back to article Snowden 'more helpful than dangerous' says ex-Colin Powell aide

The leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about US worldwide surveillance have helped rather than harmed America, and the leaks haven't endangered lives. Lawrence "Larry" Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the last Bush administration, said that he believed Snowden's assertions …

  1. erikj

    A little late, Mr. Wilkerson

    From the article: “I think the worst possible thing for the United States would be to get Snowden back some way, by hook or by crook, and have to live up to its horrible rhetoric about what they’ll do to him, because they will,” he said.

    The article actually gets more somber from there, as if Mr. Wilkerson has realized the bed he's made for himself. But I really don't understand Mr. Snowden's offer to return to the U.S. in exchange for a "fair trial" or, well, anything.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A little late, Mr. Wilkerson

      Snowden couldn't be 'disappeared' since he'd make it known that he was surrendering himself, and presumably he would only do it if it was a trial open to the public. He's gone this far, so he's probably willing to go to prison if he had a platform that allowed him to be heard by those Americans who think he's nothing more than a common traitor, and stupidly believe the smear campaign narrative that he's sold secrets to the Russians.

      1. DiViDeD

        Re: A little late, Mr. Wilkerson

        I think the same would apply as with Chelsea Manning here. Ellsberg gave a talk at a recent HOPE on the subject.

        There is NO defence against a charge of stealing Top Secret data or of making that information available to unauthorised third parties.

        Not public interest, not disclosure of illegal activity, not even if that information contained data which revealed concrete evidence of murder. The only question to be answered at a trial would be 'Did you take this data and cause it to be made available to unauthorised third parties?'

        If the answer is 'yes, but..', the only important part of the answer is 'Yes'. NO extenuating circumstances are considered, no 'end justifies the means'. That means, not only would the court order a pretty much guaranteed conviction, it could also, perfectly legally, prevent Snowden from entering any defence based on extenuating circumstances, thus denying him a platform for explanation.

        Yes, it stinks, but that's how the system works right now, and nobody seems to be in much of a hurry to change it.

  2. elDog

    We'll see how the history books chalk up this whole affair.

    Of course, if history is written by the victors, those books may show that Snowden was a true hero. Supposing that the victors are other than the totally crippled current US government.

    If the USofA and its Security Apparatus is the victor, don't expect to be able to read any dissenting opinions from the American Exceptionalizm policy.

    In all cases, don't expect the Texas Bored of Edjikashun to recommend anything that smakcs of rational thought.They have the same controllers as the US g'mint.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      The US Government is psychotic, corrupt, hypocritical, expansionist, protectionist, economically totalitarian, spiteful, aggressive and cannot be trusted, but one the one thing it certainly isn't is crippled.

      1. a_yank_lurker

        @Pascal Monett - you missed a couple such as fascist (in the original economic meaning of the term), criminal, and borderline police state.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If we elect him President, that should get him off the hook.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2020

      That might get him home in one piece, but then the the Republicans would impeach him; that's all they know how do do.

      They're really just a One Trick Pony these days.

      1. TAJW

        Re: 2020

        Troll much?

  4. Ole Juul

    between a rock and a hard place

    "He has a future so long as he can continue to co-exist with all the restraints and pressures around him. But I'm not sure that's being long-lived. And I don't see him ever being accepted back here."

    It must be near impossible to live within the restraints and pressures if one works for the US government. And if one does, then it would be hard to live with oneself - sociopaths excepted of course.

  5. gubbool

    I saw the movie, Citizen Four, twice - and paid good attention. Clearly he knew the eventual outcome of his actions and was fully prepared to live with the long term consequences. Without saying the words himself, he found himself caught between his signed NDA and his oath to 'defend... against all enemies, foreign and domestic'.

    Not necessarily my hero, but he is a man with which I'd enjoy sharing a bit of idle conversation over a beer.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      It would soon be an empty bar

      The Fifth Trumpet

      The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. And he wouldn't be wearing a tie!

      Like Rolling Stone, with no direction home (Feels cool actually. Well it IS!)

    2. Patras

      hi gubool

      Watching the movie now, great movie.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would even buy the beers.

    4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      RE: he is a man with which I'd enjoy sharing a bit of idle conversation over a beer.

      He's welcome in my house anytime.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Murican exceptionalism

    Yes, his life us ruined because he can't live in murica, which is the best and only country worth living in on earth.

    I've lived in both Russia and China, which are super authoritarian on paper, and doubly so according to Murican propaganda.

    Yet relative wealth can smooth over all problems, and somehow I always felt more freedom (because of foreign privilege) in my everyday life in China.

