Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Superb vintage, this wine...

Following on the theme of, is Edward Snowden a traitor or a hero --

Chris Hedges published his introductory statement to a debate on that subject at Oxford University (which his side won, against a team of former US intelligence officials and pundits). It's brief and worth a read.

Snowden had access to the full roster of everyone working at the NSA. He could have made public the entire intelligence community and undercover assets worldwide. He could have exposed the locations of every clandestine station and their missions. He could have shut down the surveillance system, as he has said, “in an afternoon.” But this was never his intention. He wanted only to halt the wholesale surveillance, which until he documented it was being carried out without our consent or knowledge.

Worth remembering, if Snowden had really wanted to damage the US, he could easily have done an helluvalot more to damage us than he actually did. How do we know he didn't? Well, apart from Snowden and Greenwald's assurances, it's been almost 2 years since the date his documents were downloaded... the NSA has started to compile a list of what he took... do you think anybody would sit on that information for 2 years, and we wouldn't hear about the sudden checkmating of all our strategic operations, or else the ransom they wanted in exchange?
When I assert that Manning and Snowden have done no damage worth speaking of (compared to the value of their revelations), opponents tend to fall back on "Well they broke their oath to keep these things secure, that makes them traitors." Yet every elected official swears an oath to uphold the Constitution, including the 4th Amendment, howcome you're not calling them the oathbreakers? Manning and Snowden simply felt their oaths required them to reveal this stuff, while President Obama and security officials all the way down, felt their oaths permitted them to violate the plain intent of the 4th Amendment, and keep it all hushed up. Breaking an oath is not so clear-cut an issue as conservatives would like to believe.

Hedges again:
No doubt we will hear from the opposition tonight all the ways Snowden should have made his grievances heard, but I can tell you from personal experience, as can Bill, that this argument is [like] the March Hare during the Mad Tea Party in “Alice in Wonderland.”
“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.

“I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.

“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.

Does anybody remember the Peter S. Beagle book, The Last Unicorn? I have only seen the cartoon movie. But I think Hedges here captures the surreality of the opposition to Snowden's actions. In The Last Unicorn, the magician Schmendrick bribes a dead spirit, a skeleton, by pretending to give him wine. Actually, Schmendrick couldn't obtain any wine, so he has given water to the skeleton. The characters ask how this skeleton spirit can even taste the "wine," since he's dead and has no tongue, no flesh, nothing. The skeleton responds "But... I remember."

Likewise, it seems to me that the people who believe Snowden and Manning had realistic alternatives to work through the system (instead of leaking secrets); and that their documents exposed justified State secrets to our enemies instead of exposing that our government has become our enemy by keeping secrets from us... the people who think Snowden and Manning's actions are traitorous -- are surviving on the ghost of old memories. Like the skeleton spirit, they are trapped in the paradox of remembering a long-gone era, and letting its pleasant remembrances blot out our current reality.

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