Dear Everyone: Please Don't Turn Edward Snowden Into Julian Assange

from the focus-on-the-story,-please dept

As Tim Cushing recently noted, reports are that Edward Snowden is on the move. With supposed help from the Wikileaks organization, Snowden was supposed to have flown from Hong Kong to Russia, where he would later make flight to Cuba to eventually end up in Ecuador. However, dozens of journalists are said to have boarded that same flight to Cuba, only to find that Snowden’s seat was empty. Per The Guardian:

My colleague Miriam Elder didn’t manage to get on that plane to Cuba – but she’s very glad, since it seems Edward Snowden never got on it either. I just spoke to her. She said Aeroflot officials had told her “with a little smirk” that they had been expecting Snowden too.

But Miriam pointed out that Snowden had never actually been sighted in Moscow, and there was actually no real evidence that he had ever been in Russia at all. Meanwhile a planeload of journalists are now off to spend the day in Cuba …

So, we’re left to believe either that something of a shell game is going on, with Snowden doing a feint on one flight ostensibly to board another, or else the game is already over and someone, somewhere has Snowden in custody. And this is something we all really need to focus on because… well…

Actually, we don’t need to focus on it. It’s a story and there’s nothing wrong with reporting on Snowden’s whereabouts, but this is all beginning to smell far too much like a Wikileaks style thumb-fest, where all the attention is placed on the person rather than the story. That can’t be allowed to happen. It’d be far too easy for the American government and the press to be able to shine a spotlight on Snowden as opposed to what he revealed. While the headlines are filled with breathless reporting on the real life game of Where’s Snowden going on, less attention is paid to his leaks and what those revelations mean for the American system of government. That’s how we lose any focus on John Kerry’s incredible statement:

I suppose there is no small irony here. I mean, I wonder if Mr Snowden chose China and Russian assistance in his flight from justice because they’re such powerful bastions of internet freedom, and I wonder if while he was in either of those countries he raised the question of internet freedom, since that seems to be what he champions.

The irony that exists, of course, is that the United States government has been caught hacking and surveilling those same countries. For Kerry to then turn and accuse them of risking a free internet, which wasn’t even the crux of what Snowden revealed, is hubris so strong it might just power motor vehicles. What Snowden was actually exposing, of course, was the American government’s policy of subversive collection of communications data globally. Sure, you can point to the Chinese and Russian governments and say they don’t have a free and open internet, though I’d caution levying that charge against Hong Kong. Of course you can say that they have similar spying programs in place, too. But this isn’t about China and Russia, it’s about America and what Snowden revealed.

The lesson here is that Snowden can’t turn into another Assange. The cult of personality is the worst kind of celebrity worship, since it distracts so completely our attention from the actual issues in this case. Focus on what is being revealed, not who is revealing it, I’m begging you.

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Comments on “Dear Everyone: Please Don't Turn Edward Snowden Into Julian Assange”

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TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The dog better remember the cat, otherwise it will end up with a bloody nose. Many dogs have learned respect for how well armed cats are that way.

A great deal of the distraction around Snowden seems less in his alleged character, though there’s plenty of that, than in the media’s fascination with “the thrill of the chase.” This is the same media that is so broke, they want us to believe that they’re shutting down bureaus galore, laying off reporters and photographers en masse and cutting off services to those who still get their news from dead trees. But they seem to have the resources to suddenly jump onto Aeroflot having arrived in Moscow to find Snowden, to follow him to Cuba without ever seeing hide nor hair of him in Moscow.
For all any of us know he’s still safe and comfy in Hong Kong.
In the meantime what needs to be paid attention to is what the NSA and parallel spy agencies elsewhere in the “free” world are up to as they merrily spy on us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“For all any of us know he’s still safe and comfy in Hong Kong.”

I for one do not know if the real Edward Snowden was ever in the military, studied wherever, worked for the CIA, was a contractor for who ever, or if the picture posted on the internet is his real picture.

All I do know is that some group is sending a large message to some other group.

I do not know what the message is or who is the sender or receiver.

All that I do know is that it takes a large effort to create the kind of diplomatic news turmoil that is being created.

For all I know Edward Snowden is a Russian or Chinese Jason Bourne.

So the news about where he is suppose to be and what he is suppose to be doing is most enlightening and provide me with as much information as the supposed liberated papers which I have yet to see a copy of on the internet do.

In fact the truth is this is a NSA secret operation where up is down, or is it down is up, or is it down is down and that all depends on it not being sides ways, cork screwed or twisted an inverted but then again maybe what we have is not a straight or double but a triple or more operation.

Bottom line I have no idea of what is really going on, who is doing what to whom. All I do know is that it is amusing, and it does reveal bits and pieces here and there of Uncle Sam unmentionables which I believe need a good washing to remove all the black stuff. (Double meaning intended.)

