Enter The Media Martyr, Ctd

A reader adds to this post:

I spent a decade as a government IT contractor and another five years in commercial IT contracting (which I’m back to).  Over the course of my government time I was basically in the same job, but as contracts rebid or companies merged or whatever, I worked directly or indirectly for four different companies.  It’s entirely possible that Snowden was in the job prior to March but under a different lead or sub contracting company.  The relevant question isn’t when did he start at Booz, since that’s really just a paperwork and billing question, but rather when did he start on site.


Your reader’s suggestion is to call the Ethics Hotline maintained by the NSA? That’s unrealistic to the point of being laughable – what conceivable effect would that have (aside from costing Snowden his job without publicizing the program)? As for the idea that he work with members of Congress, it’s just as silly.  Remember, Wyden and Udall were deeply troubled by the program, but couldn’t say anything because they didn’t want to release classified information.  The only way that this program comes into the public eye is for a hero like Snowden to take the hit and alert everyone.  It seems to be legal, so there’s no crime to report; and yet it’s nevertheless causing a huge public outcry.  The case for leaking this material couldn’t be clearer, and I applaud Snowden for his brave act of civil disobedience.

Huge public outcry? We’ll see. But the debate itself and the end of secrecy around this program are healthy developments, it seems to me. Meanwhile, Noam Scheiber compares the missions of Edward Snowden and Aaron Swartz:

Both Snowden and Swartz (and, for that matter Manning) were precociously talented computer programmers who were frustrated in classroom settings—neither completed high school or college—but easily assimilated knowledge on their own. Both had strong moral and idealistic streaks, along with (apparently) well-worked out, libertarian-ish, ideas about the proper relationship of government to its citizens. Both had high hopes for Barack Obama, but became disillusioned with his administration relatively quickly.

And yet both come off as basically liberal in their outlook, as opposed to anarchist or some other form of radical. Snowden told The Guardian there was a key difference between himself and Manning: “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.” (Manning observed no such restraints.) Swartz, according to several friends I interviewed for this profile, likewise believed that Wikileaks went too far in releasing information that could do more harm than good. He worried that the group had become an exercise in showmanship and preening.

Now, clearly, there are key differences between Snowden and Swartz. Even though Swartz was facing the prospect of decades in prison, the act that got him in trouble couldn’t have been more than a minor offense under any rational legal code. (JSTOR articles are available to anyone with access to a university or research library; JSTOR itself declined to pursue the case.) By contrast, it’s obvious that Snowden, whether you agree or disagree with his decision to distribute classified material, has undertaken something of enormous legal consequence.