Thursday, May 29, 2014

Edward Snowdon, patriot … by gimleteye

When I wrote last June, "The lockdown of the national security state in reaction to its perceived threats is more fearsome by far than whistleblowers, whoever they may be", I was right.

I was wrong to conclude that Edward Snowdon was inconsequential and that he should be left alone. Snowdon's disclosure of NSA data mining and indiscriminate surveillance of US citizens is the opposite of the supernova called "fifteen minutes of fame".

In October, I suggested that Time Magazine ought to make Edward Snowdon its Person of the Year along the lines of the debate whether Snowdon is a patriot or a traitor.

And in December, "It takes someone young, reckless and idealistic to first gain access to the security state and then use keystrokes on a computer keyboard to undo the secrecy that required hundreds of billions of taxpayer investment."

Watching the first two hour segment of Frontline's "Spying On The Homefront", it becomes clear that the 29 year old national security expert was anything but reckless when he methodically exposed the gravest intrusions of privacy by government in US history.

Without Snowdon, there would be no exposure, no detail, no mea culpa by former national security officials who form the backbone of the Frontline documentary.

The key point: Snowdon's disclosures provided cover for top national security officers, Congressional staffers, and senior Department of Justice staff and political appointees to resign and to take their case to the public.

Before condemning Edward Snowdon, watch the Frontline documentary.  Thanks to Snowdon's disclosures, the origins of the threats to liberty are now clearly understood.

These threats blossomed in the office of then Vice President Dick Cheney, with only one or two senior aides, out of sight and significantly out of view of President George W. Bush.

The national security state that Cheney decided was necessary to protect US citizens was mobilized outside the experience base of career civil servants in the national security apparatus and senior Republican administration and top Congressional staffers -- Republicans -- charged with protecting the US Constitution.

Cheney's Faustian bargain asks Americans to accept that the national security state and its complete access to individual privacy through surveillance is a fair trade against the threat of asymmetrical terrorism; real or imagined. As a result, billions of taxpayer investments have created what is tantamount to a shadow government.

The Faustian bargain has a further consequence: that any elected official -- but especially the President of the United States -- must defend the national security state and be the toughest against Edward Snowdon's return or risk retribution at election day.

Today, President Obama's earlier election promises (shown on Frontline) -- to protect federal whistleblowers and to empower the government's efforts to track down and kill terrorists while protecting Americans' constitutional freedoms -- is dust. He and administration officials like John Kerry are outdoing themselves to be more angry, less inclined to reason, than their Republican counterparts.

On the news tonight, administration officials blasted Snowdon for being responsible for the erosion of America's standing in the world. Indeed, America's standing has eroded but there are so many more reasons than can be framed by a young scapegoat.

Again, I urge readers -- if you haven't already -- watch the PBS documentary on Frontline, also available for online viewing. The case is clear: Edward Snowdon is a patriot because without him, we would have no idea of the extent to which our government is mining data we generate, whether through phone calls, travel, or keystrokes on a computer.

The choice is clear: mutually assured destruction by paranoia or a reasoned debate how to use technology to winnow out terrorists without giving the government the tools and capacity to cast a net that could ensnare any American at any time. So, what to do with Edward Snowdon? Bring Snowdon home to participate in that reasoned debate, then leave him alone.


Johnny Appleseed said...

First of all, it's Snowden, with an "e."

Secondly, Snowden defenders and supporters unwittingly link arms with those who defended and supported the removal of Saddam Hussein on bogus information because both groups share the belief that the end justify the means.

Whether you agree with the means or the end, the fact of the matter is that the means can never justify the end in a principled and virtuous society...which, of course, explains why some Americans are so naturally drawn to figures like Snowden.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Snowden may have snitched on the NSA and their domestic surveillance programs, he also snitched on our foreign spook operations. For that, he has placed his country at risk. That is not patriotism friends and neighbors, that is treason. Foreign nations are not protected by our Constitution and if the NSA, CIA, DIA, whatever, is spying on them, who cares? That's what they are supposed to do.

Funny how the same people who are tagging Snowden as a hero Patriot are the same folks who would be the first to ask, "why didn't we know this was going to happen" if there were a terror attack anywhere in the world. Why? Because Snowden dimed out our spy agencies and y'all are calling him a hero.

Anonymous said...

When have you ever seen Frontline devote 4 hours to a single topic?

I wouldn't say we're drawn to figures like Snowden but universally repulsed by lying hypocrites in positions of power.

When you see in part 2 how NSA executive turned whistleblower Thomas Drake who DID "man up and face the American Justice System" as Kerry ranted yesterday re Snowden, you will be sick to see how far this administration will go to find and literally frame perceived threats to their agenda. Even though eventually cleared Drake is financially ruined defending himself.
The message is clear. We were lied to then and we we still being lied to today.
Example yesterday Kerry also accused Snowden of running to live in a totalitarian state.. The facts are Snowden was booked through to South America and the US state department revoked his passport while he was passing through Russia.

So the truth is, it is Kerry's state Department's decision he be stuck in Russia but that doesn't fit the administration's narrative so once again the facts are malleable to fit the objective of demonizing whistleblowers.

