Let the smearing of Edward Snowden begin

Edward Snowden's decision to publicly reveal his identity has placed him at the center of growing controversy about the U.S. government's intelligence-gathering activities.

But by stepping forward, Snowden, the source behind reports in the Washington Post and the Guardian about highly classified U.S. intelligence programs, has also come under fire in the media. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me," Snowden told the Guardian. "I want it to be about what the U.S. government is doing." Snowden hasn't exactly gotten his wish.

While hailed as a hero in some quarters, Snowden has also been described as a coward and a traitor. Here is a thematic guide to the Snowden smear campaign.


None other than John Boehner, the speaker of the House, took to ABC's Good Morning America to brand Snowden a traitor -- a sentiment echoed by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.



Disdain for Snowden isn't limited to one side of the aisle. Here's Democratic Congresswoman and Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz calling Snowden a coward for his actions:


While liberals are largely lining up behind Snowden, there are notable exceptions. Here's Jeffrey Toobin, a typically stalwart liberal, describing Snowden as a "grandiose narcissist":

Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former C.I.A. employee and current government contractor, has leaked news of National Security Agency programs that collect vast amounts of information about the telephone calls made by millions of Americans, as well as e-mails and other files of foreign targets and their American connections. For this, some, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.


Snowden's decision to flee to Hong Kong has elicited skepticism -- but also paranoia that he's in fact a Chinese agent. Unnamed government sources have intimated that the FBI is now investigating "to determine whether he was communicating with a foreign power," and those same sources are dropping less-than-subtle hints about Hong Kong's close ties to China. It's a theory that seems pretty ridiculous on its face -- why would a defector go public with his documents like this? -- but these are questions that don't bother political observers like Matt Mackowiack:




In what may go down as the greatest parody of a David Brooks column in history, David Brooks himself opined in the pages of the New York Times on Tuesday that Snowden's decision to leak NSA documents is proof positive of the breakdown of the American social fabric, declaring that "from what we know so far, Edward Snowden appears to be the ultimate unmediated man." Brooks's evidence for this? Snowden was curt to his neighbor and hasn't been a regular presence at his mother's house for many years.

Thus, Brooks concludes, "though thoughtful, morally engaged and deeply committed to his beliefs, he appears to be a product of one of the more unfortunate trends of the age: the atomization of society, the loosening of social bonds, the apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments."

Snowden, Brooks argues, "betrayed his friends," "betrayed honesty and integrity," "betrayed his employers," "betrayed the cause of open government," and "betrayed the Constitution." The point? This guy isn't one of us.

Cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood

In one of the more perplexing comments about Snowden, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen decided to contend that Snowden will go down in history as a "cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood." Read the full passage and see if you can make any sense of it:

In a remarkably overwrought interview conducted by the vainglorious Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, Snowden cited not one example of the programs being abused. Greenwald wrote that Snowden "lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping" and that "he puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them." Greenwald said that "Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers." I think he'll go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.

Snowden may have expected to be called names when he stepped forward as the NSA leaker, but odds are he didn't anticipate that one.



Signs of the Europocalypse: Spain faces a wave of orange thefts

With the economic crisis in Spain (and Europe as a whole) showing few signs of abating, it shouldn't come as a surprise that robberies are on the rise in the country. This is especially true in Spain's agricultural eastern regions, where the large-scale theft of fruit, garlic, and farm equipment is growing more frequent.

Reuters reports:

In Valencia, whose orange industry has helped Spain become Europe's biggest producer of the fruit, rural thefts rose 20 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous year, according to AVA, the local agricultural association.

AVA forecasts that the robberies could cost the region's farmers, many of whom barely cover their costs from selling oranges, 20 million euros this year, up from 15 million euros in 2012 and 2011, because of lost produce and damage.

To counter the problem, Spain's police have sent in the cavalry, dispatching two squadrons of mounted Civil Guards to the region to help run down thieves.

Though they arrived in late May, as the orange picking season ended, police say the horseback patrols have at least led to a hiatus in crimes, and are effective in startling robbers unable to hear them coming through the fruit trees....

Valencia's Civil Guard - responsible for smaller towns outside the remit of national police - said they had already made 50 arrests related to orange thefts in April, when they began a crackdown. Those charged so far are all Spaniards.

Incidents like these have been common for a few years -- 2011 saw 5,000 more agriculture-related thefts than 2010 -- with criminals operating independently or in gangs to steal produce and equipment for their resale value. More recently, the phenomenon has turned violent, with the death in April of a watchman who was shot while attempting to stop a group of suspected thieves.

The reasons for the thefts range from the obvious to the arcane. It seems hardly worth pointing out that a country with 26.8 percent unemployment will experience a rash of property crime, especially if that unemployment is coupled with cuts to social services on which unemployed people would normally depend. In addition, agriculture is a sector in which defense against theft is difficult, owing to the vast amounts of land that must be policed at all hours -- a problem just as present in California as in Spain -- leaving farmers to fend for themselves with community patrols or hired hands.

On a more local level, Spanish law provides for little more than a slap on the wrist for those convicted of petty theft, which means that robbery could remain lucrative even if you're caught in the act.

The economic crisis and the difficulty of policing vast tracts of land are problems that won't disappear any time soon, and Spain's budget troubles make additional investment in policing or surveillance technologies unlikely. Strengthening the laws for theft could offer the country some relief. But, in the meantime, orange you glad you're not a Spanish farmer?