Tuesday, June 11, 2013

American Heroes

He was of the opinion that his own government was oppressive.  He was very concerned about government overreach.  His government was inserting itself into his daily life and the lives of all Americans in a way that he considered unacceptable.  So, he decided to do something about it.

He joined a group that was actively resisting the government.  He put himself in a position of being able to obtain information about what the government was doing to the American people, and he shared that information, fully knowing that if caught, it could result in severe penalties, including death.  He did it because he felt he had a moral obligation to push back against the government.

He was Nathan Hale.  The year was 1776.  Nathan Hale was a traitor to his lawful government.  He stands in good company: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Button Gwinett – they were all traitors to the lawful government of King George III.

Now, another American has taken action in the cause of freedom.  He is Edward Snowden.  He is fighting back against government overreach, against a government which is increasingly becoming more oppressive, and which increasingly violates its own law.

Snowden has revealed details about the NSA’s PRISM program.  Snowden, a contract employee allocated to projects at the National Security Agency, has revealed these details which, from many points of view, constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.  For this, many people are branding Snowden as a “traitor” and the federal government has announced that it is preparing criminal charges against Snowden.

I guess the question becomes, what part of your personal information is personal, and what part belongs to the government, and if the government can collect any information it wants because it is easy to do so, do you as an individual really have any personal information?

And, what happens to this legal language?
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.
Now the federal government is trying to get us to believe that PRISM is not spying.  But understand what the NSA is collecting information and how the NSA is using that information.

-       The NSA is collecting data at the source.  It literally has equipment on the premises of the major internet and telephone companies where it collects everything that is transmitted on their networks.  It makes these collections without specific warrants and without probable cause.
-       The NSA stores all or part of the information it collects.  Government spokespersons are telling us that the NSA only stores metadata, but the federal government, especially under the last two administrations, has lied about these kinds of issues before.
-       The NSA uses the information to search for patterns. Unfortunately, call and email patterns are not contextual, and therefore, based on arbitrary criteria, false positives may be generated, and trigger investigations where there has been no wrongdoing.
-       The NSA activities that require judicial involvement are handled in FISA courts.  FISA courts have been characterized as a “kangaroo court with a rubber stamp” by at least one former NSA analyst.
-       All this adds up to the potential for US citizens to be railroaded into prison, in secret, when the citizens have done nothing wrong. Since there is no public oversight of how the data is used and no public oversight of court proceedings, people can disappear in the US at government insistence, just like they did in Peru and Argentina in the last century.

What happened to “probable cause”?  What happened to “privacy”?  What happened to “oversight”?  Considering that the current administration has unilaterally deemed it has the right to assassinate American citizens without due process by the use of drones, I find this scary.  And considering that the chief law enforcer in federal government, the Attorney General, can lie to Congress without consequences, I find this scary.  But what really scares me is that the average American is not offended by the fact that the government sees all of its citizens as guilty until proven innocent and takes that as a license to spy on everyone.

Is Edward Snowden a hero?  I don’t know.  Time will tell. Either way, he is definitely a traitor.  All indications are that he is a traitor like Nathan Hale.

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