So Edward Snowden has allegedly released a statement justifying his actions. I say allegedly because there is nothing that actually connects this statement to him:
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden spoke publicly for the first time in many weeks, sort of. The famed leaker didn’t speak for himself; rather, someone read a written statement on his behalf before a committee hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday.
Read closely. It’s not just that Snowden didn’t speak for himself, it’s not even certain that he wrote the words read “on his behalf”: “someone read a written statement on his behalf.” That kinda insinuates he wrote the statement, but the author of the article is obviously not willing to assert that conclusively. It doesn’t say that Snowden “wrote the statement read . . . on his behalf.” There was a written statement. Someone read that statement on Snowden’s behalf. Like a classic con or deceptive ad, you’re expected to conclude Snowden wrote the statement read on his behalf, even though that’s not what the sentence actually says. It invites your mind to fill in the gaping gap.
Please. I could read a written statement on behalf of Pancho Villa. Doesn’t mean that Pancho Villa wrote it, or even endorsed it.
So we have these words that the reporter suggests were from Snowden’s mouth, but nobody saw Eddie’s lips move.
Was a burning bush involved?
And for crying out loud, why does Eddie need people reading stuff on his behalf? If he is truly a free agent, he could put videos on YouTube: as @libertylynx notes, if Al Alwaki can post YouTube videos, why can’t our Ed?
Obvious conclusion: Snowden is not a free agent. Likely conclusion: Snowden did not write these words.
So who did? There are some Greenwald tics (“odious” is one of his favorite words). And some Appelbaum tics (“creative output” is one of Appelbaum’s h/t @libertylynx.) I’m guessing a collaborative effort, sort of like Murder on the Orient Express, involving Greenwald, Appelbaum, Poitras and maybe Assange. Or to extend the Biblical analogy: it’s widely accepted by Biblical scholars that the Word of God is actually the creation of a committee. This statement, and the acceptance speech for the human rights award won by Snowden (and read by Appelbaum), sure have the same feel.
But let’s suspend disbelief for a minute. Let’s take it as given that these words were written on tablets handed down by Ed.
“The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time,” Snowden, via Radack, continued. “The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue, we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.
Does this make any sense? Re surveillance of whole populations, as @catfitz notes, the surveillance of a very limited subset of information on everybody by a big machine is very different from surveillance of an individual by a pair of human eyes: the former is what Snowden has disclosed, and the latter is what we should really be focused on-and which Snowden provides no evidence occurred outside the law. And how is curiosity the product of privacy? And how can creative output help economies if it’s secret? What pompous tripe. (More evidence of Appelbaum authorship.)
“If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government but independent representatives of the public outside of government. When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world.”
First, who appointed Snowden to this role? He claims to hold others to account: to whom is HE accountable? In fact, he ran to Russia precisely because he wanted to escape accountability.
Second, there are unintended consequences: why should Snowden’s intentions matter? The consequences of his acts are what are relevant. The road to hell is paved with good intentions: and like I say, Snowden’s road led to Russia, which is sort of the same thing.
And third: note the pompous, grandiose tone.
Serendipitously, I was reading World War II Magazine this weekend, and came across an article about another young, grandiose American bureaucrat with access to highly sensitive information that he believed he had both the right and the obligation to reveal to achieve some higher purpose.
Tyler Kent was a clerk who decoded highly classified messages in the US embassy in London in 1940. Many of these messages were between Churchill and Roosevelt. Some of these messages involved attempts of FDR to supply Great Britain with war material, arguably in defiance of the Neutrality Acts.
Kent was a Lost Cause Southerner, anti-Semite, and isolationist. He fervently believed that the US should not become involved in any way in the European war, and that FDR was illegally maneuvering to bring the US into the conflict. There were many Americans who believed the same thing, and who would have seized upon the documents he stole to accuse the administration of crimes in the same way that many in the US today have seized upon the documents Snowden stole to accuse the US government of crimes.
Moreover, Kent was in contact with right wing elements in Britain that were opposed to Churchill and supported a peace with Germany: he and they were hoping Kent’s documents could be used to discredit Churchill and isolate his government from American support, thereby achieving their objective, much as Snowden is directly and indirectly connected with various anti-US and anti-German elements in the US and Germany, and as Snowden documents were used (unsuccessfully) by Der Spiegel in an attempt to sway the German elections. Last, but not least, Kent was deeply enmeshed with Russian intelligence forces: his mistress was NKVD operative, he circulated in groups that were deeply penetrated by Soviet intelligence, and the only question is whether Kent was a knowing or unwitting tool of the NKVD.
So more than 70 years apart we have young, grandiose individuals who believed that their theft and disclosure of highly classified information was a righteous act aimed to end the criminal acts of the government that they had sworn to serve. Both Kent and Snowden claimed that their intentions were entirely idealistic. Both were objectively, if not subjectively, serving the interests of truly malign powers: and the most plausible interpretation is that somewhere along the line, they became objective servants of malign powers that were enemies of the US.
Another revealing aspect of the story. Kent’s treason was discovered by MI5, which had thoroughly penetrated the pro-Nazi groups that Kent was in communication with. MI5 soon began to spy on Kent quite closely, and eventually raided his apartment, where they found the documents he had stolen. Suitcases full of them: the 1940 equivalent of USB drives. (They also found a Russian emigre woman who was almost certainly an NKVD agent: Kent was wearing his pajama bottoms, and the woman his pajama top.)
This, boys and girls, is exactly why allies spy on allies. Because not everyone who works for an ally is an ally. In fact, some are the most dangerous of enemies.
And the US was damn glad that the Brits were spying on an American. I am convinced that say, the Germans, are quite happy that we are spying on them, for they know they have people working for them who are actually working against them.
One final note. Churchill used the Kent episode to convince a hitherto reluctant Home Secretary John Anderson to support a parliamentary act authorizing the arrest and detention of suspected Nazi supporters. Unintended consequences are a bitch.
Kent was tried by the British. Note this further parallel:
Some Americans saw Kent as a martyr whose only sin had been to act boldly in an effort to keep their country out of a European War.
Ambassador Joseph Kennedy was hardly so sympathetic: “I wouldn’t have favored turning Kent over to Scotland Yard or have sanctioned his imprisonment in England. I would have recommended he be brought back to the United States and shot.”
Edward Snowden need fear no such fate. Other than that, he has a lot in common with Tyler Kent. A lot.