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“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because they’re such powerful adversaries. No one can meaningfully oppose them… And that’s a fear I’ll live under for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
The 29 year-old National Security Agency leaker and surveillance state whistleblower Edward Snowden switched gears Sunday, June 9 from an American news source suggesting governmental 4th Amendment abuses against illegal search and seizure.
He had just completed his first goal to publically scrutinize the vast digital surveillance industry, and he believed USA Intelligence would hang him for it.
Weeks of controversy spurred by the Defense Science Board’s report that Chinese hackers compromised the secrecy and primary of dozens of USA weapons systems resulted in a mute American constituency playing victim to voluminous Chinese denials. China’s President Xi Jinping was set arrive in Palm Springs for a weekend summit with Barak Obama. And stories of a secret National Security Agency (NSA) subpoena of millions of Verizon phones refocused the national conversation on the Administration. The President had just appointed embattled one-time Secretary of State nominee Susan Rice to the position of NSA Advisor and pundits jumped at the opportunity to declare war on a woman already blamed for cover-ups. The Washington Post implicated nine tech giants in 4th Amendment abuses while the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald frightened the public with details of Prism – an all seeing eye that could open any computer, tap any phone. At the end of the President’s weekend summit, Mr. Snowden, in a Hong Kong hotel room, revealed himself as the NSA source, stating that he wished to fight for his right to be a conscientious observer and government detractor in the courts of China.
So, the one-time Intelligence community contractor, scared of the omnipotence of the NSA and the random culture of meaningless inquiry, had struck.
His goal was to open meaningful dissent against an American surveillance state that has grown unchecked since September 11, 2001 under the veil of counter-terrorism operations. But to do that he had to accomplish more than simply monopolize the news as a complaining soothsayer of doom. He had to dominate it to create a culture of dissent to avert a future he fears – a future ruled by digitized surveillance searching and seizing citizens’ data.
Snowden stayed anonymous in Hong Kong by courting the Chinese press and divulging covert hacking campaigns on Chinese citizens to the China Morning Post. Snowden got hailed as a freedom fighter with as little as 3% believing bilateral extradition agreements with the USA should go honored.
But within a week the UK issued a warning to Asian air carriers not to allow Snowden passage to the Common Wealth or face fines.
Though petitions on whitehouse.gov ballooned to a million signatures demanding that we pardon the one-time spy for going public, the Guardian’s Glenn Greewald’s promise to CBS’s Seth Doane that we hadn’t heard the last of Edward Snowden rang hollow.
House Majority Leader, Republican John Boehner, and the Chair of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, both called Snowden an out and out traitor.
Peter King, (R-NY) the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, went before Anderson Cooper on CNN and called for the prosecution of Glenn Greenwald for threatening national security itself by defiantly promising to publish secrets.
But Cooper took the opportunity to catch the Congressman defending National Intelligence Director James Clapper for stating on March 12 that we only unwittingly break the 4th Amendment to spy on Americans.
Presumably we know and allow government surveillance as an extension of the Patriot Act and the War on Terror, but the Director, in the name of deterrence, was being evasive, and, in the name of Snowden, he was lying.
Journalists have been quick to point out that NSA Director Keith Alexander may also have lied to Congress when he denied some 14 times in March of 2012 that the agency collected phone, email, Internet, in short, digital records.
But America’s leading luminaries overshadowed any Civil Liberties debate to characterize Snowden as suspicious. From Alan Dershowitz to Tom Brokaw and CBS’s Bob Schieffer, America’s spin doctors settled on listing Snowden under vapid and vain: a low-class slacker who never finished anything.
But Snowden struck again, timing a report on the NSA’s April 2009 hack of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with the assembly of the G8 Conference in Ireland this week.
The Commander-in-Chief was a week removed from accusations of lying to the American people by numerous Congressional members for suggesting the existence of widespread oversight of digital Intelligence gathering. A taped rebuttal to CBS’s Charlie Rose did little but point out that the Administration’s transparent oversight committee for wiretapping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) does not reject warrant requests.
While some like Senator Paul Rand (KY-R) hailed Snowden’s courage, House Intelligence Committee heads Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) doubled down on Snowden, calling him an ignorant and vain criminal.
But a CNN/ORC International poll only showed a 52% majority of Americans believing Snowden should be forcibly made to stand trail in America.
And Police Commissioner Ray Kelly of the NYPD defended Snowden to echo the thoughts of many who do not understand how secrecy promotes National Security.
And Snowden struck again, anticipating the President’s high profile visit to Berlin by stating that Germany was the NSA’s most surveyed state in Europe. And so the once popular and inspirational Obama, rather than galvanize hundreds of thousands, as he had in 2008, struggled as an authoritarian with a crowd of five thousand invited guests.
So at least Mr. Snowden has found meaning as a powerful counter culture voice who could upend American propaganda overseas with a few choice words and documents.
But, at home, the American people got an earfull on the NSA’s life-saving deterrence of some 50 terrorist plots.
As the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence heard this past week in a hearing entitled, ‘How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries,’ Mr. Snowden’s undeniable and significant attack against the agency undermines our safety.
Though many believe the NSA’s authority to be questioned, and not our safety, the burden of proof on Edward Snowden is already apparently incalculably immense, poetic justice, perhaps, for someone who took exception with the poetic license to verify suspicions of guilt for the good of all.
Image credit: Edward Snowden via Facebook