Edward Snowden has been a complicated figure in American politics. After fleeing the United States in 2013 to leak thousands of classified government files, America has been faced with an ongoing debate about the line between security and freedom. Do the things Snowden revealed violate the laws under the Constitution?
When drafting the Constitution, our founders couldn’t have anticipated the world would become so interconnected and that technology would literally have our entire lives digitized. The founders also never anticipated how strong the terrorist threat would become, and how skilled their destructive actions would become as the world became more advanced.
Does this matter, though?
Some would say that our security requires the understanding that our digital world is going to be monitored to a degree by the intelligence community and if you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. We should trust our government. But because Snowden sounded the alarm and leaked a great deal of information, he is a traitor.
Donald Trump, the probable Republican Party presidential nominee, has stated “I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?”
Similarly, front-runner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination Hillary Clinton has voiced her belief that Snowden broke the law and thus should be prosecuted for it.
Both candidates subscribe to the notion that security requires the negation of liberties and exposing the Orwellian expansion of government is a criminal act. The idea is that the government is here to protect you and does no wrong.
But is this the American way?
There’s an argument that Snowden should have tried to work through internal channels to address his concerns and by going public, he jeopardized American interests abroad. This is a position taken by the Obama Administration and many government leaders, as well. It’s also been recently refuted by 800+ documents acquired by Vice News through Freedom of Information Act requests.
What Snowden did disclose was a great deal about how the federal government is spying on innocent citizens and storing their data. PRISM is the codename of a program that stores data from major companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Documents provided by Snowden show that it is the largest source of raw intelligence used by the NSA, specifically 91% of internet traffic acquired.
Other programs include XKeyscore, which is an analytical tool that gives the user the ability to acquire anything stored on the Internet. Snowden described the tool as being able to easily wiretap anyone on the planet.
Other revelations include the storage of e-mail and instant messenger lists and communications, as well as the mapping of location data acquired from mobile devices. NSA agents would also spy on love interests and snoop on individuals they deemed a risk in order to discredit them.
What happened to constitutional due process of law?
The idea that Edward Snowden is a traitor while those at the National Security Agency breaking our laws are not, seems quite unamerican. It is possible to keep America safe while protecting the freedoms and liberties that make this country great. We have a Constitution in this country for a reason and it isn’t designed to be selectively enforced. The Snowden revelations show us that it is being enforced only partially.
Which is more traitorous? Violating the Constitution and covering it up, or exposing the coverup of the Constitution being violated?