Toobin: Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. Leaker, Is No Hero

“At the mercy of the Chinese leaders who run Hong Kong”
Opinion • Views: 22,009

At The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin has a must-read piece on NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the misguided attempt to make him into a “hero:” Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. Leaker, Is No Hero.

Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former C.I.A. employee and current government contractor, has leaked news of National Security Agency programs that collect vast amounts of information about the telephone calls made by millions of Americans, as well as e-mails and other files of foreign targets and their American connections. For this, some, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.

I’ve posted several articles about Snowden’s choice of Hong Kong as a sanctuary; it’s one of the real problematic aspects of the case, and Toobin nails the reason why:

Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent. In his interview, he said he went there because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” This may be true, in some limited way, but the overriding fact is that Hong Kong is part of China—which is, as Snowden knows, a stalwart adversary of the United States in intelligence matters. (Evan Osnos has more on that.) Snowden is now at the mercy of the Chinese leaders who run Hong Kong. As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government—which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?

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68 comments

1 Absalom, Absalom, Obdicut  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:19:05pm

If he actually took the data with him, then China probably has it now, whether he gave it to them or not.

2 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:19:43pm

re: #1 Absalom, Absalom, Obdicut

If he actually took the data with him, then China probably has it now, whether he gave it to them or not.

But the pillows!

3 Dr Lizardo  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:22:33pm

re: #2 Kragar

But the pillows!

When I think someone’s listening in on me, I always stuff pillows under the door and hide under the bedspread.

If you can’t see me, I’m not really there, right?

Right?

4 Gus  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:23:35pm
5 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:23:52pm

re: #3 Dr Lizardo

When I think someone’s listening in on me, I always stuff pillows under the door and hide under the bedspread.

If you can’t see me, I’m not really there, right?

Right?

I am a meat popsicle.

6 Dr Lizardo  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:25:27pm

re: #4 Gus

If Mr. Greenwald knows where Mr. Snowden is, then it’s not unfair to assume that other people know where he is as well.

7 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:26:52pm


Holy crap, I agree with Graham about something, WTF is the world coming to?

8 darthstar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:28:30pm

re: #6 Dr Lizardo

If Mr. Greenwald knows where Mr. Snowden is, then it’s not unfair to assume that other people know where he is as well.

There’s one mobile phone you know they’re listening to.

10 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:29:53pm

re: #8 darthstar

There’s one mobile phone you know they’re listening to.

They communicate via a series of bonfires set on mountain tops.

11 William Barnett-Lewis  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:29:58pm

re: #7 Kragar

Holy crap, I agree with Graham about something, WTF is the world coming to?

Blind squirrel finding an acorn or a broken clock twice a day?

12 The Ghost of a Flea  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:30:53pm

re: #4 Gus

At some point, is Glenn going to notice that fleeing to an actual police state might not have been the best idea? A police state with a surveillance policy completely unlimbered by oversight?

To say nothing of the “my informant fled to China, and has now disappeared…in China…but I assume that it’s normal disappearing, not selling shit to the PRC government disappearing” factor?

13 Dr Lizardo  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:31:18pm

re: #8 darthstar

There’s one mobile phone you know they’re listening to.

Oh, yes indeed.

14 Lidane  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:31:38pm

re: #7 Kragar

Holy crap, I agree with Graham about something, WTF is the world coming to?

Lindsey is having a stopped clock moment now, but he pushed for the Patriot Act back in 2001 and voted to reauthorize it.

15 NJDhockeyfan  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:32:41pm
16 The Ghost of a Flea  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:32:55pm

re: #11 William Barnett-Lewis

Blind squirrel finding an acorn or a broken clock twice a day?

Squirrel finds acorn, but the squirrel has unstated motives that negate the superficial sense that this is a good thing.

17 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:33:05pm

re: #14 Lidane

Lindsey is having a stopped clock moment now, but he pushed for the Patriot Act back in 2001 and voted to reauthorize it.

I have issues with the patriot act as well, but the collecting of call logs isn’t one of them.

18 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:33:39pm

re: #15 NJDhockeyfan

DON YOUR GUY FAWKES MASKS! THERE IS TYRANNY AFOOT!
/

19 Eclectic Cyborg  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:34:13pm

re: #15 NJDhockeyfan

I can think of HUNDREDS of better causes that money could go to.

20 Eclectic Cyborg  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:34:38pm

re: #18 Kragar

DON YOUR GUY FAWKES MASKS! THERE IS TYRANNY AFOOT!
/

Remember, Remember the 5th of…June?

21 darthstar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:35:43pm

Anoneemoose!

22 funky chicken  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:36:33pm

re: #7 Kragar

Holy crap, I agree with Graham about something, WTF is the world coming to?

Graham is sane and pretty sensible when he’s not trying to woo the Tea Party nuts.

