Every adult, most children, and criminals in particular, understand there are consequences that logically follow actions that are deemed unacceptable by society regardless it is a child stealing their sibling’s favorite toy or an armed robber holding up a convenience store. It is doubtful that every American agrees with every law, but they certainly understand they are necessary to preserve order and protect the people from harm whether it is from criminals or foreign entities threatening national security. The intelligence community is beholden to follow the law of the land, and one of the laws they swear to uphold is keeping top secret information out of the hands of unauthorized individuals whether they represent a foreign government, a terrorist organization, or media outlet looking for the next big headline. Edward Snowden was charged late last week with breaking the law and his flight to a foreign territory before charges were even filed imply that he was well aware he violated his top secret security clearance and deserved the criminal complaint filed against him.
The criminal complaint against Snowden that was released cited 18 U.S.C. 641 Theft of Government Property, 18 U.S.C. 793(d) Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information, and 18 U.S.C. 798(a)(3) Willful Communication of Classified Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person; the two latter charges fall under the Espionage Act for “giving national defense information to someone without a security clearance and revealing classified information about communications intelligence,” that by all accounts certainly describe Snowden’s actions leading to the criminal complaint and extradition requests to authorities in Hong Kong where Snowden was hiding out. It is unclear where Snowden will end up finding “political asylum,” but his contention the Justice Department is seeking him for political retribution is both a pathetic attempt to justify his criminal acts and to garner asylum from a foreign entity.
Shortly after the criminal complaint was announced, a reporter assisting the former contracted security employee stated Snowden’s revelations are “not espionage in any real sense of the word,” but according to 18 U.S.C. § 798, “Whoever knowingly and willfully furnishes, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States any classified information” is guilty of espionage. It is beyond comprehension that Snowden did not know he was “knowingly and willfully” making available classified information or he would not have went into hiding and it begs another question; what measure of guilt does the “unauthorized persons” receiving “classified information” have to answer for? However, the point is the government’s complaint against Snowden is founded in the U.S. Code, and is not some devious Obama-driven political vendetta some in the media intimate is the real impetus for the government’s complaint.
It is interesting that a clear “breach of the law” according to one media outlet is so easily conflated with “basic theories of civil disobedience” to “enable debate and reform.” It cannot be both ways because either Snowden broke the law and his top secret security clearance, or he did not, and the U.S. Code is quite clear that Snowden did, indeed, break the law as well as abuse his security clearance. According to top intelligence officials’ report to Congress last week, the NSA programs Snowden exposed to the world “helped foil more than 50 terrorist plots since Sept. 11, including one to blow up the New York Stock Exchange” and it answers the question “in what conceivable sense are Snowden’s actions espionage,” or how was the “information to be used to the injury of the United States?” Now Snowden’s paramours are shifting the argument that not only did Snowden not do anything that could bring injury to the United States, but he performed a public service and acted on his good conscience that, by the way, is the same arguments in defense of another young man whose conscience drove him to steal and reveal Department of Defense information. Doubtless, every spy, traitor, and even common criminal acts on their conscience, but it does not excuse criminal behavior and regardless the issue at hand, Snowden broke his covenant with the government when he knowingly revealed sensitive information to “unauthorized persons” and his flight from authorities gives a strong indication that he knew he broke the law.
The issue is not whether Snowden acted out of conscience, but that there is another opportunity to brand President Obama as a vindictive political adversary when a person with a security clearance violates their charge to not hand off sensitive intelligence information to unauthorized persons. That Snowden is seeking political asylum as if it is a personal vendetta is an affront to the rule of law and another Emoprog attempt to assign blame to the President for something clearly under purview of the N.S.A. and Department of Justice. Do Snowden’s defenders realize that the Espionage Act was enacted in 1917 long before this President was born, or that stealing government property clearly labeled “top secret” and handing it to media for publication is a violation of the U.S. Code? Snowden certainly knew it was a violation or he would not have fled to Hong Kong or seek political asylum to avoid arrest and a trial by a jury of his peers.
Snowden has been labeled a hero, coward, civil rights activist, potential Nobel Peace Prize winner, and hailed as setting off a worldwide debate over the limits of government surveillance, but he is, by definition, a criminal for violating three U.S. Code statutes and without a public trial it is likely no-one will ever know how the American justice system will judge his actions. What is already evident is that within a certain political circle there is another attempt to hold the President responsible for another case of a person with a security clearance stealing secret government intelligence information and giving it to unauthorized persons, and exposes the only vendetta is at the hands of disaffected emoprogs still angry the President is not their idealized vision of perfection. As far as the contention Snowden enables debate about government surveillance, that debate was settled twelve years ago when some Americans said they trusted President Bush with national security only to find their trust was misplaced and misinformed.
The idea that Snowden is to be lauded as a hero for exposing a twelve year old government program is itself an aberration of common sense rivaling the absurd notion that this President is pursuing a personal vendetta because the Justice Department is pursuing a criminal complaint for three U.S. Code violations. There is little doubt terrorists and foreign governments are well-aware, as all Americans should be, that for twelve years the intelligence services monitor communications, but it does not excuse the blatant criminality of stealing and handing off classified information, and that is the only issue Snowden is facing.
However, there will continue to be a chorus accusing President Obama of setting the federal authorities on poor, conscience-ridden Snowden and likely be ostracized for driving the former security employee into hiding in a strange land away from his family and homeland he surely does not love or he would have sought other means to enable debate besides stealing and giving national defense information to someone without a security clearance. Despite what any American thinks about surveillance gathering, the simple fact is Edward Snowden broke the law, and his covenant to secrecy, and because Barack Obama is President, it is turning into an emoprog delight. It really drives one to wonder where the Emos were twelve years ago when we liberals were screaming the Bush administration was intent on monitoring the American people’s every move; unfortunately, many were “trusting President Bush to handle national security” and realizing they were duped are now taking out their frustration on President Obama.