Snowden: Hero or Villain?

 

398px-Edward_Snowden-2The reverberating headline, it seems, is “Without Snowden, there would be no Freedom Act.” Snowden leaked all of the stuff about the phone records that created the public outrage. This ultimately applied the appropriate level of political pressure to put a stop to much of the things we all seem to find objectionable about the NSAs domestic spying activities. Thus, Snowden is a hero, and a deal should be struck to allow him to come home.

That seems to be a fine line of reasoning. But I can’t get past one simple thing: what Snowden did was illegal, and as near as I am aware, remains illegal. I’m not convinced he should be stood up before a firing squad, but shouldn’t he face some consequences? Maybe his two-year exile to Russia is enough? What do you say?

Published in Domestic Policy, Law
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  1. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    In the state of Liberaldom what Snowden did is PC.  Being PC means that its legality is irrelevant.   It is like running Hillary Clinton for the presidency.  In Liberaldom anything goes, unless it is not PC.

    • #1
  2. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    I have a lower regard for enforcing all laws simply because they are law than most people. I’m not convinced failure to enforce bad law lowers the respect for good laws sufficiently, nor do I find it moral when people enforce bad laws, whatever their job description.

    • #2
  3. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @DougWatt

    It didn’t take Snowden very long to get to Russia. I suspect that Mr. Snowden might be more than he claims to be.

    • #3
  4. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    The appropriate punishment is hanged by the neck til dead. It worked for Major Andre, Snowden deserves no better.

    • #4
  5. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Mike H:I have a lower regard for enforcing all laws simply because they are law than most people. I’m not convinced failure to enforce bad law lowers the respect for good laws sufficiently, nor do I find it moral when people enforce bad laws, whatever their job description.

    Are you suggesting that the laws we have against leaking classified information are bad laws?

    This isn’t a question of whether or not the NSA activities were bad.  It’s a question of whether what Snowden did was a crime and whether he should be punished for it.

    • #5
  6. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Doug Watt:It didn’t take Snowden very long to get to Russia. I suspect that Mr. Snowden might be more than he claims to be.

    Speculative.  Objection sustained.

    • #6
  7. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    He did more than that, he accessed secrets beyond the metadata program and he gave all of this information to the Chinese and Russia. He is a spy and a traitor. He didn’t just break a dubious law for the common good. He is scum and should be hung.

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Spin: The reverberating headline, it seems, is “Without Snowden, there would be no Freedom Act.” Snowden leaked all of the stuff about the phone records that created the public outrage. This ultimately applied the appropriate level of political pressure to put a stop to much of the things we all seem to find objectionable about the NSAs domestic spying activities. Thus, Snowden is a hero, and a deal should be struck to allow him to come home.

    The last sentence doesn’t necessarily follow.

    I’m glad Snowden’s actions are creating pressure to stop unconstitutional or otherwise intrusive domestic spying methods that create opportunities for abuse.  That doesn’t make him a hero.

    I don’t think of Snowden as either a hero or a villain, and I’m not sure why some people are framing the issue that way.

    • #8
  9. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Spin:

    Mike H:I have a lower regard for enforcing all laws simply because they are law than most people. I’m not convinced failure to enforce bad law lowers the respect for good laws sufficiently, nor do I find it moral when people enforce bad laws, whatever their job description.

    Are you suggesting that the laws we have against leaking classified information are bad laws?

    I’m saying (something like) leaking classified information that doesn’t cause obviously bad consequences should not be punished. Punishing people for the sake that we called something “classified” seems like bad law.

    This isn’t a question of whether or not the NSA activities were bad. It’s a question of whether what Snowden did was a crime and whether he should be punished for it.

    Right, I’m saying whatever the law says, punishing someone should be based on them actually doing something bad rather than violating the letter of the law. And I realize I’m in a pretty extreme minority here.

    • #9
  10. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    I’m saying (something like) leaking classified information that doesn’t cause obviously bad consequences should not be punished. Punishing people for the sake that we called something “classified” seems like bad law.

    Who decides whether the consequences are either bad or obvious?

