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Rooting for Snowden, against my better judgement

I find myself hoping Edward Snowden has a clean getaway - maybe because I've seen too many classic 1970's paranoia thrillers like Robert Redford's "Three Days of the Condor."

Does there seem to be a consensus building that Edward Snowden is more traitor than patriot? I think so.

So am I wrong to be rooting for Snowden to escape the clutches of the American government?


But I find myself hoping he has a clean getaway from Russia and makes his way to Ecuador anyway.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many classic 1970’s paranoia thrillers like Robert Redford’s “Three Days of the Condor” (or Warren Beatty’s “The Parallax View.”) In the Condor movie, Redford plays a bookish CIA researcher
who discovers a secret operation within the U.S. government that is wiping out certain CIA personnel and he’s next. His last act in the film is to drop off a bunch of secret files incriminating the killers.

It’s a very qualified happy ending: Redford has to stay off the grid for his own protection but at least the word is out about government misdeeds.

The parallel with Edward Snowden is admittedly wobbly and using Hollywood to explain the world is never a good idea. Nonetheless, there is something dramatic and admirable about a lone individual who’s willing to take on his own government for what he thinks is right.

Snowden has risked it all in order to expose the massive surveillance of its own citizens that our government, whether inadvertently or not, is involved in. And he has been pilloried and praised for what he’s done – being called everything from traitor to hero, from grandiose narcissist and arrogant punk to a man of honor and noble motives.

You’d think that anyone who could earn the condemnation of both President Obama and Dick Cheney must be a pretty bad dude. But – on the left – Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame (the Edward Snowden of the 1970’s perhaps?) sings Snowden’s praises for exposing an “executive coup” against the U.S. Constitution. And on the right, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul praises Snowden for being a truth-teller (as opposed to National Security adviser James Clapper, who Paul slams as a liar for his testimony denying what Snowden eventually revealed.)

The U.S. government considers him an outright spy, having charged Snowden with three counts of espionage.
His lawyer in Hong Kong considered that absurd, since he never spied for any other country but his own. But no one disputes that Snowden has broken the law with his release of classified, top secret documents. What has to be weighed in this case is whether the value of exposure trumps the need for secrecy.

This is where we, the general public, have to make hunches. We just don’t have enough information to judge this properly. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Mike Rogers has complained that Snowden is looking at 3 or 4 pieces of a thousand piece puzzle and jumping to the wrong conclusions. That may very well be true.

But the public has even fewer pieces than that. How are we to know whom to believe? I suppose, ideally, we would all trust our government to be doing the right thing but that doesn’t come easily to most Americans. Nor should it. Skepticism is always in order to some degree and whistleblowers ground that skepticism.

When so many of the authority figures in Washington line up on one side of the ledger – condemning Snowden – I can’t tell if they are doing that to protect us or simply to save face. Clearly, Snowden has embarrassed the powers that be. But until the Obama administration can demonstrate some actual harm done to us as a result of Snowden’s revelations, I’ll remain skeptical. We seem to have survived the Pentagon Papers just fine.

I guess I want a few MORE pieces of the puzzle before I consign Snowden to a life behind American bars.


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