NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is definitely a traitor. Whether he is a patriot has yet to be seen. Also yet to be seen is whether the leaking of NSA secrets was a moral act.
There's clearly a lot more we don't know about the government's secret snooping on American citizens and others, as a Chicago Tribune editorial so clearly explains. But one thing is clear: By revealing the National Security Agency's (NSA) snooping efforts, Edward Snowden violated laws that makes the leaking of this information illegal.
With that understanding, it is clear that he should be prosecuted for his self-confessed traitorous acts. Whether he should be hailed as a hero, as some have, is another question altogether.
One thing that bothers me greatly is that Snowden's first stop after deciding to make the revelations was Hong Kong. Communist China took back control of the city in the 1990s and is the final voice in what the city does. He has disappeared from the luxury hotel in which he is staying; have Chinese authorities taken him into custody under the pretext that he his being held for extradition back to the United States? China is emerging as the United States' biggest rival--militarily and economically. Snowden in Chinese hands, or just in China, is, as a former CIA employee in addition to his contract work with NSA, a major threat to American security. He had to know all this when he skipped out to China. Maybe he has something to sell to the Chinese.
With this understanding, I regard Snowden as a traitor.
But, weigh the good against the bad:
The Good: He disclosed to the public what some describe as a sinister violation of our constitutional, civil and other rights to privacy. Those who distrust government from the right are saying, "told ya so." Those on the left, like Snowden, are hailing the leaks because they continued the kind of government activity initiated by former president George W. Bush. These critics are mightily disappointed and angry that President Barack Obama didn't do what he promised: end this kind of government activity.
The Bad: His actions will help terrorists by revealing some of the ways that America tracks them down. Defenders of the NSA activities, including Obama, believe that he have compromised our security and endangered Americans.
Who is right, I don't know. One thing politically: it has created strange bedfellow
The CBS interview with Snowden is here.
Further, the current administration's promiscuous treatment of national secrets suggests that the current disclosures will beget others. Recall the president's startling boast in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden's hideout had yielded a trove of valuable intelligence, which alerted anyone who had dealt with bin Laden and thereby rendered much of that material useless. Recall the June 2012 newspaper stories describing U.S. participation in implanting a malware worm called Stuxnet in Iran's nuclear facilities, reports that even described White House Situation Room deliberations. And summon to mind also the president's obvious discomfort as he defended—sort of—the programs now in question. There is little doubt that we will be treated to further disclosures to prove that these programs were successful.
Order my new historical novel, Madness: The War of 1812, from Amazon
To subscribe to the Barbershop, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.