    How do you propose we measure the severity of the consequences of not having information because the person with it now knows how we had been collecting it?

    • #10
  11. user_357321 Inactive
    user_357321
    @Jordan

    I disagree with the assessment that Snowden is necessary for the Freedom Act (can we stop naming complex legislation in a rhetorically insipid manner?).

    Snowden could have used his chain of command or failing that direct pleas to elected representatives or other oversight entities to accomplish his goals.  I don’t think he did the latter, perhaps the former.  But if he did those things the narrative would be full of “Snowden tried everything and no one listened!”, and since it wasn’t, I doubt that is the case.

    You just don’t disclose highly classified information to the public, no matter how badly you think it’s justified.  There are procedures and channels to address the concerns Snowden had and these should have been followed.

    I’ll admit based on my Navy experience, it’s very, very hard to change things from the inside, since the chain of command and formal procedures have a way of discouraging reform and being very punitive.

    But if you complain loud enough you can get a hearing somewhere in the chain of command or from someone, even if you have to march into the Captain’s wardroom and yell at him.  It might cost you friends, or even a career, but you can still reform things the right way, and not be a fugitive for life.

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Klaatu:I’m saying (something like) leaking classified information that doesn’t cause obviously bad consequences should not be punished. Punishing people for the sake that we called something “classified” seems like bad law.

    Who decides whether the consequences are either bad or obvious?

    Prosecutors have always had this discretion, haven’t they?

    Which is not to say that their decision-making process is always good.

    • #12
  13. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    BThompson:He did more than that, he accessed secrets beyond the metadata program and he gave all of this information to the Chinese and Russia. He is a spy and a traitor. He didn’t just break a dubious law for the common good. He is scum and should be hung.

    Did he give information to the Chinese and Russian’s?  One article I read this morning said there is no evidence of that.  Have you read anything that would counter that?  I’d like to see it.

    • #13
  14. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    The Reticulator:

    Spin: The reverberating headline, it seems, is “Without Snowden, there would be no Freedom Act.” Snowden leaked all of the stuff about the phone records that created the public outrage. This ultimately applied the appropriate level of political pressure to put a stop to much of the things we all seem to find objectionable about the NSAs domestic spying activities. Thus, Snowden is a hero, and a deal should be struck to allow him to come home.

    The last sentence doesn’t necessarily follow.

    I’m glad Snowden’s actions are creating pressure to stop unconstitutional or otherwise intrusive domestic spying methods that create opportunities for abuse. That doesn’t make him a hero.

    I don’t think of Snowden as either a hero or a villain, and I’m not sure why some people are framing the issue that way.

    The editors changed the title of the post.  You know how editors are!

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    Snowden gave our classified information to the Chinese and Russians.  That’s espionage bordering on treason.  There are plenty of non-extradition countries out there where he could have published the information about domestic spying.   Hell, I see no evidence that he contacted any senator or representative.  Justin Amash?  Rand Paul?

    • #15
  16. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Snowden had all of the files in his possession when he entered both countries. Do you really believe the authoritarian regimes of those countries would allow him to enter, stay and be free to leave without requiring him to give up the files he had with him?

    • #16
  17. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    BThompson:Snowden had all of the files in his possession when he entered both countries. Do you really believe the authoritarian regimes of those countries would allow him to enter, stay and be free to leave without requiring him to give up the files he had with him?

    Solution – go to a non-authoritarian regime that lacks an extradition treaty with the US.

    • #17
  18. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    OmegaPaladin:

    BThompson:Snowden had all of the files in his possession when he entered both countries. Do you really believe the authoritarian regimes of those countries would allow him to enter, stay and be free to leave without requiring him to give up the files he had with him?

    Solution – go to a non-authoritarian regime that lacks an extradition treaty with the US.

    Right Omega, my post happened simultaneously to yours, I was responding to Spin expressing doubt about whether Snowden had given files to the the Chinese and Russians.

    • #18
  19. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Mike H:

    Spin:

    Mike H:I have a lower regard for enforcing all laws simply because they are law than most people. I’m not convinced failure to enforce bad law lowers the respect for good laws sufficiently, nor do I find it moral when people enforce bad laws, whatever their job description.

