Snowden in Full

 

398px-Edward_Snowden-2Ask me the narrow question of whether Edward Snowden did the right thing in revealing the NSA’s metadata collection programs on American citizens, and I’ll answer in the affirmative: such a program strikes me as a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment and — based on admittedly imperfect information — a poor use of the NSA’s skills and resources. Ask what I think of Snowden himself and my opinions have been negative ever since he first ran off to Hong Kong and Russia.

Regardless, one could plausibly argue that Snowden did the right thing in leaking the information, while still holding his self-preservation in contempt; he did the right thing for a while … until he started doing the wrong thing to cover himself. Well, Snowden’s not done leaking and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify his behavior at all:

American and British Intelligence secretly tapped into live video feeds from Israeli drones and fighter jets, monitoring military operations in Gaza, watching for a potential strike against Iran, and keeping tabs on the drone technology Israel exports around the world.

Under a classified program code-named “Anarchist,” the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, working with the National Security Agency, systematically targeted Israeli drones from a mountaintop on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. GCHQ files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden include a series of “Anarchist snapshots” — thumbnail images from videos recorded by drone cameras. The files also show location data mapping the flight paths of the aircraft. In essence, U.S. and British agencies stole a bird’s-eye view from the drones.

Now, I think this is a perfectly legitimate news story and that The Intercept has done nothing wrong in disclosing it. My question, however, is why is Snowden providing them with the information? Whatever else one might think of it, hacking into the military hardware of a foreign nation — even one that we’re on friendly terms with — does not violate the privacy of any American. Heck, it doesn’t even meaningfully violate the privacy of any Israeli! It may be prudent or foolish, a violation of an ally’s trust or a we-all-play-this-game sort of thing, but it’s not relevant to Snowden’s supposed mission as a crusader for privacy.

There are two ways to call attention to an abuse of trust by an organization you’re a member of. If you take the path of restraint, exposing only those materials directly related to the abuse — and remain indignantly silent when asked for anything else — we call that whistle-blowing, a dangerous-but-honorable option in many cases. If you take the other path and expose everything you can get your hands on … well, there’s a name for that, too.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    There are two ways to call attention to an abuse of trust by an organization you’re a member of. If you take the path of restraint, exposing only those materials directly related to the abuse — and remain indignantly silent when asked for anything else — we call that whistle-blowing, a dangerous-but-honorable option in many cases. If you take the other path and expose everything you can get your hands on … well, there’s a name for that, too.

    That’s why some intelligence officials think he was a Russian agent all along, from what I’ve heard.

    • #1
  2. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    Snowden will always be a traitor to me, for one simple reason. He could have shown up at Rand Paul’s office and simply said “we need to talk.” Imagine how different things would be if he had. But he didn’t, and now lives in Russia, which tells me everything I need to know.

    • #2
  3. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    If Snowden had made his revelations and then stayed in the U.S. to deal with the consequences I could have respected that.  Instead, his actions have made it clear he was a tool, witting or unwitting, of the Russians.

    He’s also been intertwined with Glen Greenwald of The Intercept from the start.  I don’t know about Snowden’s motivations, but Greenwald makes no effort to disguise he is anti-American and his goal is to destroy the U.S. as it now exists (the same is true of Julian Assange).

    That’s why if you look at Snowden’s revelations they are all targeted at undermining the U.S. and its allies. It beggars belief that there was nothing he found discrediting to our enemies, yet nothing ever appears in his disclosures.

    This was a put up job from the start, designed to undermine the United States.

    • #3
  4. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Bob W: That’s why some intelligence officials think he was a Russian agent all along, from what I’ve heard.

    This strikes me as an excuse for how easy it was for a low level contractor to steal the data in the first place.  If they can imagine a state sponsor, they don’t look so incompetent.

    They are that incompetent.

    • #4
  5. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Anyone that leaks to the world at large is a traitor in my book.  There is no way I could believe that he couldn’t tell what he knew to some officials within the government.  There are Congressmen and Senators who that will take on any issue.  You just have to find the right one.

