The biggest story in the mainstream media in USA recently hasn’t been the protests in Turkey or Brazil, but rather Edward Snowden and NSA surveillance. What’s even better is that the story hasn’t been focused on the classified information leaked by Snowden; it’s been focused on his character, his girlfriend, and his dotted past.
As bad as the media’s coverage may have been, people are paying attention to the issues. But why is this so surprising? After having seen Obama’s extensive civil liberties violations, why are we surprised that he would do this? After seeing the completely unconstitutional PATRIOT Act get passed, why are we surprised that the government is violating our 4th Amendment rights?
Well, we shouldn’t be. But there are many things we can learn from Snowden’s case:
1. The Government’s Definition of “Treason” is Ridiculous
I’m not saying Snowden hasn’t committed any crime, but to accuse him of treason is ludicrous. It seems as if the government is defining treason as revealing the government’s crimes. Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t matter. Legally speaking, treason implies harming national security, usually by aiding or abetting the enemy. Does anyone really think that Snowden’s leak is a revelation for terrorists? Do you really think that a terrorist doesn’t know that the government can be wiretapping his phone or collecting his e-mails? Unless we hold the government accountable for trampling on our freedoms, it doesn’t matter whether they’re legally wrong or not.
2. Privatization Has Now Spread to Digital Surveillance
We’ve heard of the military-industrial complex, but a digital-industrial complex? See, Snowden was an employee at a private corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, who’s essentially getting paid by the government to spy on you. That’s how he was able to access the classified documents that he leaked. During the Iraq War, we saw similar privatization of the military, and that didn’t end well. When are we going to stop contracting important government tasks to unaccountable private corporations? Congress won’t do it; only we can end this.
3. Obama: Good Liar, Not so Good Leader
NSA had already lied in front of Congress about the program, but just to make the mountain of lies a bit taller, Obama came on Charlie Rose recently and defended the NSA surveillance program. His reason: It’s illegal for the executive to look through the trove of metadata without probable cause. So just because it’s illegal means it won’t happen? I don’t think so. The fact is that until there is a formidable body that has oversight on the NSA, whether they engage in legal or illegal surveillance is irrelevant. Obama and other officials claim that the program is necessary for national security, but that’s utter nonsense. There’s little to no evidence that the program has done anything to stop terrorist attacks.
I must commend Obama for being the great politician he is and trying to make this an issue of security vs. liberty, but sadly, it won’t work. This is a question of surveillance and the infringement of civil liberties. Unfortunately, most Democrats don’t understand this; in the typical partisan tribalism CIA expected in 2008, Democrats have turned from hating NSA surveillance under Bush to supporting their guy’s version of it. We’ve got to stop thinking in these partisan terms, take the lessons from Snowden’s case forward, and fight for our civil liberties. No one else is going to do it for us.