When Edward Snowden began releasing information about the National Security Agency's massive surveillance superstructure, he was immediately attacked by lovers of government authority. Reason's Matt Welch collected the early attempts to demonize Snowden back in June, full of pundits and pols who dismissed the young man as a narcissist (a word so frequently used it must have shown up on a talking point list somewhere) and obsessed over his failure to complete school, like that was at all relevant.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was among those who dismissed Snowden. He wrote:
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. Soon, you can Google that.
Cohen also staked out the early defensive position that while the programs themselves were secret, there was ample oversight by the appropriate branches of government and nobody was lying about what was going on.
Now, several months later, Cohen has been proven ridiculously wrong, and this week he acknowledges as much. Edward Snowden is not a traitor:
The early denunciations of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point. If he is a traitor, then which side did he betray and to whom does he now owe allegiance? Benedict Arnold, America's most famous traitor, sold out to the British during the Revolutionary War and wound up a general in King George III's army. Snowden seems to have sold out to no one. In fact, a knowledgeable source says that Snowden has not even sold his life story and has rebuffed offers of cash for interviews. Maybe his most un-American act is passing up a chance at easy money. Someone ought to look into this.
Cohen's new talking points will look awfully familiar to those who have been defending Snowden all along. In addition to noting that Snowden hasn't actually betrayed anybody, Cohen notes that Snowden is only in Russia because he really has nowhere else to go, thanks to the administration's response to his whistle-blowing, that the amount of surveillance going on is actually much, much greater than we've been told, and that yes, we've been lied to about it.
Read Cohen's full column here. Any warm fuzzies about Cohen seeing the light are quickly slaughtered by the columnist's argument that Snowden turning to "responsible news organizations" (like his own!) to dole out the information and not simply releasing it to everybody via an outlet like WikiLeaks is proof of some sort of respectability.