At this point, the Edward Snowden saga seems to be running out of steam. The latest is that Venezuela and Nicaragua (out of at least 27 countries he asked) have offered him asylum so the story is almost at an end for now. The U.S. government will probably keep trying to extradite him so that they can prosecute but that may be years in coming. IF he manages to find asylum in the first place.
Through this whole business, I’ve remained of two minds about Snowden’s tale. While I am certain that what he has reported is true, I’m unsure of motivation. With what I have just read, though, I think I’m getting a clearer picture. One I will try to paint for you.
Snowden used to post on a website called Ars Technica: it’s a site for professional techies (“alpha geeks” is what the site says). He frequented the Internet Relay Chat rooms quite a lot, shooting the breeze with whoever happened by. This began when he was stationed in Geneva in 2007: an IT guy for the CIA in a foreign land, he probably enjoyed this little bit of home. His posts – under user name TheTrueHOOHA – from that time show someone who is decidedly unworldly: he complained about almost everything in Switzerland, from the price of food to the women. Over the years, he changed from an insulated, opinionated American into an opinionated, snarky ex-pat. One of the biggest changes in his opinions is what he thought of leakers. Back then, he was not a fan. In January of 2009, the following exchange took place in the chat room:
SNOWDEN: HOLY SHIThttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/washington/11iran.html?_r=1&hp
SNOWDEN: WTF NYTIMES
SNOWDEN: Are they TRYING to start a war? Jesus christ they’re like wikileaks
User19: they’re just reporting, dude.
SNOWDEN: They’re reporting classified shit
SNOWDEN: moreover, who the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this?
SNOWDEN: those people should be shot in the balls.
Well, he’s sure done a switch since then, eh? I bet he would rather that his balls remain unshot now. He went so far as to wish the NYT would go bankrupt. He also had no problem with Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, saying:
SNOWDEN: these are the same people who blew the whole “we could listen to osama’s cell phone” thing the same people who screwed us on wiretapping over and over and over again [sic] Thank god they’re going out of business.
User19: the NYT?
SNOWDEN: Hopefully they’ll finally go bankrupt this year.yeah.
He was gung-ho for it when Bush was president. Which brings up an interesting point: his opinion of such programs abruptly changed when Barack Obama took office. In the chat room, which Ars Technica calls “Officially unofficial” – the online equivalent to “the back room occupied by drinkers who feel the front (of the bar) is just too stuffy for them,” Snowden felt free to speak his mind even if everyone in the room would disagree with him. And he could be ugly about it.
Snowden revealed that he was a Ron Paul supporter and championed a return to the gold standard along with short selling stocks. Social issues also reveal a Libertarian bent when it came to personal freedoms. He also bought into Obama conspiracy theories such as the one that said Obama was going to devalue U.S. currency, leading to higher unemployment, something he saw as a “correction” and “a necessary part of capitalism.”
His disdain of President Obama and his policies was apparent and he bitched about them with “increasing frequency.” But there are two issues where, I believe, where Snowden’s true colors shine very clearly. This is one:
SNOWDEN: save money? cut this social security bullshit
User18: Yeah! Fuck old people!
User11: social security is bullshit
User11: let’s just toss old people out in the street
User18: Old people could move in with [User11].
User11: they smell funny
SNOWDEN: Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine
SNOWDEN: you fucking retards
SNOWDEN: Magically the world changed after the new deal, and old people became made of glass
SNOWDEN: yeah, that makes sense
User11: you are just so fucking stupid
SNOWDEN: yeah, [User11]. and you’re quite a gem
User19: and magically, life expectancy has doubled in the last 100 years.funny how that works.
SNOWDEN: [User19], you don’t think modern medicine has something to do with that? no? it’s social security? wow. I guess I missed that.
User11: hurr wait a second, life expectancy has shot up in recent times along with the dissolution of the communal family unit in exchange for the nuclear family
User11: gee i guess we might need to create a safety net for the sudden glut of helpless elderly????
SNOWDEN: they wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day
User11: you are so goddamned stupd*pid
User11: PUT OLD PEOPLE TO WORK IN THE FIELDS
SNOWDEN: my grandmother is eighty fucking three this year, and you know what? she still supports herself working as a goddamned hairdresser
“Fuck old people”? An objectivist view if ever there was one. The other issue is the Second Amendment:
User: the restrictions were made to appease the conservatives to get another bill passed. fucking cons.
SNOWDEN: See, that’s why I’m goddamned glad for the second amendment. Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.
Very interesting. Snowden is a gun nut as well as an Obama hater. He also has been an outspoken advocate of the very thing he has become famous for revealing, cheering the security state network and insisting that it needed funding, even in the face of draconian budget cuts. He was particularly upset by Obama’s choice for the head of the CIA:
SNOWDEN: Obama just appointed a fucking POLITICIAN to run the CIA!
User11: yes unlike every other director of CIA ever
User11: oh wait, no
SNOWDEN: I am so angry right now. This is completely unbelievable.
Ars Technica has opened a new forum thread called Edward Snowden—NSA Leaker and Arsian (does anyone know what ‘arsian’ means?) where users who remember interactions with Snowden are not very complimentary. One wrote, “He was kind of dick.” Posts like this make a good argument for his dickishness:
“The fact that you’re posting on a gaming forum makes me cry. I hope someone tosses you in a burlap sack and beats you with reeds. You’re a filthy little ragamuffin who lacks any semblance of taste. You loved Halo and own an Xbox. You pre-ordered “Mary-Kate and Ashley: Sweet 16 Licensed To Drive.” You are the sole reason I write these posts. I hope you’re killed by a drunk driver on Halloween.”
This new information has me pondering exactly who this guy is: is he the concerned whistle-blower? Or did he have an ulterior motive to spill what he did? His background isn’t really CIA or NSA material, so say a few people I’ve spoken to who actually have worked for a government contractor. So why was he hired? And why did he pick now to speak out? This has never smelled right to me, which is why I have withheld judgement. But these new revelations create even more questions. Is this whole thing a ruse to make the President look bad? If so, who is funding it – who is paying for all his travel and hotels? Or is Edward Snowden, a man who has completely destroyed his own life, just stupid? I still don’t know but this new information gives me a lot to think about. How about you?