My essay for the 4th of July: "The People" are the largest branch
of United States government, bigger than the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judiciary Branches. My assessment of Snowden's Choice:
(When in the course of human events
This began as a comment to this thread which slowly devolved into whether Snowden is an actual U.S. traitor: https://plus.google.com/u/1/109738895491101466486/posts/WkXhv1P45S1
Thanks +Hek Waves
for opening up this topic for discussion, and for recapping it at it’s almost end. Almost end because I, exercising my First Amendment rights given me by my Country, have a logic test I would like people to go through below. But it's long, fair warning, and may not hold the interest of readers for its entire length.Here we are on the day before the USA celebrates its birthday on July 4th. Perfect timing to have this discussion
One of the things I had found ironic in +Timothy Collins
's comments was this odd duality:: On the issue of “what actual harm has been done”
, in Timothy’s mind, Snowden has given China, Russia, Iran, North Korea knowledge of how the USA was using their data collecting on foreigners… as though those countries never imagined the US could and would store all phone calls and internet behavior! If they hadn’t already operated from that premise, they are really stupid to the core. But the likelihood of “this is news to us! The nerve of them, collecting our phone and internet data!”
And yet further below, when +Karim Qaiser asks:
“+Timothy Collins they also told people they'd be hacking into Chinese universities or bugging EU buildings?”,
Timothy responds with “The US has been doing that for decades. Every embassy knows it has spy devices planted in it
- that is just factored into the everyday knowledge of what goes on there. Don't act like this is suddenly new to everyone.”
What is the actual leap of new disclosures that on the one hand, “of COURSE we spy on each other, that’s a given everyone operates from” re embassy bugging, yet re: Timothy’s view of the PRISM leaks: “The other countries that very possibly have been the beneficiaries of the secrets divulged by Snowden? You know... China, Russia, Iran, North Korea.... Because all of those countries certainly were thrilled to know exactly how the NSA was using their information” …. ?
Again, disclosure of the NSA’s extensive data collecting practices is NEWS to those countries… but of course “we all know everyone bugs each other and spies on each other”.
One of the things this alleged damage turns on is the extent to which one believes Glenn Greenwald is a credible journalist
. Obviously he’s become tarred and smeared in the US by other media outlets, as standard operating procedure whenever any journalist exposes secret practices that go beyond what the public has ever imagined. I imagine Timothy does not find Glenn Greenwald credible, as likely considers him a co-conspirator, just as the light-weight David Gregory surmised.
But when you listen to all of Greenwalds interviews — and he’s given many in depth interviews — what he says is this: Snowden provided Greenwald, and the Washington Post, and one third publication, all of these documents. But his instructions to them was that they
should determine what should and should not be published, and that he specifically does not want to harm the USA’s security. Every indication is that this is exactly what is going on. Greenwald, and separately the Washington Post, are scouring the documents, and making filtered judgments
about what TO and NOT TO publish.
It’s already been made clear in discussions all over the world that if Snowden intended to sell secrets and aid and abet foreign nations, he was a complete idiot to go to these media sources. And that should be self-evident. You can accuse Snowden of many things, but for anyone to believe he is stupid
, they have faulty wiring. Thus, if he chose to disclose to the 3 news publications all of this information, it severely undercuts any assertions of motives that he was looking to gain anything monetarily, or looking to sell spy info to the US’s enemies.
So, this is why I say this issue turns on whether or not you believe Glenn Greenwald is credible as a journalist, and whether or not he is a principled journalist or not. He states again and again that Snowden specifically came to journalists, not a tabloid or to some other nation.The other thing the Snowden case turns on is: “Is it possible that he was a conscientious objector to these practices of “spying on every single AMERICAN citizen
", and, exactly as NSA former agent Binney says “He learned from OUR stories of 7 years they spent trying to work within the government framework, and we failed!”I think this case is complicated, and at the same time somewhat simple, IF you follow a logic path
: He’s a super smart guy, extremely intelligent and technically savvy. He was appalled by the practices that extended the NSA’s surveillance to all US Citizens, as opposed to the NSA’s charter of operating only with foreign threats. Greenwald says he DID try to raise these issues with his Supervisors, and that no one was interested in hearing about it. He already knew the story of Binney etc in getting absolutely nowhere in 7 years by being a formal “USA government whistleblower” — where there is US law (allegedly) protecting whistleblowers, and an actual legal definition of what constitutes whistle-blower, criteria that Snowden meets as articulated by Binney’s attorney in that recent USA Today interview with all of them.
