The U.S. is currently dealing with two embarrassing cases where individuals with security clearances released classified documents to the world.
Yet, the Manning WikiLeaks case is fundamentally different from the Snoeden document release. In both cases, the government was embarrassed by some of the gossip-like nature of the revelations, but governments get embarrassed sometimes and just have to live with it. In the Manning case, however, some of the information released may (and we stress may, since the trial is still underway) have directly affected ongoing operations against enemy combatants. The government may have a better case proving that actual, direct harm occurred to American forces as result of those leaks.
Snoeden, on the other hand, has essentially done little more than reveal to the American public (and thus the world) the extent of U.S. intelligence-gathering information. Most of these capabilities have actually been well known for several years. The NSA's snooping capabilities are legendary. Even our enemies are well aware of our capabilities and know that we've been doing to them the very things we accuse (usually correctly) that they are doing to us when it comes to cyberwarfare. Frankly, other than getting a lot of press, there isn't a lot that's actually a surprise about Snoeden's revelations. It simply confirms that our increasing dependence on technology has, inevitably, brought us to the world of Big Brother.
Once again, we are hampered by the failure to establish a clear definition of what constitutes the parameters of a right to privacy.
Snoeden, however, should have the courage of his convictions and return to the U.S. to face acceptance or rejection by the American people of his actions through the legal process of the courts -- as Daniel Ellsberg did after release of the Pentagon Papers.
The press has been criticized by some for giving Snoeden a platform to make his revelations, but back in the days of the Pentagon Papers, a case of uncanny similarities to what Snoeden has done, Justice Black once wrote: "... the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people...." and there is no question we have been deceived by our government.
In a related Pentagon Papers case, Judge Murray Gurfein wrote that: "The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in ...the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know." We think the people have a right to know that the government is snooping on them. Like the Pentagon papers, it is possible that what Snoeden did is actually, in the long run, in the national interest.
Granted, much of this snooping is now legal, in part thanks to the Patriot Act, which we continue to believe should have been repealed years ago, not renewed by Congress (who then complains when the administration actually uses the power Congress gave it). And, we concede much of the "snooping" is relatively benign -- for most of us -- for now. But times could change and the government shouldn't have this power in the first place.
The argument that checking everyone's mail is preventing terror attacks may have some small validity. But we can't live in a risk-free society. As long as we continue to restrict the liberties of Americans -- from body searches to interception of our communications, all without probable cause warrants -- the terrorists are winning. We've become so hyper-conscious of "security" that we've begun to forget the basic principles of this land of liberty.
It's time to put aside the fear and stand for freedom. The ever-growing bush of Big Brother needs to be seriously trimmed back.
-- Kelly Everitt