Edward Snowden – Hero or Traitor?

NSA whisteblower

Jeffery Toobin:

Edward Snowden Is No Hero

Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former C.I.A. employee and current government contractor, has leaked news of National Security Agency programs that collect vast amounts of information about the telephone calls made by millions of Americans, as well as e-mails and other files of foreign targets and their American connections. For this, some, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.

Snowden provided information to the Washington Post and the Guardian, which also posted a video interview with him. In it, he describes himself as appalled by the government he served:

The N.S.A. has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.

What, one wonders, did Snowden think the N.S.A. did? Any marginally attentive citizen, much less N.S.A. employee or contractor, knows that the entire mission of the agency is to intercept electronic communications. Perhaps he thought that the N.S.A. operated only outside the United States; in that case, he hadn’t been paying very close attention. In any event, Snowden decided that he does not “want to live in a society” that intercepts private communications. His latter-day conversion is dubious.

And what of his decision to leak the documents? Doing so was, as he more or less acknowledges, a crime. Any government employee or contractor is warned repeatedly that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a crime. But Snowden, apparently, was answering to a higher calling. “When you see everything you realize that some of these things are abusive,” he said. “The awareness of wrongdoing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up. It was a natural process.” These were legally authorized programs; in the case of Verizon Business’s phone records, Snowden certainly knew this, because he leaked the very court order that approved the continuation of the project. So he wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done.

What makes leak cases difficult is that some leaking—some interaction between reporters and sources who have access to classified information—is normal, even indispensable, in a society with a free press. It’s not easy to draw the line between those kinds of healthy encounters and the wholesale, reckless dumping of classified information by the likes of Snowden or Bradley Manning. Indeed, Snowden was so irresponsible in what he gave the Guardian and the Post that even these institutions thought some of it should not be disseminated to the public. The Post decided to publish only four of the forty-one slides that Snowden provided. Its exercise of judgment suggests the absence of Snowden’s.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent. In his interview, he said he went there because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” This may be true, in some limited way, but the overriding fact is that Hong Kong is part of China—which is, as Snowden knows, a stalwart adversary of the United States in intelligence matters. (Evan Osnos has more on that.) Snowden is now at the mercy of the Chinese leaders who run Hong Kong. As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government—which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?

The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right.

Edward Snowden has succeeded in separating the authoritarian sheep from the freedom-loving goats. Toobin is one of the sheep. I prefer being a goat because I don’t want my government spying on me.

I don’t know enough about Edward Snowden to form an opinion of him. Some people think he is a hero. Others think he is a traitor. By his own admission he has broken the law. It remains to be seen what price, if any, he will pay for his crimes. History will judge him even if a jury never does.

I believe in the rule of law and one of the foundational pillars of that rule is the idea that no one is above the law. But the law isn’t always right and there are exceptions because the spirit of the law is more important than the letter. Sometimes law-breaking can be excused, other times it may go unpunished.

Prosecutors frequently make deals with criminals in order to secure convictions of other criminals. Occasionally the facts are so extraordinary so as to excuse premeditated murder, such as when a parent murders their child’s molester.

My main issue with the Bradley Manning case was the idea that Manning should not have to face any charges whatsoever. If his actions were justified by the secrets he revealed then let him stand up in court and make that claim. Whenever you break the law as a matter of conscience you run the risk that a jury will disagree with you as to the necessity of your actions. Your motives and intentions may mitigate your crimes without excusing them.

Whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor is irrelevant to the legality and rightness of the domestic spying that the NSA was doing under the PRISM program. I disagree that this spying was legally authorized. It’s constitutionality is very dubious and the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to prevent the courts from ruling on it.

How do you determine the legality of secret programs, secret laws, and secret courts when even mentioning their existence is deemed to be a crime? Despite what Obama has claimed our representatives in Congress were not fully informed as to what was taking place. The rest of us were completely in the dark.

Even if Edward Snowden is an America-hating commie traitor, that does not make domestic spying legal. And even if it’s legal, that doesn’t make it right.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
This entry was posted in Domestic Spying, Edward Snowden, NSA, Scandalpalooza, Squirrel! and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

91 Responses to Edward Snowden – Hero or Traitor?

  1. wmcb says:

    Good piece, myiq. And my my, the progs have become authoritarian little fucks all of a sudden.

  2. myiq2xu says:
  3. myiq2xu says:

    As far as the idea that Snowden should have taking his complaints to the IG or to members of Congress, had he done so he would have been unemployed and put under surveillance.

    • Propertius says:

      And none of us would have heard a word. You forgot that part.

