The Snowden Controversy and Our Legacy of Choices
In one of the most innovative uses of the bizarre rules of international travel, whistle-blower Edward Snowden sits in an airport transit lounge outside the customs barrier that is Russian enough to not invade but not Russian enough to claim the Russians are hiding him. He has now reportedly applied for asylum in Russia.
The coverage of his asylum applications and whereabouts, linked with a torrent of public attacks against him from politicians and pundits, have come close to derailing the discussion of the real issues his revelations raise: we are ruled by people who have no faith in democracy and they are able to spy on us because of choices about the Internet that we have made.
Those are issues worth discussing but, as usual, noise is making productive conversation difficult.
We got another glimpse of that late last week when several European governments erupted in outraged protest that the United States has apparently been conducting intense surveillance on their U.S. embassies and U.N. missions through phone taps and Internet data capture. The operations, with code-names like "Dropmire" and "Powell", have reportedly targeted 38 nations' U.S. and U.N. operations using all kinds of surveillance prompting some European officials to compare it to "the cold war".
If the "outrage" were genuine, one could argue, these countries would be lining up to give Snowden asylum. After all, his revelations were of significant service to them in exposing what the US was up to behind their backs. Germany and France, two of the most vocal protestors, certainly have both the authority and power to do that and such an action would probably be very popular in their countries. It's not advisable to hold one's breath on this one. The torrent of rage and outrage seems to be as misdirecting as the anti-Snowden campaign in this country.
"State-side", politicans from both parties complain that Snowden gave information to Chinese and Russian governments. Some accuse him of treason because he violated the "oath" he took for his job. And most recently, as FAIR points out a cabal of unnamed government officials are screaming about how Snowden messed up their intelligence work and terrorists are now "changing" their Internet practices to avoid capture.