I've not written yet on this blog regarding Edward Snowden. I served as an Arabic linguist at the National Security Agency from June 2002 until July 2006, during which time I also spent three months in Iraq. I am proud to have received the Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal for my service there.
So, I know a lot about the NSA. And I'll say this. I know more about it than you, Mr. Snowden. Because I know a lot more about the actual mission of the NSA than you'll ever know.
I worked it. I felt my heart exploding out of my chest on a daily basis as I processed Intelligence that implied life and death to people all around the world. You didn't read those reports. And of course you didn't steal them. They would not have supported what you are trying to do.
It's a dangerous world out there, Mr. Snowden. You wouldn't actually know about any of that because you were a Techie. Notice, I'm not saying you were "just" a Techie. Techies kept people like me, Arabic linguists processing Counter-Terrorism information, in business on a daily basis.
But the Techies I worked with were well aware that the NSA exists not to maintain a massive computer system as an end in and of itself. And it certainly doesn't exist to spy on Americans. It exists to provide United States policy makers, such as the President, with the best available intelligence to maintain National Security. Period.
And those Techies knew that it was people like me who were actually doing that critical work. And they served humbly and seriously in that capacity, grateful for the chance to serve their Nation in that important capacity. Again, hats off to you guys and gals at Tech. I obviously could never have done my job without your expertise.
You knew computer systems, Mr. Snowden, but you didn't actually understand the classified documents you stole. They described the apparent fact that the United States conducts electronic surveillance. And it's completely legal. And it's heavily supervised by Congress. The fact that the NSA does this is even readily available on the NSA.gov website. The exact details of how the NSA does it is classified, for obvious reasons. And you leaked details of that which have caused some damage. But the most delicious irony of all would come when you then fled into exile.
Where'd you go? Hong Kong (read, China). Have you ever tried to conduct a Google Search from China, Mr. Snowden? Don't try, you can't.
And from there, you go to Russia.
I don't actually have much negative to say about Russia over all this. Putin has stated that Snowden can have asylum in Russia only if he stops "harming our American partners."
But why do you think Russia is not lauding your treachery, Mr. Snowden? It's because Russia knows that they do the exact same things as the NSA. And they also know that you have provided them with a bargaining chip they never expected to get. They know that a Russian Snowden will step out some day. And you've now guaranteed that the United States will be forced to reciprocate their cooperation with us. They'll probably grant you temporary asylum. But they have already made it clear that they are not on your side. While you are on their soil, you should feel very uncomfortable.
So what have you actually accomplished, Mr. Snowden? You've informed the world about something astute people already knew. Every government in the world conducts electronic espionage.
This is not about Liberal and Conservative. I worked beside people at the NSA who were far more Liberal than myself. Since I've left, they've gone on to vote for Obama, complaining that they wished he weren't such a "moderate."
But they believe in the mission they work. They are Patriots, Conservative and Liberals alike there, who know that they work to provide our policy makers with crucial Intelligence for our National Security.
Your heart was likely exploding out of your chest the day you walked out of classified space with a thumb-drive full of stolen secrets.
My heart was exploding out of my chest as I ran from mortar fire in Iraq. I volunteered to serve in that danger because I love my country.
And so, Mr. Snowden, I implore you even now to do the right thing. Do no more harm to your Country. It's the greatest country in the world. It really is. And among all the countries that do electronic surveillance (by which I mean, all the countries in the world), we have nothing to be ashamed of regarding oversight of our programs for their legality.
My fellow United States Citizens, you have nothing to be worried about regarding the activities of the Intelligence Agencies. Not only do they respect your rights, but they've got your back. Don't hate them because we happen to be the best at this stuff. After all, we're the United States of America.