Edward Joseph Snowden

Edward Snowden is a patriot.

Edward Joseph Snowden is a patriot.

Edward Joseph Snowden is a patriot.

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is an American hero. Every American should wish we had many more people like him (including Bradley Manning and Julian Assange), not fewer. He is a genuine patriot. He has done far more to bring accountability to government than ANY current Republican Congressman or Senator who sticks his chest out and says he believes in “limited government” and “the Constitution.”

Of course, there are many who hold the exact opposite view, that he is a traitor and not a hero. Such people include conservative commentators (!), retired military officials, and a number of Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Trying to understand their objections to the invaluable service Mr. Snowden provided our country, they just don’t make any sense.

Here, in no particular order, are the most pointed arguments his critics have leveled at him:

1. “He’s a high school dropout.” This is just ridiculous, and a blatant personal attack. And this is only said to distract the listener or reader from learning about what it is Snowden really did. If it is wrong to drop out of high school, why didn’t these guys criticize Princess Diana? What about Thomas Edison? Benjamin Franklin? Albert Einstein? All these people dropped out of high school too, and that had no long-term effect on their character now, did it?

2. “He has endangered national security.”

Keep in mind that “national security” is an ambiguous phrase that is nowhere to be found in the Declaration of Independence or our Constitution. It pretty much means whatever a fearmongering, warmongering politician (like Lindsey Graham or John McCain) wants it to mean. In other words, it is a term that can easily be used to manipulate people into giving up their freedom. For over a decade, the American people (probably one of the most gullible in the world) have happily traded their liberty for security. And to quote Benjamin Franklin (one of my favorite Founding Fathers): “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Personally, I would much rather die a free person from terrorists than live under a tyrannical, fascist government that knows my every move.

3. “He has broken the law. He violated his agreement/oath to keep this information secret.”

One must ask a question for the people who make this claim: What if a law is unjust? Were abolitionists wrong to hide slaves just because slavery was the law of the land in America in the 1800s? Was Oskar Schindler wrong to hide Jews just because Adolf Hitler said that to do so was wrong? Was Sophie Scholl wrong in exposing the horrors of the Nazi government with her fellow patriots in the White Rose non-violent resistance group? I do fear that many of the authoritarians calling for Snowden’s head (who essentially believe anything the government says no matter what it does) would support the Nazis and the pro-slavery politicians if they lived in a different time. Obey the powers that be, right guys?

Another question: What about Mr. Snowden’s oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America (specifically the Fourth Amendment, which states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”)? Turns out Edward was just following this oath and did not forget it, unlike 99.99 % of the other people (it seems) who “take” the oath.

Oh, and the government violated ITS agreement (the Constitution) with the American people first! Why don’t Snowden’s critics stand up for the rule of law? Why is it his defenders who are doing so instead?


UPDATE: June 23, 2013

ACLU to Obama: “We are tired of living in a nation governed by fear”.

Under President Obama, the United States is “a nation governed by fear,” the American Civil Liberties Union says in an open letter that echoes the criticisms Obama has made of George W. Bush’s national security policies.

“We say as Americans that we are tired of seeing liberty sacrificed on the altar of security and having a handful of lawmakers decide what we should and should not know,” the ACLU writes in a statement circulated to grassroots supporters and addressed to Obama. “We are tired of living in a nation governed by fear instead of the principles of freedom and liberty that made this nation great.”

It’s strange to read in light of Obama’s disavowal of Bush. “Too often — our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions,” Obama said in 2009. “Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens — fell silent.”

The ACLU is circulating that statement in response to the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the National Security Agency’s data collection programs before fleeing to Hong Kong (and now, Russia).

“We stand opposed to any attempt to treat Edward Snowden as a traitor,” the ACLU writes. “Snowden is innocent until proven guilty before a court of law and he must be afforded all of his rights as an American citizen. If he is brought to an American court, he must be afforded every opportunity to defend himself and convince a judge that what he did was justifiable and patriotic, even if he is charged with violating laws that themselves pose a threat to our democracy.”


UPDATE: August 3, 2013

NSA leaker Edward Snowden has been granted one year asylum in Russia.

Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said we “should be grateful” to Snowden for exposing the government’s “massive violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Napolitano went on to say that “Snowden’s behavior is not always easy to defend,” and added that should the NSA leaker ever return to the U.S., his case would “absolutely” end up in the Supreme Court.


UPDATE: January 2, 2014

Edward Snowden Clemency: The New York Times, The Guardian Urge Obama To Help NSA Whistleblower. . .

The editorial boards of The New York Times and The Guardian published editorials on Wednesday (January 1, 2014), urging the Obama administration to treat Edward Snowden as a whistleblower and offer him some form of clemency.

Seven months ago, the former National Security Administration contractor stole as many as 1.7 million highly classified documents about the U.S. government’s surveillance program and released the information to the press. The files revealed how the NSA forced American technology companies to reveal customer information, often without individual warrants, and how data from global phone and Internet networks was secretly intercepted.

While the release of these documents forced Snowden to flee the U.S. and move to Russia, it also alerted the American public — and many U.S. allies — of the government’s intrusive, unethical and possibly unlawful spying efforts.