    Are you suggesting that the laws we have against leaking classified information are bad laws?

    I’m saying (something like) leaking classified information that doesn’t cause obviously bad consequences should not be punished. Punishing people for the sake that we called something “classified” seems like bad law.

    This isn’t a question of whether or not the NSA activities were bad. It’s a question of whether what Snowden did was a crime and whether he should be punished for it.

    Right, I’m saying whatever the law says, punishing someone should be based on them actually doing something bad rather than violating the letter of the law. And I realize I’m in a pretty extreme minority here.

    This is an interesting view.  Would you also apply it to speeding tickets?

    • #19
  20. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    BThompson:Snowden had all of the files in his possession when he entered both countries. Do you really believe the authoritarian regimes of those countries would allow him to enter, stay and be free to leave without requiring him to give up the files he had with him?

    Again, speculative.  Do you have evidence that he handed that information to foreign governments?  I’m not expressing doubt, mind you, simply asking for evidence.  It was suggested that no evidence exists.

    And so we are clear, I’m not arguing in favor of Snowden, I’m simply trying to learn.

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Anti-hero.

    He did good (exposing government mendacity) in spite of doing bad (defecting to China and Russia, when other options were clearly available to him).

    If he had sought asylum in a country like Switzerland, or if he’d followed proper civil disobedience procedure by releasing the data to the public and then turning himself in to face the punishment of the state while at the same time denouncing it, I’d be much more willing to place laurels on his head.

    Because of the way he went about his scheme, he’s more akin to The Punisher than to Henry David Thoreau.

    • #21
  22. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    The US has vast amounts of bad law. I’m with Mike H.

    It is not necessarily true that good =legal, and bad =illegal.

    • #22
  23. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Jordan Wiegand:I disagree with the assessment that Snowden is necessary for the Freedom Act (can we stop naming complex legislation in a rhetorically insipid manner?).

    Snowden could have used his chain of command or failing that direct pleas to elected representatives or other oversight entities to accomplish his goals. I don’t think he did the latter, perhaps the former. But if he did those things the narrative would be full of “Snowden tried everything and no one listened!”, and since it wasn’t, I doubt that is the case.

    You just don’t disclose highly classified information to the public, no matter how badly you think it’s justified. There are procedures and channels to address the concerns Snowden had and these should have been followed.

    I’ll admit based on my Navy experience, it’s very, very hard to change things from the inside, since the chain of command and formal procedures have a way of discouraging reform and being very punitive.

    But if you complain loud enough you can get a hearing somewhere in the chain of command or from someone, even if you have to march into the Captain’s wardroom and yell at him. It might cost you friends, or even a career, but you can still reform things the right way, and not be a fugitive for life.

    I think this is a valid argument.  There are plenty of Senators who’d have loved to get this information and do something with it.  If I were Snowden, I think I’d have gone to one of them.  Well, not really.  If I were Snowden, I wouldn’t have gotten a government job.  But that’s beside the point.

    • #23
  24. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Mike H:Right, I’m saying whatever the law says, punishing someone should be based on them actually doing something bad rather than violating the letter of the law. And I realize I’m in a pretty extreme minority here.

    This is completely counter to the idea of the rule of law. You cannot leave it up to the individual to judge whether laws are actually doing what they are designed to do, and you definitely cannot leave it up to individuals to decide whether certain things deserve to be classified. Such thinking just gives approval to people becoming law unto themselves. If a law is bad, it should be changed. If the process for classifying information is broken, it should be fixed. People can’t just break the law and say that their judgement is better than those who enacted it.

    What’s more, Snowden didn’t just leak information that shouldn’t be classified. He stole information about our cyber espionage and hacking activity against the Chinese and Russia. He gave that information to those governments. That is treason, plain and simple.

    • #24
  25. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    There is a point at which abiding by the law becomes abetting tyranny. I don’t know that we’re there, but we’re sure pushing the boundaries these days.

