The Snowden Principle

John Cusack, actor, filmmaker, and board member of journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation, on the ethics of civil disobedience in whistleblowing.

At the heart of Edward Snowden's decision to expose the NSA's massive phone and Internet spying programs was a fundamental belief in the people's right-to-know. "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," he said in an interview with the Guardian.

From the State's point of view, he's committed a crime. From his point of view, and the view of many others, he has sacrificed for the greater good because he knows people have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. And legal, or not, he saw what the government was doing as a crime against the people and our rights.

For the sake of argument, this should be called The Snowden Principle.

When The Snowden Principle is invoked and revelations of this magnitude are revealed; it is always met with predictable establishment blowback from the red and blue elites of state power. Those in charge are prone to hysteria and engage in character assassination, as are many in the establishment press that have been co-opted by government access . When The Snowden Principle is evoked the fix is always in and instead of looking at the wrongdoing exposed, they parrot the government position no matter what the facts

The Snowden Principle just cannot be tolerated...

Even mental illness is pondered as a possible reason that these pariahs would insist on the public's right to know at the highest personal costs to their lives and the destruction of their good names. The public's right to know---This is the treason. The utter corruption, the crime.

But as law professor Jonathan Turley reminds us, a lie told by everyone is not the truth. "The Republican and Democratic parties have achieved a bipartisan purpose in uniting against the public's need to know about massive surveillance programs and the need to redefine privacy in a more surveillance friendly image," he wrote recently.

We can watch as The Snowden Principle is predictably followed in the reaction from many of the fourth estate - who serve at the pleasure of the king.

Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC suggests that Glenn Greenwald's coverage was "misleading" and said he was too "close to the story." Snowden was no whistleblower, and Glenn was no journalist she suggests.

Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker, calls Snowden "a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison."

Another journalist, Willard Foxton, asserted that Glenn Greenwald amounted to the leader of a "creepy cult."

David Brooks of the New York Times accuses Snowden- not the Gov--of betraying everything from the Constitution to all American privacy ...

Michael Grunwald of TIME seems to suggest that that if you are against the NSA spying program you want to make America less safe.

Then there's Richard Cohen at the Washington Post, who as Gawker points out, almost seems to be arguing that a journalist's job is to keep government secrets not actually report on them.

The Snowden Principle makes for some tortured logic.

The government's reaction has been even worse. Senators have called Snowden a "traitor," the authorities claim they're going to treat his case as espionage. Rep. Peter King outrageously called for the prosecution of Glenn Greenwald for exercising his basic First Amendment rights. Attacks like this are precisely the reason I joined the Freedom of the Press Foundation board (where Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras also serve as board members)

As Chris Hedges rightly pointed out, this cuts to the heart of one of the most important questions in a democracy: will we have an independent free press that reports on government crimes and serves the public's right to know?

It cannot be criminal to report a crime or an abuse of power. Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder Daniel Ellsberg argues that Snowden's leaks could be a tipping point in America. This week he wrote "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material," including his own leak of the Pentagon Papers.

The Snowden Principle, and that fire that inspired him to take unimaginable risks, is fundamentally about fostering an informed and engaged public. The Constitution embraces that idea. Mr. Snowden says his motivation was to expose crimes -spark a debate, and let the public know of secret policies he could not in good conscience ignore - whether you agree with his tactics or not, that debate has begun. Now, we are faced with a choice, we can embrace the debate or we can try to shut the debate down and maintain the status quo.

If these policies are just, then debate them in sunlight. If we believe the debate for transparency is worth having we need to demand it. Snowden said it well, "You can't wait around for someone else to act."

Within hours of the NSA's leaks, a massive coalition of groups came together to plan an international campaign to oppose and fix the NSA spying regime. You can join them here - I already did. The groups span across the political spectrum, from Dick Armey's FreedomWorks to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and longtime civil rights groups like ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press.