So, is it possible
, given all of the routes already taken, that he, for conscientious reasons, chose to disclose this information to several journalists — not to one but to several, to distribute the judgment on what should and should not be published, and that he made these disclosures with the full knowledge that he was likely to be charged and prosecuted for espionage, just as he saw former NSA Agents being charged with espionage? And so he, possibly, acted out of service to the American people, not to the American government.?
If one says “that is preposterous. I don’t believe it!”, that’s fair, but try to actually punch a hole in the logic path. Where is it illogical
On the contrast, look at every single branch of US Government and how each has become polluted with lobbyists calling the shots, and deep partisan dysfunction, and ask yourself “What if you, as a citizen, believed in, and honored every single precept of what we all learn in gradeschool Civics class, including checks and balances, and that there were times when The People might feel that their very way of American life was threatened, in which case the Constitution says people have the duty to act in pursuit of preserving the system”? What about all that. They aren’t just empty words. In fact the Constitution is VERY clear that specific capabilities and roles are assigned to the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch, but with the proviso that ALL other rights not enumerated belong explicitly to The People. We, the People, are the largest
branch of US Government. Timothy should never forget that.
And over the past ten year, since 9/11, The People have seen law after law passed which decimate the specific enumerated rights assigned exclusively to The People — and not to the 3 branches of Govt — such as the 4th Amendment, a guaranteed right to never be treated with unreasonable Search & Seizure. It’s a hallmark of our criminal law and has been for more than 100 years. And The People have seen all 3 of their branches of government fail to act with the required Checks and Balances to correct
any such breeches of our rights. There was no impeachment of Bush/Cheney et all, when that is a specific remedy given by our Constitution to ensure nobody is above the law, and The People saw their President and executive branch not upholding the Constitution, which is a primary duty they swear on.
Many Americans have forgotten their basic Civics class: that impeachment is merely an assertion that “we think you’ve committed high crimes against our Constitution”, and it is not a fate accompli that those charged with high crimes —— such as creating a pretense for a War, then preemptively invading a country, sending hundreds of thousand Americans to surely get killed or permanently wounded, their lives decimated — and lying to the American people about it over and over and over, while at the same time creating the biggest economic disaster of our lifetimes, by draining our taxed revenue to be allocated to some huge costing farce, without creating a revenue offset for those billions of US dollars? It is not a fate accompli that impeachment = guilty. That is what is so great about our American system. That is a specific remedy provided in writing in our Constitution for correcting high crimes.
But The People watched as, incredulously, Madame Speaker Pelosi refused to take up this matter in the House of Representatives, despite outcry from millions of US citizens, and thus these individuals escaped from any harm or prosecution. Of course the actual trial would have been conducted by the US Senate, which is their specified role as well.
The People watched over and over again where their guaranteed rights were being bulldozed in the name of “National Security”; and Branch 1, the Legislature, sat by and did nothing, but rather they authored and passed these bills; and Branch 2, the Executive branch, did nothing; instead increasing the degree of lawless behavior, and Branch 3, the Judiciary, never prosecuted one single person for not only the failures of 9/11, but also not finding the Patriot Act to be Unconstitutional in the degree to which it authorized the US Government to actually breech the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.
When a citizen, and a smart one at that, has watched all 3 branches of US Govt over and over again, for over a decade, failing to protect his rights, and by contrast only kept increasing the magnitude of breeching the 4th Amendment, and when this citizen watched how the ethical NSA Agents who blew a whistle on this Unconstitutional program which actively began surveilling every single citizen of the United States, missing the mandate of the NSA, got prosecuted rather than rewarded for blowing the whistle, and when he had knowledge of all of this US citizen spying, he thought through his options to conscientiously act on behalf of the biggest branch of US Government, The People:
(a) take it to his supervisors. he says he did and no one was interested.
