Edward Snowden’s participation in a recent dog-and-pony show about government surveillance with Vladimir Putin confirms what has long been apparent: He’s not the most astute fellow who thinks things through in advance of his actions. Russia under Putin isn’t just a place that spies on journalists but one where they mysteriously wind up dead. But even if Snowden is his own worst enemy, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an enemy of the state. In his new Foreign Affairs piece, “Live and Let Leak,” Jack Shafer acknowledges that whistleblowers can be dangerous but not nearly as dangerous as a government not held to account by them. An excerpt:
“With little or no public input, the U.S. government has kidnapped suspected terrorists, established secret prisons, performed ‘enhanced’ interrogations, tortured prisoners, and carried out targeted killings. After the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden pilfered hundreds of thousands of documents from the NSA’s computers and released them to journalists last summer, the public learned of additional and potentially dodgy secret government programs: warrantless wiretaps, the weakening of public encryption software, the collection and warehousing of metadata from phones and e-mail accounts, and the interception of raw Internet communications.
The secrecy machine was originally designed to keep the United States’ foes at bay. But in the process, it has transformed itself into an invisible state within a state. Forever discovering new frontiers to patrol, as the Snowden files indicate, the machine molts its skin each season to grow ever larger and more powerful, encountering little resistance from the courts or Congress.”