Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Word: Betrayal

Unless you've been vacationing in a cave in Outer Mongolia for the last week or so, you are certainly familiar with the case of Mr Edward Snowdon, the individual now hiding in the vicinity of Hong Kong who has made headlines by exposing some very secret programs of the US intelligence community. He believes he is a true-blue American who is standing up for rights he believes are being trampled by an evil government. Many people on the political left (understandably) and the political right (oddly enough) consider him a hero, albeit probably for different reasons.

I believe he's a holier-than-thou, hypocritical, treasonous ass clown who has caused immeasurable damage not just to the nation, but to people like himself. He should be arrested, tried and - if found guilty - imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Let's establish one thing up front: the program that Mr Snowdon, with all the vast, accumulated wisdom of his 29 years, exposed was perfectly legal under US law. It was approved by Congress, vetted by the courts, and operated under a network of legal and procedural oversight provisions designed to protect the rights of US persons. Reasonable people may (hell, will) disagree over whether the program is moral, as opposed to legal, and whether Congress has taken its oversight responsibilities seriously enough, but the simple fact remains that Mr Snowdon exposed for his own reasons a very expensive, very secret, very legal program intended to protect you and I ... and him ... from those who would do us harm.

Many critics thunder that we can't possibly know how evil this program is because it's secret. Strange as it may seem, there are often very good reasons for keeping secrets. The modern knee-jerk assumption that things are classified only to cover up government malfeasance is an insult to the many thousands of people who work very hard each day to protect you and I from the dangers of a very dark world. We often forget that there are lots of people out there who hate us for what we are and would happily murder us without worrying about laws, courts, rights, Congressional oversight, or any of the other things we take for granted.

There are real issues here, to be sure. Vast amounts of information are needlessly classified, or are classified at levels far in excess of their real importance. And much information that probably should be classified is not, for any number of reasons. There are serious issues that must be addressed ... but not in the court of public opinion.

As for the exposure of questionable or illegal activities, there are channels through which such allegations can be reported and investigated* ... but the front page of the daily paper is not one of them.

But returning to Mr Snowdon for a moment, one might reasonably ask this question: what does he think gives him a moral and legal authority greater than that of all three branches of our democratically elected government? And how can he claim any sort of moral authority when he himself has brazenly violated his own sworn oaths to protect the information to which he had been granted access?

I recommend you read this New York Times opinion article by David Brooks - The Solitary Leaker. It is a brilliantly written and damning indictment of the damage done by a headstrong young man who believes he knows better than everyone else what is right and wrong. From the article ...

"For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret NSA documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.

"He betrayed honesty and integrity, the foundation of all cooperative activity. He made explicit and implicit oaths to respect the secrecy of the information with which he was entrusted. He betrayed his oaths."

The word betrayal is not used lightly here, for that is exactly what Mr Snowdon has done. He has betrayed honesty and integrity, his oaths, his friends, his employers, and the very cause of open government he professes to serve. And more than that, again in the words of Mr Brooks ...

"He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else."

We live in an unfortunate time when honesty and integrity and the value of oaths solemnly made are worth little to a narcissistic moron who believes that the rules don't apply to him.

If you think that Mr Snowdon has done anything other than despicably betray the nation, perhaps you need to think it over again and decide what sort of moral compass you yourself choose to follow.

Have a good day. More, and happier, thoughts coming on Cartoon Saturday.


* And are, more often than you would be led to believe.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

You gave a very clear summary of the issues regarding the Snowdon matter -- he broke faith, he superimposed his judgement as superior to others, and he possibly harmed some intelligence-gathering abilities. And, lately, he seems to be feathering his own nest for staying in Hong Kong by
claiming that we hacked the Chinese.

A lot of people assume that, in the context of recent damaging claims regarding the Obama administration, that this was another one. Not so. Congress passed the legislation years ago.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Well said and I couldn't agree more.

He dropped out of school in the 10the 10th grade. How the hell did he even get that job?

Duckbutt said...

There were a lotof assumptions made when this story first came out that were unwarranted -- the right to privacy, that the actions were illegal, that whistle-blowers are to be admired and regarded as heroes, and even that, somehow, secrecy is a bad thing.

Mike said...

Why this was a surprise to anyone is beyond me. The phone company has been helping the government since forever. My first thought when I saw this was 'and?'.

allenwoodhaven said...

I happened to see Rachel Maddow's show a few nights ago. She said an important aspect not being considered is the numbers of people, particularly working for private companies in the intellegence world but also the military, who have these top secret clearances. Apparently there are hundreds of thousands of them and many are just young inexperienced individuals like Snowden and Manning.

With that many people having access to secrets, there are bound to be way too many who are, for their own reasons, willing to reveal what they know. Secrets should, almost always, stay secret. We're still learning secrets from WW2 because those who held them took their oaths seriously.

Big Sky Heidi said...

Who vetted this guy before he was hired?

Eclecticity said...

"Very legal?" I call bullshit.

Edward Snowden blew the lid off a program that those in the top intelligence strata lied about and said was not happening. Lied. That would be General Alexander and James Clapper, at least. All people need to do is their homework and check it out. Lied. The NSA is unjustifiably spying on innocent American citizens. So how is that "legal" if the 4th Amendment is still in force? Now that the NSA was caught with their pants down, they are willing to discuss the "balance" that should exist between privacy and security.

A whistle blower has brought this to the forefront and we damn well better begin to have a conversation about it and stronger legislation and oversight.

Bilbo, bless your heart, you need to take your reactionary blinders off.

I find it fascinating that you would automatically take at face value what the intelligence authorities are saying in their defense. "Trust us." they ask. An you do?

Clue up Bilbo.