    • 49erDweet says:

      They probably would have preferred him to nail them to the door of the Concordia German Church nearby at the corner of 20th and G.

    • 1539days says:

      We all now that the IG is essentially useless. He could investigate up to the point of national security, which means he would be able to get all the 100% redacted documents he wanted.

      If he went to Congress, he would have to go to a member who has clearance. If that member had clearance, he already voted for this wiretapping. Congress is even more bound by these rules than the average citizen. If the Congressman were a Republican, it would be deemed a political attack. If it was a Democrat, there’s no way in hell he’d be allowed to reveal it.

      This was the best option from a list of bad options.

  4. myiq2xu says:
  5. myiq2xu says:

    Welcome to the Bates Motel:

    Police investigate deaths in same US hotel room

    Police are investigating the weekend death of an 11-year-old boy in the same North Carolina hotel room where an elderly couple died two months ago, local news media reported.

    Jeffrey Lee Williams of Rock Hill, South Carolina was found dead in room 225 of the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza in Boone on Saturday, while his mother Jeannie Williams, 49, was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

    It was the same room in which vacationers Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, from Washington state, died within hours of each other April 16, the Charlotte News and Observer reported.

    “Do you know how mad I am right now?” their son Doug Jenkins, who is considering legal action against the hotel, told the newspaper. “Why are they still renting out this room?”

    The office of North Carolina’s chief medical examiner told AFP that autopsy reports for all three deaths are pending.

    But Charlotte television station WCNC reported Monday that carbon monoxide had been found in the room, which it said is situated directly above a natural gas heater used to heat the hotel’s swimming pool.

  6. votermom says:

  7. myiq2xu says:
  8. wmcb says:

    Saw a brief clip of Rand Paul on the news, and he brought up the point that these warrants were in effect General Warrants, which are completely unconstitutional. Warrants by definition have to be specific as to person, premises, etc.

    The FISA court was supposed to be the protective barrier for all this. The safety and oversight that made sure the govt didn’t get spy-happy. If the FISA court is now either so intimidated, coopted, or downright corrupt as to be blithely issuing “warrants” for the data of millions of American citizens, then there is ZERO effective oversight at all. The court that is supposed to be watchdogging this is in effect issuing general warrants without batting an eye.

    So now they say that the govt cannot actually go into and look individually at the data they collected, without going back to that same secret court to get another warrant.

    Um. Pardon me if I look askance at the “judgement” of the same secret court that allowed the general warrant to collect the data in the first place.

    Americans have, by and large, great respect for national security and the necessity of secrets. And our govt has abused that respect as license to snoop.

    My local police cannot have a key to my house, my computer passwords, etc, without a specific warrant alleging wrongdoing on mypart. They cannot demand the access, with a promise that they will not use that access unless I am later suspected of a crime. They cannot demand access “just in case they ever need it.” Neither can the NSA.

    My 4th amendment rights do not change depending on which government agency it is.

    • yttik says:

      “My 4th amendment rights do not change depending on which government agency it is…”

      Well, in theory they shouldn’t, but in reality they sure do…

      • wmcb says:

        No, they don’t. My rights are natural rights, bestowed by no man or govt, but by my Creator. I have them so long as I breathe. Whether or not my govt chooses to violate them is the only question.

      • wmcb says:

        Still pissed off over all this. You are correct that THEY seem to think “it’s different when the NSA does it.” But I call. and yell, BULLSHIT.

      • 1539days says:

        Obviously, you don’t realize Obama is the Creator.

    • myiq2xu says:

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      • wmcb says:

        Yep. “Give me all the records of all your millions of customers over the last 3 months” is not exactly “particularly describing”, is it?

  9. yttik says:

    One can be both a hero and a traitor, myiq, often at the same time. Our founding fathers certainly were.

    As to Edward Snowden, I still haven’t formed a complete opinion. LOL, except I keep thinking of Revenge of the Nerds! He’s kind of a cute nerd, but a nerd he is. Techies gone rogue, I suppose. The poor guy seems out of his element. I hope he knows what he’s doing.

    • wmcb says:

      Me, either. I’m not sure how anyone can have a fully formed opinion of Snowden the man at this point. I mean, we know very little about him.

      I know what I think of what he leaked, and that’s the important thing for me.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Me neither. As VM tweeted, we have worse criminals in the administration way ahead of him.

  10. myiq2xu says:
    • votermom says:

      Racist homophobia?

      • wmcb says:

        More like stick-up-her-assism.

