CNN reporter and writer for many major publications, Fareed Zakaria recently spoke about Ed Snowden in TIME stating that Snowden is “No hero”. He says, “But while Snowden is no hero, his revelations have focused attention on a brave new world of total information.”
In the article and on video, Zakaria states:
“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” That was Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition of civil disobedience. It does not appear to be Edward Snowden’s. He has tried by every method possible to escape any judgment or punishment for his actions.
Snowden has been compared to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. But Ellsberg did not hop on a plane to Hong Kong or Moscow once he had unloaded his cache of documents. He stood trial and faced the possibility of more than 100 years in prison before the court dismissed the case against him because of the prosecution’s mistakes and abuses of justice. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru spent years in prison in India for defying colonial British rule in their native land.”
The article implies that Snowden has, “tried by every method possible to escape any judgment or punishment for his actions.”, implying that blowing the whistle on the most damning piece of news about the frightening inner workings of the NSA that we have ever seen is deserving of punishment and judgement. In light of Dr. King’s quote, it would seem that this is being painted in the light of civil disobedience, but that’s not what this is; it’s the tale of the modern whistleblower. The two are not the same and the way in which one should ethically behave is not the same. This public shaming of a man who will likely be found dead under dubious circumstances is baffling to me. The rest of the TIME article focuses softly on the seeming inevitable digital signature of each and every person alive and how the US Government isn’t really all that bad:
“As far as we know, the U.S. government has broken no laws and has followed all established procedures, and Congress approved this program, though it did so in secret, writing laws that aren’t public. Obama Administration officials, echoing their (slightly less transparent) predecessors in the Bush era, insist that any fishing expeditions undertaken through terabytes of collected data are highly targeted and do not involve innocent Americans.”
Don’t you feel better now? Wrapping up his article, Zakaria talks about how creepy and worrisome data collection is, but fails to confront even once the horrific invasion of privacy and personal freedom that we are guaranteed. My friends, this is a wonderful piece of misdirection and disinformation of which we all should take note. Walk through the text, see how finely it is put together: Side with Ghandi and King, shun the whistleblower, redirect by talking about the quirks of modern technology while feigning concern for future security; it’s a goddamn masterpiece.
Luckily for those of us who are justifiably upset about this and have chosen to keep an open mind on our Star-crossed transient whistleblower,Snowden, we can look to an excellent piece by John Tirman; the piece Zakaria should have written. In it, Tirman states that what Snowden has revealed is nothing less than a quiet coup:
“The revelations about spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on American citizens, foreign governments, and just about everyone in between have been aptly treated as a scandal, although the objects of scorn vary. Edward Snowden, the whistleblower or traitor, depending on your predilections, and Glenn Greenwald, the columnist for The Guardian to whomSnowden revealed most of his information, have shaken the complacent status quo in Washington by revealing the massive, years-long programs to gather data in the name of national security. It’s very doubtful that such spying is necessary to protect U.S. security, but that’s a topic for another day. So is the media attention to the actions of Snowden and Greenwald (which I believe are brave and necessary).
What is vastly more important is how the spying has been conducted and justified. It comprises nothing less than a coup d’etat.”
Where Zakaria should have observed the reality of our situation, he decided to appeal to claims of Snowden’s cowardice (which is a logical fallacy) rather than the damming evidence about what our government is doing behind the scenes and without our approval. I’m afraid Zakaria would have failed the business ethics class that I took in grad school, because the first thing they taught us there was that whistleblowers put themselves in tremendous danger by coming out, exposing frauds, crooks and in this case, crimes that break our own and international law. I’m afraid Zakaria is no hero of journalism.
Confronting the question of whether or not Snowden should have stayed at home and waited for the welcoming committee is up for debate. Personally I think he was behaving more like Patton than King, knowing that it is highly unlikely that he would find a truly fair trial in his own country. So Mr. Zakaria, I can quote great people too:
“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” – George S. Patton
In this context, I think Snowden has a justifiable right to desire to live another day to have his story heard; to fight the good fight by living another day. For instance, if today he was behind bars he would not be able to tell us what he is going through and we wouldn’t see the tremendous internationally illegal activity our government is going through still to get to him like he has today:
“I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”
Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.
That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.”
What we as a society choose to accept right here and now will have repercussions possibly for generations to come, so the question is, “Will we take this lightly? Will we take the information Snowden gave us, then shame him like Zakaria has, or do we watch and wait before we see who is the hero and who is the villain?” I suppose the answer is up to you, dear Disinfonauts. As always, you decide.
Gabriel writes for VICE Magazine, Disinfo.com and Realitysandwich.com and is the author of three books. He is continuing his research at the University of Washington in his hometown of Tacoma, WA.