    He didn’t have any specific issue he thought was unjust.  He revealed thousands of documents.  If he had pure motives he would have at best revealed a single document to bring the whole thing to a head. But he went way, way beyond that.  He wanted to screw the CIA and the United States of America.

    My question, however, is why is Snowden providing them with the information?

    The man is a traitor plain and simple.  Prosecute his a$$ if he should ever step on US soil again.  I can’t believe you Libertarians support this traitor.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Ask me the narrow question of whether Edward Snowden did the right thing in revealing the NSA’s metadata collection programs on American citizens, and I’ll answer in the affirmative: such a program strikes me as a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment…

    Even if one doesn’t believe it’s a violation of the constitution one can still believe that such a program shouldn’t be secret.

    However, I lost any sympathy for Snowden the moment he sought protection from China and Russia. He had other options.

    I applaud civil disobedience when it is done honestly and in good faith. Thoreau went to jail willingly to protest the Mexican-American War. He did not evade the taxman by hiding out in Mexico.

    • #6
  7. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Misthiocracy:

    I applaud civil disobedience when it is done honestly and in good faith. Thoreau went to jail willingly for his beliefs. So (arguably) did MLKjr. They did not seek the protection of America’s adversaries.

    This has been a bugaboo for me for a long time. There has been little real civil disobedience in the sense of Thoreau, Gandhi and MLK. For a long time now we have had narcissistic anarchists who use the mantel of civil disobedience to seek avoidance of consequences. I have no respect for them or their causes.

    • #7
  8. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    If he did the right thing, then he shouldn’t be punished for it, nor be expected to accept punishment. If you’re arguing that he should have avoided punishment in a way that had better optics, that’s one thing, but this whole idea that one must be willing to accept punishment for doing the right thing or for violating a bad law is utter bull[expletive].

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Rodin:

    Misthiocracy:

    I applaud civil disobedience when it is done honestly and in good faith. Thoreau went to jail willingly for his beliefs. So (arguably) did MLKjr. They did not seek the protection of America’s adversaries.

    This has been a bugaboo for me for a long time. There has been little real civil disobedience in the sense of Thoreau, Gandhi and MLK. For a long time now we have had narcissistic anarchists who use the mantel of civil disobedience to seek avoidance of consequences. I have no respect for them or their causes.

    The best recent example is Kim Davis. She did her time.

    • #9
  10. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Bob W:There are two ways to call attention to an abuse of trust by an organization you’re a member of. If you take the path of restraint, exposing only those materials directly related to the abuse — and remain indignantly silent when asked for anything else — we call that whistle-blowing, a dangerous-but-honorable option in many cases. If you take the other path and expose everything you can get your hands on … well, there’s a name for that, too.

    That’s why some intelligence officials think he was a Russian agent all along, from what I’ve heard.

    Interesting theory, but if that was the case, why not fly to Hong Kong and then to Russia, hand over the goods, and live happily ever after. Why go public?

    • #10
  11. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    BrentB67:

    Bob W:There are two ways to call attention to an abuse of trust by an organization you’re a member of. If you take the path of restraint, exposing only those materials directly related to the abuse — and remain indignantly silent when asked for anything else — we call that whistle-blowing, a dangerous-but-honorable option in many cases. If you take the other path and expose everything you can get your hands on … well, there’s a name for that, too.

    That’s why some intelligence officials think he was a Russian agent all along, from what I’ve heard.

    Interesting theory, but if that was the case, why not fly to Hong Kong and then to Russia, hand over the goods, and live happily ever after. Why go public?

    So his buddies on Reddit can shout his praise? Maybe he has dreams of millions of future college students wearing his image on a T-shirt.

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Mike H:

    If he did the right thing, then he shouldn’t be punished for it, nor be expected to accept punishment.

    As a general rule, whistle-blowers should not be punished.

    But if you’re doing civil disobedience in a generally just society, it’s also reasonable — and often to your moral and political advantage — to surrender yourself to showcase this particular injustice.

