Haven’t read all the details of the Snowdon case but there seems to be two main groups. The first group call him a hero and want to carry him through the streets, the second group want to carry him through the streets to the gallows. There are some who wish to wait and see how things go before deciding which extreme to proclaim Ed Snowdon. Let’s, for now, leave his motivations to be analyzed by the behaviour specialists and move on to the revelation. The United States of America spies on people, so does the rest of the Five Eyes group, shocking this is not. People spy each other all the time, the stone age tribe watching the neighbours sneaking to new hunting grounds, the child spying on the presents going under the tree, the jealous spouse watching for clues of cheating or the nation insecure about its frontiers.
Snowdon claims his motivation is patriotism, altruism and preserving civil liberties hard fought for. Sure. The revelation of secret courts outside the traditional oversight provided in the US Constitution and abuses of said courts is nothing new. Algorithms being used to gather data of interest or may someday be of interest is nothing new but might be in this context. We have known this is the result of the Patriot Act and other, similar legislation. The under fed attack dogs are off the leash and are to busy feeding to know friend from foe or right from wrong. Americans demanded this in 2001.
The alternate extreme of Snowdon being a traitor for revealing American secrets, compromising programs, putting people in danger et cetera, is also plausible. There has to be secrets to protect societies. At times people need to be watched unknowingly to prevent tragedy and build a case for due process and a conviction. Many ignore the allegations because Snowdon revealed them or liberty should be sacrificed to the gods of security. The ‘I have nothing to hide crowd’ claim it is all for the good of the country while the blasé crowd shrug and ask what are they to do.
Snowdon is running around throwing up red flags. He is in Russia and looking for asylum in all the Meccas of Human Rights, yes that is sarcasm. The man is acting suspiciously and exposing himself to organizations that would love to compromise US security. The fact Julian Assange is now involved sends up another red flag, Assange always strikes me as creepy and ego on speed. If Snowdon was so concerned why flee? There are plenty of organizations in Washington who are more experienced than Wikileaks and have access to legal protection. The fact none of these questions are being addressed by him allow for the accusations of being a defector.
It isn’t just the actions of Snowdon that strike me as suspect. The response to Snowdon by the United States security/intelligence apparatus also is throwing up red flags. The quick condemnation, accusations, veiled threats, unveiled threats coming from the Obama Administration smack of a cover up. This poor cover up and what it is failing to cover up is a bipartisan surrender to bloated agencies, obscene budgets and less stringent over sight. Bureaucratic feudalism has created a lethargic ungovernable network of duplication, in fighting and the breeding ground for careerists. Ice that layer cake with thick numbers of contractors who are more likely to be corrupted by their own power or a hostile group. Sprinkle with politicians who constantly fail those who elect them.
The extremes on this issue either wish to do away with all government and have a libertarian anarchist experiment, alternately there are those who wish a totalitarian police state disguised as a democracy. Both side have lost the plot. There is no collective security without individual security, there is no individual security without collective security. The only security Americans have is their Bill of Rights, violate it at your peril. Rights that Snowdon doesn’t appear to have if he returns to the United States. Some sage advice on the matter:
‘Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.’ Benjamin Franklin
Ed Snowdon is neither a hero or a villain. He maybe a red flag to his fellow Americans, a pawn in some international intrigue, a warning about the bad state of security clearances or a troubled person seeking attention. He is certainly becoming a distraction from the real issues here. Are governments acting within the letter and spirit of our laws, constitutions and mandate of the electorates? Can democracies survive the era of unaccountable Mandarins manoeuvring in secret? Have elections become a farce? Do we run wild with the anarchists and the libertarians? Do we surrender to the tyranny of security? Or do we reset our systems to the way they were supposed to work?
It is rich for some people to cry foul of the US Government collecting data when they offer far more to private companies, internet strangers and other nongovernmental groups. Google has no obligation to share with us what they have collected or when and how. Many algorithms used by private entities are vastly more pervasive in our lives. Our own internal algorithms assist companies to tailor advertising to us every time we click. Yet, only government can use it for evil? Sharing information, bits of ourself is part of human nature, part of our social species. Yes we need to be careful and hold those doing the collecting to account. Part of why civil courts were invented, or patent law or even governments with census data is to help balance the private information and shared information.
Let us take this entire Snowdon affair as a sign we have all become a bit to idiotic and not kept vigilance our selves but outsourced it to contractors. Now let us all Google Mount Snowdon pictures to screw up their algorithms and then go put our elected officials and civil servants feet to the proverbial fires. It is up to each individual citizen to help strike the balance between to much collected and not enough collected information.