Lots of people are comparing Daniel Ellsberg to Edward Snowden. Some more favorably than others. There’s some truth to the comparison. Both leaked information that the government desperately tried to stop in the name of “national security”. When that failed, the government went to absurd lengths to discredit them.
There’s one thing that seems to escape these comparisons. If Snowden is the next Ellsberg, is Obama the next Nixon? I shudder at the thought of what a modern day Nixon would look like. And yet, we’re beginning to see such a thing taking shape.
Here’s what I see coming from the Obama administration: a public facade of imperturbability and calmness that hides a private sense of desperation.
I’m not going to have one case with a suspect who we’re trying to extradite suddenly be elevated to the point where I’ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited so he can face the justice system. - Barack Obama
Obama is clearly not only trying to show a lack of concern, he’s also trying to downplay the whole Snowden thing. And yet, Obama’s actions just doesn’t seem to support the notion that he doesn’t care about Snowden or that Snowden isn’t that important:
For starters, administration officials have been quite “diplomatic” as of late. John Kerry called on Russia to “do the right thing” and return Snowden. He also passive-aggressively berated China for allowing Snowden to flee. Joe Biden admonished Ecuador not to allow Snowden asylum.
What really screams desperation is the Evo Morales incident. If Obama is so nonchalant on Snowden, why egregiously violate international law and spark a diplomatic incident by grounding and searching a foreign head of state’s plane?
Obama is at worst a liar and at best a hypocrite. In the same speech I quoted above, Obama said:
My continued expectation is that Russia or other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr. Snowden asylum recognize that they are a part of an international community and they should be abiding by international law.
Clearly, Obama knows better. The right of a person to seek asylum from their home country is an ancient part of international law, dating back to the ancient Greeks. If Obama is so concerned with other countries violating international law, why is he threatening them over matters clearly within their sovereign domain? As the Guardian notes, these actions clearly only bolster Snowden’s asylum case.
Back to Nixon
What does all this have to do with Obama and Nixon? Here’s my theory: Snowden isn’t done yet, and Obama doesn’t want him to be. He, Assange, and Greenwald have all said that more is coming down the pipeline. I see this as a sign that there’s something that Obama desperately doesn’t want Snowden to leak.
It’s possible that Snowden plans on leaking something that could endanger American lives. I don’t buy this idea though. Snowden hasn’t given away any information that could endanger Americans yet. Why would he start?
The more likely explanation is that Snowden has politically damaging info. Snowden has already exposed the lies of our head spy. Who else does he have damaging information on?
I’ll tell you one thing: I don’t want our president to be one of the bad guys. I want to think that Obama is a good guy who’s being misinformed about what the NSA is doing. But at the same time, nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing someone who has abused their power being brought down.
The ball is now in Snowden’s court. Let’s see how he plays it.