If you’re inclined to sympathize with the president’s caution on curtailing the NSA surveillance program in the wake of a furor fanned if not created by Edward Snowden’s revelations, you might be impressed by the pressure he’s under from the entire intelligence and national security apparatus. They are adamant about avoiding any vindication of Snowden, a man the spooks hate with the heat of a thousand suns.
If you have any doubt about that, check out some rich (if, of course, blind) quotes collected by BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson:
“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”
“I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. “I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.”
That violent hostility lies just beneath the surface of the domestic debate over NSA spying is still ongoing. Some members of Congress have hailed Snowden as a whistle-blower, the New York Times has called for clemency, and pundits regularly defend his actions on Sunday talk shows. In intelligence community circles, Snowden is considered a nothing short of a traitor in wartime.
“His name is cursed every day over here,” a defense contractor told BuzzFeed, speaking from an overseas intelligence collections base. “Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him.”
One Army intelligence officer even offered BuzzFeed a chillingly detailed fantasy.
“I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly,” he said. “Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower.”
Even discounting the tendency of intelligence types to speak (anonymously, at least) as though they are characters on Homeland or in a Bond movie, these are sentiments that indicate a hostility to the rule of law that, ironically, reinforces Snowden’s credibility.