Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part IV


“Edward Snowden, hero or traitor?”

Great question to pose at a Presidential debate, it turned out.

Hillary’s answer was basically “traitor.” He could have gone through channels and had whistleblower protection, she explained. And some of the information he released “got into the wrong hands.” And he “fled to Russia.”

Wrong, wrong and wrong. Hillary’s answer was a scripted message to the national security establishment: “You have nothing to fear from a Hillary Clinton presidency. Keep those contributions coming.”

John Kiriakou at OtherWords dispenses with two of Hillary’s falsehoods:

Clinton claimed that Snowden would have enjoyed protection from the Whistleblower Protection Act if he’d remained in the United States to make his revelations.

I’m disappointed, frankly, that somebody running for president of the United States doesn’t know that the Whistleblower Protection Act exempts national security whistleblowers. There are no protections for you if you work for the CIA, NSA, or other federal intelligence agencies — or serve them as a contractor. You take a grave personal risk if you decide to report wrongdoing, and there’s nobody who can protect you.


Finally, let’s get this straight: Snowden didn’t “flee to Russia.” Snowden stopped in Moscow on his way from Hong Kong to South America when Secretary of State John Kerry revoked his U.S. passport. Snowden never intended to move to Moscow. Kerry made that decision for him.

As for “information getting into the wrong hands” canard, Snowden actually took steps to make sure that did not happen. He went to responsible journalists and let them make the call what to release into the public sphere. That’s exactly what we want someone in Snowden’s position to do. There’s a delicate balancing act here. We want a media that has access to confidential information when the public interest requires it. The necessary trade-off is that the media, not the source, takes responsibility for what is released. Otherwise, we have little protection from government excess.

Snowden has fallen off the national radar, so many don’t consider this matter an important debate question. Hillary knew this, so she scripted an answer that was an obvious sop to the national security establishment. Her willingness to pander to that group should be a concern to anyone who cherishes privacy rights.

Previous posts in this series:

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part I

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part II

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part III


  1. I don’t think Ed Snowden has fallen off the radar at all. He joined Twitter a month ago and now has 1.5 million followers. He is a consistent, reasoned voice for sanity. With the rise of the website The Intercept, his views are a regular part of the political landscape. And the Guardian still features Snowden regular on their pages. Here’s a good article on his recent twitter posts:

    In a somewhat related story, the Brits have finally ended the round the clock police presence at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where Julian Assange has sought refuge for several years now. And the Swedish government may be moving toward a resolution of the situation.

  2. When the Snowden affair first hit the news, my gut reaction was he was guilty, potentially, of treason. Now, I don’t think so. National security can be, and is I suspect, used to cover up all sorts of bad things being done by individuals within the government. Even assuming leadership wants things done legally and correctly, subordinates can’t be trusted with the resources, reach and power of the federal government without some sort of oversight. Snowden saw things he knew were wrong and had no place to go, so he gave up his life of freedom and told tales. Now, unless a leader with common sense and political willpower comes to office, Snowden will remain a fugitive for the rest of his life. Worse yet, he serves as a deterent for any other government employees or contractors that see things that are wrong and keeps them from coming forward to tell.

    • Well put.

      I’ve noticed over the years that most issues tend to line up right vs. left, with the center holding sway. Occasionally, however, the right and left are more or less aligned, and opposed to the center. Examples are this issue, the wisdom of the TARP bailout, and mass incarceration. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the center have it correct on such an occasion.

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