MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What a difference a few decades make.
Yes, there was a time that the Washington Post brought down an administration because the paper had the guts to allow two DC urban reporters to pursue the Watergate burglary to the end, over months and months. There was a time that the Washington Post and the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers in open defiance of the Nixon administration, knowing that disseminating the classified information was a public service to debating a war that had been sold with lies.
Fast forward and the New York Times and the Washington Post became cheerleaders for the Iraq War, gobbling up the barest wisps of manufactured lies as evidence that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass detruction. The New York Times and Washington Post were stenographers for the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Iraq "Shock and Awe" war public relations offensive.
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Now, around a decade later, the Washington Post is running stories such as
"Obama’s hands-off approach to extraditing Snowden draws criticism":
It was bright and sunny in Washington on Saturday as President Obama stepped out of the White House in flip-flops and khaki shorts to hit the golf course with his buddies.
At the same time, officials throughout his administration were scrambling to keep one of America’s most-wanted fugitives from evading extradition in Hong Kong.
The juxtaposition illustrates the hands-off approach Obama has taken — in public, at least — to the government’s efforts to bring Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old former contractor who exposed classified details of U.S. surveillance programs, back to the United States to face charges of revealing government secrets.Conservatives say Obama’s posture in the case provides further evidence of a commander in chief whose credibility abroad has declined and who shrinks from presidential leadership at moments of international crisis, including in response to last fall’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
“Nobody’s afraid of this guy,” said former George W. Bush administration adviser Eliot A. Cohen, who argues that Obama should have personally stood up to Chinese and Russian officials. “Nobody’s saying there are any real consequences that would come from crossing him — and that’s an awful position for the president of the United States to be in.”
There is a bit of sympathy expressed for Obama's "low-key approach" to apprehending Snowden later on in the reporting, but the basic premise is the same: Snowden is a traitor who has done the US grievous harm.
But what about what Snowden has revealed, along with former NSA and other intelligence agency whistleblowers, that basically every US citizen is a target or potential target for spying, without sufficient oversight of America's vast infrastructure of spying agencies? Isn't this a fundamental constitutional issue?
If you look at the government DC "conventional wisdom" that Snowden gave the Guardian UK, through Glenn Greenwald, information that harmed the national security of the United States, what exactly is it that makes us more vulnerable that he revealed?
If you haven't seen "Zero Dark Thirty," rent it. It's worth noting that what is detailed in the film about the CIA and NSA tracking down Osama bin Laden through his most trusted courier provides enormous information to "our enemies" about the operations and methods used to locate terrorists. And the script, as we reported yesterday was written with the full cooperation of the CIA and its affiliated agencies, as well as the Pentagon.
Then you have the book written by a member of the SEALs team that killed Osama bin Laden. Was that soldier in any way threatened with prosecution?
But the mere notion, whatever Snowden's motivations, that revealing a spying apparatus that is the intelligence gathering version of a permanent war on the privacy of Americans and citizens abroad is worthy of debate apparently has escaped the attention of the Washington Post.
Of course, as with drones, technology has a way of rapidly becoming accessible. So, as a BuzzFlash at Truthout reader e-mailed us, who can possibly think that it won't be long, if is not currently happening, that other nations (think of China's advance computer hacking and encryption capabilities) will be ferreting out the NSA's "secret" information on Americans and others?
Furthermore, Booz Allen Hamilton – where Snowden formerly worked – is only the tip of the iceberg, representing the big daddy of more than a thousand private consulting agencies working in the intelligence field, not to mention hundreds and hundreds of US agencies, departments and projects.
How long does one think any of this massive database of information and phone recordings are going to remain secret with widely dispersed access like that? I read the other day -- whether 100 percent accurate or not it indicates the enormity of the challenge of keeping widespread secrets secret -- that more than a million government employees and private consultants have high-level security clearance.
So when is the Washington Post going to stop making the apprehension of Snowden an obsessive priority and start making it a priority to lead a robust public debate about a spying and intelligence complex that has gotten totally out of hand?
When will that happen now that that we are in an age when anyone who blows the whistle on the absolute power of the state to spy on us with only a fig leaf of restraint is considered a traitor?