Snowden’s flight undermines his cause

June 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm (asylum, China, Civil liberties, Cuba, democracy, Jim D, Latin America, Russia, snooping)

Edward Snowden

Snowden: no Daniel Ellsberg

Opinion differs, even on the left (and I use the term in its broadest sense), as to the significance of Edward Snowden’s revelations. Francis Sedgemore reckons it’s a pretty big deal whereas Workers Liberty seems somewhat more sanguine.

But what most of us could agree on, at least until now, was that Snowden seemed to be a well-intentioned and quite brave individual, entirely worthy of our support.

But his decision to flee rather than face the consequences of his actions, has inevitably diminished his credibility. And worse, his apparent willingness to seek refuge in some of the most repressive states in the world, can only make things worse. The hand of the tyrant-lover and arch-hypocrite Assange  is obviously behind this, manipulating a second vulnerable, idealistic young man (poor Bradley Manning being the first).

Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon papers, has been unstinting in his support for Snowden, but the truth is that there’s a fundamental difference between the two: Ellsberg faced up to the consequences of his actions and stood before his accusers. Come to that, so has Bradley Manning. Snowden has slunk away (and yes, I know it’s easy for me to sound off from the safety of my comfy little home, but the point stands nonetheless).

James Bloodworth at Left Foot Forward and Tim Stanley at the Telegraph both make much the same point, Stanley concluding:

“It’s a tragedy that Snowden’s made this mistake because what he had to reveal about the US security state was very troubling. But while the message remains important, the messenger has been exposed as unworthy of it. Snowden’s totalitarian tour is an embarrassment to his cause.” 


  1. Jon said,

    perhaps i am ignorant. Could you further your claims on Assange? I haven’t heard anything like that before. I always thought he was somewhat of a libertarian.

  2. Howard Kirk said,

    I think you have to take note of the reality of international politics. So, some of the countries involved may not be paragons of free speech, but if they are willing – for whatever reason – to prevent someone doing the right thing being jailed for decades in a US jail for decades then unless anyone else comes forward then he should take up the offer.

    For the US gov’t it’s as much about sending the message to anyone else thinking of doing something similar in the future. He’s been working for the CIA, and is under no illusions what might happen to him.

  3. Rosie said,

    I’m not sure what Snowden’s ’cause’ is, but isn’t it exposing the USA’s extensive spying? Wouldn’t that be hindered by being arrested, charged, tried and then serving what would probably be a long stretch? Nick Cohen had an article bemoaning that Snowden isn’t a non violent activist like Martin Luther King, which seemed to be totally off the point. He’s a whistle blower, and what matters most is what he has revealed, not how he behaves himself afterwards. I certainly don’t blame him for trying to run from the USA – and countries which don’t have extradition treaties with the USA are few, and they do tend to be dodgy.

    I heard on the news today that he could be in Ecuador or Iceland! Very different places in climate and geography – and Iceland scores very high on the democracy scale.

    Assange discredited himself by giving the cables to his friend Israel Shamir who handed some of the information to Alexander Lukashenko dictator of Belarus to use against dissenters there. Shamir also tried to sell cables to Russian media outlets.

  4. Matt said,

    I’m not sure what being locked up in solitary confinement for years and then probably being tried in secret would achieve. And he hasn’t sought “refuge in some of the most repressive states in the world,” – he’s used China, Russia (and now possibly Cuba) as transit points to get to the country he’s applied for asylum in, Ecuador, Lenin negotiating with the German High Command for a sealed train in 1917 springs to mind

  5. Jim Denham said,

    Yes, but Lenin wasn’t campaigning for open government and transparency. That’s supposed to be Snowden’s cause, not socialist revolution. Snowden’s choice of allies and places of refuge (and Ecuador’s record on press freedom is not good) inevitably taints his cause.

  6. Modernity's Ghost said,

    “inevitably taints his cause”

    Maybe so but it doesn’t change the evidence.

    Now if you consider yourself a rationalist, a novelty here, then the evidence not Snowden’s conduct is the important issue.

