2013-06-10 – We are now being inundated with details about Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, as if he were a mass murderer. Scandalously, he lived in a 1,559 square foot home. Not 1,500, mind you, nor even 1,560, but 1,559. It makes you wonder whether the square footage included the bathrooms. How many bathrooms were there?
And, of course, his girl friend thought he was a great guy, and he only told her he was going on vacation when, in fact, he was going on the lam.
(I am so pleased. “Lam” is a frequent crossword puzzle word. You rarely get a chance, though, to use it in a sentence.)
As we learn all these mundane facts about this guy, you know that some reporter is just copying them from Google. Google knows all these things about us. So does Zillow. These facts are in some database just waiting for us to commit some notorious crime. We know that Google knows this stuff.
What we didn’t know before was that the government does the same thing that Google does. Booz Allen, Snowden’s top secret corporate employer, knew this. Many corporations knew this.
We the People didn’t know this, and Snowden apparently spilled the military-industrial beans. The question is whether what he did was a crime.
He revealed a national security secret.
But sometimes you want someone to blow the whistle. Sometimes the secret classification is imposed not for national security but to cover up wrongdoing. But you can’t protect legitimate secrets if there are no penalties for disclosing classified information. A whistleblower needs to be subject to this risk–almost as a test of his convictions.
It’s all very complicated.
And I have long wondered about the square footage of Osama bin Laden’s house.