You have to wonder whether he had any idea of what he was doing.
The “he” is former National Security Agency contract analyst Erdward Snowden; the what, of course, is Snowden’s decision to release top secret documents which exposed a controversial NSA program to trap domestic phone calls.
After popping out of a rabbit hole in Hong Kong to take credit for the damaging leaks, Snowden’s self righteous protest against governmental intrusion has become the stuff of international intrigue.
In the hours and days following his initial media appearance, the contract employee’s stance against the clandestine phone-tapping operation split the national audience down the middle, or at least slightly to the left, with critics labeling Snowden a traitor and proponents touting him as a privacy rights hero.
For the record, Snowden is nothing more than a criminal.
Despite his sideline role as an NSA contract analyst, Snowden swore an oath, signed his name and pledged whatever his conscience defines as honor to keeping our country’s secrets. Assuming he wrestled with this moral issue, his decision to disclose the clandestine program might still have remained within the framework of a whistleblower. However, by leaking the actual NSA documents and operational cases, he not only exposed our government to international ridicule – by countries far more familiar with heavy-handed domestic espionage, to be sure – but he likely put his fellow Americans at risk in doing so.
Perhaps the most telling argument for Snowden’s criminal complicity are the two factors which will dominate his life, until he is run aground by federal agents: his flight and his choice of friends.
How difficult would the government’s position have been had Edward Snowden not made his first public appearance in Hong Kong, but in, say, a small midwestern town square? Would the feds have been as willing to commit hundreds of agents to his arrest if he had been waiting for them on a park bench, telling his story to reporters like an erstwhile Forrest Gump?
I’ll say no.
If the saying, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are” is true, then Snowden has made a grave mistake. His appearance in China, his flight to Russia, and his rumored destinations or stopping points of Cuba or Venezuela, have the fleeing analyst on a world tour of U.S.’ greatest rivals. It certainly makes one doubt the man’s patariotic fervor.
Just as Snowden’s actions blew well past whistleblower status, the aftershock of those leaks has escalated to the level of international incident. An AP story (Trib 6/24) reveals that diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China appear to have been harmed, and our acrimonious relationship with Putin’s Russia is tipping out of balance. Our rivals, if not our enemies, appear giddy to take advantage of this situation.
This does not excuse the federal government, which ultimately must answer for its questionable domestic phone-tapping program. Recriminations and introspection will have to wait, however, because Snowden’s leak of classified documents was a treasonous act. He is welcome to defend his actions in court.
And the citizens with whom he broke faith look forward to that day.