Snowden and His Mythical Whistle

Narrowly beating the release of the falsity-filled theatrical PR stunt Snowden, the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the Executive Summary of Review of the Unauthorized Disclosures of Former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden. The Committee also released a letter urging President Obama not to pardon Snowden in which they state, “Mr. Snowden is not a patriot. He is not a whistleblower. He is a criminal.” Many within the Intelligence Community (IC) echo this sentiment and have expressed grave concerns and criticisms over his disclosures to foreign governments as detailed below.

Yes, Edward Snowden shed light on some collection programs within the NSA that were concerning for many Americans, aspects of which merited closer review for compliance concerns. But it’s not clear Snowden even understood the NSA’s privacy compliance requirements he claimed to have been so concerned about. According to the report, “He failed basic annual training for NSA employees on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and complained the training was rigged to be overly difficult. This training included explanations of the privacy protections related to the PRISM program that Snowden would later disclose.”

Had Snowden taken available reporting avenues to address his concerns and, had he not repeatedly disclosed legitimate foreign surveillance activities to the governments being targeted, he would be in much better standing with the US government and wouldn’t have drawn so much ire from members of the IC who, early on, questioned his story. His own actions, not the attitudes or statements of government officials, revealed him to be not a patriot, but an internationalist under the false belief that citizens of other countries are somehow afforded the same protections as American citizens under the Constitution of the United States.

In May, 2013, Snowden fled the US with 1.5 million documents he was able to steal by betraying his coworkers and abusing his administrator privileges. After arriving in Hong Kong, he revealed the wiretapping of over 120 world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, straining US relations worldwide. He also revealed metadata collection of Brazilian telecom companies, even writing an open letter to the people of Brazil stating, “Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world.” Perhaps Snowden forgot that the NSA exists to conduct foreign signals intelligence collection around the globe.

The next month, he leaked documents to the South China Morning Post showing that several telecom companies in China were being targeted by US intelligence services, even supplying specific IP addresses. Glenn Greenwald, the award-winning journalist from The Guardian, known for his collaboration with Edward Snowden in the leaks, went so far as to say, “What motivated that leak though was a need to ingratiate himself to the people of Hong Kong and China.” Snowden’s enthusiastic expansion of leaks beyond those impacting the privacy and liberties of American citizens, has left many wondering to what other governments he has felt the need to ingratiate himself.

You can access the unclassified Executive Summary of the report here, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s letter to the President here.