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Anyone who has seen The Bourne Identity, or the many similar Hollywood films, finds the Edward Snowden saga familiar. A heroic fugitive insider is hunted by a rogue government agency. As the credits roll, our man on the run is vindicated, thanks to a combination of media coverage and belated congressional scrutiny. He gets the girl. The villains go to jail.

It is easy to go along with that narrative, particularly for journalists. We instinctively side with David, not Goliath. We thrill to the idea of disclosing secrets. We flinch at any constraint on press freedom. We may have little chance of winning the Nobel Peace Prize (for which Snowden has been nominated) but we certainly cheer his chances. 

I disagree. Snowden is at best a self-indulgent "useful idiot" and at worst a traitor. His theft and publication of secret documents is anything but heroic. His accomplices deserve censure and probably prosecution. The applause they have received reflects astonishing naiveté and hypocrisy. A whistleblower needs to show clear and convincing evidence of abuse, and limit his breach of confidentiality to matters that concern it. Snowden did not. The documents published do not show the National Security Agency as a rogue agency. He has not found a single deliberate breach of Americans' privacy. Like other bits of government, the NSA makes mistakes and chafes against its constraints. It is in need of reform. But Snowden has shown no sign of systematic, gross wrongdoing, or of contempt for judicial, legislative and political oversight, by the NSA.

The Snowdenistas, as I call them, say they have sparked a vital debate. It is good to discuss how electronic meta-data should be stored (by governments and by companies). But this is a limited benefit. It does not justify the catastrophic damage done to our intelligence agencies and diplomacy. 
The Snowdenistas have published material which has nothing to do with their purported cause, such as how democracies spy on dictatorships. The revelations about Norwegian and Swedish intelligence cooperation with the NSA against Russia are a glaring example of the Snowdenistas' thoughtlessness. These countries have every reason to be worried about Russia. Their agencies operate under democratic control — and with strong public support. But for the Snowdenistas, the only thing that matters is that they cooperate with the NSA, the Great Satan of the intelligence world. Similarly, why is it in the public interest to reveal how the NSA intercepts emails, phone calls, and radio transmissions of Taliban fighters in Pakistan, or to show that the agency is intensifying scrutiny on the security of that country's nuclear weapons? Snowden even revealed details of how the NSA hacks into computers and mobile phones in China and Hong Kong.

The ignorance and double standards of the Snowden fans are shocking. America's system of intelligence oversight is the most comprehensive and rigorous in the world. It has taken the most elusive and lawless part of government and crammed it into a system of legislative and judicial control. Some would no doubt like it to be even stronger (I think it's too politicised and cumbersome). If so, this question can be settled by the political process — but never by catastrophically destructive leaking. America is also part of the world's only successful no-spy agreement, with its close allies — notably Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A list of countries which would trust Germany or France not to spy on them would be rather shorter. 

Snowden and his allies say that they are keeping the stolen material safe, and that they redact the published material in order not to breach security. How can they possibly know what will be damaging and what may be harmless? Already one published slide failed to delete an agent's name properly. 
Snowden's revelations neatly and suspiciously fit the interests of one country: Russia. They weaken Western security relationships, corrode public trust, undermine the West's standing in the eyes of the rest of the world, and paralyse our intelligence agencies. He and his followers seem oblivious to this. Like the anti-nuclear campaigners of the 1980s, they see Western faults with blinding clarity, but forget that we have foes and rivals.

It is odd that people who are so extraordinarily paranoid about their own governments are so trusting when it comes to the aims and capabilities of Russia — where Snowden arrived in such curious circumstances, and lives in such secrecy. (Scanty clues suggest that he is living in or near the Russian foreign intelligence headquarters in Yasenevo, south Moscow).

