“How Not To Be A Hero” by Edward Snowden

“If his motives are as he has represented them-–“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant,” he wrote in a note accompanying his first set of leaked documents—-then he acted courageously and selflessly.”

—- Ethics Alarms, June 10, 2013, referring to the conduct and statements of Edward Snowden, NSA “whistleblower.”

That's outrageous! They are collecting our phone records and our...hey, "The Fugitive!" I LOVED that show!!

That’s outrageous! They are collecting our phone records and our…hey, “The Fugitive!” I LOVED that show!!

Now we know that his motives are not as he represented them. From his statement that I quoted, I assumed that Snowden’s intent was to make himself available to U.S. authorities, and to prompt debate regarding the government’s widespread intrusions into the private communications of presumed-to-be-innocent citizens, as well as to ensure that the issue did not get drowned out, superseded and swept aside by distractions, as so many vital issues are. This was an indispensable second step, though I did not begrudge him some time to prepare for it. It would be the action of a one engaged in classic civil disobedience; it would demonstrate sincerity, public-mindedness and courage, and it would avoid his exploitation by the many around the world, and domestically, who wish the U.S. ill.

Instead, Snowden decided to run. Running always plays into the hands of one’s enemies—anyone whose ever seen a Tom Cruise movie knows that. The guilty run. Cowards run. Would-be do-gooders run who lose their nerve run; bad guys run. Julian Assange, Roman Polanski and Marc Rich ran. When you run, you make those you are opposed to look better. Cognitive dissonance then works swiftly: “Hmmm. maybe all those people saying he’s a traitor are right.

Maybe. Snowden did worse than just run, he ran to the enemies of the U.S., first China, then Russia. He seeks help from nations whose record of abusing citizen’s rights is infinitely worse than that of the U.S.? What public minded hero would do that? Then he hooks up with Assange, a non-American and an anti-American. When it comes to heroes, we judge them by the company we keep.

Meanwhile, the saga of his escape has thoroughly over-whelmed the reason for it in the press. Americans love stories, not issues: the average low-information voter who determines our elections and what our deceitful and incompetent leaders can get away with can’t stay awake during debates over the minutia and technical details of how PRISM works, or discourses on the difference between gathering metadata from phone records and the conversations themselves. Their eyes glaze over; they are only paying half-attention at best. This is why, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issues an “apology” to Congress for a bald-faced lie he expected to get away with (He didn’t expect Edward Snowden to blow his cover), spinning a manifestly unbelievable excuse that he got mixed up about which NSA program was being discussed—remember that this comes in July, and the answer in question was in March—the majority of your friends and neighbors say, “Oh, well, that’s OK then.”

It is not OK, of course. It is cynical and offensive that Clapper even tries such a gambit, frightening that so many high administrations officials, in the IRS, the Justice Department, the State Department and elsewhere (don’t forget liar-in-chief Jay Carney), routinely lie to Congress and the public and get away with it, and infuriating that the President doesn’t demand Clapper’s resignation. (But that’s management, and President Obama doesn’t do management, as we’ve learned.) A good story, however, like George Zimmerman’s trial, or Paula Deen’s travails, or any number of other juicy media tales with no genuine significance at all, rivets the attention of these part-time citizens as much as they can be riveted. So, thanks to Snowden, the NSA’s activities are a footnote. What’s going to happen to this computer hacker trapped in a Russian airport?

We have learned other reasons why Snowden isn’t a hero. For example, it appears that he plotted to gather the classified data and release it before he got the job with Booz Allen. He wasn’t a whistle-blower who stumbled on a secret that had to be told and the public had a right to know; he was working undercover, determined to steal government secrets from the start.

In short, I was wrong about Edward Snowden. That doesn’t make his revelations any less important, nor does it in any way minimize the degree to which the public trust has been abused by the Obama administration. It does mean that nobody should shed any tears for him when he’s finally caught and imprisoned.


Sources: ABC News 1, 2

Graphic: Classic Flix

9 thoughts on ““How Not To Be A Hero” by Edward Snowden

  1. Our elected officials are spineless. Witness… “Mark Udall: I tried to expose NSA program”

    You didn’t try hard enough, Mark.

