October 22, 2013
Secretary Kerry is in France with Foreign Minister Fabius trying to assuage French anger over Edward Snowden revelations. (Phillipe Wojazer/European Pressphoto Agency)
Secretary John Kerry is in France with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius trying to assuage French anger over Edward Snowden revelations. (Phillipe Wojazer/European Pressphoto Agency)

Ever since we first heard Edward Snowden’s name, he’s been a flashpoint. His leak of classified government secrets to news outlets (including a British newspaper, which is technically foreign!) has been characterized as patriotism, treason and everything in between. Richard Cohen, who initially gave Snowden a thumbs down (saying he’s likely to be remembered as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood”), has come to regret writing that.  Snowden did flee the country, but he doesn’t seem to have divulged any secrets to foreign governments — just to newspapers. Nor is he granting interviews or making money off of the leaks, as far as we can tell. So, Cohen decides, not treason, not selfishness. Maybe patriotism.

Commenters are duly impressed that Cohen has returned to the topic to acknowledge that he’s changed his judgment of Snowden.

Bradleyhouse

It is unfortunately extremely rare for a commentator to admit error or revise his opinion based on new facts. It’s also a sign of a truly thoughtful and conscientious writer. Bravo.

Even when they disagree with Cohen’s latest conclusion, they still give him mad props for writing the column.

Iconoblaster

I appreciate Mr Cohen’s column, and his demonstration of the intellectual integrity to admit error, but I still differ with his ultimate conclusion that Snowden deserves to be punished. Snowden did not betray America. America is, first and foremost, the American people and our Constitution. Snowden’s revelations that those we had entrusted to guard that Constitution were systematically violating it, AND violating our trust. There is no other way we could have learned what OUR government is doing, in OUR name. And we are responsible for what our government does… we are citizens of a constitutional republic, not subjects of the crown. Snowden gave up a lot to inform us what our secret “guardians” were up to. He deserves no punishment for that.

pkkill says, good intentions or no, Snowden did betray his country:

I’m for repealing the Patriot Act. I’m not for intelligence operatives/consultants violating their oaths and disclosing top secret information. As i said before, I’m torn on the efficacy of disclosing PRISM. I am not torn on his subsequent disclosures. The Snowden apologists keep apologizing when there is no justification for Snowden’s non-Prism disclosures. Sad.

patriot17 at this point sides with Snowden, but still thinks he needs to stand trial:

Well, in an ideal world the DoJ would guarantee Snowden’s freedom while he stands trial, so that he can adequately defend himself and make his case. But I think that he should stand trial because the DoJ has charged him with espionage. Whether or not he’d be punished if convicted would depend on what the trial reveals, and the discretion of the judge.

IndieOne sees an opportunity to ask for more columnist transparency:

First off, thank you for admitting that your initial assessments about Snowden were wrong. That said, the conclusions you have now come to seemed quite clear to me ever since the Snowden story broke. The only explanation I could fathom at the time was that the US media has essentially transformed into a mouthpiece for the political and financial elite, so they attacked Snowden because his actions damaged that group. But that explanation does not hold up, at least in your case, since you have just made this about-face. So, now I am puzzled once again. What caused your initial disdain for Snowden? Was it a natural appeal to authority? Was it blind patriotism? An inability to admit fault on the part of our government? Was it a lack of understanding about the issues involved and the Constitutional protections at stake? What is going on when professional journalists appear to be less astute than some members of the general public?

As much as PostScript admires professional journalists, the condition of being less astute than some members of the general public is ineluctable. PostScript deals with that by dropping unnecessarily fancypants words. Professionally.