Friday, January 03, 2014

For Us Or Against Us

I have stated on this blog in the past that I have mixed feelings about Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who brought the entire NSA surveillance fiasco to light.  Most of my objections regarding Snowden revolve around his sketchy motives and his demeanor that makes him appear as though he's a publicity hound.  I have stated that I never got the feeling Daniel Elsberg particularly wanted to be famous for exposing the Pentagon Papers.  I get the opposite vibe from Snowden.  While I think it was important that the NSA's activity be brought to light and made transparent, I am uncomfortable -- deeply uncomfortable -- with the idea that a person would blow the top of a secret government spy agency simply for the self-aggrandizement.
Now that several national newspapers are angling for clemency for Snowden, there is sure to be renewed discussion about why he did what he did.  Is he a freedom-loving American, truly motivated by a desire to take us back to pre-Patriot Act protections against unwarranted search-and-seizure methods by the government?  Or is he a shallow opportunist angling for his 15 minutes of fame?

At this point, I neither know nor particularly care.  The NSA has been outed, the government has had to come forward and take a stand saying everything they're doing is hunky-dory, and that's that.

I am disturbed though by this black-and-white characterization of Snowden is beginning to form.  At the bottom of the HuffPost article, there's a little survey asking "Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor." HuffPost readers get to click a little button by either "hero" or "traitor" and neatly wrap up a complex and multi-layered situation with the mere point-and-click of the mouse.

Why? Why does Snowden have to be either?

I can find nothing that he's done to make him much of a hero. But neither do I find his behavior traitorous. He's made a bit more transparent an intelligence agency that has quietly been building steam and strength since it was formed in 1952.   Unlike the CIA, the NSA is absolutely entitled to spy on American citizens on American soil.  Now, they're being allowed to do it wholesale, without benefit of a warrant or judge's order. Somebody should be keeping an eye on that, don't you think?

But Snowden is no hero, either.

He's kind of a conniver and a schemer who used a classified position to get the goods on the government.  It's like asking a two-bit conman to testify against a mob boss. You're glad he brought the mob boss down, but you wouldn't invite him to Thanksgiving if you could help it.

What happens with regard to continued or broadened NSA surveillance remains to be seen. As I've said before, I'm glad there is an awareness now of just how much harm the Patriot Act has done to erode Constitutional freedom in this country.  We have spent the last twelve years, allowing our leaders to govern us through fear and threat.  And as such, we have gotten precisely the country we ordered out of the catalog.

Now, we know.  And we do have Snowden to thank for it.

So I will say "thank you" and send him on his way, without a title that burdens either of us.

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