Usually we define a hero by their intentions. But one odd thing about the Snowden case is that the issue seems much more about the net effects of what he has done rather than what his intentions were. Maybe we’re just all so afraid of terrorists that we don’t really give a crap about him personally. The real question is: Is this guy helping us or hurting us?
Now certainly it is odd that a man who claims to have access to the greatest treasure trove of compromised intelligence in the world would physically hand himself over to Chinese spy agencies (which presumably torture people on a regular basis). It’s especially odd considering how terrified of the NSA Snowden was. (Reporter Glen Greenwald says Snowden communicated with him while typing with a pillowcase over his own head, and told him that the U.S. government would surely kill him if they knew what he was doing.)
Some people have made claims that “Snowden’s laptops were most likely drained by the Chinese”, but of course, as Greenwald pointed out, this is not 1986. People today have USB drives and cloud storage, not to mention encryption. But again: Where does Snowden get his balls big enough to just hand himself over to the Chinese spy agencies, perfectly secure in the theory that they won’t give him any trouble because this was all very public. It seems like this Snowden is either in tight with the Chinese or is a compulsive gambler in serious need of some action.
Now it does make some sense, I guess, for him to go to China and Russia because he was perhaps convinced that these would be the only two countries in which the U.S. government would not be willing to conduct a raid (being semi-hostile nuclear powers and all). Kim Dotcom, who ran his own little cyber rebellion, apparently thought he was perfectly safe because he was operating out of New Zealand, and was probably very fucking surprised when the American FBI kicked in his front door. And this was just over pirating movies. If U.S. government is that concerned about illegal copies of the The Hangover Part II, then I imagine they’re pretty pissed at Snowden.
But assuming he didn’t turn over our secret Death Ray plans to the Chinese, the other big question is: How much has he hurt out ability to “combat terrorism”?
Now, I personally subscribe to the Winnie the Pooh Theory of Terrorism, which states that if you don’t put your hand in the honeycomb in the first place, the bees won’t try to sting you. I find it laughable the idea that the reason we have so many problems with terrorists is that our security agencies haven’t been clandestine enough about all their secret wars and monkey business they’ve been getting involved in around the world.
There are few things more satisfying than watching James Clapper, head of the NSA, in the hot seat. You gotta love Snowden, at least for that. And as far as what even liberal humorist Bill Maher says, that all of this spying on Americans is necessary to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons, Maher is apparently not aware that even entire nations (such as Iran) are having tremendous difficulty getting nuclear capability, let alone an Osama Bin Laden type, a mere rebel with a 100 million dollar trust fund.
This conversation strikes at the heart of what American success (or “exceptionalism”, if you will) has been all about: That the openness of our government has, since our nation’s founding, helped expose government corruption, which has lead to better governance. This is our greatest strength, not our greatest weakness.
Terrorists will not go away until we deflate the political issues they thrive on. At any rate, you can find clips on YouTube of people saying this stuff about the NSA long before 9/11, claiming that the Internet was designed from the beginning mainly to provide a back door password into all computers in the world. This is something which is clear to EVERYONE outside America: The boogeyman Terrorists are just a convenient excuse to do what the U.S. government was planning on doing anyway.