Snowden, Assange, Greenwald, and anyone else who believes that NSA spying on American citizens is wrong is a tool for Mother Russia. Makes sense.
I just read Edward Lucas’s Wall Street Journal piece entitled “A Press Corps Full of Snowdenistas.” I can’t honestly say if Mr. Lucas is a liar, an idiot, or simply a guy who’s a little too captive to the security state party line to see past his own dogma. We’ll be charitable for the moment and assume the latter, although “wild-eyed apparatchik” is hardly something to aspire to.
The premise of his rant is more or less summed up with this:
Snowdenistas are extraordinarily paranoid about the actions of their own governments, yet they and their media allies are strangely trusting about the aims and capabilities of the government of Russia—where Mr. Snowden arrived so oddly and lives so secretly.
Understand, he isn’t referring to Commie #Occupy types here, he’s referring to his “media colleagues.” Since he’s a senior editor at the Economist, we’re not talking about unhinged leftie bloggers, either. We’re talking about high level players in the media establishment. Check.
So the posit is that all these corporate media machine types are naïve about Russia’s intentions. They think guy who threw Pussy Riot in the slammer is a teddy bear who can be trusted more than our own government.
Really? I mean, I have a lot of bad things to say about corporate media, but I’d never accuse them of this. I think they’re perfectly aware that Putin is a snake, and they get that the same goes for China and the rest of America’s rivals around the world. The brighter ones in the crowd probably understand that even our allies can’t be trusted not to snoop on us. Of course Russia is doing all it can to make hay with the Snowden case.
In sum, Lucas’s position works if, and only if, we play along with a cynical rhetorical misdirection: he completely refuses to credit why people are sympathetic to Edward Snowden: systemic governmental spying on US citizens who are not suspected of wrongdoing. It isn’t about Russia. It isn’t about China. It’s about the NSA reading your grandmother’s Facebook page.
Lucas’s article is a tour de force of intellectual dishonesty. For instance:
Mr. Snowden has not proved systematic abuse by the NSA or partner agencies.
Ummm. This contention probably works if I adopt a Newspeak definition of the words “systematic” and “abuse.” Given common understandings of the words and the context of revelations since Snowden first came to the public’s attention, though, this sentence mainly works to warn us that we’re dealing with someone who can’t be trusted.
Espionage is inherently disreputable: It involves stealing secrets. But enemies of the West—notably Russia and China—are spying on us. Our agencies defend us from them—and help catch terrorists and gangsters, too.
Yes. But nobody is complaining that we’re spying on Russia and China and al Qaeda and the Gambino family, are they?
Anti-Americanism in Germany and other European countries is now ablaze. The Russian-Chinese campaign to wrest control of the Internet from its American founding fathers (meaning more censorship and control) has gained momentum. Western protestations of concern for online freedom and privacy ring hollow. The reputation of the biggest Western Internet firms has taken a pounding for their supposed complicity in espionage. Their rivals are gleeful.
I’m disappointed that he couldn’t find a way to shoehorn “freedom fighters” into this content-free rhetorical flourish.
Mr. Snowden’s cheerleaders brush that aside. Instead they demand to know what right U.S. agencies have to bug and snoop. The answer is simple. America’s spies—unlike those in most countries—are responsible to their elected leaders, and supervised by judges and lawmakers.
Ummm, not really. No one questions the right of our government to snoop, per se. We know we have enemies. We remember Pearl Harbor and the Cold War and we damned sure remember 9/11. What is questioned is the right to snoop on innocent American citizens in the absence of probable cause. Forgive us. This is the sort of foolishness that comes from reading the Constitution.
The “supervised by judges and lawmakers” part is yet another nice misdirection. The NSA is “supervised” by a secret autonomous court that rubber stamps any and all requests the agency makes. When we pretend that this is “supervision” we render the language meaningless.
America and its closest allies have the world’s only successful no-spy agreement.
Really? How do you know this? There is ample evidence suggesting that even our close friends abroad are engaged in aggressive industrial espionage campaigns against us. But this is a peripheral point. Read on.
The question should be put in the other direction. What gives the Snowden operation the right to leak our most closely guarded, hard-won and costly secrets?
No, the question shouldn’t be put in the other direction. The Constitution was put into place to safeguard our civil liberties. If the government wants to snoop, the burden of proof is on them. Innocent citizens are not hauled before the court and forced to demonstrate that they shouldn’t be investigated.
I accept that a debate is overdue on the collection and warehousing of metadata (details about the location, duration and direction of a phone call, but not its content). If you know who called a suicide-prevention helpline, and from where and when, the contents of the call matter less than the circumstances. The NSA may have deliberately weakened the hardware and software sold by American companies in order to be able secretly to exploit those vulnerabilities. If so (and the charge is unproven), it was a tactical triumph but a strategic error.
And this is as close as he comes to admitting the truth of his media colleagues’ concerns. He couches it in language that, as clinically as possible, sanitizes what was actually being done, of course. Doesn’t “collection and warehousing of metadata” sound a lot nicer than “spying on innocent US citizens”? And he grudgingly admits, in language that minimizes its importance as much as possible, that the NSA undermined the systems we all use every day (seriously, Angry Fucking Birds?). And not once does he say things like “probable cause” or “warrant” or “due process.”
He and his allies are not conscious Russian agents. But history gives plenty of examples of indirect Kremlin involvement in Western political movements. Like the antinuclear movement of the early 1980s, Snowdenistas see their own countries’ flaws with blinding clarity and ignore those of repressive regimes elsewhere.
Far too little attention has been paid to the political agendas of people such as the bombastic Brazil-based blogger Glenn Greenwald, the hysterical hacktivist Jacob Appelbaum and the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who cloak their extreme and muddled beliefs in the language of rights, liberties and justice. Their actions are bringing about the greatest peacetime defeat in the history of the West. That is not a noble crusade.
And there’s the coup de grace. Let’s demonize those who insist on the basic precepts of liberty upon which the country was founded, and in doing so, let’s make sure we assign to them motives that are completely at odds with the reality of their campaigns. Snowden and Assange and Greenwald and the rest of their ilk are about selling America to the Russkis.
I take what I said above back. Lucas doesn’t deserve a scrap of presumption. He may not be an idiot, but he is a corrupt tool and this corrosive assault on both the facts of the case and the English language in general would give Orwell himself the willies.
Edward Lucas has provided us with as obscene an exercise in intellectual dishonesty as we’ll see today, and while it’s been a long time since I expected much in the way of journalistic integrity from the WSJ, their decision to print this drivel undershoots even their already low standards for truth.