    • #12
  13. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    I don’t blame the man for running like hell. Those are the times that we live in: whistle blowers are slapped with vindictive prison sentences for doing the right thing. (Because there’s no higher crime than embarrassing the government.)

    And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    And knowing what the government is capable of, probably better to run than have an “accident” in custody.

    • #13
  14. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Fred Cole:And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    I agree that was wholly uncalled for and the government should be ashamed of that (frankly, people should be in jail over it). I’d agree further that the administration bears some of the blame for Snowden because of how they handled Manning and other whistle-blowers.

    But as others have said, if Snowden had contacted, say, Rand Paul or Justin Amash and gotten them on his side, he could easily have avoided such a fate. To my knowledge, he attempted no such thing.

    • #14
  15. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Paul Dougherty:

    BrentB67:

    Bob W:There are two ways to call attention to an abuse of trust by an organization you’re a member of. If you take the path of restraint, exposing only those materials directly related to the abuse — and remain indignantly silent when asked for anything else — we call that whistle-blowing, a dangerous-but-honorable option in many cases. If you take the other path and expose everything you can get your hands on … well, there’s a name for that, too.

    That’s why some intelligence officials think he was a Russian agent all along, from what I’ve heard.

    Interesting theory, but if that was the case, why not fly to Hong Kong and then to Russia, hand over the goods, and live happily ever after. Why go public?

    So his buddies on Reddit can shout his praise? Maybe he has dreams of millions of future college students wearing his image on a T-shirt.

    Who does he think he is? Bernie Sanders?

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Fred Cole:And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    Do you blame him for releasing this information?

    • #16
  17. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Fred Cole:I don’t blame the man for running like hell. Those are the times that we live in: whistle blowers are slapped with vindictive prison sentences for doing the right thing. (Because there’s no higher crime than embarrassing the government.)

    And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    And knowing what the government is capable of, probably better to run than have an “accident” in custody

    You make a fair point Fred, but Manning and Snowden are different cases. Manning stole and released data in Iraq related to operations there.

    Snowden, at least initially, blew the whistle on the federal government collection/monitoring on U.S. citizens.

    I respect there is a difference of opinion (hero or traitor) on Snowden. I am not aware of there being any difference of opinion on Manning.

    As far as accidents happening in custody. Manning asked for and is apparently receiving a taxpayer funded sex change operation.

    • #17
  18. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    BrentB67:

    Fred Cole:I don’t blame the man for running like hell. Those are the times that we live in: whistle blowers are slapped with vindictive prison sentences for doing the right thing. (Because there’s no higher crime than embarrassing the government.)

    And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    And knowing what the government is capable of, probably better to run than have an “accident” in custody

    You make a fair point Fred, but Manning and Snowden are different cases. Manning stole and released data in Iraq related to operations there.

    Snowden, at least initially, blew the whistle on the federal government collection/monitoring on U.S. citizens.

    I respect there is a difference of opinion (hero or traitor) on Snowden. I am not aware of there being any difference of opinion on Manning.

    As far as accidents happening in custody. Manning asked for and is apparently receiving a taxpayer funded sex change operation.

    Are you trying to say that Manning doesn’t really want the change but that that is the cover story the government is putting out in order to proceed with the operation as surreptitious punishment? I don’t see that.

    • #18
  19. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Mark:He’s also been intertwined with Glen Greenwald of The Intercept from the start. I don’t know about Snowden’s motivations, but Greenwald makes no effort to disguise he is anti-American and his goal is to destroy the U.S. as it now exists (the same is true of Julian Assange).

    That’s why if you look at Snowden’s revelations they are all targeted at undermining the U.S. and its allies. It beggars belief that there was nothing he found discrediting to our enemies, yet nothing ever appears in his disclosures.

    It would be more accurate to say The Intercept’s revelations I believe. My understanding is that Snowden made no effort whatsoever to discriminate in the information that he stole, he simply grabbed all that he could and then passed it on to others en masse.

    His treason was the initial act, the subsequent revelations which have been trickling out reflect the motivations, hatreds and agendas of those he choose (i.e. Greenwald and Assange) to publicize his ill-gotten goods.

