Edward Snowden analysis: Inside the mind of the man who 'should man up and come back to the US’

The man who blew the whistle on the National Security Agency is in a battle for the truth with his former employer

US Editor

One year after Edward Snowden leaked secret documents exposing the snooping apparatus of the National Security Agency (NSA), the debate over how he should be viewed – venal traitor or patriotic whistleblower – has taken a fierce new turn with each side accusing the other of economies with the truth.

It is a highly unusual propaganda battle that was reignited last week with an interview given by Mr Snowden to NBC News. He had asserted that he had worked as a fully fledged spy for the NSA rather than as an analyst and, more crucially, that he had decided to hand over the secret materials only after he had tried to raise his concerns about the snooping practices with his superiors but to no avail.

While not quite calling him a liar, the NSA said it had found only one email from Mr Snowden before he absconded and that it had been limited to a narrow question to the agency’s legal office about the standing of presidential executive orders vs established law. “The email did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse,” the NSA flatly said in a statement.

Thus the matter is quickly devolving into a he-says, she-says stand-off that is unlikely to clarify anything. In another statement published yesterday by The Washington Post, Mr Snowden, 30, suggested that the NSA’s presentation of the records was “incomplete” or “tailored”, implying that the agency is either withholding other emails or missives he directed towards his bosses or hasn’t done enough to find them.

This was the first time the NSA had deemed it necessary to make public any internal communications between itself and Mr Snowden before he fled on 20 May last year to Hong Kong. But while the outcome of this struggle clearly matters to the agency, the stakes for Ms Snowden are much higher if he hopes ever to emerge from hiding in Russia and seek vindication – rather than imprisonment – in the United States.

While Mr Snowden has tricky public relations concerns, so too might the journalists who received the materials from him and put them in the public sphere. They have been rewarded with a shared Pulitzer Prize. But Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, found himself the target of withering opprobrium in a New York Times book review last week for his just-published account of the leaks, No Place to Hide.

 

Written by the veteran commentator Michael Kinsley, the review not only accused Mr Greenwald of coming across as “unpleasant” but also took him to task for assigning to journalists a right to publish government secrets regardless of the consequences.

“I can’t see how we can have a policy that authorises newspapers and reporters to chase down and publish any national security leaks they can find,” Mr Kinsley wrote. “This isn’t Easter and these are not eggs. Someone gets to decide and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.”

Thus was sparked a subplot to the wider drama with other media voices standing up for Mr Greenwald, including The New York Times’s own readers’ advocate, Margaret Sullivan. “There’s a lot about this piece that is unworthy of the Book Review’s high standards,” she said. “The sneering tone about Mr Greenwald, for example; he is called a ‘go-between’ instead of a journalist and is described as a ‘self-righteous sourpuss’.”

For the US government, the job of countering Mr Snowden’s assertions last week fell first to John Kerry, the Secretary of State, who gave him no margin. “He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint about what’s the matter with American surveillance,” he told CBS News. “Come back here and stand with our system of justice and make his case.”

And Mr Kerry sought to remind Americans of the government’s view that Mr Snowden is not just a traitor but one whose actions have had serious consequences. “The fact is he has damaged his country, very significantly, in many, many ways,” he said. “He has hurt operational security. He has told terrorists what they can now do to be able to avoid detection, and I find it sad and disgraceful.”

The priority for Mr Snowden will surely remain proving that he indeed raised red flags with his superiors about the NSA internet and telephone surveillance practices – his revelations were later to spark a national and international debate over the proper extent of the eavesdropping on citizens by governments and to trigger important reforms of the NSA itself – and that he met a brick wall. Only that way might he travel from traitor to whistleblower.

“If the White House is interested in the whole truth, rather than the NSA’s clearly tailored and incomplete leak today for a political advantage, it will require the NSA to ask my former colleagues, management and the senior leadership team about whether I, at any time, raised concerns about the NSA’s improper and at times unconstitutional surveillance activities,” he told the Post. “It will not take long to receive an answer.

“The fact is that I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions – as I have always, and as NSA has always denied.”

In its statement, the NSA implied that it has indeed looked hard for any communications from Mr Snowden at the time and has found nothing. “There are numerous avenues that Mr Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations. We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims,” it said.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on