I have been following with interest the various leaks from Edward Snowden, although I have not been writing about them much. I write this post to officially say that the so-called whistleblower really is a self-aggrandizing a-hole, and not the 4th Amendment crusador that he envisions himself to be.
I join with others who ask — if he was so concerned about civil rights and privacy, why has he run to China (a place notorious for its lack of both)?
And then you read things that he says like today's Q&A with the Guardian:
First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That's not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.
Um, what? He thinks that the disclousure of secret acts is a forgivable crime? Since when?
He says what he is disclosing is "secret". On that, I think we all agree. But is it against the law? Absolutely not. Everything he has disclosed seems is within the law as it exists. There is no legal abuse. Yes, reasonable people can disagree about whether the laws are unconstitutional, but something being illegal and something being constitutional are two entirely different things. Laws can be unconstitutional, but laws cannot be illegal.
And some of what he is disclosing clearly isn't unconstitutional. For example, spying on foreign countries, including countries we are not at war with (like China). Again, you may like the policy, but espionage against other countries is not unconstitutional… for one simple reason: The Constitution does not protect other countries.
In fact, he is complaing about things that the NSA is supposed to be doing.
He repeats his mistake here:
Congress hasn't declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we're not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the "consent of the governed" is meaningless.
This is complete and total bullshit. "Consent of the governed", which isn't in the Constitution by the way, does not mean that the public-at-large raises its collective hand and votes on what our intelligence agencies do in secret. It never has meant that. The Constitution, in fact, tells us how "consent of the governed" works — we elect leaders and they decide. It's a representative democracy, moron.
Later, he rails against the "policy protections" that we have against our email, saying that policy protections are no protections at all.
Well, that's one way to look at it, I suppose. But "policy" is pretty broad, and encompasses actual laws. His argument basically is that laws can be broken, so any protections we have against privacy are meaningless. And while that might be true, it also applies to anything. I could say that laws against murder are meaningless, because people can break those laws and murder me. Yeah, so? What does he suggest?!?
It seems that Snowden may have possessed an ideal and naive view of what our government does. I don't think anyone is surprised, and most people expect, our government to do intelligence surveillance, especially on foreigners. I'm sure more aren't surprised that they are doing it on us. There seems to be a system of checks and balances (FISA court overview, congressional debriefings) so that the potential for abuse is low. And as for ACTUAL abuse of the laws, Snowden has not presented ANY evidence. No evidence that the courts were avoided, for example.
I think it's a good thing to have a national discussion and reexamination of intelligence gathering to the extent that it infringes on our privacy and Fourth Amendment expectations. And that's the only good that has some of this. But I don't see any wrongdoing so far, except on Snowden's part. This guy's a dick. And a traitor.
UPDATE: John Avarosis agrees with me —
Famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden almost had me convinced of his sincerity. Until today, when he released damaging information about US spying on Russia’s former president, and offered up no explanation for how such revelations jibe with his earlier claims to be fighting for the American people.
You don’t go and help the Russians if your goal is fighting for the American people, unless you have a darn good reason, and Snowden has so far given none for today’s new leaks.
It’s not clear what any of those have to do with Snowden’s earlier justifications for his leaks. They don’t have anything to do with the NSA director lying to Congress. They don’t have anything to do with the President not closing down Gitmo. And they have nothing to do with the dangers the surveillance state pose to the privacy of Americans. They weren’t spying on Americans in today’s stories, they were spying on Russian leaders and diplomats, among others foreign officials. So Snowden’s earlier justifications for the leaks don’t seem to apply. Then why did he do it?
And here’s where I really think Snowden lost me:
Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people…. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting?
So now Snowden thinks we should only spy on countries we’re at war with? Who are we technically at war with? North Korea? Anyone else? That makes for a pretty small list. Even if what he really means is de facto wars like Afghanistan and Iraq, again, that’s a rather small list. Can we spy on Iran? How about Syria? How about Cuba? How about China?
It almost sounds as if Snowden objects to the entire notion of spying. And if that’s the case, then why did he go to work at the CIA and the NSA in the first place if he’s morally repulsed by the notion of spying generally, and on Russia in particular?