Bring him home
Devon Chenelle | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
It is 11 months into 2016, and my only regret is not studying my horoscope more seriously, for what other explanation of this year’s events could there be besides a portentous alignment of the celestial bodies? LeBron brought a championship to The Land, Leo got his Oscar, the Cubs won the World Series and our next president is Donald J. Trump. Despite all this, I am left hoping for one more signal event.
As long as the greatest living American hero remains a political refugee, there can be no true justice in the realm. It is far past time Edward Snowden returned to the country he served so well, and not in a cage, but at the head of a parade, with a crown of woven oak leaves about his brow.
Edward Snowden entered public service when, at 21, he enlisted in the Army. Although his military career was ended prematurely by a training incident that broke both his legs, Snowden could not be slowed. He was hired by the CIA’s global communications division in 2006, and quickly began climbing the hierarchy. Snowden eventually became the Agency’s “top technical and cybersecurity expert” for Switzerland.
In February 2009, Snowden resigned from the CIA and began working for several private contractors, though he remained in regular contact with senior government intelligence officials. Around this time, Snowden began downloading documents regarding the government’s massive and covert illegal spying programs.
Snowden’s resolve to act was cemented on March 12, 2013, after watching a hearing of the United States Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence. During that hearing Senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the American Empire’s king spy, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper paused, looked up and perjured himself in front of the U.S. Senate, repeatedly denying the existence of massive government programs he personally directed.
Four months after Clapper’s sedition, while Snowden hid in a Hong Kong hotel, the leaks began.
Though it would take several books to fully enumerate Snowden’s revelations, some of the most shocking leaks conveyed information about the government’s warrantless collection of the telephone metadata, indicating who you talk to, where you talk to them and for how long, of hundreds of millions of Americans; and the ability of the NSA to, in the course of surveillance on foreigners, observe and permanently store vast amounts of data about Americans’ personal internet usage, as logged by American companies like Facebook and Google.
In Snowden’s own words, the leaks revealed that “the NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”
After the leaks were revealed, Snowden fled to Moscow. As offers of asylum from various regimes withered up in response to extraordinary American diplomatic pressure — the Castros ain’t what they used to be — Snowden settled in for a long stay.
For Americans who already distrusted Snowden, his sequestration in Moscow was received less than positively, with some critics even accusing him of being a Russian agent. This is absurd. Before Snowden departed Hong Kong for Moscow, he transferred every document he had to journalists, placing them all out of his control. I must admit I was long confused why Snowden fled to Moscow, rather than a sunnier, less-threatening, socialist paradise. As it turns out, lasting refuge for Snowden in Latin America had always been dubious. About the only places on planet Earth where — if they really want to — American intelligence agencies can’t grab you off the street are the territories of the Russian Federation. Within the aegis of Mother Russia, the Federal Security Service and its affiliates maintain tactical intelligence superiority over American intelligence forces. Living practically anywhere else, infuriate the wrong people in Washington half as bad as Snowden did and you’ll be extraordinary rendition’d before you can say “CIA black site.”
I tend to flirt with descending into hyperbole when describing Snowden, but I believe a brief overview of his acts provides ample justification for my encomiastic views of the man. He took on mortal personal risk to do what he knew to be right. He knew he would pay great costs for his singular act of heroism, and he has. Snowden has sacrificed his career, forfeited his privacy and now finds himself 5,000 miles from home with no near prospect of return, all for the sake of protecting hallowed American liberties. If that isn’t a hero, I don’t know what is. It’s time to bring Edward Snowden back home.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.