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

We might not have to worry about that problem

If Greenwald has enough data to leak over the whole summer, and does it on a weekly basis, it should (in theory) be able to draw the focus back to how messed up the US government is.

On a related note: Obama’s apparently going to “release a plan for dealing with climate change” tomorrow. Am I the only one who thought he’s trying to pull the “look over there!” distraction technique on the media by trying to change the subject to something completely different?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: We might not have to worry about that problem

A few reasons.

1. The quality of the information and the way it’s being released is different. Wikileaks never spent as much thought and effort into what and how they released things. They seemed to indiscriminately throw out there everything they had, even if it wasn’t presented in a manner that was easy for the public to digest. That’s not happening here.

2. Snowden has been very careful with how he has been viewed in what is released. Call it a hunch, but he doesn’t strike me as person motivated by fame and glory whereas I can’t say the same about Assange.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: We might not have to worry about that problem

Wikileaks = Dumping a full 36″x12″x12″ tub full of random Legos on the floor and then saying “Have fun finding brick X”.

Snowden & Greenwald with Leakfest = Handing you a Lego kit with all the pieces already sorted for you and going “Have fun!”

Of course, apparently Julian is now Snowden’s unofficial spokesperson/advocate [what with Ed being assisted by Wikileaks and all], but since Assange is a natural for attracting media attention, he is the perfect diversion. Go figure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We might not have to worry about that problem

I don’t think this is a feint: this has been (more or less) scheduled all along and the timing appears, as best as I can tell, to be coincidental.

(Won’t matter much anyway: the primitive savages who prefer worshipping their fabricated gods over learning math and science are FAR too stupid to understand climate science and will shout the whole thing down.)

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: We might not have to worry about that problem

Possible. But I kinda find it hard to believe that Obama wouldn’t use a holiday like Earth Day to push forward a new agenda on climate change (symbolism and all that jazz). The big thing that makes any claim about climate change by the President ring hollow is the fact that he’s supporting the Keystone Pipeline and “clean coal”, neither of which are exactly environment friendly.

The Real Michael says:

Re: We might not have to worry about that problem

Yup, it’s an intentional distraction, not just from Snowden/NSA but everything else that’s been going on as of late: IRS, GMO, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, more job losses, the economy, etc. etc. I don’t believe that anything out of the ordinary is happening with regards to the climate, and even in the event that there IS, who would be gullible enough to trust politicians to come up with a workable solution? Can you say ‘carbon tax?’

Dave Xanatos (profile) says:

“I wonder if while he was in either of those countries he raised the question of internet freedom, since that seems to be what he champions.”

Yes, because that’s all we’ve heard from Snowden is how we need to increase internet freedoms around the globe. Oh wait. No, it’s illegal government surveillance of US citizens.

Looks like Kerry has lumped Snowden in with the “People Who Do Things On the Intertubes That I Don’t Like” group.

Anonymous Coward says:

True but...

Snowden himself apparently has architected the counter to that in how he is releasing the documents through Greenwald… slowly and methodically. Just when the press starts to get off track, a new document with a new piece of information is released to right the ship. And apparently he has already given Greenwald plenty to release in time such that even if he were captured, the leaks could not be stopped. It’s a brilliant move on his part.

Rocko Bandas says:

Classic gambit

He said he’ll fly to Cuba, but he instead chose another route. There may be some kind of extraction plan at work here, but not linked with CIA (Central Idiocy Agency), NSA (National Stupidity Agency) or other three letter morons.

Rest assured his knowledge won’t be lost even if he gets captured. There are several… backups, both online and offline, both digital and analog (a.k.a. paper) in various locations thorough the world.

Let be said, that Mr. Snowden isn’t alone and he may or may not be even leader of this… organisation. More information, particularly on G.W. Bush and his… oil contacts will be revealed soon, ending Bush’s career.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Actually there should be focus on both

Do not get me wrong. We should focus on the content of Snowden’s message, but we should also focus on the man himself.
Not out of hero worship. Rather I say this because he is a whistleblower on a corrupt US agency and what is at stake are civil liberties. How he has been treated, is being treated now and what is in store for him in the future has important relevance and histroy will judge just how far the Bill of Rights has been shredded by this administration.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Actually there should be focus on both

Some folks keep fingering “this administration” like it means more than it actually does. The Executive has been out of order throughout several occupants. Has it not? The department of justice with DRUGS and now the DOD with TERRORISM. If you think any president can right these wrongs as a matter of course I would suspect that that belief is mistaken.

However, I agree, this administration has continued and worsened both the present situation and the total damage to country.

hohum says:

Re: Actually ...there shouldn't.

“How he has been treated, is being treated now and what is in store for him in the future has important relevance…”

Relevance to what, exactly? To strike fear into the hearts of any potential future whistleblowers, thereby causing them to think twice before they expose crimes of corruption? Still think it’s a good idea to focus on the man? Yeah, me either.