The political agenda of Snowden and his fans — people such as the bombastic Brazil-based blogger Glenn Greenwald, the hysterical hacktivist Jacob Appelbaum, and the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — cloaks extreme and muddled beliefs in the language of privacy rights, civil liberties and digital freedoms. A political party based on these quasi-anarchist, nihilist ideas would get nowhere. Yet Snowden and his allies threaten to bring about the greatest peacetime defeat in the West's history. His is not a noble crusade. It is sabotage and treason. Someone should make a Hollywood film about it.
Burgess Shale
April 1st, 2014
11:04 PM
If the proxity of the comment by harderwijk is an example of the texts one must read then death of blindness is the only option. Greentrees, Appleflowers, Ass & Co. are attention seeking squawking ducks.

March 13th, 2014
6:03 AM
On March 12, 2014 US Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA of violating federal law by secretly removing documents from computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The following is from the Federal News Service transcript of Feinstein’s speech in Congress. The origin of this study, the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, began operations in 2002. December 6th, 2007, the New York Times revealed the CIA had destroyed videotapes of some of the CIA’s interrogations using enhanced techniques. Director Hayden assured the Senate Intelligence Committee this was not destruction of evidence. Detailed records of the interrogations existed on CIA operational cables describing the detention conditions and day-to-day CIA interrogations. These cables were, “a more than adequate representation” of what would have been on the destroyed tapes. Hayden offered staff review these sensitive CIA operational cables, given that the videotapes had been destroyed. The resulting report was chilling. The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detentions sites were far more harsh than the CIA had described them to us. Then-Vice Chairman Bond and I agreed and the committee overwhelmingly approved that the committee conduct an expansive and full review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The committee wanted the CIA to turn over all responsive documents to the committee’s office, as was done in previous investigations. Director Panetta proposed to provide millions of pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos and other documents at a secure location in northern Virginia. The CIA would provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive segregated from CIA networks” that would only be accessed by IT personnel at the CIA who would “not be permitted to share information from the system with other CIA personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee”. It was this computer network that was subsequently searched by the CIA. The CIA insisted on conducting its own multi-layered review of every document before release to the committee. They hired a team of contractors who otherwise would not have had access to these sensitive documents to read each of 6.2 million pages before providing them to fully cleared committee staff conducting the committee’s oversight work, starting mid-2009. The documents came without any index or organizational structure, a true document dump our committee staff had to go through and make sense of. The committee asked the CIA to provide an electronic search tool so they could locate specific relevant documents for their search among the CIA-produced documents. When the staff found a document that was to be referenced in our file report the file was copied. There are thousands of such documents in the committee’s secure spaces at the CIA facility. In May 2010, committee staff noticed that the documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the off-site location, who first denied documents had been removed. Then they blamed IT contractors for removing the documents without direction or authority. Then they said their removal was ordered by the White House. The White House denied giving the CIA any such order. On two occasions CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee, including 870 pages in February 2010 and another 50 in mid-May 2010. This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. This would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review in the Senate. This was the exact sort of CIA interference that we sought to avoid at the outset. In May 2010, White House counsel recognized the severity of executive branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. There was a renewed commitment from the White House counsel and the CIA that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network. At some point in 2010, committee staff found draft versions of what is now called the internal Panetta review, written by CIA personnel to summarize and analyze the materials that had been provided to the committee for its review. The Panetta review documents were no more highly classified than other information we had received for our investigation. What was unique and interesting about the internal documents was their analysis and acknowledgement of significant CIA wrongdoing. The committee staff did not hack into CIA computers to obtain these documents. They were identified using the search tool provided by the CIA to search the documents provided to the committee. We have no way to determine who made the internal Panetta review documents available to the committee. We don’t know whether the documents were provided intentionally by the CIA, unintentionally by the CIA or intentionally by a whistle-blower. On multiple occasions, the staff asked the CIA about documents made available for our investigation. At times the CIA was unaware these were provided to the committee. And while this is alarming, it is also important to note that more than 6.2 million pages of documents have been provided. This is simply a massive amount of records. The staff did not rely on these internal Panetta review documents when drafting the final 6,300-page committee study. But the internal Panetta review had documented the same troubling matters already uncovered by the committee staff, not surprising as they were looking at the same information, including significant information on the May, 2011 Osama bin Laden operation. At some time after the committee staff identified and reviewed the internal Panetta review documents, access to the vast majority of them was removed by the CIA. While thousands of new documents continued to