    • #25
  26. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Spin:

    Mike H:

    Spin:

    Mike H:I have a lower regard for enforcing all laws simply because they are law than most people. I’m not convinced failure to enforce bad law lowers the respect for good laws sufficiently, nor do I find it moral when people enforce bad laws, whatever their job description.

    Are you suggesting that the laws we have against leaking classified information are bad laws?

    I’m saying (something like) leaking classified information that doesn’t cause obviously bad consequences should not be punished. Punishing people for the sake that we called something “classified” seems like bad law.

    This isn’t a question of whether or not the NSA activities were bad. It’s a question of whether what Snowden did was a crime and whether he should be punished for it.

    Right, I’m saying whatever the law says, punishing someone should be based on them actually doing something bad rather than violating the letter of the law. And I realize I’m in a pretty extreme minority here.

    This is an interesting view. Would you also apply it to speeding tickets?

    And DUI.

    • #26
  27. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    BThompson:

    What’s more, Snowden didn’t just leak information that shouldn’t be classified. He stole information about our cyber espionage and hacking activity against the Chinese and Russia. He gave that information to those governments. That is treason, plain and simple.

    Do you have any information that can substantiate this?

    • #27
  28. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Spin:Again, speculative. Do you have evidence that he handed that information to foreign governments? I’m not expressing doubt, mind you, simply asking for evidence. It was suggested that no evidence exists.

    And so we are clear, I’m not arguing in favor of Snowden, I’m simply trying to learn.

    Spin, no one has evidence, because the only evidence would be with the Chinese and Russian governments. They aren’t sharing. But his choice of where to go after he committed his crimes and the nature of the regimes in those countries makes the speculation better than some wild conjecture. I don’t really understand why you’d want to play dumb, or what you think is to be gained by assuming that there is some way Snowden may have kept these files out of the hands of those governments. Do you think those governments perhaps didn’t want that information from Snowden? Do you think Snowden is some super genius who was able to devise a way that those governments wouldn’t be able to access the files? Do you think Putin is keeping Snowden in Russia because he likes his company? I’m all for being fair, but I’m not stupid, and I don’t think you are either.

    • #28
  29. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Spin:

    BThompson:

    What’s more, Snowden didn’t just leak information that shouldn’t be classified. He stole information about our cyber espionage and hacking activity against the Chinese and Russia. He gave that information to those governments. That is treason, plain and simple.

    Do you have any information that can substantiate this?

    Good grief. The government has revealed that he took this information. It has been written about and I’ve heard Tom Cotton talking about this in interviews. If Snowden just wanted to protect the privacy of Americans, why would he need to take information about our cyber defense and hacking programs? How would he prevent it from getting into the hands of the governments in the authoritarian countries hosting him? Those are the questions you should be asking.

    • #29
  30. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    BThompson:

    Mike H:Right, I’m saying whatever the law says, punishing someone should be based on them actually doing something bad rather than violating the letter of the law. And I realize I’m in a pretty extreme minority here.

    This is completely counter to the idea of the rule of law.

    It is. I think the idea of the rule of law is flawed.

    You cannot leave it up to the individual to judge whether laws are actually doing what they are designed to do, and you definitely cannot leave it up to individuals to decide whether certain things deserve to be classified.

    We do this all the time. Individuals are the ones who make all the decisions. Individuals make laws. Individuals classify things. Individuals are judges and individuals sit on juries. If an individual is wrong I don’t see how this is different or worse than the law itself being wrong. Just because it leaves open the possibility for individuals to be wrong in their interpretations doesn’t mean those who are correct in their interpretation ought not apply their correct interpretation. Following the law when the law is wrong is just as bad as not following a good law.

    Such thinking just gives approval to people becoming law unto themselves. If a law is bad, it should be changed. If the process for classifying information is broken, it should be fixed. People can’t just break the law and say that their judgement is better than those who enacted it.

    No one has approval to be wrong. If the law is bad it should be changed, but in the cases it’s not changed, people are not morally obligated to follow the law and it would be morally wrong to prosecute them. Your judgement doesn’t make you better than the law, but the law isn’t necessarily better than your judgement either.

    • #30
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