When Edward Snowden’s disclosures about American mass surveillance first appeared in 2013, the world was a simpler place. The former intelligence contractor was defended by many journalists and civil libertarians. But America’s political and national-security establishments were in agreement: Snowden had betrayed his country. A reality television star with a weakness for conspiracy theories summed up the conventional wisdom in a tweet from July 10 that year: “Snowden has given serious information to China and Russia—anyone who thinks otherwise is a dope! He is a traitor who fled—he knew the crime!”
That was Donald Trump, who now despises the American “deep state” as much as the man who sought to expose it in 2013. Today, following Trump’s lead, much if not most of the Republican Party believes that the national-security bureaucracy built up since World War II is a dire threat to our democratic experiment. When Snowden was making that case in 2013, many of the same people said he had committed treason.