Today I read a comment on a BBC article about Edward Snowden that berated the BBC for referring to Edward Snowden as an “Intelligence Leaker” rather than a “whistleblower”. It was the usual green-ink response by some terrified, impotent, suburban, delusional, working-class, Tory to anything the BBC says. You know, the sort of moronic Daily Mail level insults like “The BBC is Communist” and equally risible suggestions usually stemming from the poster’s innate fear of being Gay.
But this comment really irritated me. Clearly it was from a dickhead, but a dickhead that really believes that Edward Snowden was more than just a leak, and perhaps deserves some reverence. The sort of thing that similar mental-cases often accuse the BBC of doing!
As a gobshite myself it’s only fair that I get a chance to weigh in on these important issues too. Hear me out.
Around ten years ago, the US government told its citizens it was about to start spying on them when it announced the Patriot act. The UK Government did too, only they called it the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. There was a minimal protest at the time which some of us found a tad disheartening. Perhaps people thought it was a conspiracy theory (despite being open to public scrutiny by parliament/congress).
Ten years later, the things the governments said they were going to do, they have done. They see all.
Is Edward Snowden a Whistleblower? Well, he’s reporting what he considers to be illicit activity on behalf of the government and its agencies. So you may be inclined to think he is.
Bear in mind he was employed (i.e. paid) to work for the government and its agencies and will have contributed to the illicit activities during his time there. In fairness he may be too young to remember the Patriot Act or RIPA. Perhaps he suffered a sudden attack of conscience?
Either way I’d argue that publishing stuff about the government, that the government previously made no attempt to hide, is not whistleblowing.
“Whistleblower” is the only debatable title at this point. “Intelligence leaker” is firmly and undeniably accurate. He had clearance to TOP SECRET/CODEWORD information, and you can’t get that by accident. At that stage everyone knows what happens if you leak. Bradley Manning certainly did which is why he kept it quiet. Manning’s mistake was talking to a fellow hacker who turned out to be a massive douchebag grass. Unlike Snowden he wanted to stay out of the limelight.
Do I think the governments spying on their own people are doing right? NO! I didn’t think so ten years ago either! Also, I’m delighted that as a result of Snowden’s leaks people are getting angry! Good! I just don’t understand why the press and seemingly everyone else is surprised about it now.
The truth is that their surveillance is next to useless when it comes to people trying to remain private – that includes terrorists and freedom fighters. The worse news is that it will be a really useful tool against the general public who don’t care about privacy and don’t understand the technology or its consequences.
[Update – I have completely changed my opinion of Snowden since I wrote this.]