Gauging Sympathy for Snowden

As the U.S. media turns on NSA leaker Edward Snowden – and as many Americans say they’re happy to trade some privacy for more security – samples of public opinion abroad are more sympathetic. An online poll by a major German daily reflects that sentiment, writes ex-Danish intelligence analyst Frank S. Grevil.

By Frank S. Grevil

The German tabloid Bild with a circulation of 2.5 million is currently conducting a poll on its homepage, which shows that about 85 percent consider Edward Snowden a hero, as opposed to 15 percent considering him a scoundrel. So far, more than 80,000 people have voted, and even if such online polls should be cited with caution – since they are unscientific and can be distorted by the intensity of sentiment on one side – this one seems indicative of broad support for Snowden in Germany.

However, a similar poll made by the Danish tabloid B.T. several days ago showed a slight majority against Snowden as a hero. As a Dane, I’m not particularly proud of that.

President Barack Obama at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 19, 2013.

It took Germany a great many years to rid itself of old-school blind loyalty to the authorities. Thus, not until 1973 were the conspirators behind the failed bomb attack against Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, deemed to be patriots by a German court, so that their widows and orphans could receive a state pension.

By contrast, the widow of fanatical Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich received a state pension with only a minimum of red tape, and other thousands of Germans responsible for the Holocaust went unscathed by the trials conducted first by the Allies and subsequently by the German state.

But the new Germany, which includes the former East Germany where spying on citizens was common, seems to have a totally different view on people who break a formal oath to shed light on governments violating fundamental human rights. Thus, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rejection of asylum for Snowden, there appears to be broad German admiration for the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor now stuck in a Moscow airport.

Snowden sacrificed a comfortable, upper-middle-class life to alert Americans and the world about the prevalence of electronic eavesdropping by the U.S. government’s NSA.

Being a former intelligence analyst, I recognize the need for secret information gathering, but the U.S. obviously went too far, allowing or even instructing the NSA to spy on nearly everyone, everywhere. We’ve got to ask ourselves if this is the way we want to be protected from terrorism?

Frank S. Grevil is a former intelligence analyst with FE, the Danish equivalent of the CIA and NSA. In 2004, Grevil disclosed documents showing that the then Danish Prime Minister (and NATO general secretary since 2009) Anders Fogh Rasmussen tricked the Danish parliament into voting for Denmark to join the U.S.-led coalition invading Iraq in March 2003. For the disclosure, Gervil was sentenced to four months imprisonment which he served in 2008. Grevil now lives in Germany. In January 2009, he was given the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.

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13 comments on “Gauging Sympathy for Snowden

  1. charles sereno on said:

    Frank, you’ve just raised raised my regard for Danes in a warm, personal way. Even if the Bild poll is 20 or even 30 points short, it’s still fantastically encouraging!

  2. James Hinde on said:

    We need many more whistleblowers.

  3. rosemerry on said:

    How the Mercans think they are more safe with all this spying I cannot fathom.
    Freedom is much more important.

  4. JosephW on said:

    Before you get any more paranoid, you really should check out an article by Bob Cesca: http://thedailybanter.com/2013/07/eight-corporate-privacy-violators-that-know-more-about-you-than-the-nsa/

    And, as Bob points out, nearly all of them are a hell of a lot more likely to screw up your life than the NSA or the Federal government. (I’d also be curious to see what the polling numbers are in the UK–where virtually every part of the country is covered by CCTV.

  5. Testing, testing, testing…

  6. That’s an interesting observation JosephW. I wonder how many private corps have secret intelligence contracts and/or secret Intel Assets employed with them? After reading this passage in James W. Douglass’ book “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” it occurred to me that there are probably quite a few in, at least, the telecoms/internet and social media corporations:

    “Whoever was responsible for (Lee Harvey) Oswald’s immediate hiring, it was a remarkable achievement. Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall, described by the Warren Commission simply as “a commercial advertising photography firm,” had contracts with the U.S. Army Map Service. It’s classified work connected with Oswald’s history as an apparent traitor. From interviews with Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall employees, Hurt (Henry, author) concluded, ‘Part of the work appears to have been related to the top-secret U-2 missions, some of which were then making flights over Cuba.’ Four days before President Kennedy was shown U-2 photos that confirmed Soviet missiles in Cuba, Lee Harvey Oswald reported to work at a defense contractor that was apparently involved in logistics support for the U-2 mission. According to Oswald’s co-workers, some of them were setting type for Cuban place names to go on maps–probably for the same spy planes whose radar secrets the ex-Marine had already offered to the Soviet Union. Oswald was once again, through the intervention of undercover angels, defying the normal laws of government security barriers.” (p. 48)

    • Mary on said:

      Eisenhower made some poignant speeches warning the world of the growing military-industrial-corporate complex (corporate was included in his original text) but we have not heeded the warning so…. here we are. National Security is to a great extent defined by what keeps our corporations fat and happy. Our military is the force we use, when necessary, to move things along when a sovereign nation is not playing according to the rules we think are fair. So, the national security apparatus has been in bed, diddling around, with corporations since their inception. What is painfully clear is that the American people have confused protection of the national security apparatus with protection of the people. The CIA does NOT work to protect us but works to protect corporate interests: military-industrial-corporate complex.

