Patterico's Pontifications


Snowden, Whistleblowing, and “Accidentally” Issued Travel Documents

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:23 am

Glenn Reynolds in USA Today:

Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information about the National Security Agency’s widespread — possibly illegal, even criminal — program of data collection and spying, we’ve heard a lot about possibly the least important question raised by the event: Whether Snowden is a good person or not.

My own take is that nobody knows. In fact, Snowden himself may not know the full context or ramifications of his actions. But it also doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that the Snowden affair occurs in the context of an unprecedented administration war on whistleblowers. And that’s a bad idea because whistleblowing is one of the things that maintains the legitimacy of a government as big, and otherwise unaccountable, as ours.

I agree with parts of this and disagree with others.

First of all, of course it matters that someone with a bunch of our secrets is running to despotic countries all over the world, with stuff that has nothing to do with our liberties on offer, just to grease the wheels of diplomacy, don’t you know. And of course it matters what we should do with him: prosecute him as a spy, or welcome him back with open arms. Now: “Whether he is a good person or not” may be an unimportant question, but that’s because it’s a bit of a strawman, albeit one that in some people’s minds relates (though it shouldn’t) to the very important question of how he should be treated under the law. With all due respect to Prof. Reynolds, attempting to shunt to one side the dramatic and yes, important story of Snowden’s actions is what you do when you like some of the leaks Snowden is providing, but don’t want to talk about the nasty and (I’m putting my hand over my mouth in shock, folks) unpatriotic compromises Snowden has had to make in order to dump our secrets all over creation.

And Snowden is no “whistleblower.” He’s not someone who took a job to serve his country, didn’t like the illegal and unethical things he was seeing, and decided to go public for the greater good. That’s a whistleblower. Snowden took the job to vacuum secrets out of our government and spread them far and wide. I guess if you think the government shouldn’t have secrets at all, you’ll defend the portion of his actions that you can defend, and try to get the world to look the other way at the portion you can’t defend. But I think that mode of argument evades the debate on what should be secret, if anything.

That said, this administration is at war with whistleblowers — although it’s not unprecedented, except arguably in scale. I am working on a story that will hopefully advance the ball on that front. And Reynolds’s larger point about the size of government and the threat it poses is well taken.

AWKWARD TRANSITION ALERT: Why, even a government as small as Ecuador makes mistakes!

Snowden was Russia’s responsibility and would have to reach Ecuadorean territory before the country would consider any asylum request, the president said in an interview with the Guardian on Monday.

“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia.”

The president, speaking at the presidential palace in Quito, said his government did not intentionally help Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Moscow with a temporary travel pass. “It was a mistake on our part,” he added.

This was prompted by Snowden’s very open statement, before obtaining asylum from Ecuador, praising the country for helping him:

“The decisive action of your consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, guaranteed my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong – I could never have risked travel without that. Now, as a result, and through the continued support of your government, I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest.”

Does he not realize the difficult position in which he is putting the government of Ecuador? I think he does.

This is part and parcel of Snowden’s entire strategy. He could have waited to reveal his identity until after he received asylum, and he could have waited to reveal Ecuador’s part in his flight from Hong Kong — but he apparently thinks it’s to his advantage to gain maximum publicity from his actions as part of his bid for asylum. And evidently he thinks that by revealing how Ecuador already helped him, he can put pressure on them to follow through.

Advice from Assange, I suppose.

We’ll see if this high-stakes diplomacy, if you want to call it that, pays dividends. In the meantime, as I said the other day, I am giving myself permission to despise both Snowden and the dishonest and hypocritical actions of the U.S. Government in this affair. And I think it’s worth paying attention to both.

33 Responses to “Snowden, Whistleblowing, and “Accidentally” Issued Travel Documents”

  1. I think Snowden has said he’s been planning things for at least a year.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  2. It’s not clear if he’s writing his own material now, or how much outside contact he has.

    The press release in which he said he might want asylum in Russia was not written by him.