  7. Jimbo in Thailand

    One day Mr. Snowden will indeed be known as the hero he is

    I have no idea how much time it will take, but I do believe Edward Snowden's good deeds and sacrifices will eventually be rewarded. It's truly sad that Obama completely forgot all of his 2008 campaign promises such as "Transparency in Government!" and instead joined the dark side of the force or he would have praised whistleblower Snowden for his incredible skills as well as praising him for his honesty, integrity, and drive to do whatever it takes to right unconstitutional government wrongs.

    EDWARD SNOWDEN FOR PRESIDENT 2016! Why wait for 2020?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One day Mr. Snowden will indeed be known as the hero he is

      > EDWARD SNOWDEN FOR PRESIDENT 2016! Why wait for 2020?!

      Minor technicality: he's too young. It's too soon anyway; some Americans aren't mad enough yet.

  8. Steve Knox

    "Snowden seems to me to be pure as a driven snow," he said.

    Said the man who apparently knows neither Snowden nor snow.

    And Snowden for president!? Get half a clue. If he's the man you believe him to be, he's smart enough to not want that position, either for himself or his country.

    FFS, stop trying to canonize people who happen to have done one good thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Snowden seems to me to be pure as a driven snow," he said.

      > FFS, stop trying to canonize people who happen to have done one good thing.

      Respectfully, Mr Knox, how many "good things" have *you* done?

      How many times have you thought "sod it" and then proceeded to significantly inconvenience yourself (get thrown in prison, physically assaulted, taken to court, taken someone else to court, challenging someone's decision or absence thereof, ...) in order to do a "good thing"?

      Have you at least met someone who has?

      Then you may get an idea of how much effort that is, and the sort of courage required. And I am not talking necessarily of big things that may appear on a national newspaper.

    2. Jimbo in Thailand

      Re: "Snowden seems to me to be pure as a driven snow," he said.

      Steve Knox, are you just an effing idiot? It's you who is truly clueless if you can't see what the man has done for all of us, Americans and non-Americans alike. And he continues to suffer the consequences for standing up for what's right. At least he's brought some positive change from his whistleblowing revelations. And you're goddamned right I canonize Mr. Edward Snowden. To you, he may have only "done one good thing" but that "good thing" represents the finest qualities in an individual that are almost totally missing today. Edward Snowden would indeed make a great US President, certainly better than any of the garbage we've had infesting the Oval office in decades.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still laughing at that episode of "Soap"...Bart....Bat!!!

    Dear Yanks,

    Its pronounced Colin ( Col-in ) NOT Co-Lin as in "Co-lin The Barbarian"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still laughing at that episode of "Soap"...Bart....Bat!!!

      Its Conan the Barbarian

      1. Santa from Exeter

        Re: Still laughing at that episode of "Soap"...Bart....Bat!!!

        No, it's Cohen the Barbarian

        (Soft toilet paper and shoup)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still laughing at that episode of "Soap"...Bart....Bat!!!

      > Dear Yanks,

      > Its pronounced Colin ( Col-in ) NOT Co-Lin ...

      Dear dumbass (brit, or whatever you are.)

      It's his name. He decides how it's pronounced. He pronounces it Co-lin.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Still laughing at that episode of "Soap"...Bart....Bat!!!

        > He decides how it's pronounced. He pronounces it Co-lin.

        Not here he doesn't. Does he have the freedom to come here and find out or would the Germans have him arrested?

        What you call yourself isn't worth worrying about; what others call you is everything. If history defines you as a murderer or war criminal .. Or you are defined for something that you did that was so special... Wow!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still laughing at that episode of "Soap"...Bart....Bat!!!

        Washington Post says it started out as Col-in, as in that's what his (Jamaican) parents called him, but it got bastardized at school.

  10. Lars Silver badge

    The "ex-" in it

    The "ex-" tends to make a difference. Colin Powell was not able to start his speech in the UN with - "and now for some bull", although he knew it. He had to become "ex" to admit it. Then again don't expect anything similar from Bush, Cheney or Blair. Not that I did not speak some bull to my customers in IT, but as "ex" nobody asked me anymore.

  11. Palpy

    If the current Republican front-runner --

    -- is elected, I suppose he would hunt down Snowden's relatives and waterboard them. Until Snowden promised to turn off the Muslim's Internets.

    But I suppose frightening times let the nutcases like Trump float to the top in many societies. Research seems to show that humans with a conservative social tilt tend to be more fearful, and also tend to dwell on evil events and threats more than do those of a more progressive tilt. So it makes sense that in France, in Germany, the UK, and the USA the racist radicals like Trump and Le Pen rise from the right.

    I'm surprised that an official at Wilkerson's level is unofficially exonerating Snowden right now. It seems to me it usually takes a generation for politicians to admit that a "vile traitor" did his country a great service.

    1. JLV

      Re: If the current Republican front-runner --

      You know, the really frightening bit, besides the fact that a, hopefully soon-to-be-revealed-as-small, proportion of the American voters consider Trump to be presidential material?

