Some Words about Mr. Edward Snowden

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am libertarian and of my opposition to the spying on U.S. citizens being performed by the NSA. So when I say I have a response to those who keep saying Edward Snowden is a traitor who has done much damage to U.S. national security, it should surprise no one. I am not saying everyone has to agree with what Snowden did or his reasons for doing it. But let us be honest about the situation and dispense with the political posturing, the propaganda and the like. Don’t worry. This should not take long.

First, to the accusation that Snowden is cowardly for not staying in the U.S. to take his punishment: nonsense. If he had made his revelations in a political climate like what we had some twenty years ago, you might have a point. But given that the U.S. government has decided that it has the full and unquestionable authority to indefinitely detain and torture harshly interrogate anyone, including U.S. citizens, just by labeling them enemies of the state enemy combatants, Snowden would have been a fool to remain in the U.S.

Second, to the accusation that Snowden’s whistleblowing on NSA spying has damaged U.S. national security: humbug. For those of you who do not know, humbug is not just a word used by Dickensian misers to scoff at Christmas. The word humbug means something intended to deliberately deceive or fool people. And yes, I am saying the claims of supposed damage to U.S. national security are false. Not one example of this damage has been produced by the government. And not one example of the NSA data mining (i.e. spying) being genuinely helpful to national security has been provided by the government.

Homer Simpson: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.

Lisa Simpson: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.

Homer: Thank you, dear.

Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.

Homer: Oh, how does it work?

Lisa: It doesn’t work.

Homer: Uh-huh.

Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.

Homer: Uh-huh.

Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?

Homer thinks about this and then pulls out some money.

Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

—from The Simpsons, episode 151, “Much Apu About Nothing”

Third, to the assertion that Snowden is a traitor who should be punished for breaking his oath: balderdash. How can I say that? Easily. Suppose for a moment that you worked for the government. Further suppose that you discovered during your work for the government that the government was secretly doing something you considered to be unjust and unconstitutional. Would the right thing to do be to keep your mouth shut, never say a word about what you had discovered, and just, ahem, follow orders? Or would the right thing to do be to reveal the unjust action? If you took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the U.S. against all enemies foreign and domestic, would the right thing to do be to ignore the government engaging in unconstitutional behavior? No, of course not.

And since we are on this subject, to the assertion that what the NSA has been doing is not really spying: of course it is spying. If any other government or group was secretly collecting up all this data, we would denounce it as spying, as an invasion of privacy. So, yes, what the NSA has been doing is spying.

And yes, I do think Snowden did the right thing. When the U.S. government behaves in a manner unjust and/or inconsistent with the Constitution, citizens have an obligation to speak up. This is one of the reasons why the First Amendment restricts the government from infringing on the right of free speech. People have a right to speak up when government does something wrong. And to anyone who would disagree with that, I have one thing to say.

Humbug.

One Response to “Some Words about Mr. Edward Snowden”

  1. Well said. Nothing specious in that argument. I agree keeping quiet would have been the greater moral crime.

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