For John Kerry, Where He Stands Depends on Where He Sits

Obama administration Secretary of State John Kerry told Chuck Todd today on MSNBC: “Edward Snowden is a coward. He is a traitor. And he has betrayed his country.”

Snowden gave documents to journalists that revealed the scope and reach of unconstitutional spying by the federal government on American citizens.

Today Kerry also told CBS This Morning:

He should man up, come back to the United States. If he has a complaint about what’s wrong with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead, he’s just sitting there taking pot shots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took, and betraying, I think, the fundamental agreement that he entered into when he became an employee.

Kerry fails to point out that the oath Snowden took was to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” And Kerry admits that the debate about privacy and the NSA would not have “risen” to its current level without the Snowden disclosures.

All of this brings to mind Daniel Ellsberg who gave the “Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times, Washington Post, and 17 other newspapers in 1971, which revealed, among other things, that the Johnson administration systematically lied to the public and Congress to escalate the Vietnam War.

In 2002, when Kerry was a U.S. senator and not representing the White House and its military and espionage superpowers, he wrote:

Daniel Ellsberg demonstrated enormous courage during a difficult and turbulent time in America’s history, courage which undoubtedly saved American lives on the battlefield and helped to hold politicians accountable for mistakes they refused to admit. His story reminds us that to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship is to always ask questions and demand the truth.

How far Kerry has fallen: From principled opponent of illegal government conduct to leading apologist for the surveillance state.

As for returning home to “face the music” as Kerry puts it, Snowden is justified to be leery of facing off against the Obama administration and its Justice Department. The primary reason charges were dropped against Ellsberg was that the Nixon administration had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful acts to discredit Ellsberg, including breaking into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and planning to break into the psychiatrist’s home.

There are few things that government officials won’t do to silence truth tellers, and Snowden knows this.

Postscript: In a May 30, 2014, commentary published in The Guardian, Daniel Ellsberg blasted John Kerry:

John Kerry’s challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry’s slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage, and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is the author of the Independent book California Dreaming.
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