A little preface: To say I dislike Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald is putting my feelings mildly.

I think about the years leading up to this point and it draws out an ire that borders on fury. I was politely asked to write an article covering a facet of this, and I felt that I could not legitimately cover the topic without providing an underlying framework from which to write. However, I also realized that this article cannot be focused on my emotional state regarding that framework or its protagonists. So, as I sit here listening to The Raconteur’s “Salute Your Solution” (below), I will do my best to enlighten the reader, and perhaps come to a bit of closure as objectively as possible.

Let’s start with the protagonists.

Edward Snowden was a very talented systems administrator for the National Security Agency, under contract with Booz Allen Hamilton at the time of his disclosures. His family has a long history of working for the federal government in various respects. I have spoken with friends and coworkers who knew Snowden, and there is a consistent narrative of an exceptionally smart, quiet, and nice gentleman all around. His abilities exceeded just DevOps (sysadmin) and ran the gamut of cryptology; he had a deep understanding of network operations. One coworker suggested Edward was “sheep-dipped” from the Agency into the NSA, by the NSA. This means he continued to be employed by the Agency while working secretly for the NSA. This happens infrequently and is a way to ensure deniability.

Several people have suggested his work went beyond just simple DevOps and into areas of special technical operations (STO). This is certainly a possibility, but this ends the area in which I speculate. I cannot know what I do not know. Asking the government to release this is relatively futile. If it is speculative, you are asking the government to prove a negative. It is impossible to prove Snowden was NOT sheep-dipped—it’s only possible to prove that he was. Politically, Edward Snowden was very “third-party candidate” oriented. He was disillusioned with both parties and saw issues that ran across party lines in which he disagreed with strongly.

Further, behind many such individuals, a mythos quickly grows from who they are into what we want them to be. This includes the intelligence community. In the community, Edward Snowden has certainly been demonized and stamped “traitor.” Outside, he has been hailed as many things: idealist, patriot, etc. Both sides seek to create a mythos that fits their narrative best. Edward Snowden has ceased to be a person with qualities of good and bad, and has instead become a symbol to political parties less interested in the man and more interested in what he represents to their cause.

Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitras humanized Edward as much as possible, but ultimately lost sight of his humanity when they began to profit from his disclosures, using his story as a mechanism to boost their own needs. The intelligence community dehumanized Edward Snowden in order to detract from his narrative. He has been deemed a “self-publicizing narcissist” by Liam Fox, a former member of British Parliament, and has been the subject of hundreds of colorful epithets (including those from yours truly).