It was foreseeable when Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and Moscow that all the secrets he was carrying on his four laptops would fall into the hands of Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies. Those agencies make constant and formidable efforts to acquire U.S. secrets, and could not be expected to forego the opportunity of acquiring the secrets Snowden brought to them.
Ask yourself what the U.S. would do if an equivalent defector from China or Russia stopped off in New York City en route to exile in South America while carrying laptops full of state secrets.
Some of the secrets would only be of value to a foreign intelligence agency, revealing the parameters of intelligence gathering capabilities. So besides tipping off terrorists to change their methods of communication, Snowden betrayed his country to China and Russia.
It’s embarrassing to watch the pathetic U.S. protests to China and Russia demanding the return of the criminal Snowden to U.S. custody. China and Russia are both now more confident than ever in their defiance of U.S. wishes. They are happily demonstrating that we are the nation in decline, with zero leverage on rising powers like China and Russia.
The damage from the leaks to our intelligence infrastructure is incalculable. It will take an extraordinary act of boldness, like forcing down an airliner to capture Snowden, to demonstrate U.S. determination to limit future damage.
If Snowden had been a principled whistle-blower as his supporters claim, he would not have fled to China and Russia. He could have stood his ground and defended himself at trial like Daniel Ellsburg.
It’s also embarrassing to hear the ignorance of so many Americans about technology and the existence of big data. Every click we send out onto the internet exists forever. The record of every phone call we make exists forever. All that data exists, and can’t be put back into the privacy of Aladdin’s lamp or Pandora’s box.
Smart businesses mine that data to enhance their profits. Smart politicians mine that data to get themselves elected and re-elected. But some folks claim to be shocked, shocked, to learn that the U.S. government is mining that data to try to protect the nation against terrorism.
The humiliation of the United States by the defection of the NSA leaker Edward Snowden happened in the second term of President Obama’s watch. It will continue as long as Snowden remains at large mocking his homeland. It can only end with Snowden’s capture and prosecution.