Ed Snowden has been demonised by some on the right as a “traitor“. Those on the right don’t as a rule put their trust in governments and Snowden is a patriotic, freedom loving libertarian, not a Russian or Chinese dupe, as some conservatives seem to believe. (He even donated $250 to Ron Paul’s election campaign.) His motivation was ideological and principled – it has cost him his personal freedom and his career. People who Guido would normally expect to side with the cause of liberty have focused on the medium not the message – because it was Alan Rusbridger’s Guardian that broke the story they have got their backs up. Whatever right-minded people think of the Guardian, it was disgraceful to hear Rusbridger’s patriotism questioned by a Select Committee over him publishing the Snowden story.
Ed Snowden was as the New York Times argued yesterday clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on the blanket intelligence-gathering was to “expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work“, revealing what his bosses covered-up and lied to Congress about. Beyond the mass collection of phone and internet data Snowden revealed:
- The NSA (aided and abetted by GCHQ) broke the law, and exceeded their authority, thousands of times per year.
- The NSA (aided and abetted by GCHQ) broke into the communications links of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other internet giants, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts. Many of those companies are now, thankfully, scrambling to install systems that the NSA cannot yet penetrate.
- The NSA systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the internet, making it impossible to know if sensitive banking or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust. Ironically this opened back doors that could also be used by hostile intelligence agencies.
- His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March.
- The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rebuked the N.S.A. for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance practices, according to a ruling made public because of the Snowden documents. One of the practices violated the Constitution, according to the chief judge of the court.
- A federal judge ruled earlier this month that the phone-records-collection programme probably violates the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. He called the programme “almost Orwellian” and said there was no evidence that it stopped any imminent act of terror.
When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. Rick Ledgett, who leads the NSA’s task force on the Snowden leaks, told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Snowden halted any additional leaks. President Obama should do just that, bring Snowden home. He is a hero.
Hat-tip: New York Times