Buzzfeed has a nice wrap up of the Q&A Snowden did earlier today.
My view of the guy is mixed. He does seem genuine about his desire to do good and the information he leaked is something that I believe the public should have known about. By disclosing this information, he’s starting a national conversation of the surveillance state and what it means for our liberties as Americans.
But at the same time, something is off about this guy. Why did he go to China? He explains himself by saying:
“Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.”
I don’t see how Hong Kong is any better than Iceland. I guess he wanted to go a country that wasn’t too friendly to the United States, but at the same time wasn’t openly hostile. But it’s hard to believe that the Chinese government hasn’t tried to get involved, as they would love nothing more than to interrogate someone who knows what he knows.
Another thing is that he strikes me as a bit of a narcissist. By revealing himself so publicly and to conduct Q&As like this one, he is making the story about him rather than the fact that the government is spying on us. Furthermore, it makes it easier for his enemies to discredit the whole thing by exploiting his character flaws, which he most definitely has (we all do). If I was him I’d announce my name so the government couldn’t make me “disappear”, and then I would shut the hell up and let the story speak for itself.
Then again, I may be wrong. There’s a blurry line between idealism and narcissism, and in all likelihood he has the best of intentions. But we all know where those can lead.