Why Edward Snowden is Teaching Us the Wrong Lessons

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Edward Snowden, TV starEdward Snowden spilled the beans to Brian Williams to great ratings. However, he didn’t say much new and that’s consistent with his new career as IT guy cum spy.  I like Brian, I really do. What’s not to like? He’s a former firefighter and h Allison Williams’ (Marnie from Girls) Dad. However, his interview only revealed two interesting things: Snowden watches a lot of The Wire reruns and he’s allegedly a spy. But c’mon, revelations?

Spying? ‘I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED I say’

However you feel about sparking a wider national debate, Snowden really had no need to pilfer 1.7 million documents to make his point. Harboring the illusion that the government wasn’t spying on Americans is a little like saying, “I’m SHOCKED! SHOCKED I say,” when the sun rises in the east every morning. Of course they’re spying. What did Americans think they’d do when they pusillanimously whined to protect them from the astronomical unlikelihood of a cave-dwelling, amateur videographer attack?

Simply put, Snowden broke a passel of laws and parts of his story smell like a rancid tilapia fillet. First, he’s hiding in that bastion of freedom Putinavania with no visible way to pay his HBO bill for The Wire. He’s still hoarding most of his 1.7 million document booty for God knows what. His U.S. Passport is in his pocket, at least as a souvenir.

If you believe his recent James Bond claims, he was complicit in the same illegal behavior he decries. By all accounts, he also wasn’t choosy about his revelations and there’s no way to know the damage he may have caused. Plus, he could’ve gotten his story out without releasing any documents. True, he had good reason to fear the NSA, but a quick call to Darrell Issa would’ve done the trick and Darrell would have him protected on permanent subpoena, living it up in the East Wing of the Capitol. 

In fact, everyone missed the biggest teachable moment. A bipartisan fervor is worse than gridlock sometimes and the Unpatriotic Act is a perfect example. Yes, Our American Kenyan Cousin has expanded it significantly, but it wasn’t his brainless child. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that would be former Emperor-in-Chief, Cattleless Hat and his cowardly, nearly unanimous ranch hands.

Stop SpyingThe Orwellian Act, in name and deed, merely opened Pandora’s box. Sure, its reach has grown like wildfire since September 12th 2001, but so has technology. That is hard to attribute to a single administration’s policy instead of Chapter 207 in the Presidents’ Book of Secrets. It’s likely our government planned it from Day 1. It is not the only Bushian tick the Change and Hopester stuck with, but it is one of the most damaging.

No, the real lesson here is the ongoing strain between liberty and the necessity for American spies and secrets. The problem with the power of secrecy is that it grows uncontrollably when no one is monitoring the listening post. We need oversight to protect national security needs and unwarranted intrusion into sexts to ex-girlfriends. Even hermetically sealed jars leak when a treasonous bastard inevitably dashes them on the server room floor.

But who to trust? Clearly we can’t trust the spies and I can readily understand why we can’t trust Louie Gohmert with a secret…he still thinks evolution is a secret Obama plot. Laws are a start, but when they begin with an open invitation, you can expect the bad guys to walk in — no stand-your-ground law to protect the secrets either.

Swiping School Lunches for Spies Like Snowden

Americans can’t withhold funding, which even those hell-bent on swiping school lunches will try. Funding is a budgetary line item that vetoes everything else. Something is wrong when even the Commander-in-Chief doesn’t have a need to know. Whether you think he’s a Kenyan pretender or not, that’s the job for which we hired him. Breaking his oath, just as Snowden broke his, is grounds for impeachment. A Tea Party-unapproved health insurance bill isn’t.

It’s clear Snowden committed treason under the law and is hiding out of reach like the Great Train Robber. It doesn’t matter whether he thinks he’s a heroic spy or watches The Wire incessantly. We are — and I’m saying this without the Republicans’ missing sense of irony — a nation of laws. He and we should follow them.

