ABC This Week anchor Martha Raddatz (5/11/14) introduced a lookback at the Edward Snowden/NSA stories by saying, “A year later, Snowden still sparks a raging debate.” But the show sure had a funny way of illustrating that fierce debate–with two guests who both attacked Snowden for revealing the extent of NSA spying.
Edward Snowden is a traitor and could be a spy recruited by Russia to target the US. That’s the suspicion of the man who was running the NSA when the breach happened last year.
But that seemed to overstate even Alexander’s claims about Snowden, who admitted that he couldn’t say whether Snowden was a spy. (“Is he a spy?” “I don’t know the answer to that.” So much for Raddatz’s teaser: “Coming up, is Edward Snowden a spy?”)
But Alexander did say, as Thomas summarized, that thanks to Snowden, “nations have our surveillance playbook and terrorists have changed how they operate.” Why anyone would find Alexander a credible source is another matter (FAIR Blog, 10/14/13).
And for the other side in the Snowden debate, Raddatz brought in ABC contributor and former national security aide Richard Clarke. To him, Snowden “hurt our counterterrorism efforts” because he
revealed ways that NSA collects information. And the terrorists, and others, criminals and others around the world, have stopped using those methods of communication since he revealed them.
In other words, Clarke basically said the very same thing Alexander said. And it’s a claim that requires one to believe not only that terrorists did not know before Snowden that the US government would be tracking their communications, but also that the NSA was especially useful in uncovering terrorist plots to begin with.
As Clarke claimed: “We no longer have the heads-up that an attack is coming on our embassy in fill in the blank because of what he did.” The reality is that there is little to no evidence that NSA’s metadata dragnet has prevented terrorist attacks against the US (Gizmodo, 1/13/14).
The only dissenting view came in a two-sentence soundbite from Anthony Romero of the ACLU, who says that the debate over surveillance “would never have happened but for the actions of Edward Snowden.”
Now if only media outlets like ABC could give that debate a little more in the way of balance.