No, Obama’s Remarks on Changes to NSA Surveillance Programs Don’t Vindicate Edward Snowden’s Actions

edward-snowdenPresident Obama recently held a press conference where he announced several modest changes to how the NSA can collect data and how they handle their surveillance programs.  Changes that apparently neither NSA opponents nor NSA defenders are happy with.

Well, the cheers of “Edward Snowden the patriot” have suddenly become louder as his defenders see this shift by the Obama Administration as a direct result of Mr. Snowden’s actions last year.

And on some level, they’re right.  Snowden’s actions are responsible for much of this being brought to the public’s attention.

But that doesn’t make him a patriot and Obama’s comments damn sure don’t vindicate what he did.

By just what I’ve witnessed, Snowden is an arrogant individual who did this for his own personal reasons.  This wasn’t a selfless act of heroism, it was one man’s quest to try to make himself a celebrity.  I really believe he thought he would do this and there would be countries all over the world fighting for the right to offer him asylum from United States prosecution.

He didn’t leak this stuff, then stay in the shadows.  He didn’t take a few carefully selected pieces of information and leak them out to the American press to bring to light.  No, he took the information, ran to China then began giving interviews with foreign news agencies.

He wanted to become famous for doing this.  He just thought after he did it that things would go much differently for him.

While I’ll admit some of what he exposed is stuff the public should have known, there are ways to do things and ways not to do things.  This man has actually tried to use some of the information he has to bribe other countries into giving him asylum.  Essentially he’s willing to sell out the United States and our information to save his own ass.

Those aren’t actions of a hero and they’re sure as hell not the actions of a patriot.

Liberals often don’t like my stance on our national security, and that’s fine.  But I see national security for what it is — something that 99.99% of Americans know absolutely nothing about.  We have no idea what has been prevented due to these programs.  But I do know if we were to be attacked, much in the same way we were on 9/11, millions of Americans would be outraged over the “failed intelligence” that left us vulnerable to that attack.

Just look at President Obama.  He was fairly pro-transparency on issues such as our national security prior to moving into the White House.  Then it seems once he actually learned the insides of what presidents find out — his stance seemed to change.

Does it ever occur to people that there’s a whole lot going on in the world of national security that we don’t have a clue about?  That there’s a reason why a lot of this needs to be kept secret?

Isn’t it kind of ridiculous that we build these strong opinions about our national security when we honestly have no idea what really goes on?

Americans love our freedom and security, but the truth is we really don’t want to know how we keep it.

It’s like the analogy I used about steak.  Millions of Americans love a good steak.  Just most of them don’t want to meet the cow or see how it was butchered before eating it.

What Edward Snowden did was illegally take millions of classified documents, went public with them — then tried to turn himself into a celebrity.

Hell, did you see the ridiculous video he released around Christmas?  He went on some rant about children never being able to know privacy and how we carry around with us devices which allow us to be tracked at every moment (I’m assuming he meant cell phones).

Snowden said:

“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”

What the hell does that even mean?  Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be?  Actually sociology says our peers, environment and family are the biggest determining factors in how we turn out and ultimately who we choose to be.

What he said is just some babbling philosophical b.s. that might sound great to those who want to agree with him — it just doesn’t make any sense.  It’s nothing more than over the top rhetoric.

Besides, who was really “shocked” by what he released?  It’s been my understanding, judging by many of the reactions that I’ve seen, that most Americans kind of figured this was going on anyway.  So was anything Snowden “brought to light” really that groundbreaking?

I hate to tell you, but the Patriot Act is just window dressing.  These agencies will get into whatever records they want to, at any time they want to, whether or not they have congressional approval to do so.  And that’s not a Bush thing; or an Obama thing; or a Democrat thing; or a Republican thing — because I promise you it’s been going on since the dawn of national security.

And again, heroes and patriots don’t run to places like China and Russia while blackmailing the United States.  He wants to act like he’s disgusted by how the United States behaves — while he saves his own ass in Russia?  A country with horrific anti-LGBT policies and almost assuredly has far more invasive spying programs that we do.

It seems he had no problem accepting temporary asylum there because that benefitted him.

And if you don’t believe that he hasn’t turned over some of that information to the Russian government, you’re fooling yourself.

Edward Snowden strikes me as a guy who’ll say or do whatever he can to save his own ass.  He pretends to live on this high ground of morality without seemingly once asking himself what him leaking this information out might do to our national security in the long run.  All while he seems to have no issues seeking refuge in Russia, basically an enemy to the United States, and a country whose government is far more corrupt.

So, while I fully admit that Snowden is partially responsible for these revelations about the NSA spying programs that led to President Obama announcing moderate changes in how information is collected, that’s not a vindication of his actions.

What he did goes beyond a simple “leak” about the NSA controversially tracking phone records.  He made sure to make this about himself. He’s used information to try to bribe other countries into offering him asylum.  He’s taken up in Russia and has almost assuredly given them some of the information he has and he’s leaked information about our spying programs on other countries in what appeared to be nothing more than an attempt to entice some country into offering him protection by making them angry at the United States.

His actions aren’t those of a hero, but of a guy who seemed to have a plan — but that plan fell completely apart.  Now he’s doing whatever he can to save his own ass and has shown he has no problem selling out the United States government to other governments that are probably doing the exact same thing as long as it might benefit him.

So I’m sorry, but Edward Snowden being right about a small percentage of something simply doesn’t nullify everything else he’s done wrong.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • Matthew Reece

    Snowden is a hero who did what he had to do. Do you really think that even this much change (which to be fair, is not much) would have happened if he had gone through “proper” channels?

    As for fame seeking, he had to do that so the violent criminals known as agents of the state could not murder him without incident.

    • Pipercat

      He was sloppy, took some bad advice and will ultimately, change nothing.

    • Jan R.

      Three former NSA figures tried for years to spill the beans and got nowhere. This Obama ankle-licking piece is pathetic.

  • Mrs_oatmeal

    Selling out the U.S. A. Does not make him a hero IMO. He just sold out information to the highest bidder.

    • Jan R.

      Like the government

  • Matthew Reece

    “I hate to tell you, but the Patriot Act is just window dressing. These
    agencies will get into whatever records they want to, at any time they
    want to, whether or not they have congressional approval to do so. And
    that’s not a Bush thing; or an Obama thing; or a Democrat thing; or a
    Republican thing – because I promise you it’s been going on since the
    dawn of national security.”
    This is one reason why government is too dangerous to be allowed to operate.

  • strayaway

    This article must be a press release from the Bureau of Doublethink or the Stasi. Obama’s performance did not put an end to the federal government keeping records of our email, text messages, phone calls, credit card purchases, bank balances, car movements, doctors visits, and air travel as regulated by “secret courts”. Snowden is guilty of violating NSA rules but not the Constitution. The President and this article are, in contrast, big on NSA rules but seemingly indifferent to the Fourth Amendment. Because of Snowden, we now are beginning to better understand the extent of Bush/Obama police state apparatus. Sorry, but even if Snowden could be captured and tortured like Manning, the horse is out of the barn.

    “The president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the constitution.” -ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero after the President’s speech

    Glenn Greenwald defined President Obama’s legacy after the speech, “He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.” These quotes are from a Guardian article,”Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public.” It can be Googled.

    • Pipercat

      Then write your Congressman and Senator. It’s up to them to change or repeal the law. The rest are just platitudes.

      • Jan R.

        You can’t be serious.

      • Pipercat

        Oh yes, because no other branch has the power to do so. The Executive cannot summarily stop the program because that would violate the law. The courts are complicit due to their involvement in the FISA courts. Only congress has the power and the duty to at least change or repeal the laws that govern how intelligence is gathered.

      • strayaway

        I’ve covered al the bases. I wrote multiple times to compensate for people who think the Fourth Amendment is just a platitude. But I thought the president has on numerous occasions changed or ignored laws. In fact, he was proposing to put frosting on a turd in last nights speech. Why, our privacy will surely be protected if the same president who has been fighting to retain all these attacks on the Fourth Amendment will appoint some campaign contributors to his commission to protect our civic rights. Baaa.

      • Pipercat

        The fourth has been made meaningless by precedent. A simple review of some of the more recent Supreme Court decisions have broadened the State’s power to a point where probable cause has been changed into possible cause. Any change will not come from the courts because they are complicit. Regardless of any Executive action, change can only come from Congress. The National Security Act, FISA, Patriot Acts I, II and II.5 are all acts of Congress. That is where the use of TIA/Prism gets its legitimacy. Change can only come from them. So again, write your Representative and Senator.

      • strayaway

        Speak your yourself about the Fourth Amendment being meaningless. It is still meaningful to many of us whatever polished words clever judges choose to ignore it.

        Presidents can veto all these things as they come up including renewals of some of these odious bills. Neither Bush nor Obama did so. Presidents also appoint people to run some of these agencies and give them direction; one of whom was Clapper who committed perjury in front of Congress. One problem with that is if Congress has to base its decisions on the basis of what liars tell it, Congress will make poor decisions. Another problem is that Clapper is still in his job at the pleasure of the President after committing perjury. The President, at least, should fire him and hire someone who hasn’t lost all credibility. It’s not just Congress. Maybe the courts live too much in fear of people like the President and Clapper to dispense justice.

      • Pipercat

        Use that finger you’re pointing and instead use it to call your Congressman or Senator. Now pay close attention: It is up to Congress to change the laws.

      • strayaway

        I already addressed both of those things including pointing out in my previous response that your response is is a simplistic. The President failed to veto any of this and maintains perjurers in appointed positions. If you want me to repeat any of this again I will. I also notice that you are seem to be consistently on Obama’s side rather than the side of the 4th Amendment on these related issues. I could be wrong as I don’t profess to read minds but I haven’t heard you come out and say that you want the Fourth amendment enforced.

      • Pipercat

        Notice how I’m not busting your balls on this? I am totally dismayed as to what has happened to the 4th. In fact, it’s been eviscerated. The courts did that. Ilysa Fuchs did a post a few back showing how the court over the as few decades has wiped out not only the intention of the Amendment, but the spirit as well. Moreover, with their recent track record, the court is the last branch I want dealing with this domestic spying issue. The commentary on the Executive is irrelevant because it does not change the fact the laws are still in place and being funded. You see, there is only one side, the side that has created the environment where this spying can occur. That side is Congress. They have to change the laws and stop the funding, period. The rest is lip service that wastes time and allows the spying to continue. I’ve been well aware of TIA/Prism since at least 2003, maybe 2002. I agree what Snowden did, just not how he did it. His method has raised awareness of the program; conversely it also has done nothing but create two opposing camps only this time with different players. If Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders can come together and demand a change to the laws. Others can too. Fuck Snowden, he’s done his job now he has to make his own decisions, good for him. Meanwhile, while bullshit is flung in multiple directions, the program, spying and laws are still in place.

    • Jan R.

      Well, as you know, the Obamakins think nothing he does is wrong.

  • sicsempertyrannis1

    You lost me on this one Allen. “I hate to tell you, but the Patriot Act is just window dressing. These agencies will get into whatever records they want to, at any time they want to, whether or not they have congressional approval to do so. And that’s not a Bush thing; or an Obama thing; or a Democrat thing; or a Republican thing – because I promise you it’s been going on since the
    dawn of national security.”

    Ok so using your line of reasoning, because an abuse of power is old, we should just accept it and move on?

  • Will

    the author is clearly not forward or progressive, otherwise freedom and liberty would be of top importance. Why is this even on this site? Anyway, he is off base by a large distance. Manning, Snowden and Brown have all very pointedly asserted and with much evidence that these US has become a police state, and combined with corporate fraternity mindset has literally made the upper 1 or 2% able to control us, what we see, and what we are allowed to say. It is scary and if you cannot see that, then you too are not forward or progressive.