Beyond sparking public debate, Snowden’s actions have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the NSA. The suit aims to force the U.S. government to disclose details of its electronic surveillance program and describe what protections it provides to Americans whose communications are swept up during the search for terrorist suspects, Reuters reported.

Eight major technology companies — including Google, Facebook and Twitter — have also joined forces to call for tighter controls on government surveillance.

In November, the White House rejected a clemency plea from Snowden, and told him to return to the U.S. to face trial.


UPDATE: March 2, 2015

DoD Releases “Evidence” of Snowden’s Damages to National Security… and It’s COMPLETELY Redacted.

Per a Freedom of Information Act Request lawsuit filed by Vice News, the Department of Defense has released a report on the damaging effects of Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA leaks. The only problem? It’s redacted. Entirely. Not a crumb of evidence was present in the “evidence” the government released.

The “assessment” is made up of multiple reports collectively over 100 pages long and was released by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a wing of the Department of Defense. It was made by two dozen DIA analysts and is fully blocked out, save for several headings. For example:

  • “Assessment”
  • “Talking Points”
  • “Compromised Information”
  • “Background”
  • “Recommendations”

The redacted reports were constructed from September 2013 to April 2014. According to a declaration signed by the DIA’s FOIA office chair, Aleysia Williams, it was used by DOD “leadership” to “mitigate the harm caused to national security” by Snowden.

David Leatherwood, the DIA’s director of operations, said that to do this, secrecy must be employed (as usual). He alleged:

“To accomplish this goal, the reporting of the task force focuses entirely on identifying the magnitude of the harm. Much of that reporting, for very legitimate reasons, remains classified.”

Further, at a conference on Monday (February 23, 2015), NSA chief Mike Rogers claimed of the Snowden leaks:

“Anyone who thinks this has not had an impact… doesn’t know what they are talking about.”

Since Edward Snowden exposed the expansive spying practices of the federal government, authorities like Rogers have claimed that the former CIA and NSA analyst compromised national security. However, they are yet to provide a single instance of their claims. They have not even been able to prove that the NSA’s bulk data collection has an effect on terrorism whatsoever.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (of the same name as the NSA chair), who had the privilege of reading a different-and apparently less redacted-report last year, insisted,

“[That] report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk… Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”

Rather than focusing on what Snowden’s actions have allegedly done to “troops in the field,” it would be more productive to acknowledge other revelations: America is spying on world leaders, its military has murdered journalists and raped boys in front of their mothers, the CIA botched an attempt to give fake nuclear plans to Iran and later launched a cyber attack while the NSA hacked North Korea long before the Sony scandal. This is but a handful of the egregious crimes committed by the federal government. They have compromised national security and the safety of American troops exponentially more than Snowden’s revelations ever could. They create ill-will and terrorists through corrupt meddling and violence.

The government’s attempts to deflect the realities of its illegal spying are growing increasingly desperate and pathetic. Those at the DIA and DOD have no evidence to offer of their claims but stacks of blacked out pages and the tired talking point that they are “here to help.”


UPDATE: March 4, 2015

Snowden indicates he wants to come home.

NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden’s lawyer says that his client wants to come back to the United States as long as he can receive a fair trial.

Snowden has been in Russia since 2013, living under a three year residency permit after having been granted asylum.

It’s not clear what charges Snowden would face. He apparently won’t come back if he faces espionage charges.

CNN:

“We’re certainly happy for him to return to the United States to face a court in the very serious charges” he faces, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

“So he absolutely can and should return to the United States to face the justice system that will be fair in its judgment of him,” she said. “But he is accused of very serious crimes and should return home to face them.”

Kucherena said Snowden has so far received a guarantee from Attorney General Eric Holder that he will not face the death penalty — but that Snowden also wants a guarantee of a “legal and impartial trial.”

Such a trial, Snowden’s legal advisers have said, would mean he wouldn’t face charges under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that was used to charge Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Snowden’s lawyer said he’s allowed to travel outside Russia now under a three-year Russian residency permit, but that he believes Snowden would be taken immediately to a U.S. embassy as soon as he leaves the country.

“With a group of lawyers from other countries, we are working on the question of his return to America,” Kucherena said.

The government just slapped former General David Petraeus on the wrist for leaking a couple of sensitive documents to his mistress. Does Snowden hope he will get similar treatment?

It’s hard to see how leaking thousands of NSA documents could be considered anything but espionage. Whether that was his intent or not, Snowden’s actions revealed secrets that the enemy could use to avoid detection. Even many Snowden defenders acknowledge this, but believe he should receive whistleblower protection because ot the importance of the programs he exposed.

The political climate has changed since 2013, with people being less upset about Snowden and angrier at the government for theiir illegal snooping. That may play into some kind of plea deal where Snowden would plead guilty to a lesser charge and perhaps avoid jail time altogether, or receive a minimum sentence.

Would he accept any jail time at all? Or would he take his chances in court? The best guess is that he won’t want to risk a long prison term and will accept a deal only if he can serve his time at a minimum security facility. Otherwise, he’ll stay put, hoping the political winds continue to blow in his favor.