The Demonization Machine Cranks Up Against Edward Snowden


It's always instructive to see who quickly takes the government's side in a dispute with a whistleblower, and what kind of argumentation they deploy. David Brooks was certainly a predictable candidate. Here's a sampling of a few others:

Roger Simon, chief political columnist for Politico, former White House correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, former political editor of U.S. News & World Report:

Think you're a loser just because you dropped out of high school and never finished 

Think you're a dud just because you work as a security guard even though you dreamed of becoming a global savior?the military training you began?

Well, don't beat yourself up. You, too, can become an international super spy like Edward Snowden.

Ari Fleischer, CNN contributor, former White House press secretary under George W. Bush:

Real whistleblowers don't flee the country.

Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist, employee at the Post for 45 years:

In a remarkably overwrought interview conducted by the vainglorious Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, Snowden cited not one example of the programs being abused. Greenwald wrote that Snowden "lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping" and that "he puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them." Greenwald said that "Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers." I think he'll go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood. […]

Everything about Edward Snowden is ridiculously cinematic. He is not paranoiac; he is merely narcissistic. He jettisoned a girlfriend, a career and, undoubtedly, his personal freedom to expose programs that were known to our elected officials and could have been deduced by anyone who has ever Googled anything. History will not record him as "one of America's most consequential whistleblowers." History is more likely to forget him.

Jeffrey Toobin, legal correspondent for The New Yorker, senior legal analyst for CNN, former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, former associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel under Lawrence Walsh, and author of such books as The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court:

[S]ome, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison. […]

The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don't like. That's what Snowden has done.

Marc Thiessen, Washington Post columnist, American Enterprise Institute fellow, former speech writer for president George W. Bush and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former senior aide to senator Jesse Helms, author of Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack

Turns out Edward Snowden — the former CIA employee and NSA contractor who leaked documents revealing top-secret National Security Agency programs tracking terrorist communications — is a Paulbot. […]

The revelation is of particular interest because one of the harshest critics of the NSA since the leaks began has been… Senator Rand Paul. Taken in isolation, the fact that Snowden supported the elder Paul's presidential bid should not necessarily tar the senator. Politicians can't be held responsible for all the actions of their supporters. But in addition to his campaign contributions, Snowden's comments explaining his reasons for leaking are virtually indistinguishable from Senator Paul's criticisms of the NSA program.

Ralph Peters, strategic analyst for Fox News, columnist for the New York Post, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, author of such books as New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy:

Now you've got this 29-year-old high school-dropout whistleblower making foreign policy for our country, our security policy….We've made treason cool. Betraying your country is kind of a fashion statement. He wants to be the national security Kim Kardashian. He cites Bradley Manning as a hero.

I mean, we need to get very, very serious about treason. And, oh by the way, for treason — as in the case of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden — you bring back the death penalty.

I for one am grateful that Edward Snowden leaked, because the United States government has too free a hand to conduct surveillance and espionage (and war, and kidnapping, and extrajudicial assassination) without anything like even internal oversight. (If you think Congress is well informed on these issues, you probably haven't talked to a civil liberties-minded congressman on a key overisght committee; and if you think FISA courts amount to effective oversight then you're getting the government you deserve.)

And while the gold standard for civil disobedience remains publicly accepting the punishment from the government whose laws you dispute, the fact is not every act of whistleblowing or defiance is going to be conducted by a perfect replica of Martin Luther King. Would Ari Fleischer be brave enough to stand and take the heat for such an act? The question answers itself.

Meanwhile–as in King's case–the massive machinery of American police power will be focused on making the renegade look like a maximally traitorous deviant. You do not have to pre-emptively declare Snowden a saint (indeed, we will almost certainly hear word that he is not), to be repelled by both the status quo he aims to challenge, and the enthusiasm with which Fourth Estaters enable the executive branch. 

Reason on Snowden here.