Monday, June 10, 2013

The Whistleblower

Meet Edward Snowden, the former technical assistant at the C.I.A. who leaked the documents about the N.S.A. data gathering.

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

Not to cast judgment on Mr. Snowden’s motives or the aftermath of what he did — maybe he did do us a favor or not — but when someone says “It’s not about me” and does it in a front page article that reveals his name and tells the spy-thriller details of what he did, how he did it, and where he’s now holed up, it is all about him.

If he had wanted the story to stay focused on what the U.S. government was doing and who it was doing it to, he would have stayed out of the picture and let the debate and discussion remain on whether or not laws were broken in the process of gathering all the data.  Despite his attempts to peg the humble meter, it does sound like he has pretty much decided what the government can and cannot keep secret, and I’m pretty sure that’s his ego talking, not his sense of duty as a citizen.

Now, given the shiny new object of a name and a background, the story is about him, and CNN and the cable heads will all want to hear about his personal story.  They’ll track down his family, do stand-ups in his family’s driveway, poke through their garbage… basically to do to his friends and family — who had no choice in the matter — what he’s telling us the government has been doing to us.

Members of Congress now have a name and a face to put with the story, and many of them will now set out on a witch hunt for Edward Snowden instead of going after the real bad guys: the people who passed the laws in the first place that allowed the government to do exactly what they’re all incensed about what he showed they’re doing.

One bark on “The Whistleblower

  1. Daniel Ellsberg has called him the hero he’s been waiting for for forty years. We now think of Ellsberg as a hero, but I believe what he revealed were war crimes (read “A Bright Shining Lie”) in the draining of our resources and the lives of men unnecessarily in a seemingly endless war we never should have fought. Here we have a man who has made his own judgment about what is and is not acceptable in a diffuse war we never brought on ourselves. Leave him to heaven.

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