Chat logs published by the popular tech news site Ars Technica reveal an Edward Snowden who held very different views about whistleblowers four years ago than his actions this month would imply.
On #arsificial, a channel on Ars Technica's public Internet Relay Chat server, Snowden shared his opinions with other users on everything from life in Switzerland ("God I hate metric. Why can't they use real numbers over here?") to Ron Paul ("He's so dreamy.") to unemployment in the US ("Almost everyone was self-employed prior to 1900. Why is 12% employment so terrifying?") to Social Security ("Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine.").
It's no surprise, then, that in the course of looking through Snowden's more than 800 posts on Ars Technica, one encounters several comments about the NSA and the state of privacy in the United States. What is absolutely shocking, however, is what Snowden said.
In one remarkable chat that took place in January 2009, Snowden ranted about a New York Times article that described secret negotiations between President Bush and Israel about the Iranian nuclear threat. Snowden was incensed about the fact that the Times had used government insiders, none of whom "would speak on the record because of the great secrecy surrounding the intelligence developed on Iran," as sources.
Posting under the username "TheTrueHOOHA," Snowden blasted the Times.
Chatlog courtesy of Ars Technica.
Later in the conversation, when the user marked as "User19" (whose real username has been kept hidden) asked, "[I]s it unethical to report on the government's intrigue?" Snowden replied, "Um, YEEEEEEEEEEEES. that s**t is classified for a reason." [sic]
Four years later, Snowden would claim responsibility for what Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower behind the 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, would call the most important leak in American history.
Does that mean Edward Snowden is also the biggest hypocrite in American history since John Ensign, the former Nevada senator and proponent of the Defense of Marriage Act who had an affair with his friend's wife?
Not necessarily. Soon after Snowden stopped posting on Ars Technica, he took a job with a private contracting firm that was working for the NSA. Snowden told The Guardian that during his four years working inside the national security bureaucracy, he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in.”
As a result, he said solemnly, "I got hardened."
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