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A Note on Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden was the whistle-blower in the recent NSA leaks which revealed the extent to which the United States Federal Government spies on its people.  Now of course, now that Snowden is an enemy of the Federal Government and its cozy band of contractors, the claims against him will be bitter and loud.

First, many in government and media claim that he broke his non-disclosures.  This is true.  But this is exactly why he is a hero.  To tell the truth in an empire of lies, despite the fact that the legal weight stands against him, is the very aspect of this occurrence by which we may label Snowden a courageous man.  It is true that he broke his non-disclosures in the same sense that it is true that, say, a Soviet government worker broke his agreements in exposing the mind-control tactics of the USSR.

Second, many claim that Snowden is responsible for putting the American people in danger with his actions.  On the contrary.  It is the US government and NSA’s actions which put the American people in danger.  Snowden’s actions pursue the goal of protecting, not endangering the citizens of this country.  Institutionalized secret spying is the negation of liberty.  Exposing those spies is a means by which liberty can be again pursued.  No man should be blamed for warning the pedestrian that there is a thief and predator following him along the streets.

Third, many claim that if Congress has a problem with these activities, than it, not the whistle-blowers, is the body which can address them.  These actions have taken place for decades.  Congress has done nothing.  Therefore, for the sake of freedom, it would be a terrible idea to rely on Congress.  Also, Congress itself, aside from being in the pocket of these huge spying enterprises, are not even allowed to seek action nor is it allowed to inform the public of what happens in the intelligence briefings.  Therefore, the very method by which the political hacks all over the government and the media say we should take in order to express our “wants in government” is barred from having any effect whatsoever.

Fourth, many claim that the pro-Snowden advocates are saying that they want government to give up every single piece of information, including the methods and tactics that it uses to track down real terrorists and enemies.  A) Even in this recent exposure of government policy, the most broad information was released so that nothing that actually effects national security was publicized.  B) Of course this assumes that these “real terrorists and enemies” should be considered as such when coupled with the fact that most “security” operations are offensive, not defensive.  C) Theoretically, the information that any government should hold secret is only that which was both acquired justly and is being used directly and honestly in the specific means toward pursuing an individual (not a class of people), who has committed a real crime (that is, harming the life, liberty, and property of another individual), rather the the government-defined crime-due-to-legislation (ie, “drug possession,” “insider trading,” selling raw milk, and minting gold coins).  Since this is the only type of information that a government should hold secret, all other revelations of government secrecy are legitimate and to be praised.

Fifth, I have heard the defense that if we are innocent, what have we to fear of government policies like this?  First, this in no way shows a moral right for a group of powerful men (called government) to spy, eavesdrop, and collect information on others.  So this isn’t really a relevant argument.  But there are two general fears, and thousands of specific fears.  Generally one, the government does not agree with my view of political structure and has, thousands of times in the past, terrorized individuals with views opposing it.  So why should I be okay with the government knowing everything about me even though I have done no wrong?  Therefore this point is that the government defines wrong differently that I (or even the Bible) do.  And “it is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”  Generally two, to be a private citizen by definition is to be in a position where the government knows little if anything about you.  The less private you are, the more control they have.  The more private you are, the less powerful the government is over you.  Specifically, let me just say this one example:  the conservative or Tea Party groups that were recently revealed to have been targeted by the IRS did no wrong either, and yet, they were targeted.  Innocence means nothing to an evil and despicable empire (that is what makes it an empire).

Sixth, as Glenn Greenwald has noted (I can’t find the exact quote, but I know I got the idea from him), the public (government) sphere is to be public and open, that is why it is called the public.  And the private (personal) lives and details and persons are to be kept private, that is why they are private citizens.  The whole point of the fourth amendment, of the bill of rights as a whole, was to clearly announce the fact that if there was anywhere the government might seek to blur these lines, it ought to be bitterly and ruthlessly opposed.  Innocent until proven guilty.

Thanks Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, Ron Paul, all those other truth tellers.  You are courageous.  And you are the heroes of our time.

About C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, where he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to

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  • RA Jameson

    A hero indeed!