As more people find out about these abuses, the outrage mounts and the debate expands. Many in the mainstream media have shown that the public can't count on them to stand up to internal pressure when The Snowden Principle is evoked to serve the national interest, and protect our core fundamental rights.

The questions The Snowden Principle raises when evoked will not go away....How long do they expect rational people to accept using the word "terror" to justify and excuse ever expanding executive and state power ? Why are so many in our government and press and intellectual class so afraid of an informed public? Why are they so afraid of a Free Press and the people's right to know?

It's the government's obligation to keep us safe while protecting our constitution . To suggest it's one or the other is simply wrong.

Professor Turley issues us a dire warning:

"In his press conference, Obama repeated the siren call of all authoritarian figures throughout history: while these powers are great, our motives are benign. So there you have it. The government is promising to better protect you if you just surrender this last measure of privacy. Perhaps it is time. After all, it was Benjamin Franklin who warned that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

See what's happened already in the short time only because the PRISM program was made public, here.

[This essay was originally published at the Huffington Post.]

Published 10:23 am Mon, Jun 17, 2013

About the Author

Makes films; Board member, Freedom of the Press Foundation

71 Responses to “The Snowden Principle”

  1. hiroantogonist says:

    Fantastic!  Thank you John, for an unflinching analysis that is driven by logic and reason.  The mainstream media has really shown where it’s interests are by it’s obvious lack of coverage.  It’s a brave new world, and not speaking out against injustice is no longer an option.  It’s our country, with a great constitution and we can be better and demand better from our elected officials.

    • Shibi_SF says:

      “The Snowden Principle makes for some tortured logic.”  Yes, yes it does. 

      I agree with you hiroantagonist.   And I, too, send a Thank You, to John Cusack for elucidating Mr. Snowden’s situation and the principles we so often take for granted until it’s (nearly) too late.

  2. nachoproblem says:

    You can call it the “Snowden Principle” for the sake of argument if you like, but it bears pointing out that once upon a time this thing was called “civil disobedience,” and yes it is the same thing. That people speak of it as if it were a recent invention might have something to do with why the reactions, and the way the establishment is allowed to handle it, haven’t changed very much in all the time since civil disobedience really was invented.

    • Mark Dow says:

      My favorite early example of civil disobedience is Joseph Palmer’s 1830 refusal to leave jail for more than a year, precipitated by defense of his awesome beard. They had to carry him out on a chair. Later he was a pal of H.D. Thoreau, who’s eloquent essay popularized the term.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Palmer_(communard)
      http://books.google.com/?id=MYzCUqW_JOkC&pg=PA95&

    • ehues says:

      For it to be civil disobedience, wouldn’t Snowden have to voluntarily go to jail?

      I thought the point of CD was to show the unfairness of a law by publicly suffering the consequences.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Oh, do please lead by example.

        • ehues says:

          Gandhi’s peeps did a lot more than submit themselves to arrest:

          Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_March

          I’m not suggesting that Snowden’s actions are any less valuable because he fled, and I’m not suggesting that he should have stayed in the U.S. to face government persecution/prosecution. His actions are laudable.

          There’s a lot more to civil disobedience than breaking laws. It’s a calculated action that is usually part of a larger campaign. There doesn’t seem to be a coordinated campaign for Snowden to participate in, which will make things harder for him and the movement to end illegal wiretaps. 

          • nachoproblem says:

            According to Henry David Thoreau, who coined the term, “civil disobedience” refers to the action of an individual with regards to a state or society. Coordination with anybody else is an entirely different issue.

      • AnthonyC says:

        “Publicly”

        This is rather more difficult in an age where rather than writing letters from jail, some of the accused are kept in solitary confinement for extended periods.

      • Roman Berry says:

         Should the founders and leaders of the American Revolution have all turned themselves into the King’s army and authorities? No, civil disobedience does not require one to voluntarily give themselves over to the power they oppose. It merely requires that they take action to disobey unjust laws and edicts.  (An online example would be the work of Anonymous in the Stubenville rape case.)

