How many of us would risk the wrath of the most powerful government on Earth to expose that government’s unlawful activities. Anything that is unconstitutional is, by definition, unlawful. The federal government’s collection of the personal information and communications of private citizens, without probable cause and a warrant, is unconstitutional. More specifically, it is in breach of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In exposing the vast data-gathering being carried out by the federal government, so-called whistleblower Edward Snowden has exposed himself to the fury of the United States government in order to reveal to the nation what its leaders are doing to it. In doing so, he has become a modern American hero
The Bush administration gave us the Patriot Act. The premise upon which this unconstitutional – and, therefore – unlawful piece of legislation was based is that we have no choice but to sacrifice some of our freedom for security. This is simply not true; there are numerous laws, regulations and law-enforcement efforts that, for years, have gone into the ‘war on drugs’. The United States is no closer to ‘winning’ that war than it has ever been. Likewise, the ‘war on terror’ will never truly be ‘won’, regardless of how many laws, restrictions and covert (or not-so covert) surveillance projects are put in place. Terrorism is a type of asymmetrical warfare; as such, its practitioners will constantly evade, adapt and develop new methods. We are, on so many levels, far superior to the terrorists who threaten us, and so, we shall never ‘lose’ the war, but it is truly an un-winnable war, for both sides.
When the Patriot Act was up for renewal in 1995, then Senator Obama voted for that re-authorization. Certainly, he was one of a group of Senators who objected to the act as it was and lobbied for certain changes. It can be argued, however, that Obama was already thinking about his political future. It is well-known piece of political theater – indulged in many times by members of both parties – to oppose something, before voting for it, so that later, the politician in question can argue, as the President’s apologists in the media are currently doing, that he or she didn’t really agree with the legislation. The question today, however, is that, if President Obama did not agree with the Patriot Act, why did he, in 2011, sign into law its extension? A further question might be; why are the security and intelligence agencies now collecting more data than ever, on more and more people, with – obviously – the full knowledge and approval of the President?
Perhaps, like the terrorist attack in Benghazi, the Justice Department’s gun-trafficking operation in Mexico, the Justice Department’s seizure of Journalists’ personal emails and phone calls and the IRS targeting of Conservative groups, the President was simply kept in the dark and had absolutely no knowledge of it.
Whilst campaigning for the White House, President Obama made certain statements that completely contradict his current stance on national security. In a 2007 speech in Washington, Obama argued that President Bush “…puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand…” Clearly, then, candidate Obama claimed to believe that it is not appropriate to violate the right to privacy in the name of providing greater security. During the same speech, he also said “This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America.”
Contrast that to his more recent comments: “I think it’s more important for everybody to understand – and I think the American people understand – that there are some trade-offs involved.” He went on to say “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have a hundred percent security and also then have a hundred percent privacy and zero inconvenience. You know, we’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” With these comments, the President is embracing the very “false choice” with which Bush presented us, and which Obama so emphatically rejected.
Those who so ardently support the President complained loudly – and rightly so – over President Bush’s disregard for the right to privacy. The fact is, when comparing today’s domestic surveillance programs with those of the Bush era, the previous President – while still green-lighting the unconstitutional collection of private data – had far more respect for individual privacy than the current one.
Has Edward Snowden broken the law? That is yet to be decided and, perhaps, he has indeed done so. The ultimate law of the land, however, is the Constitution of the United States and the first ten amendments to it, which are known, collectively, as the Bill of Rights. Has Snowden violated that law? No, he has not. Snowden has put his reputation, his career, his freedom and – possibly – his life in danger because his conscience dictated he must reveal to the American people the scale on which their government is violating their rights. In doing so, he is an American hero.
Written by Graham J Noble