Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Hillary Clinton has repeatedly attacked Ed Snowden for being careless with government information. So it is ironic that she has been found guilty of being...  careless with government information. (Image: Laura Potrias)

Clinton and Snowden: Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

Hillary Clinton has repeatedly attacked Ed Snowden for being careless with government information. So it is ironic that she has been found guilty of being . . . careless with government information. She, of course, will suffer no consequences, since she is part of the ruling class.

Here’s an ironic juxtaposition:

FBI Director James B. Comey: “From the group of . . . e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time . . . Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Hillary Clinton on Edward Snowden: “He broke the laws of the United States . . . He stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.”

But anyway the real source of her annoyance with Snowden is that she believes in Big Government surveillance of the general population, no matter how unconstitutional it is. (So does Comey). Hillary Clinton voted for the USA Patriot Act, which gutted the fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable, warrantless search and seizure of papers and personal effects. She also voted to renew it in 2005 and 2006. It was practices that the FBI and NSA alleged were authorized by these laws that Clinton helped pass that constituted the abuses on which Ed Snowden felt compelled to blow the whistle. She now talks in excruciatingly vague terms about striking a “balance” between security and democracy, but there is no evidence anywhere that she cares about the invasion of the privacy of millions of Americans online that she has assiduously enabled.

Clinton has also wrongly and irresponsibly said that Ed Snowden could have gone through internal channels to blow the whistle on NSA abuses, and would thereby have gained legal protections.

First of all, no such legal protections exist with regard to his particular circumstances. A whole string of other intelligence whistleblowers has gone to jail, which is what would have happened to Snowden. That is not to mention the evidence for dirty tricks played on whistleblowers by government agencies, including the destruction of exculpatory evidence.

Second of all, the NSA has now been forced to admit that Snowden did in fact repeatedly try official channels and was stonewalled.

Clinton should apologize for her earlier allegations about Snowden and acknowledge her mistake in suggesting that he could have blown the whistle through official channels and been legally protected. She could just ask Thomas Drake if any of that were true. While she has admitted that the USA Patriot Act vote was a mistake, she should have the decency to admit that she put persons of conscience like Snowden in a position where they had to risk their lives to let Americans know that the National Security State had repealed the Constitution.

At the very least, you would hope that, having almost fallen victim to its vague and unconstitutional provisions, Sec. Clinton would at least now commit to repealing the Espionage Act of 1919, passed at the height of an earlier Trump-style immigration hysteria. But guess what? Obama has loved this law to death and used it viciously against whistleblowers, and the likelihood that Clinton will seek to repeal or revise it is low.

The irony is that we may finally be getting ethnic and gender diversity at the top of our politics, but those considerations pall before the distinction between the governmental class and the hoi polloi.

Because on the animal farm, some animals are more equal than others.

© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·

'This Is Insane': Search Warrant Indicates FBI Investigating Trump for Espionage Act Violation

"If you're not fed up," said watchdog group Public Citizen, "you're not paying enough attention."

Jessica Corbett ·

Anti-War Veterans Group Asks Biden to 'Read Our Nuclear Posture Review Before Releasing Yours'

"Are you willing to risk a civilization-ending apocalypse by playing nuclear chicken with other nuclear-armed nations? Or will you lead us toward a planet that is free of nuclear weapons?"

Jessica Corbett ·

'Big Win' for Public Lands and Climate as US Judge Reinstates Coal Lease Ban

"It's past time that this misguided action by the Trump administration is overturned," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo