By Tom Cushing
Reps Say the Darndest Things ? the Snowden SmearUploaded: Jan 21, 2014
You can add "promotes bi-partisanship" in bi-polar Washington to young Ed Snowden's resume. On this week's Sunday morning spinfests, two Republican Congressmen and our own waning Senator Feinstein fell all over themselves accusing the absent NSA whistleblower of being a Russian spy. That's a treasonable offense, a despicable crime, and about the worst thing you can call somebody -- that doesn't involve children or livestock. And their evidence was ? crickets.
That nod-able "face the music" line worked for a while, perhaps until recent revelations about another burglary came to light. In that 1971 incident at an FBI field office in Media, PA, amateur peaceniks stole whole suitcases full of files (paper -- how quaint!). Those documents revealed clandestine government projects to, among other misdeeds, sow paranoia among leaders of the anti-war movement, and try to convince Dr. King to commit suicide, lest they reveal his nocturnal wanderings. Those were shocking, arrogant abuses of unchecked governmental power, demonstrating the need for citizen oversight.
"Sunlight," as the saying goes, "makes an excellent disinfectant."
Those burglars, now grandparently suburbanites, have been lauded as heroes in the press; the parallels to Mr. Snowden and the abuse potential in the contemporary context are clear and important. The ante needed upping.
Thus on Sunday, GOP Reps. McCaul and Rogers darkly accused Snowden of spying for one-or-more "nation-states." On Meet the Press the charge went like this:
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS: This was a thief, who we believe had some help, who stole information the vast majority had nothing to do with privacy.
DAVID GREGORY: Who helped him?
ROGERS: Well, there were certain questions that we have to get answered. Where some of this aid, first of all, if it was a privacy concern he had, he didn't look for information on the privacy side for Americans. He was stealing information that had to do with how we operate overseas to collect information to keep Americans safe. That begs the question. And some of the things he did were beyond his technical capabilities. Raises more questions. How he arranged travel before he left. How he was ready to go, he had a go bag, if you will.
?I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don't think that's a coincidence, number one. Number two, and let me just talk about this. I think it's important.
GREGORY: You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?
ROGERS: I believe there's questions to be answered there. I don't think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.
GREGORY: That's a significant development if it's true.
ROGERS: Well, I said we have questions we have to answer. But as somebody who used to do investigations, some of the things we're finding we would call clues that certainly would indicate to me that he had some help and he stole things that had nothing to do with privacy?
That's your evidence: a "go bag?" Is that like the carry-on I take on the flight to Albuquerque when I visit my kid (having made my own travel reservations, too)? But Congressman McCaul of Texas two-stepped right in, on ABC's This Week:
MCCAUL: Hey, listen, I don't think Snowden -- Mr. Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself. I think he was helped by others.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Russians?
MCCAUL: You know, to say definitively, I can't -- I can't answer that. But I personally believe that he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did. And he -- I would submit, again, that he's not a hero by any stretch. He's a traitor?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a pretty serious charge, sir. Which foreign power do you believe cultivated Edward Snowden?
MCCAUL: Again, I can't give a definitive statement on that. I -- but I've been given all the evidence, I know Mike Rogers has access to, you know, that I've seen that I don't think he was acting alone.
Ah ? so you believe it because Mike Rogers believes it, and he's seen "evidence." Like "go bags" and travel plans? Meanwhile, back on Meet the Press, our own Senator F. concurred, in very uncertain terms:
GREGORY: Do you agree with Chairman Rogers that he may have had help from the Russians?
FEINSTEIN: He may well have. We don't know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is really to set sort of a new level of dishonor. And this goes to where this metadata goes. Because the N.S.A. are professionals. They are limited in number to 22 who have access to the data. Two of them are supervisors. They are vetted. They are carefully supervised...
Now, I don't know whether Edward Snowden acted alone. But I DO know that common decency commands that you don't make that kind of charge on the basis of innuendo and go bags. It's appalling and McCarthy-esque: we need somebody to re-ask "Have you no decency?"
Two other ironies are worth noting: first, if it was not obvious before these interviews why Snowden stays away, the depths to which elected officials will sink to sling demagogic mud on national TV has now been demonstrated. Where might Snowden receive a fair trial ? the moon? One can only hope that this shameful tactic backfires, which may be the only way to make it stop.
Second, looking at you Sen. Feinstein, the vaunted NSA, with its 'vetted' (! -- vetted like Snowden?) agents and supervisors (!) has had more than six months of Job One-level opportunity to connect the dots on Snowden's associations. Based on these interviews, they have come up with ? wait for it ... another cricket. One might easily conclude that either the charges are bupkis, or the NSA programs are neither as timely nor efficacious as their supporters claim them to be.