      Trump isn't really that hardcore by Republican primary voter standards. He's mostly just populist, with their standard simple solutions to complex problems appeal.

      Cruz is the real whacko.

      In fact, I remember the Republican establishment mumbling a while back that they'd prefer Trump over Cruz.

      - Carpet bombing ISIS. Does the man even know what carpet bombing means??? on terrorists embedded in urban areas? Recruitment poster for extremists much?

      - Advocating shutting down the government during budget time a while back because some pet fantasy of his wasn't met? Then ragging on the Rep leadership for not going along?

      - Abortion. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court, he opposes it even in case of rape.

      And most of the rest wasn't all that much better than Cruz in their pro-Christian histrionics. I don't mind if someone is Christian or not, but what gives their 20% of really hardcore loonies, whom I do mind, the right to decide for the rest of the population?

      I hope the average American Republican voters take back their primaries next election, they've already effed up this one big time. As it is, I can see a big landslide for Hillary. Not because she is so great (though she's not that bad either), but because the alternatives suck far worse. However, the US won't benefit from being stuck in Dems-as-Presidents-always mode.

      p.s. in Canada, what's frightening is how many of the CBC commentards express favorable views towards Trump when he makes the news here. Makes me wonder about what years of cat videos and news-through-social-media and 30 sec soundbites have done for our collective IQ.

      1. Palpy

        Re: El Senor Cruz de la Cruz --

        -- yes, well, I agree with you there. He's almost unanimously loathed even by his Republican colleagues for good reason.

        But moving back in the general direction of the topic... I find myself surprised and gratified that some members of the politico-military establishment seem to be thinking rationally. I came of age in the USA during the latter days of the Vietnam War, when military figures appeared to be mostly yes-men for the misguided polices of Johnson and Nixon. So I am prejudiced.

        But recently Michael Flynn, ex-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, admitted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a "huge error", one to which "history will not and should not be kind." Colonel Gian P. Gentile, professor of military history at West Point, has gone public with the view that to achieve "victory" in Afghanistan would take generations of war: "...I'm talking 70, 80, 90 years." And now comes Wilkerson with the view that Snowden acted with courage in revealing NSA malfeasance, and has done so without creating much if any danger to personnel.

        Nice to have one's long-standing prejudices challenged.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: El Senor Cruz de la Cruz --

          I was with you till your last point. Nobody accepts having their long-standing prejudices challenged.

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Hiring yes men

          I doubt very much that anyone decided to be a Yesman when he left school. Most of us get the best paying job we can find that we can do with prospects or we keep hoping.

          That is why they get chosen. People that can use them hire them to do a certain specialist job and if they prove to be loyal as well as useful they may get offered promotion. It's a sticky business because after so many decades at the top you tend to become a yes man because people learn how to push your right buttons -for they too want tenure.

          When new broom takes over the whole scene changes sometimes the son or grandson squanders it all before he finds out what he wants to really do. Sometimes he is well directed and gets over it. Sometimes the arse is a chimpanzee and there is nothing anyone can do.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: El Senor Cruz de la Cruz --

          Well said Palpy.

          Sharing your prejudices for the same reason, it was clear that Iraq was a mistake for strategy reasons - as for Afghanistan, it was said even in the seventies (perhaps in the fifties too) that if a war in south-east Asia was extremely difficult to win, a war in north west Asia would be far worse - even longer supply lines, more inhospitable terrain, and a far longer history of successfully resisting invasions among the reasons cited.

          A real challenge to my prejudices comes from the Crimea - surely Obama should have taken a stronger response, even a blockade, to stand up to Putin, though it goes against my pacifist inclination.

          As for Snowden, it is hard to imagine the courage he has shown in real life. It is good to see some on the political right accept where they have gone wrong. In return, it must be admitted that Republicans did pick the best candidates realistically available for nomination against Obama…

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: If the current Republican front-runner --

        Cruz is also a hardcore anti-environmentalist. Climate change mitigation efforts, industrial pollution regulations, endangered species protection, the Clean Air Act - his position on all of them is that he'll get the laws repealed if he can, and if he can't then he'll block all funding for enforcing them, and specifically that he wishes to abolish the EPA entirely. He's gone on record on a several occasions stating that he believes there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change, and that if there is then it'll be ultimately beneficial.

      3. Lars Silver badge

        Re: If the current Republican front-runner --

        @p.s. in Canada.

        Don't worry, it's the same most everywhere. This is a guy whose ego is more blown up, who tells at least two lies in 30 seconds, than people have ever seen on TV before, People slow down on the road if there is an accident, they stop and look if a house is on fire. We are like that, add to that an arse as a mouth, it's just perfect.

