One of the more Alex Jones'y topics from last Summer at the height of the Edward Snowden NSA story was that President Obama would somehow try to assassinate Snowden. Ron Paul mentioned the use of a drone for such a plot, while others, like Glenn Greenwald and Snowden himself, were more ambiguous about methods, but they definitely weren't shy about painting Snowden as some sort of pre-martyred martyr.
This is one of many tricks by which the pro-Snowden clique has added a layer of audience-gripping drama to the story -- drama which helped to propel it into the national conversation. Snowden could be killed any day now, and Obama will pull the trigger! Engage rending of garments.
Well, guess what? It's back.
Yesterday, Buzzfeed's Benny Johnson posted an article in which he quotes a handful of anonymous government officials who told Johnson how and why they'd love to kill Snowden.
“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”
“I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. “I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.” [...]
One Army intelligence officer even offered BuzzFeed a chillingly detailed fantasy.
“I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly,” he said. “Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower.”
If these quotes are indeed legitimate, the stupidity and the recklessness of these officials is nearly impossible to describe. Kneejerk murder fantasies aside, however, if you're pissed off at Snowden for whatever reason, the absolute last thing you want to do is to toss red meat to his supporters who are desperate to manufacture a sacrificial lamb frame around Snowden -- to add to the pre-martyrdom sanctimony. That's precisely what these morbid blowhards in the Buzzfeed article have done: they've helped to burnish the gilded "Snowden the Martyr" statue.
And, right on cue, you can guess what happened next.
David Sirota, who now writes for Pando.com (formerly NSFWCorp), posted an article yesterday titled, "Pentagon & NSA officials say they want Snowden extrajudicially assassinated." Check out the accompanying photo:
That's right. Obama is pictured shooting Snowden point-blank in his disembodied, floating head. No hyperbole here. Not at all. Nope.
Sirota led with the following:
President Obama claims the right to extrajudicially execute American citizens, keeps a so-called “kill list,” and has bragged he’s “really good at killing people.” This isn’t bluster. Obama has backed this up with action, having killed U.S. citizens — including a 16-year-old boy – without charging, much less convicting, any of them with a single crime.
So the irresponsible, off-the-cuff and totally anonymous remarks of several government officials in Buzzfeed (no animated gifs?) stirred into the administration's use of drones in the war on terror clearly indicates, according to Sirota, that the president might use a drone and a well-placed Hellfire missile to take Snowden out.
To call this a stretch would be a gross understatement. A more accurate description would be "conspiracy theory." Chalk it up in the same category as "Obama is a sleeper cell" and "Obama wants to institute Shari'a law" and "Obama wants to nuke the Super Bowl." After all, there's (specious, unfounded) evidence for all of that. Just ask Alex Jones -- he says he has definitive proof.
Adding further exaggeration to the idea, Pando tweeted this out today:
The fantasy itself aside, NSA isn't tasked with military strikes or, you know, assassinations. It's tasked with gathering foreign intelligence. That's not a defense of NSA -- just the facts.
The whole thing is an irritating parasite in this ongoing story: the wild extrapolation of one thing into speculation into conspiracy theory into, somehow, undisputed fact. There are two chief consequences: 1) primarily, the debate about NSA and FISA Court reform is shoved way off the rails and skewed into something resembling the comment sections at InfoWars; and 2) anyone who disputes these claims is automatically either endorsing the use of drones or worshipping at the altar of the so-called "surveillance state," when neither straw man fallacy is the case.
Meanwhile, anyone marketing in such conspiratorial speculation ought to be taken with a grain of salt the size of Snowden's ego.
UPDATE: Sirota is deliberately misleading people now. He claims the Buzzfeed quotes are, in fact, the administration floating the idea.
Do we really need to point out the vast difference between anonymous Buzzfeed quotes and the administration floating the idea -- not to mention the absurdity of any administration floating a trial balloon about an assassination?