Our domestic spying laws must change if we are going to lay claim to being the land of the free and home of the brave. If we need to repeal anything and keep the government out of personal affairs domestic spying is, hand’s down, more important than uselessly trying to repeal the ACA or drink a non-fat latte at Starbucks with an AR-15 slung around your neck.

It’s doubtful there is the political or moral will to do that now that the cat is out of the bag, but one can hope. And if that day ever comes we’ll need some way to keep the new American order checked and balanced as the Constitution requires. There’s no dispute that discussion is overdue, but there’s plenty of time to start now while we’re up to our ass in wiretapped alligators. We must be ready when the time comes.

No matter that it was accidental, but let’s follow through on Snowden’s only heroic contribution. Let’s turn his treason into a teaching moment to protect us all from treasons now and still to come.

7 thoughts on “Why Edward Snowden is Teaching Us the Wrong Lessons

  1. BTW everyone, that “A Bad Idea Is A Bad Idea, Even If It Is Ours” related link was me yelling about just a small slice of this type of abuse back in 2006. There are others on the site.

  2. Treason — are you freakin’ kidding me?! Craig said it better than I could — Snowden did this country an important service on the level of Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) or Mark Felt (Watergate). He also released some information that the U.S. needed to keep secret. His legacy might be mixed, but treason is best reserved for people like Jonathan Alter and Robert Hannsen.

    • Nope, I’m quite serious. There is no dispute he broke the law and had absolutely no compunction about tossing very serious, freely sworn oaths out the window…something that can get a soldier the firing squad and not a prepaid HBO subscription to watch The Wire. In fact, I took the same oaths and still uphold them even though I am no longer required to do so. I take those things seriously and I wish more people did.

      What he did is the very definition of treason and no one gets the right to redefine the law simply because they like the criminal, irrespective of their opinions of the good or evil that’s done. If there’s a beef there is a place and a way to deal with it, as warped as it may be. Ignoring it is no solution.

      I think they whole affair gives Americans a way to avoid responsibility for an intelligence monster they helped create.

      People began whining in a big way for the government to protect them from largely inept cave-dwelling, amateur videographers on 9/2/01. They quaked so badly they were willing to strip half naked and be blase about cavity searches to get on the 7:02 shutte to LA.

      That sort of environment catapulted the Patrot Act into space like, well, a spy sattelite while Congress and 90% of the public sat around saying, “Yep. Gotta be done. Protect my cowardly ass from all comers whether that is possible or not.” The remaining 9% sat around watching Duck Dynasty with their thumbs up their asses. Some of us were paying attention.

      You give people that sort of power they will use it. If you believed there was no domestic spying then, you were living on a unicorn ranch at the end of a My Little Pony rainbow. It’s a little late to come out whining about it on the wings of an unnecessary security leak now. That’s like the bankers saying, “Who knew that my monumental grifting would collapse the world economy? Don’t blame me, I’m just the thief.” Where the hell was the outrage then?

      American’s didn’t need to have documents leaked and millions more held hostage to complicate a world already too complex. The only needed to pull their collective heads out of their asses and stop being complicit for once.

      And despite popular propaganda to the contrary, Snowden could have surfaced the whole thing without endangering security in a variety of different ways. I mentioned some of them, but he should be painfully aware of less dangerous ways to do it since he now claims he was a Big Cheese spy. He was complicit in that which he claims to abhor. That doesn’t give me warm fuzzies about the shitheel.

      And speaking of your spies, I’d have a modicum of respect for him if he did come back and face the music. At least Ellseberg, Ames, and Hannsen did….and two of those three weren’t alledgedly high minded, they did it for the money. You does the crime, you pays the dime.

      All this is the point of the post, America is still looking the wrong way. We nee to start finding ways of building accountability and reasonable oversight because if anything gets fixed it will end up the same way within 2 weeks if we don’t anticipate for once instead of kicking the can down the road until it gives us a nasty cut on our feet.

      But then, that’s just my opinion.

      • “And despite popular propaganda to the contrary, Snowden could have surfaced the whole thing without endangering security in a variety of different ways. I mentioned some of them…”

        I haven’t been following your ongoing commentary on this matter. Please link me to your alternatives that Snowden could have used.