23 Decatur Deb  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:37:41pm

re: #21 darthstar

Anoneemoose!

Never do time if Anonymous is on his side!!!

24 Charles Johnson  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:38:03pm
25 funky chicken  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:38:08pm

re: #21 darthstar

OMG, Anon is another Glenn Greenwald sock puppet? How deep does this conspiracy go?

26 Backwoods_Sleuth  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:38:17pm

re: #16 The Ghost of a Flea

Squirrel finds acorn, but the squirrel has unstated motives that negate the superficial sense that this is a good thing.

squirrel finds acorn, gets frozen inside a glacier for elebentybazillion years…

27 NJDhockeyfan  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:40:12pm

Hong Kong tells NSA leaker Edward Snowden he’d be wise to leave

…Snowden reportedly checked out of a downtown Hong Kong hotel on Monday. His subsequent whereabouts were not immediately known, but a top-ranking official in Hong Kong law enforcement suggested in a statement that Snowden would be wise to leave the city.

Hong Kong is “obliged to comply with the terms of agreements” with the U.S. government, including extraditing fugitives, said Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker who was once the city’s top security official.

“It’s actually in his best interest to leave Hong Kong,” Ip said. “Hong Kong is definitely not a safe harbour for him.”

28 Charles Johnson  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:40:45pm
29 Dr Lizardo  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:41:01pm

re: #26 Backwoods_Sleuth

squirrel finds acorn, gets frozen inside a glacier for elebentybazillion years…

Image: tumblr_mde9ixYX711r4cfazo1_250.gif

30 Gus  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:41:47pm

re: #28 Charles Johnson

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Yeah, some people need to take a road trip and get out of their metropolitan confines.

31 Minor_L  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:42:09pm

re: #21 darthstar

Oh gross. Greenwald’s ego does not need this. He’s already insufferable.

32 Gus  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:42:50pm


Pop!

33 Gus  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:43:40pm

re: #21 darthstar

What has been seen cannot be unseen! Not that it matters. I hate Greenwald AND anonymous.

34 Lidane  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:43:57pm

re: #17 Kragar

I have issues with the patriot act as well, but the collecting of call logs isn’t one of them.

I just think it’s hilarious that people are all ZOMG GUBMINT SPYING now when that’s exactly what was authorized 12 years ago with the Patriot Act.

The same people on the far right bleating about the NSA now were the same ones calling anyone who questioned the Patriot Act a terrorist sympathizer and Al Qaeda supporter.

35 Gus  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:44:39pm

re: #32 Gus

Pop!

OBAMA-BUSH-FRANKEN-HITLER!!11ty

36 Walking Spanish Down the Hall  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:45:28pm

re: #3 Dr Lizardo

When I think someone’s listening in on me, I always stuff pillows under the door and hide under the bedspread.

If you can’t see me, I’m not really there, right?

Right?

Works with ghosts and closet monsters.

37 Minor_L  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:45:33pm

re: #24 Charles Johnson

What I understand is that any criticism of Greenwald makes the person doling out the criticism an Obot who is also an authoritarian/fascist.

//

38 Walking Spanish Down the Hall  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:46:14pm

re: #5 Kragar

I am a meat popsicle.

One of my fav movies.

39 Gus  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:46:33pm

re: #28 Charles Johnson

I’m pretty sure that of those 41 percent that don’t approve certainly won’t approve of what Greenwald and Snowden are doing. Maybe down to 20 percent would approve. Tops. Leaving them once again as part of a fringe movement.

40 Eclectic Cyborg  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:46:37pm

re: #34 Lidane

I just think it’s hilarious that people are all ZOMG GUBMINT SPYING now when that’s exactly what was authorized 12 years ago with the Patriot Act.

The same people on the far right bleating about the NSA now were the same ones calling anyone who questioned the Patriot Act a terrorist sympathizer and Al Qaeda supporter.

The Patriot Act was passed by a God-fearing, white Republican President.

The NSA is now run by a Muslim communist Kenyan usurper who must be destroyed at all costs.

41 jaunte  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:47:27pm

“The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like.”

This.

42 Dr Lizardo  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:47:29pm

re: #36 Walking Spanish Down the Hall

Works with ghosts and closet monsters.

Actually, that’s teddy bears.

Image: Teddy+Bears.jpg

43 Interesting Times  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:48:14pm

re: #40 Eclectic Cyborg

The Patriot Act was passed by a God-fearing, white Republican President.

The NSA is now run by a Muslim communist Kenyan usurper who must be destroyed at all costs.

You could post that on Dim Hoft/Breitbart/freerepublic/foxnation and their regular commenters would heartily agree with it.

44 Kragar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:48:59pm

I work in IT security. We monitor and keep logs for all the traffic in our enterprise, several months worth of data on hand, so if an incident does come to our attention, we have the materials on hand to properly identify the problems and we can play attention to the systems affected.

