In response to an FT article by Jacob Weisberg on 5th June 2015, entitled 'Edward Snowden is a patriot and deserves his freedom'
He may have 'betrayed' his government but he has not betrayed his people or the constitution that was created by the founding fathers in order to free themselves from the tyrannical government of a foreign empire, and protect them from any future government of their own making, that might repeat the crimes of history.
The founding fathers were not just idealists, they were practical men who understood the corruptible nature of man when he acquires unbridled power. They deliberately set out to a) make sure it could not happen again on their watch and b) warn future generations of lessons they would not need to relearn by going through the same tyranny they had recently come through. That is what the separation of powers is about, that is what the declaration of independence is about, and that is what the constitution is about. That is also what Edward Snowden is about.
1. From the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
2. From the opening sentence of the Constitution of the United States:
"We the people of the United States...". It does not say "We the government" or "We the State", it clearly says 'we the people'.
3. The Bill of Rights exists to spell out the rights mentioned in the declaration.
The 4th amendment, sometimes called the right to privacy, prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. The programmes that Edward Snowden has exposed needed no warrant, needed no probable cause, and were explicitly designed in secret to avoid any challenge from the constitution.
In my view the right to privacy is the key to the bill of rights. Trash the 4th amendment and you trash the constitution. Well meaning people who trust government may say something like: 'I've got nothing to hide so why should I worry?'
Apply the same principle to freedom of speech: 'I've got nothing to say so why should I worry'.
You should worry because once you give any government the right to your privacy, you have given them the right to your freedom to express who you are, and for young people, to find out who they are. There are very few of us who have not wanted to bring a politician to account, or even burn a flag at some point. When I was in my twenties I played protest songs at 'Rock against Racism' gigs. Now I post comments on the FT. That's my journey, and I have made it because I have been free to develop who I am without government looking over my shoulder.
I am writing this free from the fear of a man arriving at my door tomorrow. If I lived in North Korea I would not have the same sanguine attitude, I would not have any privacy, I would not have any freedom and I would be dreaming of the day when I could kick those thugs out on their backsides and write my own declaration of independence.
The future will judge Edward Snowden as a patriot. The past has already done so. Thomas Jefferson would be smiling at the sound of his name. Not so much when he hears the words 'George Bush', 'John McCain', 'Barack Obama' or 'NSA'.