At last, the penny is beginning to drop. Edward Snowden is in the same mould as Daniel Ellsberg. What makes this WashPo column by Richard Cohen so welcome is that he was one of the early and fiercest journalistic denouncers of Snowden.
What are we to make of Edward Snowden? I know what I once made of him. He was no real whistleblower, I wrote, but “ridiculously cinematic” and “narcissistic” as well. As time has proved, my judgments were just plain wrong. Whatever Snowden is, he is curiously modest and has bent over backward to ensure that the information he has divulged has done as little damage as possible. As a “traitor,” he lacks the requisite intent and menace.
But traitor is what Snowden has been roundly called. Harry Reid: “I think Snowden is a traitor.” John Boehner: “He’s a traitor.” Rep. Peter King: “This guy is a traitor; he’s a defector.” And Dick Cheney not only denounced Snowden as a “traitor” but also suggested that he might have shared information with the Chinese. This innuendo, as with Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, is more proof of Cheney’s unerring determination to be cosmically wrong.
My initial column on Snowden was predicated on the belief that, really, nothing he revealed was new. Didn’t members of Congress know all this stuff and hadn’t much of it leaked? Yes, that’s largely true. But my mouth is agape at the sheer size of these data-gathering programs — a cascade of news stories that leads me to conclude that this very column was known to the National Security Agency before it was known to my editors. I also wrote that “No one lied about the various programs” Snowden disclosed. But then we found out that James Clapper did. The director of national intelligence was asked at a Senate hearing in March if “the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is completely false” and he replied that it was. Actually, it was his answer that was “completely false.”
And while we’re on the topic, how come that a very senior US official can lie under oath to Congress and not be fired?