New Orleans President Trump wrong-footed me for a minute. Trump said he was going to take a good look at whether to pardon Edward J. Snowden, the supersized intelligence leaker and former National Security contractor. Trump claimed there was a division of opinion with some saying he did the wrong thing, and some people telling him that Snowden did the right thing.
At first, I thought, where did that come from? It seemed out of nowhere and a total headscratcher. We’re talking about Edward Snowden who the Obama administration from the stem to stern labeled treacherous and called everything but a child of God. Snowden who the CIA and NSA said had endangered and harmed their field operatives around the world. Snowden who Republicans in Congress had labeled a traitor, even as he claimed to be a patriot.
Snowden is a controversial figure. His story is well-known. He managed to download and walk away with voluminous files that exposed the overreaching intelligence gathering of the CIA and other agencies, past what was then available knowledge and perhaps past what was their legal authority. He told his story to Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, and Laura Poitras, the documentarian who filmed Citizenfour about his exploits. He met them in Hong Kong and was a man without a country for a bit until Russia allowed him to enter, and by all reports, he is still there. He shows up from time to time speaking by secure video to tech and other conferences. Let’s say it this way, he is one of the last people that would come to mind when anyone would think about Trump’s pardon list filled with cronies, fraudsters, and businessmen caught in the act.
Thinking about it longer, it started to make sense in a weird way. I saw a piece in the paper about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not acting on extending the surveillance powers of the FBI. I read the deep reporting in the Times that underlined Trump’s antipathy to the intelligence community because he thinks their work undermines his 2016 election and his 2020 re-election efforts because of their continued assessment of Russia’s interference on his behalf. The article also detailed the body count of officials both senior and appointed in the intelligence fields that have been cashiered out of their jobs for standing by the evidence behind Russia’s efforts.
The bottom line is clear. If an intelligence official opens his or her mouth anywhere near the president, his first impulse is not to believe a word they say. His second is to fire them and replace them with one of his 100 percenters where loyalty not experience is the only qualifier. Understanding that mindset, it’s dangerous for the country, but potentially a big break for Edward Snowden who embarrassed the entire intelligence apparatus with his leaks.
Of course, there’s one other explanation for this change of heart that I haven’t seen reported. Vladimir Putin of Russia, may have tired of having Snowden in Russia and may have asked his buddy, Donald Trump, to finally take him of his hands, just as Britain and Ecuador tired of Wikileaks Julian Assange. Sometimes even welcomed visitors just stay too long.
Please enjoy The Beir In My Hand by Vera’s Son.
Thanks to WAMF.