06.25.2013 0

Why Ed Snowden should not be the issue

By Willie Deutsch

On Sunday June 9th, Ed Snowden came forward as the source for the Guardian’s information about the National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping scandal and became one of the most famous leakers in U.S. history.  At that moment a discussion about Ed Snowden’s actions and motives became irreversibly intertwined with the discussion about the NSA scandal.

In leaking information about the U.S. Government’s spying on American citizens, and the associated Fourth Amendment violations, Snowden provided an invaluable service to Americans concerned with the growing surveillance state.  While there were rumors that such a spying program was going on, Snowden has forced everyone to confront the very real possibility that the government is recording every digital communication used by Americans.  He’s helped us make sense of previous statements from the intelligence community, made the intelligence community say revealing things as they dodged the issue, forced us to deal with how we balance security and privacy, and awakened many to the reality that America may look eerily like George Orwell’s 1984.

The revelations, and ensuing discussions would never have happened without Snowden.  For helping Americans realize what their government is doing to them, he should be appreciated.

But that’s the extent of it. The trouble is that when Ed Snowden decided to reveal himself, he immediately infused his prior and future actions into the discussion.  While many civil libertarians have lionized Snowden, his actions make him a very poor choice for a hero.

Snowden revealed his identity from Hong Kong, something that many people skeptical from the start.  The Chinese government which runs it is one of the worst free speech violators in the world.  As a fugitive accused of being a traitor, but trying to portray himself as a hero, you would think he would be careful about the secrets he released.  That has been far from the truth.

In fact in interviews with the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English daily, Snowden revealed specific information about Chinese targets the U.S. is spying on.  While the U.S. illegally spying on Americans is wrong, spying on other nations is something that every nation does.  Leaking information about U.S. intelligence operations in other nations sure sounds like a traitorous act. He did himself no favors by complaining about actions against foreign adversaries.

Further information about Snowden does not help his case either.  1.) He has admitted to taking a significant pay cut to get the job with Booz Allen Hamilton to collect proof about the US National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs.  2.)  He stated he wants to reveal information of the U.S. intelligence gathering operations in other nations to reporters in their respective nations.  “I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment… as to whether or not the knowledge of U.S. network operations against their people should be published.”  3.)  He clearly has a lot more information that he has yet to reveal, and according to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, has turned over much of that information to media outlets.  4.)  His itinerary has been one of visiting some of America’s worst enemies.

After the U.S. sent an extradition request to Hong Kong for Ed Snowden, he left for Russia, a journey the American government believes the Chinese government assisted him in. Where Snowden is at the moment we are unsure of, but we do know he reportedly booked a flight to Cuba, a flight he might have ended up taking, on what was supposed to be a trip to Ecuador for asylum through Cuba and Venezuela.  At a time when it seems “the collusion of several governments” has helped him evade arrest by the U.S., the nations he is visiting after revealing and promising to reveal more classified information should be troubling, even for those who were troubled by his domestic spying disclosures.

If it is revealed that Snowden did what he said he would do and gave classified information to foreign countries, those who have been making him a hero may want to reevaluate their position.  Civil libertarians defending someone who has given American intelligence information to China and Russia, could make the movement look like they are comfortable with American security being undermined in unjustifiable ways.

His actions unrelated to disclosing domestic spying in the U.S. therefore have become a hindrance to those wanting to hold the federal government accountable for what it is doing here in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

From hero to zero, Snowden in less than a month has become a distraction from his own whistelblowing agenda.

Glenn Greenwald, the UK reporter who has released Snowden’s information admitted Snowden doesn’t expect to stay out of the clutches of the government.  “I think that his goal is to avoid ending up in the clutches of the U.S. government for as long as he can, knowing full well though that it’s very likely that won’t succeed and he will end up exactly where he doesn’t want to be.”

If this is the case Snowden’s decision to make things worse for himself by releasing information about U.S. intelligence operations in other countries makes very little sense.  If he simply released information about the U.S. government’s spying on Americans, he would be in a very strong position to justify his continued actions.

Perhaps he could have turned himself in on American soil to great media fanfare, testified before Congress about the NSA’s surveillance on Americans, and let the trial on his case work its way up to the Supreme Court. A ruling on the NSA programs would be a crucial Fourth Amendment case in the modern era of digital communications.  However, his decision to travel to some of America’s worst enemies and release sensitive information about our intelligence gathering operations on their nations is very hard even for supporters to explain.

In releasing information on the NSA’s spying on Americans, Ed Snowden has been crucial in exposing the growing surveillance state in the U.S. — yet another invasion of privacy by the federal government.  To the extent however that he provides intelligence to some of America’s worst enemies and is protected by them, civil libertarians and limited government minded Americans need to realize that he is hurting their cause.

At present, the less Ed Snowden is the issue, the better limited government conservatives can make the case about the invasive federal government surveillance program he exposed. It is larger than any one man. It’s about all of us.

Willie Deutsch is Editor-in-Chief for NetRightDaily.com, and Social Media Director for Americans for Limited Government.

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