Would the New York Times have run an op-ed from Iva Toguri (Tokyo Rose) criticizing America’s World War II policies? From Aldrich Ames criticizing America’s cold war policies? Or from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad criticizing America’s policies in the war on terror?
The Times just did the equivalent by running an op-ed by an author identified as follows: “Edward J. Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and National Security Agency contractor, is a director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.” A more accurate description would be “Edward J. Snowden, a defector to Vladimir Putin’s Russia who betrayed the trust placed in him by the US government, is…”
But what’s more eye-rolling than the identification of the op-ed is the substance of it. Edward Snowden, you see, is taking a victory lap. He begins by saying that he wasn’t sure his revelations—a.k.a. his criminal disclosures of vital American national security secrets—would have much of an impact. But he’s happy to see he was wrong: “In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.”
Snowden is right—he did trigger a backlash against the NSA’s surveillance. But that’s hardly cause for celebration because the NSA is our front-line defense against terrorists. Snowden is responsible for neutering the metadata program that the former CIA acting director says could have prevented 9/11. All of the lawmakers who just voted against reauthorizing the Patriot Act should understand how happy their vote has made this traitor.
But Snowden is untroubled by the implication of his actions. He is positively reveling in his global celebrity, which has come about because of his crimes. He is determined to roll back government surveillance powers and avers himself dismayed that legislatures in Australia, Canada, and France are expanding surveillance powers to fight terrorism. (His tendentious rendering of that is to write: “Spymasters in Australia, Canada and France have exploited recent tragedies to seek intrusive new powers despite evidence such programs would not have prevented attacks.”)
Oddly enough nowhere in his article — which is datelined Moscow — does he mention the surveillance apparatus of his host, Vladimir Putin, which far exceeds in scope anything created by any Western country. As the Daily Beast noted, “The FSB has far more power to eavesdrop on Russian and foreign citizens than the FBI or the NSA.” That would be the same FSB that has taken Snowden into its bosom as it has previously done (in its earlier incarnation as the KGB) with previous turncoats such as Kim Philby.
And, of course, there are no legal safeguards on government surveillance in Russia. Whatever Putin wants, he can do. Another difference: Whereas in the US, surveillance is strictly targeted to catch terrorists, in Russia it’s used to catch anyone who dares to criticize Putin’s rule, much less to rally fellow citizens to seek a change of government.
But of course Ed Snowden is not courageous enough, or stupid enough, to criticize the dictatorship that he has defected to. It’s much easier and safer to criticize the country he betrayed from behind the protection provided by the FSB’s thugs. The only mystery is why the Times is giving this traitor a platform.