Espionage. International intrigue. Secret government surveillance. Bad airport food. The Edward Snowden saga continued on Friday, when the leaker–who revealed information about the NSA’s surveillance of phone and internet records–spoke out from the Moscow airport, where he’s been holed up for three weeks, to demand that the U.S. stop interfering with his attempts to escape prosecution. ”I did not seek to sell U.S. secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety,” he said.
Which is why my letter this week is to Edward Snowden.
It’s me, Melissa.
I hear you’re looking for a country. Well, wouldn’t you know, I have an idea for you! How about…this one?
Come on back to the U.S.A., Ed. I know you’re not super pleased with the government these days–and I feel you. The information you revealed about surveillance raises serious issues about the behaviors of our leaders and how they justify and hide those practices from the public. But, here is the deal: it’s time to come home and face the consequences of the actions for which you are so proud.
I know you must feel you’ve already given up a lot to reveal government secrets: your well-paid job, your life in Hawaii, your passport.
And maybe your intentions were completely altruistic–it’s not that you wanted attention, but that you wanted us, the public, to know just how much information our government has about us. That is something worth talking about. But by engaging in this Tom Hanks-worthy, border-jumping drama through some of the world’s most totalitarian states, you’re making yourself the story.
We could be talking about whether accessing and monitoring citizen information and communications is constitutional, or whether we should continue to allow a secret court to authorize secret warrants using secret legal opinions.
But we’re not. We’re talking about you! And flight paths between Moscow and Venezuela, and how much of a jerk Glenn Greenwald is. We could at least be talking about whether the Obama administration is right that your leak jeopardized national security. But we’re not talking about that, Ed.
We’re talking about you. I can imagine you’d say, “Well, then stop! Just talk about something else.” But here’s the problem, even if your initial leak didn’t compromise national security, your new cloak-and-dagger game is having real and tangible geopolitical consequences. So, well, we have to talk about…you.
We’re talking about how maybe now you’re compromising national security by jumping from country to country, causing international incidents and straining U.S. relationships with Russia and China. Really. Important. Relationships. And we’re talking about how you praised countries like Russia and Venezuela for “standing against human rights violations” and “refusing to compromise their principles.”
I mean, where do you even come up with that kind of garbage, Ed? What are you thinking?
I understand that you don’t want to come back. To do so would mean giving up your freedom, definitely before the trial, and likely for several months or years thereafter.
I get it. It’s in its prisons where the U.S. commits actual human rights violations.
More than 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement, some for years, some indefinitely, despite the fact that solitary is cruel and psychologically damaging.
I know those aren’t the human rights violations, though, that you’re complaining about, Ed. But you might not have anything to worry about, anyway. Unlike most of the people in solitary confinement–including Private Bradley Manning, on trial for giving data to Wikileaks–you have cultivated a level of celebrity that itself will act as protection if you ever find yourself in U.S. prison. You’ve made a spectacle of yourself, and the Obama Administration will be very careful about how it treats you. Unlike all those other prisoners.
So come on home, Ed. So we could talk about, you know, something else.