How do you justify criminally charging a government contractor for revealing an alarming truth that the public has every right to know? That is the contradiction raised by President Obama now that he has, in effect, acknowledged that Edward Snowden was an indispensable whistle-blower who significantly raised public awareness about a government threat to our freedom.
Unfortunately, the president didn't have the grace and courage to concede that precise point and remains committed to imprisoning Snowden instead of thanking him for serving the public interest. But Julian Assange, no stranger to unrequited integrity, nailed it. "Today, the president of the United States validated Edward Snowden's role as a whistleblower by announcing plans to reform America's global surveillance program," the WikiLeaks founder said in a statement posted Saturday, the day after Obama's remarks.
While boasting, "I called for a review of our surveillance programs," Obama avoided the obvious fact that this review was compelled not by a sudden burst of respect for the safeguards demanded by our Constitution but rather Snowden's action in making the public cognizant of the astounding breadth and depth of the National Security Agency's spying program.
Once again, Obama managed to blame not those responsible for government malfeasance, himself included, but instead the rare insiders driven to do their duty to inform the American people. "Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully informed way," he said.
How disingenuous, to put it mildly. Without the leaks, there would be no reforms. We, the voters, couldn't initiate a debate about the wisdom of this extensive spying because the government officials who authorized it, from the president on down, kept us in the dark.
Those elected officials who were briefed on these nefarious programs never shared that information with the public, and most of them, led by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have branded Snowden a traitor for exposing their own failure to protect our freedoms.