Gates: Why yes, I think Snowden is a traitor

posted at 2:01 pm on January 14, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Probably not much of a surprise, considering how long Robert Gates served in the CIA and in other national-security postings, but it’s also not just a knee-jerk reaction. Interviewed today on PBS NewsHour, Gates responded to a question about Edward Snowden by declaring him a traitor — in part for running off to America’s opponents on the world stage after stealing massive amounts of intelligence (via Zeke Miller):

Gates said neither the House nor the Senate’s intelligence oversight committees had indicated any wrongdoing by the National Security Agency or any lack of awareness of its surveillance programs. The question is whether NSA went beyond the limits of what the president and Congress approved, and that would be revealed in a review that President Obama plans to announce later this week, he said.

“I think that the revelations have done a lot of damage,” Gates said, adding about Snowden, “I think he’s a traitor.”

He said the government has built an institution of oversight over the past 40 years, and there are avenues for people to pursue with the authorities if they believe a law has been broken. Gates said for Snowden to make public his allegations instead “is an extraordinary act of hubris.”

Gates said if Snowden, who has taken refuge in Russia, was truly motivated as a truth-teller, he would have returned to the United States to “face the music.”

Gates echoes the arguments made by critics of Snowden, myself included, that he had other avenues to use for exposing abuses by the NSA. Rebutting that argument, Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviews William Binney, who says he tried to expose NSA abuses through those methods, and it didn’t work:

In 2002 – long before the revelations of Edward Snowden rocked the world – Binney and several former colleagues went to Congress and the Department of Defense, asking that the NSA be investigated. Not only was the super-secretive agency wasting taxpayer dollars on ineffective programs, they argued, it was broadly violating constitutional guarantees to privacy and due process.

The government didn’t just turn a blind eye to the agency’s activities; it later accused the whistleblowers of leaking state secrets. A federal investigation of Binney – including an FBI search and seizure of his home and office computers that destroyed his consulting business – exonerated him on all charges.

“We are a clear example that [going through] the proper channels doesn’t work,” says Binney, who approves of Edward Snowden’s strategy of going straight to the media. At the same time, Binney criticizes Snowden’s leaking of documents not directly related to the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens and violation of constitutional rights. Binney believes that the NSA is vital to national security but has been become unmoored due to technological advances that vastly extend its capabilities and leadership that has no use for limits on government power. “They took that program designed [to prevent terrorist attacks] and used it to spy on American citizens and everyone else in the world,” flatly declares Binney (33:30).

It’s a fair argument — and perhaps Gates should be asked to address the way Binney was treated as well as how he’d treat Snowden today. Hubris could cut both ways.


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I really have no interest in the Gates book. It most likely only reinforces what I already believed about the Blight Bringer, but all these appearances in his neck brace fascinate me. What did he do to himself?

NotCoach on January 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Pot, meet kettle.

fadetogray on January 14, 2014 at 2:07 PM

IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!

-Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:11 PM

That picture of Gates in the neck brace makes ever slip and fall lawyer in the country antsy.

portlandon on January 14, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Sorry, but Snowden acting as a freelance espionage agent …remember, he didn’t have clearance for a lot of that information..AND then not only running away to not one but 2 countries that DON’T have the US interests at heart (China and Russkies).

You don’t get a free pass over that: especially if your seen on TV giving smug Gen X style preaching over how HE decided that it was time for sunshine to be shown in the dark…

Too bad fuzzhead; you don’t get a hero’s welcome from me…and his Martyrs Complex like some B grade HBO movie isn’t helping his case either.

BlaxPac on January 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

all these appearances in his neck brace fascinate me. What did he do to himself?

NotCoach on January 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Perhaps he believes himself to be a pit bull and tried to lick his own B—s.

DDay on January 14, 2014 at 2:16 PM

In 2002 – long before the revelations of Edward Snowden rocked the world – Binney and several former colleagues went to Congress and the Department of Defense, asking that the NSA be investigated. Not only was the super-secretive agency wasting taxpayer dollars on ineffective programs, they argued, it was broadly violating constitutional guarantees to privacy and due process.

The government didn’t just turn a blind eye to the agency’s activities; it later accused the whistleblowers of leaking state secrets. A federal investigation of Binney – including an FBI search and seizure of his home and office computers that destroyed his consulting business – exonerated him on all charges.

…Gates will pay…for what he writes in his book too!

KOOLAID2 on January 14, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Did Gates get hurt blowing the whistle on Obama?

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Sorry, but Snowden acting as a freelance espionage agent …remember, he didn’t have clearance for a lot of that information..AND then not only running away to not one but 2 countries that DON’T have the US interests at heart (China and Russkies).

You don’t get a free pass over that: especially if your seen on TV giving smug Gen X style preaching over how HE decided that it was time for sunshine to be shown in the dark…

Too bad fuzzhead; you don’t get a hero’s welcome from me…and his Martyrs Complex like some B grade HBO movie isn’t helping his case either.

