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Edward Snowden and John McCain’s Cognitive Dissonance

August 1, 2013

by J. Andrew Zalucky


After a long stint at Moscow’s international airport, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden has finally left the building after being granted a 1-year asylum by the Russian Authorities. Presumably, this is to allow Snowden some sort of safe-haven while he waits to attain a more semi-permanent asylum status in another nation, most likely somewhere in South America.

This of course has made the US officials furious with the Russian authorities, as the move comes as an enormous slap in the face on behalf of the Kremlin. Though it’s true the decision probably has to do more with cosmetic power-politics than any notion of Snowden’s internationally recognized right to asylum from persecution, the fact that the US has become a nation to seek asylum from (for whistle-blowers at least) says a lot about where the current administration sits in respect to liberty vs. security.

In a wonderfully ironic example of cognitive dissonance, Arizona Senator John McCain decried the move by the Kremlin and, in addition to the expected bluster about NATO expansion and “rethinking” our relationship with Russia, declared that (via The Washington Post):

the United States should also challenge Russian crackdowns on dissidents and speak out for those who are demanding “greater freedom, accountability and rule of law in Russia.”

Read that sentence to yourself a few times and let it sink in. Don’t get me wrong, what he is saying about the condition of dissidents in Russia is fundamentally true, but the context in which he says it makes his remarks beyond laughable. I’d say it’s the pot calling the kettle black, but even that cliche doesn’t come close to how hilarious this is. On one hand he is calling for an additional crackdown by the US government on whistle-blowers and dissidents, and then saying we should challenge Russia when it comes to their own crackdown. You either care about the freedom of journalists and dissidents to operate without persecution or you don’t. If you don’t, then at least be honest and consistent about it. And if you do, remember that the principles that underpin our rights do not recognize borders.

Lawmakers in Washington should also remember that their case against Snowden is slowly losing in the court of public opinion. According to a new Quinnipiac Poll, “American voters say 55 – 34 percent that former National Security Agency consultant Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower rather than a traitor”- which stands in stark contrast to the amount of support he is receiving from those in the capital. This majority extends throughout the data collected, as majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents consider Snowden a whistle-blower, and not a traitor. True, the fact that a majority of people polled believe one thing does not make that thing correct on its own, but from a self-interested standpoint, lawmakers should take notice.

As to the completely speculative and unsubstantiated claim that he could have handed over intelligence to the Russians and Chinese, The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald had a pretty fantastic tweet on that subject.


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