Most of my media colleagues seem to think Edward Snowden is a saint and proto-martyr. Their Hollywood-style story line is that the fugitive National Security Agency contractor has bravely exposed American spy agencies’ tricks and mischief. But the theft and publication of secret documents is not a heroic campaign. At best it is reckless self-indulgence, and at worst sabotage and treason.

Mr. Snowden has not proved systematic abuse by the NSA or partner agencies. Moreover, his story has been told naïvely and hysterically, with a huge dose of hypocrisy and with gravely destructive effect.

Espionage is inherently disreputable: It involves stealing secrets. But enemies of the West—notably Russia and China—are spying on us. Our agencies defend us from them—and help catch terrorists and gangsters, too. But the media’s sensationalist and misleading interpretation of the stolen documents has weakened security relationships among Western allies; it has corroded public trust; it has undermined the West’s standing in the eyes of the rest of the world; and it has paralyzed our intelligence agencies.

Mr. Snowden’s allies—the Snowdenistas, as I term them—lack the skills to keep the material safe, or redact it to limit the damage. Their claims to the contrary are not credible. Moreover, they seem oblivious to the idea that we in the West have enemies and competitors. Yet if we suffer, they gain.


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Anti-Americanism in Germany and other European countries is now ablaze. The Russian-Chinese campaign to wrest control of the Internet from its American founding fathers (meaning more censorship and control) has gained momentum. Western protestations of concern for online freedom and privacy ring hollow. The reputation of the biggest Western Internet firms has taken a pounding for their supposed complicity in espionage. Their rivals are gleeful. (more…)