Standing up to a powerful bully is the essence of courage. Why? Because you risk losing everything.
To throw away a steady pay cheque and a comfortable lifestyle in order to forcefully combat human injustice on a grand scale entirely on your own is not something most citizens would ever consider a good idea, no matter their level of decency, their desire to support noble causes and their need to right incredible wrongs. To replace your regular life for a different one on the run from the very parties you’ve exposed as less than savoury is asking a lot of one individual. To be willing to face the reality of apprehension for those very actions and then face a considerable amount of time incarcerated (we’re talking decades behind bars), not to mention the possibility of torture and even death, is asking for even more.
And yet, throughout the centuries, there have been numerous examples of ordinary people taking it upon themselves to reveal extraordinary truths we otherwise would never know about, extraordinary truths that end up connecting notable political figures to criminal activity and changing history. These brave whistleblowers knew the risks to their own health and freedom before they broke their silence but spoke out anyway for the greater good. The truth mattered more than anything else.
Edward Snowden, the former NSA/Booz Allen Hamilton analyst, is a worthy addition to this growing list. Ever since he publicly admitted he’s been the source for many damning articles about The Obama Administration’s super creepy (and super secret) mass surveillance programs for The Guardian newspaper, he’s been public enemy number one as far as establishment Washington is concerned.
Not only have government officials libelled him as a “traitor” and destroyer of their allegedly successful “anti-terrorism” snooping policies (which have never really been properly scrutinized by the court system and have never really been proven to be all that effective, either) blow job journalists like Meet The Press host David Gregory and The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin have also lambasted him for his disclosures, absurdly citing him as selfish, reckless and even a “narcissist”. (Keep sucking that government cock, fellas. It’s sure to pay off for you someday.)
As more revelations about these disturbing and far-reaching Big Brother programs continue to trickle out almost every day now, thanks to Snowden, for the first time in quite some time, the American federal government is looking and feeling quite powerless, like they just got their legs cut off. Imagine, one citizen scaring the shit out of the most powerful politicians in the world by merely telling everybody with proof what transparent, hypocritical phonies they really are. Maybe privatization of the intelligence business wasn’t so wise after all.
Since Snowden revealed he was hiding out in Hong Kong, China to avoid the fate that currently befalls another honourable whistleblower, the still incarcerated Private First Class Bradley Manning (an army intelligence analyst, it should be noted), Obama and his cronies have demanded his head on a stick, hoping the country that America has been secretly hacking for years will play ball and give him up.
Amazingly, they didn’t. As revealed today by The Guardian, Snowden left China for Russia (despite having his passport revoked by America, according to The Huffington Post) and is reportedly headed towards Ecuador to seek political asylum from the same country that is also protecting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who remains stuck in their UK embassy after a year in seclusion. America wants his head on a stick, as well.
To witness numerous government officials, Republican and Democrat alike, cry foul over everything Snowden has done to permanently puncture their bubble of secrecy has been nothing short of amusing. They’re not used to being challenged like this, they’re not used to being disbelieved, and they’re certainly not used to being on the defensive. As a result, they’re doing something they never thought they would ever do: talk about their shady actions in public while pretending they’re not shady at all.
Honestly, before Snowden leaked all those NSA documents, when did President Obama ever entertain a healthy, public debate on the issue of surveillance? When did Senators Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers, Lindsay Graham and their like-minded colleagues ever desire to openly advocate for mass spying? And when did Congressmen like Peter King ever feel the need to express their support for invading everyone’s privacy?
The answer to all three questions is the same: never. These democratically elected officials who’ve all sworn an oath to honour and protect the American Constitution never sought the input of their concerned constituents, never asked for helpful advice, never listened to their consciences (if they even have them) and never consulted experts on how best to balance security with privacy.
And why didn’t they do this? Because deep down, they didn’t want to. These cowardly politicians want more power than they deserve and they know full well that public exposure of these constitutionally dubious programs invites unwanted scrutiny. And what happens when something doesn’t withstand that scrutiny? It withers under the sunlight and dies a sorry death.
Whether they accept it or not, it’s not business as usual anymore. Their secrets are quickly getting out in the open and a lot of people, particularly foreign leaders (in a number of cases, we’re talking allies who have also been privately spied on) are demanding big time explanations. The ones being offered so far are laughable in the extreme. No one’s anger has dissipated.
Things have gone so horribly wrong for President Obama lately that according to this disturbing McClatchy report he’s hoping to end these politically damaging leaks for good by secretly implementing a new across-the-board government policy called Insider Threat. For a President who never prosecutes leakers who reveal classified information that glorifies him (like the Bin Laden assassination), just those who reveal his criminal actions (like Manning and Snowden), it’s the ultimate sign of desperate paranoia. He’s definitely beyond Nixon at this point.
Edward Snowden is now the 7th government whistleblower to be officially charged by Obama under the draconian Espionage Act, an incredibly open-ended statute that only exists because President Woodrow Wilson didn’t want anybody questioning America’s involvement in World War I. (How it’s lasted all these decades without being either modified or repealed, I’ll never know.) Now it’s being used to punish patriots deeply appalled by their President’s conduct. If you don’t believe me, just ask John Kiriakou, the only man to go to jail for torture. Not for committing it, mind you, but for talking about it.
The good news is because this story has become such a global sensation Obama’s latest attempt at a ruthless prosecution is now being seen as nothing more than a political persecution, an act of petty revenge by a scorned, discredited world leader, a man looking more and more like the physical embodiment of modern-day American political corruption.
No matter what Obama and his partners in crime believe now, the damage to their credibility is permanent and irreversible. They can’t hide their dubious, criminal programs from the public anymore. With lawsuits launched and bills proposed before Congress and The Senate, not to mention lots of relentlessly negative coverage and commentary, it’s only a matter of time before Prism, Tempora, Boundless Informant and all the rest of these hideously named programs face the cold stare of justice and see the worst of their excessive powers seriously curtailed.
And with more brutal revelations still to come on top of everything else that’s already been revealed about this President (don’t forget the heartbreaking hunger strike at Gitmo and the secret drone wars, to name but two of his ongoing travesties), how long will it be before Obama finds himself defending all his cruel, inhumane policies all by himself?
No wonder Sophia Bush’s hero is so terrified of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, June 23, 2013