      • wmcb says:

        Also, complete and utter ignorance of locker room culture. Any bitter clinging flyover rube knows exactly what that butt slap was. She likely hasn’t a clue.

      • 49erDweet says:

        WayTooMale aversion syndrome. And it’s sad, in a way. If a female defendant, responding to the same questions, had reached over and briefly hugged her woman lawyer, it would have been no big deal. Judicial fail.

    • yttik says:

      I don’t have any sympathy! The guy was up for a domestic violence violation and the slap was his comedy act for the rest of the courtroom that was laughing at his antics. I would have been pissed off too, if I were the judge. She asked him a couple of times if he found the whole thing funny and he just kept smirking at her. Needless to say, most judges don’t like to be mocked and ridiculed and they don’t like defendants who think courtrooms are a joke.

      • wmcb says:

        What smirk? I saw no smirk. I’m not sure how you saw a smirk on the back of his head, because his face is not even visible. He replied “No” to her when she asked if it was funny.

        And I disagree on the comedy act. It was subdued, not exaggerated like a show off. I doubt he even realized he’d done it til people snickered. That is something athletes do without even being aware – like putting a hand on a shoulder for them. She had JUST asked him if he was happy with his lawyer, elicited praise from him for the guy. To an athlete, the thought “Hey, good job, man.” translates automatically to “Butt slap.”

        He basically got punished for the people in the courtroom, not his own action.

        • yttik says:

          The clip they showed on the news and the story they ran on espn gives you a much better picture of what happened. It’s also not the first time he’s tried to make jokes in this particular judge’s court room. Apparently she has warned him a few times that he better take the charges and the process seriously.

        • wmcb says:

          Oh, ok. All I saw was this clip, and I was like, “Huh? Can’t even see the dude’s face!”

        • angienc says:

          Sorry, WMCB — regardless of yttik’s further facts about the back story in this case, the court room isn’t a locker room — if a defendant doesn’t know that tough shit. A judge can hold you in contempt for any disruptive behavior — *without* any prior warnings (as was the case here it turns out) — and does *not* have to take into account the norms of a locker room only the norms of court room decorum.

          As to the comment above by 49erDweet — bad analogy. A brief hug is acceptable behavior in a court room, as would be a handshake or a shoulder squeeze. Butt slaps are not. Anyone who doesn’t like that should try to avoid court room appearances.

        • angienc says:

          *I want to add — the length of the term (30 days) *is* because of the prior warnings — the back story only illuminates that, although usually a judge will give ONE warning before holding someone in contempt (and then the term would usually be one night in jail or a hefty fine). The fact that this judge gave 30 days tells me there were *numerous* warnings that the defendant obviously did not heed.

  11. Propertius says:

    The worst part of this is that we have become the sort of country whose dissidents must seek political asylum.

  12. wmcb says:

    They don’t even try to give lip service to the rule of law anymore.

  13. SHV says:

    “The FISA court was supposed to be the protective barrier for all this. The safety and oversight that made sure the govt didn’t get spy-happy. If the FISA court is now either so intimidated, coopted, or downright corrupt as to be blithely issuing “warrants” for the data of millions of American citizens, then there is ZERO effective oversight at all. The court that is supposed to be watchdogging this is in effect issuing general warrants without batting an eye. ”
    Judicial oversight????? 34,000 requests made to the court since 1979….11 denied.


  14. taw46 says:

    Well, right now I don’t know enough about Snowden to have an opionion about him. But I am disgusted with everything Obama has done. And I do not want the government spying on us. And if something isn’t done, it will just get worse. I am pissed off at people who think this is OK.

  15. taw46 says:

    I listened to Rep. Sensenbrenner today, can’t speak to his honesty, but he did say he wrote the Patriot bill. And that it did not grant the government authority to collect information on American citizens.

    • 1539days says:

      The PATRIOT Act gave wide latitude to collect communications between an American and a foreign citizen. You can argue that this casts a wide net, since a lot of Americans communicate with people from other countries. However, it is a small fraction of the total communication in the United States.

      This violates the PATRIOT Act and shouldn’t pass the FISA court. Since no judge can have his decisions examined by anyone but the government asking for the warrant, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of oversight.

  16. SHV says:

    Jeebus..talk about “pots and kettles……

    “On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called Edward Snowden, the man who leaked secrets about National Security Agency surveillance of Americans to the press, a traitor. She told the press, “I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason.” She said that Snowden had violated his oath as a government employee to uphold the Constitution: “He violated the oath, he violated the law. That’s treason.”


    IIRC, don’t members of Congress such as Feinstein, Rogers, King, et al. take an oath of office that refers to the Constitution? She is trying to save her sorry ass….hopefully we are seeing a “perfect storm” and it won’t work this time.

