Edward Snowden shouldn’t play the coward

24 June 2013

1:17 PM

24 June 2013

1:17 PM

If you run, you look like a coward. It may be that you have good reason to be cowardly. It may be that anyone else in your position would run as far and fast as you do. There is nothing wrong with taking the cowardly course, unless like Edward Snowden, you claim to be engaged in civil disobedience.

It is an easy claim to make in theory but hard to live up to in practice. Genuine civil disobedience is one of the toughest forms of protest there is. You decide a law is unjust – which in Snowden’s case means you decide that blanket surveillance by the US authorities affronts rights to privacy. You break the law and then…you must wait for the police to arrest you, and defend your actions in court.

I am sure you can see why civil disobedience is a hard road. First, it can only work in free or half-free societies. Protestors attract publicity for their cause by breaking the law. If they live in a society with no free media, where the secret police can take them away in the middle of the night without anyone knowing, there is no point in breaking the law. No one will learn of their protest, and nothing will change.

But the hardest part of civil disobedience is that you must respect the law as you break it and face the consequences of your actions. I do not mean that you meekly go to prison. Rather you use your trial to expose the injustice of the law. Accepting arrest is therefore an essential part of the protest. It shows that you are a moral man or woman, rather than a common criminal, and allows you to take your campaign to the courts, even though the court may send you to prison.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which is far more inspiring to my mind than his “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King explained the principles of civil disobedience.


In 1963, when the police arrested King, Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the most racist cities in America. It had no black police officers, firefighters, sales clerks in department stores, bus drivers, bank tellers or store cashiers. White supremacists had organised 50 bomb attacks since the end of the Second World War to keep the blacks in their place, and the police had never arrested the perpetrators.

The Civil Rights Movement responded with boycotts, sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations. The cops took King to jail. While he was in prison, he received a letter from “moderate” white clergymen, who accused him of inflaming tensions and preferring confrontation to negotiation.

King’s reply is a beautiful piece of political argument, which quotes Socrates and the Bible in his defence. He insists that his decision not to run away but to stand and face his accusers shows the moral worth of the Civil Rights Movement.

You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

His critics accused him of undermining respect for the rule of law. King replied that he was not advocating anarchy, and his willingness to go to prison and defend himself from the dock proved it.

“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust. and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Snowden has not followed King’s example. He fled to Hong Kong, and the Chinese authorities helped him. The same authorities that preside over a miserable combination of socialism and capitalism, which denies rights to trade unions and, naturally, to Chinese journalists, who want to expose their secret state. He then moved to Moscow, where Putin’s mafia regime, silences and on occasion murders journalists. Today he may be off to Ecuador, whose record on free speech is dismal, or perhaps he will go instead to Cuba, a decaying Brezhnevian dictatorship run by a monarchical communist gerontocracy, or perhaps he will stay in Moscow with his new allies in the oligarchy.

There is a good argument that Snowden’s tour of the world’s dictatorships does not matter in the slightest. The journalist’s claim that the powerful always try to “shoot the messenger” has become a cliché because it is true. Governments want to make the reporter or the whistleblower the “real story” to distract attention from embarrassing revelations. It is a ridiculous exercise that no reader should fall for. The whistleblower might be a drug addict and political extremist, who revels in paranoid fantasies and is cruel to his wife to boot, but so what? The facts he reveals are everything. His character is an irrelevance.

But in cases involving national security maybe character does count for something. The US authorities will now be able to point to the disgusting states Snowden has gone to for sanctuary, and say that these are the very regimes its spies are seeking to contain. Rather than exposing secrecy, in other words, Snowden may be providing a justification for it. Rand Paul, a libertarian US politician who is no friend of the state bureaucracy, has already said, “I do think for Mr. Snowden, if he cozies up to the Russian government, it will be nothing but bad for his name in history.”

I accept it is easy for a journalist sitting in safety in London to urge others to be brave. But the point remains that if you run away your chances of arousing “the conscience of the community” decline. Just as Martin Luther King could not have won civil rights for blacks if he had imitated the tactics of the Ku Klux Klan, so Edward Snowden cannot endorse regimes whose human rights’ records are worse than the record of the United States and expect to win the argument.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Drop Off

    That’s a really cute analysis of U.S. law. I wonder if you’ve written a formal retraction now that you’re aware that Snowden would not even be allowed to make his whistle-blowing case in court, yes?

  • Chloe H

    Genuine civil disobedience is one of the toughest forms of protest there
    is. You decide a law is unjust – which in Snowden’s case means you
    decide that blanket surveillance by the US authorities affronts rights
    to privacy. You break the law and then…you must wait for the police to
    arrest you, and defend your actions in court.

    That’s true only if you’re engaged in civil disobedience. Not everybody relates to the state as a political partner after the manner of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Socrates.

    Where has Edward Snowden described his action as civil disobedience? Where has he articulated a political philosophy that would self-bind him to the United States federal government in a spirit of good faith? The civil disobedience of people like Gandhi, MLK, and Socrates presupposed a state that retained enough of moral legitimacy to deserve being engaged according to its own rules.

