TreatRothschild wrote:American here: I think that the information that Snowden revealed was amazing. I think he did the right thing. I think, however, that immediately running to Russia to get to Cuba was a mistake.
The right way to do it, in my opinion, was to lawyer up with huge, big name lawyers. Then go public. He was a contractor, not an Army private. If he went really public, really quickly, then it's difficult to make him disappear. It is far easier to discredit him now than it would be under the auspices I just put forward.
I do not think any of that was an option for him, really. Maybe he was a contractor, but he signed stuff that legally obliged him to keep mum. And even if he hadn't, 'cloak and dagger' laws in the USA are pretty far-reaching. Even someone who has not agreed to anything can be legally obliged to keep stuff secret.
So, the minute he went informing/betraying his country (take your pick), he would have been arrested, hot-shot lawyers or no lawyers, and probably not have been allowed any more contact with the outside world (see Manning). So, he would have needed to hand over ALL the stuff he knew in one go to reporters (the way Manning did to Assange) and trust them to reveal the relevant stuff and not to reveal the stuff that should not be revealed. He also would not have been around to tell his story, do interviews, etc, which would most likely have lessened the impact/credibilty of what he had to say.
Difference between Manning and Snowden: Manning was an active duty soldier. There are entirely different laws. The commonality between the two, however, is that they both had access to things they should not have. It worked to our advantage, however.
Being locked up, not able to say or do anything, he would not have been able to say anything in his own defence, would not have been able to bring up new stuff directly contradicted the stuff brought up by the NSA and it's champions after the first revelations came out, the way he has been doing now. He might have had a few lawyers speaking for him, but that doesn't mean that much with the public. In the eyes of most people, lawyers will say anything. After all, they speak on behalf of murderers as well.
You think I'm talking about the local lawyer down the road. No. Folks like Alan Dershowitz and Ron Kube. BIG names.
Being 'free', he has the means to elaborate on his claims, to keep the story alive, instead of it getting burried on page 7 and then forgotten about as another tiny scandal. The very FACT that he ran gave the story greater impact by itself, turning it into a spy-novel sort of thing that everyone was bound to hear about. A bit of drama really helps to make people notice something. Also, being free probably has the added benefit of not being locked up for the better part of his time on earth.
I hope he stays free. Although, Russia may not be the Nirvana he thinks it is.
I guess that the 'PR-downside' to him doing a runner is this whole patriotic thing that you US-folks have a lot of. You root for team US. And if this guy is running from team US, embarrassing it, finding help from team Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and so forth, he is likely to be viewed as the enemy according to the logic of blind patriotism. I suspect that, if he could have, he would have gone to a less obviously anti-American country (he went to (fairly neutral, politcally) Hong Kong, and then he applied for asylum in Iceland, then in a load of other countries, that really OUGHT to grant it, given their vaunted legal principles, but which won't, because their big buddy the US will get really pissed if they were to do so). So, he had few alternatives in that regard.
Europeans have this idea that all Americans are the same. Slobbering at the mouth right wing, jingoistic morons. Under educated. Unwilling to listen. Americans have this vision of Europeans as cheese-eating surrender monkeys who's pretensions are only matched by their hubris that they, and only they, have a true idea of what is going on in the world.
Both sides are wrong. I am an American who spent much of his adolescence in Europe. While Americans do tend to be loud and brash they are good people. While Europeans do tend to be full of themselves, they are good people, too. At their core, there is not much difference. The issue comes, as it always does in human interactions, we tend to talk past each other.
I honestly believe that if he had given over his info to reporters (assuming that it would have been possible to do that without one or other secret agency intervening, given a single interview) and then have let himself get arrested, the story would not have been heard by most people in the USA. Everything he said would have been contradicted, he would have been discreted and smeared as much as possible (however 'noble' it would have been for him to give himself up) and then that would have been the end of the story, which would have gone cold pretty quickly (well, some people would be following his trial, probably, but... it would no longer be major news). He would have been convicted, and after a short while, the public would have forgotten about him completely.
Umm, he did give this information to a reporter. He gave it to The Guardian.
That is the main reason why the people in charge in the US want him so badly. Simple 'revenge' may play a part as well, and the wish to set another example too. And it is simply a matter of prestige, as well. But if they get him, the story goes cold, they think.
The interesting thing is that, while Snowden is and is likely to be continued to seen as an enemy of the nation, the debate on the things he revealed does seem to be shifting. People like Rand Paul, at the moment the most notable Star in the GOP's firmament, as well as others from the 'tea-party'/libertarian wings of that party seem be very critical of the stuff the NSA has been up to. The instinct of most typical 'traditional' republicans seems to be to consider Snowden a liberal commie traitor, but the narrative on the right is confused. Of course, most federal-level politicians in the US were fine with all this stuff, before it was public. But they always fear the opinions of the voters back home, so... there seems to be movement. I don't think this is an issue that the majority of Americans care deeply about (much easier to have them split in neat right-and-left sides to argue over gun-control, gay marraige and Obamacare), but I do think that a significant part of the smarter Americans probably DO care about the sort of stuff the NSA has been doing and planning to do a lot more of. It may not have an immediate impact on the everyday party politics, but in the long run, this issue might become a really important one, politically.
My view, of course.
By the strictest letter of the law, Edward Snowden broke his oath to keep the secrets he was entrusted with secret from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I think what he did was heroic and absolutely necessary. A great many Americans I know think the same. On both sides of the aisle. My objection isn't that he ran, it's where he ran to. He gave up secrets then ran to one of the United States' biggest adversaries.
We can, and probably will, quibble about what would have happened had he stayed and "lawyered up". You have to get out of this mindset, though, that Americans are a monolithic entity that can only think and act as a group. There are over 300 million of us. Don't be blinded by the Rush Limbaughs and Howard Sterns. By Snooki and Miley Cyrus. We are a diverse people and we think very differently from each other. The loudest voices are just that: The loudest voices. They don't speak for all of us.