Why I Support Edward Snowden

The first and foremost reason that I support Edward Snowden is that I have lost faith in all others who demonize him. In this regard I think primarily of our government, but not exclusively. Time and again those who claim to be “looking out for us” (meaning, us citizens) have been shown to be liars and manipulators. In that regard I continue to be shocked by the collective shrug this has elicited on the part of the general population. I have written elsewhere about how our (and Snowden’s) constitutional rights have been and are being jettisoned brazenly. I have also written about how we as a nation of citizens have willingly, if sloppily, relinquished our rights in deference to the illusion of public safety.

The second reason I support him is that President Obama in a press conference recently, (August 9, 2013) announced multiple reforms in the parameters by which the National Security Administration’s (NSA) can harvest personal information from unknowing U.S.  citizens. This in a back-handed way validates Edward Snowden’s disclosures about excesses and we owe him (Snowden, not Obama) a debt of gratitude. Julian Assange said in response to Obama’s pronouncement about reforms: “Without Snowden’s disclosures, no one would know about the programs and no reforms could take place.”

The third reason I support Snowden is the ongoing and appalling treatment against journalists (and anyone, including the President of Bolivia) who are associated and/or sympathetic with Edward Snowden, or are in any way dogged in their efforts to uncover clandestine government activity that may push or transgress the limits of the law. The treatment of journalists in recent days should appall everyone. Cases in point:

James Rosen, of FOX News: Affidavits filed by FBI agents considered him a possible criminal co-conspirator for investigative reporting. According to the Daily Mail (UK)

The Washington Post reported Monday morning that Rosen was the subject of a Department of Justice probe in relation to his reporting about North Korea’s likely reactions to new UN sanctions in 2009. Federal investigators read his personal emails, obtained his phone records, and tracked his comings and goings through government buildings.


David Miranda, partner of the Guardian journalist who broke stories of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency, held against his will and without charge for nine hours at Heathrow Airport. According according to The Guardian:

His carry-on bags were searched and, he says, police confiscated a computer, two pen drives, an external hard drive and several other electronic items, including a games console, as well two newly bought watches and phones that were packaged and boxed in his stowed luggage.

Michael Hastings, reporter for Rollingstone Magazine, who died in a bizarre car explosion and crash on June 18, hours after alerting friends by email (below) that he was being investigated by the FBI: 

He had been working on an exposé on Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan. The standard story about his death is that the event was a tragic accident, though questions remain:

If Hastings’ death was a simple accident as Jordan asserts then it’s unclear why police and firefighters in the area have had a gag order imposed on them and been told not to talk to the media about the incident.

Such an explanation also fails to answer why the FBI is refusing to release information on Hastings despite a Freedom of Information Act request. After Wikileaks reported that Hastings had contacted them a few hours before his death complaining that he was under FBI investigation, other friends confirmed that the journalist was “very paranoid” about the feds watching him.

The subject of journalists brings me to  the fourth reason I support Snowden: The shocking sentiments that now-and-then show themselves by the media itself in off-the-cuff and dismissive commentary (from all sides of the political-bias spectrum) about people, including fellow journalists, who believe that something is amiss in our system and are trying to investigate and redress it. Michael Grunwald’s alarming tweet about Julian Assange is the most recent case in point. Time magazine’s senior national correspondent wrote a “gloating defense” of drone’s “taking out” Julian Assange:



Time’s response to this:

“Michael Grunwald posted an offensive tweet from his personal Twitter account that is in no way representative of TIME’s views,” a TIME spokesperson said. “He regrets having tweeted it, and he removed it from his feed.”

In his defense, Grunwald tweeted a mia culpa. (“It was a dumb tweet. I’m sorry. I deserve the backlash. Maybe not the anti-Semitic stuff but otherwise I asked for it.”) Time’s nonresponse, however, trivializes it. One of their leading reporters cavalierly put forward in the public arena not only a wish for death, but death by drone — a (to say the least) highly controversial under-reported element to the bloating subversive clandestine activities undertaken by our government. Their aloof response paints a grim picture of where some in the mainstream press stand when it comes to renegade reporting outside the standard script. Does anyone remember Paula Deen? The media crucified her because of an admission of using a racial slur. The media, right and left, remonstrated: This shall not stand! She’s a cook, for God’s sake! She lost contracts, sponsors, her reputation, her agent! Can someone help me understand how Grunwald–a senior national correspondent for an major international publication–and his public caustic death-wish for Julian Assange is less incendiary than Paula Deen’s cultural indiscretions? Beyond the death-wish, what about the drones? What does Grunwald know about drone usage?  Who gets “taken out”? And for what reasons? Why isn’t he reporting on that?

