Edward Snowden, told the world, via the British newspaper the Guardian, the United States was spying on its own citizens... covertly raiding search engines by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others...using a net so wide it rendered the 4th amendment moot...and all of this known to terrorists but unknown to everyone else. A new Gallup poll say 56% of Americans support what Snowden leaked and the debate is on as to whether he is a hero or villain.
He is neither. He is a whistleblower. Whistleblowers are both heroes and villains depending on your perspective and whether or not the information helps or hurts you. From the Congressional and Executive branch positions, he is a traitor. He has to be. The President, and Congress, have been sucking up your electronic activities for at least 7 years, (more like 13) and they approved this spying. They re-authorized the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They watched as the National Security Agency and F.B.I. demanded the telecom companies, and big search engines, turn over billions of call logs and search requests...years of web surfing and inquiries...location and subject information from every American who used a computer or smart phone. Diane Feinstein, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, John Boehner et.al. publically support all this spying and peeping and their defense is it's legal...we approved it all. Of course they felt no compunction to inform their constituents how naked they were in the face of government voyeurs. This legal, patriotic, prudent destruction of privacy was nothing to lose sleep over in Washington, but let's not tell anyone else because they might not understand. To them, Snowden is the worst kind of miscreant. He has to be crushed just like Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg and anyone else who attempts to inform the electorate of actions their government doesn't want them to know. New York Congressman Peter King, always good for outrage and taking umbrage inappropriately, not only wants Snowden thrown into the Florence, Colorado Super Max, he wants reporters like Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian behind bars too. (we can’t have the press finding out what the government is doing) This is the same King who for years championed the cause of the Irish Republican Army's actions in Britain and Northern Ireland as it was committing terrorists acts against innocent people. This is the same King who welcomed leaks about British abuses in Northern Ireland and British covert surveillance. The hypocrisy in Washington about national security, and what the people should know, is causing a run on hip boots and waders.
If you are an average citizen, who foolishly and naively thought the 4th amendment protected you from warrantless searches and gigantic fishing expeditions by your government into your private life, Snowden has to be a hero. He is throwing himself on the proverbial grenade in order to save you...alert you...protect you...inform you...outrage you...in the hope the electorate will rise up and demand the government actually read and follow the Constitution.
When I worked with whistleblowers, on issues about weapons procurement in the Pentagon, the first thing we told them is if they stick their head up to tell the truth, someone in government is going to try to blow it off. They had to know the consequences of their actions so they could make an informed choice. We weren't kidding. I watched many an honest civil servant, government worker or contractor "commit truth" only to lose their job, their pension and sometimes their freedom. Snowden knew all of this and yet did what he did anyway. Only someone truly horrified by what they know becomes a whistleblower. There is no glory...There is only pain and recrimination.
Snowden didn't do any harm to the national security of this nation. We know the C.I.A. found Bin Laden by following one of his couriers. Al Qaida, any relatively sophisticated terrorist organization, abandoned all phones, email, the Internet or any electronic signature long ago. They already knew what the U.S. was up to and they changed their tactics accordingly. Snowden's revelations just confirm what they knew and they already avoided most of theses forms of communications. This data mining may stop amateurs on occasion. (Feinstein and others say these programs stopped an attempt to attack the New York subway system) The questions is at what cost?
The President says he welcomes a full-throated debate on the relationship between privacy and security. Ok, let's give it to him. What Snowden revealed shows there is no privacy in this nation. Your turn Mr. President. Justify that. The 4th amendment prohibits unreasonable searches or seizures, warrantless searches, and requires probable cause to invade someone's privacy and these prohibitions have been ignored...struck down...left in shambles...without average Americans knowing such a constitutional tsunami has hit and without being asked for their permission. The President wants a debate he wasn't interested in before Snowden stepped up to reveal the emperor has no clothes.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act only allows for the gathering of private information from Americans in connection with a specific investigation. Sucking up billions of calls, emails, web searches, and all online activity, makes a laughing stock of this provision. The government's actions would be similar to passing a law allowing the police to stop you any time they wish and search your person and papers. Eventually, they would catch some bad guys, but at what cost to your freedom of movement, speech or association?
No one in government is saying the tactics Snowden revealed have been effective against Al Qaida, Iran, terrorists in Mali or Libya or Afghanistan. Their claim is this privacy rape has caught some amateurs and small fish. Snowden thought the price was too high in a democratic nation which values transparency in government.
Snowden allegedly had access to lots of other secrets. He could have given some beauts to Iran, China, Russia or various terrorist networks if he truly wanted to harm national security. It is said he could have revealed names of covert agents. Instead, he chose to reveal again, most of this had been reported by USA Today in 2006, how cavalierly this government takes constitutional rules and protections.
Snowden is a typical whistleblower. His actions will be considered folly if the status quo remains unchanged. He will have stuck his head up only to see it blown off, if the government is allowed to close ranks...sight national security...frighten easily stampeded Americans...into doing nothing to rein in government spying on its own citizens which renders the 4th amendment not worth the parchment it was written on.
Snowden didn't harm national security. He alerted Americans to what the government was doing supposedly in their name...in their best interests...because Washington knows what's best. He has afflicted the comfortable and Congressman King and all his cronies don't like it because they have been caught with their pants down and a huge paw in the nation's cookie jar. What you do now with the information will determine if Snowden ends up a hero or goat. Ellsberg's leaks, also called treason at the time, helped to end the Vietnam War and he is a hero today. Manning's fate is still hanging by a thread. Snowden, if his actions lead to meaningful reform, will be seen as a patriot who was willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of his fellow citizens.
Which way do you think this will go?