        • He could have taken his story to any number of people in Congress or the military who would have been happy to cover the story without releasing the documents. He could have used non-secret materials as his bona fides.

  3. I think the problem with this whole shebang can best be summed up with a simple analogy.

    I recently went on a round the world trip that left my home with nobody in it for a month. I gave the keys to a trusted neighbour and asked him to clear out the letter box and generally keep an eye on the place should something unexpected happen. I don’t expect him to have gone through my underwear drawer as part of that.

    When he goes away the reverse applies. I can know more about my neighbour by taking advantage of the trust he has placed in me. There’s a chance he’s running a clandestine drug manufacturing business out of his home, has bodies buried in the back yard or is stockpiling chemical weapons for a terrorist attack and giving me the keys is just a way of deflecting suspicion – so should check anyway, right?

    Take this to the level of countries. The US spied on Germany’s Chancellor’s private phone conversations. This is an incredible breach of trust an ally deserves to expect. Incidentally Australia was also caught spying on the private conversations of the Indonesian president although, whilst Indonesia is a nearest neighbour, we don’t really consider them allies.

    The larger population has been duped into thinking we’d have 9/11 every month unless the spy industry is given free reign. They completely ignore the fact that the spy industry has failed to stop any of the “big” terrorist acts. Rather they tend to get the ones that would have put a bomb on a bus or train and claim that as justification.

    So Snowden was part of the spy industry until he decided to get a conscience. I don’t think people would have believed the scope of the spying if it hadn’t been for him and Wikileaks. The government would have had plausible deniability. “You really think we’re interested in your shopping lists or sext messages?”

    Governments, especially the US, have to start thinking like people. I don’t go through my neighbour’s private things (even though I can and might have a good reason to) because I don’t want him going through mine. Imagine if the US said “we’re not going to spy on Germany because it’s wrong to do that to friends and we don’t want them doing it to us”.

    The US might then be able to reclaim the moral ground that has withered to nothing since WW2.

    • I agree 1000000% Craig. Much of the world, but particularly the U.S., has ceded their rights to dickheads so stupid they think dinosaurs live in Yellowstone National Park. They all need to force their government leaders to understand they work for the people and for the people to understand THEY are the government. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the current lot are as corrupt as they come.

      No doubt the U.S. has repeatedly screwed the pooch since WWII, but they aren’t the only ones at fault immorality goo on their hands.

      Since WWII, other countries depend on us to do their dirty work for them and they usually don’t much argue as long as they get to share the fruits of the torched morality. Of course, they are happy to simultaneously complain publicly about what we’re doing when it inconvieniences or embarasses them and it is ALL our fault when they need to help clean up their own problems (ala Ukraine, Bosnia, et al.), but sit on their Russian pipline instead.

      None of that is an excuse for the poor choices the U.S. has made, though truth be told there really wasn’t a “moral” choice all the time, only the least of 10,000 equally evil evils (See Stalin, Joseph, post war world). Our allies are often right there shoulder to shoulder with us, whining all the while about what shitheels we are completely without any sense of irony.

      Personally, I don’t see that as any more moral than the U.S. taking the low ground. At least we usually foot the bill. But, we let ourselves, or insert ourselves, in too many things that shouldn’t be our business, but somehow is.

      No doubt the U.S. needs to clean up its act and Snowden is as good a place to start as any. I am ashamed of some of the things done in my name and try to right that wrong in whatever small ways I can. But it would be healthy for the rest of the world to join in too.

      Merkel has every right to complain about being tapped because it is stupid and wrong to do it. But it would help the U.S., the rest of the world, and especially Germany to remember they too are illegally tapping phones and eating as much data as we can shovel at them when they aren’t. No one can have it both ways and that goes double for countries, the U.S. included.

      These types of shenanigans may have started here, but they got plenty of help from elsewhere to propogate. Like it or not it’s an international stain or morality now and if we hope to fix it, everyone is going to have to help out.