That’s what I told myself when the news first broke of his treachery. It was the same sort of clouded character assessment a neighbor tells the 5 o’clock news about the murderer they just found out lives next door.
This latest leaking scandal and the arrest of Reality Leigh Winner (sounds like a pseudonym) for turning over a classified NSA report to news outlet, The Intercept, brought Snowden clearly to mind again this morning. It reminded me that when I had the dubious distinction of working alongside Snowden during my former life in U.S. intelligence, I thought he was a good guy. A bit odd at times, like the kind of guy you expect to find playing D&D in the basement of his mother’s house, but still cool and very easy to talk to. For months after he became a globally recognized name I asked myself if there was something I missed? Did he seem disgruntled or willing to do harm to our national interest? I had to settle on a disconcerting no.
We haven’t heard much from Reality Leigh Winner yet but her public contempt for the current administration seems to have been made clear from her social media profile. So, will she claim whistle-blower status in defense of the nation? Perhaps. Will she latch on to some purported victim status at hands of a state allegedly corrupted by Russian influence? Maybe. Did her coworkers think she would walk out of a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) with printed Top Secret material and hand it over to a news outlet? Probably not — which leads me to the crux of the problem. How do you know when you are working alongside a potential leaker? And have we crossed yet another bridge too far where the leaking of classified information is considered in vogue and part of this resistance movement we have been hearing about from progressives and the Hollywood elite?
Once upon a time, no matter what we personally thought of the administration in office, those of us charged with safeguarding classified information never even considered leaking information to media outlets, much less foreign governments. Unless you were indeed a traitor who did it for money or ego or you had been compromised into doing so. If there was something that we deemed truly detrimental the security of the American people or our very way of life, there were avenues. There were legitimate ways to bring it to the attention of someone who might affect a change. These days it feels entirely too easy to tweet away our national security in search of a #hero hashtag. It feels that the only motivation necessary to put sources and methods and therefore real human lives at risk is a spot at the podium of the next anti-Trump rally.
Was Snowden a good guy? To have a beer with, yes. Was Reality Winner a great gym partner? From the looks of her gym rat photos, meh possibly. But neither of them was worthy of even a modicum of trust. This morning I am grateful that I don’t have to go back to work inside the intelligence community because I would hate to second guess every single colleague of mine, wondering if their political leanings have now interfered with their ability to do the right thing.
Featured image courtesy of Yahoo News