Former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore talks about national privacy issues Friday during the Freedom Conference in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by Scott Franz

Former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore talks about national privacy issues Friday during the Freedom Conference in Steamboat Springs.

Freedom Conference speakers debate national privacy issues, impact of NSA leaks

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— Two conservative speakers participating in a debate about national privacy issues at The Steamboat Institute's annual Freedom Conference gave very different answers when asked whether they thought National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was a traitor or a patriot.

"Edward Snowden is a traitor to the United States of America," former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore told a large audience at The Steamboat Grand.

Before answering, Gilmore held up a newspaper front page with pictures of Snowden and Vladmir Putin under the headline of "Comrades."

Gilmore said Snowden "was given the most confidential trust of the people of the United States," and he betrayed that trust.

He added that the leaks from Snowden has caused this country's enemies to change their behavior.

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, who debated Gilmore on privacy issues, did not label Snowden a patriot, either.

But he did say his leaks have spurred an important dialogue.

"If it wasn't for him, this panel today wouldn't be here," Kirk said. "He really opened a dialogue and a discussion about this agency that for so long has been unknown."

Kirk said Snowden should be judged by a jury of his peers.

The growing power of the NSA weighed heavily on the hourlong debate.

Both speakers spent much of their time talking about how they thought the country should balance privacy and security in future, especially as threats from terrorists and other conflicts with countries loom.

Gilmore and Kirk agreed that the NSA needs to be held more accountable in the wake of reports that its power and capabilities have grown throughout the years.

Both also said oversight has been lacking.

Some critics say the agency's spying powers are going too far.

Kirk said the agency has created a sense of paranoia among Americans.

But Gilmore stressed that with the U.S. still facing serious conflicts from countries like Iran, China and Russia, and threats from non-states like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the U.S. needs to maintain its intelligence and eavesdropping advantages.

He said the government needs to continue to be able to "understand what the enemy is doing and what they are thinking."

"The loss of that advantage would be catastrophic to this country and the safety of this country, and that is the danger we face," Gilmore said.

He said it was a "false choice" for Americans to have to choose between either a strong security system that "spies on everybody" or to have total liberty.

"There are ways we can reform our NSA operations to protect the American people," he said.

Kirk called for more oversight of the NSA and said conservatives need to "lead the charge against the abuse of power."

"The NSA is probably the most powerful agency we've ever seen," he said. "We have to ask ourselves one final question: Do you trust the federal government, and do you trust the people running it?"

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Comments

Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Freedom conference with one tyrant and one squish on greatest patriot of our lifetimes. Edward Snowden=Freedom Fighter. Anyone that criticizes him or dissembles about him should be 1000 miles from anything associated with freedom. Good thing, because it looks like from the photo Gillmore never left the friendly confines of the imperial city.

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Peter Arnold 3 months, 3 weeks ago

God bless America and the right to free speech. Your position on Edward Snowden indicates to me you have never bled for your right to post your feelings. I imagine those in the audience last night, and there were many, would say you are lucky to have the right to speak freely here. Chances are you would disappear quietly never to be heard from again in Edward's new homeland expressing anything against comrade Putin. Enjoy your freedom Eric and your right to express your minority position. Snowden is no freedom fighter. He betrayed you, me, and the security of many individuals abroad and here at home. If you hate this country so much to not see the facts, I suggest you move. There was a better way to bring change to the National Security Agency than exposing anything and putting all at risk.

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Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Peter, I was in the military. Being in Kuwait and Iraq opened my eyes to the fact that "Truth is Treason in the Empire of Lies." There have been no proven instances where NSA spying "saved" us and there have been no proven instances where Snowden's disclosures harmed anyone except the lying NSA leaders. I happen to hate a lying government violating its own supposed controlling document, the constitution. I don't hate America; it is a beautiful geographic place with many good, productive people.

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Peter Arnold 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you for your service. Your perspective is noted and valued. I just think Snowden did not have to go as far as he did. The beauty of this country is the fact we can vote them all out every few years and in the end change in the positive direction towards freedom and equality prevails. I will do more research on his leaks and until then I thank you again for serving.

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rhys jones 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I had occasion to stroll through the Grand last night, and I saw a smattering of those arrogant bastards. I see the caste system is alive and well in America: They are the Ruling Class, we are here to serve them with our labors, taxes, and offspring, and don't think it's any other way.

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Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Peter, please don't thank me for being a servant to a global empire, and a mercenary to boot. See page 10 here how Kuwait jails twitter critics and page 13 how I was a mercenary supporting the Emir because the USG is paid $200 million per year to house US troops.

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS21513.pdf

Even the new head of NSA says Snowden did no harm. Like an alcoholic only claiming two drinks, a self-serving spy saying little harm means no harm.

http://time.com/2940332/nsa-leaks-edward-snowden-michael-rogers/

Finally, voting does no good as Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all bomb Iraq and support NSA, TSA, CIA, and all the others who spy on and harass you.

