We’re currently running a fundraiser for 1985, peer-to-peer phone call encryption that will prevent NSA spying on your “metadata.” We’re also running My NSA Records, a site to generate a free request to send you your NSA records (or delete them!).
The New York Post has persisted in running covers condemning whistleblower Edward Snowden as a man who has betrayed America. If by “America” they mean “the government of the United States while engaged in a a sneaky, immoral, and illegal program designed to spy on its citizens,” then perhaps they are right. But if they mean “America” as in “the people of the United States,” they are dead wrong.
On June 12th, 2013, the Post ran a cover with the headline “Plug The Leak: Traitor Could Get Life.” This was before Snowden had been charged with any crime, and still today he has not been charged with treason. Today’s headline is “Comrades – Vlad [Putin] harbors spy as US fumes.” Snowden also has not been charged with, nor can his actions reasonably be construed to be, “spying.” Why the Post has decided to take a position on the matter at all (let alone such an absurd position), rather than simply reporting the news, is a mystery to me. Perhaps they simply prefer to be inflammatory.
Allow me to break down the argument advanced by those in favor of tarring and feathering the man who revealed the biggest invasion on the privacy of American citizens by its own government in history:
- The collection of phone records and PRISM data was not illegal. Incorrect. The only court to approve of this spying is the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Their decision has never been reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court (it is, after all, difficult to appeal an order that was kept secret!), and if it were (or really, when it is), it would likely be struck down on at least two grounds: a) The NSA, a part of the U.S. military, is only allowed to monitor foreign intelligence, but the phone records order specifically addressed domestic communications, and b) the order constituted a “general warrant” that requested the records of no less than 100 million Americans, presumably 99.99 million+ of which are not under suspicion. Arguments that “Congress authorized this” are dead wrong. Diane Feinstein may have supported the move, but as far as legislation rather than the opinion of a loud-mouthed Senator, even the Patriot Act does not authorize this under any reasonable reading.
- There are better ways he could have blown the whistle. Wrong. At least three men before them tried blowing the whistle using official channels. Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe all did what the Post would consider “responsible” whistleblowing. Drake was prosecuted, Binney and Wiebe had their houses raided by FBI SWAT teams, all three men lost their security clearances, and all of their stories were swept under the rug. Not quite change we can believe in.
- Snowden is a coward for fleeing. He probably wats to collaborate with our enemies, Russia and China. Really? First, regarding leaving the country, had he not, he’d presently be receiving the same treatment Bradley Manning received: sleeping naked in solitary confinement and permanently silenced. That’s not a noble way to advance a cause — that’s sheer stupidity. Second, regarding his choice of where to go, he can’t exactly enjoy a spot of tea in London or currywurst in Berlin: most of the world would bow to the U.S. and extradite him on these purely political charges. Hong Kong and Moscow are two places where he has a chance. Third, our enemies? China is our biggest trading partner, and the idea that Russia presents a threat to us reflects a mindset several decades in the past. If you want to talk about our enemies, you’ll need to look to the middle east at the people who are less than enthusiastic about us because we bomb the shit out of them. Finally, there is zero evidence that he intends to assist any foreign power. Let’s all be aware that the government is going to attempt to portray him in the most unfavorable light possible. We don’t need to buy into it.
- He aided the terrorists — there’s a reason these programs were secret! No. Any legitimate terrorist already knew that their communications would be intercepted as they travel through America. “Real terrorists” use sophisticated encryption and private forums when their “work” requires being on the grid. These programs were only “secret” from Americans who did not want to believe that their government would do such a thing, and the “reason these programs were secret” is that if the public found out about them, there would be outrage.
Edward Snowden risked his life to expose an ongoing governmental disgrace of epic proportions; an abuse directed squarely at the citizens who are forced to finance its continued operation and now, forced to finance political persecution. Over 100,000 Americans have signed the White House petition demanding that President Obama pardon Snowden and referring to him as a “national hero.” It is time that the Post also recognize the sacrifice he has made and that the evil here was not the release of documents, but what was contained in those documents.