Edward Snowden: Patriot or Traitor

November 21, 2013

It is almost by definition that we will never have the real facts about Edward Snowden. I am inclined to view him as a hero. A man of courage who wanted to blow the whistle on the NSA conducting surveillance on the American people. It is nothing more than what many people have assumed has been going on for some time. It just brings it out in the open. Nothing has really changed since his speaking up. It does make some people seem less like "conspiracy theory" extremists and lets them say "I told you so".

Curiously, I am finding that many people do not view him as a patriot, people who should know better. During the Vietnam era, my parents (who served their country in world war II), were upset with anyone who would question the government and oppose a war that they didn't believe in. I am hearing the same sort of arguments from people today, that Snowden took an oath, that he betrayed his duty. Well, is there not a higher calling and duty? Shouldn't someone speak up when a government begins to act contrary to the constitution and rights of the citizens?

I asked the question, well what about the Germans working in Nazi death camps? Were they right then to stay loyal to their government regardless of what their government asked them to do. Of course I get indignant responses: "Well, of course not, how could you say such a thing?". Very well then, so there is a line then, we just need to define where the threshold is.

The biggest concern of course is that nothing has changed, nobody is doing anything, nobody is deeply concerned. Most are happy to trade their privacy for some sort of assurance that "we can trust our government (who lied to us about all of this), and that they are doing all of this to stop terrorism, make us safer, etc. etc."

The problem is that even if this is all true (the government having pure motives at this point in time), it erodes basic principles and lays the foundation for serious abuse in the future.

A bigger question arises though. Exactly what is the NSA? Who does it answer to? Is it accountable to any part of our government? Why do we have both the NSA and the CIA?

My understanding is that the NSA was created to circumvent limitations placed upon the CIA. If our elected representatives (who are supposedly accountable to us) act to reign it in, some other entity will likely be spawned to take its place.

In his essay "Civil Disobedience", Henry David Thoreau said:

That government is best which governs least.

Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's Essays / tom@mmto.org