    I think the IRS business has been the biggest attitude changer so far; a year or so ago, Republicans/conservatives and fellow travelers would be calling treason on Snowden and demanding the death penalty. Selective “Ox goring” seems to have an effect on ones outlook.

    • To me it’s the reactions from people in power who are telling the real story here. We don’t much about Snowden, or the programs he exposed for that matter. But watching the reaction from members of Congress and others in power, both those in praise of his action and those like Feinstein here who are over-the-top opposed, tell me that it’s a story that needed to be told. Most of our elected officials are snobbish, elite, self-serving, power-mad assholes, and that they are pissed off tells me most of what I need to know.

  17. myiq2xu says:
  18. DeniseVB says:

    Lawdy, Lawdy, we had some excitement a little while ago. It’s out to sea now…..

  19. swanspirit says:

    From what I have heard so far , I support Snowden , and he has showed a great deal of courage . I think he is a true believer , who saw the reality of the extent of the spying ; unvarnished by gloss of bullshitshine. He doesn’t have enough “edumacation” to rationalize by circumlocution what he was doing to get to a position where he could comfortably support those activities .
    And who knows what else he saw that he has not revealed ..what abuses have already happened , what was being planned for the future , that he knew about .
    So far , I support him .
    I cannot help being amused by the irony of the government being upset about their secrets being revealed concerning their ability to reveal our secrets Perhaps that is perverse of me . Bleeeaah .
    I think it is better that the general public know what the givernment is doing , than not . ( Did I say givernment ? I meant government 😉 )

  20. HELENK says:

    leslie marshall is on Hannity again. she would give up the rights of my country without firing a shot. there are very few people that make me as angry with their stupidity as she does

  21. HELENK says:

    Edward Snowden is a patriot and we need more like him.
    Our government is no longer the government that I grew up with and respected and trusted.
    now the biggest enemy of my country has been put in place to do the most harm. He in turn has placed in minions in place to bring the country down.

  22. myiq2xu says:
  23. wmcb says:

    Rand Paul may or may not have gotten dad’s slightly-tangentially-crazy gene, but so far he makes a fuckload of sense.

    No one objects to balancing security against liberty. No one objects to seeking warrants for targeted monitoring based on probable cause. We’ve always done this.

    What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won’t be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation. Americans should trust the National Security Agency as much as they do the IRS and Justice Department.


    I also believe that trolling through millions of phone records hampers the legitimate protection of our security. The government sifts through mountains of data yet still didn’t notice, or did not notice enough, that one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was traveling to Chechnya. Perhaps instead of treating every American as a potential terror suspect the government should concentrate on more targeted analysis.


    • leslie says:

      Makes me happy I’m using homedepot to purchase much of my new kitchen materials. I used to not shop there because I was a brain dead follower of the D party.

  24. leslie says:

    On my way home, I was listening to CBS news. They were describing Snowden as a “high school drop-out who joined the army and then worked at the NSA (I think) as a security guard for years. Took computer classes at a school and then worked in IT for various companies whose client was the NSA. He broke codes to access the programs to which he had no clearance and is now on the run from the authorities.” Did they say anything about the illegal spying on millions of American citizens by the government? seriously. Their job was to paint a portrait of Snowden as a thoroughly terrible specimen who is selling his information to the highest bidder and destroying national security and committing treason in the process. I nearly ran into the car in front of me i was so bloody mad.

    • leslie says:

      Oh, and they were throwing around numbers of years that he was working security as if he were at least 35. I was adding up the numbers and thought, Geez, this guy isn’t old enough to fit this description.

      • wmcb says:

        I saw one media asshole opining that his story didn’t jibe because “watching the video, he appears much more articulate than one would expect from someone with a GED”

        Seriously. This elitist jerk figured Snowden MUST be lying and fishy, because everyone knows GED Army grunts are all drooling imbeciles who play banjos, have horrible grammar, and say “Duuuuh” a lot.

        I wanted to punch a fucking wall.

        • myiq2xu says:

          everyone knows GED Army grunts are all drooling imbeciles who play banjos, have horrible grammar, and say “Duuuuh” a lot.

          “Be all you can be”

        • SHV says:

          The Ministry of Propaganda and it’s media stooges have problem; the stuff that Snowden released is true, otherwise they would be screaming FRAUD. The other thing that Greenwald hinted at, is more and more damaging stuff is coming. Snowden gave Greenwald ~40 Powerpoint “slides”, the first report involved four of those slides.

