Hillary Clinton: All For Vague, Undefined Surveillance Reform, But Screw That Snowden Guy

from the because-that's-how-politics-work dept

Hillary Clinton is, of course, making her big Presidential campaign book tour, commenting on all sorts of big issues, as she gears up for the real campaign. It's causing some controversy, of course, including her wacky, angry response to Fresh Air host Terry Gross simply asking if she had changed her opinion on gay marriage (Clinton refused to directly answer the question, and when Gross called her on that, Clinton accused her of trying to claim she changed her opinion for political reasons, even though that was pretty clearly not Gross' intent). However, in that same interview, Clinton also took some ridiculous and uninformed shots at Ed Snowden. After Gross pointed out that Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, had called Snowden an "imperfect messenger" but also suggesting that perhaps the national security state has gone too far, Hillary said:
Well, I usually agree with my husband, but let me say on this point that there were many ways to start this conversation. And in fact, the conversation was starting. Members of Congress - a few notable examples like Senator Wyden and Senator Udall and others - were beginning to raise issues that it was time for us to take a hard look at all of the laws that have been passed and how they were implemented since 9/11.

The president was addressing this. In fact, he had given a speech that basically made that point shortly before these disclosures were made. And of course, I think it's imperative that in our political system, in our society at large, we have these debates. So I welcome the conversation. But I think that he was not only an imperfect messenger, but he was a messenger who could have chosen other ways to raise the very specific issues about the impact on Americans. But that's not all he did.
Of course, this is misleading to wrong. Lots of defenders of the President on surveillance like to point to his speech at the National Defense University a couple weeks before the first Snowden revelation, but that speech did not address the issues now being discussed at all. It mostly focuses on fighting overseas, and actually (a few times) praises the work of the intelligence community and how useful that's been. That was not starting any sort of real debate. As for Wyden and Udall -- they'd been making these points for years and having them virtually ignored by most, in both the press and among their colleagues (we wrote about it, but we don't count).
There were other ways that Mr. Snowden could have expressed his concerns, by reaching out to some of the senators or other members of Congress or journalists in order to convey his questions about the implementation of the laws surrounding the collection of information concerning Americans' calls and emails. I think everyone would have applauded that because it would have added to the debate that was already started. Instead, he left the country - first to China, then to Russia - taking with him a huge amount of information about how we track the Chinese military's investments and testing of military equipment, how we monitor the communications between al-Qaida operatives. Just two examples.
Except, of course, the failure of Wyden and Udall's claims to get any attention made it quite clear that reaching out to Senators wouldn't help. And he did reach out to journalists. But, of course, Clinton's former boss has also been using the Espionage Act against leakers and journalists at an astounding rate. If Obama hadn't been doing so, perhaps Snowden would have been more comfortable just sharing a few documents. However, knowing that there was a good chance he was about to disappear for life, it makes sense that Snowden handed over the whole pile of documents to Greenwald and Poitras. And, yes, this is one of the consequences of Obama's use of the Espionage Act. It encourages leakers to leak big while they can.

If Clinton honestly thinks everyone would have "applauded... because it would have added to the debate," she is either clueless about how people have responded to various similar (less explosive) leaks, or trying to rewrite history in her favor.

And the whole "go to China and Russia" bit is tired, old and misleading. As is the suggestion that he took any of that info to Russia. That's been debunked in the past, no need to do so again.

Still, what's amazing is that a week later, we now get this headline from the Guardian: Hillary Clinton backs overhaul of surveillance powers in NSA criticism, and then, in the article:
"Laws that were passed after 9/11 gave the executive very broad authority ... what has happened is that people have said, OK, the emergency is over and we want to get back to regular order," she said.

"It's a really difficult balancing act, but you are absolutely right that we need to make some changes to secure that constitutional right to privacy that Americans are due."
Wait, what? If it weren't for Snowden, we wouldn't even be having the debate about the PATRIOT Act, and there wouldn't be a discussion about "the emergency is over." Hell, to hear Keith Alexander talk about it, the "threat" is bigger now than ever before. Because fear is the key.

Separately, notice that Clinton doesn't actually back any real proposal for reform, but just sorta dances around the idea that maybe reform is good. It's the ultimate in political nothingness. Stake out a bunch of vague positions without anything concrete that can come back to haunt you later, and do it all while bizarrely attacking the guy who made the issue an issue in the first place. And people wonder why the public is so cynical about politicians.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2014 @ 10:50am

    "The president was addressing this. In fact, he had given a speech that basically made that point shortly before these disclosures were made."

    Ironic that there hasn't been a real debate even since Snowden. There has been Congress/public pushing on one side and the White House/Judicial system pushing back & hiding what they can at the same time. Heaven forbid an actual discussion... that's exactly what the White House and intelligence organizations don't want!

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