Face the Music
No event has caused me to lose faith in the mainstream and new internet media as has their reaction to the revelations of Edward Snowden. Former Attorney General Eric Holder made news last week when he admitted that Snowden had done a great service to the citizens of America by revealing the extent to which we were being monitored by our government. But Holder, President Obama, candidate Clinton, and many others also assert that Snowden should have followed normal whistleblower channels, and now should return to face the sealed charges against him.
Last week on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interviewed Mark Hertsgaard, author of a new book about the experiences of two NSA whistleblowers before Snowden, and one of his subjects, John Crane, whose career was ended when he revealed NSA wrongdoing:
MARK HERTSGAARD: … everybody knows what Snowden did at this point, but to really understand it, what Snowden did and why he did it the way he did it—he did it, you need to know the stories of … Thomas Drake [and] John Crane. … when you see everything that John Crane tells us about how the whistleblower protection system inside the Pentagon is broken, only results in a whistleblower having his life ruined, as we saw with Tom Drake, you see that really Edward Snowden had no other choice but to go public. …
And so I think that’s what’s important about John Crane’s story, is it puts the lie to what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are saying and have been saying about Edward Snowden from the beginning. “He broke the law, bring him home. He should face the music,” is what Hillary Clinton said. “Face the music. He could have been a whistleblower,” Hillary Clinton added, “and he would have gotten a very good reception, I think.” Well, I would just like to invite Secretary Clinton, tell that to Thomas Drake, tell that to John Crane, that you would have gotten a good reception by following the whistleblower law inside of the Pentagon.
And today, Juan Cole has addressed Holder directly, Dear Mr. Holder: Why Ed Snowden can’t get a Fair Trial in your National Security State:
… nobody in the Obama administration still in office ever said that Snowden did a public service. He certainly did, since the NSA and other intelligence organizations had gone rogue. In essence, they unilaterally abrogated the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. PBS Frontline alleged that the NSA did not even read Obama into their warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans until 2010! In a system like that, the president isn’t really the president– the Deep State does as it pleases.
It is also clear that the NSA has been sharing metadata with local law enforcement, which has been using it to build cases against people without ever seeking a warrant, and then lying to judges about how they knew someone was, e.g., in touch with a drug dealer by phone. In other words, NSA surveillance has corrupted the entire justice system of the United States and made the Fourth Amendment a dead letter.
Such sharing of illicitly-gathered private information among US government agencies is becoming routine. (These cases have nothing to do with terrorism.)
My favorite moments in CBS’ The Good Wife, which recently ended, was their matter of fact portrayal of just how routine it was that Alicia Florrick, her governor husband and all their associates were being electronically-monitored on the basis of a tenuous connection with a former client. That the agents were a bunch of geeky millenials in a cubicled space out of Dilbert, who fit their surveillance between teasing each other with the latest memes, added to the absurdity, but might have led people to think the writers were joking.
And we’re the ones who will face the music.