The US government often wastes little time in demonizing whistleblowers who speak out against its practices. Whistleblowers, particularly Chelsea Manning, have often been denied their constitutional rights and basic freedoms as the state seeks to make examples of those who dare to break rank by exposing illegal, criminal government practices. One of the more recent instances of the state-sanctioned character assassination of whistleblowers is that of Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA). According to the federal government, Snowden “perpetrated the largest and most damaging public release of classified information in US intelligence history,” an act which exposed the massive and illegal nature of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs. Instead of reforming the system, which stands in stark violation of the 4th amendment, officials have called for ways to lock down state secrets even tighter, effectively snuffing out any hopes of transparency.
The character assassination of Edward Snowden has been long in the making as politicians and state officials were quick to condemn him as a “traitor” and “potentially a Chinese spy” as soon as the information began to ciruculate. Earlier this year in September, the House Intelligence Committee published an unclassified and “highly acerbic” summary of the group’s findings regarding Snowden’s actions, which was then promptly and thoroughly discredited by critics and respected journalists alike. Now, this past Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee released an extended version of its findings – the culmination of three years and millions of dollars spent investigating Edward Snowden. The report was released prior to Christmas weekend, perhaps with the hopes that it would slip under the radar considering that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists among others have already slammed it for being “aggressively dishonest.”
For example, a disproportionate amount of the report also sought to paint Snowden as a bad employee, solely on the basis that he tried numerous times to report concerns to higher-ups. Then, leaving that very logic behind, the report asserts that Snowden should have reported his concerns about NSA mass surveillance to the NSA inspector general, despite the documented retaliations other NSA whistleblowers have suffered for doing just that. In addition, the report seeks to characterize Snowden as a “serial exaggerator and fabricator.” The report states that Snowden “claimed to have left Army basic training because of broken legs when in fact he washed out because of shin splints.” However, Snowden’s Army paperwork shows that he was honorably discharged for bilateral tibial stress fractures. Also, the report charges that Snowden was and is in contact with Russian spy agencies – despite offering no evidence and failing to mention Snowden’s numerous and well-documented criticisms of the Russian government. This charge, of course, is not surprising given that just about anyone who disrupts or rejects the advance of neo-liberalism in the US is similarly accused of “working for Putin.”
Understandably, Snowden himself was quick to point out the flaws of the newly declassified report. Snowden issued a series of tweets about the report, remarking that it was “unsurprising that HPSCI’s report is rifled with obvious falsehoods. The only surprise is how accidentally exonerating it is.” Snowden felt that the report exonerated him because “after three years of investigation and millions of dollars, they can present no evidence of harmful intent, foreign influence, or harm. Wow.” He summed up his feelings on the report, saying “bottom line: this report’s core claims are made without evidence, and are often contrary to both common sense and the public record.” The reports lack of evidence for its claims is characteristic of US government policy as of late as the state seeks, once again, to take control of the narrative and stifle dissent, especially for those who would follow in Snowden’s footsteps.
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