arrive on a regular basis. In December 2012 the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300-page committee study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and sent the executive report to the executive branch for comment. The CIA provided its response to the study on June 27th, 2013, agreeing with some but disputes important parts of it. Some of the parts the CIA now disputes are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own internal Panetta review. How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own internal review? The committee staff securely transported a printed portion of the draft internal Panetta review from the committee’s secure room at the CIA-leased facility to the secure committee spaces in the Hart Senate office building. We had agreed the committee would provide specific CIA documents to CIA reviewers before bringing them back to our secure offices here on Capitol Hill. The reasons why the draft summary of the Panetta review was brought to our secure spaces at the Hart Building are the significance of the disparities between the internal review and the June 2013 CIA response to the committee study and the internal Panetta review summary, which corroborates critical information in the committee’s 6,300- page study, that the CIA’s official response either objects to, denies, minimizes or ignores. Unlike the official response, these Panetta review documents were in agreement with the committee’s findings. That’s what makes them so significant and important to protect. When the internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities. The CIA previously withheld and destroyed information about its detention and interrogation program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the director of national intelligence. Based on the above, there was a need to preserve and protect the internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces. In late 2013, I requested the CIA provide a final and complete version of the internal Panetta review to the committee as opposed to the partial document the committee currently possesses. In early January 2014, the CIA informed the committee it would not provide the internal Panetta review to the committee. January 15th, 2014, CIA Director Brennan informed me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a search – John Brennan’s word – of the committee computers at the off-site facility including the standalone and walled-off committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications. According to Brennan, the search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the internal Panetta review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it. The CIA searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta review. The CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers on the allegation that the committee staff had obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means. The document was made available to the staff at the off-site facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation. Director Brennan stated that the CIA search had determined that the committee staff had copies of the internal Panetta review and had accessed them numerous times. He was going to order further forensic investigation to learn more about activities of the committee’s oversight staff. January 17th I wrote to Director Brennan objecting to any further CIA investigation, due to the separation of powers constitutional issues that the search raised and January 23rd asking 12 specific questions about the CIA’s actions. What was the full scope of the CIA’s search of our computer network? Who authorized and conducted the search on what legal basis? The CIA has not provided answers to any of my questions. Based on what Director Brennan has said, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may have violated the separation of powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function. Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance. The CIA inspector general, David Buckley, began an investigation into the CIA’s activities and referred the matter to the Department of Justice, given the possibility of a criminal violation by CIA personnel. Then the acting counsel general of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. There is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting counsel general’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff, and I am not taking this lightly. For most of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s counterterrorism center, the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study. And now, this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of Congressional staff – the same Congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers, including the acting general counsel himself, provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program. All senators rely on their staff to be their eyes and ears and to carry out our duties. The staff members of the intelligence committee are dedicated professionals who are motivated to do what is best for our nation. The staff members who have been working on this study and this report have devoted years of their lives to it, wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed. They have worked long hours and produced a report unprecedented in its comprehensive attention to detail in the history of the Senate. They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy just as final revisions to the report and being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people. Mr. President, I felt that I needed to come to the floor today to correct the public record and to give the American people the facts about what the dedicated committee staff have been working so hard for the last several years as part of the committee’s investigation. We’re not going to stop. I intend to move to have the findings, conclusions and the executive summary of the report sent to the president for declassification and release to the American people. The White House has indicated publicly and to me personally that it supports declassification and release. If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted. The recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Committee. How Congress and how this will be resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee. I believe it is critical that the committee and the Senate reaffirm our oversight role and our independence under the Constitution of the United States.

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