    Edward Snowden revealed to the American people information that he thinks they have a patent right to know, in the hope that they will take action on it. In order to do so, he broke certain laws. He has no moral obligation to turn himself over to state prosecution.

    Gandhi, MLK, and Socrates submitted to state prosecution because that was their model for political change. As far as I know, Edward Snowden hasn’t signed on to that model. As far as I can see, he has acted with integrity.

    • nevilleross

      And one again, the far left shows why the left and centrist progressives in the USA can’t change U.S. society; the same super paranoid ‘black helicopters are everywhere/no one can be trusted/Obama’s just as bad as Bush’ meme is always spewed by it’s members over plain common sense and experience.

      • Chloe H

        Just catching up with your comment.

        I’m not sure how much of your comment refers to me in particular. I’m not a leftist, a progressive, a moral equivalentist, or a paranoic. I agree with you about rejecting ideology and employing up-front common sense and empirical evidence.

        Which points up one of the most striking features of the NSA surveillance disclosures: They’re bringing liberals and libertarians together in opposition, both as a matter of empirical common sense and on genuine principle.

        I don’t know whether such an alliance can create change, but I hope both camps will have the good sense to climb out of their boxes and pursue the partnership.

  • Alex H

    The man’s a coward and a traitor; he should face the death penalty or a spell in Gitmo at that.
    He’s a terrorist who deserves his punishment- do you really believe he’s fighting to give you ‘liberty’ if he’s then running to Russia to escape punishment?
    Snowden’s nothing but a worthless coward, and I hope some Ecuadorian gang teach him the lesson he deserves in a back alley in Quito.

    Terrorists like this should not be tolerated.

    • rob232

      My God you are stupid!

  • roger

    I don’t think King is a good role model, look what happened to him.
    Now the USA has shown what they would do to stop him going to South America, I think he is in deep ****.

  • Guest

    Probably one of the most absurd articles I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t even make sense. I kept thinking that I must have been reading this crap on The Onion. Who wrote this civil disobedience code that if you break it you will be considered a coward? Ridiculous.

  • zivver

    Probably one of the most absurd articles I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t even make sense. I kept thinking that I must have been reading this crap on The Onion. Who wrote the “civil disobedience code” and said if you don’t turn yourself in to the government you were trying to expose you will be considered a coward? Ridiculous.

  • JamesHaddock

    Mind you when the punishment for civil disobedience in a country is worse than in Burma…it might make even Gandhi, Mandela and Aung run

    • Cszell

      The way Burma did it with Aung San was: She was under house arrest, but is free to leave the country whenever she wants. She chose not to leave.

      The US didn’t give Snowden that option, did it? Snowden made the right call.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Had Aung San left Myanmar she wouldn`t have been allowed to return.

        • Cszell

          That is true that she would have not been allowed to return. The US government could have said “we won’t pursue Snowden but he will be arrested if he returns” so de facto forbidding him from coming back. But the POTUS didn’t do that.

  • asiabugle

    You hit the nail on the head when you said “where the secret police can take them away in the middle of the night without anyone knowing, there is no point in breaking the law. ”
    He would be locked away securely with no access for months – maybe even sent to Gitmo. Or even shot resisting arrest or killed in jail. The obvious fury of the administration tells me there is something seriously wrong. He must know something they are seriously worried about because nothing he has said so far has surprised anybody who has thought about surveillance in the modern era

    • Cszell

      Then relatively few people outside the Beltway have heard of “surveillance in the modern era”

    • nevilleross

      Since when is Obama like a dictator, except in your paranoid fantasies? You and others here commenting are no better than the right-wing Tea Bagger bunch when you say things like this, and all you do is make the center distrust you.

      • asiabugle

        No we are concerned about free speech as well the rule of law – as it was intended. The arrest and detention for 9 hours of a journalists partner and in particular the confiscation of his property shows their is a real problem with the balance between what really is terrorism and what is legitimate questioning of authority.
        It is easy to justify anything and everything because it is stopping terrorism. I know I have been there. In law enforcement the ends always appears to justify the means – but the whole point about the rule of law is they do not!

  • rippon

    Nick Cohen ascribing cowardice to someone else – beyond irony.

  • WalkTheLin3

    State apologists like Nick Cohen shouldn’t play the “Journalist” with biased slanted articles such as this. Snowden’s a hero, and as the Ecuadorian FM eloquently put it – He has committed treason against no one but the political elite who have and continue to abuse their power.

    What would you suggest Snowden does? Hand himself in so he may be illegally tortured and put through secret trails like Bradley Manning. I think not!

    The people will reclaim the power that belongs to them. The lion is beginning to roar all over the world.

  • Sean Lamb

    Speaking of playing the coward – has Nick Cohen bought his ticket to join the Imaginary Friends of Nick Cohen Brigade fighting in Aleppo yet?

    It is like there is a third force that infiltrates both left and right. Left to themselves neither side of politics would be particularly keen on bombing third world countries, neither side of politics would like the idea of massive snooping programs. So the goal of the third force is to try and frame arguments that will appeal to the shibboleths of each political – whereas in reality the third force is separate from both wings.

