NSA Leak: Law-Breaking, Civil Disobedience, And Who Do You Trust?

Democrats will need to go above and beyond to be trusted when it comes to their opinion on the NSA leak by Edward Snowden. What do I mean by that? With a Democrat in the White House, I don’t trust Democrats who say Snowden is a traitor. Similarly, I don’t trust Republicans, particularly libertarians, who say Snowden is a patriot or a hero.

What’s interesting about this NSA leak story is that these opinions are not exclusive to each side. You can find a range of opinions on both sides of the aisle. But who do you trust? Do you trust Democrats? Republicans? The National Security Agency? Congress? The President?

Eyeball - photo by Scott Hadfield

I’m skeptical of Democrats using tough language in response to this leak, like Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) who said Snowden “should be extradited, arrested and prosecuted.” Maybe that is her true opinion, but I’m also sure there are Democrats talking tough simply because there is a Democratic President who supports the NSA data mining and surveillance.

But I also do not trust Republican libertarians like Rand Paul (KY) when he said “committing civil disobedience is a big step forward.” Yeah Paul, I’ll wait for you to say something like that about a self-described liberal patriot during a Republican administration. Until then, don’t be surprised if I believe your words are less than genuine.

I’ve come down on the side of support for Edward Snowden but I stop well short of using language like “patriot” or “hero.” Well, to be fair, I simply don’t use the word patriot, a word that has been co-opted by the Right for many years to mean something very different from what I think it should mean…but I digress. No, Snowden is not a hero, but he’s also not a traitor, and I agree with Steve Kornacki when he said, “I guess my instinct is, there’s got to be some kind of middle ground. Is there somewhere between patriot and traitor where we can peg Edward Snowden?”

And in response to that question by Steve Kornacki on his show “Up,” Ana Marie Cox (The Guardian) said this:

Ana Marie Cox — Well it seems like people are throwing the word “traitor” around pretty loosely here. I mean, it has a very specific definition and it’s a pretty serious crime. I mean, whatever he did, it may be illegal, but I don’t know if “traitor” is really the right word for it. I think it’s possible for someone to be both a patriot and to disobey laws. I mean, simply disobeying laws does not make you necessarily a traitor — I guess there are very specific ones where it would. But I think what’s interesting here is politicians are scrambling because the American public has no real set opinion on this. I mean, politicians would go the direction the wind was blowing if there was a clear direction of it. And the American people seem to have sort of — ambivalent feelings about this.

Other than the use of the word “patriot” I completely agree with her response. History is full of examples of people breaking the law for a greater good. Just ask African-American leaders who lived in the south back in the day of Jim Crow laws. I’m not attempting to elevate Edward Snowden to that of say, Martin Luther King Jr., that would be silly indeed, but the premise is still the same. Civil disobedience and law-breaking are at times necessary tools to defend freedom and liberty.

photo by Scott Hadfield

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