Snowden-haters are on the wrong side of history

In the autumn on 1963, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, worried at Martin Luther King’s growing influence, began tapping his phones and bugging his hotel rooms. They hoped to discredit him by gaining evidence that he was a communist, but found no such evidence. But they did find evidence that he was having affairs. The FBI gathered what they considered to be the most incriminating clips, and in November 1964 they anonymously sent tapes to him along with a letter telling him to commit suicide:

White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don’t have one at this time anywhere near your equal. […] You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that. […] you don’t believe in any personal moral principles.

You […] have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile. […] Your “honorary” degrees, your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you.

King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. […] There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

It seems incredible that a law-enforcement agency could write this, but it’s well documented and uncontroversial that they did.

Jump forward fifty years, and here is what NSA analysts and Pentagon insiders are saying about ubiquitous-surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden:

“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself. A lot of people share this sentiment.”

“I would love to put a bullet in his head. I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.”

“His name is cursed every day over here. Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him.”

Sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, Marc Thiessen, conservative commentator and previously George W. Bush speech-writer, is saying this:

Amnesty? Have they lost their minds? Snowden is a traitor to his country, who is responsible for the most damaging theft and release of classified information in American history. […] Maybe we offer him life in prison instead of a firing squad, but amnesty? That would be insanity

Today, the third Monday in January, is Martin Luther King day.

Ever notice how we don’t have a J. Edgar Hoover day?

For anyone who’s paying attention to all this, the verdict of history is already in. Fools trying to paint Snowden as a spy are really not paying attention. For the hard of thinking, here is key observation: spies do not give their material to newspapers. An actual spy would have quietly disappeared with the damaging intel, and no-one in America would ever have known anything about it. Instead, Snowden has demonstrated extraordinary courage in doing what he knew to be the right thing — revealing a threat to the American constitution that he swore to uphold — even knowing it meant that his life as he knew it was over.

It seems perfectly clear that Snowden will eventually receive a full presidential pardon and a place in the history books as an American hero. It seems extremely unlikely that Obama will have the guts to issue the pardon (though I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out); his successor might not; his successor might not. But eventually a president with the perspective of history, clearly seeing Snowden in his place alongside Martin Luther King, Daniel Ellsberg and Rosa Parks, will issue that pardon. We can only hope it will be soon enough for Snowden to enjoy a good chunk of his life back in the country he loves.

So. The verdict of history on Snowden is really not in question.

The question that remains is what side of history commentators like Marc Thiessen, and all those conveniently anonymous NSA sources, want to be on. Because at the moment, they’re setting themselves up to be this decade’s J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace and Bull Connor.


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16 responses to “Snowden-haters are on the wrong side of history

  1. I am posting, for the moment, based on just your article title. (so It’ll be a bit embarrassing for me if your content doesn’t match your title. But I think it will.)

    “Snowden-haters are on the wrong side of history”

    Oh trust me, I know they are. What strikes me as weird is that /they/ don’t know it. Oh well. Like the Doctor (7th) says, “Time will tell. Always does.”

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  2. here here!

    Breaking his word and signed promises is a little on the naff, but no sane person one can doubt his good intentions or his heroic casting away of an easy life for the harder and more dangerous one. The American government is a strong one, who hunts down its enemies world wide. Snowhad has stones, and I hope his freedom can last. If the US government gets him, he’s done for :/ They’ll call it ‘suicide’…

    What happens at the end of the year, in Russia? Will they boot him, or extend it.. will he be living with Assange the rest of his days?

  3. What I hate most about these bastards is that they try to make the case to me, an American citizen, that Snowden is a traitor, but the basis for them labeling him as such is that they believe strongly in the need to spy on me and every other American citizen.

    They are not only on the wrong side of history they are on the wrong side of the citizenry. THEY ARE THE VILLIANS HERE.

  4. “Ever notice how we don’t have a J. Edgar Hoover day?”

    I was just thinking that yesterday, on MLK day… Good observation!

  5. BTW, if you don’t actually, by law, need to get email addresses of posters (yeah, I know that it reduces spam), then don’t. Privacy is cherished…

  6. Or just give a statement in email field declining to give. Don’t be a sheep, that’s at least a quarter of the problem.

  7. While I agree with you that what he’s done may prove, if it hasn’t already, to be appreciated by the American people, I think you’re missing something that too many people miss these days: someone broke the law and must be punished. This is so simple that it’s amazing it needs be mentioned—but forgetting the purpose of law is, after all, a symptom of decadence and this country is, if nothing else, decadent. As a reminder, then: when someone breaks a law they must be punished, otherwise there is no law.

    I think too many movies these days depict “heroes” who break the law, save the day, and are pardoned for their crimes in light of their heroism. This romanticism, unfortunately, distorts people’s understanding of the real world consequences for law enforcement a la carte. By pardoning Snowden, for example, you immediately send a message to anyone contemplating a move against their government by saying, in effect, “If you succeed, and Americans are thankful, then you will be pardoned and considered a hero.” As a result, anyone who believes in their mission and their potential will see no reason not to proceed. Unfortunately, this applies to crazies more often than it does to the more reasonable types. McVeigh, for example, believed in his mission and potential but the results were devastating. Do you really want to send a message to the world that crimes in the USA will be forgiven if the results of those crimes come to be seen as good in the next 30 or 40 years?

    N.B. Punishing someone doesn’t mean you don’t value them or love them or appreciate them—it means you’re enforcing the law. Just because we punish Snowden doesn’t mean we don’t value the good parts of what he did.

    To conclude, without law there is no society to save and, thus, no context for heroes so it’s ironic, I think, to see you label a criminal a hero and ask for their pardon as this undermines the very ability for you to have a hero and laws from which to pardon him in the first place.

