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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.