    I mean it is commonsense when faced with 20 years prison for civil disobedience to go on the run – both left and right would agree on this. But the third force needs examples of horrific over-prosecution (cf Bradley Manning) to scare off potential future whistleblowers. They certainly don’t want IT geeks thumbing their noses at them. So on the right, the third force thumps on about security and terrorism and on the left, the third force makes feeble appeals to Martin Luther King.

    Off to Aleppo with you Mr Cohen. Do what George Orwell would have done

  • andyfisk

    You accept ‘it is easy for a journalist sitting in safety in London to urge others to be brave.’ Yet here you are writing an article on how to be brave. Amazing. And what of those pathetic ‘reporters’ running around like children putting Snowden at risk by seeing who can find him first. Such lowly ‘journalism’ is surely only beaten by opinion pieces like this.

  • AlfTupperDarlin

    The USA “talks the talk” wonderfully well with their famous Constitution.

    Unfortunately they have a very long history of not “walking the walk” going all the way back to censorship during the war with France through to the Patriot Act in this century which has instituted practices which would not be out of place in the former USSR.

    The delicious irony, of course, is that Snowden’s revelations came almost immediately after Obama’s scolding of the the Chinese for using the internet to spy on America! You couldn’t make it up.

  • Iguana Keeper

    Liberals have fetishized being a martyr, as if that fixes anything. Maybe if Jury Nullification was still in effect.

    The one thing the right knows is that violence is a tool and losers submit.
    Frederic Douglas didn’t submit either.

    “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” And in the chapter on war and peace:”Revolutions and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society, and without them it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power.” and “Every Communist must grasp the truth; ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'” ~Mao.

    Now we don’t have to pick up a gun, at this stage. but it’s no surprise the left is almost dead. It killed itself. Any scraggler left, Cohen will give them the gun and insist they finish the job. What a guy.

    • nevilleross

      I’m supposed to care about the bleatings of a opportunist thug who only used socialism as a means to an end to gain power in China, then launched a brutal dictatorship ‘of the proletariat’ to rule most of Asia (and the world) by starving his own people to pay the USSR in food to get a military-industrial complex to launch said dreams of conquest, but then wasn’t able to and had to go begging Nixon to visit to get it anyway? Sorry, but you’ve just proven what John Lennon said in the song ‘Revolution’: ‘If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you won’t make it with anyone, anyhow’. Please think about what you’ve said.

  • Magnus Roe

    You see how excellently your strategy works for Mann. His trial can’t be used for anything because he’s basically gagged and secluded. Stuff like that has broken stronger people and there’s no sense in Snowden walking into the same quagmire.
    I think you’ve watched one too many films, there’s nothing profound he can say in court to change the world. Everyone suspected what he exposed already and if the majority still don’t care, a court case against another broken man won’t change it.

  • Sean

    This is preposterous. Why he chose not to write an article supporting Snowden is fishy. If the tables were turned I’m sure we can imagine just what hypocrite Nick would do…

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    You’re talking bollocks, Nick.

  • disqus_OGm7JtG0wT

    Got this very wrong nick. He’s not saying ‘this law is unjust’ he’s saying ‘these powerful people are criminally corrupt’. The law won;t do for him, powerful people will. And there is no huge movement behind him, nor is the winds of history running to his cause. If anything he’s on the wrong side of history and power. And why do you get to define the meaning of civil disobedience? You’re losing your judgment Nick.

  • RoyWatson

    Nick, you may be taking your admiration of Peter Cook too far – was satire…

    • Iguana Keeper


  • RichardBaranov

    With the comment: “Read it and weep.” a friend of mine sells the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights by the lb. for a few cents, for that is all it is worth.
    The America that I love and millions of Americans love has gone. You are now looking at a façade and behind that façade is a tyranny run by a power mad elite. We grow up being taught American values and ideals, the shining city on the hill and all that, then when we start to work for the powers that be. We find that what we have been sold is a false bill of goods. Snowden knows that, why do you think he did what he did and why do you think he ran, why do you think he is distressed? He found his American values being trashed by the very government that was supposed to uphold them. He is not being fatuous or sensationalistic when he suggests he may well end up dead. The people after him have nothing but contempt for America or its values and Snowden knows that or, Mr Cohen, have you not been paying attention to his words?

    • allymax bruce

      I agree with you that, Cohen, Cohen, & Cohen, is so self-ingloriated, it makes infuriating reading; hey, nobody ever said jews can write!
      But, that’s inconsequential; or is it? If you take the obvious obnoxiousness of the run-of-the-mill Zionist, then you get a sense of what they’re up to, by how obnoxious they are; there’s a direct correlation!
      I’ve just come back from living in America, and I lived right next door to a whole house-load of nasty ignorant ugly college student Zionist Jews; they congregate in packs, abuse the neighbourhood, and go out their way to treat the local residents as trash goyum. They behaved like the spoilt brats from their daddys stolen Jaffa orchards in Palestine. Your first paragragh is 100% bang-on. The Zionists have contorted the American dream, and now, it’s a Zionist American dichotomy. But, I must say, President Obama, has slowed that down; if only you knew the dynamic pace politics in America, is ‘tethered-to’ the scary unstoppable advancement of modern technology tool-use; a person can be blown to pieces, with only a microwave. Moreover
      that same person, can be ‘disassembled’ by a similar type high frequency wave. This is the technology, secrets, spying, we are dealing with now. Most public citizens don’t understand the ‘trade-off’ of rights-to-freedoms, and still live in the 1970’s .

