Monday, June 24, 2013

Can We Be Sure People Like Snowden Are On Our Side?

The recent blow-up over Edward Snowden's leaking of NSA documents detailing some pretty nasty homegrown surveillance programs in the US, and the subsequent manhunt period we're now in, has got me thinking.

Imagine a situation, if you will. A man or woman working in some branch of the US's intelligence services, whether NSA or FBI or CIA or whatever acronym you'd like, decides to grab a bunch of passcodes and download lots of data files relating to that agency's programs, such as domestic and international surveillance. This person then decides to leak this information to the media or through other forms of dissemination about the domestic programs, thus garnering lots of attention; they then flee to a country like China or Russia or, laughably, Venezuela, ostensibly to avoid prosecution from US authorities, but also packing information on the US international spying programs in order to sell to his new host country, either for money or safety, or blackmails the US with the possible release of the data.

Now, before anyone goes off the rails, I am not suggesting Edward Snowden has done this. I don't know and don't necessarily care what his goals are at this point, though I will point out that there is evidence coming to light that he sought to do this from the beginning, aka it was premeditated, which should make one suspicious.

But, again, I'm not saying this is Snowden's angle. But imagine if it was. Given Snowden's cause célèbre that everyone seems to be latching onto, would it not be an amazing plan? No one likes an out-and-out traitor, but someone following this plan could muddy the waters by pointing to the released documents on domestic surveillance and say he's fighting for American's rights, all the while selling off more information to the US's opponents in the international community, which I'm sure would come with a nice price tag.

I guess what I'm saying is, should we in the public writ-large be so quick to believe in the altruistic intentions of someone like Snowden? He had an immense amount of access to some of the world's most sensitive data and has shown he is quite willing to release it. What is there to say that Snowden or someone in a similar position doesn't have an ulterior motive? Why should we take their word, or anyone's, on their good intentions (the same goes for the government, of course)?

Maybe its the skeptic in me in overdrive. I just don't necessarily trust that a person now in his situation would willingly do that without getting something out of it. I don't think we should all be so quick to jump to his defense either, especially not without knowing the full story.

Basically, I'm just asking people to not be so naive. There is bound to be more to Snowden's story than we know.

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