        • How come none of the News reporter address this as Civil disobedience ? All they say is he is a traitor, but isn’t a traitor., one who pretends to be for our country and then turns on us. Like Fast & furious, IRS, Bengazi ,(However you spell it, exc.. President Washington was in the British Army, but turned to the colonial army, when he say how unjust their government had been.

          • nachoproblem says:

            That was my point. If people don’t remember what civil disobedience is or what it means, they won’t be able to understand how he’s more than just a traitor. John Cusack understands of course, I just wish he would use the term because it shows the link to how it has happened in the past.

      • Sekino says:

        Living in exile as a fugitive and being indefinitely separated from friends and family isn’t ‘suffering consequences’?

      • teapot says:

        I thought the basic principle of civil disobedience is best explained by the lyrics of RATM’s 1996 hit Bulls on Parade..

        (Fuck you I wont do what ya tell me)

        By that measure he’s in.

        • nachoproblem says:

          That’s “Killing in the Name.”

          But yeah.

        • Kimmo says:

          Irony benchmark: the radio edit, featuring the line, “—- you, I won’t do what ya tell me”

          • teapot says:

            Dude… Ben Goldacre can go eat a steaming pile of misinformation. There is far more peer reviewed evidence suggesting that helmets are a benefit than suggesting they are not. Why Goldacre has decided to pick on helmets is a mystery to me… seems like he’s just chosen a subject that seems to piss people off (as evidenced by your desire to sue it as an example). I had no opinion on this until, you guesses it, someone in BB comments linked to a TED talk on the subject and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. Suffice it to say the conclusion of this study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine is pretty unambiguous:

            http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm198905253202101

            We conclude that bicycle safety helmets are highly effective in preventing head injury. Helmets are particularly important for children, since they suffer the majority of serious head injuries from bicycling accidents.

            Itsumushi and I had a bit of back and forth that pretty much covers this conversation. The conclusion was: helmets most certainly reduce your risk of getting a sever brain injury as a result of a bike accident but whether it’s appropriate to legislate their use is very doubtful.
            http://boingboing.net/2012/05/09/finlands-cyclist-of-the.html#comment-524899758

      • nachoproblem says:

        I don’t think so. Civil disobedience disobedience requires disobedience, but I don’t see where it requires you to be punished. Other wise it would be called martyrdom, normally.

        • ehues says:

          If it only requires disobedience what separates civil disobedience from breaking the law? 

          The usual case studies of civil disobedience (civil rights in the U.S., independence in India) have a large protest movement around the crime – there are folks planning it, and there are public faces of the movement (MLK/Gandhi) who can plead the protester’s case. In those two cases, the laws broken were calculated to show the injustice of the current system and get the rest of the population on the protesters’ side. When the government overreacted and violently attacked the protesters, that pushed the public opinion further in their favour. 

          Fleeing to HK makes sense for Snowden. The treatment of Bradley Manning shows that the U.S. public doesn’t seem to care about its whistleblowers, and is willing to let them rot in jail. 

          • Daniel says:

            Interestingly, fleeing probably kept the issue in the spotlight even more, making the demonstration more effective. Surrendering would have given the press and government more opportunity to sweep it under the rug.

          • nachoproblem says:

            It’s addressed in the essay “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. Also Cusack’s article. Please read up.

            Ghandi is not the definition of civil disobedience. Ghandi is Ghandi.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            That would be Gandhi.

          • Kimmo says:

            What separates civil disobedience from breaking the law?

            Short answer: it’s civil disobedience if you could see yourself doing it in front of police and press to make a point.

            Eg. I’d be happy to ride my bike without a helmet in front of cops and journalists, and burn the on-the-spot fine in front of the cop’s face. I would totally wipe my arse on it instead if that didn’t constitute going a bit far.

          • teapot says:

            The law is absurd from a libertarian perspective, but the risk is not negligible. You should wear a helmet dude. Seatbelts/Helmets: no one thinks they’re needed except the people they have saved.