    • nevilleross

      I don’t speak tinfoil; can you please translate?

  • tonybaloni

    He is running to keep his message alive. If the establishment get him he will be silenced. You sound very much like the establishment to me.

    • Anton Deque

      “he will be silenced”. Er, I think you don’t understand what silence means.

      • tonybaloni

        Er , I think you don’t know Dr David Kelly.

  • allymax bruce

    I don’t think he would see himself as a coward; in-deed, you calling him a coward shows you are the coward.
    Seat 17 A
    There’s nobody there!

  • formonitoring

    In the ten years since you advocated going to war in Iraq, have you ever actually been there, to see the results of your advocacy for better or worse? Why not? Baghdad a bit of a scary place, Nick? Didn’t someone say “the point remains that if you run away your chances of arousing “the conscience of the community” decline”? Get on a plane. Do some reportage. What are you scared of?

  • Thickhead

    ..and what kind of justice would he get in the USA? Same as Bradley Manning? Closed court? Would he face a jury? How long would he be locked up before a trial even got started? I wonder just how “free” USA is. Run away? I’d be out of sight in a heartbeat.

    • John

      You have obviously never served in the military. The military is not a democracy, and is governed by the UCMJ. You break a military law, you are subject to the powers that be in the military, not necessarily the public courts. Manning is an idiot for inviting this on himself, just like the idiot servicemember who shows up for muster monday morning with a DUI. Snowden is not in the military, and his actions are not subject to the “secret courts” (read: NJP…not that secret). Snowden had the means and ability to make a calculated decision to thrust this into the courts but instead he loses all his credibility by associating the sleaze ball assange and nations like China and Russia. Then he has the audacity to use the vernacular of a civil rights advocate? What a pompous coward. At least manning isn’t running around pretending he’s actually fighting for a cause.

  • justejudexultionis

    The cowardice of Edward Snowden is as nothing compared to that of Nick Cohen.

    • Anton Deque

      And your name is …?

  • MC

    Ah, its the argument that the only valid form of protest is the one in which you submit yourself wholly to the state.


    • Anton Deque

      Dr King was a cretin? I think not.

  • tyrone_slothrop

    I remember the author’s bravery and civil disobedience in opposing the Iraq war very well. Oh, wait…

  • Guest

    “You break the law and then…you must wait for the police to arrest you, and defend your actions in court.”

    This article would be relevant if America was in actual fact a real democracy. That ^ line was as far as I got.

  • paulus

    I didn’t actually read your peice the headline made me laugh, do you know how may 1000’s of years he will get if the Americans ever get hold of him. He will be older than limestone before he ever gets parole.

    • allymax bruce

      I try not to read Cohen, Cohen, & (yes, you guessed it), Cohen!

      I go all Reggie Perrin, and imagine a zanzabar of zealots, all with their trouser-leg rolled up; trying their best to (ahem! ) ride a goat!
      Seat 17 A.
      There’s nobody there!

    • sarah_13

      The fact that the US fights the dirty fights we don’t like to is the reason we all sit here freely posting…. It’s not pretty but some one has to do it, if not them who? If he’d done a similar thing in the country he is in temporarily residing in he’d probably be dead. We should all grow up the world is not pretty but on balance I’d much rather the US was in charge.

  • E Hart

    Don’t confuse the messenger with the message. Whatever his motivation, he’s exposed something valuable to us all – we are routinely the subject of espionage.

    Your last sentence is inane. The argument’s merits are not dependent on the relative human rights records found on the fugitive’s travel itinerary (versus the US) – but on whether the citizens of the US, the UK and elsewhere want to be spied on by their governments. “The conscience of the community” has nothing whatever to do with the geographical whereabouts of the whistleblower but on the veracity of the case.

    • allymax bruce

      The messenger’s message, would be more applicable, if there were ‘messengers’ leaking their Nation’s secrets, from China, Israel, Russia, Turkey, Germany, Britain; a level playing field. You get my meaning! But don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastically fascinating; we’ve just been ‘transported’ back to 1950’s spy ecology!
      Seat 17 A
      There’s nobody there!

    • Anton Deque

      Edward Snowden has told me (I’m very old) nothing I did not know already. In fact, not knowing that everyone one spies on everyone else is so dim it rules you out of grown up conversations in international affairs. The practice of spying on other people’s secret correspondence is ancient. Mr Snowden’s idealism is that of the foolish out of their depth.

      • E Hart

        I know the score. My father was in MI. Some people don’t. As for being foolish and out of his depth, so what? I rather have someone who reminds people that surveillance is the norm than lazy nonchalance and complicity.

    • John

      Stop trying to sound like an academic, it’s reminiscent of someone who’s been fooled into thinking that semi-big words make you appear more intelligent. Look up Churchill’s thoughts on word snobs.