    • #19
  20. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    BrentB67:

    Bob W:There are two ways to call attention to an abuse of trust by an organization you’re a member of. If you take the path of restraint, exposing only those materials directly related to the abuse — and remain indignantly silent when asked for anything else — we call that whistle-blowing, a dangerous-but-honorable option in many cases. If you take the other path and expose everything you can get your hands on … well, there’s a name for that, too.

    That’s why some intelligence officials think he was a Russian agent all along, from what I’ve heard.

    Interesting theory, but if that was the case, why not fly to Hong Kong and then to Russia, hand over the goods, and live happily ever after. Why go public?

    Not sure how bright Snowden was, but exile in Russia is dangerous business. Being a celebrity pre-exile keeps him safe-ish and well-treated. Kim Philby found this out to his dismay.

    • #20
  21. civil westman Inactive
    civil westman
    @user_646399

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Fred Cole:And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    I agree that was wholly uncalled for and the government should be ashamed of that (frankly, people should be in jail over it). I’d agree further that the administration bears some of the blame for Snowden because of how they handled Manning and other whistle-blowers.

    But as others have said, if Snowden had contacted, say, Rand Paul or Justin Amash and gotten them on his side, he could easily have avoided such a fate. To my knowledge, he attempted no such thing.

    Rand Paul is not Hillary Clinton. He, with an “R” after his name, would have been indicted as a co-conspirator in a New York minute. If protected by Congressional immunity, he would have been an “unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator,” whose name would have been leaked to the New York Times and every other leftist rag.

    • #21
  22. MSJL Thatcher
    MSJL
    @MSJL

    Whatever good Snowden did was in the disclosure of the NSA information gathering and that was done years ago.  He could have limited his disclosure to that information, and he probably could have held onto his whistleblower title even if he ran.

    But then he decided to start disclosing other national security secrets.

    What he is doing now is gratuitous damage to the US, indistinguishable from espionage and treason.

    I look forward to some future day when Russia needs something from us, and he is part of the price tag.

    • #22
  23. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    BrentB67: Interesting theory, but if that was the case, why not fly to Hong Kong and then to Russia, hand over the goods, and live happily ever after. Why go public?

    So he can get a significant part of the country to mistake him for a hero and thus make Washington hesitant to prosecute him.

    • #23
  24. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Misthiocracy:

    Rodin:

    Misthiocracy:

    I applaud civil disobedience when it is done honestly and in good faith. Thoreau went to jail willingly for his beliefs. So (arguably) did MLKjr. They did not seek the protection of America’s adversaries.

    This has been a bugaboo for me for a long time. There has been little real civil disobedience in the sense of Thoreau, Gandhi and MLK. For a long time now we have had narcissistic anarchists who use the mantel of civil disobedience to seek avoidance of consequences. I have no respect for them or their causes.

    The best recent example is Kim Davis. She did her time.

    That’s true.  Protest an unjust law is proper.  Calling attention to it is proper.  Breaking the law himself is a violation.

    Let’s take a different example.  To many there is nothing as unjust as the daily slaughter of unborn children.  To some that is no different than the holocaust and slavery.  This is clearly immoral.  Would it be justified for that person who finds this practice a moral blight to blow up these abortion mills and pop off abortionists?  Would that be morally justified? Of course not.

    Who the hell is Edward Snowden to make a decision that he can violate the American law and give out thousands of secrets because he didn’t like the practice?  Well there are plenty of laws we all don’t like.

    • #24
  25. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Snowden siphoned over one million classified documents, and now they’re out there.

    A whistle-blower pulls one, ten, twenty, hell, maybe a hundred documents to make his whistleblowing case.

    One million?? He doesn’t even know what he grabbed.

    Traitor.

    • #25
  26. hokiecon Inactive
    hokiecon
    @hokiecon

    I wanted to side with Snowden for a long time as I’ve always hated mass government surveillance. But like other commenters have said, his fleeing to Russia and China for asylum tells me all I need to know.

