Jennifer I. Hoelzer writes: Edward Snowden went over the president’s head, and the president thinks it was totally not cool of him. At a news conference earlier this month, he said: “There were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred.” Furthermore, “[w]ell before Mr. Snowden leaked this information,” the president reminds us, he signed an order that “for the first time … provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community.”
The president even says he “called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks.”
In other words, according to President Obama, Edward Snowden didn’t have to go over the commander-in-chief’s head to get his concerns addressed, because not only does the president support whistle-blowers — and thus would have taken Snowden’s concerns seriously — he was already in the process of addressing the issues Snowden went above him to get addressed.
I see a few problems with this.
First of all, it’s unclear exactly what avenues the president believes Snowden should have taken to raise concerns about the NSA’s secret surveillance programs. Last week, he told Jay Leno: “If you think that the government is abusing a program … you can come … to the appropriate individuals and say, ‘Look, I’ve got a problem with what’s going on here. I’m not sure whether it’s being done properly.’ ”
He has a point. If Edward Snowden had concerns that one of his co-workers was abusing the NSA’s surveillance authority to — for example — collect data on a former girlfriend or blackmail a member of Congress, he could have reported his concerns to a supervisor, and it’s highly likely that person would have done something about it.
But, contrary to what the president seems to think, Edward Snowden wasn’t concerned that the NSA was “improperly” collecting information on hundreds of millions of Americans. He was concerned that the government was collecting information on hundreds of millions of Americans. And how exactly does the president think Snowden should have raised that concern?
Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen, which requires employees to report “all suspected violations of the law” and cautions them to “take care to not report a violation to someone that [they] believe is involved in the matter.”
Well, nearly everyone Edward Snowden worked for — up to and including the president of the United States — was involved in the matter. So, again, whom exactly should he have gone to with his concerns? [Continue reading…]