    Snowden could be the nastiest person under the sun, yet the information which he has released on the NSA’s conduct would still be valid, at least to rationalists.

    And ultimately that is all that matters. The evidence.

    • Jimmy Glesga said,

      Considering all States have their intelligence and spies to look after their interests the man is surely a traitor and the Yanks should kill him.

    • Jim Denham said,

      And the evidence is?

      • Jimmy Glesga said,

        He is on the run from the evidence! Not something your ordinary criminal can do or afford to do.

  7. Jim Denham said,

    Perhaps I should make it clear that despite his error (imho) in fleeing, and his unfortunate association with the loathsome Assange, I still believe Snowden should be supported.

  8. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Snowden is no Ellsberg.

    Ellsberg was a former Marine officer who has actually served two years in Vietnam and who knew he had a large part of a profoundly divided nation and ruling class on his side.

    Thus he was psychologically well-equipped to fight this battle and did in fact win in court – and if he had not would have presumably served his time in jail stoically reflecting that by his actions he may have saved a great many lives and changed the history of the world.

    Snowden is a glibertarian, a yuppie and a geek and looks as ill-equipped to survive the hellish US prison system as it is possible to imagine.

    And above all no-one except for a few right libertarians and leftists – that is to say nobody of any power, influence, reliability or even common sense and common decency – is on his side.

    Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives all concur in wanting him to spend the rest of his life being butt-raped in prison.

    So Snowden cannot win his case in US courts and will be systematically ruined, jailed and his life destroyed.

    And even if he was a true hero what would his martyrdom actually be for? – to alert some fellow geeks to the possibility that the government is reading their e-mails?

    The contrast with Ellsberg and Vietnam or even poor dimwitted high school dropout Bradley Manning in Afghanistan and Iraq could not be more dramatic.

    I therefore don’t blame him at all for choosing exile and it is indeed preposterous for us to sit in our armchairs and condemn him.

  9. Rosie said,

    It’s sad to take Snowden’s side since he is a) a feather in Greenwald’s cap and b) a protege of Assange, and both of them are repulsive. However, as Mod says, it’s what he’s divulged that’s significant, not what kind of guy he is. As far as heroism goes, pissing off the CIA would be enough heroics to last most of us for a lifetime. So I would cut him loads of slack for skipping off, and don’t really see what would be gained if he hung about. Also, he is a reminder that although Assange is an egomaniac and a fantasist, not to mention a rape suspect avoiding a trial, Wikileaks or something like it is an important part of finding out what our governments get up to.

    Very good piece here:-

    where are Snowden’s defenders? As of Monday, the editorial pages of the Times and the Washington Post, the two most influential papers in the country, hadn’t even addressed the Obama Administration’s decision to charge Snowden with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of theft.

    If convicted on all three counts, the former N.S.A. contract-systems administrator could face thirty years in jail. On the Sunday-morning talk shows I watched, there weren’t many voices saying that would be an excessive punishment for someone who has performed an invaluable public service. And the person who did aggressively defend Snowden’s actions, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian blogger who was one of the reporters to break the story, found himself under attack. After suggesting that Greenwald had “aided and abetted” Snowden, David Gregory, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked, “Why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”

    After being criticized on Twitter, Gregory said that he wasn’t taking a position on Snowden’s actions—he was merely asking a question. I’m all for journalists asking awkward questions, too. But why aren’t more of them being directed at Hayden and Feinstein and Obama, who are clearly intent on attacking the messenger? …


    Snowden took classified documents from his employer, which surely broke the law. But his real crime was confirming that the intelligence agencies, despite their strenuous public denials, have been accumulating vast amounts of personal data from the American public. The puzzle is why so many media commentators continue to toe the official line.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Its only puzzling if you don’t look at it from a class perspective.

      Media commentators are not independent enlightenment philosophes (although in fact most actual philosophes were sycophantic parasites on the enlightened and not so enlightened despots of the day) but employees of global mega-corporations.

      What gets published and broadcast is what serves the sectional and class interests of the plutocratic elite.

