CALIFORNIA June 15, 2013 ― Why would Edward Snowden put his career, relationships, reputation, freedom, and maybe even his life on the line by leaking classified information in so dramatic a way?
The Intelligence Community tries hard to prevent public disclosures of classified information, but leaks happen and always have. Sometimes information is leaked accidentally, perhaps by members of Congress who don’t take secrecy as carefully as they should. Somtimes it’s leaked deliberately by members of a president’s administration at the behest of their superiors in order to affect policy. But purposefully giving highly classified information to news media may involve more than criminal, policy or more noble purposes; it could be driven by pure self-interest.
Traitors like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen have given secrets to our adversaries for financial gain; some, like Alger Hiss, have leaked them for ideological reasons. Others have maliciously destroyed classified information as a personal challenge or out of a desire for revenge. Some, like Army Pfc Bradley Manning, claim to be so grieved by government and military abuses that they leak secrets without regard for personal or national consequences.
While traitors and malcontents must be found out, tracked down and caught, the case of Snowden is quite different. He openly presented himself and the details of a classified program to the world at the same time. He didn’t hide, he didn’t reveal his secrets in secret. What makes understanding his motives so difficult is the unique way this action cuts across so many conflicting issues we face in our war on terror.
Many libertarians and civil liberties groups applaud Snowden and will use this opportunity to condemn government intrusion into our private lives. Members of Congress are vying to outdo each other in outrage or praise. Conservatives focus on the NSA program as a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights forbidding unreasonable search and seizure, while liberals are in the awkward position of supporting Obama, even though these surveillance policies are the offspring of the Bush administration. Not surprisingly, the Intelligence Community condemns Snowden as a traitor who dishonors our nation.
What about the general public? If polls are accurate, they seem more concerned about stopping terrorists than keeping the government away from our phones.
Let’s be clear: Did Snowden violate the law? Of course he did. Is the NSA violating current laws? Probably not. Is our government violating our Constitutional rights? Unfortunately, this episode is the latest in a long history of allowing government to restrict our freedoms for the illusion of personal security.
As the political and legal posturing heat up, the topic less talked about is the breach of trust by Snowden himself.
When people violate their marriage vows, they reveal a self-centered nature that can’t be trusted. If a businessman willfully violates a contractual agreement, it shows a dishonest character. When elected representatives ignore their oath to protect and defend our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms they deserve contempt. And yes, when Christians commit to a life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, yet willfully violate God’s revealed will for them, they bring dishonor on themselves.
Access to classified programs is not a fundamental right; it’s only granted when a person has a need to know and can be trusted to protect information from compromise. Snowden not only disgraced himself by violating that trust, he did it in as public and visible a fashion as possible for maximum impact. Taking that step in Hong Kong gives pause concerning his true motives. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region under the control of communist China, a country well known for disregarding individual liberties and lacking governmental transparency.
If Snowden was so driven to expose government abuse, why go to a territory controlled by a government where abuse is a way of life?
Snowden’s threat of new revelations in the coming weeks also smacks of self-interest. If the existence of NSA surveillance programs against citizens is the concern, he’s already accomplished his goal by exposing them. Any additional information on this or any related programs only serves to elevate him in the eyes of those who hate us, and create greater opportunities for personal benefit through future publications or selling technical advice to foreign intelligence networks.
If Snowden’s only concern was government violations of our Constitutional rights, he could have sought legal representation, found a sympathetic member of Congress, and testified in a legally protected manner as a whistleblower. Instead, he abused the trust placed in him; he compromised a program that was arguably useful for identifying terrorists; and he gained immediate fame for himself.
These are not the actions of a patriot. They’re the calculated decisions of a man capitalizing on privileged access for notoriety and personal gain.
Are the issues exposed by the NSA program important? Absolutely! But the rule of law that Snowden seems so committed to protect is exactly what he ignored in bringing these programs to light.
This incident hasn’t run its course. We may still end up with a more responsible government because of Snowden, but his approach smacks of deep self-interest and traitorous intent far more than the noble motives he claims.
Frank Kacer has worked within the Intelligence Community for approximately 30 years. Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankKacer or #BiblicalPolitics
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