Tag Archives: Edward Snowden

Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul

Thanks, Snator, we needed that.

Thanks, Senator, we needed that.

Rand Paul has disqualified himself from being considered for the Presidency by rational voters in many ways. His suggestion to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would have waited for market forces to end Jim Crow, and voted against portions of the Civil Rights Act was enough all by itself. Paul’s embrace of isolationism—he often sounds like Michael Moore on foreign policy—is as fanciful as it is dangerous.  He has no executive experience, and based on some of his statements (and positions), I’m convinced he’s just not very smart.

Not only that, but he is the most arrogant candidate in a field that may contain Chris Christie, and that’s incredible.

Nonetheless, his filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance, forcing key portions of the Patriot Act to expire, was a brave, principled, and important act. In the end it was also a futile act, and the Senate quickly passed provisions that Paul opposed. The Daily Beast headlined the story, “It’s NSA 1, Rand Paul 0.”

It was still a public service. Yes, Paul alienated most of his party, and he took a huge risk: a single terrorist attack here will automatically turn him into a national pariah, and coming the same week that we discovered conclusively that the TSA is a joke, the chances of such an event occurring seem likelier than ever. (Saying, however, as Paul did, that “people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me” was inexcusably  stupid. Really? People want to see American citizens die to make Rand Paul look bad, when he makes himself look bad on a regular basis?) The point Paul made, however, and it needs to be made again, and again, and again, is that there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which is incompetent (See: Snowden, Edward) and which lies, or the Obama Administration, which doesn’t care if the NSA lies, and has repeatedly shown that it has no qualms about violating the Constitution until a Court stops it. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck Update: The James Clapper Perjury Follies

NSA head James Clapper testifying, forgetting, speaking in code, misleading or lying. Something. Whatever.

NSA head James Clapper testifying, forgetting, speaking in code, misleading or lying. Something. Whatever.

The Obama Administration not only lies, but encourages and rewards lying. This is an inescapable conclusion. The saga of James Clapper’s perjury before Congress is a perfect, and depressing example.

At a March 2013 Senate hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, prompted by the leaks of classified information through Edward Snowdon, asked head of the NSA James Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”

That means, by any assessment, “If we do, it’s not intentional.” That was a lie. Clapper knew it was false. Wyden later said that he had sent his question to Clapper’s office a day before the hearing, and after the hearing had given Clapper’s office a chance to correct the misstatement after the hearing, but it did not. In June, the nation learned that the agency was routinely collecting data on the phone calls of millions of Americans. (This was the program just declared illegal by a federal court.)

NOTE: The original post erroneously attributed the decision to the Supreme Court. It hasn’t heard the case yet. That was a bad and careless mistake, and I apologize for it. Nothing like not checking your own links, Jack.

The government, including Clapper, has now attempted a dizzying array of rationalizations, excuses and obfuscations to avoid the unavoidable conclusion that Clapper lied to Congress while under oath, that he should be prosecuted, or at very least be fired by that leader of the Most Transparent Administration in History That Somehow Manages To Lie every Time A Mouth Open, Barack Obama. Even by the standards of this sorry administration, it’s an ugly journey into the cold heart of an untrustworthy government. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Michael Kinsley

“As the news media struggles to expose government secrets and the government struggles to keep them secret, there is no invisible hand to assure that the right balance is struck. So what do we do about leaks of government information? Lock up the perpetrators or give them the Pulitzer Prize? (The Pulitzer people chose the second option.) This is not a straightforward or easy question. But I can’t see how we can have a policy that authorizes newspapers and reporters to chase down and publish any national security leaks they can find. This isn’t Easter and these are not eggs.”

—-Pundit and former editor of Slate Michael Kinsley, reviewing the book by Edward Snowden co-conspirator Glenn Greenwald’s book, “No Place to Hide.”

This is the heroic image the press has of itself, as it protects useful criminals and traitors. Unfortunately, it's a self-serving fantasy.

This is the heroic image the press has of itself, as it protects useful criminals and traitors. Unfortunately, it’s a self-serving fantasy.

I lost much of my respect for Kinsley (full disclosure: we’re college classmates; he’s a celebrity journalist, I’m not) when he was shouting liberal talking points at Robert Novak every week on “Crossfire.” I knew Mike was more nuanced than that, and later he admitted as much in various essays: it was all for show. He later admitted that he sometimes endorsed books without reading them completely, and began writing these odd op-eds that appeared to mock the very position he seemed to be taking. Kinsley is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease*, and perhaps that’s a factor in his self-conscious sense of remove from his own writings, but the impression he has given for decades now is of a detached intellectual who looks down his nose at the very profession that feeds him, and who finds it amusing that the rubes still hang on his words, when he doesn’t give them much thought himself.