The free pass he has been given on this is shocking —mortifying— as is Time‘s cavelier dismissal of it. I have stopped trusting him, and Time.  I shall also stop trusting any media outlets — print, digital, and broadcast — be they ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, Christianity Today, The Christian Century, or Comedy Central— religious and nonreligious — who don’t demand Grunwald’s dismissal or at the very least cause Time magazine acute discomfort for allowing this to stand. I salute two notable stand-outs who gave this precedent the scrutiny it deserves:  The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf and and The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson:

Grunwald’s tweet took a lot of centrists by surprise, as if it was way beyond the pale. And I think it was! But it didn’t surprise me. . . . He reflexively assumed that objections to a tweet about the extrajudicial killing of a transparency activist came from the “Don’t Tread on Me crowd” — as if only right-wing libertarians would object to such a sentiment! [Italics retained.] (Friedersdorf)

“pushing investigative journalism into the category of espionage and enemy activity; targeted killings to chase threats—and it seems possible that Grunwald could someday get a chance to write that defense, perhaps not with regard to Assange (we are not about to launch a drone strike in London, where he is now) but to someone similar to him.” (Davidson).

Nevertheless, both journalists stopped short of calling for Grunwald’s dismissal.

Washington calls Edward Snowden a traitor, while Patriot Act co-author Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner demurs, responding, “I don’t agree.” A Republican from Wisconsin and one of the primary authors of the Patriot Act after 9/11, he said on the House floor in late July that he never intended the Patriot Act to allow “the wholesale vacuuming up of domestic phone records, nor did his original legislation envision data dragnets beyond specific targets. ‘The time has come to stop it.’ ” He said that he would not have known the extent of abuse by the FISA court and the NSA without Snowden’s disclosures.

Which brings me to the fifth reason I support Edward Snowden. In doing what he did by leaking governmental abuses, Snowden assumed the burden of choosing between good and evil. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing so. Who among us anymore is willing or courageous enough to assume that burden? Rather than be pandered to disingenuously by officials and media elites who tell me what it is they’ve determined I need to know, I prefer to believe a young man who acted out of moral conscience. And more, I prefer to believe that there may yet be people who possess a moral conscience and act on it even if it costs him everything, which it has for Snowden. When he said:

“I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model. . . . I’m no different from anybody else. I don’t have special skills. I’m just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what’s happening and goes, ‘This [kind of personal invasion] is something that’s not our place to decide, the public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong. . . ‘”

I believe him, whereas I do not believe his detractors, both in government and the media.

There is a sixth reason I support Edward Snowden: His father, Lon Snowden, refused to accept the FBI’s offer to send him to Moscow when Snowden was still stranded in the airport. When they couldn’t guarantee the elder Snowden would actually see his son, he responded (to the Washington Post), ” ‘Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.'” He questioned their motivation and would not be their pawn. He is not a journalist. He is not a politician. He is a regular guy with an intelligent son who got in over his head, acted on conscience, and now has become exiled on this earth. He’s glad his son is in Russia. That says something.

Writer Joyce Carol Oates tweeted recently: “Whistleblowers arouse fury because most people know that they could never behave with such courage & lack of self-interest.” That, too, is why I support Edward Snowden.


Wendy Murray is a former editor and Senior Writer for Christianity Today magazine. The opinions expressed herein are hers alone.

The Edward Snowdon Support Facebook Page (you may have trouble accessing it)

Edward Snowden Petition for Pardon

How To Contact Time Magazine

Respond to Time by way of Twitter: @TIME Mention; reference @MikeGrunwald or #MikeGrunwald

About Wendy Murray

Wendy Murray is a veteran and award-winning journalist. She served as associate editor and Senior Writer at Christianity Today magazine and has written extensively for other publications such as Books & Culture and The Christian Century. She has written 11 books.