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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More on Ed Snowden: Spy or Hero?

For me, the whole Snowden saga is intensely interesting and fraught with many burning questions and monumentally serious concerns. So, please indulge me again. In truth, like a good book, this subject is well-nigh impossible to shelve.

In a recent interview with CNN, former CIA officer, Robert Baer, for whom I have great respect, opined that Edward Snowden was likely a spy for the People's Republic of China.

Well, like Mr. Baer, we're all entitled to our opinions. And, of course, the diligent among us must always consider all possibilities until the full, unadulterated truth is fully disclosed--if it ever is.

That said, having thrice listened to the Guardian's interview of Snowden and carefully observing his facial patterns & manner of expression, I could not detect the slightest telltale sign of  pretention or concealment. What I saw was a genuinely bright, very well-spoken, remarkably poised and, yes, lonely and beseiged American who thought he was doing the right thing for America, and was willing to take the hits for doing so. And until there is solid, incontrovertible proof to the contrary, I am compelled to adhere to that view. Not exactly scientific. But no less scientific than Mr. Baer's position.

Though I suspect both detractors/dissemblers and supporters alike are working on it, missing so far is a more comprehensive background analysis and objective psychological profile of Snowden, both of which would be helpful to those of us who have more than a passing interest in his motivations and in any proof of NSA's lawlessness. In any event, to date nothing in his background has suggested the makings of either a hero OR a spy. And had there been hints of either, one could logically deduce that the security clearance check he was subjected to by the US Government would have disclosed such dispositions.  One would hope so anyway.

Curious to me is Mr. Baer's opining that Snowden is likely a spy for the PRC because, I gather, Snowden opted to flee to Hong Kong. To me, that is a  rather foundationally flimsy deduction on Mr. Baer's part. Reportedly,  albeit unsuccessfully, on more than one occasion Mr Snowden brought the issue of NSA's highly questionable and likely unconstitutional actions to the attention of his superiors. And there's the nub of my disagreement with Mr. Baer's preliminary assessment: why would Snowden run the risk of exposing himself to his superiors as a "troublemaker" IF he were a spy? Makes little sense to me.

My bet is that Snowden fled to Hong Kong because 1) it was geographically closer to Hawaii than Iceland, and 2) the chances of PRC's extraditing him to the US was minimal to nil. On balance, and assuming he gave the matter of asylum at least a modicum of consideration before fleeing, HK is where I would have gone had I been in his shoes.

Mysterious and worrisome is the fact that as of this writing, Snowden's current whereabouts is unknown. He has simply dropped out of sight. Did he defect, or was he swept up by the PRC or other hostile entity? We just don't know. Being so high-profile, I can't imagine how Snowden could easily remain concealed for long, unless, of course, his concealment was forced on him. We can only speculate as to his whereabouts at this time. We'll just have to  wait and see.

Finally, let's not rush to final judgement about Mr. Snowden. The NSA apologists, and there are many, will attempt to discredit him. Those who fear the worst about "our" government, which are also numerous, will applaud his nobility and courage. However, those seeking the unvarnished truth about Snowden and the NSA will give him the benefit of the doubt and await developments.

This is the stuff of spellbinding novels, for sure. But, for me, the big concern is NOT whether Snowden was a spy, which, at this juncture strikes me as fanciful at best, but whether or not "our" government was/is spying on us. Which of the two scenarios should be more concerning to an American? Hands down, I'd say the latter--in spades!

Postscript, 6/13/13: If Mr. Snowden's sole purpose is to alert Americans that they are being spied upon by their own government, I am sincerely sympathetic and supportive. However, I am troubled and somewhat surprised by reports circulating on the internet today that he is determined to disclose more documents than is absolutely needed to accomplish that lofty goal. I  hope my guarded sympathy for Snowden hasn't been misplaced. If these reports are true, then it appears Snowden is fast approaching the status of "Betrayer" versus a "Paul Revere". We can only hope his judgement and sense of patriotism doesn't fail him or the American people now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Edward Snowden--A Treasonous Villain or Champion of Freedom?

Some brief opinions and observations regarding Edward Snowden:

Is there anything more sinister to Ed Snowden's disclosure than meets the eye? And just what did Snowden disclose that was so injurious to US national security--but, more importantly, to the individual security of Americans themselves?

