Should America’s top diplomat be telling Edward Snowden to ‘man up’?


Los Angeles Times

It seems ironic that a man who was often accused of being effete when he ran for president in 2004 has impugned someone else’s manhood to make a political point.

But that’s what happened Wednesday when Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint about what’s the matter with American surveillance,” Kerry told CBS This Morning. “Come back here and stand with our system of justice and make his case.”

Man up?

This from a man tarnished by sleazeballs who tried to turn his Vietnam War service against him when he ran for president against George W. Bush? This from a man who was mocked as wifty because he windsurfs, speaks French and puts the wrong sort of cheese on his cheesesteak?

Anyway, we need to move away from the idea that masculinity and courage are synonymous terms.

A courageous man named Daniel Ellsberg, who should know, said Snowden was right to have fled.

(Ellsberg is one of few who have walked in Snowden’s shoes. In 1971, he faced Espionage Act charges for copying and disseminating the Pentagon Papers, which demonstrated the administration of President Lyndon Johnson had systematically lied to Congress and the American people about the Vietnam War. The case against Ellsberg was dismissed because of government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping.)

“There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now,” Ellsberg wrote last July in the Washington Post. “Instead he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado. He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began.”

Polls show that Americans have been divided over whether Snowden helped or harmed U.S. security. But they strongly believe the NSA’s domestic spying operation has compromised their own privacy. Recently, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a measure that would reform the country’s surveillance law and put an end to the NSA’s bulk-data collection. That is a direct, and positive, result of Snowden’s actions. Not that you will get anyone in Congress to admit it.

Intelligence officials say he has compromised their ability to spy on groups like al Qaida. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said bluntly in January that the Snowden had done “profound damage” and that the country is “less safe.”

Wednesday, Kerry echoed Clapper: “The fact is he has damaged his country, very significantly, in many, many ways,” he told CBS This Morning. “He has hurt operational security, he has told terrorists what they can now do to be able to avoid detection and I find it sad and disgraceful.”

But he also took pains to belittle Snowden, who said he cannot leave Russia because the United States had revoked his passport. Kerry impugned Snowden’s patriotism (“a patriot would not run away”). He said Snowden was “supposedly smart” but gave a “dumb answer” about why he was stuck in Russia.

In a profile of Snowden late last year, the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, who spent 14 hours with Snowden in Moscow for the story, chronicled some of the many changes wrought by Snowden’s revelations:

“The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals. The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take to block the collection of data by their government.”

This year Gellman and his Post colleagues shared the public service Pulitzer Prize with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald for breaking the Snowden stories.

Whatever American officials think of Snowden, they should rethink their rhetoric against him. Playground insults like “man up” have no place here.

But more important, if they really want him to come home, they should make some guarantees about how he will be treated.

Otherwise, he has every reason to stay away.

Robin Abcarian is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

©2014 Los Angeles Times

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Obama’s hard stance on ISIS a long time coming

    Listening to the president’s address to the nation regarding the crisis with ISIS or ISIL if you prefer, I was struck by the lack of indignation in the president’s presentation. Where was the visible anger, the fist-pounding oratory that made it clear in no uncertain terms the nation would not tolerate this threat to our interests and, for that matter, humanity?

  • D.C. government guilty of abusing drivers

    “You are guilty until you have proven yourself innocent. … That has worked well for us.”

  • Domestic violence puts some women on the path to incarceration

    Domestic violence is a hot topic right now — a conversation being fueled by what we’ve witnessed inside a fancy hotel elevator and on the stage of the Miss America pageant.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category