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?
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.
Check out my new Doctor Who book, the Eleventh Doctor