Whatever else you think about NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, you have to admit this:
The man is a public relations genius.
When he decided to leak top-secret National Security Agency documents to the media, Snowden knew he was taking a big risk of spending a good chunk of time in prison — especially in an era in which an Administration is aggressively prosecuting leakers.
But Snowden felt passionately enough about his cause that he was willing to risk this.
And Snowden also appears to have been smart enough to realise that a leak of this magnitude would likely lead to his being “outed” at some point, regardless of how careful he was.
And he was also presumably smart enough to realise that if his identity was ever discovered, the process of being introduced to the public as a “traitor” and “felon” (presumably in cuffs, during a perp walk) would likely colour how the public perceived him and his actions. Snowden would likely have been forced to make any public statements from a jail cell, in a jumpsuit, with nervous attorneys sweating every word, so he would not likely have been able to say much if anything to turn this public perception around. And he certainly would not have been able to make an extensive, careful case for why he did why he did, and what the government is doing, with so much time and control.
In other words, Snowden appears to have been smart enough to realise that, if he waited around to be found out, he would be treated like Bradley Manning — the Army private who was hustled out of public view and thrown in solitary confinement for months after being charged with leaking documents to Wikileaks.
So instead of living in fear and awaiting that fate, Snowden took matters into his own hands.
He went public on his own terms.
He presented himself to the world as a courageous, well-intentioned, brave, and principled young man.
He placed an image in everyone’s mind of Edward Snowden as well-dressed, articulate, and free, a man in full control, a David standing up to Goliath, a man ready to accept the consequences of his actions. And he got a chance to make his full case against the government before the government got to dictate the terms of the engagement or say anything in response.
And, at least so far, this decision worked!
Snowden is already being hailed as a “national hero” in many quarters.
A petition to “pardon” Snowden before he has even been apprehended and charged with anything has already received nearly 10,000 signatures. In a poll we have conducted this morning, fully two-thirds of Business Insider readers view Snowden as a “hero.” Only 15%, meanwhile, view him as a traitor. (~20% haven’t made up their minds.)
That’s not bad for a 29 year-old contractor who easily could be painted as a selfish traitor and appears to be responsible for one of the biggest U.S. intelligence breaches in history.
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