It’s probably too late, but it would be nice if the President of the United States and the Secretary of State could stop contradicting each other.
Here are some statements that Secretary of State Kerry made about NSA leaker Edward Snowden. He demonstrated appropriate outrage and seriousness:
I believe that he has betrayed his country, because he took an oath. He swore that he would uphold the secrecy. He was given access to documents based on that trust and he violated that trust. And he hasn’t violated it in any way similar – nothing similar – to Daniel Ellsberg or somebody who was revealing a government that was actually lying or that had a completely distorted view of something going on. This man just took real information and put it out there because he happens to believe something that is not, in fact, justified by the facts.
And so I think he has put counterterrorism at risk, he has put individuals at risk, and it may well be that lives will be lost in the United States because terrorists now have knowledge of something that they need to avoid, that they didn’t have knowledge of before he did this.
What I see is an individual who threatened this country and put Americans at risk through the acts that he took. People may die as a consequence of what this man did. It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn't know before. This is a very dangerous act.
Yesterday, at a press conference in Senegal, President Obama tried to lower the tone, because, after all, this Snowden business was distracting the world from what really mattered: President Obama’s trip to Senegal. And we can’t have that.
Note the casual, off-hand tone that Obama adopts, as he reduces Snowden to a “twenty-nine-year-old hacker,” or as he explains that he has not called President Xi or President Putin because he “shouldn’t have to.”
Apparently, Obama believes that his presence alone should suffice to motivate people to do the right thing.
One can contrast Obama's studied insouciance with the anger of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez who said yesterday that if Ecuador gives Snowden asylum it will suffer severe economic penalties.
Next, Obama explains that we do lots of business with Russia and China. He is not going to let some no-account hacker get in the way of business. Why should the “social justice” president bargain away a business deal in order to punish someone who his Secretary of State has excoriated as a traitor?
Perhaps he does not understand that Snowden and future Snowdens are being given a pass to betray government secrets.
It’s the Hillary Clinton attitude toward justice. Once the ambassador was killed in Benghazi, nothing was going to bring him back, so why bother.
To Obama it’s grist for a made-for-TV movie, nothing else.
Imagine what would have happened if a Republican had said it.
I will quote the entirety of Obama’s response to thequestion about Snowden, because it is not being reported very widely:
With respect to Mr. Snowden, we have issued through our Justice Department very clear requests to both initially Hong Kong and then Russia that we seek the extradition of Mr. Snowden. And we are going through the regular legal channels that are involved when we try to extradite somebody. I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally. And the reason is because, number one, I shouldn't have to. This is something that routinely is dealt with between law enforcement officials in various countries. And this is not exceptional from a legal perspective.
Number two, we've got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia. And I'm not going to have one case of a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues simply to get a guy extradited, so that he can face the Justice system here in the United States.
I get why it's a fascinating story from a press perspective. And I'm sure there will be a made-for-TV movie somewhere down the line. But in terms of U.S. interests, the damage was done with respect to the initial leaks. And what I'm really focused on is making sure, number one, that we are doing everything we can to prevent the kind of thing that happened at the NSA from happening again, because we don't know right now what Mr. Snowden's motives were except for those things that he said publicly. And I don't want to prejudge the case, but it does show some pretty significant vulnerabilities over at the NSA that we've got to solve. That's number one.
So I am interested in making sure that the rules of extradition are obeyed. Now, we don't have an extradition treaty with Russia, which makes it more complicated. You don't have to have an extradition treaty though to resolve some of these issues. There have been some useful conversations that have taken place between the United States government and the Russian government. And my continued expectation is that Russia or other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr.Snowden asylum recognize that they are part of an international community, and that they should be abiding by international law. And we'll continue to press them as hard as we can to make sure that they do so.
But one last thing, because you asked a final question -- no, I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.
If you were wondering why world leaders do not respect our president, now you know.