          • Kimmo says:

            @boingboing-b5af41b269f7d4efc530e7a95cba9750:disqus : Ben Goldacre disagrees.

            Standing over all this methodological complexity is a layer of politics, culture, and psychology. Supporters of helmets often tell vivid stories about someone they knew, or heard of, who was apparently saved from severe head injury by a helmet. Risks and benefits may be exaggerated or discounted depending on the emotional response to the idea of a helmet. For others, this is an explicitly political matter, where an emphasis on helmets reflects a seductively individualistic approach to risk management (or even “victim blaming”) while the real gains lie elsewhere. It is certainly true that in many countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, cyclists have low injury rates, even though rates of cycling are high and almost no cyclists wear helmets. This seems to be achieved through interventions such as good infrastructure; stronger legislation to protect cyclists; and a culture of cycling as a popular, routine, non-sporty, non-risky behaviour.

            In any case, the current uncertainty about any benefit from helmet wearing or promotion is unlikely to be substantially reduced by further research. Equally, we can be certain that helmets will continue to be debated, and at length. The enduring popularity of helmets as a proposed major intervention for increased road safety may therefore lie not with their direct benefits—which seem too modest to capture compared with other strategies—but more with the cultural, psychological, and political aspects of popular debate around risk.

            Emphasis mine; …is too negligible.

    • Thomas Hilton says:

      I disagree with the assertion that Snowden is exhibiting civil disobedience.  Civil disobedience is not obeying a law that one perceives to be unjust or harmful.  The laws Snowden broke are both just and protective.  Snowden is a whistle blower, and that involves breaking a just and protective law because the public is unaware of activities that morally and legally appear to be unjust or harmful.  The problem is that, as Mr. Cusak pointed out, our government reacts to whistle blowing rather than responds to it.  The Whistle Blower Protection Act of 1982, which all federal employees are required to learn about, is a hollow act that assuages the public (effectively, if you listen to the press) that there is a lawful way to expose government lies and corruption.  Not yet, there isn’t.  At best one can safely expose fibs and boo-boos.  If one were to look at the history of how whistle bowers are treated, before and after the Act, one would observe that few who elevate problems ever escape job loss or worse.  Only the naive and inexperienced blow whistles because, as older feds have learned, the person to whom you are pointing out wrong doing might be the very person behind it.  Alternatively, they may be savvy enough to recognize that somebody one or two levels above them probably is, and thus those trying to elevate a wrong-doing complaint might be treated as harshly as the source. 

      Compare Snowden to Private Manning.  One alerted the public to something fishy; the other recklessly shotgunned secrets that were not unjust or harmful, and that surely resulted in fatal risk to US agents.  The movie Zero Dark Thirity, despite its many inaccuracies, made it clear that terrorists are well aware of the vulnerability of mobile phones and internet communications.  We the people just did not know that we too were vulnerable to government snooping.  Many people are justifiably worried that assurances from people like General Hayden (a true gentleman and a scholar), who is the architect of the infrastructure Snowden blabbed about, cannot protect the citizenry from lower-level loose cannons whose access to these data could be used in unjust and harmful ways.  To paraphrase Seth Meyers of  Saturday Night Live; REALLY? On the heels of the IRS scandal, REALLY?

  3. Cowicide says:

    I’m happy to see stopwatching.us has grown to over 200,000 signatures so far and thank you for linking to it.

    https://optin.stopwatching.us/

    Those quotes from the media really does help to show their hands.

    John, has anyone within the mass media asked to interview you about Snowden yet?

    • EH says:

      Call it EH’s Law: The more impervious an issue is to democracy the sooner someone will post a petition link.

      • Cowicide says:

        Are you trying to say petitions don’t help? Not sure I’m understanding your point.

        • EH says:

          Yes. Well, I’m not saying it, but I do imply it and you’d be right to infer it.