(b) take it to Congress, but he saw Binney & others tried this, and Congress did absolutely nothing; instead they propsecuted Binney et al,
( c) take it to the Exectuive Branch: but how could he when they are the ones doing the active breeching,
( d) take it to the Department of Justice, and once again knowing that DOJ did not act in the whistleblowing cases brought to their direct attention by 3 loyal former NSA Agents, and in fact they instead prosecuted these people, vs operating under the legal specifications of what a whistleblower is, and how they are mandated to be protected by law,
… and thus asking himself, what else could I do to bring this huge breech of the 4th Amendment to attention of US Government? And in his mind answering the question with “I could take it to The People of the United States and let them deal with it if they see fit to doing so”.
There is not one word I have written thus far in this enormous response, that hails Snowden as a hero. But I, as a part of The People, am outraged by what my Government has been doing in breech of the US Constitution, a body of law which I value tremendously, and seek to preserve.
Is it even possible
that Snowden, too, as a member of The People branch of the US Government, was appalled by what he saw going on behind the backs of the American people, and had huge enormous tugs at his conscience, to weigh his options in this case:
(e) he could keep it all to himself, just STFU about it and do your job unquestioningly, and don’t F*** up your entire life by putting something this enormous on the line. This was a clear choice Snowden had: to STFU.
And is it possible this very logical, smart person, weighed (a), (b), ( c), (d), AND (e) ( therefore maintaining the status quo, ignoring every single pang of conscience, and said to himself: “I cannot just do nothing. I can’t live with this knowledge and do nothing. Every branch of Govt I could bring it to has proven, in all their behaviors, that the egregious violation of our 4th Amendment will not be dealt with, but rather buried” — —
and thus is it even possible
that Snowden felt trapped in his own body, and just felt morally that he has no other acceptable choice but than to (f)
bring it to investigative journalists, asking them
to decide what to publish, and that he was merely supplying them with this huge knowledge base to act on in their own judgments as investigative journalists..?
If that is possible, following this entire logic path
(which is the way software engineers and IT people typically process their encounters with problems) of weighing cost/benefits of a, b, c, d and e, … and if it’s even possible that he could reach this logical conclusion to an enormous dilemma with which he felt he could not live —
— then there must be some kind of possibility
that he acted out of conscience, and realized the enormous price he would pay for doing so. A price that included he would be treated as an outlaw of the United States, his own country. The price he would pay would deny him the very protections he sought to preserve for The People of the United States.
Now. Timothy and others can surely argue, ”No, there’s not even the slightest chance; no way that he weighed (a), (b), ( c), (d) and (e) and ultimately threw his fate with option (f). No way whatsoever this guy could even POSSIBLY do so for conscientious reasons to help protect his fellow People of the United States
And if that is the resulting logic path of various observers including Timothy, then there is a debate about his concluding that option (f) was the best choice he felt he could make.
Again, I am not lionizing Snowden with any single word that I have used here. I’ve merely gone through a decision-tree and presented what I perceived to be his options.
Can I believe
that a guy would risk his entire well-being for the rest of his life, in order to do what he thought of as protecting and defending the United States Constitution?
My answer is YES, I can believe that. Because there are hundreds of thousands of people in our US military who make such sacrifices every single day in which they are put into harm’s way.
So, all I can say is: I believe Snowden acted from the motive of conscience. By doing so, he definitionally more than likely DID
become a traitor to the United States in the eyes of our Department of Justice — who is in charge of prosecuting him. Yes, he did what he did knowing full well that he would be branded a traitor by the US Deprtment of Justice
, and he would have to live with all of those consequences of his actions. But I will bet that if this is the case, that then his conscience told him that although the US Government’s 3 branches would condemn his actions as treasonous, the most important and largest branch of US Government, The People, possibly would not. Maybe the People would, in some complex way, thank him for his “public service” — the words used by William Binney, the same NSA agent who admitted he thought Snowden crossed the line into traitor. He nevertheless viewed his actions, up until a precise point, as a public service to our US Nation.
The People can judge him as to how he acted. And we also can debate whether there was one iota of harm caused by this persons actions.
I appreciate anyone who stuck to the end with this massively long post. If I could have written it shorter, I would have.I am not an attorney. I am a citizen of the USA