I won’t keep you guessing: I think fugitive National Security Agency whistle- blower Edward Snowden is a traitor who should be captured and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Facing federal espionage charges, the cowardly Snowden fled first to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he is believed to be in hiding.
“Snowden betrayed his country” and put American lives at risk by violating secrecy laws, said Secretary of State John Kerry, and I agree. I took an oath to keep the secrets and did so throughout my diplomatic career; Snowden, a 30-year-old high school dropout and computer nerd, took the same oath and betrayed his country on purpose.
Last week Snowden admitted that he took a job with NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) for the sole purpose of obtaining evidence on Washington’s cyber-spying networks. “My position with BAH granted me access to machines all over the world that NSA hacked,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post. “That’s why I accepted that position . . .”
Although some on the far left and far right attempt to paint Snowden as some sort of folk hero, the truth is that he set out to betray his country, and did. No amount of flowery language about protecting American citizens from government surveillance can excuse what he did. If he has any kind of legal defense he should turn himself in and defend himself in the federal courts. Otherwise, he’s nothing more than a cowardly fugitive.
One of my more “progressive” friends argues that Snowden is protecting us against civil liberties abuses by our Washington-based “police state.” What nonsense! Those who think we live in a police state should move to Moscow, Beijing, Havana or Caracas to see what a real police state looks like. Those capital cities are possible final destinations for Snowden because all of them are headquarters of authoritarian governments that hate freedom and democracy. So much for Snowden’s “noble” motives.
“I don’t blame citizens for their concern about secretive NSA programs,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.). “Unfortunately, the Obama administration has fueled people’s distrust of government, which has made the reaction to Snowden’s leaks far worse.” At the same time, I’m well aware that over-classification is an ongoing problem in Washington.
The House Intelligence Committee is looking into whether Snowden was working for a foreign government when he stole the secrets. “He’s already done serious harm,” said Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). “Clearly, we’re going to make sure that there’s a serious scrub of what his China connections are.” Obviously, the committee will also investigate Snowden’s Moscow connections.
It appears to me that Snowden is a lower level clone of another fugitive leaker, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than a year in order to avoid trial on rape charges in Sweden. Of course Assange immediately came to Snowden’s defense and assigned Wikileaks attorneys to travel with him. Birds of a feather . . .
The larger issue is the need to balance the right of privacy and freedom of the press against legitimate national security requirements. You’ll note that I haven’t suggested prosecuting media that have published Snowden/Wikileaks secrets because I believe that journalists are protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution. Nevertheless, I question the motives of fringe characters like Assange, Snowden and Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who aren’t journalists. Rather, they’re anti-American political activists who sympathize with organizations that are hostile to the U.S. As I wrote at the outset, these pathetic leakers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.