          • Cowicide says:

            Naysayers keep saying (ad nauseam) that petitions don’t work even though they very often do. Maybe you’re just not very adept at quantifying results from marketing?

            Petitions alone don’t magically defeat things, but they’re certainly an important tool (among others) to help draw attention to issues. Very often, mass media will cover large petitions and that brings mass exposure and real action.

            Why do you think corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars to spread their messages? Because it works. Petitions work very much the same way to spread a message, sway public opinion and promote actions that change things.

            I suppose it’s easier to naysay, but that’s intellectually lazy.

            Just some links and facts to chew on:

            http://www.change.org/victories

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

            http://www.care2.com/causes/roxana-saberi-is-free.html

            http://www.nber.org/papers/w14941

            http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/16tu47/one_year_ago_today_you_help_us_beat_sopa_thanks/

            http://www.care2.com/causes/25-000-care2-members-help-secure-presidents-signature-on-hate-crimes-bill.html

            http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/30/4287176/white-house-responds-to-anti-cispa-petition-more-privacy

          • Cynical says:

            I used to work for the UK civil service, and a large part of my job was answering letters and petitions. I can tell you now that, in the UK at least, petitions have very little impact by themselves, especially when handed in by concerned citizens. It will go to the relevant policy official once, who will be annoyed at having to answer the petition with a statement explaining current government policy, and then back to the disinterested underpaid clerk to be signed off, all without ever going anywhere near a minister. Any future petitions on the same issue won’t even make it as far as the policy official; they will just be replied to with a copy of the previous letter.

            If you want to make them have an impact, make sure they are specifically worded so as to be unanswerable with a standard reply, and submit them to your local MP first (making sure that the issues are technical enough that it will need to be forwarded on to the relevant Department and not just answered by the local MPs private secretaries), because protocol dictates that only letters from other MPs require a minister’s signature.

            It’s stupid, backwards and undemocratic, yes, but in general I believe that petitions are actively harmful; they’re woefully inefficient and the only real effect they tend to have is to deter genuine engagement because the signees believe they have “done their part” in bringing an issue to the attention of the government, regardless of whether or not anybody with any power to make decisions ever sees the thing.

          • Cowicide says:

            I believe that petitions are actively harmful … deter genuine engagement because the signees believe they have “done their part”

            Harmful? That’s a ridiculous and misinformed statement.

            An independent study showed that individuals who signed online petitions associated with nonprofits were 7 times more likely to later donate to organizations than those who didn’t sign petitions.

            In other words, they took action beyond signing the petition and didn’t stop there because they felt they’d already “done their part”. On the other hand, people who don’t bother with petitions also often don’t bother doing anything else, either.

            What’s truly harmful is spreading untruths about petitions and discouraging the public from utilizing this important tool.

            Also, please take a look at my links that show the effectiveness of petitions as well. You must have ignored them before you responded to me?

            uninterested, underpaid clerk to be signed off, all without ever going anywhere near a minister

            If the petitions were done correctly, they garnered media exposure as they grew in size. It sounds like in your anecdotal situation, you were exposed to something quite different.

            The point of those petitions shouldn’t have been to simply reach the minsters’ desks. The point should’ve also been to garner a healthy amount of signatures and media exposure first. People that work for politicians stay very connected to TV news and react to mass media (just as many others do). Showing consensus shows potential votes for the next election. Politicians often react positively to such things.

            I used to work for the UK civil service, and a large part of my job was answering letters and petitions. I can tell you now that, in the UK at least, petitions have very little impact by themselves

            You should probably go back and read my post. Petitions have been proven to work and your anecdotal evidence means nothing against the solid evidence to the contrary.

            As you should have already read in my post you’re responding to, I’m well aware that not all petitions work, but many do. And, on that note, I’d like you to provide some examples (as I’ve done in my previous post) of petitions you’re referencing to back up your assertions. I’m sure they were poor examples if they were ineffective.

            If you read my post you’ll clearly see where I showed that petitions in and by themselves don’t do anything; It’s the media attention and exposure they generate that leads to action and change. If you’re not adept at quantifying such things, you’re probably not qualified to assess this value.

            Like I said, large petitions garner media exposure. The same exposure that corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars on to spread their messages as well… because it works.

  4. Randy Walters says:

    To those who leap to condemn Snowden for traveling to Hong Kong: may I suggest that the commission of a legitimate act of civil disobedience does not obligate one to offer oneself up for rendition, torture or worse.

    • davebaxter says:

      Exactly.  The argument that “Snowden is no hero” (as if he even has to BE “a hero” in order for his actions to be as significant as they have been) unless he accepts “the consequences” (which everyone knows are unjust and disproportionate to the “crime”) is like expecting the samurai to fall on his sword, thanks for saving us but you’ve dishonored yourself in the process don’cha know.  It makes for great myth, fiction, literature, and a fairy tale heroic ideal, but when I was young I would watch samurai movies and this element of one culture’s concept of honor was so utterly alien to me as an American.  You’d even see stories of WWII era generals who committed ritual suicide.  It made me feel so lucky to live in a country that never demanded any such thing of it’s people.  Heh.  So much for that….

      More to the point, we should expect our citizens to accept proper consequences when we can finally be arsed to have a justice system that is reliably just.  Not just occasionally, almost by accident, when the right judge happens to land a specific case and gets it in her/his mind to (gasp!) buck the stupid laws we’ve allowed to be laid down and the horrible precedents of cases past.

      • Gulliver says:

        There is an unfortunate drive in society to lionize or demonize the messenger and ignore the message. Edward Snowden isn’t asking to be a hero. He’s asking that you don’t make his sacrifice in vain. Character assassins will always focus on the messenger, replacing him or her with a strawman. Don’t fall for it. Don’t allow the discussion to be derailed from the abuse of power.

        • Kimmo says:

          There is an unfortunate drive in society to lionize or demonize the messenger and ignore the message.

          This is always going to be the case as long as there is a sufficient fraction of the populace who are more easily reached with soundbites than relevance. IMO one of the reasons the good guys (if any exist) in government find it so tough is that base, lowest-common-denominator manipulation just gets so much more traction than anything else. Dumbing it down and fudging it is an obvious temptation; just look at Mike Moore, or maybe Al Gore.

          Don’t allow the discussion to be derailed from the abuse of power.

          That’s a non sequitur, saying that here. The BB readership aren’t the ones who need to be told that.

          And I’m afraid the ones who do need to hear it just won’t give a shit. If you ask me, before any mass shit-giving can occur, several decades’ worth of disenfranchisement needs reversing.

          By which, I mean the deliberate dumbing-down of vast swathes of the populace by douchebag politician scum on the one side and unspeakably vile corporate elites on the other, scratching each other’s backs, laughing all the way to the banksters’. Civic disengagement, brought to you by 20th Century Fox. Wash it down with an ice-cold Coke out of your coal-powered fridge.

    • teapot says:

      Dude… I appreciate and support your project, but a few things:
      1) Links are images? Think of the Googlejuice you’re missing out on.
      2) Should a server for a site like this really be located in the US? I don’t imagine you’ll get too much legal resistance from “websitewelcome dot com” when the feds come asking for email records.

      • Randy Walters says:

        I do see your point… the site’s a quick and dirty low-tech kludge right now, but I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and get it up and running with the limited time I have. All the Alt tags are filled out, though, so bots do see all the link data.

        I just finished the full Adobe CC download, and plan to use their new CSS tools to spiff up the code to join the current century. As far as the server goes… yes, my host is based in the USA… I’m playing the hand I’m dealt, at least for the time being. If traffic picks up, it will make sense to look for something a little more bulletproof.