In my opinion, there was nothing nefarious or inexcusable about Snowden's disclosure. In fact, the disclosure--whatever that disclosure actually entailed--was most likely a valuable and timely wake-up call to those of us who are not yet brain-dead and who still value what little remains of our liberty.

Now the "poster child", if you will,  for the 1st and 4th Amendments, Snowden is "hiding" in plain sight--no unexplained "accidents" that way, they say. Understanding that he's broken the "law", he's justifiably worried about his safety, his future, his family. Said he, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, but I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant." Not exactly the articulation of a double-agent for China, but a young man hoping to somehow survive his lonely Davidian battle against Goliath.

And for the detractors and conspiracists, yes, he disclosed what appears to have been evidence of the NSA's unbridled and unconstitutional attack on the privacy of millions of Americans; but, the fact that he did so while China's Pres. Xi was visiting with Obama in California strikes me as purely coincidental, not a diabolical Snowden-PRC plan to embarrass the US. Enough said about that, I think.

And let's keep in mind the HUGE distinction between Snowden and PFC Bradley Manning. The latter arbitrarily DUMPED classifed documents with no regard for the harm such a callous action might cause to both national security AND individual lives. Their motivations were completely different. Asserted Snowden, "I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed [to the Guardian] to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is." Thus, Manning was thoughtless and brash. Snowden was sensitive to individuals' safety & the republic's security, and was clearly driven by his desire to protect individual rights.

Though his choice of Hong Kong was, at first, a tad mystifying to me, on balance I think I would have done the same. First, it is geographically closer to Hawaii than Iceland. Second, if I feared for my life and wanted to reduce the risk of capture and imprisonment by US authorities, I too would have opted for Hong Kong, the best of both worlds for a whistleblower. After all is said and done, Iceland may have initially proven to be more susceptible to US pressure to extradite, while the PRC can't be so easily bullied. (That said, Iceland is now carefully mulling over the idea of granting Snowden political asylum. And if that works out, then Snowden is "home" free--not, of course, in his USA homeland, but in a western-oriented country that proudly values individual liberty, and where he might again be able to reunite with his family and friends.)

Having thrice viewed the Guardian's interview of Mr. Snowden, there's something remarkably inspiring about this young man's sincerity, composure, acuity, and audacity--qualities and character strengths American patriots must draw upon if we are to successfully restore constitutional order in America and to prevent a police state taking hold. A GED graduate, and, obviously, a well-spoken and highly intelligent young man, I think we all need to give him the benefit of the doubt until such time that it is proven that self-serving and treasonous motives alone may have motivated him.

Let's understand what Mr. Snowden apparently did. He courageously sounded the alarm in a singularly unpretentious manner which characterized a man refreshingly at ease with having made a monumentally difficult, lonely and yet highly principled life-changing choice. No small feat for the best of us. For me, his unaffected and forthright manner confer much credibility to both him and to his story.

And isn't it ironic--indeed sickening--how upset Obama is over this and other leaks--unless, of course, he is the one doing the leaking for personal political gain. Selective indignation and shameless hypocrisy yet again. For Obama, par for the course.

And to our "representatives" who defend NSA's overreach and what is likely their expansive and faulty interpretation of the Patriot Act, they have much to answer for. In the name of all that's holy, I urge them to uphold their oath of office, and, at long last, to provide intensive OVERSIGHT not only of the NSA, but of the entire runaway bureaucratic Leviathan in DC. Oh, yes. And I urge them to read the Constitution they have sworn to uphold!

My friends, we are truly at a tipping point. Our 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th and 10th Amendments are under assault as never before in our nation's history. Trite though it might sound, I don't think it's hyperbole to suggest that our very liberties genuinely hang in the balance. Like never before, I sense that we as a nation are perilously close to dissolution and/or upheavel, and that only We the People, most of whom remain effectively disengaged, are able to stop it. So, I thank you, Mr. Snowden, for showing us all how very close to disaster we Americans really are. We've been forewarned yet again. This time, let's hope enough of us in Congress and at the grassroots level take heed.

"Those who sacrifice Liberty for security deserve neither. He who would trade Liberty for some temporary security deserves neither Liberty nor security." Benjamin Franklin, 1755