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Peter Arnold 3 months, 3 weeks ago

When you enlisted what was your motivation? Patriotism? Service? Or, were you faced with little or no choice but to do so to escape where you were? I too was a part of the military machine albeit a small role for a very short time but when I joined it was out of a sense of duty to country and honor for a relative who gave his life on Iwo Jima. Call me naive because at the time I was. We do not live in a perfect country and this is not a perfect world. We are not perfect. Remove all our defenses and imagine the results. If you have a better suggestion as to how to defend this country make your case. I have more reading to do here and I guess I am still a little naive when I say Snowden betrayed this country. Once you have seen how the machine operates and for what ends, a cynic you may become. I don't agree with all our campaigns and have studied them ad nauseum as an ROTC member and nearly dropped out of college to enlist during Gulf War I. That was before studying 20th century American Wars. We are not far apart on our true feelings on this but I still support anyone willing to lay down their life in defense of my imperfect freedom so thank you again for serving for whatever misguided or flawed reasoning you may think it was at the time.

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Peter Arnold 3 months, 3 weeks ago

From your Time article...

But Rogers did say terrorist groups have been using the leaked data to their advantage. “I have seen groups not only talk about making changes, I have seen them make changes,” he said.

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Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Peter, I am not an ingrate but regarding thanking people for service I do not like the knee-jerk reaction that people give when hearing I was a member of the military. I wish people would think deeply about what the military does. I have found that instead of defending our freedoms it helps erode them, that opposite of the Navy's tag line it is not a global force for good, and it offensive rather than defensive. It antagonizes and creates enemies then fails in its most basic function against those same enemies, such as allowing its own HQ to be attacked on 9/11. It does nothing to defend our own border.

Please name a war or police action that was necessary to defending you and making your life better. I'd even argue that WWII should have been a limited defensive one in the Pacific to prevent another Pearl Harbor; the USG did much to provoke that attack with sanctions. We merely traded Hitler for Stalin in Europe. Both were mass murderers.

I joined for the same reasons most people join: sense of duty, patriotism, and money. In the end, I learned the only good of my "service" to others was nothing and to me was the money. The USG protect the Sauds, who beheaded 19 the same or a few days after James Foley. I recommend "Legacy of Ashes" as a good book to demonstrate that CIA meddling is really bungling and causes much more harm to everyone than good. The military just surfs in the wake of that meddling.

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Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Regarding how to defend: the Swiss were surrounded by two World Wars and were never attacked. Who attacks Costa Rica?

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Peter Arnold 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Again, I do not disagree with what you are saying. Switzerland? What would anyone invade them for? Chocolate? And Costa Rica? A vacation? You know and I know in the end it boils down to economics. I imagine you have read "The Creature From Jekyll Island" and probably believe every single military action in history can be traced back to money. Why have we not intervened in Darfur? No economic incentive. The root of all evils is the one we create as a reason to intercede. The pattern of reducing the Middle East nations to third world economies every few decades is catching up to us and ISIL is only the next iteration of the angry hornet's nest we have disturbed once again. Our reason for Korea and Viet Nam involvement was containment. Communism could not be allowed to spread beyond the borders it occupied. Did we succeed? The South Pacific is a safer place for it at the cost of 50,000 Americans. With the information available at the time to those leading this country maybe it seemed the right thing to do. Take your pick, communism or democracy, which do you chose? Mao eliminated nearly 60 million of his own people in defense of the former. With our almost instantaneous access to real time on the ground intelligence there is little any world power can hide as they move on their enemies. Case in point would be this Russian 'Aid' convoy entering the Ukraine. Aid you say? Or, weapons for their separatist rebels. Putin is relic from the KGB and can not be trusted. Having Snowden in his corner makes the world an unsafe place. He gave our adversary inside knowledge of how we operate. If that is not treason what is? The question I want answered and continually seek to explain is how do we stop going to war? How do we create peace without bombing nations into submission? When money can no longer buy us peace the real questions will start to be addressed. At $250 a plate only those with money could attend the conference the other night unless you were a member of the Legion and you were invited for free.

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Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I have read the same book and have many similar views to you. Regarding Snowden, there is no proof whatsoever he has committed treason, or that anyone other than the journalists (and maybe his lawyers) have any of the documents.

I'd submit an even better example of non-interventionism helping lead to peace is Sweden. It was very active in attacking and being attacked until the end of the Napoleonic era. It avoided the deadly and costly wars of the rest of the 19th and full 20th centuries. It began dipping its toes back into warfare by being in Afghanistan and even Libya recently. Guess what, it has now been the target of a terrorist attack (Thank God unsuccessful), and Russia has been playing bear cub fights with it also. I'd submit the last sentence of consequences is related to its recent actions in Afghanistan and Libya.

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Eric Morris 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Regarding Time article, my point about the alcoholic and self-serving spy must have been missed. I think if the spies had found real harm they would have leaked that all over "Meet the Press" through unnamed senior administration officials. Here is the complete takedown of that meme:

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/08/12/nprs-dina-temple-raston-passed-cia-funded-nsa-contractor-independent-fear-monger-snowden-reporting/

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Peter Arnold 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The Intercept...

"It’s the job of media outlets to scrutinize these claims, not mindlessly repeat and then glorify them as NPR did here."

Sad that NPR has been muddied. Who to believe? Misdirection, deception, etc.

Thanks for the links and now I will go back to my number crunching and Wall Street Journal browsing. Appreciate the lesson.

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