    The first version (it was later corrected after journalists alerted Wikileaks to its odd phraseology) had:

    For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. and gave the date as Monday 1st July 2013

    Original version is here:

    Corrected version is here:

    (Hat tip: morning Jolt which linked to John Aravosis article which had links to statements)

    After Putin said that he would only give asylum to Snowden if he stopped acting against America (Putin said he knows it sounded strange coming form him) Snowden withdrew his request fro asylum from Russia.

    You wonder if China is sharing any of its informatrion with Russia. Snowden left all his laptoips in Hong Kong in the custofy of a person he trusted. He was undecided for a day or two whether to leave and decided to go ahead rather suddenly. His lawyer went to the airport and had to buy a ticket to the cheapest destination, which was Shanghai to get inside, because his lawyer didn’t know whether he wass going to leave or not.

    He had gotten a message from an unknown source telling him that if he tried to leave he would be able to pass through immigration with no trouble and attempted to verify it, apparently with no success.

    The Hong Kong authorities stalled on his arrest because they said the middle name they had was not the same middle name the United states was giving them.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  3. It doesn’t matter.

    Gerry (a218c5)

  4. Rafael Correa: we helped Snowden by mistake Ecuador’s president reveals the whistleblower was granted a temporary travel card at 4am ‘without authorisation or validity’

    Ecuador is not considering Edward Snowden’s asylum request and never intended to facilitate his flight from Hong Kong, president Rafael Correa said as the whistleblower made a personal plea to Quito for his case to be heard.

    Snowden was Russia’s responsibility and would have to reach Ecuadorean territory before the country would consider any asylum request, the president said in an interview on Monday.

    “Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia.”

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  5. Russia will neither expel Putin nor let him in (unless he stops his public anti-USA activities)

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  6. I mean expel Snowden. Putin pretty much announced that. Putin may want him out of there.

    I suppose this is consistent with Snowden not being in Russia at all, except that if he’s not, people from Wikileaks would have to be in on the secret. A lawyer from Wikileaks was supposed to be traveling with him.

    And if he is in the airport in Russia, he’s not been seen in any public areas apparently.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  7. Sammy, up until the Civil War (at least) “United States” was considered a plural, as in “these United States” rather than “The United States.” I think we’d all be better off if we still thought that way, a country composed of States rather than a Nation with some local jurisdictions.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  8. Out of Sight? Snowden thought to be in Moscow airport, but few have seen him ( July 01, 2013 by Judson Berger)

    ….But to the media, the most-wanted leaker in the world was invisible, nowhere to be found. Even Snowden’s father, Lonnie Snowden, is still trying to establish a “direct communications link” with his son, his dad’s attorney Bruce Fein told Fox News on Monday.

    Ian Phillips, the Associated Press Eastern Europe news director who spent 21 hours in the Moscow transit zone last week in an unsuccessful attempt to find Snowden, told his best bet is that Snowden is holed up in the Novotel — a bizarre hotel that has one wing jutting into the international transit zone. That’s where Phillips stayed last Thursday and Friday, to no avail……

    ….Russian news reports claimed last week he was at a hotel in the terminal itself. But The Associated Press sent a reporter to the transit zone last week and could find no sign of Snowden at the on-site hotel, the Air Express, or any worker who would confirm he was staying there.

    The AP reporter claimed to have entered the transit zone — a sprawling area comprising several terminals, as well as the usual mix of duty-free shops and other stores — last Wednesday in search of Snowden. While finding no trace of Snowden, the AP noted that aside from the hotel, there are a number of small rooms where someone could potentially hide.

    Snowden was not found, though, in any of the VIP lounge areas.

    The AP then sent Phillips to the Novotel on Thursday…..

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  9. There is a special wing in the Novotel hotel (the old wing) where travelers with no visas — like Snowden — are kept under tight security.


    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  10. Advice from Assange, I suppose.

    Evidence is mounting that Ecuador is getting pretty sick and tired of Assange, too.

    Relations between the Ecuadorean government and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are becoming “incredibly strained” over the latter’s involvement in the Edward Snowden affair, The Independent has learned.