BlaxPac on January 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

This pretty much echoes my feelings. Snowden is part-traitor, part-whistleblower.

I would be happy with him if he had just been feeding the media the specifics on what the NSA was doing that overreaches its bounds, but to go to adversarial countries and pull a data dump to them makes him a Grade A traitor.

Bitter Clinger on January 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Perhaps he believes himself to be a pit bull and tried to lick his own B—s.

DDay on January 14, 2014 at 2:16 PM

I stopped being lazy and looked it up. Apparently, while in a coke induced stupor, he tripped over a passed out hooker on New Year’s Day and broke a vertebrae. And the part about being high on coke and tripping over a passed out Sandra Fluke hooker may or may not be true.

NotCoach on January 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

The regular channels never seem to work anymore. Fast and furious whistle blowers were mistreated and the bad guys got promotions. I’m glad we know everything Snowden told us.

magicbeans on January 14, 2014 at 2:24 PM

OT, but very important apparently……..

PHIL ROBERTSON FIRED!
DO YOU AGREE?

BacaDog on January 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Gates background pretty much results in a predictable answer. Snowden is a traitor because he didn’t avail himself of institutional safeguards or something. It’s born of the mindset that the NSA people are the good guys that can be trusted.

The public isn’t quite so sure that the NSA can be trusted, that the FISA courts are protecting our civil rights, and that the administration is not abusing the information it is collecting (I’m convinced the OFA database is a derivative product of NSA snooping).

Without engaging once again in the Snowden “Hero or Traitor” debate, the fact of the matter is that Snowden stole 1.7M documents, shared them with foreign governments, and is shopping for political asylum in exchange for access. The documents stolen and released go much further than the purported goal of exposing NSA snooping on Americans. And, finally, that Edward Snowden is seeking to avoid prosecution for his crimes. These are the facts no matter what you think of Snowden’s motives.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Perhaps he believes himself to be a pit bull…

DDay on January 14, 2014 at 2:16 PM

The cone of shame?

Fallon on January 14, 2014 at 2:27 PM

NotCoach on January 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

I’ve officially been one upped. Lol!!!

Thanks

DDay on January 14, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Did Gates get hurt blowing the whistle on Obama?

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM

A fall that resulted in back injury. It isn’t fair but Gates appearances in that prace reminds me of a dog that has to wear one of those cones to prevent chewing.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 2:29 PM

This pretty much echoes my feelings. Snowden is part-traitor, part-whistleblower.

I would be happy with him if he had just been feeding the media the specifics on what the NSA was doing that overreaches its bounds, but to go to adversarial countries and pull a data dump to them makes him a Grade A traitor.

Bitter Clinger on January 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM

^^ agreement there BC, except the whistleblower part, IMHO.

Personally, I think the so-called whistle blower tag was just convenient for his cause to do what he did, which was to gain access to probably the LAST Intelligence agency the US had that until now, has not suffered like the CIA, State Dept, etc in terms of being penetrated by a counterintelligence asset.

If Aldridge Ames released documents about the FBI’s COINTEL program during the 1960′s at the same time he was passing other Classified information would that made him the same mold as Snowden? Or would he still gotten dropped into the hole he deserved?

Snowden didn’t limit his scope on what he wanted to expose as overreach, he went for as many different programs as he could get his mitts on and then some.

I don’t understand peoples fascination on trying to paint him as a hero of the Republic when he’s set us back even further.

BlaxPac on January 14, 2014 at 2:31 PM

DDay on January 14, 2014 at 2:29 PM

What am I, chopped liver?

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Snowden didn’t limit his scope on what he wanted to expose as overreach, he went for as many different programs as he could get his mitts on and then some.

I don’t understand peoples fascination on trying to paint him as a hero of the Republic when he’s set us back even further.

BlaxPac on January 14, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Snowden went shopping and he shared what he got with the Chinese and Russians. Not to mention the NYT, The Guardian, and WaPo. Traitor may not be an apt description but neither is hero.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 2:43 PM

He’s in good company with obama and Gates.

Schadenfreude on January 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

What am I, chopped liver?

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM

You don’t know if you’re chopped liver or not?

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

OT, but very important apparently……..

PHIL ROBERTSON FIRED!
DO YOU AGREE?

BacaDog on January 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

+1

——

Before Snowden reveal: No wai Gubment can spy on us like those theorists say!
After Snowden reveal: Confirmed largest breach of the 4th Amendment.

LaughterJones on January 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Maybe if Snowden just put all his revelations in a tell-all book Gates would approve.

Buttercup on January 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

What am I, chopped liver?

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM

I happen to like pate’.

