It’s official. Edward Snowden, holed up in an authoritarian Russian paradise, is happy that an American federal judge has ruled against phone surveillance programs operated by the NSA. Yippee. I can sleep much better now knowing that the man who is spilling the nation’s secrets, or in some cases trying to trade them for a better place to live, has a legal victory under his potentially treacherous belt.
Through his sometimes shady representative in the civilized world, Glenn Greenwald, Mr. Snowden sent this message to Americans:
I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts. Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.
Well, it may or may not be the first of many, but we do know that for all his talk of how “the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts,” what Snowden doesn’t want to talk about is why he won’t give those same courts a chance to determine whether or not he has committed high crimes against what used to be his country, a country that was paying him and thus expecting him to keep our secrets from our enemies.
I’ve discussed this before, but what bothers me most of all about the Snowden fiasco is how eager liberals have been to get in bed with him and, in this most recent federal judge’s ruling, also side with the man who brought the so-far successful lawsuit against the NSA. That man, Larry Klayman, is a Tea Party nut job. Just two months ago The Huffington Post reported on a rally in Washington that sort of made him famous:
Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group, said the country is “ruled by a president who bows down to Allah,” and “is not a president of ‘we the people.'”
“I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out,” he said.
That, my friends, is the man who many, if not most, liberals are in a rhetorical and legal foxhole with, at least in terms of the latest war against the NSA. There has been an ongoing fight against government surveillance programs for years, but Klayman, as he now characterizes it, “hit the mother lode” with a victory in his latest case. And he hit that mother lode because of Edward Snowden, who apparently finds Russian winters too damn cold and is trying to trade away what’s left of his dignity for warmer climes:
NSA leaker Edward Snowden, now several weeks into the Moscow winter, has published an open letter to “the people of Brazil” offering to help the country resist U.S. spying efforts in exchange for political asylum. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been highly critical of NSA operations in her country; Brazil also just happens to be where Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who is Snowden’s closest ally, is based.
By now it ought to be clear to all that Snowden isn’t some kind of “global champion of libertarian ideals and a hero of the struggle for personal freedom against U.S. abuses of power.” If he were, he would come back home and make his case and bring even more attention to it, instead of having people like Larry Klayman do the work for him. Yes, he would be risking jail time. Yes, he might be risking a lot of jail time. But the kind of heroes I studied in history didn’t worry about themselves as much as they worried about the cause they were fighting for or the tyranny they were fighting against. Right now, Snowden seems to be worried about getting warm in Brazil and continuing to do damage to the country he is supposedly trying to save. That’s some champion. That’s some hero.
Well, we’ve seen that kind of behavior before. We’ve seen that kind of blow-up-America-in-order-to-save-it nonsense many times lately. We’ve seen it in the Larry Klaymans and the Ted Cruzes and all the wingnuts on the right who shutdown the government and who are even now plotting on how to use the debt ceiling once again as a way to extract concessions from Democrats, who are trying to keep enough fiscal gas in the nation’s car to keep it running so people can get to work, or at least get to the grocery store to spend their unemployment checks or their tiny ration of food stamps.
I will say this openly to my liberal friends: Yes, there needs to be greater oversight on what the NSA and other national security-related agencies are doing. Yes, there has been some overreach by those agencies. Yes, we can do better in terms of protecting the privacy of Americans. And, yes, let’s run the NSA’s “mass surveillance” practices through the constitutional wringer and see if they come out clean. But I implore all of you not to make Edward Snowden a hero. As Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney—one of our guys, by the way—reminded us yesterday about Snowden:
He has been charged and accused of leaking classified information. He faces felony charges here. He ought to be returned to the United States — again, where he will face full due process and protection under our system of justice that we hope he will avail himself of…
That’s what a real American hero, if he turns out to be a hero, would do. Not go to the Chinese and the Russians and now, after finding out that Moscow is not Rio de Janeiro, try to deal his way to a better place. So, if we must fight to find out whether the NSA is doing the country more harm than good, let us at least fight knowing that Edward Snowden does not now deserve our praise or our admiration, at least until he faces American justice for what he has done and proves he deserves our thanks, as opposed to our condemnation.