    If unresolved, the tensions – which were confirmed by a Quito source on Monday – could bring into question Mr Assange’s own position within the Andean nation’s London embassy. He claimed asylum there more than a year ago in order to avoid extradition to Sweden.

    Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa was furious with his own diplomat Fidel Narvaez, who – in conjunction with Mr Assange – organised the handing of a safe passage letter to Mr Snowden. He called the move, which was apparently made without consulting the central government, a “serious error”, for which the consul was likely to be punished. And WikiLeaks’ involvement in the debacle also angered Quito.

    Steve57 (192f26)

  11. Sammy, up until the Civil War (at least) “United States” was considered a plural, as in “these United States” rather than “The United States.”

    Heh! United States is in the plural in the Treason Clause of the Constitution.

    nk (875f57)

  12. Disagree. To me, Snowden is the epitome of “whistleblower.” And whistleblowers need not be saints or heroes, though the whistleblowing act itself is heroic and against self-interest.

    ER (d7739b)

  13. Patterico, would Snowden achieve the status of a whistleblower if he’d explained that (following your prescription) he decided to go public for the greater good but realized the Obama Administration’s harsh suppression of recent whistleblowers would result is his detention and that powerful government forces would make sure the full impact of their misdeeds would never reach the public in a comprehensible form?

    Could it be Snowden was convinced that coming forward while still within US jurisdiction would defeat any attempt to reveal massive official misconduct?

    Consequently, in order to serve the greater good he had no choice but to leave the US and go to places where the individuals and organizations he intended to expose couldn’t reach him, that remaining in the US would be tantamount to suicide or Arkacide.

    ropelight (03df4c)

  14. Have you guys who think he’s a “whistleblower” read they whiny little b****’s self serving and wholly dishonest statement.

    This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

    For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

    In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake.

    Got that? He has a right to seek a job under false pretenses solely for the purpose of committing espionage against the United States, execute his plan, flee the country, then demand the US let him keep a valid passport.

    No matter what anyone thinks of the dangers of staying in the US to confront the charges, the US didn’t impose the “extra-legal penalty of exile” on Eric Snowden. He chose to flee.

    He friggin’ thinks it’s a violation of his human rights for the US to impede the travel of a wanted fugitive. No matter what you think of the case, the US did charge him with a crime and he’s on the run.

    No wonder Ecuador is having second thoughts about this guy (and Assange). Putin may very well decide that keeping this self-absorbed prima donna isn’t worth whatever secrets he has in his head.

    He’s not a brave truth teller. He’s a coward who’s butt hurt that after bragging to the press about all the huge risks he was supposedly willing to take on behalf of the public good reveals that in reality he always expected to suffer no consequences at all.

    And then he brings up Bradley Manning. What a sleaze.

    But the bottom line is he isn’t exiled any more than Marc Rich or any other international fugitive was ever exiled. Unlike those other fugitives he expects the US to facilitate his travel.

    Steve57 (192f26)

  15. Meanwhile, Dog and his handlers has sent $1.5 Billion out of petty cash to his co-conspirator in Benghazi 9/11/13 who is arming his supporters for civil war as we speak.

    The WH statespersons likewise are advising the Egyptian military, caretakers since the ’50s of a fractious population on the verge of starvation to not step on the young democracy.


    gary gulrud (dd7d4e)

  16. It is certainly possible to be concerned about vigilance and oversight over government security programs and still demand prosecution for spies.

    Make no mistake: revealing NSA “snooping” on Russia or G-20 allies has nothing at all to do with the privacy of American citizens. This is damaging to the national interests of the United States, and is an ongoing violation of several laws including the Official Secrets Act.

    Snowden is a sniveling punk spy who deserves the noose next to Manning.

    That some rushed to consider him a “whistleblower” or “hero” only goes to show how shallow of mind they are. No prudent person accepts anything which originated from Greenwald at face value. It’s fodder for fools, and they filled up on it.

    Estragon (19fa04)

  17. We need thousands, millions of people like Snowden. The only way the people of this country will ever be free of the terrorist federal state is by bringing about its complete and utter collapse. Bring. It. On.

