He is, for the moment, a man without a country. But, it looks like he may find another one soon. In a daring move right out of a Daniel Silva thriller, Edward Snowden, self-confessed NSA whistle-blower, fled Hong Kong for Moscow, where he’s reportedly on his way to asylum in Ecuador.
Whether you think Snowden’s a patriot or traitor, you have to admire his moxie. In this first round, it was him vs. the power and prestige of the United States of America. And Snowden won. He outwitted the entire Department of Justice — which, it turns out, might not be as hard as it seems.
For some strange reason, it took the Department of Justice almost two weeks to file its request for extradition. And, according to Hong Kong officials, when the DOJ finally did so, the papers were not properly filled out. Meanwhile, Snowden’s passport was not revoked until June 22, almost two weeks after he came forward as the source of the NSA story, giving him ample time to plot his escape. The DOJ, in other words, screwed up what should have been an easy catch, giving President Obama one more good reason to fire Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderDNC chairman: Trump’s tax cuts and budget plans are 'morally bankrupt' Holder: Trump's election fraud claims are laying foundation for voter suppression Dem rep: Jim Crow's 'nieces and nephews' are in the White House MORE.
Snowden’s fate will no doubt be hotly debated in the weeks and months ahead. That’s a legitimate topic for debate, but it’s also unfortunate. In this sense, quibbling over what should happen to Snowden could completely overshadow a more serious debate over what the NSA is doing: amassing all this phone call data.
Illinois Democrat Dick DurbinDick DurbinLawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Democrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Senators warn of 'dangerous' cuts to International Affairs Budget MORE, in the Senate, and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Justin AmashJustin AmashBipartisan push grows for new war authorization The Hill's Whip List: 21 GOP no votes on new ObamaCare replacement bill Oversight Dems want vote on Trump tax return bill MORE (R-Ill.), in the House, have raised serious questions about the NSA’s wholesale vacuuming of phone company records. How long are they keeping such records? What use are they making of the database? How many people have access to these storage bins? And, without a court-approved order of “reasonable suspicion,” what right does the NSA have to invade our privacy and capture this data in the first place?
That’s the real debate we should be having in this country. Forget Edward Snowden, wherever he lands. The real issue is whether, after 9/11, we Americans must sacrifice every shred of privacy we have left in the name of “national security.”
Press is host of “The Full Court Press” on Current TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.