Edward Snowden Isn’t Doing Himself — Or Other Whistleblowers — Any Favors by Traveling to Russia


Former NSA contractor and world's "most wanted man" Edward Snowden has fled his Hong Kong hideout for Moscow, Russia. From there, it looks like he will head to Ecuador by way of Cuba or Venezuela. What do all these countries have in common? Varying degrees of frosty relationships with the United States.

Though Snowden's choice of safe havens may have nothing to do with international politics and everything to do with extradition agreements — namely, a lack thereof — with the United States, it is baffling that a man who consistently has denied any wrongdoing would antagonize the American public by associating himself with countries that have historically been our enemies (Ecuador's Rafael Correa is a close ally of the other leftist governments in Latin America).

I don't believe I'm alone when I say I was on Edward Snowden's side before he flew to Moscow. To me, there was a distinct difference between his actions and those of Julian Assange. The exposure of PRISM — the surveillance program Snowden blew the whistle on — did not seek to intentionally compromise intelligence assets like WikiLeaks did (it took some self-censorship by the New York Times to make sure that didn't happen). This was a program that had not truly faced the consent of the governed, and Snowden had a problem with that. Though the leak was illegal, I could understand how Snowden could consider his actions a form of noble civil disobedience.

Not anymore. Snowden ironically has chosen to travel to one of the worst countries on Earth for the free press. Moreover, he doesn't seem to have any intention of returning to the United States.

This is the problem with leaker-whistleblowers like Assange and Snowden. The latter's continued refusal to return to his home country and defend his actions makes any praise of his "heroism" seem disingenuous. Snowden knows his speculations about his own potential fate — "I do not expect to see home again" — are hyperbole. The CIA isn't going to assassinate him. It is becoming increasingly clear that Snowden just isn't willing to accept the consequences of his actions. Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, went to trial for doing so. Every day that Edward Snowden stays holed up in a foreign consulate, he looks more and more like Julian Assange and less and less like Ellsberg.

Perhaps the most ironic consequence of Snowden's behavior is the legacy he is leaving for future whistleblowers. Millennials' image of a whistleblower doesn't look like Ellsberg or even Joseph Wilson. Instead, the Internet Age has given us shifty globetrotters who, though they may even be doing the right thing, ally themselves with enemy governments and lack the courage to truly stand against the governments whose laws they have violated.