Edward Snowden — Patriot or Traitor?
Don't Confuse His Message With His Method
“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” –George Washington (1796)
This Friday, June 6, we will observe the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. In doing so, we will recognize the undaunted courage and heroism of a generation of American Patriots whose bloody landing on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy, France, spelled the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
It is no small irony that two controversies are receiving much more attention than the D-Day anniversary this week, given that both of those debates center on the actions of two “traitorous cowards” or “patriotic heroes,” depending on one’s perspective and insight into each case.
The first controversy is the exchange of the “Taliban Five” for Army deserter PFC Bowe Bergdahl, which I covered Monday. The second controversy is the hero’s platform that NBC granted to NSA deserter Edward Snowden.
There are divergent perspectives on both legacies.
Regarding Snowden, he has a cultish following of devotees who believe he is a courageous Patriot for disclosing classified NSA data collection protocols concerning domestic communications.
I agree that the NSA protocols clearly violate, in principle, our Fourth Amendment rights. That violation sets up the potential for an authoritarian government indifferent to our Constitution – say, the lawless regime now occupying the Executive Branch – to use information so gathered for identifying and neutralizing political opposition.
Unfortunately, too many well-meaning folks confuse agreement with Snowden’s alleged message and agreement with his methods. We should all be concerned about the NSA’s blanket Fourth Amendment violations. It is clear from Snowden’s methods, however, that he is no Patriot.
From his asylum perch in Russia, Snowden was asked by NBC’s Brian Williams if he considered himself a Patriot, and without hesitation, Snowden answered, “Yes, I do.” He added, “Being a Patriot doesn’t mean prioritizing service to government above all else. Being a Patriot means knowing when to protect your country, your Constitution, your countrymen from the violations and encroachments of adversaries. And those adversaries don’t have to be foreign countries. They can be bad policies. They can be officials who need a little more accountability. They can be mistakes of government and simple overreach and things that should have never been tried or that went wrong.”
In principle, of course, those words should resonate with all Patriots and civil libertarians who support our Constitution and the Rule of Law it enshrines.
However, Snowden’s actions were, and remain, antithetical to his words.
A genuine Patriot would have started by contacting an inspector general with the CIA, NSA or the DoD, all of which have effective whistleblower channels in place. Snowden says he repeatedly complained through those channels, but has produced no evidence of such protests.
A genuine Patriot, if he did not receive adequate response from within his agency, would have then knocked on the door of a congressional Libertarian like Sen. Rand Paul, or just about any Leftist Democrat – such as Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein – and he would have found an immediate response and the necessary cover.
Instead, Snowden stole mountains of data revealing NSA methods and capabilities and handed some of it to the foreign press – but most of it to the Red Chinese and the Russians. Most of that data had nothing to do with his Fourth Amendment concerns. According to my sources, intelligence assets (human) in the Middle East and Asia were evacuated because Snowden’s information exposed their covers.
Was his intent to betray his oath and our nation by providing our adversaries with this information? The only way to conclude that this wasn’t his intent is to assume he is either incredibly naïve or delusional, or both.
Snowden is both.
He defended his actions by claiming, “I think it’s important to remember that people don’t set their lives on fire. They don’t walk away from their … extraordinarily comfortable lives … for no reason.”
But those who are delusional case studies in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, such as Barack Hussein Obama, do indeed set themselves and their countries on fire, certain that they are the final arbiter of all wisdom for the good of others – and certain that they are fireproof.
As for the extent of his delusions, Snowden appears to have a Walter Mitty-esque streak: “I was trained as a spy… I’ve worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, undercover, overseas. I’ve worked for the National Security Agency, undercover, overseas.”
Actually, he has done none of those things.
So what drives Snowden’s narcissistic delusions?
I believe his personality profile and actions indicate deep-seated insecurities, and thus his reality has been shaped by conspiracy theories, some of which originate in his own psyche.
Every conspiracy is a combination of fact and fiction, substance and fragrance. Even real and well-documented conspiracies tend to incorporate some mythical elements into the fold. But “pop conspiracy theories” are all constructed on a predictable formula: a foundation of about 10% fact on top of which is constructed the rest of the conspiracy – about 90% fiction.
Most disciples of such theories are not inherently ignorant or bad, but they harbor basic insecurities that compel them to grasp “straw man” explanations when their insecurities are triggered. The sense of order out of chaos derived from the theory satiates their insecurity. Notably, they are often most vulnerable to Internet conspiracy gurus, who decode events with greatly simplified theories and attract cultish followers. The most ardent sycophants within these cults have surrendered their ability to discern fact from fiction in order to sustain their sense of security.
Most of these theories are based on the assertion of a “star chamber” global economic conspiracy, such as the Bilderberg Group, or geopolitical conspiracies, such as the theory that George W. Bush was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, the collapse of adjacent towers in Manhattan, and the “missile” which hit the Pentagon. (Let’s not digress to Area 51 and aliens, though I think Al Gore might be one.)
The purveyors of these conspiracy theories depend on a basic maxim – “You can’t prove a negative” – and most of Snowden’s claims seem to start there and devolve into the depths of delusion.
So, beyond Snowden’s narcissistic delusions, was he involved in espionage?
Distinguished former CIA field officer Robert Baer believes that Snowden was no CIA or NSA spy, that his service overseas was limited to working as an embassy technician. However, he believes that Snowden was contacted by the FSB (formerly the KGB) in 2007 and groomed to provide intel to the Russians.
A high-ranking DoD official affirms that since his 2007 post in Geneva, “[Snowden] specifically sought out jobs to give him ever expanding access to intelligence information that has nothing to do with programs that either collected on American citizens or violated their Fourth Amendment rights.” He added, “The size and scope of collection he engaged in was so large he couldn’t have possibly known what he was taking, which is again a counter intelligence indicator that he was engaged in espionage. When the number of files he stole is in the millions or billions, it’s humanly impossible for him to know what he was passing because he wouldn’t have had time to read the documents themselves.”
Finally, Snowden portrayed his actions as “civil disobedience,” saying, “What is right is not the same as what is legal. Sometimes to do the right thing you have to break a law. … How can it be said that this harmed the country when all three branches of government have made reforms as a result of it?”
Many of his supporters also wrongly classify his actions as civil disobedience.
Nineteenth-century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, whose essay “Resistance to Civil Government” defined the spirit of civil disobedience, wrote, “If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
However, Snowden’s actions do not comport with Thoreau’s context for civil disobedience or conscientious objection. Instead, they arguably constitute treason. He did not stand and fight for Liberty; he surrendered himself, and the intelligence information he stole, to our adversaries.
Our nation’s Patriot Founders are the archetypes for civil disobedience, having bravely stood against tyranny at the risk of dire consequences. Their spirit of Patriotism transcends the generations, and is seen in heroic actions undertaken in the name of Liberty, such as the D-Day invasion.
Edward Snowden is no Patriot. Don’t confuse Snowden’s message with his delusional methods!
Again, in the words of George Washington, “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis