“Snowden has done a service”: Former Bush official Lawrence Wilkerson applauds the whistleblower
“I try to stay up with Snowden,” said Lawrence “Larry” Wilkerson. “God, has he revealed a lot,” he laughed.
A retired Army colonel who served as the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in President George W. Bush’s administration, Wilkerson has established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign policy.
He sat down with Salon for an extended interview, discussing a huge range of issues from the war in Syria to climate change, from ISIS to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, of whom Wilkerson spoke quite highly.
“I think Snowden has done a service,” Wilkerson explained. “I wouldn’t have had the courage, and maybe not even the intellectual capacity, to do it the way he did it.”
Snowden’s reputation in mainstream U.S. politics, to put it lightly, is a negative one. In the summer of 2013, the 29-year-old techno wiz and private contractor for the NSA worked with journalists to expose the global surveillance program run by the U.S. government.
His revelations informed the public not only that the NSA was sucking up information on millions of average Americans’ private communications; they also proved that the U.S. government was likely violating international law by spying on dozens of other countries, and even listening to the phone calls of allied heads of state such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who subsequently compared the NSA to the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police.
Breaking with establishment political figures, Col. Wilkerson commended Snowden for his work and the way in which he carried it out.
“There’s a logic to what he has done that is impressive,” Wilkerson told Salon. “He really has refrained from anything that was truly dangerous, with regard to our security — regardless of what people say.”
“He has been circumspect about what he’s released, how he’s released it, who he’s released it to,” he continued.
Snowden worked with journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, and published the revelations in renowned international newspapers, including the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel.
“It’s clear to me from listening to his personal statements — I think those are important — that he did have a genuinely altruistic motive for doing it,” Wilkerson explained.
“Snowden seems to me to be pure as a driven snow,” he laughed. “You can be dangerous if you’re that way, but you can also be helpful. And I think he’s been more helpful than dangerous.”
The whistle-blower himself says he has always been incredibly careful about what exactly he discloses, and to whom. “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” Snowdentold the Guardian. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over.”
Wilkerson believes the whistle-blower. Many American officials do not.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have accused Snowden of a slew of crimes, and the Obama administration charged the whistle-blower on two counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act and theft of U.S. government or foreign government property.