What pundits think of Edward Snowden

| June 12, 2013 | 3 Replies

I’m a pundit, so I’ll go first. I admire Edward Snowden, because the information he has provided will allow Americans to actually and meaningfully discuss domestic spying.

Many politicians out there are saying, “Sure, let’s discuss this issue of the scope of the U.S. surveillance state.” The problem, however, is that they want these discussions to be barren of real world facts. They want to discuss, in the abstract, whether we should make ourselves vulnerable to “terrorism” to placate civil libertarians. To be clearer, American have had very little information about what kinds of things an NSA spy can learn about an American. Based on Edward Snowden, U.S. government spies have far too much power to look into emails, phone calls and internet usage. Based on this real information, maybe we could actually have a conversation, but not until we had this information which, according to the U.S. government, was illegally gotten. Classic Catch 22.

I have to wonder how often it happens that a CIA or NSA (or contractor) spy snoops on an American and steals credit card information or other information for the purpose of identity theft. Of course, it would be impossible to have this conversation, because this information is secret. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, many court challenges to domestic spying have been quashed by the courts because the information is secret.

Once again, how was it that Americans were supposed to have meaningful conversations given the lack of information?

Now, for the article on what pundits think of Edward Snowden. The article is from FAIR, and it covers many perspectives.

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Category: Secrecy, Spying, Whistle-blowers

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Jason says:

    I disagree with this guy’s status as a whistleblower. Its not “whistleblowing” to divulge classified information. It’s a crime. You agreed to keep the secrets of the job regardless of how they may clash with your own ideals or ethics. Imagine if everyone just decided it was ok to reveal classified because they felt it was a “bad” secret. My guess there would be a spectrum, in every case, from the majority feeling that it was a bad secret that should have been revealed …to possibly the majority feeling should have been kept secret and now we are all less safe because our enemies now know this information. But it’s not up to a vote! Do we build a statue to the man if 51% of people agree that he should have talked but put him in jail if only 49% think it was a good idea? This man’s actions are a slap in the face to all of us that have kept (sometimes quite uncomfortable) classified information secret despite what we may feel personally about it. Unfortunately it only takes one. You may say “fortunately” because of your opinion on the specific subject matter. Maybe you are convinced that it’s all just to “keep the public in the dark” or that the “public has a right to know about THIS”. Where is the line in which you would say “Although it would be nice to know everything, I understand that I can’t because our enemies (or possible enemies) would then know also and our advantage would be gone.” Serious question here: How should we decide where that line is?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Jason: You wrote: “You agreed to keep the secrets of the job regardless of how they may clash with your own ideals or ethics.”

      Would you apply your own principle to members of the SS in Nazi Germany?

      I’m looking for a meaningful conversation. I don’t we’ve had anything approaching a meaningful national conversation regarding America’s Surveillance State. And yes, I do believe that the public has been kept almost completely in the dark. I believe that the NSA has been caught in blatant lies. I don’t believe there are any meaningful checks and balances in the system (See Amy Goodman’s interview of James Bamford, which I just posted on). I also believe in the spirit of the Fourth Amendment and, that Amendment is still on the books, and it does not contain any exception for “terrorism.”

  2. Jason says:

    Erich,
    I originally was going to respond to your reply to my earlier comment with something akin to “It’s not the same thing as the Nazi’s!” But I’ve been thinking about your comment lately and I think I understand where you’re coming from as well as tempered my own stance after some serious thought. I think it would help us to define the extremes of the debate before moving on. You, based on my comment, made the comparison to the willingness of Nazi officers to be complicit in genocide to the duty of someone entrusted with classified to report it if they think it is wrong. We likely all agree that the Nazi officer SHOULD speak out (It’s not an all or nothing belief, at least with me). But let’s imagine a scenario on the other end of the spectrum in which some misguided individual reveals the plans to raid UBL’s compound and kill him. “Everyone has a right to a trial, and not to be murdered in the night” he says. UBL of course gets away because of the breach of classified. Or another scenario where someone working on the atom bomb during WWII gives away the bomb plans to all the nations because “No nation should be the sole possessor of such power, it will corrupt us, cause millions of deaths, and I will not let that happen”. Likely, you probably relate to the sentiment in both cases but disagree with the way it was handled. Once again we are faced with a spectrum in which it is totally unjustified to reveal classified information to the other end in which not only is it justified but expected as a duty in and of itself.
    Where exactly is the cut-off point? I don’t disagree with Snowdens sentiments nor do I disagree with your concerns about the 4th amendment. I do disagree with the method. The release of classified information is like the “nuclear option” to right perceived wrongs because of the far reaching and unintended damage or consequences. He could have expressed his concerns starting with the chain of command, if (probably when) that changes nothing he can go to a congressperson (who also has access) and try to remedy the lack of oversight.
    I suppose we all must decide for ourselves when something has crossed the “Nazi” line. Maybe Snowden perceived that line was crossed. The harsh prosecution of those who break the trust of their nation by revealing classified serves dissuade all but the most serious of would be breachers, therefore, regardless of my sympathies with Snowdens sentiment, I believe he should be prosecuted for the crime.
    Personally my (hopefully likely) decision to reveal Nazi classified information regarding the extermination of Jews would be in the context of willingly being a traitor in its fullest sense. I would rather my nation fail, be defeated, and declare myself an enemy to it, rather than see what is going on continue because of its utter wrongness.
    I have dealt with TS/SCI information during a large part of my career and I can tell you it looks much different (much less nefarious) from the inside. I know we share a number of core ways of seeing the world and I think you would also temper your view of things if offered different perspectives. You have my # and email if you want to have a conversation about the nature and necessity of classified information(not actual classified of course). Feel free to call as I type painfully slow :)
    Jason

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