Conflating Petraeus and Snowden Doesn’t Help Anyone


Pro-Snowden types are currently on an internet tour with a specious narrative:

Petraeus shared sensitive information just like Snowden. He got off without jail time. Snowden should get the same treatment.

This is wrong for four reasons:

  1. The history of the offender

  2. How the leak happened

  3. The amount of data leaked

  4. The impact

For history, Petraeus is one of the most decorated generals of our time, with decades of service to our country. Snowden is a government contractor.

Comparing how the leaks occurred, Petraeus let a mistress see an illegal notebook he had some sensitive data in. Snowden got a job with the government for the sole purpose of stealing and leaking classified information.

With respect to amount of information stolen, Petraeus’s mistress probably got a few nuggets. Snowden systematically crawled entire archives, resulting in the complete compromise of thousands and thousands of documents.

The impact of Petraeus’s leak seems to have been virtually non-existent. Snowden’s leak has fundamentally changed how U.S. intelligence, and the United States in general, is seen around the world.

I am one that believes Snowden is a patriot, and that what he did was probably net-good for our country. But the current narrative that these two situations are the same is both ridiculous and harmful.

They aren’t the same. They aren’t even close.

In the eyes of the law, Petraeus is a war hero who had a passion-based lapse in judgement that did no damage. And Snowden is an anti-government activist who systematically carried out the biggest classified data leak in American history.

For those who support Snowden, we need to own up to that. We need to accept that it was the polar opposite of what Petraeus did, and take everything that comes with it.

Support Snowden based on his intentions. Support him based on the good you believe it will do for American transparency in government.

Don’t demean his actions by comparing them to a lapse in judgement. It’s disingenuous, it’s untrue, and it hurts Snowden’s actual cause by removing the focus from where it should be.

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