    Some liken Snowden to a patriot. I liken him to a traitor. A patriot exposes a flaw in the government in a way that is diplomatic and seeks to promote change for the better, not to sabotage national security secrets for political expediency and telling us what we already knew to begin with.

    I think Rand Paul remarked that James Clapper and Edward Snowden ought to share the same jail cell.

    • #26
  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    BrentB67: Why go public?

    You mean, why not have a traditional spy relationship of passing this information to the Russians in secret and being told to keep his access to the information as long as he could? Lots of possibilities. The first could be that he’d been studied and cultivated long-term, and his handlers assessed that his psychological make-up wasn’t suited to that. Perhaps he was assessed as someone who could only be persuaded to do this if convinced he was doing something heroic and patriotic. Certainly, that’s how I’d assess the guy: It’s pretty clear that he really believes he’s a patriot, and I doubt it would be easy to convince him to behave in a way that was incompatible with his sense of himself as a hero and a patriot.

    Second could be that they figured the political value of exposing this information (causing us huge embarrassment and sowing mistrust among our allies, not to mention causing Americans to feel deep distrust of their government) would exceed the real technical value of any information to which he had access of that he might have access to in the future. None of the materials he leaked, as far as I can see, expose information that would afford them great new technical insight, it’s not about how we do it, it’s that we do it at all.

    He doesn’t seem to have revealed information that would be hugely advantageous for Russia to know from a military point of view, in other words. He’s revealed information that 1) makes Americans trust their government less; 2) makes American allies trust America less — and justifies anti-American sentiment throughout Europe, which is easily exploited by far-left and far-right parties alike; 3) makes the American government seem utterly hypocritical, because what it’s been doing flies in the face of what we tell everyone about our Constitution, confirming every lunatic’s most deeply-held conspiracy theory about the United States; 4) in the case of the information just leaked, causes a diplomatic crisis that goes well beyond, “Sorry, come on, you know everyone does it, we won’t do it again,” and 5) makes the US look spectacularly incompetent in protecting these secrets.

    This is exactly the kind of thing in which Russia really specializes, and has long specialized. There’s huge institutional knowledge there about how to exploit arenas in which the US is genuinely weak — e.g., during the last Cold War, they exploited our genuine weakness in civil rights, our genuine alliance with European powers that were indeed former colonial and imperial powers — to make an international case that there was either basically no difference between the superpowers, or that we were an essentially racist and colonialist superpower.

    Or they could have gotten incredibly lucky and just had him land in their lap. It’s true that he had to end up in a country that’s basically very hostile to the United States: No friendly would have refused to extradite him. So he was going to end up somewhere that sounds mighty suspicious, one way or another.

    But this really has such a Russian MO feeling … it’s so part of the package. Edward Lucas wrote a good book about Snowden, by the way. Best I’ve read, and I agree with his assessment: Useful idiot.

    • #27
  28. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    He should have called attention to the violations WITHOUT releasing the classified data.  That would have taken courage and integrity, two qualities that Mr. Snowden seems to lack.

    • #28
  29. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Fred Cole:And after how Manning was treated (solitary confinement for the better part of a year), I don’t blame Snowden for running.

    I agree that was wholly uncalled for and the government should be ashamed of that (frankly, people should be in jail over it). I’d agree further that the administration bears some of the blame for Snowden because of how they handled Manning and other whistle-blowers.

    But as others have said, if Snowden had contacted, say, Rand Paul or Justin Amash and gotten them on his side, he could easily have avoided such a fate. To my knowledge, he attempted no such thing.

    What good would it have done to get Rand Paul or Justin Amash on his side? They would just have gotten attacked by the hate machine and GOPe.

    • #29
  30. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Blue State Curmudgeon:He should have called attention to the violations WITHOUT releasing the classified data. That would have taken courage and integrity, two qualities that Mr. Snowden seems to lack.

    It would have been ineffective. People would have denounced him as a liar. As evidence, all his character flaws would have been brought up.

    Have we learned nothing at all from how previous whistleblowers have been treated? Have we learned nothing from the whistleblowers during the Clinton scandals?

    • #30
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