Monday, June 24, 2013

Maturity Issues Mar Snowden Spree


It's the term that keeps popping up in my mind as I continue reading about Edward Snowden, the rogue Booz Allen techie who's become the world-famous NSA informant.

At this precise moment, it's believed that Snowden is on the run somewhere in Russia, having fled his initial sanctuary city, Hong Kong, yesterday.  Ever since he outed himself as the courageous American who was outraged by the extent of spying his government is perpetrating on its citizens, and apparently, as we're learning, even years before this, his has been a world of intrigue and, frankly, immaturity.

He dropped out of high school, never earned an undergraduate degree, and only took a few online courses for a Masters degree.  He did finally attain a GED after taking classes at a community college.  He frequented online forums for computer hackers and gamers, people not known for conventional displays of tenacity and wisdom.  The one girlfriend of his whose identity we've learned, Lindsay Mills, looks and sounds like a lovely person, but if online ramblings attributed to her on Facebook are any guide, she's got her own issues with reality.

For his 30th birthday, which he celebrated this past weekend in Hong Kong, his dinner consisted of pizza and fried chicken - not exactly the menu of somebody either aware of or interested in the gastronomic delights undoubtedly available to him in one of the world's wealthiest cities, where he's been lauded as a hero.

Then there's this whole three-month stint as a contractor for the NSA, the extent of information to which he had access, and the degree of complexity his employers expected of him.  Techies like Snowden learn on the fly, and learn quickly, and no officials have denied the general nature of his allegations, so what he's told the world likely is fairly accurate, but three months?  Maybe that says more negative things about Booz Allen and their management of new hires than it does the quality of Snowden's information, but it would be far more credible - even for the politicians on both sides of the aisle who adamantly defend such rampant government snooping -  if he was more mature about the situation.

After all, there's a difference between intelligence and wisdom.

Aren't there better ways of devising one's response and executing it than blabbing to the press and running to Communistic countries?  So far, he's more of an enigma than anything else, with accounts of his work, lifestyle, and days on the lam coming to us via third person accounts or video taped for clandestine purposes.  Some people have wondered out loud if Edward Snowden actually exists, or if his name is a pseudonym for a group of hackers or other malcontents.  Indeed, there's a lot of loose space in Snowden's story for conspiracy theorists to poke deflating holes in its credibility.  If he would stop running, surrender to authorities, and let the federal government, in their angst and fury, lend official gravity to these proceedings they've launched against him, wouldn't his case receive instant validation?  Isn't that what he's ultimately hoping for?

He's run away from his gorgeous girlfriend, Hawaii, his family, and even the country he professes to love, almost like a kid who's tracked mud in the house and then freaks out when he can't figure out how to clean up his mess before mom sees it.  His escape plan was rudimentary at best, and has been sustained solely on the anti-American bias that flourishes outside of our country.

Personally, I'd like for Snowden to get a good lawyer and negotiate terms for him relinquishing himself safely to America authorities.  I'd like the charges of treason to be dropped, and if they're not dropped, that Congress disband the NSA for its own undermining of the United States Constitution.  Regardless of the remaining charges against him, Snowden should obtain an open trial with live cameras in the courtroom during which exhaustive evidence in his defense can be presented and vetted.  And if he's found guilty of the charges against him - which I assume would involve the illegal way he dealt with classified information - his punishment should be vacated by the President for a lifetime's probation.  I would think any president would prefer to show leniency to somebody like Snowden than incite a planet full of computer hackers against his country.

Not that Snowden hasn't done anything wrong, or that he shouldn't be punished for it in some way.  There are legitimate areas of classified intelligence that our sovereign nation needs to protect, and setting a precedent by completely exonerating Snowden could wreak havoc on our ability to protect that intelligence.  And Snowden himself has seemed to be resigned that at some point, he broke the law, and at some point, he's going to have to face the legal consequences.  Apparently, he's simply scared that the feds want to kill him for what he did.  Which may not be the most immature of his actions to date, but the very possibility of its validity should have scared him into better plotting how to reveal what he thought needed to be revealed.

As it is, we've got a 30-year-old kid running around the planet leaving muddy diplomatic footprints wherever he goes.  Granted, he may have been trying to scare away a burglar at his home, or chase the family dog that got loose from its collar, but there are ways mature people do these things.

And the less mature you are when doing them, the less credibility you'll have retained if and when you ultimately get caught.

Having said all of that, however, and if our government has no intentions of treating Snowden with the respect and humanity towards which he's entitled as "innocent until proven guilty," I couldn't completely fault his efforts at self-preservation.  After all, he may have broken the law, but according to his allegations, our government is undermining it.

In a way, that's maturity gone berserk.

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