NSA Leak: Edward Snowden A Hypocrite? I Say It Again, He’s Not The Story

Have you noticed that a national conversation about the National Security Agency (NSA) has commenced over the past two months? And even many who dismiss leaker Edward Snowden as a traitor, or a coward, agree we need to take a closer look at what the NSA does, and what it should be allowed to do.

But if you scour the internet for stories on Edward Snowden, there is one angle that is consistently missed, that Snowden didn’t leak the NSA data for his own benefit. But you’d be forgiven for believing that was the case when listening to pundits and reading articles. — I’d like to reiterate, Edward Snowden is not the story. The overreach of the surveillance state is the story.

Remember, it was just last week that the House voted on the “Amash amendment,” which looked to cut funding for the NSA, and was written by a coalition of liberals and libertarians with one thing in common, they care about civil liberties. And yes, the bill went down to defeat, but by a narrow margin in the House, the chamber that can’t seem to get anything done under Republican control. So yes, it did not pass, but this amendment, with support from both sides of the aisle, would never have existed without the Snowden NSA leak.

So to dismiss Snowden as a hypocrite or a coward because he took off for China, then Russia, and then later received asylum from Russia, misses what is important, and I’ll say it again — Edward Snowden is not the story. But for some, they continue to make this story all about Snowden. It’s as if his post-leak travels somehow invalidate the data that was leaked. This is of course bullshit, but it’s a pervasive narrative.

Addicting Info — Of course, those who are blind in their embrace of Snowden as a ‘hero’ will spin this equation – the irony of him seeking asylum as a civil liberties fighter in a country hell-bent on curtailing them – in a way that exonerates him from moral responsibility. I expect that and will no doubt hear about it in comments to follow. But more objective people – on all sides of the aisle – have no choice but to look at the fuller picture of any event, including this one. A ‘hero’ can’t break the laws of his own country (potentially putting people and intelligence programs in harm’s way) under the guise of fighting for transparency and civil liberties, then ignore those very issues in his host country when it comes time to save his own hide… at least not without being called on his hypocrisy.

You don’t have to consider Snowden a hero, which I do not, to believe the information he leaked is important. We need not be locked into a rigid perspective that dictates if we believe Snowden was wrong, then we must denounce his actions and move on to the next topic, or devalue the information that he leaked due to a moral judgment on his actions post-leak.

So instead, how about we look at this from the reclusive perspective, the lonely angle that Snowden is simultaneously not a hero and not a hypocrite. Because if Snowden leaked the information for the benefit of all Americans, not just himself, then his fate in a less free country is not the issue here. That doesn’t make him a hypocrite, in fact, some might say it makes him a martyr. I’m not going that far, I’m simply pointing out that Snowden ending up in a country that has a worse human rights record doesn’t mean his leak was for nothing. Because one man who leaked NSA data finds himself in China or Russia does not mean the data he leaked is not of benefit for the freedoms and civil liberties of over 300 million Americans.

I don’t have a “blind embrace” of Snowden, but I do put great value on the revelation that we have a security apparatus in this country that is in serious need of reform and regulation by the people, and I also put great emphasis on the conversation (and attempted legislation) in the wake of the leak. There’s no irony here, because again, Snowden is not the story. Snowden didn’t leak NSA data for his benefit, for his freedom, for his civil liberties, he did so because he thought it was important for all Americans to know what their government is doing in the name of national security. But this is, as I said, a secluded perspective. Everyone likes a juicy story, and it doesn’t get any better than pointing out the supposed “irony” of Snowden running off to countries of questionable character on human rights. But it’s simply a deflection away from a valuable conversation on civil liberties in this country.


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