First, I remain ambivalent about whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor, or something in between which we have yet to define. Glen Greenwald, the reporter who originally broke the Snowden story for The Guardian, and who continues to release new information, has said, “Literally of all the people that I’ve ever met and now know in the world, Edward Snowden is by far the person most at peace and fulfilled as a human being,” according to Real Clear Politics. This implies that Snowden has no regrets, and continues to believe his actions were not only necessary, but honorable. OK. I guess.
Snowden has also said that not a single person has been harmed by the release of the information taken from the NSA. While there have certainly been no reports of intelligence sources being compromised as a result of his revelations, it must also be said that there rarely are, as intelligence services do not publicize such losses. In the long run, I think it highly likely that Snowden will, someday, be seen as doing a favor for the American public with his actions; though even having said that, I cannot quite bring myself to praise him – yet.
Spying is supposed to be hard work
However, I can certainly do the opposite as regards the actions of the NSA, finding fault with the ways in which they seem to have taken shortcuts with our Liberty in an effort to make their job easier. Much like the use of warrantless searches by police departments across the nation, gathering intelligence on our own citizens has become far too easy, with both intruding regularly on the civil rights of citizens.
Gathering intelligence, or “spying,” is not an easy job but, then again, it’s supposed to be hard. When it comes to protecting the “Homeland” from the possibility of internal threats it should to be particularly difficult, for the very reason that Individual Liberty and Civil Rights will inevitably get in the way of doing so.
The standard justification we often hear, “If you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about,” simply does not justify regular, wholesale intrusion into our lives. It’s a mere canard, an egregious attempt to justify a clear invasion of privacy by heaping the resulting guilt on the victim. It is an argument made by small minds and lazy bureaucracies.
Taking shortcuts with our Liberty is never the proper model for our government to use, even when trying to “protect us.” Why? Because the logical conclusion of such a philosophy has already been shown to have far reaching, devastating effects on liberty, as evidenced by the fascist government of Germany in the 1930s – 1940s, in an effort to “protect the Fatherland” from Jews, Communists, homosexuals, and other “undesirable” elements of society. (Even the names “Department of Homeland Security” and “National Security Agency” contain fascist overtones that make me uneasy.)
I don’t believe anyone would like to see that here, regardless of the justification – or the threat.