Tuesday, June 11, 2013

PRISM and Altruism: Is Edward Snowden Too Perfect a Hero and Public Servant?

I know I am not the only person thinking the following thoughts.

Edward Snowden will be vetted. His background and motivations for leaking information about the National Security Administration's (NSA) spying on the American people will be much discussed by the media. Ultimately, the man Edward Snowden should matter less than the facts and information he shared. We do not live in a perfect world. As such, the messenger will be scrutinized at least as much as the policies he chose to bring out of the shadows and into the public light.

Edward Snowden could be a serial killing child molesting animal abuser. I could care less. PRISM is bigger than any personal failings of the messenger. Yet, I do have some questions and curiosities about Edward Snowden.

I will share my own priors: I like my heroes to be a bit dirty and imperfect. To point. Brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a plagiarist and a womanizer. He is still someone I greatly admire. Other great men were petty tyrants, egomaniacs, or addicted to drugs and alcohol. This makes them all the more human and their achievements even more grand--at least to me.

In all, I prefer human heroes as opposed to those who exist on Mount Olympus too far away to touch, feel, relate to, and understand. Other folks may make different choices, that too is good.

According to published reports (that should be much interrogated) Edward Snowden was a mid tier computer tech working for the National Security Administration via a contractor. He also left high school to earn a GED. Edward Snowden washed out of the military before accomplishing his dream of joining The United States Army Special Forces. Despite these stumbles, he was trusted with a security clearance and a job where he earned at least 200,000 dollars a year.

Why did Edward Snowden walk away from such a good deal? Was he motivated "just" by patriotism and a belief in the Common Good and the Public Interest? I do hope so. But, I/we must/should entertain other possibilities.

Did Edward Snowden tell the media about PRISM and the NSA's domestic spying programs because of a movie or a book deal? Was Edward Snowden offered other inducements?

I am cynical. I am also guided by Occam's razor. If Edward Snowden went public because he realized that he was safer on TV than in the shadows, thus making it harder for the United States government to kill him, such a move would make sense to me. If Edward Snowden was motivated by a grievance against a superior, and he had to move first or be made into a scapegoat for offenses far worse than PRISM, the calculation to go public is also a sound one.

To my eyes, money and promises of future riches and fame cohere as incentives for throwing away a good career and a sound pension plan for a 200k a year earner with a GED.

Trading a life, one's safety, and financial security in the service of altruism?

I need to be convinced.

Whatever Edward Snowden's motivations were, he did the right thing. Edward Snowden is a patriot even if his motives may not have been pure...but then again, whose are?


JGrey said...

This apathetic white guy just woke up one morning and found out he was a warrior of liberty.

It's hard to believe this happened without some kind of catalyst. Well , it shouldn't happen without one.

Ben Grim said...

Right you are. Right now I'm changing my mind a little bit and thinking there may be something to Chauncey's first take on the subject. If I were Spiderman I'd say my spidey sense is tingling.

chauncey devega said...

If more apathetic white guys do the right thing we would all be in much better shape.

chauncey devega said...

Don't drink any conspiranoid kool-aid during your awakening. Just ask some hard questions about the bigger play here.

Wavenstein said...

I'm always more concerned with the message rather than the messenger. If he got a little something out of it then more power to him. Doesn't change anything about what he's revealing.

Ben Grim said...

no. i'm thinking of switching to obama-aid. whats it like?

chauncey devega said...

ha ha. no need to retread that tired stuff. you should do your own site though--obama derangement syndrome of the day ;)

Ben Grim said...

or i could do one where obama is accountable for the things he does. ...nah... who'd wanna read that?

chauncey devega said...

I agree. Funny, how he is now the story in some circles.

DetroitSam said...

The only thing anyone needs to know about the traitor Snowden is that he is involved with Glen Greenwald.

Greenwald hate President Obama and has been looking for something to bring him down. Being the patriotic warrior that he is, Greenwald has never gotten over the fact that Hillary Clinton is not President and uses every chance he can get to trash President Obama.

Besides, anyone who pays attention and who does not have reading and comprehension issues know that THEIR WAS/IS NOTHING ILLEGIAL GOING ON WITH THE NSA DATA MINNING PROGRAM.

Repeat after me, whether you agree or disagree with data mining, THEIR WAS/IS NOTHING ILLEGIAL GOING ON WITH THE NSA DATA MINNING PROGRAM.
Try to remember this if the ter'ist launches a nuclear device in this country because don't really understand FISA.

DetroitSam said...

He made himself the story.