By Elizabeth Coady
IN AN EDITORIAL ENTITLED, “WHO VOTED FOR SNOWDEN?,”the Wall Street Journal preposterously argues that the NSA systems analyst’s exposure of the massive U.S. surveillance system thwarts democracy.
“What he himself is doing is profoundly antidemocratic,” rails Joseph Sternberg, “in the contempt it shows for the preferences of millions of fellow citizens expressed at the ballot box—and even for those citizens’ right to have a definitive say in the matter at all.”
The claim is ludicrous — mendacious propaganda — because we expect elected officials to seek public opinion before enacting legislation. Instead, Obama, and Bush before him, at every turn have stymied reporters and criminalized whistleblowers who unveiled the NSA’s chilling surveillance machine.
Since Snowden’s revelations about the PRISM system, and the top secret court order requiring Verizon to release virtually every phone record to the NSA, the extent to which the media apparatchiks have carried the water for the NSA has been nauseating and troubling.
And the attacks “are only going to intensify,” writes The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, who first published Snowden’s revelations. “There is nobody who political officials and their supine media class hate more than those who meaningfully dissent from their institutional orthodoxies and shine light on what they do.”
Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan names names: the “doddering cottonhead” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen; The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, and our favorite, the Bobo of Bloviating David Brooks. Says Nolan:
They are the journalists and pundits who feel compelled to demonstrate their own sophistication by dismissing these revelations as old hat (though documented proof of these programs has never been seen before). They are those who have grown so inured to the gross overreach of government power that they can no longer conceive of it as scandalous. They prefer to comfort the NSA, and afflict the leaker.
Snowden’s now a “traitor.” A “high school dropout.” A liar who “over-inflated his position.” The backlash against the 29-year-old whistleblower is both “appalling” and “sickening,” writes The Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers.
“It seems [Snowden] wasn’t sufficiently indoctrinated to blindly worship the establishment institutions that have routinely failed us,” Powers declares. “…This is backward. It’s the institutions that need to demonstrate respect for the public they allegedly serve. If Snowden or any other American is skeptical of institutional power, it is not due to any personal failing on their part. The lack of respect is a direct outgrowth of the bad behavior of the nation’s institutions, behavior that has undermined Americans’ trust….
Yet, the spymasters and their servants continue to obfuscate or lie. “He has over-inflated his access and he’s even over-inflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do,” claimed Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.” No matter that Snowden’s claim of NSA analysts accessing individual’s emails was also revealed by a New York Times reporter in 2009.
Equally important to point out is that Obama and his administration have repeatedly leaked top secret information, points out Reuters’ columnist Jack Schafer. “Secrets are sacrosanct in Washington until officials find political expediency in either declassifying them or leaking them selectively,” Schafer points out. “It doesn’t really matter which modern presidential administration you decide to scrutinize for this behavior, as all of them are guilty.”
Schafer contends “the willingness of the government to punish leakers is inversely proportional to the leakers’ rank and status, which is bad news for someone so lacking in those attributes as Edward Snowden. …We should question his selective prosecution.” The columnist writes that we all owe Snowden “a debt of gratitude” for finally triggering debate over the “government’s secret but “legal” intrusions into our privacy. His leaks…give us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to place limits on our power-mad government.”
Recognizing that the opportunity will be lost if we don’t act now, 75,000 Americans have signed an online petition posted on the White House website. “Edward Snowden is a national hero,” the petition reads, “and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.”
Reddit, Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others have joined forces to create the “Stop Watching Us” movement demanding that the Patriot Act be revised to rein in the NSA’s surveillance of Internet and phone records. So far nearly 140,000 people have signed the petition which you can find here. The American Civil Liberties, the American Library
Association, the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Daily Kos are among the dozens of organizations which have joined the lobbying effort.
Now it’s your turn if you care about the Constitution, and our nation’s legacy as the freest nation of the world.
“Please,” implores the Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel in an editorial, “Let’s stop focusing on the overpaid, tormented young man who last week revealed the National Security Administration’s Power Point Plan for Total Electronic World Domination. Let’s focus instead on what our nation’s wiretapping agency has actually been up to, whether America’s technology giants have been complicit in an unprecedented and sweeping electronic intrusion and, most important, whether we think allowing the government access to our phone calls, email, video and voice chats, photos and file transfers is the price we must pay for security in the post-9/11 world.
“The issue is not whether Edward Snowden is a “traitor,” as Republican House Speaker John Boehner pronounced him Tuesday. The issue is whether his claims are true.”