Anonymous said...

Sounding like a Libertarian?

Anonymous said...

Its sad how many support a Stassi State to justifie the empire.
The different alphabet soup agency's hat defined missions ones upon a time as it pertains to domestic or foreign with some rudimentary oversight. The end justifies the means made toast of those guide lines.
The criminal neglect of not handing info over or alerting when targets crossed borders made 9-11 possible.

Equally troubling is the fact that former FL Governor and later US Senator Bob Graham, whom I hold in great estime, felt it necessary to resort to fiction writhing to get the word out, of what he knows and learned, as part of being in the oversight committee. That oversight committee is set up to fail because he could not seek advise, take notes for later studies, or discuss questions with anybody that might know a explanation. Attending his public discussion speeches are very informative in what he can not say between the lines.
Bob Graham is a gentleman and speaks the truth very diplomatic. I only fault him for not being force full in trowing the truth at the powers that be and wake up the public with cold water at a crucial time.

Johnny Appleseed said...

Yes, Anonymous at (no time stamp, 'cmon EoM), it is despicable how the U.S. treats folks who violate their oaths to this country, steal classified information and then put this country at risk by revealing its secrets. Rather, they should reward and encourage this kind of behavior so that even more of America's clandestine efforts to ensure nation security are compromised and given to our enemies.

Even better, more Frontline exposes would result! It's a win-win for everyone...well, except for those who lose their lives in the next terrorist attack. That's just the cost of freedom and liberty, I suppose.

As a side note, who do you think are going to be the 1st ones in line to criticize our inability to prevent said terrorist attack when it happens?

Anonymous said...

Your link is to a 2007 Frontline "Spying on the Home Front". Are you instead refering to the Frontline from this month "United States of Secrets"?

Anonymous said...

The comments above get to my point, but let me add one more thing. Let's assume for a moment that Snowden's actions were morally right. That fact does not mean that his actions were without consequences. When a person takes a truly moral stand - think Gandhi or Marin Luther King - he or she is willing to accept the consequences of those actions. Snowden fled the consequences of his act, which undermines his moral stance. We may never know precisely what the damage Snowden did to his country so we cannot evaluate the relative value of his act. Would you still support him if you learned that covert U.S. agents died because of his act? Or that U.S. or foreign soldiers died because of it? Or that anyone died because of Snowden? What if we missed a terrorist because of his act? Until we (or someone) can weigh his act against its consequences, his act is run-of-the-mill treason and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Once the bullet leaves the gun, it cannot be retrieved. His only option now is to continue to do Putin's bidding. For that Putin may allow him to live. There will be more of these Putin- inspired interviews so don't get too excited. He wants to come back home but he has not figured out that death awaits him here. Remember we are a country where innocent women and children are systematically gunned down by crazy people. So for all of you who are thinging about betraying your country, think long and hard before you pull the trigger.

Anonymous said...

Readers aren't as left-wing as you thought Alan?

Anonymous said...

It really is not a left wing or a right wing situation like many of the issues that we face. Either you love your country and are loyal to it above all other countries or you don't. It is very simple, not complicated at all..

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

To anon mentioning Frontline. Let's not obfuscate the facts here. Snowden is NOT a patriot. He is a traitor. His whistle blowing may have revealed that the NSA has a domestic spy agenda, his whistleblowing clearly compromised our nation's ability to gather intelligence on foreign governments. Our allies were pretty pissed off when they found out about the extent of our surveillance efforts. Do you really think that foreign allies do not engage in such surveillance? You are a fool if you think they do not.

Snowden compromised our nations' ability to know what other governments are planning. For that he committed treason.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me if he simply wanted to reveal US ease dropping on American citizens, looks like he would have only taken info on everyday people. Conversations with friends and family that include what to pick up from the grocery store on the way home, how people did on a test, family and neighborhood gossip, generally the soap operas of the lives of basic people. That would have served his purpose. But NO. He stole only highly classified strategic military files, and information on our alliances around the world. And gave them to China and Russia.

So now he needs to embrace his new country, work on Putin to make sure he does not ease drop on the Russian citizenry. No need to come on American TV any more. All of his attention needs to be on his new homeland.

Anonymous said...


I'm no longer living in Miami.

It's amazing to see how even your readership leans toward the right of the opinions of other parts of the country.

South Florida truly is a different place, seemingly in denial of so many obvious truths.

Good luck dealing with the abundance of reflexive patriotism. I suppose that rising sea level is yet another delusion of commie-loving traitors.

Anonymous said...

Gee, It has been a long time since I have thought about a situation like this. Is anyone on the board familiar with federal law regarding treason? Is it a capital offense requiring the death penalty? If so, what are the current practices for implementation? Do we still use firing squad? Electrici chair? What? I know many states use a variety of techniques, but I am fuzzy on the federal government. Or do they imprison them for life?

Anonymous said...

I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. Snowden did not do this; either you're with us and protect this country under all circumstances, or you're not. IMO, he is a Traitor.

Anonymous said...

Many things happen in prison. Prisoners don't like traitors too.