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Edward Snowden, Part 4: What He Didn't Know


Editor's Note: I've decided to cross-post together these four PJ articles about the NSA PRISM surveillance program. My colleagues J. Christian Adams, Bryan Preston, Ron Radosh, and Richard Fernandez each deliver compelling analyses and I agree with their conclusions. I've been disappointed as many conservatives and Republicans have sought to minimize the severity of what PRISM is, even siding with Democrats to support the program while encouraging focus on the IRS and other Obama scandals. They're wrong.

At this point the Ron Paul radical anarchist Edward Snowden who initiated this story in the most irresponsible means possible has overextended his 15 minutes of fame. He has ceded any scrap of moral authority he may have once had. Everything about him is a distraction from what really matters. In the coming weeks let's hope the sad tabloid story about him and his personality can pass and we can get to the serious discussion about the necessity of limiting the powers of government surveillance.   - David Swindle

Click here for Part 1 by J. Christian Adams

Click here for Part 2 by Bryan Preston

Click here for Part 3 by Ron Radosh

I was originally going to write a post that started like this: The Los Angeles Times says the administration is considering accepting refugees from Syria:

Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to American cities and towns.


The State Department is "ready to consider the idea," an official from the department said, if the administration receives a formal request from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, which is the usual procedure.

Maybe the president is feeling guilty. Or maybe not. Michael Totten writes:

What could have been a bloody but short Libyan-style revolution to oust the tyrant Bashar al-Assad has instead metastasized into a grotesque sectarian war between the Sunni Muslim majority and the ruling Alawite minority. ... And what could have been a major blow for the West in its cold war against Iran—Syria is Iran’s only state-sized ally in the Middle East—has instead morphed in part into a protracted red-on-red fight between an anti-American state sponsor of terrorism and the anti-American jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front), the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, which is fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army against Assad.

So it's only right to accept one set of hostiles who are fleeing the other set of hostiles and vice-versa, even if both sets of hostiles hate America, because that's what the political process is programmed to do. When they designed the refugee paradigm, nobody imagined that the refugees and their pursuers could be interchangeable.

In the meantime, Obama told Charlie Rose that nobody understood how hard it is being president. Lee Smith, watching the president describe his dilemmas, wrote:

In an appearance on the Charlie Rose show, the commander in chief told his host, “I’ve said I’m ramping up support for both the political and military opposition. I’ve not specified exactly what we’re doing, and I won’t do so on this show. ... Unless you’ve been involved in those conversations,” Obama told Rose, “then it’s kind of hard for you to understand the complexities of the situation.”


For Obama, everything about Syria is complex -- its vaunted air defenses, Iran’s massive investment there in men, money, and arms, Russia’s intractable diplomatic position, and especially the rebels themselves.

But what did that illustrate about Obama's anxieties? I was stumped. Well, that was before I read Roger Simon's excellent post on What Snowden Knew:

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a brief for Snowden. He seems to be a new form of narcissistic international creep, similar to Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame. I hope he gets dysentery in Ecuador or wherever he winds up.

But he may have done us a favor, putting an exclamation point on the activities of the NSA so there are no doubts. He also has made obvious the utter contempt with which Russia and China treat the Obama administration. (Evidently this was surprising to Dianne Feinstein on Face the Nation Sunday. Go figure.) ... this presents an opportunity for dialogue we haven’t had for many years. Who knows if it will happen?

But if it does, I hope it will be intelligent and substantive. These are not easy questions. Good reasons exist for government surveillance.

Most obvious of them is the threat and reality of Islamic terrorism, which, despite the death of bin Laden, does not seem to be going away. Quite the contrary. It appears to be growing rapidly and dangerously....

But suffice it to say I’m not so keen on dismantling, or even much curtailing, the NSA. The IRS perhaps, but not the NSA.

Still, we have to figure out how to balance this.

Roger asks an intelligent question that nobody in power is likely to answer anytime soon.

What Snowden knew was that a large surveillance apparatus existed. And in his (choose one -- naivete, malice, treason, idealism), Snowden found someone to help him lay it all out. But now, let's think about what he didn't know, or should've known but didn't seem to know.