The revelation that Edward Snowden was harbored by China, flown by Russia and is headed for Ecuador induced an array of comments from sides in the National Security Agency controversy.
Those who had praised him as a contemporary hero wondered if this would mar his image. No really. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky. ) mused:
I do think, for Mr. Snowden, if he cozies up to the Russian government, it will be nothing but bad for his name in history. If he goes to an independent third country like Iceland and if he refuses to talk to any sort of formal government about this, I think there’s a chance that he’ll be seen as an advocate of privacy. If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government, or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that will be a real problem for him in history.
This is daft, obviously. (Just as it was to compare Snowden to Martin Luther King Jr.).The location of his hideout from the American government doesn’t change the nature of his crime. In revealing American anti-terrorism procedures he reduced our defenses and gave valuable information to those seeking to kill Americans. That is true whether he winds up in Iceland or China. The logic here is rather perverse, suggesting that his destination affects the legality and morality of his original crime.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who had joined Rand Paul in wrongly pronouncing NSA surveillance as a violation of the 4th Amendment, seemed to misread Snowden’s rationale. “It tells me that if he’s looking for a place with a better human rights record than the U.S., he’s certainly not going to find it in any of these countries.” Umm. I think he’s looking for countries that won’t send him back so he is hardly “delusional” as Lee claimed. He is criminal. Big difference.
Meanwhile, defenders of the NSA program saw vindication in the nature of his protectors. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen remarked: “Let us not forget that Phillip Agee, former CIA agent, leaked classified information about CIA personnel and fled the U.S. to seek refuge until he passed away in 2008 in Cuba.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came closest to the mark on Fox News Sunday: “I don’t think he’s a hero. I believe he hurt or nation. He compromised our national security program designed to find out what terrorists were up to. So, the freedom trail is not exactly China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela. So, I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”
Despite this varied reaction, one can hope that those swooning over the “brave” and “heroic” Snowden get a dose of reality. Dan Senior, co-founder of the Foreign Policy Institute sounded an optimistic note:
I think domestically the U.S., I think this further strengthens the center on national security. I think there was a real risk over the last couple weeks that there would be this left-right coalition that would backlash against the United States government, sort of libertarian uprising. And I think Snowden just traveling around the world, flying to these anti-American capitals, behaving the way he’s doing further strengthens — I think the center is holding right now in the U.S., and I think that’s — that’s a positive development.
We can only hope that is the case. A combination of unhinged progressives, conservatives trying to pummel the president and libertarians with little real understanding of either the Constitution or national security threatened to drive the country off the rails on anti-terror tactics. But, like the Boston bombings, incidents like this should demonstrate how dangerously unrealistic is this gang and the importance of robust defenses and surveillance capabilities. That it took a flight to Moscow by a traitor to make this clear is troubling, but we’ll take what we can get.