“I think Snowden might end up being the John Brown of the 21st Century—reviled and unpopular but unleashing a debate that led to the rebirth of freedom,” Shirley told TAC, referring to the abolitionist who was hanged for treason for initiating an armed insurrection against the U.S. government over slavery. “But let’s face it, (Snowden’s) perspective is more consistent with rugged individualism and privacy and everything that comes along with traditional conservatism. Isn’t it interesting that the more invectives are hurled at Snowden (by the establishment), the more the numbers rise in his favor?” — Kelley Vlahos


great scribe Kelley Vlahos



new conservative hero Snowden???






The Right Rallies to Edward Snowden


The NSA whistleblower is embraced by unlikely admirers: conservatives in politics and media.


A funny thing happened between Hong Kong and Russia: Edward Snowden, teller of National Security Agency secrets and American dissident at large, started to become a conservative hero.

“Support for Snowden is actually consistent with the tradition of American conservatism,” declares

Craig Shirley, a longtime conservative political consultant in Washington and author of three Ronald Reagan biographies. After 30 years at the game, he’s not shy about calling things big.


Unlike Bradley Manning, the Army private who was convicted of leaking government secrets, the 30-year-old Snowden is enjoying a surge of unlikely support from the right. Republican members of Congress are calling him a whistleblower, not a traitor. Columnists from right-wing websites are getting an earful from readers who say he’s a hero. In the last two major polls on the subject, more than half of Republicans and independents insist Snowden is a whistleblower, with less than 40 percent saying otherwise.


Rep. Justin Amash, (R-Mich.), who sponsored the failed July amendment to defund the controversial NSA programs and has inspired confidence that a real movement for change is afoot, told Fox News on Aug. 4 that “members of Congress were not really aware … about what these programs were being used for, the extent to which they were being used.”

Therefore Snowden is “a whistle-blower. He told us what we need to know.”

Also on Fox News, libertarian favorite Judge Andrew Napolitano said, “There is a political wildfire burning in the land, and we should all be grateful to Snowden for igniting it. The fire eventually will consume the political derelictions of those who have abandoned their oaths to uphold the Constitution so they can sound tough back home.”


When Sarah Harvard at the Daily Caller decided to poke fun at Snowden’s globe-trotting prospects, readers poked back – hard. “I’d like to know why you are making fun of a guy who gave up the rest of his life for liberty,” wrote in Nathan Smith. “He is a hero to me.”

At Breitbart.com, a hothouse of the rightwing blogosphere, a similar phenomenon has developed. After a report about Representative Amash’s recent comments on Fox News, readers deluged the site with support for Snowden, including his decision to stay in Russia.

“Where is he supposed to go?” demanded reader “Broder” on August 5. “The political establishment has deemed him a criminal here in the U.S. for daring to tell the American people that our corrupt government is breaking the law and violating our Constitutional rights.”

How much of this just derives from Obama hate on the right is hard to say. “I think you have the right to be skeptical,” said Fein, who noted the support President Bush received from these quarters for the very warrantless wiretapping-type schemes being vilified today.

And yet, notes Shirley, “you’ve seen a breaking off from Bush as early as 2006,” among many conservatives. “The Republican Party is unraveling … from the reaction to NSA to all the other things.” The proof of conservatives’ outrage—and their support for Snowden as a whistleblower—will come as lawmakers get “an earful” from constituents during the legislative recess.

“American conservatism is all about putting faith in individuals not institutions,” he said. “The fact that many conservatives don’t see Snowden as a traitor does not surprise me.”

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance reporter and TAC contributing editor. Follow her on Twitter.

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