I was fascinated with Edward Snowden for about 15 minutes. It’s hard not to appreciate his initial assertion that Americans should know about and have some say in the operation and reach of US government’s surveillance programs.
But Snowden’s whistleblower alter ego has gotten in the way, making the story about him instead of the perils of government overreach. The latest Snowden bulletin: Russia, that bastion of civil liberty, will grant him asylum on the condition that he stops the drip, drip, drip of secret information he has gathered.
Snowden now claims he is stateless, which is not accurate. He's behaving more like a little boy who has run away from home and doesn't want to face the consequences.
Considering how intelligent Snowden is reported to be, he clearly didn’t think this through. For starters, he underestimated how underwhelmed many Americans would be by his leaks. The very premise that Americans didn’t know about the NSA’s activities in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, is kind of absurd. Alarm bells rang loudly about the inherent dangers written into the Patriot Act, but many members of Congress, including most Democrats, were so intimidated by the Bush administration’s patriotic fervor and the march to war in Iraq that they chose to ignore them.
And those few members who did speak out could count themselves among the ignored.
Snowden also presumed that Americans have long-term memory, and that his story would grab headlines indefinitely. History tells us otherwise, and I’m guessing that Snowden’s time is running out. The more information he leaks the less relevant he becomes.
More troubling is the shady side Snowden has revealed about his character — someone who justifies dishonesty for the sake of telling a greater truth. He essentially spied to warn us about spying.
If Snowden was trying to push the country into a broader conversation about the intrusion of government, national security, and privacy, I’m afraid we’ve had it. And if he sincerely thought that this Congress could do anything constructive about what we’ve learned, he was spying on the wrong government entity.
Perhaps the biggest revelation to come out of the Snowden affair is that we shouldn't count on members of Congress to read and understand the laws they pass, much less imagine how those laws could be misinterpreted. And that, I agree, is worrisome.