The Hastings-Snowden Axis: What’s Going On?

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The tragic death of reporter Michael Hastings last week, and the flight of NSA leader Edward Snowden this week, suggest — crudely but effectively — why the center of U.S. national-security strategy is weakening.

Hastings’ takedown of Army General Stanley McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone in 2010 was possible because of two things:

– U.S. citizens had become weary of the war in Afghanistan after nine years (democracies are like that). They largely viewed the spat between McChrystal and Obama, as portrayed by Hastings, as a sideshow to their lives. Hastings painted the picture, but the brush, canvas and oils had been provided by McChrystal and his staff.

– The general’s Achilles’ heel was allowing his staff to cozy up to a reporter they didn’t know. This is different than “speaking truth to power.” Only the naive could be surprised by sharp, largely anonymous, criticism of one’s overlords, whether in war, politics, journalism or one’s own family. It’s called “human nature,” and it always comes as a surprise when human nature surprises its chroniclers.

In much the same way, Snowden’s international hop-scotching should give Americans pause. True, there has always been a constellation of nations eager to thumb its collective nose at the U.S.

But the Snowden case seems different. Here, we have a former superpower rival, Russia, and a prospective superpower rival, China, doing the thumbing. Snowden plainly and unilaterally betrayed his nation and his oath. But what’s interesting is how much of the world is either yawning, or offering Snowden succor.

On Sunday, Army General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, told ABC that Snowden has done “irreversible and significant damage” to U.S. national security.

In an interview published Monday, Snowden said he sought a job three months ago with Booz Allen Hamilton so he could plumb the contractor’s NSA-related work.

A couple of things worth noting here:

– Only by convincing the world of Snowden’s dastardliness – Sunday’s appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos marked Alexander’s first Sunday-show gig, which is a strange move for an outfit long described as No Such Agency – can the government maintain that the intelligence-industrial complex is performing immensely vital work.

– Yet the realization that a high-school dropout could apparently derail a key U.S. intelligence effort suggests the folks who put it together did so blind to such single-point failures. If they can’t get that right (“We are now putting in place…a two-man rule,” Alexander noted), one has to wonder what other fundamental fubars are salted into the mix.

The huge military-intelligence apparatus the nation has assembled post-9/11 is akin to a house of cards. All it takes is a Joker like Snowden, or a reporter like Hastings, to bring major chunks of it crashing down.

9 comments 1 Like

Why do the media and govt slackers keep referring to him as "a high school drop out"? I never hear Johnny Depp, Ewan MacGregor, or Bill Gates referred to as high school or college "dropouts" when discussing their success or failures. They are really reaching. Besides with the incredible rise of illiteracy IN schools and the undeniable success of home schooled, unschooled, and self-educated people, the propaganda purported by the government that "everyone needs a college degree" (high school diploma is assumed) is certainly going to reveal the real agenda for continued education: keep the revenue machine going...the federal government actually lists school loans as the largest asset. (Yeah, yeah, that would be a liability to anyone else's account ledger, but the rest of us don't live in the world of fudged facts). The jig is up!


Funny how TIME decries Snowden breaking his oath to uphold the Constitution. How can we take you seriously?


Please explain how "the tragic death of reporter Michael Hastings last week...suggest...why the center of U.S. national-security strategy is weakening."

His death was a case of either an accident or an assassination. Which of the two symbolizes the weakening of the evil American Empire?


"Snowden plainly and unilaterally betrayed his nation." 

Why do you hate the US Constitution?

@rooshv Better question: Why do you hate honesty? Humanity? Non-US citizens?

Aaron Schwartz was for open source information too, don't forget...

momforkids 2 Like

I just don't understand why only "known" reporters should have access to 4 star generals.  That's kind of like allowing only the very wealthy to have access to Presidential dinners (if you've got $50,000 or $60,000, you can spend a minute with President Obama). 

Thank God the Universe...everything,  for Michael Hastings.  He was brave and truthful and reported on stories that were uncomfortable and horrible, but that we needed to hear.  May others follow in his footsteps to complete his good and noble work. 

TrajanSaldana 3 Like

"Snowden plainly and unilaterally betrayed his nation" -- Um, no. He may have betrayed his government, quite different from betraying his country. The government that is betraying its citizens with secret domestic spying and, even more frightening, secret courts and indefinite detention.  The government also betrayed an oath: Upholding the Constitution.

Alopax1 1 Like

Garbage story.  This is supposed to be journalism?  Do you care nothing for the fact that the NSA is recording all communications in the United States?



so what, it doesn't qualify as journalism if it doesn't reflect your view? real mature outlook there


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