...there's nothing surprising about the reaction to this week's disclosures about the National Security Agency's unprecedented surveillance program. In our cult-of-personality society, that reaction has been predictably - and unfortunately - focused less on the agency's possible crimes against the entire country than on Edward Snowden, the government contractor who disclosed the wrongdoing ~ David Sirota (dob 11/2/1975) an American liberal political commentator, nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, Democratic political spokesperson and radio host based in Denver. Quote from his 6/14/2013 article, "Snowden deserves our Sympathy".
The following is an excerpt from the 6/13/2012 broadcast of Current TV's The Young Turks, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Host Cenk Uygur and guest Daniel Ellsberg (the Vietnam war-era whistleblower who released the Pentagon_Papers) discuss Edward Snowden.
Cenk Uygur: How similar is your case and the cases of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning?
Daniel Ellsberg: I feel a great identification with them, despite the fact that we have different backgrounds and were different ages when we made our disclosures. Bradley Manning was 22, and I give him credit at having arrived at that [decision to become a whistleblower at such a] young age. I think we all faced the same problem.
Basically we saw we were working for a government that was lying to the people and was acting illegally and unconstitutionally in various ways. Whether we would live up to our oath to support the Constitution or to our promise to keep secrets to a boss, even when those secrets involved criminality. We chose the Constitution. Unfortunately that is pretty rare, so I feel considerable identification with both of them.
Cenk Uygur: So, Daniel, how do you answer the people who say these guys clearly broke the law, so obviously they should go to jail?
Daniel Ellsberg: That is a complicated legal question. Regarding Edward Snowden, there is a law against divulging communications intelligence information, regardless of what your motive is. There is no element of motive in that law, 18 USC 798, which I was not charged with and Bradley was not charged with. I would say he [Snowden] did break that law, and that raises the question... can it be criminal to release secrets that are protecting criminal or unconstitutional behavior?
That has never been tested in any court case. It has never gone to the Supreme Court. I would like to see that tested in court. Not that I want to see him [Snowden] on trial, particularly. But that is the issue that would be raised there.
Cenk Uygur: Yes, interesting. To me what's even more interesting is the different reactions throughout those different years.
Daniel Ellsberg: None of them were different in the beginning. I was called a traitor as much as either of those people [Bradley Manning & Edward Snowden]. I'm struck by the fact that... I am receiving some favorable comments from some surprising people than I've had for 20 or 30 years... in the context of using me as a foil against Bradley Manning or Snowden. "Ellsberg good, Manning bad". "Ellsberg good, Snowden bad". I don't accept that at all.
I think we have people who, after the exposures of the last 10 and 20 years, are pro-whistleblower in general, just against the current whistleblowers. I think that's true of... people like Tom Friedman and David Brooks. Overall FOR whistleblowing, but not for these guys. If Edward Snowden was not right to put out this unconstitutional behavior, a blatant violation of the fourth amendment, I wonder what these people would say would be reasonable whistleblowing? You can't get more classic whistleblowing than that.
Possibly, the next step will be the revelation that they are not just looking at meta data... I feel sure - I can't prove this, I haven't seen the documents; no one has outside the NSA - but I feel sure they are collecting and keeping all of the content of all digital communication (all telephone, everything else)... big brother is collecting everything. We don't have the proof of that yet...
These people are heroes to me... Dianne Feinstein doesn't know treason, the Constitution does not define it as that. It is a slander for her to say so. What it shows is that our system of oversight has failed. That is true under both Republicans and Democrats. For high level Democrats to be denouncing Snowden instead of focusing on what he has revealed shows that the structure of checks and balances has disintegrated, and that means that our democracy is very much in question. This is perhaps a chance to get some of that back. That means putting pressure on people like Diane Feinstein.
[End transcript of the 6/13/2012 Current TV broadcast of The Young Turks]
I end my transcript when the show goes to commercial (although there was some stuff near the end that I cut out). After returning from commercial Ellsberg seems to suggest the NSA may be listening/reading our electronic communications without a court order. According to him, they can "Google it" or the equivalent at any time, and they have "blackmail capability" for "every journalist, every Congressperson [and] every judge".
I'm not sure about that. Ellsberg says it will take another Snowden to give up the documents that would prove his allegations are accurate, because without documents the people will believe whatever the government tells them. As proof he cites the case of NSA director James Clapper, who lied to Congress when asked by Senator Ron Wyden (in a 3/12/2013 United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing), "does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" and Clapper responded, "No, sir".
Chenk postulates that there is no chance of rolling back the surveillance state. A member of the panel (which he introduced after the break) agrees, and notes that public opinion is on the side of allowing this to continue. That, or they are indifferent. So, no chance. Not while most of the public is either apathetic or on board for whatever reason. Repubs because they're so afraid of the terrorists or Dems because they trust the current occupant of the White House.
Yes, those on the Left are lining up behind President Obama. In the article I pulled my opening quote from David Sirota notes that "plenty of Obama loyalists — many of whom criticized the Bush administration for much less invasive surveillance — took to Twitter to berate Snowden as an attention-seeking traitor". What I've found is that the Obama apologists have also taken to their blogs to condemn and malign Snowden and defend the administration.
Several Liberal blogs I comment on are bashing Snowden (and Glenn Greenwald) and defending what Daniel Ellsberg calls a blatant violation of the 4th amendment. And they say Ellsberg is a hero but Snowden is a "character-disordered con-man", and that the fact that he ruined his life to disclose this wrong-doing is proof that "he has a demonstrated callous disregard of people without conscience or remorse [and that his] chest-thumping grandiosity is the ego food of a narcissist".
So Ellsberg was definitely right about people saying "Ellsberg good, Snowden bad". The comment I just quoted is from a Lefty. The point made on the blog the previous hyperlink connects to is that Snowden fled to Hong Kong and may have disclosed "secrets" to the Chinese. Perhaps there is something to those criticisms. We don't know what he's telling the Chinese. They also note that he is (supposedly) a Libertarian Ron Paul supporter. I've heard that as well, but I say it's irrelevant.
I agree with the commenter who wrote, "Whatever Snowdon's personality traits, whatever his motivation... we do need to be concerned about government power and it's intrusion into our personal lives". Absolutely. My electronic communications are my "papers" and the government does not have the right to seize them (and store them in gigantic data processing centers), even if they are get a (secret) court order (from a secret court) before reading or listening to the content. They're only able to read or listen to my "papers" using that warrant because they previously seized them (with no warrant).
I've seen the old Ben Franklin quote cited many times in connection with the Edward Snowden case, which is "they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety", and I agree it is extremely applicable. The Left criticized the Repub's who defended bush when he illegally wiretapped American citizens, but now that it's a Democratic president doing it, they're OK with similar unconstitutional behavior? I must say I'm disappointed in my fellow Liberals.