Everyone from Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker to New York Times editor Jill Abramson to Apple's Steve Wozniak agrees that National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations are unquestionably in the public interest.
Nonetheless, "anonymous government officials" and surveillance state apologists still accuse Snowden of damaging national security without any proof and spread the false rumor that he gave national security secrets to China and Russia. Last night gave two accounts of Snowden's revelations from the New York Times' James Risen and myself based on my recent in-person visit with him, accounts which were not coordinated but are completely consistent and roundly debunk once and for all the unfounded accusation that Snowden is a spy.
Risen, a journalist of the highest caliber, writes:
Mr. Snowden said he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow, and did not keep any copies for himself. He did not take the files to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” he said.
Snowden's interview with Risen is completely consistent with what he expressed to me at dinner in Moscow last week, which I chronicled in The Nation:
As for who is providing for his security—WikiLeaks? FSB?—this question is borne not out of a concern for his safety, but rather a US desire to perpetuate a false narrative that Snowden is being controlled by the Russians. I can say with certainty: Edward Snowden is not being controlled by the Russians, or anyone for that matter. He is fiercely independent and makes his own decisions, leaving him perplexed and understandably frustrated by the continuous insinuations that he is giving the Russians information. He ticks off abundant evidence to the contrary. First, he points out, he didn’t destroy his life to become a Russian asset. Second, he’s in Russia only because of the United States, which revoked his passport while he was en route to Latin America. Third, WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison has been by his side the whole time, in part to bear witness to the fact that he is not engaged in spying activity. Fourth, it is obvious that he chose to give information about NSA’s secret dragnet surveillance to the US people, not foreign adversaries. Fifth, and perhaps most significantly considering the contrary narrative promulgated in the United States, he has not had access to the information he revealed since he left Hong Kong.Snowden also expressed to Risen the lack of any effective internal channels for NSA employees to make whistleblowing disclosures, accurately explaining that "“the system does not work,” adding that “you have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it.”"
After reading about the program, which skirted the existing surveillance laws, [Snowden] concluded that it had been illegal, he said. “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all,” he said, “secret powers become tremendously dangerous.”In stark contrast to the "least truthful" NSA officials attempting to defend the NSA's spying programs who shift their justifications with each new revelation and Congressional intelligence committee members who view their role as NSA defenders rather than overseers, Snowden's accounts have been consistent and credible. After Snowden's personal revelations last night, there can be no doubt that Snowden is a classic whistleblowers whose whistleblowing disclosures were in the public interest and the allegations that he is a spy are classic whistleblower retaliation, inflammatory smears meant to discredit the messenger and distract from the message.