On Friday (August 9th), President Obama declared that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is not a ‘Patriot’, that his actions were not patriotic. According to Obama, Snowden is not a Patriot because of the way in which he brought the governments questionable (and anti-american) actions to light. The president said, “My preference, and I think the American peoples’ preferences would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws.” Obama must have forgotten about the past 4 years. Over the past 4 years Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) have been pressing the NSA for public access to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s legal opinions interpreting Section 215 of the Patriot Act. These were United States Senators trying (both lawfully and in an orderly fashion) to get to the bottom of the surveillance taking place. They had no luck. They made no progress and were even lied to by the highest ranking officials of the NSA (Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper). So, it seems that Snowden’s actions were needed to keep the American public informed about the gross infringements of our privacy rights by the U.S. government. But, is Edward Snowden an American hero? Is he a Patriot? I think that he is and I would like to offer some support for thinking why he should be seen as such.
WHAT IS A PATRIOT? SOME HISTORY
With pre-season football upon us my first answer would be someone who plays for the football team rooted in New England – maybe Tom Brady? All jokes aside, the word ‘patriot’ has quite the genealogy and the team for which Tom Brady plays is cognizant of that. New England had many patriots before the addition of their football team. Patriots were revolutionaries who rebelled against British control in the late 1700’s to form what we now call the United States of America. They were citizens of Britain. They opposed their government regime which did not respect the rights of its citizens (sound familiar?). They formed the rights they thought citizens should have and founded our country on a particular set of principles and rights which culminated 1st with our constitution and shortly after with the Bill of Rights (in 1791). One of those rights is clearly spelled out in the 4th Amendment which deals with personal privacy. The right is spelled out as follows “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”. Notable Patriots include Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, the Sons of Liberty, Thomas Paine, and Paul Revere, just to name a few. If you were around in those days you were either a patriot or a loyalist. A loyalist was someone who stood loyal to the British crown. Now, not all loyalists agreed with the way they were treated by their government but all were against the revolution brought on by the patriots. Loyalists saw the Patriots as traitors. These days, most of us see the founding fathers as patriotic heroes and not traitors at all. They are patriotic because they stood up for a set of principles that we can get behind. They gave us a government that is supposed to be held accountable by its citizens. They spelled out a number of rights that the government should not be able to trump. And they tried to put measures in place that would secure our ability to hold government officials in check. Their principles and policies were far from perfect but they gave us a great starting place. The images of these patriots are a symbol of our country. With this in mind let’s now turn to Edward Snowden who has been referred to by some as a ‘rogue agent’ that should not have blown the whistle on the government’s surveillance practices. Those who oppose Snowden’s actions remind me, in certain respects, of the loyalists that opposed the patriots in the revolutionary war. Snowden might be a rogue agent, but so were our founding fathers. And he should have blown the whistle, if his goal was to be a good American.
If it wasn’t for Rogue agents like Edward Snowden giving us IMPORTANT information we would all be drinking the kool-aid the America isn’t involved in limiting our rights and the rights of others overseas. My point is that when obvious harms are being done and/or when people’s freedom(s) are being infringed upon (both against foreigners and American citizens), there is good reason to let the public know, even if there are domestic laws against such whistle-blowing. Risky on his behalf? Of course. But sometimes the right thing to do flies in the face of domestic law and is risky for that reason (Rosa Parks rings a bell). Some are concerned that rogue agents like Snowden put us in harm’s way by sharing sensitive information with the public. Valid concern. However, I’m more concerned with government waging wars all over the globe without informing the citizens who put them in power, this puts us in harm’s way because such wars and spying by the U.S Gov’t cause many to hate us. Such hatred by average foreign citizens turns to violence when you add in the terrorists who now have ammo to sell their twisted ideologies. Further, as United States citizens we have rights. These rights are being grossly infringed upon and I thank Edward Snowden for bringing a spotlight to this infringement.
The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S constitution affords U.S. citizens the benefits and protection of the Bill of Rights. Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights is quite clear when I read it and will quote it again ; “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.” This right has been clearly infringed upon and has been brought to light by Edward Snowden. He has informed millions about this infringement on their rights and for that he is a patriot, an American Patriot. The new loyalists are worst than the old ones that occupied the colonies during the late 1700’s. They’re worse because they are being loyal to practices that are anti-american.
Patriots vigorously support their country and are prepared to defend it against enemies. The people currently in power are not our country they are representatives of our country. If they are not representing our ideals (as a country) then we should hold them accountable. This is what Snowden did. I love my country, I love what it stands for. But the ideals that this country has been founded on are eroding. The survaillance by the NSA is an example of this. At the end of the day, Obama admitted that the disclosures by Edward Snowden led him to conclude that the nation and the international community need to be reassured that the US government is not trampling citizens’ privacy rights. In other words, because of the actions of one American, the nation and the world will now at least be able to try to hold the government accountable. How can this be anything but patriotic? Step aside Tom Brady, there is a new patriot in town.