    Regarding Snowden (I ever so strongly disagree with you on this, Jack)…
    “Beyond the Edward Snowden Question” http://www.restorethefourth.net/blog/beyond-the-edward-snowden-question/
    …the following is copied from the above link and expresses the shades of gray seemingly absent in your assessment.

    by Robert Heldreth

    The man who leaked the NSA’s surveillance program, Edward Snowden, has received a lot of positive attention lately, especially from blogs and social media. Many think his act was heroic, and that the people of the United States deserved to know about this program. But it is a more controversial issue than it may appear to you. Many believe that Snowden is a traitor whose publication of secret documents aided our enemies and hurt our country. Still more do not trust his motivations for leaking the information, or fleeing to Hong Kong and then to Russia.

    Yet no matter how we feel about Edward Snowden, all of us have to face the fact that our government has been actively spying on us without probable cause. Remaining silent about this blatant violation of the Bill of Rights is no longer an option, regardless of your opinion of the man himself, or the other issues that have divided us.

    We must now shift the bulk of our attention away from Edward Snowden. The most pressing and urgent question is this: How will we respond now that we know that the government is violating the constitution on this scale? And what actions must we take to ensure that our leaders not only hear our voices, but listen?

    Many organizations are taking a stand right now. Mozilla started the website stopwatching.us, the ACLU is preparing a fight in the courts, and grassroots movements are popping up across the country to speak out. But there are many more actions that must be taken, and the person who can most make a difference is you.

    The first action is to force our representatives to take notice of us. Call or email your congressperson and senators daily from now until the fourth of July, holding them accountable for their complacency regarding the NSA and PRISM, and demanding action to protect us from all unconstitutional surveillance methods. Visit restorethefourth.net and sign up for your local protest. Even if you can’t make it, you can use the website to print out flyers or join the conversation on social media sites. The more we blog, tweet, post, and comment about this issue, the more citizens that take notice, and the louder our voices get. Your skills can help out as well. From computer programmers to musicians, all are welcome and needed in local movements and by the national organizers.

    July 4th 2013 will be a fun filled celebration of our independence and the birth of our great country. It will also be a day that we can all join together as citizens, and demand that our government uphold our constitution.


  2. Snowden broke his written promise against his employer and his country.. And the Gov was not guilty of doing anything illegal. Arrest him and throw the key away.

    You obviously do not like President Obama… However, Snowden’s revelation of is nothing new to anyone who can read and nothing worse than anything Bush has done.

    Last week I saw a RERUN of the HBO series The Newsroom, from 2012. Guess what, warrantless cell phone monitoring by the gov on US citizens was a point brought up in this melodrama.. Aaron Sorkin is not one to create unfounded slams against Obama, so he must have known this was a fact.

    • That show would be more informative if I could afford HBO. Don’t assume every citizen should rely on subscription entertainment for their news.

    • You really have to get over this bad habit of using the “but he’s no worse than X” excuse. It’s bad ethics, and bad logic, and lame justification at best.

      It’s not that I dislike President Obama. Don’t characterize criticism based on facts, observation and reality as mere personal preference. He’s just a very weak, very hypocritical, very incompetent, very arrogant leader, probably the most inept and disappointing of my lifetime, that’s all. He was never suited for the job in the first place, is in over his head at a time when the nation needs an outstanding leader, and he has a flat learning curve. It’s sad for him and the country–nobody likes being in a high profile job that they are no good at. It’s embarrassing and depressing. I feel sorry for him. And us.

  3. It’s not that I dislike President Obama. Don’t characterize criticism based on facts, observation and reality as mere personal preference. He’s just a very weak, very hypocritical, very incompetent, very arrogant leader, probably the most inept and disappointing of my lifetime

    Good lord man, what does it take for you to dislike someone?

    It occurs to me that the guy with the most profane vocabulary on here should probably not ask that question… You just forget I said anything…

  4. Mr. Marshall, I may be out of my league here so I do hope you do not mind another thought process. Snowden is merely a messenger, curtesy of the CIA. It is retaliation for Clinton’s testimony laying the blame of Benghazi at the CIA’s doorstep – which she repeated throughout her testimony. Snowden was a CIA contractor at one point in his career. Who may still be. – all just my humble opinion, of course. BTW, I enjoy reading your blog, and the thought -provoking opinions of your guests. Thank you, Andi

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