“…history will judge just how far the Bill of Rights has been shredded…”

NEWS FLASH: The Bill of Rights has already been reduced to a faint and distant memory, like the ghost-of-USA-past. No need to wait on history’s ruling.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem here is the NSA and we should not forget that anytime soon..

If they want collect data through a United States Citizen “WHO HAS RIGHTS” they should use the proper channels and get a warrant. I only say it must be like that because they’ve just proven they cannot be trusted to do so with no oversight.

As for Snowden he is not the problem and should no of no concern to anyone. We need to put the spotlight on the problem until it’s fucking fixed.

richard (profile) says:


Personally I think if they do manage to get snowden thy will try to keep it secret, and try him in their secret courts because they know that it will start protests/riots and maybe even more all over the country. It is beyond me why obama has not been impeached or forced to resign yet, since he “won” his second term it has been nothing but one scandal right after another. I personally think Every single top level elected and appointed official needs to be taken from office and charged and tried for treason.

Pragmatic says:

Re: snowden

What do you mean “won?”

He was up against a bare-faced liar who told workers in Ohio that their jobs were being outsourced to China, prompting a press release to explain that the company was setting up a factory in China to sell vehicles to the Chinese, Richard.

How many votes do you think your man Romney lost over that?

When Obama lies (and yes, he does), he’s a bit more subtle about it. He’s also less embarrassing on the world stage. Put up a better candidate in 2016 and see what happens.

Remember, you’ve got to field a candidate more politically attractive an urbane, subtle liar who goes after whistleblowers like an avenging fury to protect the nascent surveillance state. It can’t be that hard.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: snowden

It’s the GoTP. They’ll make it ten times as hard for themselves as it needs be. Anyone remotely centre-enough to be elected by independent voters wouldn’t get nominated by the rabid party activists.

My only consolation in all this debacle is that it wouldn’t have been (and wasn’t) any better under the Republicans.

BTW, the American centre/left really should be pushing back. Everytime someone whines about Benghazi, F&F or whatever, remind them of Iran-contra, the economic crash, ignoring 9/11 intelligence, and especially the WMD/Iraq invasion catastrophes.

Obama sucks, just luckily for him he sucks at things the Right mostly initially instigated or did/had more of.

Wally (profile) says:

Julian Assange released classified government documents to the public on everything any US official was doing, planning to do, or was going to do until they found out the information was going to be released. He released both things that should not have been classified and things that really should have been…this includes the security details at the US embassy at Benghazi… Assange got charged with rape while running and there was DNA evidence to prove it. Also, Assange comes off as an arrogant asshole and was known to yell at his staff if he didn’t get his way or was questioned about his financial decisions.

Snowden, on the other hand, did not endanger the lives of those around him, did not release any sort of schematic of the computer systems used by the NSA or how those systems operated or worked, did not release the actual information that truly needed to be classified…left his wife and kiss so they wouldn’t be harmed by the DOJ and NSA, gave up his $186,000 a year job, and did his civic duty as, not only as a true NSA agent, but as any US citizen should do…and ran so that the press won’t be able to find him.

Here’s the thing about Snowden…no matter where he goes, he’s in danger of being shot, killed, tortured, or executed because he’s been identified as an NSA agent and is risking his life to make sure that US citizens’ rights are not trampled on.

Here’s the thing about Assange….America is evil so we must embarrass it….that’s why he does what he does.

There you go…two comparisons of people and their stories…Snowden is a better human than Assange.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Assange was tried for “rape” (notice the quotes) by two women who were paid large sums of money by the US government to claim several months after having sex that they changed their minds because the US couldn’t think of any other way to get Assange into a country that would happily crate him up and ship him off to a secret internment camp in the US.

Well it’s either that or “somehow” both women suddenly got several million in their bank accounts (I never thought Monopoly’s ‘bank account in your favor’ actually happened).

horse with no name says:

The point

The point is that this guy has decided to be the next Assange (and of course allied himself with the Wikileaks people really quickly). His actions take away from whatever he was trying to accomplish. He could have very easily shut up until he arrived in Equador, and then gone public safely. Instead, he chose to turn it into a circus.

Getting hooked up with the Wikileaks people is like the kiss of death for issues, because Assange and his bunch are a cult of personality now. It’s about showing Assange in charge, even though he has imprisoned himself.

The issue of the NSA and such is gone – Assange killed it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: individuals make history

Are you not blind? He’s a wistle blower. His motivation for wistle bloeing (witch is defined as follows) was exposing something illegal going on within the the organization he worked for…the NSA. His motivation for running is that he’s at risk of being assassinated…and he’s not a traitor.

Anonymous Coward says:

All these posts about SNOWDEN !!!