Buttercup on January 14, 2014 at 2:46 PM

BlaxPac on January 14, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Kind of hard for Snowden to give NSA an object lesson after they refused the easy way out, if he didn’t take more than was needed initially to make his basic point. Then again, they gave him access in the first place, so perhaps it’s possible they would let him come back for seconds.

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Maybe if Snowden just put all his revelations in a tell-all book Gates would approve.

Buttercup on January 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Thread winner. Pat on the back, plus a jar of pate’.

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:59 PM

OT, but very important apparently……..

PHIL ROBERTSON FIRED!
DO YOU AGREE?

BacaDog on January 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Clear your cache. Delete cookies.

kcewa on January 14, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Which just illustrates the point that there is no difference between the two parties anymore.

KMC1 on January 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

It’s a fair argument

No, Ed. It’s a case-closed argument. I’d be interested in hearing your rebuttal, as well, since you’re still riding the “he should have gone through legitimate channels” horse. What evidence do you have that Snowden’s concerns would have actually gotten a fair hearing? What evidence that any of this would have been made public? (Or are you upset that the NSA overreach was made public.) Even with all the publicity, apparently nothing’s going to change at NSA – yet.

It wasn’t just Binney. At least two other NSA employees tried to go through proper channels. All with the same result. Funny that only Snowden got anyone to listen – but he’s a traitor since he didn’t follow the legitimate channels….

notropis on January 14, 2014 at 3:12 PM

notropis on January 14, 2014 at 3:12 PM

How dare he not jump willingly head-first into the woodchipper after seeing others get shredded for trying it by the books.

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 3:16 PM

The founding fathers were also traitors.

jephthah on January 14, 2014 at 3:27 PM

The founding fathers were also traitors.

jephthah on January 14, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Good point. Of course, Gates conveniently fancies himself as Washington and Snowden as Arnold, rather than himself as a King George loyalist and Snowden as Revere or Henry.

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Snowden signed the same non-disclosure agreements that I signed when he was granted his clearance. He knew the penalties and repercussions for releasing classified information. Rather than face the consequences of his actions he chose to flee. If he truly had the courage of his convictions he might have earned the title “hero”, instead he ran and deserves to be labeled a traitor.

Zardoz on January 14, 2014 at 3:34 PM

It is a basic rule of civil disobedience that the lawbreaker has to be willing to take the hit. I think it is a Christian thing, but the Buddhists might say otherwise.

I understand Snowden thought he couldn’t get the info out through the authorized channels. Okay. But once he broke the story and it was filling the pages of the news outlets of the world, it was time to face the music, not run off to Putin’s embrace.

Still, it’s funny to hear Gates call him a traitor. His failure to release what he knew about Obama before the election is obvious cowardice and perhaps even treasonous.

Obama was sending America’s best to fight and die in a struggle Obama didn’t believe in. Gates knew it. He didn’t tell us when he knew it mattered. Why? Because people would have become upset. Coward. Conformist sniveling coward who didn’t want to offend the elites with his accusations when they would matter.

This is the last guy whose opinion I want on Snowden.

fadetogray on January 14, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Sorry, but Snowden acting as a freelance espionage agent …remember, he didn’t have clearance for a lot of that information..AND then not only running away to not one but 2 countries that DON’T have the US interests at heart (China and Russkies).

You don’t get a free pass over that: especially if your seen on TV giving smug Gen X style preaching over how HE decided that it was time for sunshine to be shown in the dark…

Too bad fuzzhead; you don’t get a hero’s welcome from me…and his Martyrs Complex like some B grade HBO movie isn’t helping his case either.

BlaxPac on January 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Got that right. He is a narcissistic personality disordered punk. 99% of the information he has released has to do with foreign intelligence gathering, all of which harm 2nd and 3rd party intelligence sharing agreements.

rlwo2008 on January 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

This is the last guy whose opinion I want on Snowden.

fadetogray on January 14, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Yupp. Kinda says it all doesn’t it.

WryTrvllr on January 14, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Absolutely not, but the cone of shame is pack leader thus far.

DDay on January 14, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Why yes, I think John Kerry is a traitor.

MTF on January 14, 2014 at 4:31 PM

fadetogray on January 14, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Is Snowden asking for money? Gates sure is by shilling his new book.

Christien on January 14, 2014 at 4:35 PM

Isn’t there one prominent politician who’s come out against Snowden who’s willing to denounce Washington as the traitor he was?

PersonFromPorlock on January 14, 2014 at 4:37 PM

I guess Gates feels that Snowden should have just kept his mouth shut until he retired and could get a big book deal to tell what he knew after it was too late.

VorDaj on January 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM

And I suppose writing a critical book is the “appropriate channel” for Gates’ dissent? (BTW, who reads these political novels?)

We can’t learn anything from this guy.

virgo on January 14, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Obama is as much a traitor.

Kowtowing to tyrants and lunatics everywhere.

profitsbeard on January 15, 2014 at 2:38 AM