      In the case of Greenwald and the Guardian there is a market for neatly commodified dissent which they feed for profit.

      For the rest they have to balance its utility as yet another stick to beat Obama with (and the true result of all this will be to help the Republicans keep control of Congress in 2014 and to propel a true and trusted One Percenter into the presidency in 2016) to the wider future needs of their security state to monitor everything.

      And this is difficult to balance so they are as usual going for trivialisation (the latest being the revelation that Glenn Greenwald doesn’t pay his taxes and once worked as a lawyer for a consulting firm that had a partnership with a porno purveyor called Hairy Jocks) instead.

  10. Jim Denham said,

    Rosie and Roger have very nearly convinced me…

  11. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,


    Is rather good on Snowden’s unreconstructed Randian hatred of the poor, old and ill:

    ‘save money? cut this social security bullshit….Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine…. Magically the world changed after the new deal, and old people became made of glass…..they wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day’

    So like Assange not a nice man at all and this and the justified loathing felt for his megaphone Glenn Greenwald by anyone who has actually read him is I think also a factor in the reluctance of even liberals (in the US sense) to rally to his support.

    Which is probably a strategic error…..

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      And from the same article about Snowden’s Libtard past:

      ‘i went to london just last yearit’s where all of your muslims live I didn’t want to get out of the car…..I thought I had gotten off of plane in the wrong country I don’t know where it was, but it was by London City Airport and it was terrifying….. east London yeah, a lot of ethnic groups have settled there…..I guess it’s nice that they set up their own community, though….they just seemed awfully… orthodox……
      i mean it wasn’t like, “hi, we’re your friendly neighborhood muslim community. welcome to our main street.” ……it was more like, “SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF ALLAH. SHARIAH REGULATIONS POSTED AT ALL CORNERS.”

      When I was his age I was an insufferable yuppie prick as well but fortunately back in the 1980s there was no internet (at least not one accessible to non-uber geeks in university computer labs) to archive every idiocy I must have perpetrated.

  12. paul maleski said,

    As for Snowden and Assanges’ disclosures: I knew nothing new. The NSA ain’t stupid. They don’t employ many contractors and those few they do do, don’t go anywhere near sensitive areas. When Russia Today or BBC Radio Judeo 4 offer him a job as a Whistleblower expert, you might just see through this whole counter-pro farce. Take it from me, Snowden still lives. And the NSA can’t find him? And please don’t tell me he was born in Laurel Canyon!

  13. Jim Denham said,

  14. Julian said,

    To suggest that Snowden isn’t worthy of support because he does not surrender to an evil and corrupt system which will treat him like Manning is not progressive but fascist. Should the Jews have stayed in Germany to face Nazi “consequences?” Che Guevara should have turned himself into the CIA? Angela Davis?

  15. paul maleski said,

    Let us be honest for a change, not long after the German National Socialist Government, started booting out jewish parasites from Germany; after the Worldwide Jewish Amsterdam Declaration of War, initiated by Rothschilds Bankers and co. who had ordered an economic boycott in 1933, in order to starve a free German people into submission. Hitherto, mass unemployment Germany soon flourished and within a few years, using their own currency, barter arrangements, and a consumer goods based economic expansion programme, soon experienced labour shortages. Hitter wanted the working class to be recognized for their herculean efforts. So much so, that cruise liners were being built solely for the benefit of the lower paid, but highly valued German proletariat. German National Socialism was based on: Christian values, race, and love of soil, it was inclusive. Social standing counted for nothing, the Germans judged people on their character.. During the second world war, countless British families survived by their mums engaging in part time and full time prostitution.and at least the Yanks intervention offered these rickety victims a decent payrise. And in our history books all we get is the Spitfire and Our Finest Hour. Churchill was a drunken sexual freak bailed out financially by the jew. End of story. Daniel Ellsburg, Assange and Snowden are heroes invented by the jewish media. When the the three of them start discussing the Israeli Samson option, then I will start taking them seriously. Like I said before, Shiraz Socialist is in the wrong business. Too unworldly!

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