Proof in point, you are not discussing the message here, you are fixated on the messenger. You just can’t help it can you !!!!!..

No one cares about the message, most already knew it was going on, and are not surprised at all about it.

Most feel it is a necessity, and can understand the reasoning about it, therefore his leaks are ineffective by choice.

It’s no longer about the leaks, it’s about Snowden, it’s just the same as Assange.

Even the people at techdirt can’t help themselves, even the Masnick cultists cannot ‘keep to script’ they too have made Snowden the story not the substance of the leaks.

Snowden just like Assange have gone to great efforts to make that the case, to make themselves the story and not what they leaked.

If the Government had of done nothing in response to 9/11 they would have been highly criticised, they HAVE to do something, there was a clear expectation and requirement that they do something.

So they did what they always do, that is try to enforce the laws, increase police work, increase surveillance, increase security.

That is the responsibility of the Government, you think they had the choice to do nothing ???

The Government is simply doing what Governments are supposed to do, what they have always done, and what all Government do. Like it or not, it’s not like they had a choice.

You might say you think it’s unconstitional, but it appears it is within the framework of the constitution, and the way the constitution was written puts that decision with the Supreme Court, if they state it is constitutional IT IS.

I have read your Constitution, especially the parts relating to the claimed breaks, and I have read the various ruling of the Supreme Count on similar cases, and I have to agree it does NOT appear to violate the constitution at all.

Surveys show most Americans (who have probably not read the constitution) also feel it is necessary, expected and an appropriate response to the very real threats and attacks against said Americans.

It’s funny it’s OK for the US to bomb the shit out of Bethlehem, and be at war in the middle east for 20 years, kill untold numbers of people. But DO NOT ask for our phone records or who and when we call people !!!!

Lets get upset about that beyond all reason, but accept ‘special renditions’ and holding people without charge.

That’s fine, but don’t ask to see our phone bills !!!!

Americans NEED to take a GOOD HARD LOOK at themselves..

Anonymous Coward says:

Glen Greenwald has also become the story, and not the reporter, so another failure.

It is way beyond the message, it is ALL about the messengers.

It’s called when you have explosive information, you mishandle it and it blows up in your face. The group of people that has happened to is growing daily.

The “by the book” response of the US Government is exactly what they have to do, what is expected of them to do. It’s clear which group are able to handle this information without it blowing up in their faces.

The US by ‘going by the book’ is showing how it is constitutional and is open for a constitutional challenge, (that has not occurred).

The US Gov is willing to debate the specifics of the policies, even release more information to clarify their stance.

Snowden, Assange, Greenwald are not in that position, plus they have clearly stepped outside of the law, and did so knowing full well the US has to go by the book.

The US Gov cannot do anything else. They do not have a choice. If they did, you could challenge the constitutionality of their actions.

Clearly, the strategy of “stealing and leaking” is a failed one.
It’s equally clear the primary motive for “Stealing and leaking” is self engrandisment, you get your 15 mins of fame followed by years in hiding.

Assange is too busy hiding to be a parent to his children, and could be imprisoned in the embassy for years to come.
And no one cares about what he leaked.

Snowden is the same, don’t these guys learn.

Have you considered the chilling effect on others who might of considered doing the same thing???

I would, it’s a method proven time and again NOT TO WORK, will there be another Snowden ?? probably, but they will think long and hard before they do.
I would guess that even these people will work out it’s simply not worth it, it does not work, so why destroy your life for it ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Snowden, Assange, Greenwald are not in that position, plus they have clearly stepped outside of the law, and did so knowing full well the US has to go by the book.”

Except that legally speaking, Snowden and Greenwald were both employees of the the NSA, and they exposed illegal activities therein… Legally speaking that’s the VERY DEFINITION of a whistle blower…

Assange however, never worked for any organizations he exposed…

we have to focus on person and story behind their motives right? Well Greenwald’s and Snowden’s motives were protecting the rights of hundreds of millions of US citizens.

Oh and by the way…it’s the DOJ’s job to PROTECT whistle blowers. They aren’t…

Edgar Bendiksen says:


Of course there is a parallell between Assange and Snowdon. They were both telling the truth. That kind of true stories that tell how Us- military massacred sivilians in Irak, and how Us leaders are discussing their united partners. (Ref.Assange).
Snowden has given the world a message, referring how us- intelligent try to follow the private life of everybody.

They are both heroes. Should have the Nobel Peace Price for telling the truth. But instead, the Cia and Us government is ruling further around the world. Busch Jr. said: “They who are not with us, is against us!” Such kind of declaration is telling most of how Us unfortunately still operates the world. Nd to have the opportunety the go on in that way, it is neccesary to catch people like Assange and Snowdon. Unfortunately the Nobel Peace Price Commitee is influed by the same politics.

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