      According to the protocol, you are not subject to espionage. You are bridging a gap there, no matter how you slice it up. You and the rest of the Snowden lovers will probably interpret that as defending the NSA…take it how you want to. It’s funny how no one pays attention to the legislation that legalizes actions like such, but then collectively blow a gasket when some idiot like Snowden uses a tool like assange to blow it all open. The result of all this monumental heroism of Snowden’s will be that, in a year from now, the public at large will have nearly completely moved on to the next big story. Nothing will be done, and nobody will care again. Congrats, Snowden, you accomplished nothing but effectively revoke your own rights as a citizen to actually do something about this. Moron.

      • E Hart

        You talk pish. How’s that?

        • nevilleross

          Snowden’s a racist, ageist, opportunist, and here’s the truth as to why he is:

          • E Hart

            He could be all of those things. It’s irrelevant. He’s still done us a favour by showing the extent to which the security services are keeping tabs on everyone.

            • nevilleross

              He hasn’t shown anybody anything other than the left is nothing but a bunch of whiny emo morons who laughingly call themselves ‘progressive’ when in point of fact, they’re not, and they’re just as deranged as the extreme right in the USA are. The People’s Net don’t call them emoprogs (emo-progressives) for nothing-that’s what they are, perpetually whiny and pissed off at the world, but with no real program/plan to change it other than to indulge in being victims, publishing stupid screeds and bashing Obama (and engaging in Obama Derangement Syndrome.) Please wake the fuck up and stop being a mindless fool in the service of a racist, libertarian asshole/media whore who did this to get attention.

  • Lazarist

    Quite correctly you “accept it is easy for a journalist sitting in safety in London to urge others to be brave.” That’s good of you.

    You are right to point out that the regimes helping Snowden are terrible. I’m 49 and the idea that someone in his position should be running away from the US and towards regimes like the ones mentioned is shocking to me. And yet you post this on the day that Jimmy Carter writes in the New York Times about how much the USA has changed in the last decade or so. See here:

    If I were Snowden, I’d run. I suspect he will never be allowed to stop running.

    • sarah_13

      Jimmy carter? Are you serious? He sold out to some lovely Arab regimes years ago.

  • zanzamander

    We have seen how in the US, government agencies like IRS, DoJ and NSA targets and persecutes Obama’s opponents. Snowden is more qualified than Nick Cohen about US’s treatment of dissidents and political prisoners, one of whom is holed up in solitary confinement and tortured for making a YouTube film that Obama government didn’t approve but still used it to justify murder of its own ambassador and other US citizens. The press in US has colluded with this administration to shut down opposition and debate.

    Snowden knows this well and believes that he will be far safer in China, Russia or Cuba than he can ever be in US. Unless you are an Islamaist, in which case you get all the free passes and a welcome stay.

    Good luck to Snowden.

  • NBeale

    Snowden is clearly a traitor and not a “whistleblower”. There is NO evidence that ANY agency has acted illegally, and the more lurid claims (like “direct access to servers”) have been shown to be false.

    The story is that NSA and GCHQ are engaged in espionage and spying on signals to gain intelligence about foreign enemies, criminals and terrorists. We knew that already – that is their job.

    The only really shocking revelation is that there are over 800,000 people in the US cleared to “Top Secret” and that low-level and rather dodgy people like Snowden can obtain such important internal documents.

    • NotYouNotSure

      Did you know that every single one of your founding fathers were traitors when they signed the declaration of independence. Being labeled a traitor is actually not a bad thing when it comes from pro tyranny supporters such as you.

    • Iguana Keeper

      He’s not a traitor. The upper class feel betrayed that their well treated servant went off the plantation and told the new slave and serf class (us) what our would be masters are really up to.
      He wasn’t really a part of that club and he knew it.

      Security Professionals are given a little more privilege with a gate pass, and a better salary that they’ll get in the new McDonalds industrial society, but their job is really guarding the property of the high caste.

      Thank the gods for Edward Snowden. He is not a traitor to his own class or his country men or the constitution. Hopefully we wont have to wait as long as Argentina or Brazil to try our War Criminals, bankers, and traitors to the constitution.

      Since they need the security state in the first place to protect their property, a bit of leveling is also in order.

  • Nigel Tolley

    What the heck are you on about, author?

    I’ll respect you more when you ignore the D notice and public the revalations of Snowden over GCHQ, and be damned for it. Would you sit and wait for a lifetime in solitary, or would you factor in escape?

    Write about sometime banned, and then see if you change your mind, under a ‘little’ pressure.

    • Anton Deque

      What ‘revelations’ would these be? Have you just started shaving by any chance? What on earth did you think GCHQ was for? You sit where you do and write what you wish because of what, on occasion, is a rather dirty business called defending liberty. Obviously, you don’t have any and one dawning day, soon, soon, the ‘Feds’ will raid Chipping Sodbury and get you.

  • Toffer99

    Why didn’t Snowden hand himself in? Because the United States tortures whistleblowers before their trial. At least that’s what the UN Special Rapporteur on torture thinks. Knowing that, would you hand yourself in, Mr Cohen. And you have the gall to call it “playing the coward”. Go and join David Gregory. You’ll get on well with the likes of him.

