Edward Snowden, 29, is the Maryland native who is at the center of a firestorm, because he revealed to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers, that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) is actively engaged in two extensive classified electronic surveillance programs, that encompasses monitoring the electronic and digital communication of every American citizen and business.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that Snowden’s revelations are an “act of treason.” Former vice president Dick Cheney said that he thinks Snowden is a traitor who could be a spy for China.
Snowden responded to Cheney’s unsubstantiated assertion by saying "It's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former vice president Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American."
President Obama is attending the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. He was asked about the NSA surveillance program, and claimed that he had appointed “a privacy and civil liberties oversight board, made up of independent citizens including some fierce civil libertarians.”
The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill wrote about President Obama’s first public comments about the NSA surveillance programs.
In his first public comments in 10 days about the NSA disclosures, Obama also said he had set an oversight board made up of independent citizens and the ordered the declassification of documents relating to surveillance to allow the public to see the broader context.
Obama said: "My concern has always been not that we shouldn't do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances."
The president said it was a "false choice" to say that American freedoms needed to be sacrificed in the goal of national security. "That doesn't mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn't the case … To say there's a tradeoff doesn't mean somehow that we've abandoned freedom."
When the president was asked about Edward Snowden, he said "The case has been referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation … and possible extradition. I will leave it up to them to answer those questions."
Edward Snowden had a security clearance in his various jobs, that granted him access to many of our nation’s most important secrets. Just a few weeks ago, he was a paid government spy mining secret data in Hawaii, and today he has to hide. The government’s public relations apparatus is in overdrive discrediting him, and branding him a traitor, while threatening him with criminal penalties.
Is Edward Snowden an American patriot or a deceitful traitor?
He’s neither. He’s a courageous whistleblower who exposed that our government systematically spies and snoops on it’s citizens. Was I shocked when I learned this? No. Does it disturb me? Yes.
We have certain guarantees under the Constitution related to unreasonable searches and seizures. While the Patriot Act might give the NSA authorization to snoop on Americans, it doesn’t mean that it’s a Constitutional law.
There was a time in our country when we embraced the values that a whistleblower represents. We cheered the underdogs, and the Daniel Ellsberg's of the world, for exposing practices that were inconsistent with the values inherent in our Constitution.
Army PFC Bradley Manning has been charged in a 22 count criminal indictment, and is facing the death penalty, for allegedly leaking classified diplomatic cables that are credited with being a catalyst for the Arab Spring. Manning also revealed that during the Iraq war, an American helicopter wantonly murdered 3 journalists, and then attacked a van that stopped to help the injured.
PFC Manning exposed a murder, and he’s facing the death penalty.
My real fear is that Congress is asleep at the wheel. Senator Feinstein and her committee is responsible for ensuring that our intelligence agencies don’t overstep their bounds, and the best she could do is call Snowden’s leaks an “act of treason.”
Treason is defined as a “crime betraying one’s country.” PFC Manning didn’t betray his country, and Edward Snowden hasn’t betrayed his country.
If Congress authorized these surveillance programs, they’ve betrayed their country and the people they represent, and that’s criminal.
Congress committed an act of treason - not Edward Snowden.
Straight talk indeed.
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