  8. Virtus,

    Fine, Snowden can face his time in court for the laws he broke.

    How about we do that immediately after the people who run the NSA and who lied repeatedly to congress (a crime) and the people (an insult) have their trials? Ironically the “fruits” of Snowdens crimes (news stories about NSA abuses) could be admitted as evidence of how those running the NSA lied to us.

    Rule of law is not just about trying people who break the law, its about treating ALL people who break the law the same way.

  9. Jason,

    I absolutely agree with you. My comment against “law enforcement a la carte” is in perfect harmony with your “treating ALL people who break the law the same way” comment. :)

  10. Virtus,

    (This Mike’s site, and even though I might disagree with him on some stuff, he’s basically a cool guy. So, out of respect for the civility and decorum that I know Mike would want me to show… I will show you civility and decorum and stuff, Virtus…)


    There are so many things that I disagree with in your original comment that it would take me a while to enumerate them all. When I read your comment, I feel like I’m reading something only a brainwashed person could write. It seems chock full of logical errors. I spot at least one false dichotomy for sure.

    It is really easy for the Many to silence the lone individual. It is much harder to ask yourself, “wait–is this guy, this loner–is he the bad guy? Or is he someone telling us something important that we should listen to?”

    ’cause you know, back in the day, Christ, he was some sort of law-breaker too. But, hey, justice right? Fair’s fair?

    Anyway, in your second comment, you were responding to Jason. Jason wrote:
    “How about we [take Snowden to court] immediately after the people who run the NSA and who lied repeatedly to congress (a crime) and the people (an insult) have their trials? Ironically the “fruits” of Snowdens crimes (news stories about NSA abuses) could be admitted as evidence of how those running the NSA lied to us.”

    So–to be clear–you, Virtus, would be in favor of seeing all those in the NSA on trial for repeatedly lying to the American people about their spying? ’cause you kinda glossed over that.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  11. wyrdwyrd,

    What you’re saying does not run contrary to what I’ve said so the fact that you think it does says to me that you don’t understand what I’ve written. To reiterate, I am claiming that this is not a question of good or evil, right or wrong, helpful or hurtful; I am stating that this is a question of law. Edward Snowden broke the law—no one can contest that. I believe that a law is not a law unless it is enforced, i.e. it would be merely a suggestion if not enforced, and that, subsequently, we must enforce the laws with Snowden as with everyone else. This part you may contest, though if you hope to change anyone’s mind you’ll need to use sound arguments instead of baseless insults.

    To be honest, I get the feeling that you’re pigeonholing me. Why else would you assume I’m Christian? If you were paying attention you’d see that I’ve chosen the Latin (read “Roman”) word Virtus as my handle and that all of its associations are definitively anti-Christian. More on point, you seem to think I wouldn’t agree with NSA employees, who illegally spied on Americans, being prosecuted but nothing I’ve said even remotely suggests that and I have in fact spoken specifically to the contrary (see my reply to Jason)—not to mention the fact that everything I’m saying would be absurd if I made exceptions for NSA employees. This says to me that you’re not really paying what I’ve written any mind yet attempting to engage me in conversation, which is very self-serving and troll-like.

  12. Virtus,

    Uh yeah. Actually, I am paying attention to what you are writing.

    So sorry for trying to stuff you into a hole made for a pigeon. It is clear to me now that you are a different sort of bird.

    So sorry for sort of semi-implying Christian-ness on your part where it might not be applicable.

    I look up Virtus now and I see it means a lot of things. While I can agree these things are primarily *non-*Christian, I am not sure that all of these are, in any sense, *anti*-Christian. But surely a parsing of your handle is besides the point.

    You wrote an awful lot of words yet still seem to have somehow avoided actually saying, “Yes, I am in favor of having the NSA employees prosecuted as well.” But in the end, somewhere, you did seem to say you support their prosecution by stating that it would be absurd for you *not* to support their prosecution given that you are entirely in favor of Snowden’s prosecution.

    This may be a surprise to you, but there are some Americans that have *exactly* that position–that is–they are in favor of Snowden’s prosecution, but they would not be in favor of prosecution of those NSA employees. Absurd? Sure.

    But then there is an awful lot of absurdity in the world.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  13. wyrdwyrd,

    Yes, the world is nothing if not absurd. To think that I can sit here and tell you that I agree with you regarding NSA employees and have you still speak to me as if I do not—absurd.

  14. Don’t forget that whistleblowing has previously been protected by law; ie: you are specifically allowed to break the law, in order for justice to be done.. Except that obviously, they’re trying to renig on this ideal. (Notice how Obamas platform included strengthening support for whistleblowers, but when Snowden appeared they went back and editted the historical postings on the gov sites to remove that promise?)

    So Snow did break vow (may or may not be law?), but he did so with legal precedent.

    More to point, it is beyond hipocritical to put him behind bars, leaving the much larger criminals walk (considering the head of the NSA has lied to parliament numerous times, and walks free.)

  15. There is a precedent for pardoning Snowden. Scooter Libby revealed the name of an active CIA field agent and was convicted for it, but W pardoned him arguing that the harm Libby had done to US security by revealing Plame’s operations in Iran and China outweighed the fact that he had violated his solemn oath. Snowden’s only problem is that his revelations have yet to damage US security.

    P.S. Aren’t some of you guys based in the UK? Hey, we’re the nation based on the principle that we’ll all hang together or we’ll each hang separately.

  16. Interesting precedent, kaleberg. It would be nice to think that as Obama approaches the end of his term, he decided to just darned well do the right thing.

    I’m British, by the way. English, specifically.

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