Put aside your position, please, on whether or not celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero, a traitor or both, and consider this: a scofflaw military dropout spook with privileged access to apparently everything including the president’s email on the run, in possession of who knows what in addition to a big mouth, he surely has more information and capabilities of value than he revealed to the press. And he’s sought refuge, perhaps political asylum, in Hong Kong, which is China.

As much as people who live there prefer not to admit it, Hong Kong is indeed China, especially in matters of national security and diplomacy. China has discretion over how much to involve itself in the affairs of Hong Kong. They generally keep their distance (with exception to some PRC military bases scattered across Hong Kong), but this situation is exotic, and Snowden surely does concern military and diplomatic interests of the Chinese. He may as well be in Beijing, hiking the Great Wall or checking out the Terracotta Warriors. Put yourself in the shoes of the Chinese government and think about it.

We’ve been having a rather difficult time getting along with the Chinese. We believe their government exercises massive coordinated cyber warfare against us, including stealing blueprints to our weapons systems, even our fancy fighters. They did something similar to the Australians. The Chinese, friends with our enemies, enjoy stealing digital secrets from us and other countries, and now they have this man in their lap, a treasure chest of secrets. Maybe I watched Homeland too much, but even if he is a patriot, looking at his Youtube clip, does he strike you like the guy who could resist a few sessions of Chinese water torture to keep quiet? Of course not.

I suspect the only thing protecting him, and therefore us, from being milked of useful classified information and hacking tips by the Chinese for interests that really do threaten us is that he’s very high-profile at the moment. Perhaps the Chinese see more value in diplomatic points to score for not capturing him, maybe being cooperative with us in an extradition, than shaking out more information from him. Or perhaps they’re just waiting, considering their options. Perhaps they’re handling him, perhaps they’ve tapped his phone and computer, perhaps they’ve subscribed to his Youtube channel, perhaps they already took him.

Maybe the Chinese believe Snowden is still doing a good job without their coercion damaging the US and furthering their own interests. How about that?

Even if he makes a dash to Iceland or Ecuador, maybe he made some friends in Hong Kong, maybe the Chinese turned him into a cooperative asset. Maybe he’s not a patriot at all. Maybe he’s impressionable, maybe his allegiance to a country interested in prosecuting him for treason is a bit pliable now. Maybe he packed a few NSA USB sticks with him before skipping town, insurance policies – why wouldn’t he. Maybe he’s unstable mentally. Maybe he created himself some sort of digital back door and continues to have access to the NSA. We really don’t know what he is, knows, intends or has – but he is most certainly a liability in the wind, especially conspicuously making Youtube videos in the Mandarin Oriental while getting high fives from Julian Assange. How can we risk not snatching him or otherwise mitigating the threat he poses immediately?

That more people are calling him a hero rather than a traitor on Twitter isn’t a good enough answer.

Doug Simmons

6 COMMENTS

  1. So this man has given up a great career to share information with you.. He had the chance to sell it for great personal profit and chose to share it with you for free at great personal cost and you want to “snatch” or kill him.. Your exactly what wrong with the weak minded followers in this country.. Snowden has shown his character to be farvgreater than yours or mine and you want to kill him for that.. Why is this posted on a mobile site anyways..

  2. Christopher: The point I tried to make is that it’s irrelevant how genuinely heroic he is given his knowledge, capabilities and that he is within reach not of us but our at-times adversary, and that’s something we can’t afford, no matter how much many of us revere him. He’s a fugitive and a loaded weapon in the lap of a country that may be inclined to take advantage of him, regardless of his ideals. You say weak-minded, I say self-destructive not to fetch him. Perhaps I wouldn’t have written this if he flew to a less unfriendly country.

    > Why is this posted on a mobile site anyways..
    Because I’m tangential, felt like laying this opinion down rather than my thoughts on iOS 7. I made a categories list thing on the sidebar if you want to stick to mobile topics, but thanks for chiming in here.

  3. ‘putting aside your position’ about whether you think that his actions were correct or not. The bottom line is that you are calling for the murder of this individual on a forum thats supposed to be about mobile technology.

    Well, thats completely your call. You’re free to do that. But I don’t think its appropriate, and therefore i’m resigning from the readership of your blog and unsubscribing from your RSS feeds. I’ve enjoyed your commentary over the years, but this is goodbye.

  4. Sorry to hear that psionandy, I was a bit crass but that’s how I feel – glad this forum format lets people take the opposite side visibly. My apologies if I caused any offense and farewell.

  5. The older I get, the more my cynacism seems to grow. I suspect that in the coming weeks we’re going to learn that Mr. Snowden’s motivations are not as altruistic as he would like us to believe.

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