Sunday, January 10, 2021

Edward Snowden, The Media, And The Espionage Act

 Douglas London, a retired CIA officer, offers his take on Edward Snowden at The Hill.

As a retired 34-year intelligence professional who made a career recruiting foreign spies and stealing secrets, my aversion to a pardon for Edward Snowden goes beyond the damage he wrought and is unrelated to hurt pride. It’s rooted in the Espionage Act and the dynamic between the government and media over the boundaries concerning the public’s “right to know.” That is, do all parties share responsibility that transcend legal interpretations to safeguard the nation’s security?

I’m hardly a legal scholar, but my work required judgment concerning risk versus gain against a gray and dynamic landscape in which the consequences routinely were life and death. I was charged with determining whether or not the value in any lawfully executed intelligence activity was worth the risk to our sources and the continuity of ongoing collection. Until retirement, my insight into the media was limited to failed efforts at monitoring my teenagers’ social media activity while personally staying well clear of journalists. Still, I expected that reputable journalists calculated the public’s right to know and First Amendment freedoms against the cost of exposure to the very people they intended to protect and inform.

Having read any number of compelling narratives, those arguing for unrestricted freedom to publish anything and everything that might come their way — such as the voluminous, unedited, original documents that Snowden stole — are undermined by their black-and-white take on the rather opaque world in which I long dwelled. Personally, while I do not condone the exposure of classified information, even under circumstances intended to highlight a wrong and hold our leaders accountable, I acknowledge it’s likewise not a black-and-white matter and demands a two-way street with the media.

We live in an open society that requires confidence in a system of checks and balances through congressional oversight and the transparency legislated by the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act as a means to correct the systemic problems that contributed to 9/11’s intelligence failure. Moreover, we trust that national security agencies support robust internal dissent and whistleblower channels with empowered inspectors general. 

Over the past four years, though, it’s hard to argue that elected representatives had the necessary insight and authority to hold the White House and the intelligence community accountable. Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and his successor, John Ratcliffe, hardly have facilitated transparency and confidence that the intelligence community was free from politicalization. And President Trump’s purge undermined the reliability of inspectors general and the faith of those prepared to come forward officially to report transgressions.

Only, Snowden was no whistleblower. In fact, according to the timeline offered in the 33-page House Permanent Select Committee (HPSCI)’s September 2016 damage assessment, there’s no evidence Snowden made any effort to use the protected channels enabling either whistleblowing or dissent. Rather, after being reprimanded for inappropriate workplace behavior that reflected his professional history, Snowden began a premeditated effort to download as many damaging files as he could access as part of a plan to travel to Hong Kong, from where he aspired to reap financial gain and exact revenge for his hurt pride.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Edward Snowden, the media, and the Espionage Act | TheHill

You can also read my Washington Times piece on Snowden, the traitor, sneak thief and spy, via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: Edward Snowden's True Permanent Record: My Washington Times Piece On NSA Leaker Edward Snowden 

No comments:

Post a Comment