Too Cute By Far.

I don’t know if Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor; an honorable whistleblower or a self-serving snitch. Those distinctions will be up to history, the public and the courts to decide. But I do know that, if his revelations ultimately show as he claims, that US spying is out of control, he is going about his mission the wrong way.

The initial revelations were really nothing surprising. But they did get the attention of the entire nation and initiated a useful discussion of how much surveillance is necessary to protect us from terrorists. In that regard, Snowden did us all a great favor.

The fact that he obtained his information through lies and deception, however, raises as many questions about his character and his methods as it does about the NSA. And the fact that he is on the run, seeking asylum from some of our nation’s adversaries, raises questions about his motives.

Snowden’s most recent claims are as unsubstantiated as they are sensational. Moreover, they have caused great embarrassment to the US and strained relationships with our allies.

All of this leads me to believe that, if Snowden’s motives were honorable, he would have approached his task in a much different way. Before going public with his revelations, he could have approached Congressmen or Senators to see if he could find a receptive ear. There are many, like Senator Ron Wyden, who would have helped him accomplish his goals in a more effective and legal, but less sensational, way. If that approach wasn’t to Snowden’s liking, he could have had the courage to stay in the US, divulge his information to the press, and continue his quest through the courts, if necessary.

If he found either of those paths too daunting, he could have protected himself by providing all of his information to his accomplice, Glenn Greenwald, as insurance that it would eventually be made public. If his goal is, indeed, to protect the American public, the American people would have his back and prevent any extraordinary consequences. He would have been viewed as the hero he apparently thinks himself to be.

But Snowden chose a more cowardly, sensational path.

As a result, he finds himself trapped in a Russian airport and denied asylum by other nations. If he returns to the US, he will be arrested and spend a lengthy time in jail while awaiting trial. If he travels to most other countries in the world, he will likely face extradition. And any nation that will grant him asylum is likely to be one in which he won’t want to live.

I, for one, will not feel sorry for him. He had other, and better, options.

It’s Difficult To Disprove A Negative.

Whenever someone accuses the government of a scandal, it’s almost impossible to disprove it. That’s because the accusation makes headlines. The truth doesn’t.

Nobody understands this principle better than Teapublicans.

When Bill Clinton was elected to the White House, he was forced to disprove a constant wave of scandals created by the GOP. Now it’s President Obama’s turn. That’s why we’ve seen a flurry of scandalous accusations about Fast & Furious, drones, Benghazi, the IRS, and NSA.

The headlines have been damning – based on outrageous claims by Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell and others. The truth has been less interesting.

For example, Issa made claims that Fast & Furious was a large scale gun-running operation overseen by Attorney General Eric Holder. The reality is that it was a small localized operation by a unit of the ATFE frustrated by Arizona’s lax gun laws and the inability to prosecute straw buyers.

Issa and others made the sensational claim that the president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored the danger to diplomats in Libya then covered up their failures. The reality is that Ambassador Stevens twice rejected increased security and the talking points released by Susan Rice were crafted by the CIA and mid-level State Dept. officials.

Teapublicans claim that IRS scrutiny of Tea Party organizations seeking nonprofit status was orchestrated by the White House and President Obama. The truth is, the IRS director was a Bush appointee and, according to testimony by an IRS supervisor in charge (who is, incidentally, a self-described conservative Republican), the scrutiny of Tea Party groups was not ordered by the administration and was not politically motivated.

Teapublicans and many Democrats claim that NSA collection of data demonstrates that President Obama is an authoritarian fascist operating in defiance of the 4th amendment of the Constitution. The truth is, the NSA program began immediately following 9/11 and the Obama administration reigned it in, eliminating warrantless wiretaps and clearing the collection of data through the FISA court and Congress. Interestingly, the people of Europe were aware of our program long before Snowden’s revelations and the overwhelming majority approve of it.

All of this proves that, now that our press is driven by ratings and sensationalism rather than a desire to inform, unscrupulous politicians can take advantage of it. And no politicians are more unscrupulous than today’s Republican Party.

“Private Eyes” Given A Whole New Meaning.

Recent revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on phone records, emails and Internet history have been used by some politicians to attack President Obama. Really? He not only inherited these programs from Dubya. By most accounts, he placed new restrictions on them.

Whatever the case, government spying on American citizens should be openly debated by all Americans and our representatives. Only the American people should decide how much privacy we’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for the prevention of terror attacks.

But while the media and Washington have been focused on each new revelation of the NSA program, several aspects have been relatively ignored.

One is that those collecting the information are not government agents or employees. They’re private companies. Edward Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, which is a publicly traded, for-profit corporation that has sucked up billions in revenue from government agencies such as the Department of Defense, all branches of the U.S. military, U.S. Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Security Agency.

As a result of the political right’s fascination with privatization, companies like Booz are now handling many of the tasks the government used to. The belief, although not proven, is that awarding government contracts to such companies will save money.

Apparently, it also makes information related to these tasks less secure.

Not satisfied with revealing aspects of the secret program, Edward Snowden has told the South China Morning Post that the US has been “hacking Hong Kong and China since 2009.” Great! So after turning many American citizens against their own government, Snowden is now attempting to turn other nations against it, too.

Another surprising aspect of the Snowden leak is that Booz Allen Hamilton was paying him a salary of $200,000! This is a 29-year-old who dropped out of high school, dropped out of the Army, and possesses a GED. According to his social media sites, his real expertise is playing video games.

Finally, after revealing classified information about what he considered to be US government abuses, Snowden moved to China, saying that he admired Hong Kong for its commitment to free speech! (Perhaps he should talk to a few of my Tibetan friends about China’s commitment to free speech. He can find many of them in Chinese prisons.)

Not surprisingly, all of this has made Snowden a “hero” to the tinfoil-hatted Glenn Beck. Upon reading an account of Snowden’s revelations and his flight to Hong Kong, Beck tweeted “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.”

On the other hand, Richard “The Dick” Cheney scurried out of his hidey hole and pronounced Snowden a “traitor.”

For me, this poses a real dilemma. If Beck praises someone as a hero, I can usually count on that person being a lunatic. And if the black-hearted Cheney calls someone a traitor, I can usually count on that person to be the opposite.

So now what am I to believe?