WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
He went to China. He seems too coached in his remarks. His girlfriend was a pole-dancer. He was a bad neighbor. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Edward Snowden is experiencing one of the more broad-spectrum efforts at character assassination in recent memory after his deliberate exposure of the far-reaching nature of NSA domestic surveillance. It's an old trick. Crap on a critic from great height, crap on a critic with great volume, in the hope that the critic becomes entombed in crap and loses their viability as a critic.
Disclaimer: I don't give much of a damn about Edward Snowden. I give a very large series of damns about the information he revealed, as should any thinking American in my personal opinion. Attacking his character, his girlfriend, his travel plans etc. is a shortcut to thinking, a way to tamp down revelations that this administration, like the previous administration, has been peeking through a lot of windows in ways the American people need to be aware of. Snowden attacks equal Obama defense, in my humble o, and it's a pretty gruesome display from a lot of people who spent a lot of time attacking Bush on similar grounds not so long ago. But IOKIYBO ("It's OK If You're Barack Obama") appears to be the rule of the day.
In the summer of 2002, eight months before the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I co-authored a book titled "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The book we created, to this day, was dead-bang right not only about Iraq's lack of WMD, about Iraq's lack of al Qaeda/September 11 connections, but very accurately predicted the bloodbath disaster that would take place if the invasion and occupation were to take place. Eleven years later, that book stands up to any test you want to give it, and it was Scott Ritter who provided the facts that make the book absolutely unimpeachable.
The final two paragraphs of Scott Ritter's Wikipedia page:
Ritter was detained in April 2001 and arrested in June 2001 in connection with police stings in which officers posed as under-aged girls to arrange meetings of a sexual nature. The first incident did not lead to any charges. He was charged with a misdemeanor crime of "attempted endangerment of the welfare of a child" after the second, but charges were dropped after he completed six months of probation and the record was sealed on condition that he avoid further trouble for a period of time. After this information was made public in early 2003, Ritter said that the timing of the leak was politically motivated.
Ritter was arrested again in November 2009 over communications with a police decoy he met on an Internet chat site. Police said that he exposed himself via a web camera after the officer said she was a 15-year-old girl; Ritter said he was not made aware of the ostensible age of his correspondent before the act. The next month, Ritter waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was released on a $25,000 unsecured bail. Charges included "unlawful contact with a minor, criminal use of a communications facility, corruption of minors, indecent exposure, possessing instruments of crime, criminal attempt and criminal solicitation.n. Ritter rejected a plea bargain, testified in his trial and was found guilty of all but the criminal attempt count in a Monroe County, Pennsylvania courtroom on April 14, 2011. In October 2011 he received a sentence of one and a half to five and a half years in prison.
I am not going to speak to Ritter's guilt or innocence regarding these charges; he had a lawyer and a trial and a jury, and it is what it is. But the revelation in February 2003 effectively removed him, and our book, from the debate over the war a month before the war kicked off...and the book was right, he was right, we were right, and now a lot of people are dead even though we were right.
Scott Ritter's personal failings doomed his message. The people who wanted to entomb him in crap to shut him up did not have to work hard to do so...but even with all that crap, there remains the pesky fact that he was 100% spot-on correct about the war, its aftermath and its eventual outcome.
People are currently attempting to entomb Snowden in crap because they don't like his message, and no one has accused him of anything even remotely as serious as what Ritter was accused and eventually convicted of, yet so many have already decided he's just another dirtbag to be ignored...and some of the people going after Snowden seem so deeply committed to tearing him down, which tells you something all by itself.
My point: separate the man from the message. Scott Ritter was a deeply flawed man according to the courts, but a lot of people would be alive if his message had been allowed to stand on its merits instead of getting dragged down and erased with him.
Snowden is one thing. His message is another. As someone with personal experience in watching a good message get destroyed by attacks on the messenger, I implore you not to let it happen in this case.
I don't give a damn about Snowden, and I don't give a damn about Ritter.
I give many damns about the information they have to offer.
As should you.