Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor on
the run for having dumped some classified documents on the desk of a
British reporter, says that he doesn't consider himself a hero, but his
girlfriend's blog paints a different picture, with delusions of grandeur
dating back more than three months. If only the NSA's PRISM Program was as
significant as their sense of self-importance.
Snowden's Hawaii-based dancer-girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, repeatedly refers
to herself as a "super hero" on her blog, which is full of weird,
spy-related postings that have yet to receive much if any attention. On
March 4, she wrote: "When I was a child most of my friends would play
dress up and fantasize about being a princess, Superman, or pickle rancher
... I would imagine being a spy." Three days earlier, under the heading
"Super Spy," she promoted a dance show in which she performs as a spy,
writing, "Here's hoping time and the Russians don't catch up with me!"
After four years as an NSA contractor, Snowden apparently realized that he
was better suited to other things, like running into the arms of the
Chinese or another regime willing to display a suitable antagonism toward
America on behalf of his reluctant-hero self.
Behavioral contradictions are a pattern for Snowden, who started high
school, then dropped out. He then joined the army, training to serve in
the Special Forces, only to make the apparent shocking discovery that it
may involve "killing Arabs." After briefly serving as a security guard for
the NSA, Snowden joined the Central Intelligence Agency as a tech
maintenance guy, but while hanging around the CIA station in Geneva he
decided that he found the intelligence game distasteful. Not that it
stopped him from further pursuing a career in spying. As a Booz Allen
Hamilton employee contracting with the NSA, Snowden swore to maintain
national security secrecy before deciding it didn't suit his agenda.
Now, Snowden says he understands that there are consequences for his
actions, but he nonetheless is going to keep running away from them. He
says he doesn't want attention, yet he's gone about communicating a
grievance the way an attention junkie would. Snowden claims to be a
pro-transparency advocate, yet he claims to be deeply concerned about your
And all this for what, exactly?
So far, Snowden's great contribution to collective "freedom" is that we
now know the U.S. government is involved in the passive collection of
phone records and Internet data -- in case you had been living in a closet
and didn't already assume this. In other words, the government could
feasibly know about your life, if it ever cared enough to dig through data
belonging to hundreds of millions of people to find out. We're not talking
about wiretapping or active intrusion, but mere collection.
What's truly tiresome is this growing culture of conspiracy whereby
everything that the government does is an evil plot against average
Americans. Personally, I have only benefited from government
data-monitoring and collection. When my mobile phone was stolen in France,
GPS tracking information sent from the service provider to the authorities
enabled it to be located along with the perpetrators. Closed-circuit
cameras enabled the logging of the suspects' faces. At various times in my
media career, passive data collection has facilitated the identification
and location of people intent on causing me grief under the convenient
guise of anonymity.
So why is it that when cybersecurity is evoked, some people's minds go
directly to the thoroughly unrealized negative potential for such things?
Democracies have so many safeguards in place in the event that such fears
ever do attempt to manifest. Why are we always looking out for the
imaginary Adolf Hitler whom conspiracy cranks believe is lurking in the
soul of every elected authority?
Who, exactly, has the NSA victimized thus far? Until that question is
answered, it's silly to accuse the system of pre-crime. Nor am I willing
to attribute the term "whistleblower" to anyone whose behavior to date
appears no different from that of any predecessors in the realm of
When the FBI's Robert Hanssen was imprisoned for leaking intelligence to
the Russians, his lawyer, Plato Cacheris, attributed it largely to ego.
Harold Philby of the Cambridge Five spy ring, which relayed American and
British secrets to the Soviet Union, nicknamed himself "Kim" after a spy
figure in a Rudyard Kipling story and was described by espionage
researcher Rupert Allason as an egomaniac with a superiority complex.
The law will have to ultimately decide whether Snowden is a whistleblower
or just another traitor.