When someone like a contractor employee such as Edward Snowden is granted a security clearance, they usually need to sign a Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (Form 312, 32 CFR Part 2001.80 – appended below). Among other things, contractors acknowledge that a “special confidence and trust” is placed in them by the U.S. Government to view and use the Nation’s most sensitive information.
CINOs also warn that the signer that the “unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation.” The document is designed to impress upon signers that access to national secrets is a privilege. It is very serious business and, if the signer reads the fine print (not hard to do since it is just a two page document) they are also reminded that releasing or misuse of classified information may be a criminal violation.
The media, Snowden defenders, and some politicians on Capitol Hill have accepted that Snowden was a whistleblower. Yet evidence keeps mounting that Snowden was anything but a bonafide whistleblower. Today we learn that while he was working in Hawaii, he secured from fellow workers passwords and access codes for systems that he did not have access to.
As an American citizen and U.S. government contractor, Snowden owed certain allegiances to his country. The Justice Department and the Congress need to take a close and careful look at not only the damage that Snowden caused to the intelligence community, but to his reasons for doing what he did. This seems to be a lot more than our run of the mill whistleblower case. At this juncture, the whistleblower defense is very weak. This new evidence, if true, further reinforces the argument that Snowden is a traitor.
Snowden, and anyone who knowingly helped him do what he did, belongs in a jail cell in the United States, without internet access, not in Russia working as a programmer in some allegedly private company. Ignorance of the law is not a defense and it does not entitle you to whistleblower status either. The irony of this entire matter is that not only has Snowden tried to weaken the U.S., on the question of civil liberties, Snowden and his supporters have set that issue back for a long time.
Snowden’s release of classified information will, in the short term, hurt the nation’s ability to protect national security. It could result in the loss of life of U.S. personnel and those who support them around world. Congressional oversight needs to take a closer look at this aspect of the case, rather than engage in what has become, at times, gratuitous bashing of the intelligence community (or, political CYA disguised as oversight). Maybe this is what Snowden, and those who support him, intended all along? Snowden is no better than Bradley Manning, and in some respects worse.
Finally, if laws were broken or exceeded in scope by NSA personnel, these individuals need to be held accountable. Keep in mind as this discussion unfolds, however, that political leaders task these entities with the work that they do. When the U.S. was attacked on 09.11.01, the country and how it deals with nationals security threats, forever changed. It may be time to revisit the laws and regulations that created the system the nation has today, but do so in a way that makes the system better, not weaker. And when it comes to civil liberties, I’m more concerned about HHS, than the NSA.