Negotiating from Exile
Not a good place to be, my friend. Frail arguments, whose flesh fall off bone like well cooked fish.
It isn’t difficult to piece together Ed Snowden’s tumultuous path to present. He was an activist before he became a patriotic conspirator. He developed a plan, understood the corners he would navigate, and in all likelihood considers his current predicament somewhere in the middle of the potential outcomes. He might even contend his position of relative stability a blessing on a spectrum blotted with literal death traps. That’s how I see it, although I’m sure his reality has been significantly more frightful than I conceive.
The arguments presented in favor of Snowden are bleak. His intent and proclaimed treatment of sensitive material is beyond the forum. Not that no-one cares. A counsel would develop a plea on the back of his sentiments, not a defense to dismiss. What he did was a crime. He exiled himself. It’s cut and dried. His options at the moment are unyielding. I can offer outside the box ideas. But there is no defense unto which he is a free American citizen. If he finds a way underground, certainly in decades a pardon from a bygone era is in play. But at present he has options, and he needs to negotiate.
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The biggest flag in the recent appeal by Glenn Greenwald is the concept that Snowden has documents that are unreleased, and that he left journalists in care of sensitive information. Again, this was far too grand an operation. Had there been a specific program, or direct evidence of misuse, fine. This argument that he was best served to take everything and run is absolutely tragic. There is a difference between breaking a windshield wiper and stealing a fleet of vehicles. How can Intel assume any of the unreleased information is truly un-compromised?
It gets darker.
While the information was compromised instantaneously, the dissemination of artifacts was a real opportunity to cut losses and manage the yield.
Handing off the responsibility to journalists to divulge information means what? It’s a feckless concept. They made the editorial mistakes? You must be joking. They are responsible for how they handle the information you stole? Awfully convenient to point to the press and shirk responsibility.
Or, just plain awful. If the journalists had stolen the information.. They, not you, would be holed up in a Russia-proxy or prison.
And about that unreleased information. Why do you still have it? Who else has it? I must note that if it isn’t presented as a bargaining chip, then it represents a zero sum loss. It doesn’t look like a noble cause to preserve, it looks like a bunch of people have information they have no business possessing, and minimal functional protection. We can’t trust the government that collects the information.. So let’s give it to journalists? Ouch.
Journalists..Who make money through the impish sensationalism of reality. They are essential, but they are piratic, and obviously have little regard on the whole for the sensitivity of information. Every publisher swims against the pull of the tabloid’s drain. They demand clarity for a living, yet cloak and spin a web for their own patrons.
Choosing journalists well was comparable to choosing a good suit for one’s own funeral.
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It’s more of a struggle than Snowden’s benefactors realize that someone who does seem genuine is on the perilous side of this ridiculous circumstance.
My advice would be to seek an advocate in congress to legislate a way to grant legal political exile in Canada. It would be a way to handle the negotiations now and in the future for whistleblowers, and might offer a better chance to preserve people who are patriotic whether they are misguided or firmly absolved. It isn’t actually doing the US much good having these people go to adversaries.
But Snowden also has to make fair concessions as an activist who committed a serious offense. Being granted anything from his position has to be met with some kind of acknowledgement that he acted impetuously. It wasn’t his duty to unravel a national security apparatus, and his insistence that it was his responsibility reduces his credibility as a sane and clear thinking person. There were other ways.
The reality is that congressional oversight was likely to bat away his arguments, because the country has been at a state of ready since 9/11. The game has changed, and continues to change with its digitization. Someone like Snowden should be highly valuable, yet he fails to recognize the utter peril justice is facing in this age. Privacy protects from wrongdoers, it also protects wrongdoers.
There are still a great number of things he could have done, such as running for congress himself, in order to improve the institutions he took a hammer to. There are far too many options to make an airtight case for his choice.
So, I wish him and his advocates the best, including some deep thought on rationalizing some of the reckless aspects of his actions. Simultaneously, I sincerely hope that the government looks at the stop loss potential elective political exile for whistleblowers to an ally such as Canada might have.