Why this confusion over Edward Snowden?
There seems to be some confusion about what it is to be a “hero” and what takes to be a “scoundrel.”
Case in point: Should ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden be hailed for revealing a secret NSA program to acquire metadata on Americans’ communications or vilified for stealing and distributing those secrets?
This has put the chattering classes in an awkward situation. Pro-Obama people are cornered into castigating the administration for “spying” on the American people and for aggressive investigations of leakers. On the other side, anti-Obama types find themselves defending the administration’s actions while trying to avoid any hint of praise for the president.
A recent news broadcast featured a debate over whether Snowden should be considered a whistleblower. Side one: Yes. Snowden was exercising his right as a citizen by bringing to light nefarious activity of the government. Side two: No. Snowden did not follow the procedures of a whistleblower attempting to rectify what he believed to be improper action by a government agency.
(An aside here: One side argued that polls show Obama’s popularity among young people, a traditional source of support for the president, has fallen since Snowden burst on the scene. Ergo, by pursuing Snowden, Obama is recklessly undermining his base. Wouldn’t that be ironic. The generation that displays details of their personal lives via social media for all to see is aghast at the idea the government has compiled communications metadata in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks? Really?)
Look, there’s no doubt that democracy has to be an open book to succeed. Government unfettered runs amok over liberty. Still, there are logical protections for national security and personal privacy.
It’s really not all that complicated. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law that can provide confidentiality and protection from retaliation to federal employees, former employees, or applicants who report allegations of gross mismanagement, fraud or abuse of authority. Allegations must be reported outside of the individual’s chain of command and usually to the Office of Inspector General or to the Office of Special Counsel.
Which brings us back to the strange case of Edward Snowden.
Since some people are confused as their normal political leanings are turned askew, let’s use a simple learning technique popularized by “Sesame Street.” One of these things is not like the other: The United States, Hong Kong under China, Russia, Cuba, Ecuador.
One of those places is where Snowden lived well and in freedom. The others are places he either fled to or seeks to flee to with four laptops full of privileged information to damage U.S. security.
Whistleblower? Not a chance. Try traitor.