    Mag (751dae)

  18. How many times will it have to be said that the United States does not have an “Official Secrets Act”?

    Stashiu3 (e7ebd8)

  19. I’m sorry but the fact that the NSA is gathering our telephone meta-data is hardly a national security threatening “secret” akin to war plans or troop movements …
    these “secrets” he is releasing are not the same as releasing nuke weapon plans or encryption codes … any of our enemies who didn’t assume we were already doing this is really not much of an enemy …

    JeffC (488234)

  20. I see yes United States is plural in the treason clause and in the 13th Amendment sent to the states Feb 1 1865

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  21. 19, How many times will it have to be said that the United States does not have an “Official Secrets Act”?

    Comment by Stashiu3 (e7ebd8) — 7/2/2013 @ 2:32 pm

    None. We have an Espionage Act, which Snowden has bragged about intentionally violating.

    That’s the problem with publicly patting yourself on the back for committing crimes you claim shouldn’t be crimes. The people who engage in such forms of self-aggrandizement tend to hang themselves with their own tongues.

    Steve57 (192f26)

  22. None. We have an Espionage Act, which Snowden has bragged about intentionally violating.

    He has even said he took the employment and clearance in order to ferret out and publish these secrets. This will make any defense against espionage difficult.

    Whistleblowing is a more passive act — you work somewhere and see wrongness and expose it. One doesn’t hire on with the intention of whistleblowing.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  23. Off topic post but not sure how to get this to Patterico’s attention: curious what your take is on the Hawthorne police shooting incident involving Leon Rosby’s Rottweiler.

    Werner Schwammberg (7192f5)

  24. Also in other news, Obama backs a dictator busy dismantling democracy against the will of the people.

    Obama to Egypt’s Democratic Resistance: Leave Morsi Alone!

    Not that it’s really news. Obama’s first foreign policy decision was to intervene in Honduras on behalf of Zelaya who was dismantling his country’s Constitution in order illegally stay in power. His only real friend among world leaders, the only one he’s grown close to, is PM Erdogan. The man who said democracy is like a street car; you get off it when you reach your stop.

    The medium is the message; this ran in the Turkish paper “Sabah” during Erdogan’s visit in May:

    The piece was published today in Turkish by Turkish Daily “Sabah” and can be found here. The full English text of the op-ed by President Obama is printed below.

    It doesn’t matter what sort of pablum Obama spewed. Sabah is a newspaper that Erdogan had seized because of its opposition views, and then gave to his son-in-law. It only matters that Obama chose that paper to put his stamp of approval on Erdogan. Every Turk got the message.

    Just like every Iranian got the message during the 2009/2010 Green revolution, and every Egyptian got the message when the US ambassador played the Muslim Brotherhood stooge, and now they’re getting the message that Obama is abandoning them as well now that he’s got the anti-American Islamist dictator he wants.

    Obama has reached his stop; it’s time to get off the democracy street car.

    Steve57 (192f26)

  25. Daniel Ellsberg revealed copious quantities of classified data. So did Snowdon.

    At that point their behaviors depart.

    Ellsberg stayed around to take responsibility for what he did and stand trial. He was exonerated.

    Snowdon ran. At that point my conclusion is that he was either doing this for the notoriety or to hurt the US. Either way he knows if he stays around to take responsibility for his act he’s toast.

    This also shows Ellsberg was behaving like a man. Snowdon is behaving like a little boy trying to hide to avoid punishment. I have NO sympathy for Snowdon at this point regardless of whether he did us some good amidst the ill he has perpetrated.


    JDow (d8539e)

  26. Because of something the president of Bolivia said his plane was denied an overflight rights over Portuygal and France and had to make an unscheduled stop in Vienna, Austria. The austrian authorities reported that Snowden was not aboard the plane, but in the meantime Italy also denied rights. France and Portugal restored them.

    This shows the United States does not have very good intelligence in Russia.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  27. Nicaragua and Venezuela have both offered asylum to Snowden.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

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