  5. JohnFrodo says:

    I hope that some day mothers tell their children to reflect upon a dilema by asking “what would Edward do?”
    http://thinkingaboot.blogspot.ca/2013/06/nsa-and-total-awareness-syndrome.html

  6. John Galt says:

    When I took the oath it was to the document, and its principles, not the federal government. Any government agent or contractor, who in good faith, believe the actions the government it taking are in conflict with that are duty bound to act. Given the Feds previous actions against whistle blowers Snowdens actions are reasonable. 

    Everyone bound by that oath should put the document before their nondisclosure agreements with the feds. Any contract, non disclosure agreements, with the NSA as an employee would be unenforceable when abiding by it allows the feds to commit crime and would have made Snowden an accomplice in the NSA’s crimes. If I had seen behavior like Snowden did I would hope that I would’ve had his courage.

  7. crenquis says:

    People laughed when I said that Dan Quayle was a visionary…

    I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy – but that could change.
      — Dan Quayle

  8. Michael Davis says:

    Damn.  And for decades I thought you were just some intellectual lightweight who was brilliant at playing me and a million guys like  me in films.  It was a terrible assumption, and I apologize profusely, dude.

  9. The Gray Adder says:

     If divulging classified information can be justified by declaring, “I personally believe it’s wrong,” just about anything else, to include assassination of public officials or even acts of terrorism, can also be justified on that basis.  In other words, if you’re going to break the law – and make no mistake, Edward Snowden broke the law – you had better be right enough to convince a large majority of your countrymen that you’re right.

    I remain unconvinced that Mr. Snowden has satisfied this requirement.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      If divulging classified information can be justified by declaring, “I personally believe it’s wrong,” just about anything else, to include assassination of public officials or even acts of terrorism, can also be justified on that basis.

      False equivalency.

    • Phil Kolar says:

      A “large majority of your countrymen” supported slavery,Hitler and a great number of other things which we see differently today because a few people had the courage to step up and start the debate.This isn’t a beauty contest.You have a right to your opinion and I have a right to mine…but silencing the debate is cowardice.

      • teapot says:

        Slavery I’ll give you, but Hitler?

        • nachoproblem says:

          It’s hard to tell historically whether Hitler had a genuine majority of support, or just a noisy, violent minority who terrified the shit out of anyone else to the point where they pretended to concur.

          Either way, the majority allowed him to seize “legitimate” offices, and anybody who opposed him would still have been totally justified.

          • teapot says:

            Phil was talking about Americans whom I seriously doubt had many positive vibes towards Hitler or Germany in general.

          • nachoproblem says:

            I don’t think he was talking about American supporting Hitler though. It sounded to me like he was comparing the support of Hitler in Germany to the support of slavery in America. I thought his point was about going against the majority in your country, whatever it may be.

            I could be wrong, but that would be pretty bizarre if he was talking about Americans supporting Hitler.

          • Ryan_T_H says:

            It’s very, very hard to talk about pre-WWII views about Hitler/Germany/Nazis from a modern perspective. We know things that people of that time simply didn’t and have completely internalized assumptions that didn’t even exist then.

            The death camps were still in the future, any even after the war broke out they were not really publicly accepted as fact until the pictures and stories came home with the troops that liberated them.

            Leading up to the war, almost all the public discussion and knowledge of the Nazis was their foreign and economic policy. And if there was a crazy level of antisemitism thrown in, well, that was basically an internal matter. And besides, compared to modern standards the entire world was extremely antisemitic. Modern attitudes towards Jews are almost entirely a response to WWII. Pre-WWII I doubt you could find a single country that didn’t turn away Jewish refugees fleeing Germany.

            So from an economic perspective, it would have been easy to round up all sorts of people who were fans of Nazi Germany before the war. After all, they were responsible for a massive ecenomic recovery in Germany, mostly by applying policies supported by many American industrialists. And in the days before easy(er) communication that’s 90% of what most people would know about the Nazis.

