And we should recall too the meteoric rise and unthinking deification of Assange, the data liberationist who now lives an angry and ascetic life in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Many of his previous supporters have long since abandoned him. (Assange advised on Twitter that the leaker “needs to get to Ecuador,” a country with a dubious record of guaranteeing free speech and opposition to the government.)
Snowden’s odd escape to Hong Kong also rankles, as does his confident declaration that the island is a beacon of press and Internet freedom. (Freedom House judges its press only “partly free.”) As is clear from his interview with The Guardian, Snowden is a deeply intelligent guy but also one who indulges in the conspiratorial. The CIA, he says, could “render” (i.e., kidnap) him at any time, which is highly unlikely but not symptomatic of the paranoid. But in the same breath, he warns that United States government could “pay off the Triads,” or any of their “agents or assets,” to do him harm. He also claims that “sitting at my desk, [I] certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal e-mail.” Possibly, and it’s a claim that should be vigorously investigated, but was a relatively low-level, 29-year-old NSA subcontractor authorized to wiretap anyone in the United States? Let us, at least, hope this isn’t true.