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General News    H2'ed 6/11/13

Pundits vs. Edward Snowden

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Message Press Release

Informing public of government spying 'self-indulgent' and 'grandiose'

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Journalism attracts whistleblowers. In fact, some reporters need whistleblowers in order to do their jobs.  But there are plenty of people working in the media who don't have much use for whistleblowers--and they've been having a field day going after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Washington Post  columnist Matt Miller ( 6/11/13 ) explained that "what Snowden exposed was not some rogue government-inside-the-government conspiracy. It's a program that's legal, reviewed by Congress and subject to court oversight."

Or to put it another way, it's a program that's secret, that the nation's top spy   lies to Congress  about, and the Supreme Court   refuses to review --because, being secret, no one can prove they're affected by it.

Miller went on:

Daniel Ellsberg says Snowden is a "hero."  Let me suggest a different prism through which to view that term. Somewhere in the intelligence community is another 29-year-old computer whiz whose name we'll never know. That person joined the government after 9/11 because they felt inspired to serve the nation in its hour of need. For years they've sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats. Some Americans are alive today because of her work.

As one security analyst put it this week, to find a needle in a haystack, you need the haystack. If we're going to romanticize a young nerd in the intelligence world, my Unknown Coder trumps the celebrity waiting in Hong Kong for Diane Sawyer's call any day.

It's hard to imagine seeing Snowden sitting down with Sawyer anytime soon, but Miller's certainly not alone in speculating about Snowden's motives or psyche.

New York Times  columnist David Brooks ( 6/11/13 ) writes that Snowden "could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school. Then he failed to navigate his way through community college." And he "has not been a regular presence around his mother's house for years." But it's bigger than that; like Miller, Brooks sees a real threat from people who don't respect authority:

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret NSA documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.

He elaborated:

He betrayed the cause of open government. Every time there is a leak like this, the powers that be close the circle of trust a little tighter. They limit debate a little more.

He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can't do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.

He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else.

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