Man Up

Time to Come Home, Edward Snowden, and Stop Hiding Behind a Corrupt Regime

The NSA whistleblower should face the music in America, and while he’s at it, he could criticize the tactics of the ex-KGB thug who’s offered him asylum.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty

Time to come home, Edward Snowden.

Time to announce that you would rather face an American prison than endorse Putin’s thuggery with your continued presence in Russia.

Time to end your silence about the seizure of Crimea and the troops massing at the border with eastern Ukraine.

Time to cease undercutting your own cause with the hypocrisy of speaking about Internet security even as you abet international piracy.

You appeared via video at the South by Southwest conference with the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution green screened behind you. But you did so while enjoying the protection of a KGB thug turned would-be czar.

As the Putin propaganda organ RT said at the start of its SXSW story, you were “speaking remotely from Russia.”

Yet the only time you even referred to your host country was when you suggested that the NSA amasses so much data that it overlooked a Russian warning about the elder of the brothers alleged to have bombed the Boston marathon.

“We might have caught them,” you told the SXSW audience.

At the very least, you might have noted that the NSA also missed Putin’s decision to send those first masked and unidentified soldiers into Crimea.

You fretted that the bulk data collection by the NSA signaled that the “interpretation of the Constitution had been changed in secret from ‘No unreasonable searches and seizures’ to, ‘Hey, any seizure is fine; just don’t search it,’” adding, "And that’s something the public ought to know about.”

That remark drew applause, which gave a measure of your support. Imagine the impact you might have had if you had also spoken about the Russian seizure of Crimea.

Among the questions tweeted to you at the conference was, "What are you doing in Russia now that the Crimea situation is escalating?"

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But the folks running the event did not include it with the ones actually posed to you. You were instead asked questions such as, “What steps can an average person take now to ensure a more secure digital experience?”

You offered some sensible advice, then said, “You’ll be much safer.”

How safe do you think the Ukrainians are feeling?

You remained mute on that subject. And maybe that is because you talk a much tougher game than you are willing to play.

Another question that was asked at the SXSW appearance was whether you would do it all again. You replied, “Absolutely,” noting, “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and I saw that the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale.” You had felt compelled to act.

“Regardless of what happens to me,” you said.

This line also drew applause. But if you were not worried about personal consequences, why were you in Russia in the first place?

The apparent answer is that you do not want to go to prison.

Which is only understandable.

But now you have gotten yourself into a situation where in seeking to right one wrong you are ignoring another.

That might only be garden variety hypocrisy were it not for the fact that you actually could make a difference.

After all, you are a guy who received highest thanks and praise from the founder of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, during the SXSW appearance.

“Actions profoundly in the public interest,” Berners-Lee said of your deeds.

You have true moral authority among many right thinking people. Imagine the impact if you announced that you could no longer countenance Russia’s behavior and were returning home, truly regardless of what happens to you.

What would almost certainly happen is you would be arrested. You could then steady yourself with the example of Sister Megan Rice, the 84-year-old nun who was arrested along with two other peace activists after they made their way into a U.S. nuclear weapons facility in 2012. They had splashed the main enriched uranium bunker with baby bottles of human blood and festooned it with crime scene tape and banners bearing such slogans as “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” by the time the security guards arrived. Rice and her friends welcomed the guards with a Bible, white roses, and food. The guards responded with handcuffs.

The three were convicted at trial of sabotage. Rice was asked at her sentencing last month if she had anything to say.

"Please have no leniency with me," she said. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me."

The judge gave her three years, which is considerably less than what you could expect, Edward Snowden.

Even so, it is time to come home.

Or at the very least, abandon the protection of a regime that makes a mockery of everything you champion.

No doubt Sister Megan would say a prayer for you from her cell.