Every time Edward Snowden appears in the news, the internet fills with comments which speak of him as a despicable spy. And yet -- as this new interview
makes clear -- all Snowden ever wanted was to tell the American people that we
(not "the terrorists") are the targets of the surveillance state. The guy wants to help us and we're shitting on him.
Just like we're shitting on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.
The threat posed by the NSA's mass eavesdropping system is straight out of Orwell, and so is the Official Anti-Snowden Hate Campaign. Whenever the media tells the populace to hate hate hate
someone, many of your fellow citizens find themselves unable to resist the siren call: They will stand up and shout cries of animosity -- even if, deep in their hearts, they know that the person they're shouting at doesn't deserve the opprobrium. This new piece in the Atlantic
tells the story:
These are the Americans who acknowledge, as a consequence of recent revelations, that the national-security state ought to be subject to more oversight, debate, scrutiny, and restrictions, but can't bring themselves to rhetorically ally themselves with the people championing those reforms. Instead, they contrive frames that enable them to criticize both the surveillance state and its antagonists, as if the excesses of both sides are commensurately important and worrisome. Sometimes they even attack critics of the NSA more energetically than the surveillance state itself. To borrow a phrase, their lukewarm acceptance of the civil-libertarian critique is more bewildering than outright rejection. They fail to follow their own judgment where it leads.
Why do these people -- non-rightwingers and anti-neocons who really ought to know better -- argue against their own interests? Because many of your fellow citizens are emotionally weaker than they pretend. If you hand them a sheet of ruled paper, they will never write the other way. Every time the Establishment catapults the propaganda, many Americans wave their hands and shout: "I'm here! Send it over! Hey, I'm wide open...!"
Did I mix metaphors just now? Not sure. But I do know this: "Operation Snowden-Hate" is a skillful exercise in mass psychology.
I can prove that point by noting a simple fact of history: There was never an "Operation Epstein-Hate," even though what Edward Esptein did was, arguably, much worse than anything Snowden has been accused of doing.
Most people don't know who Epstein is. If you are among the few who recognize the name, you probably do not have a high opinion of the man.
In short and in sum: Edward Epstein is a writer who functioned as the media mouthpiece for James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's legendary mad molehunter. (Yes, we're going back a ways here. Bear with me: The historical parallel is instructive.)
Long time readers know that I side with those who have fingered Angleton as the mastermind of the JFK assassination. Even if I'm wrong, the fact remains: Angleton was an alcoholic, arrogant, paranoid creep whose inability to admit even the theoretical possibility that he could be in error -- about anything
-- did incalculable harm to this country. To picture what he was like, imagine a conspiracy theorist every bit as crazed as David Icke or Alex Jones. Now imagine what would happen if you gave a guy like that enormous covert power and lots of influential friends. Plus a whole lotta booze.
Even the CIA's own public history of Angelton
, which tries to burnish his reputation, more-or-less admits: Yeah, he was a dick
Angleton became emotionally wedded to the ravings of a psychotic KGB defector named Golitsyn, whose "revelations" grew and grew over a period of years. Eventually, Golitsyn unveiled the biggest of his Big Secrets: He said that the split between Russia and China was all a massively devious commie plot, as was the smaller split between the USSR and Yugoslavia.
What about all those other
defectors, each of whom told a differing story? According to Golitsyn, they were all fakes, sent by the KGB to fool James Jesus Angleton. Moreover, any CIA analyst who had the gall to insist that the Sino-Soviet split was real was probably a Russian spy.
This Angleton-Golitsyn alternative reality, worked out over many bottles of vodka and whiskey, was quite insane. Yet Angleton had the eldritch ability to draw people into his nutball worldview, to transform listeners into advocates. Journalists became collaborators, even confederates.
Angletonism was, is, a virus.
Edward Epstein was, and probably remains, among the infected. (I use the present tense because Angletonism is still, as they say, a thing
. A surprising number of Tea Partiers think he was right.)
And now we're getting to the part that parallels the current Snowden case.
In April of 1978, New York
magazine ran an unsigned piece about various Soviet defectors. The article included these words:
There is yet another figure involved -- "TOP HAT," another undercover agent within the Russian Mission. His credibility has been doubted in some intelligence circles...
The phrase "some intelligence circles" refers to the loons who considered Angleton a god. The author of this piece turned out to be Edward Epstein, still doing Angleton's dirty work in the media, three years after the CIA had finally told that drunk to stagger on home and never return. Epstein always denied getting the TOP HAT story from Angleton. The direct
source was probably William Sullivan of the FBI -- but, since Sullivan was an Angleton crony, it all comes to the same thing.
Younger readers may not understand how things worked during the Cold War. Any small snippet of open-source information about a possible defection would be closely analyzed by the opposing side. One tiny revelation could mean life or death.
In this case, it meant death for the man the FBI had code-named TOP HAT. (Within the CIA, he was called BOURBON.)
His real name was Major General Dmitry Fedorovich Polyakov
of the GRU (Soviet military intelligence). Some would say that he was the most important spy America ever had. At the time of his initial recruitment (by the FBI, not the CIA), he worked for the Soviet delegation to the UN. The FBI trusted him.
But James Jesus Angleton did not. Polyakov did not say the bizarre things that Angleton wanted him to say about the Sino-Soviet split -- and so, in Angleton's view, the guy had to be dirty. Polyakov deserved to die.
Angleton was a spiteful little man who simply couldn't give up on his pet theory. Even though he no longer officially worked for the Agency, he felt compelled to prove that he
was right and that the impudent sunsabitches who replaced him were wrong.
And so Angleton -- probably working through Sullivan -- made sure that Edward Epstein printed a leak.
The Soviets picked up on it, of course. They instituted a search for the identity of TOP HAT. Epstein had conveniently narrowed their search by telling the Russians that the turncoat worked for the Soviet UN mission.
As a direct result of that article, the KGB slowly compiled a case against Polyakov. He was arrested in 1985 and executed three years later.
You must understand that this outcome was Angleton's intent. He had played similar games previously.
If you research the Polyakov case on the internet, you'll be told that he was betrayed by Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, two notorious American turncoats. Ames and Hanssen may have helped the Russians solidify
their case against Polyakov, but the case began
when Edward Epstein printed that leak. Epstein was the man who revealed the existence of an undercover agent. Pravda made that point crystal clear when they published the news of Polyakov's death: "...a report had been published in the open press in the United States on the treachery of a USSR staffer at the United Nations..."
Edward Epstein -- a toady-with-a-typewriter who functioned on behalf of a conspiracy crank lodged within the highest levels of the CIA -- wrote the words that got that man killed. Epstein's victim was someone who had genuinely admired the United States, someone who had risked all to help us. Alas, most official reports of the Polyakov case focus on Ames' treachery while never mentioning Epstein's role (although we do get those details in Tom Mangold's reliable biography of Angleton).
So let me ask you: Why do so many Americans hate Ed Snowden, and why did so few hate Ed Epstein?
Snowden never got anyone killed.
I'll tell you why: People don't think for themselves. We all think
we think for ourselves, but we don't. We go with the flow. If the currents of propaganda say "Hate Snowden," we hate Snowden. If the currents of propaganda say "Hate Assange," we hate Assange. If the currents of propaganda say "Hate Manning," we hate Manning.
But if the currents of propaganda say nothing at all about Edward Epstein, we ignore the harm that he did. We forget his very existence.