Edward Snowden is an American hero to some. To others, like me, he is a self-righteous, self-serving do-gooder---and a traitor. I have been amazed at some of the conservatives that have taken up for him (admittedly not all), and even more astounded at the number of people who have petitioned the White House to pardon him before his likely prosecution.
Let’s be clear about a few things. Whether you like it or not, the NSA, the White House, and those on the respective intelligence committees in congress, all knew and supported the intelligence gathering that some now find so egregious. Moreover, the FISA court signed off of everything that was done. In other words, there was nothing illegal or criminal about what was done.
If those who now protest the NSA intelligence gathering were the same who either voted for the Patriot Act legislation or supported it, I have to ask what their objections are? They knew that the Patriot Act granted very broad powers to the executive branch of government. To protest now only because an awful lot of Americans aren’t happy about the activities smacks of nothing less than full blown partisan politics and pandering to the voters.
Back in 2004, when the NYT exposed the Bush administration’s actual wiretapping of conversations without a FISA court warrant, there were some right here in Cobb County who thought that the NYT should be prosecuted for treason. What contrasts that case with this one is that the informer in the NYT case was exposing criminal misconduct. The informer (never identified to my knowledge) was a whistleblower. Snowden exposed lawful activity that has potentially decimated sources and methods of gathering intelligence that will make it that much harder to identify terrorist conspiracies. Snowden is not a whistleblower. He is a leaker. Leakers make unauthorized and illegal disclosures of confidential or classified information. Leakers are criminals.
We are a nation of laws. That means we obey all laws until changed by a legislative body or struck down by a court. That is who and what we are as Americans. Snowden is more of an anarchist. He didn’t like what the NSA was doing, so he took it upon himself to break the law to report sensitive lawful activity at a huge cost to our national security. What makes him any different than anyone else, such as those evading paying taxes because they don’t like the tax code? I have no argument with someone who wants to limit the intelligence gathering in this country because of superseding privacy interests. It’s a debate we should have. But it is disingenuous to go back and cry foul after you supported the very laws that allowed for the NSA to do what it did. And I recall too during the 2004 presidential race that one of the Republican campaign platitudes was that “Bush kept us safe.” Didn’t seem to bother them at the time that one of the methods he used was criminal, but when Obama takes advantage of the laws on the books to keep us safe, somehow “it’s different.”
The MDJ recently reported two cases of some miscreants who planted miniature cameras in a bedroom and a bathroom to observe various female activity. This is becoming more common it seems. This is a serious invasion of privacy, too, but I’m not sure how we can address the proliferation of these electronic devices that have become small, cheap and ubiquitous. Perhaps our elected officials should consider increasing the penalties for these violations of privacy to the point that if caught you would face a long prison term. I am much more concerned about the availability and use of such gadgets, which strike much closer to our personal privacy, than I am of the NSA’s data collection. And everyone else who cares deeply about maintaining some semblance of personal privacy should be too.