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article imageOp-Ed: Edward Snowden turns tail and defects to Russia, of all places

By Marcus Hondro     Aug 4, 2013 in Politics
How odd that the self-appointed champion of human rights, Edward Snowden, has defected to Russia. The man turned traitor on the country that nurtured him, educated him, gave to him the notion people have rights, and then defected to Russia?
Culturally there is a multitude of reasons to love Russia and it has a fascinating history and citizens who achieve great things. But the country's human rights record under President Vladimir Putin is shameful, something that surely has not escaped Mr. Snowden. But he was apparently overjoyed when he got the word he could enter Russia, a place where few have the kind of rights he enjoyed in the U.S..
The country's human rights record includes banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" (read, you can't publish an opinion that states gays and lesbians deserve equal rights) and jailing members of a rock band for what in the U.S. would not have raised an eyebrow. It also includes shutting NGOs down for pointing out corruption or even for hosting a discussion on a topic which the authorities don't want people talking about.
Like privacy rights.
So Mr. Snowden is now in a bed with Mr. Putin. The same Mr. Putin whose regime banned a book for exposing war crimes in Chechnya. The same Mr. Putin whose regime Hugh Williamson of Human Rights Watch said is “pushing civil society activists (in Russia) to the margins of the law." Mr. Williamson also said the "crackdown" on dissidence and human rights by the Russian government since Mr. Putin regained the presidency "is hurting Russian society and harming Russia’s international standing.”
Edward Snowden: Whistleblower or blowhard?
You might argue the NSA in the U.S. should not 'spy' on citizens and so with his actions Mr. Snowden, at least before going cap in hand to Russia, was something akin to a hero. But not only is Russia's record with regards privacy far worse, in reality Mr. Snowden didn't reveal spying per se, just the potential for spying, and he revealed little that was new. Here's an exert from a USA Today article on the NSA and secret data collection:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
That comes from a story written by Lesley Cauley for USA Today - in 2006. Further, he did not reveal anything that was against the law, but rather something he did not like. Jeffrey Toobin put in nicely in a story in the New Yorker:
"...(Mr. Snowden) wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done."
Obama claims PRISM protects Americans
In essence, the PRISM program the NSA has implemented eliminated one step so they can move more quickly to prevent an act of terror they obtain intelligence on. It hardly seems surprising that they would do so given the state of this sad world and the potential for one person, or a handful of persons, to inflict mass destruction upon innocents. There are those who feel more comfortable knowing PRISM exists and while others feel the opposite they may think differently were they charged with protecting 310 million citizens.
President Barack Obama claims a warrant must be obtained to glean any information and insists the program has saved lives and is "a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people." Many don't believe him, which is fair enough, but the facts are Mr. Snowden revealed nothing to show records are being viewed without a warrant, or that they're being used to spy on people engaging in legal activities.
The rest of his revealations embarrass his country yet is behavior many powers engage in. We may desire a world where spying doesn't occur but anyone with a grade school knowledge of the geopolitical struggle the planet is engaged in already knew it does before Mr. Snowden came along. Indeed, the muted response from countries to the information they had been spied on by the U.S. is an indicator that they, too, engage in similar activities.
Snowden and Putin: World's oddest couple?
If he was a hero he'd have stayed home and gone to trial over his actions, had his day in court and spoken his piece about what he felt his government was doing wrong. That's the American way. Instead he has in essence defected to a country that, when it comes to human rights, appears to be beating a hasty retreat back to the Dark Ages.
Part of the problem for Mr. Snowden now is if you climb into bed with a snake you may get bitten, and badly. For should the Americans present Mr. Putin and the Russians with an offer they can't refuse, there is nothing to prevent them from sending him home. Then he will be forced to fight in court for what he alleges to believe in, but only after having first tarnished his reputation by coupling with a burgeoning dictator.
So I am inclined to believe Mr. Snowden has managed little of consequence and the longer he stays in Russia the fewer who will consider him a hero. U.S. General Wesley Clark also thinks Mr. Snowden accomplished little and I agree with him when he says that soon enough “Edward Snowden is going to disappear from the pages of history.”
In, of all places, Russia.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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