Edward Snowden, 29, a former CIA technical assistant and current employee of military contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, went to the Guardian and the Washington Post newspapers and spilled national security secrets that he had promised not to divulge. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton puts that effort in the proper perspective:
Number one, this man is a liar. He took an oath to keep the secrets that were shared with him so he could do his job. He said said he would not disclose them, and he lied. Number two, he lied because he thinks he’s smarter and has a higher morality than the rest of us. This guy thinks he has a higher morality, that he can see clearer than other 299-million 999-thousand 999 of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.
Those who consider Snowden a “hero” might want to consider two other realities as well. First, he clearly violated the Espionage Act. If he isn’t punished for doing so, then the act is utterly toothless. Second, contrast his behavior with that of Benghazi witness Gregory Hicks. Hicks endured the crucible of appearing before Congress and giving testimony about possible State Department improprieties that could ruin him. He didn’t run to a newspaper, then run to Hong Kong and then vanish.
Or possibly defect.
Former CIA case officer Bob Baer told CNN that intelligence officials were speculating that Snowden may be part of a Chinese espionage case. “On the face of it, it looks like [Hong Kong] is under some sort of Chinese control, especially with the president meeting the premier today,” Baer said. “You have to ask what’s going on. China is not a friendly country and every aspect of that country is controlled. So why Hong Kong? Why didn’t he go to Sweden? Or, if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”
Baer also noted the convenient timing of Snowden’s revelation. It followed a weekend summit between Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which the issue of cyber security remained unresolved. “It almost seems to me that this was a pointed affront to the United States on the day the president is meeting the Chinese leader,” Baer speculated, “telling us, listen, quit complaining about espionage and getting on the Internet and our hacking. You are doing the same thing.”
Unfortunately, in the wake of this obviously egregious security breach and possible Chinese meddling, a number of Republicans are more interested in bringing the hammer down on Obama than on Snowden. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been on the fore of this wrongheaded approach. ”I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies: ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “If we get ten million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”
Other Republicans are equally misguided. They have joined Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), signing a letter to the FBI and NSA impugning the programs. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who has adopted the libertarian outlook of former Rep. Ron Paul, explained their rationale. “You’ll find a lot of names [on the letter] of people who were recently elected,” Amash said. “We’re not tied to the Bush administration’s policies, which were also wrong.”
In reality, the controversy surrounding the NSA necessitates a serious discussion, apart from both the media-driven hysteria and the partisan politics that inform much of it. There is little question our nation still faces the kind of threat manifested on 9/11. There is no question one of the federal government’s primary functions is to provide for the national defense. Yet as Andrew McCarthy explained at National Review Online, there are two “inseparable issues” that must be reconciled in the process: the government’s seemingly limitless ability to gather information — and how much trust Americans should place in government officials to do it within the confines of the rule of law.
As revealed respectively by the Guardian and the Washington Post via Snowden, the government has been collecting “metadata” from phone companies and Internet servers in order to detect patterns that may reveal burgeoning threats against the nation, which might otherwise go unnoticed. This metadata does not include content, and thus, it does not fall under the auspices of Fourth Amendment protection.
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