Saturday, June 29, 2013

Snowden's Choice: Door No. 3

As the Edward Snowden story evolves it is getting steadily more difficult for me to see him in the same light as Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), the quintessential whistleblower. What Snowden has done can’t authentically be seen as civil disobedience, because he hasn’t stayed to face the music. So, Snowden is certainly no Rosa Parks on a bus in Alabama, or Muhammad Ali resisting the draft. Snowden’s tactics haven’t reminded me of other courageous whistleblowers, like Karen Silkwood (nuclear power) or Jeffrey Wigand (tobacco), either.

Once Snowden decided to go ahead and release the information he had collected, he had some choices about what to do next. Among them were:

Door No. 1: Like those listed above, he could have bravely stood his ground in the USA and faced whatever his action would bring on from the federal government.

Door No. 2: He could have stealthily disappeared and stayed hidden underground somewhere in America, or in another country. With his mission accomplished he could have vanished.

Door No. 3: He could have fled to another country, one he hoped wouldn’t extradite him, and promoted himself as a celebrity through the media.

Obviously, we know which door Snowden picked.

Of course, one is free to try to separate the worrisome surveillance issues raised by the story from Snowden himself. But much of the sudden outrage over what the NSA and other governmental agencies and their hired-gun operatives have been doing for years seems a bit like lamenting the loss of a horse that left the barn a decade ago.

Hey, I was as opposed to much of what was in the Patriot Act the Bush administration rammed through Congress. I didn't want to legalize all that spying, but authorizations or not, the digital world we live in makes it possible to spy on virtually everybody. So it is happening and today's post-Snowden accusations aren't likely to stop it. Bluster aside, personal privacy died long before Obama became president.

Maybe it feels good for folks to puff up and shriek, via Twitter and Facebook, about the Big Brother-like government looking over their shoulders. But for people who routinely use the Internet, cell phones and credit cards for the sake of convenience to squawk about the compromising of their cherished privacy is kind of silly. It's just making noise. 

Moreover, in 2013, as far as collecting data on citizens goes -- spying on us -- I worry more about what mammoth corporations might be doing than the government.

Still, I'm glad Snowden let another cat out of the bag. A better-late-than-never national conversation about surveillance issues could be a good thing. But as celebrities go, my guess is Snowden will be forgotten sooner than most of the popular contestants on television's game shows. That,  in spite of his father's attempt to play Let's Make a Deal with the Justice Dept.

No comments: