Snowden As An American Rorschach Test


This was admirably clear from Steve Wozniak:

I don’t think terrorism is war. I think terrorism is a crime. And by using the word ‘war’ we’ve managed to use all these weird ways to say the Constitution doesn’t apply in the case of a war. And I think Edward Snowden is a hero because this came from his heart. And I really believe he was giving up his whole life because he just felt so deeply about honesty, about spying on Americans, and he wanted to tell us.

A reader writes:

Edward Snowden as a personality probably gets far more ink and interest than the situation warrants (conversely, it warrants much deeper exploration of the facts that Snowden exposed), but he is an interesting social lightening rod. Official Washington despises him–that’s both people within the national security state, who understandably feel threatened by him, and the whole supporting apparatus that has grown up around them, including a large part of the media which instinctively feels itself a part of this world and considers it to be under siege. On the other hand, there is another world that lionizes Snowden, and this is the same world that rallied to the defense of Aaron Swartz – hip, young, extremely tech-savvy and with a healthy streak of disrespect for authority at its core.

This world understands the threat that the national surveillance state presents to privacy and personal freedom and responds in an impish fashion to it. It applauds challenges to the sanctimonious claims of self-importance of the national security establishment and loves to see them be revealed as liars and cheats, which at least to some measure they are.

The recent interview Steve Wozniak gave shows all the markers of this community of thinking, and it also reminds us that these people are extremely important to America – they are our innovators and by and large the people who made the current technological revolutions possible. The fear that the national security world has of them, most dramatically exemplified in the Swartz case, but flashing through with Snowden too, points to genius in one corner and a group of dim-witted, power-abusing dullards in the other. So the national security community has a rather challenging PR crisis. The claims to “keep us safe” are already wearing a bit thin, especially as millions around the world begin to view their intrusions into privacy as a more meaningful threat than Islamist terrorism.

And then look at the unenviable challenge this presents to Obama. Both are his natural constituencies. How does he reconcile that? He’s not doing a good job so far, he’s thrown in his lot with the national security state. That is just as predictable an outcome for Obama the president as the opposite was for Obama the candidate.

Another wishes Snowden would have stayed anonymous:

I’ve become wistful for when we didn’t know who Greenwald’s leaker was. Knowledge of the leaker may give us more confidence in the leaks, but it has also focused the press on his motives and character. It doesn’t matter why Snowden leaked the documents – even if his intent was malicious or profit-seeking – the fact is we have a broad surveillance program targeting domestic communications. Every article on his whereabouts is a distraction. We – the press and electorate – need more information about the alleged successes of the program to make a judgement. What country Snowden wants to go to or settle in doesn’t answer any questions relevant to the issue. Right now, the public is making a bunch of gut checks and that’s a damn poor way for an electorate to hold the government accountable.