Opinion » Bill Cope

Worse Than Snowden?

(Hint: it's a long list)


"Cope, wheres you gonna get around to callin' that Eddy Snowden what a no-count coward snake-in-the-grass back-stabbin' traitor what he is!?"

That was Red, of course. He'd stomped in all angry and resentful that I had let weeks slip by without writing anything about that "Bennydick Arnold what expoured our good ol' 'Merican secrets out f'r the whole world t' gawk at."

Curiously, Red stomped in just minutes after Badger Bob had stomped out, also angry and resentful. Bob, however, had an entirely different slant on the Edward Snowden affair.

"Cope, this is your chance to stick up for an authentic American hero, a man willing to sacrifice himself on the alter of truth and transparency. Can't you see that, you f***ing idiot? Edward Snowden has handed us an opportunity to examine the principles and values necessary for a democracy to survive. Why don't you get off your lard a** and write something that means something!?"

They both, in their separate ways, did indeed make me feel a tad guilty for ignoring the Snowden story and its ramifications. But as I explained to them in turn, "Sorry, Bob/Red. I know in my heart that I should be addressing this important matter. But the truth is, I have ambiguous feelings about the whole thing."

Bob said, "That's your f***ing problem, Cope. You're ambiguous about everything, you fatuous twit!"

Red said, "This ain't no time f'r amphibylous feelin's, Cope. The U.S. of A.'s got its neck on the chomping block if'n we can't spy on whosever needs spyin' on without ever'body knowin' we're spyin' on 'em!"

But neither of them could talk me down from the fence I straddled. Certainly, I agreed with Bob that a democracy can survive only so much secrecy, the invasion of only so much privacy, the violation of only so many basic liberties. And, initially, I had to admire the sacrifice Edward Snowden had made in exposing the NSA's policies.

On the other hand, I shared Red's fear that Snowden might well have damaged the nation's security in a world changing so rapidly that even the experts are in a constant frenzy just to grasp what perils the future might hold. I also agree that, after that first flush of what appeared to be selfless sacrifice, Snowden has behaved rather like a naughty little boy, looking for a momma to hide behind.

Taken all together, though, it's a wash. While I don't like the idea of having my correspondence gone over by some huge intelligence agency's version of cadaver-sniffing dogs, nothing has shown me--yet--that the NSA has used any of the information it has gathered to the detriment of any citizen who wasn't up to something we are damn glad he got caught being up to. In other words, did Snowden do us any favors by sharing with us secrets which, had they not been shared with us, might one day save some lives?

So I may not know what to make of the man, but that's not to say he isn't useful as a standard to put some things in perspective. I put together a list I call the "Who's Worse Than Edward Snowden?" registry, and the individuals on it are those who, in my estimation, have done even more harm to America than this whistle-blowing runaway. The idea traces to a Democrat congressman from Georgia, Hank Johnson. Asked what he thought about Supreme Court chair-filler Clarence Thomas' vote to neuter the Voting Rights Act, Rep. Johnson said, "Comparing it to Snowden, I'd say the offense is worse."

Absolutely! thought I, and by extension, that makes four other members of the Supreme Court equally worse than Snowden. (Frankly, we don't even need to consider their ruling on the Voting Rights Act; the bucket of shit they poured over America with the Citizens United decision would have ensured them a place on "Who's Worse Than Edward Snowden?"

Naturally, I've added Donald Trump to the list, and not solely because he was so quick to suggest Snowden should be executed. For years, I've felt that Trump's big, stupid, flapping mouth degraded and cheapened the experience of being an American, reminding us there are many ways to do harm to a nation and its people.

John Boehner was one of the first listed, and not for calling Snowden a traitor. Many have called Snowden a traitor, but Boehner went on to say Snowden has "put Americans at risk." Maybe true, maybe not. But one thing's for certain: As the Obstructionist-in-Chief for the GOP, Boehner has put more Americans at risk than Snowden could with a thousand leaks.

Of course, I put Bush (George W.) and Cheney (that Dick) on the list. Really, when it comes to harming America, Snowden can't hold a candle to those two. And at least, when Snowden did his damage, thousands and thousands of people didn't get killed in the process.

Oh, the registry grows even as I write. When you think about it, it's a wonderment that America has survived the combined abuse at the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, the Senate sumphole that answers to the name "Mitch McConnell"... so many, many more.

However, one name that has resurfaced as this story unfolded will not make the list--Daniel Ellsberg.

Ellsberg has compared Snowden to himself, but I can't help but see an enormous difference between exposing a huge, ambiguous secret--as Snowden did with the NSA--and exposing a huge, murderous lie, as Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers. And is it not relevant that Ellsberg hasn't spent the rest of his life bouncing from port to port, trying to avoid the consequences of what he did?