The Conversation

Snowden, Wikileaks, and the 'freelance truth squad' peril

In response to Wikileaks: Snowden Heading to Democratic Country Escorted by Legal Advisors:

Nothing says "freedom and transparency" quite like an exodus from China to Venezuela by way of Russia and Cuba, does it?

I had deep reservations about Snowden from the moment I read that initial Guardian interview with him.  For expressing those reservations, I got savaged by a few loons from his cult of personality, which formed with suspicious speed.  Of course, most of them seamlessly transferred from Wikileaks worship to Snowden-worship.  

I thought (and continue to believe) there was some solid and truly controversial information about US government surveillance in his original disclosures, and it all must be viewed in the context of Obama's numerous abuse-of-power scandals - I'm not crazy about any Administration piling up a huge, perpetual, easily-mined intelligence database on just about everyone, probable cause be damned, but I'm especially nervous about this particular crew having access to it.

At the same time, I've always had a problem with the self-appointed truth squads like Wikileaks, who only seem interested in exposing and ruining Western intelligence operations.  For all their rhetoric about information wanting to be free, in practical terms they serve as auxiliaries of Chinese, Russian, and terrorist intelligence networks.  This is partially because, for all their bravado, they don't have the stones to run "transparency" operations against the totalitarian states that would kill them for it.  In effect, they're enforcing a decree that only the bad guys get to keep secrets.  I don't think it's any improvement to say that self-appointed hacktivists should be making those decisions, instead of highly-flawed government agencies that have at least some accountability to the people of their respective nations, and goals beyond self-aggrandizement.

Furthermore, it sure looks as if Snowden and his Wikileaks pals are more than just "default" allies of the world's bad actors.  They speak with considerable enthusiasm about the virtues of Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela.  Some people are trying to parse the Wikileaks statement to figure out which "democratic" country they're helping Snowden flee to, but frankly that term is so meaningless to these people that they could be talking about virtually any nation in the world - even the repressive regimes Snowden and his pals admire pretend to hold elections, don't they?  They could be talking about Iran, for all we know.

It certainly does seem like this Wikileaks game is heavily rigged against the U.S. and her allies, and Snowden has proven himself to be a free-floating security risk who isn't merely interested in exposing an NSA data-collection system he found ethically disturbing.


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