Americans tend to love underdogs and whistleblowers, and at the beginning of l’affaire Snowden it seemed that in one man we had both. Young Edward Snowden left his hot girlfriend and his cushy government job behind to tell Americans that our government has been systematically spying on all of us for years.
He’s a hero! Or some thought so at least, until he started outing US hacking against China and the UK’s spying on guests during a 2009 diplomatic summit. The US should be hacking against China, which is known to be hacking against the US. Cyberspace is part of the battlespace now. Everyone spies at diplomatic summits. It’s part of the international relations game. Those disclosures hurt the US and one of our closest allies, for no good purpose, and at a time when the US was seeking leverage against China’s spying and hacking against us. But it served as a warning that Snowden is liable to leak again if he believes doing so serves his own self-interests. He may fancy himself as a James Bond, but he’s not suave and he is and unlike Bond he is not loyal to anyone but himself. Snowden’s disclosures have earned him federal espionage charges from a government that appears to be impotent as it tries to catch him.
Snowden ran off to Hong Kong, nominally part of communist China, rather than stay in the United States to defend his actions. Running into the arms of an enemy is not generally something Americans support in our underdogs and whistleblowers. Now it turns out that Snowden’s presence in Hong Kong may have allowed China’s hackers to drain the contents of all of his laptops. They know whatever he knows. He is now expendable, but China allowed him to leave because he has earned some public support in the anti-American population in Hong Kong and mainland China. China drained his electronic brains before allowing Snowden to flee Hong Kong for Russia, from which he is supposed to travel to Cuba and Venezuela to end up seeking asylum in Ecuador.
China’s human rights abuses are well-known, though they are less criticized than they ought to be. China’s is an undemocratic, one-party regime that censors the Internet, jails and tortures dissidents, and commands the details of its subject’s every-day lives down to how many children they are allowed to have. China supports what may be the most thuggish and least freedom-friendly regime in human history, North Korea.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin hails from the USSR’s KGB. Under his watch an oligarchy rules Russia’s false democracy, and reporters who get in the way tend to die. Putin backs various human rights haters around the world, from the mullahs in Iran to the butcher in Damascus. Putin is a bully ruling a decrepit former power.
Supposing he does leave Russia, Snowden is set to travel through the Castro communist workers’ paradise of Cuba, which also spies on its citizens and aggressively imprisons dissidents, and Venezuela, which under the late Hugo Chavez’s watch became a Cuba with oil. Likewise Ecuador’s government cracks down on dissent in the media. It just passed a law in June 2013 in the name of “democratizing the media” that actually gives the government sweeping power to stamp out freedom of speech.
Knitting Snowden’s travelogue together is Wikileaks, the fringe international organization that thinks traitor Bradley Manning, the US soldier whose gay grudge ended up getting people better than him killed, is a hero. Its leader, Julian Assange, is hiding out on the Ecuadorian embassy in London dodging dodgy rape charges in Sweden. Wikileaks’ current comment on Snowden’s whereabouts reads like a schoolyard taunt: “Neener neener!”
Pursuing the leaking whistleblower Edward Snowden is the government of the United States. Once seen as the champion of liberty and civil rights around the world, the US government is now revealed to be a government that passes sweeping laws lacking democratic legitimacy, suppresses dissent through its army of tax compliance officials, spies on its citizens, elevates the concerns of illegal aliens over its citizens, leaves its diplomat and security officials to die to preserve a campaign narrative, and prosecutes information leaks it does not bless while blessing information leaks that serve its interests. The US government ought to come out in every exchange with the likes of Beijing, Moscow, Caracas and Havana as the shining city on a hill. Instead, thanks to its own actions, our leviathan government looks little better than any of the others it’s facing off with. Uncle Sam is a massive hypocrite.
All in all, l’affaire Snowden is a depressing battle between anti-heroes, none of whom have a moral leg to stand on.