Here’s Why Hillary Clinton Is Wrong About Snowden



Edward Snowden and Hillary Clinton have both become somewhat controversial figures. For Clinton’s part, it’s difficult to work in politics without becoming something of a controversy, though her role in the Benghazi attacks goes beyond the usual political finger pointing for some. Former NSA contractor turned unofficial whistleblower Edward Snowden is not controversial when it comes to the law.

As Hillary Clinton pointed out in a July 4 interview with The Guardian, Edward Snowden broke our laws.” Her secondary statement that this “cannot be ignored or brushed aside” is where the controversy lies. For some, Edward Snowden is a patriot — his action not only justifiable, but laudable given his intent and accomplishments in the name of freedom and personal privacy rights. For others, he sacrificed national security unnecessarily, betrayed his country, and looks more than a little suspicious given his residency in Russia. Hillary Clinton very neatly falls into the latter category, based on recent remarks, but some of her commentary could be construed as political hypocrisy, and a few inaccuracies came up.

Judging by past comments, Clinton would concur in spirit on some of the general issues that Snowden has become a champion for. When allegations that German Chancellor Angela Merkel phone was wire tapped by the NSA, Clinton gave it as an example of when government has gone too far. “I personally deplore the tapping of Angela Merkel’s cell phone. That was unnecessary,” said Clinton to Politico. “But collecting information about what’s going around the world is essential to our security.” Some argue that her condemnation of Snowden despite the common interest is a partly political move to look strong on security and aggressive on foreign interactions.

This may, in part, be true. After all, praising Snowden isn’t the safest politicial rhetoric to take up. Much of the positive feedback heard from notable individuals in the intelligence or political community are from former officials or politicians — people out of the political sphere and with much more free to express controversial opinions. You have former Texan Congressman Ron Paul, former Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-N.H.), and all sorts of former CIA and NSA officials. But praise for a major government PR mess and an arguably destructive force on national security isn’t something you’re likely to hear from a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

Politics aside, it appears to be Snowden’s tactics that Clinton takes issue with anyway. Her complaint over the scope of the documents taken and released, while certainly debatable, is a reasonable position to take, presidential hopeful or not.

“If his main concern was what was happening inside the United States, then why did he take so much about what was happening with Russia, with China, with Iran, with Al Qaeda?” posed Clinton to The Guardian. “That’s the part that most objective observers who might very well way say ‘you know, he may have helped with the debate on what our laws should be and how we should be thinking about this’ — but then, what was he doing downloading the rest of this stuff that could only help Chinese surveillance, Russian surveillance, Al Qaeda and their methods and communications.”

The answer many would give is that it revealed just how large the surveillance program had grown, and that Snowden has been a proponent of a free Internet alongside just American privacy rights. The enormity of the information released resulted in an enormous increase in global understanding of America’s surveillance powers. For example, one of the latest reports made from the documents, from The New York Times, shows that there were five American Muslims who were put under surveillance, leaving some to claim unwarranted racial profiling.

Other items she brings up aren’t debatable so much as simply inaccurate. For example, the suggestion that he could have brought up these privacy issues from America, standing trial, may not be wholly true. “There are many people in our history who have raised serious quesitons about government behavior. They’ve done it either with or without whistleblower protection and they have stood and faced whatever the reaction was to make their case in public,” said Clinton.

Daniel Ellsberg, a political writer who himself was charged with violations of the Espionage act in 1971 for theft and conspiracy of Pentagon documents, wrote in The Washington Post that, had Snowden remained, he could very well have ended up in maximum security with no ability to make his message known or understood. He said that while this may have been an option years ago, it is no longer the case. The debate would not have been a public one and it would not have been heard to the extent that it has been.

Next, her assertions that his asylum in Russia is of questionable intent and demonstrates a lack of American patriotism. The accusation is one that Snowden himself addressed in an interview with NBC News. He called the question on his presence in Russia a “really fair concern,” but noted that he had planned to travel out of Moscow to Latin America and had found himself with a revoked passport. “So when people ask ‘Why are you in Russia?’ I say, ‘Please ask the state department,’” explained Snowden. The state department, in turn, said it had revoked his passport while he was still in Hong Kong, but that he had someone managed to get on the plane and had ended up in Russia. Had the state department successfully kept him in China, Clinton claiming his travels to China and Russia were suspicious would seem unfair.

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