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Snowden story has no good guy.

In a recent newsletter Jim Geraghty made some very good points regarding damaging leaks that Edwin Snowden has made that have nothing to do with being a “whistle blower” or acting in some kind of patriotic civil libertarian fashion. I’ve found myself waffling on Snowden, because he has at a minimum forced a discussion on civil liberties and definitely exposed outrages that should concern persons who believe in limited government powers. But it’s complicated too. Snowden is no doubt in this for his own gain and ego, and exposed facets and programs that will damage national security and traditional Constitutional war powers that are not included in protecting civil liberties.

The revelations about the NSA’s capabilities, yes, are applicable to discussions of domestic surveillance. But Snowden leaked a heck of a lot more information than that, and most of his defenders (and some of his detractors) focus on one portion of his leaks and avert their eyes from the rest.

The statement “a significant portion of Snowden’s leaks have nothing to do with domestic surveillance” is a controversial and outrageous statement among people who haven’t followed Snowden that closely, and/or don’t want to see the whole picture.

Here’s just a partial list of Snowden’s leaks that have little or nothing to do with domestic surveillance of Americans:

The classified portions of the U.S. intelligence budget, detailing how much we spend and where on efforts to spy on terror groups and foreign states, doesn’t deal with Americans’ privacy. This leak revealed the intelligence community’s self-assessment in 50 major areas of counterterrorism, and that “blank spots include questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear components when they are being transported, the capabilities of China’s next-generation fighter aircraft, and how Russia’s government leaders are likely to respond to ‘potentially destabilizing events in Moscow, such as large protests and terrorist attacks.'” The Pakistani, Chinese, and Russian intelligence agencies surely appreciate the status report.

Our cyber-warfare capabilities and targets don’t deal with Americans’ privacy. The revelation that the U.S. launched 231 cyber-attacks against  “top-priority targets, which former officials say includes adversaries such as Iran, Russia, China and North Korea and activities such as nuclear proliferation” in 2011 has nothing to do with Americans’ privacy.

The extent and methods of our spying on China have nothing to do with Americans’ privacy.

British surveillance of South African and Turkish diplomats has nothing to do with Americans’ privacy.

The NSA’s successful interceptions of communications of Russian President Dimitri Medvedev has nothing to do with Americans’ privacy. This is not a scandal; it is literally the NSA’s job, and now the Russians have a better idea of what messages were intercepted and when.

Revealing NSA intercepts and CIA stations in Latin America — again, nothing to do with U.S. citizens.

Revealing a U.K. secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East — nothing to do with U.S. citizens.

The extent and range of NSA communications monitoring in India. . . .

The fact that the United States has “ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms,” has “previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there,” and details of “efforts to assess the loyalties of counter­terrorism sources recruited by the CIA” . . .

The U.S.’s spying on Al-Jazeera’s internal communication system. . . .

What we know about al-Qaeda efforts to hack our drones. . . .

The NSA’s ability to intercept the e-mail of al-Qaeda operative Hassan Ghul. . . .

The NSA’s ability to read the e-mail of the Mexican president. . . .

The U.S.’s electronic intercepts of communications to French consulates and embassies in New York and Washington. . . .

The existence of NSA surveillance teams in 80 U.S. embassies around the globe . . .

NSA’s spying on OPEC . . .

NSA’s collecting data on the porn habits of Muslim extremist leaders in order to discredit them . . .

. . . none of these stories have much of a tie to Americans’ privacy.

The all-or-nothing terms of the Snowden discussion are persistent, baffling, and obscuring the truth. The NSA’s willingness to vacuum up and store the communications of ordinary Americans — with no tie to terror, crime, or foreign governments at all — obliterates any remaining meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and deserves every bit of public outrage and rebuke. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Snowden is the good guy in the story. This story probably doesn’t have a good guy.