        I have some confidence in the American people and I hope and believe the next POTUS will be Hillary or Bernie. I would prefer Bernie for many reasons, but I have no doubt Hillary is both intelligent and has some experience. Then again I have tried and tried to find, in my old head, a head of state somewhere in this world who was or is giggling all the time. Help me out, I could have a look at YouTube for Thatcher, was she ever giggling, but it's late and I prefer nice dreams.

        Then for the screwed part of me, the "shoot out" at the OK convention.

        So far only 35.000 has signed up, interesting times in the land of the free.

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Them and US

      The difference between the British and the USA is that their history is one of executing people who believe in exercising their right to speak to anyone they want to. We on the other hand tend to hang on to our spies in case they prove useful.

  12. PaulAb

    Sign of the times......

    I really don't know what Edward Snowdens final motivator for his actions were but, he has certainly caused the much needed embarressment to both the US and by knock-on, the UK governments.

    The terrible actions of a few seen over the last 3 years or so by a certain group (I wouldn't dignify them with a name) and before that, seem to be the basis for hysteria from both governments and, by upping the rhetoric will allow them to to eat into everyone's rights. I cannot believe for one moment that the perceived gain of knowing everyone's internet activity will help anyone, at the end of the day no one wants to believe that their government may potentially become the terrorist organisation. It's about time some of our so-called leaders stood up, took charge, and pointed the intelligence services directly at the real enemy instead of the cheap political brownie point competition that bores us all (Well, me at least).

  13. Richard 32

    A platform would make no difference to those who think him a traitor. How can I be so sure? Three words: Donald Trump Frontrunner. He proves the well of our stupidity is truly bottomless.

  14. Tank boy

    Now I've come close to reading everything

    "Wilkerson, who played a key role in gathering intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq,"

    How'd that work out for ya? Pretty good huh, Mission Accomplished!!! Shithead, should of listened to Powell when he said it would be a shit show, but please, he was only a retired four star, what could he possibly know?

    Oh that's right, it would be a shit show. Wilkerson, shut up, Snowden hasn't helped the United States, don't make it more than it is. He's a traitor, he knows he fucked up that's why he's hiding in the Soviet... errr Russia. You got it dead dick wrong in 2003 (I know, some knucklehead didn't lower my security clearance or delete my email account) so you want to sell this sack of turds? For shame. Sure, I believe you pal, just sell your turds somewhere else.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Now I've come close to reading everything

      I guess those stress pills aren't working too well for you.

    2. hplasm
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Now I've come close to reading everything

      Oh dear, the post-op hormones are playing up, eh ex-Tank Girl?

  15. Winkypop Silver badge

    Land of the free *

    * conditions apply.

  16. Breen Whitman

    Read title. First thoughts are they want to kill him. Read article. Conclude they definately want to kill him.

  17. Brent Beach

    "And I don't see him ever being accepted back here"

    The US is in a death spiral - Trump, Cruz, ...

    When the US admits its errors and takes Snowden back without penalty, the rest of the world will understand that the US has snapped out of that death spiral.

    Like Wilkerson, I don't think that will ever happen.

  18. jrwc

    Snowden Is A Traithero

    A traitor and a hero. Reward him and then punish him

    1. Red Bren

      Re: Snowden Is A Traithero

      Just like Admiral Kirk in "The Voyage Home". Broke the law but saved humanity. Stripped of rank, then given a new ship. Punished, then rewarded.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Snowden is still working for the NSA. His job was to convince the public they had more capability than they really do. To scare the public.

    There is no way he would be getting all the new insider information, and why would government and CNN constantly be interviewing him, yet they have declined to interview former NSA whistle blowers?

    No, he is a spook.

    1. John Sturdy

      Re: BS

      Or alternatively, what if he is still working for the NSA, his job being to convince the public they had less capability than they really do (but more than the much of the public previously thought they do), to get the public off guard?

      I think that's likelier than your suggestion, but less likelier than the simplest explanation, that he is a real whistleblower.

      At first, I thought the explanation I've written above was likeliest, because (having read "Spycatcher" and seen how thorough compartmentalization can be in a security agency) I found it unlkely that one person would have access to such a range of information, but apparently the US security agencies reduced their compartmentalization in the panic after 9/11, so it makes more sense that he is simply what he presents as.

  20. TAJW

    "The leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about US worldwide surveillance have helped rather than harmed America, and the leaks haven't endangered lives."

    As one who worked in that world for many, many years, I can tell you the above statement is complete BS. Giving away key operational capabilities of parts of critical systems did not help the U.S., and his presence in China and Russia certainly did not go without payment in critical information.

    The guy is a traitor, no matter how much 'good' you might think he has done.

  21. nilfs2
    Big Brother

    He did a service for the whole world

    As usual, Yanks can't see further than their borders, he made a favor to the whole world, hence he is on my "Heroes" book; it's a shame to know why not more countries offered him shelter from the oppressive USA government that is spying on world plus dog.

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