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March 20th, 2014 by Robert Ringstrom

Edward Snowden was charged with espionage and theft of government property in June of 2013.  This followed his disclosure of thousands of classified documents from world governments, but principally the intelligence gathering US National Security Agency.  He’s been stamped as a traitor and a thief, as well as a hero and whistle blower.   Snowden’s stated intention was, “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

In hindsight it would seem a bit ludicrous to ask the NSA if he did a good job.  But was he a good-fit for the position initially?  One position might be that he was a good employee because he did the right thing in exposing practices that are, arguably unethical or illegal.   Others would argue that good employees simply do their job as best as they can.

Edward Snowden seems to be an extremely bright young man.  But his credentials don’t reflect any evidence of legal or constitutional training which might suggest that he could reasonably conclude that his duties were illegal and therefore justify an act of treason.  It appears that he had superior computer skills; though his formal education in computers and electronics appears somewhat limited.  Beyond that, when you look at his education and preparation for life; it would seem that much of that had been cut short also.  He never finished high school.  He took some college credits towards his diploma, but quit his efforts at the Anne Arundel Community College and opted for passing his GED.  He joined the US Army as a special forces candidate, but was discharged after 4 months with “no qualifications or awards”.   He enrolled in a University of Liverpool online program for a degree but never finished.

Politically, he claimed to have supported Obama but later became disenchanted.  Donation records have him contributing to Rand Paul’s election in 2012.  It is also believed that he used the pseudonym of  “TheTrueHOOHA”, writing hundreds of posts on technology and politics strongly supporting US security.  One post proposed that anyone leaking classified information “should be shot in the balls”.   A year later,  TheTrueHOOHA wrote, “Did we get to where we are today via a slippery slope that was entirely within our control to stop, or was it an relatively instantaneous sea change that sneaked in undetected because of pervasive government secrecy?”

Whatever Edward Snowden may be defined as, he certainly had a pattern of not finishing things; or philosophies.  It brings to mind a clinical description of  bipolar disorder from the Massachusetts General Hospital; “(sp)…often feel more talkative, experience racing thoughts, constantly change their plans or activities.”  He worked for the CIA and resigned. He worked under different contracts for Dell and for Booz Allen on behalf of the NSA.  Then he changed his personal mission and blew up the world of intelligence gathering.

It seems that the NSA hired him because he ‘wowed” them with his computer savvy alone.  He is very articulate; some would call him an “IT whiz”.  Hard skills tend to be proven abilities such as demonstrating proficiency in computer programming (Ed Snowden).  Soft skills, are more subjective and harder to quantify; such as people or interpersonal skills, teamwork, time management and patience.

The matter of Edward Snowden’s success or failure will not be settled anytime soon. The role of the NSA may be questioned as much as that of its erstwhile employee.  In spite of the tale that will tie the two of them together forever; I have to wonder about the NSA employment process.  The seriousness of their mission is incredibly explosive.  How would one describe a mindset that hires people by apparently focusing narrowly on the ability to do wonders with a computer, while ignoring many indications that there’s little sense of being grounded.

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