  • CreamOnTop

    “There is a good argument that Snowden’s tour of the world’s
    dictatorships does not matter in the slightest. The journalist’s claim
    that the powerful always try to “shoot the messenger” has become a
    cliché because it is true. Governments want to make the reporter or the
    whistleblower the “real story” to distract attention from embarrassing
    revelations. It is a ridiculous exercise that no reader should fall for.”

    Yet you have…. Let’s talk about Snowden because we are now allowed to talk about the actual issues? Or because this is the equivalent of Hello for the intellectually pretentious? Has he actually endorsed any regimes or just gone where he had to to release the story properly and avoid capture?

    There are clearly good reasons not to be in the USA as otherwise he would have to pass all his info and knowledge on in advance – they can track and spy on you there apparently – meaning he could not control what got out – or answer points back. We would not advise people to stay in a country which tortured under any circumstances would we? Yet you appear to do so.

    This cut and run crap is rhetoric and no he should not matter and only does to those who don’t want to debate if we should be spied upon for reasons best kept to themselves it seems. This is an article typical of apologists and sycophants paid to be such.

    • Anton Deque

      Is this a translation? Is a version available in English?

  • Miguel de las Animas Perdidas

    When your trial will be conducted in secret, there is no point in turning onself in to stand trial. It is more civilly disobedient to avoid capture by the state. You are being intellectually dishonest.

    • nevilleross

      Bullshit. Snowden could have stood his ground, as somebody else here said, and found somebody willing to back him, as well as people from the ACLU and places like the Christic Institute. Instead, he bolted and ran for the safety of two authoritarian oligarchical regimes that do the same things he felt bad about, only worse.

      As well, he (like you and many others here) don’t know, or can’t figure out, that Obama is being obstructed and blocked by members of his own party/cabinet and the opposition, making him a naive fool who needs to go back to school and read about what powers the POTUS has and doesn’t have. But, that’s par for the course with the left and right.

  • Adam Banks

    I really don’t understand the attitude that nobody should ever stand up against bad law unless they’re prepared to suffer and die for it. How does that help? I think this is ingrained Abrahamic bullshit that we need to get past. If anything, when I see someone isn’t concerned for their personal safety or freedom it makes me worry that they’re acting for psychological rather than political reasons. Normal people try to do what they need to do, survive it and do the next thing. I don’t have a problem with that, and I don’t see any difference between your rhetoric of cowardice and sending white feathers to conchies. Removing yourself from danger doesn’t undermine your claim to be doing the right thing. Wilfully putting yourself at the mercy of people you know are going to hurt you precisely because they believe the things you’re speaking against doesn’t increase your credibility. Or shouldn’t, with observers who are thinking straight.

    • Kevin Pocock

      Hear, hear.

    • Anton Deque

      He ‘removed’ himself to places where people like him are silenced with a bullet. He they can use.

    • John

      “I really don’t understand the attitude that nobody should ever stand up
      against bad law unless they’re prepared to suffer and die for it.”

      This is the problem with Snowden band-wagoners. You have no conception of the implications of his projected message. Snowden says “I don’t like what the US is doing.” So he blows open an operation and runs. His cause isn’t even important enough for him to stay and defend it, and he seeks refuge in China and Russia? That’s like talking about how you hate Wal Mart for mistreating its employees while wearing Nike shoes. Snowden could have taken the time to seek a confidant in Washington – there is certainly a crowd there who defends his actions – all the while building a brilliant legal defense with the likes of the dollar chasers at the ACLU. Did he make a calculated decision leading to a national debate in the top courts? No, he neutered his own cause, got his passport revoked, and made himself someone that no official wants anything to do with. His closest associate now has nothing on his record in the public eye except sexual assault allegations and frozen finances from the likes of the major credit lendors…wow that’s really going to get his cause noticed by the Supreme Court.

      Snowden is an idiot. He started out with a good cause, but now he’s just a complete jackass.

      • adplatt126

        It’s hard to figure out where to even start with your bullshit. First of all, an “operation”? An “operation” against the American people and the American constitution that neither congress nor the American people knew about? What is wrong in your brain that you think this is a normal, acceptable military operation for a government? Operations are supposed to be stealth assaults on foreign militants, not intrusions into the private lives of ordinary citizens without due process, with no accountability by an elected body, and no horizon on the public release of such projects. No, he couldn’t remain in the United States, because its government has completely run amok. Its a totalitarian disaster gone haywire. They tortured Bradley Manning, left him in solitary for months on end, and killed the man while still alive. No one in the United States wants anything to do with those idiot tyrants in Washington. Who knows what they’d do to him? Or you sure he’d have access to an attorney or would he be labeled a terrorist militant? Besides, who cares if they want nothing to do with him. There’s actually significantly more support judging by the polling data, for Snowden’s actions than the bulk of congress’s. Lastly, of course most public officials want nothing to do with him. He’s neutering them. He’s attempting to restrain their power. If you think they want nothing to do with him because his cause is crazy or they have the moral high ground, you’re duller than a gray crayola. Please read some alternative news. State propaganda has you seeing up as down my man. I feel like all people know are the things pundits say about the man. Have you actually read any of the documents he’s released? Those outlining outright treason, sharing personal metadata with foreign governments, the deception of congress by high ranking members of the intelligence community, the interception of online video transmissions (sometimes explicit) of private citizens. The U.S. government is plainly tyrannical. Plainly. If you can’t see that, no one can help you. He’s a jackass. You’re kidding right? The man who bravely exposed the American imperial shadow government, with infinite power and resources, engaged in ongoing military and psychological operations against its own citizens and its elected representatives. No, he’s a hero. You’re a jackass.

