Another Hatchet Job on Snowden

After Defense Secretary Robert Gates had joined other senior officials in lamenting the “grave damage” from Manning’s revelations, Gates was asked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin to put it in writing. Gates came back with an honest report: Early claims of damage had been, in Gates’s words, “significantly overwrought.”

.. Yet, balancing whatever that “damage” was is the significance of Snowden’s argument that the warrantless bulk surveillance of Americans was illegal under the Constitution and created the risk of a future leader imposing a “turnkey tyranny” on the United States because of all the embarrassing and incriminating information that would be collected on American citizens.

There is now no doubt that Snowden’s constitutional concerns were well-founded and it is not hard to imagine how an unscrupulous politician might make effective use of people’s personal secrets or their unguarded comments.

But it is easier to discredit Snowden by simply portraying him as a Russian spy.

.. Any contact with Russians – no matter how unintentional in Snowden’s case – is regarded as somehow disqualifying.

.. At one point, Epstein glibly says of Snowden, “In signing this [nondisclosure] document, he swore an oath not to divulge any of this information.”

But that’s not correct. The only oath that we, as military or other government officials swear is: “To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Ethicists describe such an oath as a “supervening value,” far more serious than a promise like that embedded in the contract one signs in agreeing not to disclose classified information that could be harmful to US national security. In other words, what do you do when your oath conflicts with the contract language, which one has the priority?

.. Watching what happened to fellow whistleblowers – like Thomas Drake – who tried to “go through channels,” Snowden knew that he had to “get out of Dodge” to have any hope of remaining at liberty long enough to complete his mission.