Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Will The Real Ed Snowden Stand Up?

I am as concerned about the potential for federal government overreach as any rational citizen—when such concern is warranted. I add that last qualification because I know that we share the country with those who seem to represent the paranoid fringe—that see every government action as an infringement on personal liberties. Yes, I am very much concerned about the issue of the federal government potentially snooping through my e-mails, listening in on my cell phone calls, or watching where I surf online. To that point, I thank former government National Security Agency (NSA) contracted employee Edward Snowden for bringing such concerns to the American public.
However, I also realize that maintaining the national security is a lot like making sausage; its best to know how not it’s done if you want to continue to enjoy what comes with living in a free society. Before Snowden opted to turn the issue of electronic domestic spying by our government into the “The Edward Snowden Reality Show,” it was easier to view him favorably as a “whistleblower” on questionable government activities. But since his initial revelations about the government’s electronic eavesdropping policy, Snowden has decided to reveal himself (i.e., his identity) to the world as the source of these revelations. In addition, he—in the mistaken, self-centered belief that he would be greeted with flowers and hailed as an information liberator—has been found to have collected other sensitive information materials related to the American government’s clandestine activities with regard electronic surveillance on the nation’s allies and adversaries alike. Some of this information has been subsequently leaked to the international press.

                                                       Edward Snowden

And instead of remaining anonymous as a source of issue concern to the American people, Snowden has seemingly gone out of his way to cultivate a cult of self-importance around himself and his actions. What’s more, Snowden is feeding his narcissism by seeking approval from and asylum in countries whose record of human rights and civil liberties abuses make electronic eavesdropping by the feds seem harmless by comparison. These countries—Russia, China, and Ecuador among them—have wasted little time in using Snowden’s high-profile status and revelations as a cause célèbre to bludgeon America over the head in the realm of geopolitical public relations. These countries can now assert that America is in no position to lecture others about apparent civil liberties violations as they point to the country’s domestic spying…thus giving them a free hand to act without the strength of international condemnation for questionable actions.
And with all of the trouble Snowden has caused for the government both domestically and internationally, the authorities would like to talk with Snowden and “discuss” the legalities of collecting classified information, abusing his security clearance, and (potentially) sharing information with countries the government considers less-than-friendly to the interests of America.  Ironically, these countries don't seem to want the headaches that come accepting Snowden's request for political asylum, as he travels the world seeking refuge from an infuriated U.S. government. In addition, the country’s adversaries now know that, with confirmation, how the U.S. uses electronic surveillance to keep tabs on any moves which might conflict with the nation’s security and global interests.
At first, I’d wondered how this relatively young man had become so self-absorbed with his obsessive sense of self-righteousness …that is, until his father began giving interviews about his son’s decisions. Last month on NBC’s “The Today Show,” Leo Snowden indicated that his wayward son would return to the U.S. if “certain conditions are met,” including “not detaining Snowden before trial.” The older Snowden had planned to outline these and other conditions in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holden, presumably with input from the younger Snowden (See: "Edward Snowden's Father Says Son May Return If Conditions Met") . Would that the rest of us mere mortals could dictate our conditions and desires to the government seeking our arrest for violating the law and jeopardizing national security…. If we were living in the era of the Cold War, no one in their right minds would make such demands. At first, I’d wondered how this relatively young man had become so self-absorbed with his obsessive sense of self-righteousness …that is, until his father began giving interviews about his son’s decisions. Last month on NBC’s “The Today Show,” Leo Snowden indicated that his wayward son would return to the U.S. if “certain conditions are met,” including “not detaining Snowden before trial.” The older Snowden had planned to outline these and other conditions in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holden, presumably with input from the younger Snowden. Would that the rest of us mere mortals could dictate our conditions and desires to the government seeking our arrest for violating the law and jeopardizing national security…. If we were living in the era of the Cold War, no one in their right minds would make such demands. It might be easy to dismiss the senior Snowden’s galling gesture as a father’s protecting his son were it not for also for an open letter he’d subsequently written to the Obama Administration. In the letter, Leo Snowden compared his son’s raising the alarm over domestic electronic spying to Paul Revere’s midnight ride warning Americans of the impending arrival of the invading British Redcoats. In the letter, authored with his lawyer’s help, Snowden presumes to be warning “the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government” (See:  "Edward Snowden’s Father, In Letter, Compares Son To Paul Revere, Assails Administration").  The grandiose comparison was all I needed to know in order to understand that the apple indeed doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Now, ignoring the fact that if Snowden had engaged in such actions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 or during the Cold War, there would have been a unanimous call for his head on a silver platter—including from his own family—Snowden’s “well-intentioned” (?) actions were lost as he interjected too much of his own self-importance into the mix. Some might agree with such a hyperbolic comparison, but what separates Snowden’s actions from the grandiose delusions both he and his father harbor is that, unlike Paul Revere, very few are listening to Edward Snowden. Ideally, I would like to attribute such silence to the realization by most Americans that fear of a “tyrannical federal government” is a fringe paranoia of those who place too much emphasis on “states rights” as a gateway to imposing laws at that particular level of government which more than would (ironically) infringe on the rights of others (those seeking open access to abortions, those of the same gender seeking marriage recognition, etc.). However, I know better. The lack of a vocal wholehearted support for Snowden is probably a silent acknowledgement of such unfounded fears.
Granted, the prospect of the government listening in on our phone conversations, gathering information on our text messages, or reading our e-mails is a potentially troubling blow to our individual and collective civil liberties, it pales to the lack of foresight that Snowden’s actions have done to one aspect of the government’s attempt to maintain national security and to prevent future threats.
Granted, the prospect of the government listening in on our phone conversations, gathering information on our text messages, or reading our e-mails is a potentially troubling blow to our individual and collective civil liberties, it pales to the lack of foresight that Snowden’s actions have done to one aspect of the government’s attempt to maintain national security and to prevent future threats. Warning Americans of egregious violations of civil liberties and illegal activities by our government is laudable, but Snowden’s actions not only obscured his intentions, but his narcissism blinded him to the very real world ramifications of his actions to our government’s ability to function in order to maintain national security. Subsequent explanations by the government of its actions revealed that detailed information is not being accumulated in ways such as those depicted in the 1990’s espionage thriller “Enemy of the State.” If revelations of true and real threats by our government are to be considered, they should be done so by someone with more altruistic intentions, and less self-centeredness than an Edward Snowden.
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