  • Garve Scott-Lodge

    For all MLK’s words, there are no hard and fast rules about how you should fight against injustice. It looks like Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador – the fact he transitted through Hong Kong and Moscow is no more relevant than if he’d gone through Sydney and Stockholm.

    It may well be the case that Ecuador’s record on freedom of speech is poor, but calling it a ‘dictatorship’ and ‘disgusting’ seems a bit over the top.

    If ‘disgusting’ is the term for a state which jails some journalists, what term would you use for one which imprisons people who it admits are innocent in an offshore army base without access to redress?

    Which adjective suits a state which kills children in foreign countries it’s not at war with using remotely operated drones?

    How would you describe the country which has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, and where someone of a minority racial group is 6 times as likely as someone of the majority to be in jail?

    What word would you use for a country which monitors the communications of all its citizens, promises it rarely uses them but refuses to allow the public to know what the rules about such use are, because they are ‘classified’?

    Maybe it’s because you’re a journalist that you believe jailing journalists is the one thing which makes a country ‘disgusting’, or maybe you have an Anglo-centric view of the world which assumes that English-speaking countries are naturally more civilised than others.

    The trial of Bradley Manning and the grand jury proceedings against Julian Assange give no indication to someone like Edward Snowden that he’d be fairly treated. The way Occupy protests were dealt with in the US gives no confidence that the government will pay any attention to public demonstrations in the way they did in Martin Luther King’s day.

    Good luck to Edward Snowden and others like him.

    • John

      “For all MLK’s words, there are no hard and fast rules about how you should fight against injustice.”

      Wow, how perceptive of you. There is obviously no official, nationally endorsed manual for civil disobedience. The point – which you would have picked up if you payed attention in college when every intro class taught you how to read and think critically – is that King is a legend, and for good reason (see: history). No one doubts his credentials as a civil rights pioneer in the US (though apparently it has no bearing on the present case according to you). He did not set hard and fast rules, but if one wants to study true civil rights heroism one looks to specific examples such as King, and his example is clear. To dismiss this notion and its implications for Snowden the wannabe carries the same misguided, ill-informed magnitude of direction as someone who defends the NSA program without question. Holy crap, you and your troop are completely neglecting to cirtically think through Snowden’s preferred places of refuge (see: DICTATORSHIPS and BLATANT HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATORS).

      “…the fact he transitted through Hong Kong and Moscow is no more relevant than if he’d gone through Sydney and Stockholm.”

      ?! So, the fact that he runs to a country with whom we competed with in the Cold War (see: nuclear war) has no weight with you? Your logic is selective, and must choose to suspend itself in order to defend your perception of this coward, in lieu of what is happening in reality.

      “Which adjective suits a state which kills children in foreign countries…”

      You obviously have never served with the militarty in places where they teach kids to gun down Americans. What an ignorant, misplaced, misguided comment.

      “…or maybe you have an Anglo-centric view of the world which assumes that English-speaking countries are naturally more civilised than others.”

      First of all, to say that the US is more civilised than a nation in the midst of a decades long civil war is not that much of a stretch, and certainly not Anglo-centric. Secondly, you’ve given absolutely no context to show that you hold a contrary paradigm. Let’s stay on topic here, chief.

      “The way Occupy protests were dealt with in the US gives no confidence
      that the government will pay any attention to public demonstrations in
      the way they did in Martin Luther King’s day.”

      Probably because the Occupy protests were a farce. A bunch of kids mad at Wall Street with the result being a collective temper tantrum, and PLENTY of fringe movements which took the purpose of the original demonstration grossly out of context and stripped meaning and purpose from the entire movement. King was a well spoken, educated man who made deliberate, calculated, organized movements for a singular purpose. To compare – on any level – King to the Occupy kids shows an utter lack of understanding of the legend Dr. King. Try to say something more relevant next time.

      Snowden: coward. Snowden’s followers: misguided.

      • nevilleross


    • nevilleross

      Snowden is a liar and a neocon wolf in liberal clothing, and nobody should fall for his bullshit.