This quote from his review of Greenwald’s book (hmmm…did Kinsley actually read this one?) fits the bill. It is sloppy, but sufficiently specific to be unethical. He is essentially suggesting censorship of the press, which is an irresponsible position. The publishing of leaks should not be infringed. Chasing them down, however, is another matter. Current laws, if Democrats would leave them alone, are currently sufficient to discourage criminal acquisition of national security documents: just throw journalists who won’t reveal their criminal—that’s what they are you know, like Snowden—sources in jail until they crack, rot, or both, for obstructing justice When journalists actively aid and abet the theft of documents and data, like Greenwald did, before they are acquired and published, prosecute them too, along with their souces. Publishing such documents or using them for investigations are legitimate and First Amendment-protected activities, but nothing in the Constitution protects the leakers, traitors and thieves, or journalists who conspire to help them break the law—which is the stealing, not the publishing.

I have called what the press does with stolen material “information laundering.” That function, unfortunately, is too important to the role of the press in our democracy to regulate or constrain it, no matter how often it is abused. Still,  this should not make those who aren’t journalists immune from prosecution, or journalists who cross the line that divides reporting the news from making it.

* This is a correction; the original post said MS. I apologize for the error; I shouldn’t have relied on memory.


Sources: New York Times

Cartoon: Doyle, Baylor


Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Two of Three)


The Ethics Alarms review of a truly disheartening year in ethics continues with fallen heroes, ficks, fools and follies with Part Two of the 2013 Worst of Ethics awards….and there’s one last section to come. Be afraid..be very afraid:

Fallen Hero of the Year

Edward Snowden, whose claim to civil disobedience was marred by his unwillingness to accept the consequences of his actions, whose pose as a whistle-blower was ruined by the disclosure that he took his job with the intention of exposing national secrets, and whose status as a freedom-defending patriot lies in ruins as he seeks harbor with not only America’s enemy, but a human rights-crushing enemy at that. The NSA’s over-reach and mismanagement is a scandal, but Snowden proved that he is no hero.

Unmitigated Gall of  The Year

Minnesota divorce lawyer Thomas P. Lowes not only violated the bar’s ethics rules by having sex with his female  client…he also billed her his hourly fee for the time they spent having sex , a breach of the legal profession’s rule against “unreasonable fees.” Yes, he was suspended. But for not long enough…

Jumbo Of The Year

(Awarded To The Most Futile And Obvious Lie)

Jumbo film

“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

—–President Obama

2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Religion and Philosophy, Romance and Relationships, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Glenn Greenwald

“Every journalist has an agenda. We’re on MSNBC now where close to 24 hours a day the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Party are promoted, defended, glorified. The agenda of the Republican Party is undermined. That doesn’t mean that the people who appear on MSNBC aren’t journalists. They are.”

—-Libertarian blogger, pundit and activist Glenn Greenwald, defending himself in an MSNBC interview against allegations that he has become a “spokesman” for fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden.


Remember, this is an ethics quote, not necessarily one that expresses an ethical point of view. With that caveat, I find it fascinating in many respects:
  • Greenwald is technically correct: journalists who use  their position to distort the news, express their biases and serve as advocates rather than objective critics, as most of the journalists do on MSNBC (and the way many too many journalists do elsewhere) are still journalists. They are unethical and unprofessional journalists. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

“How Not To Be A Hero” by Edward Snowden

“If his motives are as he has represented them-–“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant,” he wrote in a note accompanying his first set of leaked documents—-then he acted courageously and selflessly.”

—- Ethics Alarms, June 10, 2013, referring to the conduct and statements of Edward Snowden, NSA “whistleblower.”

That's outrageous! They are collecting our phone records and our...hey, "The Fugitive!" I LOVED that show!!

That’s outrageous! They are collecting our phone records and our…hey, “The Fugitive!” I LOVED that show!!

Now we know that his motives are not as he represented them. From his statement that I quoted, I assumed that Snowden’s intent was to make himself available to U.S. authorities, and to prompt debate regarding the government’s widespread intrusions into the private communications of presumed-to-be-innocent citizens, as well as to ensure that the issue did not get drowned out, superseded and swept aside by distractions, as so many vital issues are. This was an indispensable second step, though I did not begrudge him some time to prepare for it. It would be the action of a one engaged in classic civil disobedience; it would demonstrate sincerity, public-mindedness and courage, and it would avoid his exploitation by the many around the world, and domestically, who wish the U.S. ill.

Instead, Snowden decided to run. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Science & Technology, U.S. Society