How Edward Snowden confounded the US elite’s predictions

Soon after Edward Snowden was revealed as the source of the blockbuster leaks about how the US and other western countries were engaged in massive and illegal programs to spy on their own citizens and the citizens of other nations, the Obama administration went after him with a vengeance, trying to capture him even to extent of forcing the plane of Bolivian president Evo Morales, on his way home from a conference in Russia, to land in Austria to be searched because they thought that Snowden would be on it on his way to Bolivia where Morales had offered him asylum.

That was an extraordinary time, to see so-called liberals thirsting for Snowden’s blood, no doubt because their liberal hero Barack Obama was president at the time and Snowden had shown that he was complicit in these programs. I recall being shocked at having to defend and praise Snowden to some of my friends and colleagues who sniffed disdainfully about this young man with little formal education and who had not attended the ‘right’ schools who had taken it upon himself to reveal the secret operations of a government that was violating their own privacy rights. They simply could not understand why I was claiming that his was an enormous act of courage, doing something that brought him no benefit and risked sending him to prison for the rest of his life and that we should rally to his support. I always suspected that had he done this while a Republican president was in office, they would have sung a much different song.

This article by Julia Ioffe in the neoliberal New Republic was written in 2013 while Snowden was stuck in limbo in the Moscow airport with his future uncertain. It is quite revealing in the way it channels the disdain expressed by US media towards Snowden. It combines outrage that Russian president Vladimir Putin did not meekly hand Snowden over to the US but allowed him to stay, and positively delighting in the grim future that she envisaged for Snowden, dripping with misogyny and using every caricature of Russia and Russians that were used during the Cold War.

The reality that lies before Snowden, however, is not that of a Petersburg slum or a cherry orchard. More likely, he will be given an apartment somewhere in the endless, soulless highrises with filthy stairwells that spread like fields around Moscow’s periphery. He will live there for five years before he will be given citizenship. He’ll likely be getting constant visits from the SVR (the Russian NSA) to mine the knowledge he carries in his brain. Maybe, he will be given a show on Russia Today, alongside the guy who got him into this pickle to begin with, Julian Assange. Or he, like repatriated Russian spy Anna Chapman, might be given a fake job at a state-friendly bank where he will do nothing but draw a salary. (Chapman, by the way, recently tweeted this at Snowden: “Snowden, will you marry me?!”) Maybe he will marry a Russian woman, who will quickly shed her supple, feminine skin and become a tyrant, and every dark winter morning, Snowden will sit in his tiny Moscow kitchen, drinking Nescafe while Svetlana cooks something greasy and tasteless, and he will sit staring into his black instant coffee, hating her. 

It seems like when it comes to Russia and Russians, you can use any condescending stereotypes. But things did not quite work out as Ioffe had clearly hoped, as Glenn Greenwald writes in a series of tweets.

Snowden exposed the hypocrisy of leaders of the Democratic party who were quite willing to go along with secret spying until they discovered that their own communications were being intercepted and read. Then they become outraged.

I am glad that Snowden seems to have found a good life for himself. He deserves it. I am sure that he would like to return to the US but not as long as the CIA, NSA, FBI, and the rest of the national security state seek to put him away forever and journalistic ghouls like Ioffe gleefully urge them on.


  1. says

    Good for Snowden coming out on top, but showing garbage person Glenn Greenwald attacking garbage person Julia Ioffe over this risks getting more of Greenwald’s taint on him.

  2. karmacat says

    The sad part was that other people revealed this information before Snowden did. Snowden was more memorable because Glenwald kept it in the news by revealing bits of information over time. What’s clear is that people will retaliate when they are told they made a mistake or are embarrassed

  3. says

    What karmacat said. There were whistle-blowers who outed more severe violations of the public trust than Snowden did, who basically had their lives ruined by the government. For example, Reality Winner -- who revealed that the USG was well aware of Russian moves to get Trump installed as president. Somehow, Americans managed to just not give a shit. It’s incredibly depressing. Nixon resigned over less, but the current oligarchs just march on and the people don’t understand why it matters.

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