Last week, I wrote about Edward Snowden’s claim that he possesses the “blueprints” to the NSA, which if publicized would detail how to avoid the agency’s surveillance programs. At the time, Snowden claimed that the documents were so potentially dangerous to U.S. national security that he would not release them unless the American government tried to retaliate against him. Up until now, it seems like the NSA would have agreed that the information Snowden possesses would be extremely harmful to its goals. But earlier today, CNN ran a story stating that the NSA is now downplaying the leaks, claiming that the information Snowden has wouldn’t bring the NSA to its knees after all.
An unnamed official within the NSA told CNN that Snowden did not have access to “extremely compartmentalized information” that could cause any real damage to our national security interests. In terms that most of us would actually understand, he stated that, “just because you have the blueprints doesn’t mean you have the manual.”
This is getting completely out of hand (not that it hasn’t been for a while). Both sides of this incident are completely out of touch with reality. First we have Edward Snowden claiming to have done this out of patriotism and then fleeing to two countries that are notorious for openly stomping on basic human rights, and then applying for asylum in a country that is openly anti-American. If that’s not enough, he then claimed to have documents that would essentially destroy our safeguards against terrorist attacks that he wouldn’t publish unless the government killed him, which would in turn supposedly open millions upon millions of Americans to attack. He’s American as apple pie.
Now let’s turn to the NSA. For those of you keeping score at home, the NSA is now known to have collected millions, possibly billions, of its citizens phone records, built a data collection center so it could do the same thing with internet records, teamed up with the UK to spy on other countries (including our closest allies) at international summits, and wire tapped foreign embassies on American soil. Oh, and let’s not forget about that one time when they let a single government contractor walk right out the front door with highly sensitive material which he then made public.
If you’ve read any of my other posts about this, you probably know that I’m pretty critical about Snowden and his motives. But make no mistake, I think the NSA is also to blame. So I think it’s pretty hilarious that the NSA would scream bloody murder from the instant this story broke only to start back peddling at warp speed as soon as Snowden claims to have the actual blueprints to the NSA. I feel like I keep going back to rehash parts of this story, but this is just too ridiculous not to. The NSA claims that the programs that Snowden apparently torpedoes stopped over 50 attacks, both here and abroad. It’s even been reported that al-Qaeda has completely changed the way they communicate based on the leaks. The story is serious enough that we’ve all but condemned any country willing to protect Snowden. And now all of a sudden the NSA has decided that Snowden’s documents aren’t that bad. They really don’t pose that big of a threat to our national security. We can all go home now. It doesn’t matter that a man who has shown no regard for Americans has documents that might outline the inner workings of the NSA.
I almost don’t know what to say at this point. The amount of delusion and hypocrisy surrounding this story is becoming too much to handle. Either the Snowden leaks are serious or they aren’t. Absolutely everything the NSA has said before today leads me to believe that the leaks are very serious. Don’t all of a sudden try to tell me that we have nothing to worry about. There’s a reason the NSA has been running damage control since day one. After everything that’s happened, changing the story now is NOT a good look.
Chris Whitten, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research