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A revealing question and answer came in last week’s presidential debate among the Democratic candidates. They were asked if Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed illegal spying by the NSA and the U.S. government, should be considered a hero or traitor.
Hillary Clinton’s answer was revealing of who she is and what she stands for; here it is in full:
CLINTON: He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.
COOPER: Should he do jail time?
ClINTON: In addition — in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.
According to Clinton, Snowden is not officially a whistleblower, since he failed to apply for such status within the government. If he had, she suggests he would have been given a fair hearing. (Right! Just like the “positive response” Hillary Clinton’s State Department gave Peter Van Buren, who for his honesty about Iraq reconstruction was outcast and hounded into retirement.) She also suggests that Snowden’s revelations have “fallen into a lot of the wrong hands,” by which I think she means not foreign terrorists but the American people — what she terms “everyday” people to distinguish them from people like her.
But, finally, this sentence is the killer: I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.
Facing the music: Do you know what that potentially means for Edward Snowden? Accused of treason (his information having fallen into all those “wrong hands”), he would face the possibility of execution by the U.S. government. Facing the music in this case may mean facing a firing squad. At the very least, we’re talking about a LONG jail sentence, doubtless in a maximum security federal penitentiary.
Compared to Clinton, the other candidates showed measures of compassion. Lincoln Chaffee said he wanted to bring Snowden home: that he deserved praise for revealing illegal activities by the U.S. government. Martin O’Malley essentially agreed with Clinton but without the ominous warning about the need to face the music. Bernie Sanders applauded Snowden for his role in educating the people about their dishonest and abusive government; he said that important service should be taken into account if and when Snowden returns for trial. Jim Webb punted the question to “the legal system” but he also highlighted the dangers of uncontrolled surveillance and how such power can be used for undemocratic purposes: “We’ve got a vast data bank of information that is ripe for people with bad intentions to be able to use,” Webb said. Of course, we truly wouldn’t know the full extent of this without the revelations provided by Snowden.
Following on from what Webb said, the conclusion is obvious: Edward Snowden is a hero. He should be brought back to the United States and praised for his courage in revealing how our government has spied illegally, not only on the American people but on much of the world. Untrammeled spying is not making us safer; it’s people like Snowden, those who still have integrity and who believe in the ideals of democracy, who are making us safer.
On the question of Snowden, hero or traitor, all the candidates disappointed. But in calling for Snowden to face the music, Hillary Clinton’s answer represented the deepest bow to the National Security State.
If I were Snowden, I wouldn’t plan on returning to the USA if Clinton is elected president.
Copyright 2015 W. J. Astore. First published in The Contrary Perspective.