Opinions vary on whether Edward Snowden betrayed his country by leaking classified information about the National Security Agency's surveillance techniques, but there is one point on which most people would agree: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
The primary culprit in this case would be former Vice President Dick Cheney who, during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,' dubbed Snowden a “traitor' for exposing government wire-tapping of private citizens' phones, among other things.
For those too young to remember — or those who just choose to forget — Cheney and George W. Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, were believed to have engineered the leak to conservative columnist Robert Novak that exposed Valerie Plame as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003.
Their motivation was political retribution, plain and simple. Plame is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson, former ambassador to Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, who in 2003 criticized the Bush administration for exaggerating intelligence he had gathered for the CIA regarding Iraq's potential nuclear threat, to justify the unprovoked war.
Wilson's criticism was obviously on target. By the end of 2011, after more than eight years of war and the loss of 4,486 American lives, weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq.
According to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, Rove, along with Cheney and other top White House officials, directed him to deliver false pronouncements regarding their involvement in leaking classified information about Plame.
Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter' Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the leak investigation, but Bush commuted his 30-month prison sentence to a $250,000 fine and two years' probation. Cheney and Bush dodged the investigatory bullet altogether.
However, in a lawsuit, Plame and Wilson alleged that Cheney, Libby, Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage violated their privacy and constitutional rights by participating in discussions that resulted in Plame's CIA cover being blown. The actions of the Bush cronies, they maintain, amounted to illegal retaliation against Wilson and that destroying Plame's CIA career was a form of harassment.
In 2007, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. He determined that the defendants were within their rights as public officials to take the actions that they did and were immune from liability.
“The act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level executive branch officials,' Bates said.
But the slimy tactics employed by Bush's minions did not escape the judge, who noted the case raised “important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials.'
“The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory,' said the judge.
Of course, the outing of a CIA operative was only one of a number of political dirty tricks employed by Cheney and Rove at the expense of the public's welfare while being the “brains' behind the Bush administration from 2001 until 2009.
From the unconstitutional intrusion into Americans' lives justified by the so-called Patriot Act to the dismissal in December 2006 of at least seven U.S. attorneys not deemed to be “loyal Bushies,' politics consistently superseded good government.
While Bush apparently had no problem with government leaks that served his purpose, he was quick to shut down an investigation of the National Security Agency's alleged illegal eavesdropping on U.S. citizens in 2006 by denying investigators security clearances they needed to do their jobs.
Plame said on Wednesday that she didn't regard Snowden as a hero or a traitor, but was amazed that Cheney, of all people, would dare to throw stones.
“The irony of people like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove whining and bemoaning the fact of the leak of intelligence, given my history and certainly Dick Cheney's intimate involvement with the betrayal of my CIA identity, is really something,' she noted.
Indeed, Dick Cheney would do well to look in a mirror before deeming any other American to be a Benedict Arnold.