Monday Morning Snowden

Democracy Now! held a worthwhile debate about Edward Snowden last week:

Edward Snowden’s decision to leak a trove of secret documents outlining the NSA’s surveillance program has elicited a range of reactions. Among his detractors, he’s been called “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison,” (Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker), who’s committed “an act of treason,” (Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee). To supporters, Snowden is a hero for showing that “our very humanity [is] being compromised by the blind implementation of machines in the name of making us safe,” (author Douglas Rushkoff), one whom President Obama should “thank and offer him a job as a White House technology advisor,” (American Conservative editor Scott McConnell). We host a debate with two guests: Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and Geoffrey Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Stone served as an informal adviser to President Obama in 2008, years after hiring him to teach constitutional law.

And today the Guardian is hosting a Q&A session with Snowden (via secure connection) and Glenn Greenwald:

Q: Why did you wait to release the documents if you said you wanted to tell the world about the NSA programs since before Obama became president?

A: Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.

Speaking of Obama, on my three hour early Monday morning drive, I was listening to BBC news about Hassan Rouhani being elected in Iran. Before the elections I had read that Rouhani was the most reformist of the candidates of those allowed to run. Once elected, the radio newsreaders were reporting that he was a political insider after all, and had been part of the government for a long time. But still, they thought, he would present a more moderate face to the West.

I found that ironic, because it has seemed to me that Barack Obama was elected in order to present a less threatening face to the rest of the world, and Pope Francis was elected to present a less-tarnished face to the world. So I have to wonder if this will be the decade, or the century, of the reassuring figurehead.

Update: USA Today brought together three NSA whistleblowers to comment on Snowden:

Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way. For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. …

They say the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA contractor who worked as a systems administrator, proves their claims of sweeping government surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing. They say those revelations only hint at the programs’ reach.

On Friday, USA TODAY brought Drake, Binney and Wiebe together for the first time since the story broke to discuss the NSA revelations. … And they have warnings for Snowden on what he should expect next.

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