Yesterday, Benny Johnson of BuzzFeed posted this story:
Edward Snowden has made some dangerous enemies. As the American intelligence community struggles to contain the public damage done by the former National Security Agency contractor's revelations of mass domestic spying, intelligence operators have continued to seethe in very personal terms against the 30-year-old whistle-blower.David Sirota's reaction was to speculate that this means Snowden really might be "extrajudicially assassinated," with President Obama's assent. Sirota said so on Twitter and in a post accompanied by a Photoshopped picture of Obama shooting at a photo of Snowden.
"In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself," a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. "A lot of people share this sentiment."
"I would love to put a bullet in his head," one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. "I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history." ...
One Army intelligence officer even offered BuzzFeed a chillingly detailed fantasy.
"I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly," he said. "Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower." ...
I read about this after the president delivered his speech on NSA surveillance, a speech that disappointed most civil liberties advocates. Yeah, I've been dismayed by the president's record on a lot of things -- spying, drones, and so on -- but I think Sirota's looking at this wrong. I think Obama believes, rightly or wrongly, that the people in the intelligence community have dug in their heels, and he doesn't want to push them too far. To a great extent, I think that's just his temperament -- he rarely attempts to steamroll people a la Chris Christie, as we see in his dealings with congressional Republicans and the military establishment -- but I wonder if he also fears these particular SOBs. If I were Obama, I'd fear them.
So, yes, maybe the critic of surveillance abuses got sworn in as president, got all the briefings, and concluded that there was great wisdom in the national security approach he inherited. I think it's partly that, partly that he's a compromiser by nature, partly that he was exaggerating his abhorrence at security excesses -- and partly that these people backed him down. He might actually find the national security establishment intimidating.