Snowden's Telepresent High Horse

Snowden, at a TED talk, inside of a telepresence robot.
Snowden, at a TED talk, inside of a telepresence robot.

INTERNET — Edward Snowden’s huge cache of NSA documents seems to be doing a lot to publicize the NSA’s incredible cyberwar capabilities, spread fear and distress among would-be revolutionaries, and cast a light of truth so bright on the government that it risks eclipsing the trespasses and evils of rapidly developing internet monopolies who make the vast majority of their profits by the kind of everyday spying mischaracterized as the business of the NSA.

Thanks to Snowden, we know there must be victims of “parallel investigations.” They have been illegally imprisoned after “legal” NSA surveillance sparked their prosecution, but because it was so “legal,” this evidence was hidden from courts with the nationwide cooperation of local police. No thanks to Snowden, victims of these illegal prosecutions have no access to the necessary documents through which they could right this injustice.

If it were only a matter of an ideological or tactical stance where Snowden believed time and energy were better spent attacking the institutions rather than defending the individuals, that would be understandable. But there are other, possibly connected and troubling things to consider.

Snowden made his first and most important alliance with Glenn Greenwald, a columnist who once used Snowden’s leaks to make a soft claim that news forums on reddit with rules against opinion columns blocked his opinion as part of JTRIG forum moderator infiltration. Greenwald’s tactics failed and the reddit moderators correctly chose not to cave to Greenwald and the army of menacing trolls he is infamous for inspiring.

Greenwald was quickly co-opted, or bought out, by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. The for-profit advocacy publication, The Intercept, also hired Jeremy Scahill. Scahill spoke of Omidyar’s influence as ever-present, characterizing the billionaire as the loudest voice in the room. Greenwald, however, rejected the idea that his reporting could in any way be affected by his new, shiny office that totally isn’t on the eBay campus.

Edward Snowden spoke at SXSW and even used a mobile telepresence robot to participate in a TED talk. He is a pop culture icon, savior of the day. Up there on his telepresent high horse, maybe Snowden has forgotten the task of justice. There is no doubt that he has done his fair share of proselytizing for the case of freedom, but will the NSA’s victims ever be given the documents they need to receive their freedom? And if not, how much longer can an audience put up with this kind of a ‘freedom’ circus? Shark jumping can only take freedom so far.

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