Glenn Greenwald, the “Guardian” reporter who broke the blockbuster stories about the National Security Agency’s surveillance methods, gave his first on air interview this morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe. It was fascinating stuff.
Greenwald sees Eric Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton contractor who leaked the previously classified information as a whistleblower and a patriot. He says Snowden became alarmed when he saw the extent to which the Bush administration was secretly monitoring US citizens’ phone records and internet activity. He considered going public then but decided against it for fear of putting anyone in danger; and he hoped that the Obama administration would stop the intrusion. He became disillusioned and decided to come forward when he realized that the Obama administration was in fact expanding the program. Greenwald says Snowden meticulously sanitized the information he released to make certain that it didn’t put government operators in harm’s way or, in his mind, jeopardize national security. Greenwald says the American people have a right to know if their government is spying on them. He claims that there is more to come.
Lawmakers on the Hill and National Intelligence Director James Clapper have a different view. They consider Snowden to be a traitor. They say that his activities have severely damaged our intelligence operations and put the country’s national security at risk. They say that if Snowden had issues with government operations he should have gone through the courts to make his case. A criminal investigation of Snowden’s activities is underway.
Meanwhile Snowden has fled the country for Hong Kong. He is fearful for his life. He fully expects the US government to come after him.
What we DO know is that we don’t know what we don’t know.
But we do know this.
We do know that the government says that we need to have an open debate about the scope of our national security operations.
We do know that the Bush and Obama administrations have turned back numerous inquiries into their activities under the Patriot Act citing that the information is classified and any judicial hearings could reveal information detrimental to our national security.
We do know that it is hard to have an open debate when only one side is willing to talk.
We also know this…while there is a whole lot of hair on fire outrage over these surveillance programs today…the conversation will be very different when we are hit with another terrorist attack.
Over the next weeks and months we will learn more about these government surveillance programs. We will learn more about Eric Snowden and his motivation for coming forward. Our guess is that this story will look much different once all the facts are presented.
Then we can decide if Eric Snowden is a traitor to his country or a champion of our civil liberties.