  7. Caspin Lange on said:

    It’s just important to cut right to the chase here and point out that as benign as our government and its incomparable propaganda machine is trying to make it all out to look, no human force on Earth should have backdoor access to all people’s very psychological make up via extrapolated data.

    It isn’t a very easy thing to even envision, which may hinder how much opposition support we’ll have to restore the fourth amendment. So few can peer into a total surveillance state in their minds, and see how far reaching this goes. It takes a certain kind of imagination.

    The greed and corruption we see today, and have seen as long back as we can remember, will have become completely unchecked, and the results will be human atrocities beyond anything that’s ever been done before. There’s never been this much power of technology to keep each citizen completely wiretapped and tracked, all for the cost we pay each month for our cellphone.

    No doubt Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange will go down in history in the same ballpark as Daniel Ellsberg, and history will remember them as heroes. Our artists, intellectuals, and deep minds will make sure they come up in conversation and within creative contexts, and the culture has already been embedded with their reverberating marks.

  8. borat on said:

    The extreme left’s misplaced elevation of Snowden to hero status belies his treachery that will cause unecessary deaths of innocents by radical islamists. 9/11 unfortunately has made us less have less privacy (which technology has long taken way before 9/11), and if one innocent person remains alive because these bastards are caught before they act, I’ll choose that.

    • borat on said:

      There was an interesting piece in the NYTimes about Lincoln advising Secretary of War Stanton to monitor all telegraph equipment and telegrams. This ceased at the end of the Civil War. This shows that we’ve done this before when necessary. Unfortunately, we are not yet at that end. There is no visible army or govt. that these radical islamist bastards report to, and until the threat level is lowered considerably, we’ll have to continue the program. President Obama has publically stated that there will be an end to the “War on Terror” but not now, with iran funding these groups worldwide.

  9. Revo on said:

    Interestingly, a recent FBI report claims that terrorism acts on US soil between 1980 and 2005 – 6% were committed by Muslim extremists as compared to 7% by Jewish fanatics.

  10. delia ruhe on said:

    I wouldn`t be too hard on those Americans who defend the NSA and its project of turning every individual American, European, Latin American, and Chinese into a terrorist suspect while overriding its own constitution and international law. One has to remember that the American populace has been living on a steady diet of fear since the beginning of the Cold War. In contrast to FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” the succeeding era of “Be afraid, be very afraid” has featured everything from “Duck and cover” in the schoolroom to anxious crayon drawings by schoolchildren of bombs bouncing off a sky-dome drawn in response to Reagan’s starwars program. Today, the children of religious fundamentalists attend Jesus Camps to learn about the evil Muslims out to kill them all. These and many other child-abuse practices carried out against a backdrop of economic booms and busts starting in the 1970s have been designed to produce succeeding generations of fear-crippled Americans.

    Today, in what is looking like a permanent state of bust, Americans express their permanent state of fear through demoralization, apathy, or belligerent belief in surrendering whatever rights it takes for father in the White House to keep them safe – even though they must know in their hearts that their individual safety is not exactly a priority among the corporations who participate in this vast surveillance and espionage net. If my extensive survey of internet postings over the last three weeks suggests anything to me, it’s that these permanently terrified Americans haven’t even had the courage to examine the loads of evidence made available by Snowden to the Guardian or the Washington Post, nor have they read much of the journalism generated by them. The level of ignorance is just too obvious to ignore.

    The US is an empire in decline, and those who aren’t satisfied with this Bread-and-Circuses phase – food banks and reality TV – have taken to the internet in the hope of shouting down those who would trash their illusions of safety in the arms of the national security state.

  11. John Julian on said:

    No reason why Heydrich’s widow should not receive a pension – what did she do?

    And yes, the people who tried to murder Hitler were traitors. Germany was at war and they were trying to kill their legitimate leader. If they had succeeded they would have unleashed civil war in germany, and the whole country would have been overrun by the Soviets.