Saturday Reads: American Gun Culture and Snowden in Russia

gun-culture

Good Morning!!

Another day, another senseless shooting. Yesterday morning–All Souls Day–a young New Jersey man named Paul Ciancia took an assault rifle into the Los Angeles International Airport and managed injure several people, including three TSA agent. One of the TSA agents, Gerardo I. Hernandez, was killed.

From ABC News: 

The shooting began around 9:20 a.m. PST on Friday at LAX’s usually crowded Terminal 3, and sent hundreds of passengers streaming out of the terminal, with many fleeing onto the airport runway. Dozens of flights to and from the airport were delayed or cancelled as a “tactical alert” was triggered for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene, as many ducked for cover inside bathroom stalls or dropped to the floor upon officers’ commands….

Authorities said Ciancia was able to make it all the way to the back of the terminal, near the departure gate, before he was shot down by officers and taken into custody, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti.

It sounds like Ciancia may be an Alex Jones fan, because

a note found at the scene that indicated Ciancia’s anti-government sentiments and suggested that he expected to die in the airport shootout.

The note found at the scene ended with the letters “NWO,” according to law enforcement sources, which is believed to stand for “New World Order.” The note also specifically mentioned anger and frustration targeted toward the TSA.

Paul Anthony Ciancia

Paul Anthony Ciancia

The story also says that Cianca’s family was afraid he had plans to commit suicide, and they had contacted LAPD and requested they check on him. Police went to his apartment, but apparently he was already headed for LAX.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

According to officials examining information found on Ciancia after his capture, apparently he was upset about government in general and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular.

Passengers in the area of the shooting said he asked some people, “Hey, are you TSA?” When they answered “no,” the young man wearing fatigues passed them by, targeting TSA officers (who are unarmed) with a military-style semi-automatic rifle and extra clips of ammunition holding more than 100 rounds.

As pieced together by law enforcement officials and eye witnesses, Ciancia had parked his car at the airport, ran up an escalator into Terminal 3, pulled his weapon from a bag, and began firing as he approached the area where passengers must first show their ticket and government-issued identification before having their luggage and themselves checked by TSA. Witnesses say they heard 8-10 shots.

A high school classmate of Ciancia said that

the suspected gunman was a loner who had been bullied at their private high school.

“In four years, I never heard a word out of his mouth,” said David Hamilton, who graduated with Ciancia from Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., in 2008. “He kept to himself and ate lunch alone a lot. I really don’t remember any one person who was close to him.”

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Yesterday, Dakinikat linked to an outstanding post by Charles Pierce, who was at LAX at the time of the shooting: There Is Nothing Random About The LAX Shooting.

There already is some talk about this event being a “random” one. But it is not. These things are becoming as regular as rain, as predictable as the summer heat. The only thing “random” about it is the shooter. He could be anyone, and that’s the point. There are people who spend money making sure that he could be anyone, and there’s nothing “random” about how they do that. There is nothing “random” about this country’s ludicrous disinclination to regulate its firearms. There is nothing “random” about the millions of dollars that the NRA spends to convince people that they should have the right to carry their assault weapon anywhere they want to carry it, including into an airport terminal, if they so desire. There is nothing “random” about the politicians who truckle and bow to this lucrative monetization of bloody mayhem. These are all deliberate acts with predictable consequences. There is nothing “random” about how we have armed ourselves, and there is nothing “random” about the filigree of high-flown rhetoric with which we justify arming ourselves, and there is nothing “random” about how we learn nothing every time someone who could be anyone decides to exercise his Second Amendment rights by opening fire.

Pierce’s rant continues in one very long paragraph–read the rest at his blog.

From the National Journal, here’s some evidence of how not-random this latest shooting is: The TSA Found 29 Firearms at Airports This Week, Before the LAX Shooting.

All of this of course happened before an armed suspect made it into LAX on Friday. And the last week wasn’t an outlier. The week before, 39 firearms were discovered. Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 15, the TSA collected 84 loaded arms.

Oh, and in 2012 as a whole, airport screeners found more than 1,500 guns at checkpoints. That was up from a total of 1,320 guns in 2011. Of course, not everyone who brought a gun to an airport intended to do harm. But the sheer number of firearms points to a potential for violence far greater than most people may think.

Mashable-NSA-Comic

Meanwhile, over in Russia, another young man who is angry at the U.S. government has been making news again. Edward Snowden reportedly has taken “a website maintenance job” with “one of Russia’s largest websites.” The name of the site is supposedly secret, but

Technology news website Digit.ru speculated that Snowden may have joined social networking site VKontakte.ru, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook.

The website, an affiliate of RIA Novosti, said other major Russian online companies, including Yandex and  Mail.ru, had categorically denied they had hired Snowden.

VKontakte spokesman Georgy Lobushkin said he could not comment on the issue, but would not rule out his company had recruited Snowden.

Lobushkin said at a corporate event in August that he could see Snowden assisting VKontakte in maintaining the security of its online chat program.

Apparently Russia’s “facebook” isn’t worried about Snowden stealing secrets. But at least they can’t help knowing his history of doing so in other jobs.

