By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
National Journal’s Ron Fournier wrote a strong column about why he doesn’t care whether National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor. To Fournier, that’s “the wrong question. The Snowden narrative matters mostly to White House officials trying to deflect attention from government overreach and deception, and to media executives in search of an easy storyline to serve a celebrity-obsessed audience.”
Me? I can’t take my eyes off Snowden and his mentor, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Snowden is smart enough to have amassed huge amounts of U.S. intelligence but dumb enough to run to Hong Kong—and then Moscow—to out himself as a whistle-blower. (As of my deadline, his final destination is unclear.) He’s smart enough to have won a top-security clearance from a government dumb enough to give it to him.
How does Snowden know that Chinese and Russian officials haven’t tapped into his four laptops and downloaded all his thumb drives? Maybe he doesn’t care, but he should.
In China or Russia, if authorities determine they want your hardware, they can take it. If they want your freedom, they can take it. If they want your fingernails, they can pull them. And there won’t be any whistle-blowers to expose what happened.
Snowden’s lawyer told The New York Times that Snowden left Hong Kong because he could not face the possibility of being held in prison without access to a computer for long periods of time. If this is true, the tech-savvy Snowden actually needed a lawyer to tell him they don’t let you email your pals from Chinese prisons.
The former Booz Allen Hamilton consultant left it to The Guardian and The Washington Post to decide which secrets to publish and which not to. He wasn’t sure which information should or should not be made public, but he went to China with his laptops anyway.
On Monday, Assange held a telephone news conference from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has been holed up while fighting extradition to Sweden, where he has been charged with sexual assault. It was an ironic setting—given that Assange hit the Obama administration for stifling investigative journalism from the embassy of a country where the National Assembly just approved a bill to regulate news content. President Rafael Correa praised the new law because it means the “party is over” now that his government can “create a good press.”
The BBC’s Paul Adams asked Assange whether he appreciates the “obvious irony” of Snowden’s fleeing to China and Russia, given their “problematic relationship with the sorts of values of privacy and freedom of speech” that he holds dear.
Assange replied: “I simply do not see the irony. Mr. Snowden has revealed information about mass unlawful spying which has affected every single one of us.” It would seem the Ecuadorean Embassy is an irony-free zone.