack occurs, will Snowden and his cheerleaders apologize to the families of the victims?

Anonymous said...

The issue is deeply relevant and intimate to me for reasons pointed out.

I suspect the same is true of Carl, and for that matter anyone who has been in or has family in the military.

It may not be relevant to vacationing kiwi Anglicans prone to flippant dismissals of other peoples opinions.

Anonymous said...

In response to Shawn Herles, let me observe that:
1. There has been no declaration of war by Congress;
2. There has been no presidential statement that the US is at war. In fact, quite the contrary. Obama has declared that the war on terror is ended.
3. There is no identified, defined, agreed enemy that the US is at war with at the present time. Both Congress and the administration are very careful to avoid saying that we are at war with izlam, or anybody or anything else.
How can we justify the restriction of civil liberties because the nation is at war under these circumstance? It cannot be done.

The most alarming war going on in the US right now is that being waged by the Obama administration against the American people. He has done everything possible to bankrupt the nation with wild, irresponsible spending, he refuses to do even the most fundamental responsibilities of his office such as preparing a realistic national budget, he is giving away $$$ like they were soap bubbles to the most dubious causes, he has done everything possible to cripple the national economy, he continues to inflate the dollar to the point where it is close to worthless, and a few dozen more crimes. That is the WAR we really need to talk about, and the restraint of civil liberties is one of the Obama acts of aggression in that war. The ENEMY is in the White House.

I object most vehemently to the suspension of any civil liberties at all. There is no basis, no grounds, for such a suspension.

Let me comment on the matter of lying for the benefit of national security. When I studied moral theology, I learned that there was no acceptable ground for lying whatsoever. That's right, NONE. If a government agent cannot talk about his work, he must be prepared to tell people, "I cannot tell you where I am employed, or the kind of work that I do." This is not impossible. It has been done before. Back during WW II, my family lived in Chicago, in a rented apartment. The man across the hall was friendly, but he refused to tell my parents what he did, and they did not press him on the matter. After the war, they learned that he was working with Fermi and the others at the University of Chicago on the atomic energy program. To refuse to talk about what you do may not create the "ideal" cover for a spy, but it is the only thing a Christian can do. Lying about anything comes straight from the father of lies, the devil. Christians need to avoid getting themselves into situations where "lying seems to be necessary." It never really is; there is always an alternative, even if it is unpleasant! -- Fr. D+

Anonymous said...

"If another Boston Marsthon type attack occurs, will Snowden and his cheerleaders apologize to the families of the victims?"

Once again I must agree with Fatherd - and I suspect Sean would also agree with a lot he says. The point is, the Boston Marathon outrage happened *while all this domestic spying was going on* - SHEER INCOMPETENCE that bogus 'refugee' jihadis are 'hiding in plain sight' and nobody lays a finger on them, or a Major 'Soldier of Allah' murders 13 soldiers, while the IRS goes about attacking Obama's political enemies, or does Ninja cop raids in full body armor on the Gibson guitar company. Read Mark Steyn on these absurdities, and consider why *you* must be given a full body search next time you board a plane.


Bryden Black said...

Might offer some clues for some commentators here:

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn said: 'The words of Jesus begin on the first page of Genesis. There can be no canon within the canon which is not merely subjective convenience.

So in answer to your question, Jesus/God commands war and killing in the book of Joshua, and many, many other places.

"Blessed be the Lord my Rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle." '

This approach to scripture, if true, would carry the logical conclusion that every Old Testament command and teaching is still valid for Christians today. IN fact, as we are well aware, the New Testament suspends a great deal of Old Testament teaching. for instance, the Old Testament commands us to be circumcised and to obey the food laws. It commands us to stone a son for cursing his father. It commands us that if a husband accuses his new wife of not being a virgin on her wedding night, her parents are to bring the blood-stained sheet t the town judges as proof. If they can't do so, she is to be punished for not being a virgin.

Are these words of Jesus which we are to take as on the same level as the Sermon on the Mount?

Of course not. In practice all Christians, no matter what their theoretical position on the inerrancy of scripture, routinely ignore some of what Shawn calls 'the words of Jesus in the Old Testament', and feel entirely justified in doing so.

The author to the Hebrews calls the new covenant 'a better covenant'. That surely implies that aspects of the Old Covenant are set aside.

Shawn claims that I am ignoring the words of the Old Testament and exalting the Word of Jesus as a canon within a canon.

Well, to me there is no getting away from the fact that on the issue of war and violence Jesus plainly contradicts some of the things said in the Old Testament. So you have a choice: you can see the authority of the Incarnate Word of God (Jesus) as supreme ('this is my beloved Son - listen to him') and discount the parts of the Old Testament that he contradicted, or you can do it the other way around. To me, as a Christian, there is only one possible answer. Jesus is the Word of God in its purest possible form. All Scripture must be interpreted in such a way that it conforms to his teaching and example.

By the way, the vast majority of the early Church Fathers took it for granted that this was the proper way to interpret Jesus' teaching on war and violence. It wasn't until after the time of Constantine that a just war theory became more common.

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn asks, 'Tim,

in the hypothetical situations I described above (UN peacekeeper, fleeing Nazi Germany), what would you do? What do you think Jesus would command you to do?'

Well, I would hope that I would hold to my convictions and obey the command of Jesus to love my enemies. But of course, human nature being what it is, I'm sure I would be tempted by all sorts of rationalizations to accept a ore liberal approach to his words.

But how about this one, Shawn? You are the bomb aimer on an Allied bomber flying over Dresden during World War II. Down below, in the city, are the civilian men, women, and children your bombs are aimed at. You know very well that if you drop your fire bombs, you are going to incinerate women and children and babes in arms. Now, you are a follower of Jesus and you are attempting to live by his teaching. What would you do?

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn said, The issue is deeply relevant and intimate to me for reasons pointed out.

I suspect the same is true of Carl, and for that matter anyone who has been in or has family in the military.

I understand this. And in exactly the same way, the issue of homosexuality is deeply personal to me, and to anyone who is gay or who has children or other family members who are gay and lesbian. This, however, does not appear to stop you from regularly accusing Anglicans such as myself of being in captivity to 'cultural Marxism'.

Father Ron Smith said...

RE Tim'slatest comment on the influence of Jesus on the strictures of the Old Testamen; surely, the most recent student of scripture has learnt that Jesus altered the whole framework of the O.T.?
This is known by serious students of Scripture to be a truth running through the New Testament, and was one of the reasons that Jesus was not accepted as Messiah by most of his fellow Jews.

Denial of this fact of salvation history is one of the great problems for those of us who include the charism of 'Reason' in our Anglican heritage.

Amado said...

This is cool!