We don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to actively monitor every single keystroke entered by every asset we manage. Its not feasible, nor is it even necessary.

45 Decatur Deb  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:49:11pm

re: #37 Minor_L

You don’t post often enough to skip sarc tags while we are repelling boarders.

46 Eclectic Cyborg  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:49:30pm

re: #43 Interesting Times

You could post that on Dim Hoft/Breitbart/freerepublic/foxnation and their regular commenters would heartily agree with it.

I know. Sad, isn’t it?

47 Walking Spanish Down the Hall  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:50:09pm

I really want to see how closely Snowden’s claims and reality match.

48 Eclectic Cyborg  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:51:06pm

re: #47 Walking Spanish Down the Hall

I really want to see how closely Snowden’s claims and reality match.

I’m guessing about as closely as Glenn Beck’s claims and reality do.

49 erik_t  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:51:06pm

re: #44 Kragar

I work in IT security. We monitor and keep logs for all the traffic in our enterprise, several months worth of data on hand, so if an incident does come to our attention, we have the materials on hand to properly identify the problems and we can play attention to the systems affected.

We don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to actively monitor every single keystroke entered by every asset we manage. Its not feasible, nor is it even necessary.

But you could totally do that with three hundred million users on $20M/year, right?

/

50 The Ghost of a Flea  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:52:14pm

re: #47 Walking Spanish Down the Hall

I really want to see how closely Snowden’s claims and reality match.

If the PowerPoint slide didn’t convince you, you’re an Obot fascist.

51 Walking Spanish Down the Hall  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:52:32pm

re: #42 Dr Lizardo

Actually, that’s teddy bears.

Image: Teddy+Bears.jpg

Climbing under the covers has protected me from many teddy bears, and the kids accompanying them..

52 Lidane  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:52:39pm
53 iossarian  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:52:42pm

re: #49 erik_t

But you could totally do that with three hundred million users on $20M/year, right?

/

Just wait until they find out that the NSA was doing word searches for “tea party patriot” due to budget constraints.

54 funky chicken  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:52:53pm

re: #27 NJDhockeyfan

Hong Kong tells NSA leaker Edward Snowden he’d be wise to leave

Hey, I hear Khartoum is lovely this time of year.
/

55 Vicious Babushka  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:52:55pm
56 Walking Spanish Down the Hall  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:53:49pm

re: #45 Decatur Deb

You don’t post often enough to skip sarc tags while we are repelling boarders.

If they’re trying to board the ship, why do they keep falling into the water?

57 darthstar  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:53:51pm

Time for a song about heroes…

Youtube Video

58 Decatur Deb  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:53:57pm

re: #47 Walking Spanish Down the Hall

I really want to see how closely Snowden’s claims and reality match.

It will match some nutjobs’ edition of reality to their satisfaction.

59 Minor_L  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:54:08pm

re: #45 Decatur Deb

Haha, thanks for the heads up. I edited!

60 Eclectic Cyborg  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:54:49pm

re: #52 Lidane

Am I to assume the other 3% work for the NSA??

61 Decatur Deb  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:55:20pm

re: #55 Vicious Babushka

I got this flyer for a charity event in the mail.

Can’t stop LOL.

You had to know the Juice would be in on it.

62 Walking Spanish Down the Hall  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:55:37pm

re: #58 Decatur Deb

It will match some nutjobs’ edition of reality to their satisfaction.

I reject their reality and substitute my own.

63 funky chicken  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 1:55:48pm

re: #27 NJDhockeyfan

Hong Kong tells NSA leaker Edward Snowden he’d be wise to leave

And Pyongyang is fabulous in January! Ah, the life of a cosmopolitan globe-trotter.

/

64 Feline Fearless Leader  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 2:16:05pm

re: #56 Walking Spanish Down the Hall

If they’re trying to board the ship, why do they keep falling into the water?

Because half of them think the ship is farther to starboard than it really is, and the other half think it is farther to port.

65 Decatur Deb  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 2:16:39pm

re: #64 Feline Fearless Leader

Very good.

66 piratedan  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 2:35:12pm

re: #34 Lidane

they have a saying over at Balloon Juice known as cleek’s law, Modern Conservativism is the opposite of whatever Liberals want, updated daily

67 ContraryLemming  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 3:45:16pm

re: #54 funky chicken

Hey, I hear Khartoum is lovely this time of year.
/

I was there almost exactly a year ago. It’s not that bad. That said, when you get out of the city, things start getting a little sketchy, fast.

Hot Saharan sun is hot. Also.

68 Ming  Mon, Jun 10, 2013 4:41:21pm

Priceless, from Jeff Toobin’s article: “What, one wonders, did Snowden think the N.S.A. did? Any marginally attentive citizen, much less N.S.A. employee or contractor, knows that the entire mission of the agency is to intercept electronic communications.”


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