Treating Snowden as a ‘Personality’

William R. Polk

After finally getting around to reading the various articles that have come out on Edward Snowden, the latest being the Vanity Fair account, I find them not surprisingly as playing to the gallery – concentrating on his peculiar personality, not the substance of his revelations.

Snowden’s personality is presented as paradoxical (he wanted to be a Special Forces soldier and favored the invasion of Iraq), amusing (he apparently had an adolescent view of espionage), limited (with no education to match his self-taught training), shrewd (building up his stock portfolio for a rainy day), naive (assuming that suddenly the public would accept him as a hero), fearful (expecting a Mafia-style hit), etc.

All this is rather titillating, especially, when mixed as it was with sexy pictures of his girl friend. But very little thought was given to what it all means.

Even The Guardian pieces, which do concentrate on the documents, do little to put the disclosures about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance in perspective. Yet that perspective was there long before Snowden. Sen. Frank Church summed it all up in a sentence or two in his 1975 Senate Committee investigation on intelligence activities:

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