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Columns

July 6, 2013

Snowden is neither hero nor traitor

(Continued)

 
Instead, Manning placed his trust in WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Unfortunately, Assange isn’t a journalist; he’s a computer hacker motivated a rigid, borderline-fanatical ideology about freedom of information. David Leigh of the Guardian newspaper, in a PBS interview, recalled a pre-publication meeting with Assange in which Leigh urged Assange to redact the names of U.S. intelligence sources who could face retribution.
 
“We said, ‘Julian, we’ve got to do something about these redactions. We really have got to,’” Leigh said. “And he said, ‘These people were collaborators, informants. They deserve to die.’ And a silence fell around the table.”
 
That said, the personalities of Assange, Manning and Snowden are largely beside the point. Snowden, in particular, has been a favorite subject for those seeking to portray him as an attention-seeking narcissist and hypocrite, who in 2009 said leakers of classified data should be “shot in the b--ls.”
 
Such stories are reminiscent of the personal attacks against former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg after his 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times.
 
Then-President Richard Nixon’s thugs even went so far as to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, hoping to find dirt for their anti-Ellsberg smear campaign. Nixon’s goal was to turn attention away from the veracity of Ellsberg’s information and frame the issue instead as a clash of personalities.
 
Unfortunately, many are similarly treating the Snowden story like a soap opera; the brash rebel Snowden versus The Establishment, with Vladimir Putin and Glenn Greenwald cast in supporting roles — with the actual facts of the story treated like the end credits.
 
The issue isn’t Snowden or his personality — it’s whether the NSA actions exposed by his leaks violate the Fourth Amendment. But let’s drop that most absurd and idiotic of cop-outs: that privacy is irrelevant in the age of Google and Facebook. Governments, unlike corporations, can imprison people.

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