This past Friday, James Traub, noted author and senior columnist at Foreign Policy Magazine, and the New York Times, in an editorial in Thursday’s edition of the paper, have come out in strong support of Edward Snowden’s actions, stating in different words the same, basic thing: The former NSA contractor may have broken the law; but, he was justified doing what he did; and, he deserves clemency—to the point of receiving a commitment from the U.S. government that he will not be incarcerated for his actions—if he returns home.
In a very evenhanded, must-read (IMHO) column within the website of Foreign Policy Magazine—the online home of one of the most status quo of status quo publications--writer and author James Traub has announced the Edward Snowden is his column’s “Man of the Year.”
The Man of the Year
How can the biggest news story of 2013 be so overblown -- and so monumentally important -- at the same time?
By James Traub
ForeignPolicy.com / Foreign Policy Magazine
December 27, 2013
…The bland reassurances by senior intelligence officials that Americas have nothing to fear from the massive surveillance dragnet have now received the contempt they deserve. In a report issued last week, Obama's panel on the NSA surveillance program, which included former senior intelligence officials, concluded that the mass collection from metadata "creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty." The panel proposed keeping that data in the hands of phone companies or "a private third party," requiring substantial public disclosure of information-gathering programs, sharply restricting surveillance on foreign targets -- and especially foreign heads of state -- and requiring the NSA director to be confirmed by the Senate. The panel suggested that the next director should be a civilian, which would be a first. (Of course, the latter recommendation is highly unlikely, since the president has already indicated his willingness to disregard another of the report's recommendations: that the director of the NSA be separate from the director of the military's Cyber Command.)
The report bears reading not merely for its bullet points. The authors observe that the word "security" applies every bit as much to the security of the individual against intrusion by the state or others as it does to the "national security" interests protected by the state through, among other means, intelligence-gathering. The state must not imperil the one in the name of the other. The two must be balanced; and yet, the authors note, some prohibitions against intrusion in the name of national security, such as those that suppress dissent and infringe on personal liberty, are "foundational," and not to be "balanced" against the collective good of safety. That, the authors note, is precisely what has often happened at moments of national crisis. Some powers given to the state in the aftermath of 9/11, they conclude, "unduly sacrifice fundamental interests in individual liberty, personal privacy, and democratic governance…"
…Snowden is almost certainly the most important whistle-blower in American history. The vast trove of WikiLeaks documents exposed by Chelsea Manning shone a glaring light on the underside of diplomacy, but did little to change our understanding of the world. Daniel Ellsberg's decision to expose the Pentagon Papers profoundly changed the relationship of the press -- and of the American people -- to government, but did little to change the course of the war, which was his goal. Who else compares?
Ellsberg's 1973 trial was dismissed over government misconduct. Manning is now serving a 35-year sentence. Does Snowden belong in jail? There's no question that he has violated the terms of the Espionage Act by disclosing state secrets, though it seems likely that he has not committed espionage. But if you break the law for reasons of conscience, you must be prepared to live with the consequences. Yet the immense good that has come of Snowden's law-breaking presents a powerful case for leniency. In an ideal world, he would be permitted to plead guilty to a violation of the Act and then sentenced to a form of community service in which he would use his skills to help the cause of reform.
And, in an editorial in Thursday’s edition of the New York Times, there’s this…
Edward Snowden, Whistle-BlowerMeanwhile…
New York Times
January 2nd, 2014 (edition)
…In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not. Beyond the mass collection of phone and Internet data, consider just a few of the violations he revealed or the legal actions he provoked:
■ The N.S.A. broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor.
■ The agency broke into the communications links of major data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the Internet companies that own the centers. Many of those companies are now scrambling to install systems that the N.S.A. cannot yet penetrate.
■ The N.S.A. systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the Internet, making it impossible to know if sensitive banking or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust.
■ His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. (There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.)
■ The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rebuked the N.S.A. for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance practices, according to a ruling made public because of the Snowden documents. One of the practices violated the Constitution, according to the chief judge of the court.
■ A federal district judge ruled earlier this month that the phone-records-collection program probably violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. He called the program “almost Orwellian” and said there was no evidence that it stopped any imminent act of terror…
… President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.
–– it’s now common knowledge that virtually all of this taxpayer-funded focus upon domestic surveillance in America has done little more than put one San Diego-based cab driver and Somali national, Basaaly Moalin, in jail for bundling less than $24,000 in donations which he passed through to the terrorist organization, al Shabab, in his native country.
–– The Economic Terrorists Among Us—to name just a few, specifically: HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Standard Chartered Bank and Wachovia, which has been rolled-up into Wells Fargo—have received little more than wrist slaps, fines equivalent to no more than few months of their net profits, and no jail time, whatsoever, for laundering more than $1.5 trillion in al Qaeda, Hezbollah, South American drug cartel, and eastern European organized crime cash. And, in case you weren’t paying attention, the inconvenient reality is that our country’s intelligence services, which were closely monitoring all of this activity, didn’t do a damn thing about it.
–– There are still hundreds of people in this supposedly “Democratic” community that believe Edward Snowden’s a “traitor” and he should serve significant jail time and, perhaps, we should have a "debate" about it! Frankly, my immediate thought--being a dyed-in-the-wool, traditional Democrat--was that a leading Democratic Party blog, such as Daily Kos, had no business officially supporting that line of debate any more than it would seriously consider discussing "the merits" of cutting Social Security benefits, or providing us with a forum to offer up the "positive aspects" of the Citizens United v. F.E.C. SCOTUS decision.
But, the truth is, we ARE all entitled to our own opinions, now aren’t we?
And, thus, we come full circle.
Because the reality of the matter is that there WAS a time, in the not-too-distant past, when a voter in this country described themselves as a “Democrat,” it was self-evident—when one selected that status/label, alone—that discussing matters such as being against cuts to Social Security, supporting sane campaign finance laws, advocating on behalf of the Fourth Amendment and press freedom, and encouraging government whistleblowing was unnecessary; the moment one identified themselves as a Democrat to others, it was obvious where they stood on those issues.
So, to all of those self-styled Democrats reading this post that continue to describe Edward Snowden as a “traitor,” as of this weekend, please realize your views are now, officially, significantly to the right of substantial portions of the status quo--the editors of the New York Times and a leading columnist in Foreign Policy Magazine. (You know...the people in the MSM that actually work for the people that really run our government.) And, perhaps much more importantly, as far as most self-respecting, traditional Democrats are concerned—and just like our President has done on many of the issues mentioned herein--maybe you should at least go through the motions of reconsidering your position(s) on Snowden, as well.
On the other hand, you could go right ahead and continue to successfully advocate for the continued transformation of our country from a democracy to a full-fledged, inverted totalitarian state. But, then again, perhaps you should first consider how that might not work out too well for us come November?
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Fellow Kossack Tasini posted a diary about the NYT Editorial a little over a half-hour before this post appeared. Definitely worth checking it out; here's the LINK to it.
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