An Ellsburg Or A Manning?

Tom Ricks sees the actions of Edward Snowden more in line with the Pentagon Papers than Wikileaks:

I opposed what Manning did. I thought his actions were reckless. He did a data dump, making secret information public without knowing what it was or what he was really doing. I remember mentioning, for example, an Ethiopian journalist who wound up in the hot seat because of the WikiLeaks release. Manning’s act was that of a goofball anarchist.

Snowden’s, by contrast, seems to have been one of civil disobedience. That is, he seems to have known exactly what he was doing. Snowden does seem to have some elements of Manning, a mixed-up kid, but on balance seems to me to be more of an Ellsberg — that is, a disillusioned insider who was appalled by what he saw and made a choice to disclose the existence of certain government programs.

Civil disobedience has a cost though:

[D]o I think Snowden should go to jail? Yes, I think he should expect to. Martin Luther King, Jr. did too, when he consciously broke the law in protest. Breaking the law to make a point and then doing some time in consequence fit well within the American tradition. That said, knowing what I know now, I would hope it would be just a few months on a prison farm.

A reader chimes in:

When you “Money Quoted” Jeff Toobin taking Mr. Snowden down a few notches, one aspect of his quote was really nothing but unproven hyperbole, clearly intend to add a touch of smear. Toobin wrote: “The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done.”

Sabotage? Actually no, that’s not what he’s done.

While I’m not going to defend him or everything he’s done, I’m equally not going to go along with smearing him for what he plainly has not done. There is no concrete, definitive evidence that he has sabotaged the NSA’s programs. He simply exposed their existence. I’m sorry but the mere exposure of the programs’ existence is not equal to sabotage (no matter how much the secrecy freaks in the government security-intelligence-complex might cry otherwise).

Let’s be clear: sabotage would have been if he’d done something like inserting a computer virus into the NSA’s systems that shut the whole thing down, or destroyed their collected data, or the like. Exposure of the mere existence of the programs is not in and of itself sabotage. In fact, since this exposure late last week, the NSA has presumably been continuing to actively vacuum up all the same ongoing telephone call data, Facebook posts, Google search data, emails, and the rest without missing a beat … and, I’m sure, are still doing so as I type this. Exposed? Yes. Sabotaged? I don’t quite think so.