        • CBS Evening News did the same. “Was in the army for a few months before he was discharged” or something like that. NO MENTION he broke both legs in a training accident. Then went on to the second “Big Story” 94-year-old Nelson Mandela is old and dying. NOT ONE MENTION OF THE NSA Story or any other Obama-infused crap on a cracker “scandal”. When I turned it to ABC, in disgust, Diane Sawyer was doing a story on couple’s sleeping habits.

          We are on our own folks. It is our job to defend our country from these criminals and sloths.

        • elliesmom says:

          A lot of kids who are totally bored with school end up going the GED route as soon as they’re old enough to take the test.

      • myiq2xu says:

        They’re using penis years.

    • 1539days says:

      In other words, he was in the military, which is apparently bad, even though many NSA employees come from the military. Also, he’s a “high school drop-out” with only a security guard aptitude, and yet he BROKE CODES AT THE AGENCY THAT BREAKS CODES. He sounds pretty good at this stuff to me.

      By the way, this a new government trick where they hire contractors to keep the military out of the truly unconstitutional activities. Unfortunately, even though Snowden fit their perfect profile of the amoral technician, he went and got religion on them.

  25. HELENK says:


    The Obama Deception

    this is a long video. you might want to book mark it and see it later

  26. myiq2xu says:

    My mom asked: “How come when I turn on the television it’s always on a blank blue screen. I don’t turn off the cable.”

    I told her “That’s how they check to see if you’re still watching. If you don’t change the channel every so often they do that.”

  27. HELENK says:


    this administration scarier than you could imagine.

    good article

  28. HELENK says:

    a must see

  29. taw46 says:

    He is the problem. Just don’t know how, or if, anyone in D.C. will stop him. Or if they can. Makes for sleepless nights.

    • SHV says:

      “He is the problem.”
      Slowing the rapid evolution of the American Police State would be much easier if Obama was the problem; he is just the stooge, selected to be President. He can’t even put three intelligent sentences together unless he is reading words put before him. He has utter disinterest in the Presidency or life in general unless it involves “I, me, my or mine”.

      IMO, one of the the biggest mysteries in DC is who is using this dolt for their own agenda. Obama is the symptom, not the lethal disease.

  30. HELENK says:

    off topic


    stealth motorcycle. alright guys you know you want one

  31. HELENK says:


    I usually do not go to huffpo/ never liked her never will. always thought Bill Clinton turned her down and that is why she was so bitchy toward him during the impeachment

    but this story is important

    rally for snowden

  32. wmcb says:

    The “All Hail the Security State” neocons are really giving the conservatives who give a damn about civil liberties a hard time on Twitter.

    • wmcb says:

      Those fuckers are worried that the power will get taken away before they can weasel back into office and use it.

    • yttik says:

      Oh man, I know! People’s politics are exploding all over the place.

      • wmcb says:

        Dogs and cats are lying down with lambs to eat the lions or something. It’s getting all freaky with the mixed up labels in da haouse.

        I love it! 😀

  33. yttik says:

    Yikes, this was kind of fascinating and scary! I really think we’ve entered the realm of science fiction with our Gov and the implications are so huge, it’s hard to wrap my brain around it all.

    Using Metadata to find Paul Revere

    Once you’ve isolated your potential problem, you simply call in the pre-crime unit.

  34. wmcb says:

    BTW, Defiance on SciFi is one of those series that started out cheesy and “meh”, but is actually getting much better as it goes on. Good music, too.

  35. wmcb says:

    On the whole immigration reform kerfluffle, I only have this to say, with a lot of bad words:

    I support NOTHING, not even reforms I might agree with in principle, until the border security part is done FIRST. And the fact that the groups pushing for immigration reform are so gods damned all-fired insistent that it must be done the other way around, makes me suspicious as fuck. I don’t trust them. I don’t trust them not to have us right back in this same place a decade from now.

    Why would it matter to them? Illegals have been illegal this long, they can be illegal a little longer, for the months it would take to do the border stuff. WHY is it so important to some to make sure the green cards are in place before we do jack shit about the border? Gee, think it might be that they have no fucking intention of ever cutting off or even managing the flood? Just a rolling amnesty, evry 10 or 20 years, forever.

    Close down that fucking border, and get some control over who is coming and going. Once you have DONE that, I could care less if you THEN give every illegal already in the country a green card, a pony, and a hippity hop parade. Go ahead. Hurrah!

    But I am not supporting SHIT until that border is taken care of.

  36. Pingback: Rant of the Week – Immigration “Reform” | The Crawdad Hole

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