The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

January 3, 2014

The insufferable whistleblower

Time has not deflated Edward Snowden’s messianic sense of self-importance. Nor has living in an actual police state given the National Security Agency whistleblower any greater appreciation of the actual freedoms that Americans enjoy.

Insufferable is the first adjective evoked by Snowden’s recent interview with Barton Gellman in The Washington Post, but it has numerous cousins: smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought.

The Snowden of Gellman’s interview is seized with infuriating certitude about the righteousness of his cause. Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets, any regrets about his violations of a duty of secrecy.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won,” Snowden proclaimed. “Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

And what gave Snowden the right to assume that responsibility? “That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model. They elected me. The overseers,” he said. “The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”

Thankfully, at least as Snowden sees it, he was there to pick up the slack. “The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that (National Security Agency Director) Keith Alexander and (Director of National Intelligence) James Clapper did not.”

Snowden followed his Post interview with an overheated Christmas message that was broadcast on British television. A child born today, he warned, will “never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought.”

Oh, come on.

George Orwell himself would have told Snowden to chill — and the author of “Animal Farm” surely would have shown more recognition of the irony of Snowden’s sojourn in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Does a man whose life is conducted so much online really believe that Putin’s spies are not cyber-peering over his shoulder?

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