The NSA whistleblower has now been identified as Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant who, until the leak, worked in Hawaii for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. His identity was made public at his own request.
There can be no doubt that Mr. Snowden is a classic example of a whistleblower, a true hero of democracy. An examination of his own words makes this obvious.
“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” (Bravery and idealism)
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions.” (Awareness of consequences of actions against a corrupt and abusive state with global reach, as well as self-sacrifice: a willingness to give up his freedom, family, girlfriend, home and $200,000-per-year job for the common good)
“I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.” (Desire for justice and awareness that someone has to act, and that if no one acts – even to provide a glimpse past the walls of secrecy ‘for an instant’ – the abuses of power will continue)
“I know the media likes to personalize political debates, and I know the government will demonize me.” (No desire for publicity or self-promotion; in fact, the opposite: concern that inevitable media focus on him personally will distract from the larger debate)
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
“I’m willing to sacrifice all of that [family, job, girlfriend, life etc.] because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” (Demonstration of conscience, a desire for the world to be open and just)
“I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made.”
“All my options are bad.” (Awareness of the likely consequences of standing up to the US)
“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets.” (A chilling reminder of the capabilities of the sociopathic US machine, from a man who knows better – due to his work experience – than almost all of us)
“The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night.”
“You can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act.”
“I don’t see myself as a hero because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”
“What they’re doing [poses] an existential threat to democracy”
“There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”
“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.”
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.” (A desire to protect individuals from being harmed by the leak)
“I do not expect to see home again.”
“I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”
The Obama administration has a problem here in that it will be far more difficult to smear this principled, intelligent and idealistic man. Bradley Manning was an easy target – all they had to do was repeatedly mention the fact that he was gay and that he ‘didn’t fit in’, was ‘seeking attention’ or was prone to erratic behaviour etc. Here we have a man who has demonstrated not only a clear-minded and selfless motive, but also mind-boggling courage and self-sacrifice. Mr. Manning possesses these qualities, too, but the public perception is different because he was turned in by Adrian Lamo, while Mr. Snowden requested that his identity be made public. As clear as day, anyone reading about him or seeing him talking on video will understand that he did this not for profit, not for attention, but to enable the entire world to comprehend the nature and scope of the illegal and immoral threat being raised against them in secret and with no accountability.
This reality, combined with the fact that – thanks to the rise in social media and corresponding decline of the influence of traditional purveyors of news – the world really is waking up to abuses at all levels of power and in all arenas…this reality is an explosive mix, and few will be of a mind to tolerate or pay any heed to millionaires in suits smearing this man as a traitor on television, particularly not after the steady diet of lies and slimy evasions people are accustomed to. Large demonstrations and even serious unrest could result from this as social justice activists around the world follow the example of this exceptional and inspirational person and put their lives on the line.
The spin machine has a bona fide hero on its hands. While we should be in no doubt that ways will be found to smear him nonetheless, it will not be as easy as before. For this reason, vigorous support not only for Mr Snowden but also for all whistleblowers, whose ‘outing’ was not as well ‘stage-managed’, is absolutely vital.
Not all the documents passed to The Washington Post and The Guardian have been published yet, and indeed Glenn Greenwald says that more revelations are coming. It is the duty now of these newspapers to release all this data, with redactions where necessary to protect sources. Mr. Snowden himself said that he examined each document meticulously to determine whether it was legitimately in the public interest and it is important to honor his sacrifice by carrying out his wishes to the letter. The full nature of this sinister and dangerous spying apparatus must be made public knowledge, not only to allow ordinary citizens everywhere to better protect their privacy, but also to ‘send a message’ to officials (so fond of ‘sending a message’ themselves mafia-style by persecuting whistleblowers), who never appear to learn with regard to the irrepressible nature of the human spirit for freedom, that secret actions intended to assert control over the world and its inhabitants can never succeed; not while people of the exceptional moral caliber of Edward Snowden remain breathing.
Let us conclude with two messages:
To the US authorities: Given that this leak has exposed beyond any doubt that complete secrecy is impossible to maintain, and that the recent Boston bombings prove that even blanket surveillance is no deterrent to terrorist attacks, it is time to end this insanity, to allow the people to install the truly democratic systems they crave, and to release all whistleblowers with sincere apologies, gratitude, ample compensation, and as many medals and awards as they can carry.
To potential whistleblowers and other social justice activists: More than anything, Edward Snowden has shown the incredible things that can be achieved with just one person’s courage, honesty and integrity. We must all strike now as the authorities are reeling. Act! Sun Tzu said something about striking when your enemy is reeling! Come forward with more information and bring this evil Empire crashing down by demonstrating to the world its illegality, immorality and inhumanity. They can’t silence or arrest everyone. Force even the mainstream media to cover the information you reveal and the actions you take. Nelson Mandela’s grave illness or even some engineered celebrity scandal will be milked to death to distract everyone, but that can be made impossible if your actions are powerful and sustained enough. You will not be alone: the unprecedented outpouring of support for Edward Snowden demonstrates this. Don’t let his sacrifice go to waste, buried by media spin and smears; he deserves better. You know perfectly well what will happen to this great man if the US gets its hands on him…and you know that they will if we do not act. This must not be permitted. If tears do not well up in your eyes on considering his hopeless plight, you’re not human; you’re a victim of induced sociopathy, a mental state brought on by a devastatingly shallow society with all its intentionally-wrought ills.
Time to step up and be counted.
Author’s note: in order to protect people like Edward Snowden and bring about the just, democratic systems he so obviously believes in, we need to act ourselves and take power back now. Please follow and actively support The Movement as detailed below.
Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of ‘The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it provides a manifesto and strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.
Bitcoin donations are now gratefully accepted: