When Edward Snowden first started revealing to journalist Glenn Greenwald how the NSA has secretly been spying on all of us, he made a point of differentiating himself from Bradley Manning:
Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “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.”
That was, I thought, an admirable approach. Snowden was saying he was still a loyal American, and that he was going to limit his revelation of NSA secrets to only those things he believed were wrongfully hidden from the American people. There were things the U.S. government was doing to hurt its citizens, and he felt he had to reveal them, but other than that, he was still going to do his duty to keep his country’s secrets safe.
But there was the implication… If Snowden is promising not to reveal other secrets that could hurt U.S. interests…it implies that knows other secrets that could hurt U.S. interests. These secrets might be the kind of secrets the government doesn’t want revealed in public. In fact, preventing these secrets from coming out might be more important than, say, apprehending Edward Snowden and charging him with espionage. Not that he was making any threats…
National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden possesses enough information to cause more damage to the United States government than “anyone else has ever had in the history” of the country, according to the journalist who first reported the former contractor’s leaked documents.
Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian newspaper who first reported on the intelligence leaks, told Argentinian newspaper La Nacion that the U.S. government should exercise extreme care with Snowden because he has the potential to do further damage to the country.
“But that’s not his goal,” Greenwald told the newspaper. “His objective is to expose software that people around the world use without knowing what they are exposing themselves to, without consciously agreeing to surrender their rights to privacy. He has a huge number of documents that would be very harmful to the U.S. government if they were made public.”
Greenwald also told The Associated Press that disclosure of the information in the documents would “allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”
Or in other words, “Nice secret spy operations you’ve got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to them.”
And yes, he’s using it as an insurance policy:
Asked about a so-called dead man’s pact, which Greenwald has said would allow several people to access Snowden’s trove of documents were anything to happen to him, Greenwald replied that “media descriptions of it have been overly simplistic.
“It’s not just a matter of, if he dies, things get released, it’s more nuanced than that,” he said. “It’s really just a way to protect himself against extremely rogue behavior on the part of the United States, by which I mean violent actions toward him, designed to end his life, and it’s just a way to ensure that nobody feels incentivized to do that.”
There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have said Snowden was paranoid for thinking this way. He’s worried about spy movie nonsense. The U.S. government doesn’t really murder American citizens in cold blood without a trial.
And then the Obama administration ordered an American citizen killed without a trial. So if the President thinks there’s nothing wrong with killing an American citizen with a drone strike in the desert of Yemen, I don’t see why he’d hesitate to have Snowden shot in the back of the head in a Moscow airport restroom.