On top of all the other damning information he has already released about the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden now claims that he also has access to “literally thousands” of documents that essentially amount to a blueprint of how the NSA operates. Anyone who acquires this information would then presumably be able to drop under the NSA’s radar and avoid surveillance altogether. Snowden has apparently insisted that this batch of documents not be made public. Speaking through journalist Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian employee who first reported on the leaks, Snowden claims that he took the documents to prove his credibility after releasing the information that started this tidal wave. What’s strange is that despite Snowden’s insistence that the new documents not be released, Greenwald (who is supposedly close to Snowden at this point) seems to think that their release wouldn’t harm our national security interests.
Just to backtrack for one minute, there have been reports that al-Qaeda has already changed their communications networks specifically because of information Snowden released at the beginning of this saga. The government has made claims that the programs do work and helped to foil a pretty significant number of attacks, both foreign and domestic. And even the staunchest supporters of government transparency would have to admit that there needs to be at least some level of secrecy for the NSA to properly function. Even Snowden seems to agree with that, and he had no problem with publicizing classified information and jetting off to China to avoid the consequences. But Glenn Greenwald, who might be the only person besides Snowden outside of the government with access to these documents, thinks that making the inner workings of the NSA available to EVERYONE (including terrorists), won’t have any negative consequences? You have got to be kidding me. Luckily, it doesn’t matter what Greenwald thinks at the moment since the documents have been encrypted.
Snowden shared this with Greenwald at a Moscow airport, where he continues to hide out while awaiting decisions on his requests for asylum in South America. Greenwald told the AP:
“I haven’t sensed an iota of remorse or regret or anxiety over the situation that he’s in. He’s of course tense and focused on his security and his short-term well-being to the best extent that he can, but he’s very resigned to the fact that things might go terribly wrong and he’s at peace with that.”
Of course he’s at peace. He still has everybody’s attention. He has reporters from all over the world camping out at a Russian airport with bated breath, hanging on his every word. On top of that, he has heads of state offering him asylum. Getting the world to guess what’s in documents that only he has access to sounds like it’s right in his wheelhouse.
If you couldn’t already tell, I’m getting a little tired of Snowden’s whole charade. He’s still clinging to his original story that he did this for the American people. This would be a lot more believable if he didn’t have a “dead man’s pact,” meaning any unreleased information he holds will be released if he dies, meaning the government can’t make an attempt on his life without some serious repercussions. He has acknowledged that such a pact exists, but claims that it’s much more nuanced than that. Either way, he’s threatening to release information that he has admitted will be harmful to national security if he is killed by the government. See guys?! He loves us so much that he’s putting his own safety over the safety of millions of American citizens!
I can understand his instinct for self-preservation, but the jig is up. As the great Jim Young once said (yes, I’m quoting Boiler Room), “Tell me you don’t like my firm, tell me you don’t like my idea, tell me you don’t like my neck tie. But don’t tell me you care about my Constitutional rights when you’re willing to throw me under the bus to ensure your own safety.” Eh, close enough.
Chris Whitten, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research