      • adplatt126

        Snowden is a paleocon or a libertarian. His politics are in fact quite public. That you don’t know this betrays nothing more than your ignorance. The neocons are those who almost reflexively serve the power structure. Not those trying to fight the tyranny of the American federal government. His bullshit? The man has released thousands of files exposing government crimes against the American people, including but not limited to mass surveillance of ordinary, innocent citizens, including private video conferences (sometimes explicit) between citizens without a search warrant (totalitarian), the providing of the raw intercepted metadata with Israel (treasonous), the outright deception of congress by military and intelligence officials (Clapper) and that is just to name a few. The damage these idiots have done to the American constitution and economy is immeasurable. To call Snowden a hero is an understatement. His revelations have exposed only two groups of people. Those who understand what tyranny and governmental illegitimacy are, and see that the American government must be completely restructured or dismantled, and those who are just authoritarian imbeciles who refuse to call a spade a spade, because they are too wedded to some outdated, nostalgic notion of America or American greatness. What you live in is a totalitarian matrix, a shadow government if you will, where the government watches and controls your every move, hides behind confidentiality at every turn, is engaged in psychological operations daily against its own citizens, and which has convinced you this is liberty. Like I said, two groups- stupid and reasonable. In your world everything is backward. In your world the government should be private and every act of the citizenry should be public. You have it exactly backwards. Almost nothing a democratic government does should be private, with only a few exceptions for sensitive, ongoing military and diplomatic operations, which have clear delimitations, and must be exposed within say two decades time. This is of course to say nothing of the integrity of the voting system, which is under attack from numerous fronts, if not at this point just wholly vanquished. Snowden is far more than a hero. In Socrates’s day he would have turned himself in and faced the music. But with a torturous, murderous, diabolical government like ours, he has no choice but to run. They’d almost certainly try to break the guy down mentally by torture, abuse and brutality, and he’d at long last disavow his actions and his message. That would be the worst outcome of all.

  • Dominic Sayers

    Not everyone is a Gandhi or a King. If you raise the bar this high you’ll dissuade a lot of whistleblowers.

    Publish and be absent, as Peter Cook once said.

    • John

      Astute observation, although the connection you are trying to make with a British comedian is muddy at best.

      The problem with your paradigm is that it creates civil disobedience which only seeks to cause a disruption, and nothing further. Case in point, the occupy movement. A bunch of kids throw a fit, and nothing happens. No one organizes a legitimate movement or seeks the endorsement of legal represntation to bring suit, and the whole sherade turns into an anonymous band of unrelated fringe movements that the media has a circus with. The same thing is happening with Snowden, and in a relatively brief time the public will have largely forgotten about him and nothing will have been done, just as nothing is being done now, save for headline news.

      Not everyone is a Ghandi or a King because not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves so wholly to a cause – including Snowden. The reason you don’t hear about the other swathe of protestors since King is that no one had an effect because they didn’t give the public any reason to stand and fight with them. Snowden is doing just that, he blows a whistle and runs, effectively telling America “Hey look at this injustice! This is terrible! This is a travesty! This- oh, gotta go, I might actually have to stand up and fight for this cause.”

  • LB

    You’ve got the wrong idea. It’s not that he thinks the law is wrong, he’s grassed up those breaking the law, and now they are out to lynch him.

    • casper kos

      breaking the law? what? where?

      please cite the law they broke. (or do you just have a feeling something has been broken? find out what it is and cite it)

      • LB

        In the US, they can’t spy on their own citizens (without a warrant) They can spy on us.

        Snowden has blow the gaff on the US government breaking the law.

  • HarryTheHornyHippo

    I don’t think he’s trying to win the argument… I think he’s trying to avoid having several thousand volts of electricity zapped through his brain… if I were him I would run… run like the wind.

    • whs1954

      If he had a thousand volts zapped through his brain, he would simply have proved whatever ill-formed, imbecilic, anti-civilised West point he was trying to make. He would be a martyr to his cause of giving succor to backwards, fascistic, Islamist scumbags. What a monument. Even the United States, under its plus-trigger-happy-que-la-Bush President, would never do it.

      More likely he will simply be imprisoned, as he ought to be. He could accept that with dignity, as the price for his treason. As it is, he’s done a scarper, because he’s happy to do the crime but not the time.

      I myself rather hope this cheap cowardly little man makes his way to Quito, and there catches up in the crossfire of some tawdry little gun battle between some tinpot cocaine barons. The sort of pointless death a traitor to Western democratic values and stooge to Islamism deserves.

      • Cszell

        Bradley Manning was held in solitary for a long period of time, and that was considered torture. What did that do? Squat. Snowden knew this. It was more effective to have the US froth at the mouth as it tried to chase him.

      • rob232

        How dare you call this man cowardly?
        He was perhaps ill advised to sacrifice the prosperity and security of his young life to what he saw as his duty to his fellow men.
        All my life I have found any real progress is always frustrated by the real cowards, the people like you, who invariably support the status quo no matter how corrupt or self interested it may appear.

        • whs1954

          In revealing US secrets, he has potentially sacrificed and compromised the prosperity and security of his fellow men – particularly his fellow military men – far more than he has provided himself with any problems.

          • rob232

            I’m not exactly sure why you have replied to my comment as it has little bearing on my post.You’ve simply responded to something else which I did not write.
            You may think he is mistaken or misguided or even malicious but that does not make him a coward.
            In reply to your missive I would submit that as he is not a military man he has no fellow military men.
            The “secrets” he has revealed is illegal government activity and we all have the right to know what these people are up to and how they are tryng to manipulate us. He is doing us all a service. This is costing him dearly and I’m sure he is wondering if it was worth it.