Those who claimed NSA traitor Edward Snowden was a patriot or hero have egg all over their faces, as the former NSA contract worker has fled from China to Russia and now faces espionage charges that could possibly bring the death penalty.
It is emerging as one of the biggest spy cases in American history. Yet, commentators on the right, who should know better, have been taking Snowden’s side. Michael Savage called Snowden a “patriot,” Glenn Beck said his disclosures were an “act of heroism,” and Joseph Farah said he was a whistleblower who should be given immunity from prosecution by Congress.
But the Snowden case looks increasingly like the NSA equivalent of Philip Agee, who defected from the CIA and became a Soviet and Cuban agent. Agee died in Havana after writing several books with the help of Cuban intelligence.
One of the biggest dupes on the right was Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News personality, who had proclaimed Snowden an “American hero” and said he “understands that the government listening to half the country is not what was bargained for when statutes were enacted in the days and weeks after 9/11.”
In fact, the NSA is not “listening to half the country” but collecting telephone numbers and can only monitor the communications of an American linked to a foreign terrorist when it has probable cause and a court order. Napolitano, a Ron Paul supporter, has been a regular on the Alex Jones radio show, a forum for people who believe the Boston bombings and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were U.S. Government plots.
Incredibly, Fox News’ Shepard Smith responded to this diatribe by insisting that the government can “watch everything we do” and even knows “when I’m using my microwave oven.”
When Fox News reports this kind of nonsense, which feeds paranoia, you know that accurate and objective coverage of the NSA controversy is a virtual lost cause.
But the serious nature of the charges against Snowden may wake a few people up.
Two other NSA spies, 29-year-old William H. Martin and 31-year-old Bernon F. Mitchell, defected to the Soviet Union in 1960 in a major publicity coup for Moscow. Investigations revealed that both young men had been members of the Communist Party and homosexual lovers.
However, Snowden is a Ron Paul supporter who somehow developed a relationship with anti-American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. They handled his initial defection to China and his illegal disclosures of classified information.
Greenwald has openly discussed at a Communist conference why he believes the 9/11 terrorist attacks were “minimal,” compared to the violence the U.S. has supposedly inflicted on the Arab/Muslim world. Poitras has been detained 40 times by U.S. border officials, by her own count, traveling to and from the United States. She is a strident opponent of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts after 9/11.
Let’s hope the NSA has them under surveillance.
To the credit of David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he asked Glenn Greenwald on Sunday’s show why HE shouldn’t be arrested. He said, “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
Greenwald responded in part by saying, “I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themself a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in any way.” But the evidence is available for anyone to see. Greenwald was and still is Snowden’s handler and mouthpiece, at least until the Russians, and perhaps the Cubans, take over.
The genius behind Snowden’s defection, with the help of Greenwald and Poitras, was to frame his revelations in terms of alleging that he was a “whistleblower” who was informing the American people that they were being spied upon. Some prominent conservatives and libertarians fell for the ruse, thinking Obama was using the NSA like the IRS, and that the Fourth Amendment was in jeopardy. They erupted in anger and joined various left-right coalitions to demand that the “spying” stop. On Capitol Hill, their champion was Republican Senator Rand Paul, who joined with the ACLU to announce a lawsuit against the NSA. He treated Snowden as the “whistleblower” he claimed to be and actually filed a bill, The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013 (S. 1121), based on Snowden’s disclosures.
But Snowden’s revelations, coming during President Obama’s meeting with the Chinese president, and then on the eve of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, told us everything we needed to know about his motives. He wanted to embarrass the United States and help America’s adversaries.
“Without any doubt his case represents a moral victory of Russia and China over America,” former Soviet KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky told me. He meant that China and Russia had used Snowden to make the case that the United States was engaged in the same kinds of surveillance practices it charges Russian and China with using. The claim that the NSA was “spying” on Americans was an essential part of this disinformation and propaganda ploy.
In the Martin and Mitchell case, according to an NSA report, the two defectors staged a very high-profile press conference at the “House of Journalists” in Moscow, renounced their U.S. citizenship and received Soviet citizenship. The report said they had defected “as a result of their objections to U.S. intelligence methods, including the intercept and decryption of the communications of U.S. allies.”
This subject occupied Snowden’s most recent disclosures, when he provided top secret documents to the Guardian about “ground-breaking intelligence capabilities” used by the NSA and its British sister organization to monitor G20 summit meetings in London in 2009.
Most of the damage done by Snowden’s predecessors, Martin and Mitchell, consisted of the details they provided to the world about “NSA organization and operations and their description of NSA’s methods of SIGINT targeting of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China,” the NSA report on the case says.
Snowden claims he possesses the “full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station we have, what their missions are and so forth.”
If true, the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians would love to get their hands on this. Perhaps they already have.