Sunday, August 11, 2013

Snowden, patriot; Obama, in denial

This is just to say, for the record, that I think Obama was shamefully disingenuous or self-deluded in declaring in his press conference yesterday that Edward Snowden is not a patriot and suggesting that he himself would have triggered the kind of inquiry into current surveillance practices that Snowden has unleashed if not pushed by Snowden's disclosures.

This, in particular, is a logical elision:
So the fact is, is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case
Obviously, when the laws are askew, an act of disclosure (or other disobedience) can be both "right" and illegal.  It really burns me when people suggest that if  Snowden had real courage he would come home and make his case in court.  Snowden has given up a comfortable and privileged life and sentenced himself to what may well be lifetime exile, as have many honored dissidents before him. By what standards of "courage" or morality is he obligated to subject himself to the coercive plea bargaining that U.S. prosecutors impose or to decades of incarceration in our sadistic prison system?

As for Obama's next sentence --
If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community -- for the first time
-- those protections do not apply to "intelligence contractors like Snowden," as Trevor Timm, citing the Center for Public Integrity, noted in a piece that conclusively debunks Obama's claims that Snowden's revelations have not increased the likelihood of effective reform.

Snowden, as Timm demonstrates, has broken things loose. "Poll after poll," he writes,"has shown that, for the first time ever, Americans think the government has gone too far in violating their privacy." And, "More than a dozen bills have already been introduced to put a stop to the NSA’s mass phone-collection program and to overhaul the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."  If the U.S. ever significantly unwinds the surveillance state built up since 9/11 or rolls back the War on Terror, Snowden will be remembered as a national hero.

I didn't cotton to Snowden's smarmy flattery of the Russian state, and I was troubled by his assertions about U.S. spying in China and Europe -- though those disclosures, too, may prove over time to have been effective tough love. But any harm done is far outweighed by the effective agenda-setting and catalyzing of further disclosures that Snowden has wrought


  1. I agree and trust the President
    and Snowden belongs in jail

  2. Basically, whether or not Snowden is a patriot, depends on whether his actions have shifted public opinion in a direction you agree with. Would he still be a patriot if "poll after poll" didn't show that? Could the misleading and outright false things reported about the NSA program have something the do with the poll shift? For example:

    PRISM provides direct access to tech companies' user data; NSA targeted a reporter because she search for pressure cookers on the internet; Snowden's in danger of being assassinated by the US govt; Whistleblowers in the US are throwing into cages for decades and "disappeared"; the NSA admits to listening to American's phone conversation without a warrant.