            Just imagine how popular a Greek leader would become in certain circles if over the next couple years they not only turned around Greece, but made it a regional economic powerhouse. Oh, and did so by following every piece of austerity and IMF pushed right wing advice out there. They could use a kitten to beat a puppy to death on live TV every evening and a significant number of people would sing their praises.

          • teapot says:

             @Ryan_T_H:disqus I’m not claiming some Americans didn’t support Hitler (which was the topic, not the Nazis), but I still stand by my doubts that a “large majority” (what’s that anyway.. 70-80%?) of Americans supported Hitler.

            I’d contend that a “large majority” of Americans didn’t give a fuck what was happening in Europe.

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      There seems to be widespread approval of his actions throughout the political spectrum, both inside and outside the country, as well as a consensus that the powers being used are excessive. There is almost no example of civil disobedience that would have received approval by a clear majority at the time, but this seems to come as close as any. As long as people concentrate on the legality of the leak rather than what is being leaked, there never will be majority approval of this kind of action. Ultimately, he is going pretty close to what you’re asking by publicly identifying himself and subjecting himself to a legal process where he has at least some chance of a fair trial. Say what you want about his choice of surfacing in Hong Kong, but it’s a fairly democratic part of one of the only countries on Earth that won’t be intimidated into complying with the wishes of the US Government.

      From what I can tell, both Snowden and Manning are examples of more than just some private conviction vs. the law; both saw abuse of power by the government that was being systematically covered up. No avenues were being given for democratizing the process and those involved were expected to lie when asked about it. Breaking the law was the only way this could be known to the public. The material being leaked was selected to remove the chance that people would be placed in danger, and every effort was made to make this about a public debate rather than some cheap publicity stunt. The American Government was set up with the assumption that it was liable to abuse its powers; people like Snowden are necessary to ensure that this doesn’t happen with impunity.

    • teapot says:

      I remain unconvinced that Mr. Snowden has satisfied this requirement.

      Probably has more to do with your politics than anything else because those who are informed on the subject universally disagree with you.

  10. Another Kevin says:

    Human rights are an idea that has outlived its usefulness. You have no rights when you’re dead. If the government isn’t free to take any action it deems proper to protect us, the terrorists will kill us all, and what will the quaint idea of rights mean then?

    (And more than half of our society believes the above.)

    Sorry. Doesn’t work. Poe’s Law gets you every time. But maybe now the NSA, as well as the rest of you, won’t know where I stand on the issue.

  11. You have to ask how did the Talban knew about our Seal team six on that chopper that was shot down, why didn’t we save that doctor that testified to the identify Osama Bin laden, . We know nothing about the truth, but are informed to trust our Government.

  12. mhchaos says:

    Snowden is a patriot.

    The elected “reps” are traitors.

  13. Jesse Markham says:

    I think you meant to say *invoke* rather than *evoke* near the end there but no matter. :D

  14. Robert Rully says:

    respectfully disagree. he knowingly and willingly took an oath which he knowingly and willingly violated.

    • Kimmo says:

      Balderdash, my good man.

      His oath to the Constitution remains unviolated. His non-disclosure contract is null and void because it required him to cover up Constitutional violations.

      His fealty to his boss < his fealty to the taxpayers.

  15. athorn says:

    http://www.whistleblowers.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=34&Itemid=63
    Whistleblowers who genuinely believe their employer is breaking the law, harming the public or acting in an unethical manner should be protected by our 2nd amendment.  Commitment to our constitution and our fellowman should outweigh a commitment to a third party that we believe has violated our trust..  

  16. Kimmo says:

    Nice one, John.

    Seems like you banged it out in a hurry, but I think the odd typo kind of adds to it in a way; evokes a picture of you boiling over and on a roll.

    Greenwald’s speech was great; he’s a fine writer (I think it’s off the cuff)  and a very clear speaker, but I for one would’ve preferred to see more anger… I think I can see an appropriate quantity in your words : )

    BTW, mad props to your mum for her work on Shameless. Great stuff : D

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