Jonah Goldberg

No, when I say he may be a fool, I mean he may be a fool for love -- love of an idea. When you look back on the various spies and turncoats in U.S. history, many acted out of a foolish loyalty to an idea. The most obvious examples are the many communists who betrayed America during the Cold War. Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs weren't Russian nationalists at heart, they were (very smart) fools for communism.

One thing that comes through in Snowden's remarks so far is his affection for a set of ideals that transcends nations. He claims he did what he did to protect the "Internet freedom and basic liberties of people around the world." In a Q&A session with readers of the Guardian, Snowden strongly suggests that foreigners be granted rights under our Constitution. "US Person/foreigner distinction is not a reasonable substitute for individualized suspicion," he asserts. "Our founders did not write that "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all U.S. Persons are created equal."

I suspect that most Americans do see a real distinction between foreigners and Americans.

In short, it looks like he sees himself as a digital-era Diogenes. Like Diogenes, he sees himself as a citizen of no place, save a citizen of the (cyber) world.

One irony is that Obama campaigned on similar ideas. In his 2008 Berlin speech, he spoke to the German people as a "fellow citizen of the world." His analysis of the Cold War was a bizarre extended metaphor about the evils of "walls" between peoples.

Snowden says he delayed divulging NSA operations because he hoped Obama would follow through on that philosophy. But Obama disappointed Diogenes. Obama discarded some of his cheap cosmopolitanism when he learned it might come at the cost of American security.

If Snowden were a traditional spy, it'd be very easy to put him in a traditional box. But my hunch is that he represents an altogether more complicated challenge.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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