Don’t Kill The Messenger

Since Edward Snowden‘s ‘confessions of an NSA analyst’ I’ve been feeling like I’m trapped inside Tony Scott’s 1988 flick, Enemy of the State. Irony is it’s fifteen years later. In the last two weeks I’ve read and heard Snowden called everything from a terrorist to spy to a narcissist. I’ve even listened to an elected official call for the prosecution (with a straight face) of the journalist who interviewed Snowden. There’s even been a poll conducted assessing American’s support or lack thereof for what he did. And if that weren’t enough, apparently Snowden’s girlfriend took some racy photos which she published online that the media has discovered and managed to make a story out of. Not quite certain what the relevance is but it goes to prove my very point.

There is a scene in Enemy of the State during which the NSA head says, “I’ve seen killers walk free because the eye witness was an alcoholic. I’ve seen sex offenders that couldn’t be touched because the victim was a call girl. Credibility, it’s the only currency that means anything on this kind of playing field. Dean’s got the tape and he’s going to come out with it. And when he does I want his credibility. I want people to know he’s lying before they hear what he says.” And herein lies the battle. Not one between lies and truth but, rather, one between personalities and credibility. Whom do we believe?  The twenty-nine year old analyst who bragged about sexcapades and posted under pseudonyms in chat rooms or our ‘trusted leaders’?

Don't kill the messenger

Image: MsftPPT

I did a Google search and there must have been dozens of articles about who Edward Snowden is, where he grew up, what kind of childhood he had, even what kind of video games he played as a teenager. This reveals quite a lot — not about Snowden but rather about American society. A former employer of the nation’s largest security and surveillance apparatus comes and makes the biggest leak of information that directly impacts the public in the most significant and intricate way and somehow we’re discussing the fact that he eats Krispy Kreme donuts. Talk about operation distract and divert. Instead of the citizenry being outraged over their government eavesdropping on them and invading what little privacy they have remaining the focus has shifted towards Snowden’s motives and the fact he categorized himself as a Buddhist on an Army application nine years ago.

The greatest irony in all of this is the very fact the accusations Snowden makes in his interview with Glenn Greenwald about the overreaching surveillance abilities of the NSA and other security agencies are being implemented against him in their quest to destroy his credibility and sway the American public against him. They are in fact doing the very things he warned us about. And this is what makes what the Surveillance Industrial Complex does so dangerous; it makes it almost impossible to expose injustices committed by those in power and it gives the American public no recourse for punishing or correcting the wrongdoers.

I’m not saying Snowden is a hero or that he hasn’t engaged in questionable or even irresponsible behavior. But that’s not really the point nor should it be the focus of our discussion. The one and only thing we should be talking about is the further erosion of our privacy and civil liberties. If whether or not the government can take a comment we made 15 years ago in the heat of a private discussion, use it out of context and prosecute us based on this. Do we want to live in a free and open society or not.

People often ask me aren’t I afraid of being the target of some Muslim terrorists attack — to which I always respond Muslim terrorists do not frighten me. I’m much more concerned about what my government might do to me.


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  1. […] National Security Agency (NSA) computer contractor, and whistleblower du jour, Edward Snowden left Hong Kong on June 23 for Moscow. He is now seeking political asylum in either Iceland, Ecuador […]

  2. […] Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, like that so ineptly orchestrated by Bradley Manning, lays bare this paradox: the Great Republic, self-proclaimed global guardian of liberty and personal freedom, sanctions systemic government spying on its own citizens in the name of national security. Additional zest and intrigue are provided by its unlikely spear carriers. Some impassioned types of the American left regard Snowden as an exemplar of conscience in action. Manning attracts similar adoration in the same quarters. There is one certainty – the mammoth government-sponsored communications intercepts, and executive distrust worthy of Stalin are so disturbing they provide the only common ground occupied by the American right, left and center since 9/11. […]