In other Snowden news, the angry young man wrote a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel volunteering to help in a German investigation of U.S. spying on the country.

“Speaking the truth is not a crime,” read the letter from the former U.S. spy agency contractor, who has taken refuge in Russia. He gave the letter to German lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele, who presented it to the media in Berlin on Friday.

“I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behaviour,” wrote Snowden to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German parliament and federal prosecutors.

“In the course of my service to this organisation, I believe I witnessed systemic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act,” Snowden added.

spies_0

Actually, in this case what Snowden did was a crime, because he swore an oath not to reveal secrets he had access to; but Snowden doesn’t seem to be fully in touch with the reality of what he has done as yet. He seems to believe that the U.S. will decide to give him clemency so he can travel to Germany and that Russia will allow him to leave the country. Neither of those beliefs is even close to being rational. According to CNN:

Snowden’s attorney [AKA FSB minder], Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters in Moscow that his client would not be leaving Russia to testify on the U.S. spying allegations.

Kucherena said he would advise Snowden not to testify at all if it is not in his client’s best interest.

German legislator Hans-Christian Stroebele admitted that Snowden probably couldn’t speak freely from Moscow if he had to testify by video:

Snowden “is an important witness for Germany,” said Stroebele.

But asked if Snowden could testify to German authorities via video link from Moscow, Stroebele said that could be problematic for several reasons.

He suggested Snowden would be more limited in what he could say if he were in Moscow than if he were in Germany.

So long as Snowden has asylum in Russia, he needs to avoid doing anything that would negatively affect his status there, the lawmaker said.

From First Post, a little more double-talk and fantasy:

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is free to cooperate with Germany on reports of the alleged US tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations, the Kremlin said Saturday.

Snowden has to obey Russian laws since he is on Russian territory after being granted temporary asylum, but still “he is free to meet with anybody,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Xinhua reports.

So it’s OK with the Kremlin if Snowden travels to Germany to testify? No. Not really…

Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russian media that it is impossible for Snowden to leave Russia to be questioned by German prosecutors but he can provide testimony inside Russia.

Interestingly, at Business Insider, Geoffrey Ingersoll pointed out that Snowden’s letter to Merkel didn’t refer to the supposed tapping of her personal cell phone.

Oddly, Snowden’s letter seems more like a self-congratulatory protest against the NSA itself, rather than concern over the tapping of diplomats’ phones, which was ostensibly the inspiration for the letter itself.

Surely Snowden, who Ray McGovern described as “thoroughly informed,”  knows that Merkel imported the NSA’s services.

An article in the Berlin daily Die Welt described German intelligence as “technically backward and helpless” and “helplessly dependent” on U.S. intelligence.

Facilities of the National Security Agency and other intelligence services have boosted their presence on German soil since 9/11, which makes sense, as former NSA officer John Schindler points out, because the attacks were planned on German soil.

Certainly Edward Snowden knows this as well.

Nonetheless, his letter seems focused on American surveillance in general, rather that on surveillance of world leaders.

Perhaps Snowden isn’t keeping up with the news, as his supporters claim. Does he even have access to a computer?

FSB logo

At least The New York Times seems to have accepted the fact that Snowden is no longer an independent agent in any meaningful way. At least they published a recent article by Steven Lee Myers that makes it clear that Snowden is fully controlled by the Russian FSB.

On very rare occasions, almost always at night, Edward J. Snowden leaves his secret, guarded residence here, somewhere, in Russia. He is always under close protection. He spends his days learning the language and reading. He recently finished “Crime and Punishment.”

Accompanying him is Sarah Harrison, a British activist working with WikiLeaks. With far less attention, she appears to have found herself trapped in the same furtive limbo of temporary asylum that the Russian government granted Mr. Snowden three months ago: safe from prosecution, perhaps, but far from living freely, or at least openly.

Andrei Soldatov, a journalist who has written extensively about the security services, said that the F.S.B., the domestic successor to the Soviet-era intelligence service, clearly controlled the circumstances of Mr. Snowden’s life now, protecting him and also circumscribing his activities, even if not directly controlling him.

“He’s actually surrounded by these people,” said Mr. Soldatov, who, with Irina Borogan, wrote a history of the new Russian security services, “The New Nobility.”

Even former CIA agent and Snowden supporter Ray McGovern admits Snowden has no personal liberty in Russia.

“He’s free, but he’s not completely free,” said Ray McGovern, a former C.I.A. official and a member of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, which met with Mr. Snowden three weeks ago in his only verified public appearance since he received asylum on July 31. Even those who attended were not exactly sure where the meeting took place, having been driven in a van with darkened windows.

Because for Snowden’s supporters Russian secrecy is presumably acceptable, but the U.S. should reveal every secret to the world and stop making efforts to defend its national security in any way.

The biggest mystery is what is Sarah Harrison’s role in all this. Is she living with Snowden? Does her presence mean that Wikileaks is cooperating with the FSB in keeping Snowden under control?

That’s all I have for you today–sorry this post is going up so late. Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread.