The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed himself yesterday in an effort to prevent that from happening. Leakers generally do not out themselves, but as The Guardian (continuing a bombshell streak that started Wednesday) explained in its unmasking piece, Snowden wants to lend credibility to the story, at the risk of distracting from its substance by personalizing it. But the unstated reason he came forward is that he wants to deprive the government of control.
Wednesday’s Verizon metadata gathering story directly contradicted Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s March statement to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that the NSA is not collecting “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” or at least “not wittingly.” Saturday’s Guardian story revealed Boundless Informant, a system that quantifies and categorizes metadata the NSA gathers from around the world, contrary to NSA Director General Keith Alexander’s insistence to Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that no such capability exists, and a record of American intercepts could not be generated (Forbes via Guardian). Assuming these gentlemen were under oath, they may have perjured themselves.
Edward Snowden came forward because he believed United States government was lying to its citizens and to innocent people around the world. These two examples illustrate that he has little reason to trust the official version of events that will come out of the White House and intelligence community. He wants the public to decide for itself based on those institutions’ documentation of their own activities:
I’m no different from anybody else. I don’t have special skills. I’m just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what’s happening and goes, ‘This is something that’s not our place to decide, the public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.’ And I’m willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them and say, ‘I didn’t change these, I didn’t modify the story. This is the truth; this is what’s happening. You should decide whether we need to be doing this.’
As noted, one of his objectives in coming forward was to establish his credibility and access to sensitive information. The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman writes that Snowden was sometimes melodramatic, but nonetheless eloquent. This is a very smart man who decided to do what he did after years of reflection. Snowden actually held off on the leak for Barack Obama’s election, believing the young candidate’s promises of change, only to be disappointed by his embrace of the same policies.
Given his intimate knowledge of it, Snowden understands that going up against the United States intelligence community puts him at great personal risk, conceivably including the possibility of rendition by the CIA. With his personage established, Snowden’s disappearance would be widely noted. His shrewd decision to out himself allows him initial control of his public image, and puts pressure on the administration to handle him with more delicacy than it may have originally planned, even in light of the Justice Department journalist snooping scandal.
Sinister forces are at play in the shadows. Edward Snowden wants to ensure a public conversation about them, given their implication for the future of freedom in the world. The conclusion of his interview with Glenn Greenwald chillingly emphasizes that concern:
And the months ahead, the years ahead it’s only going to get worse until eventually there will be a time where policies will change because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. Even our agreements with other sovereign governments, we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather than a stipulation of law. And because of that a new leader will be elected, they’ll find the switch, say that ‘Because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power.’ And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.