NBC: The Founders Would be Outraged With Edward Snowden

Meet the Press’s David Gregory was on Leno the other night, and they were talking about the NSA’s snooping policies and the tired question about whether Edward Snowden is a traitor or hero. If you remember, David Gregory is the guy who brought a 30-round gun magazine on his show at the height of the gun control debate. His studio resides in D.C., which has a law prohibiting possession of any magazine with over a 10-round capacity. He was found in violation of that law, but the Attorney General of the District of Columbia decided not to prosecute him.

So, he was talking to Jay Leno, and he remarked how the Founding Fathers never envisioned a guy like Edward Snowden trying to “take down” government programs:

 “You know, there are people who give him credit for sort of forcing this debate out into the country. I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

Was there a better way that Snowden could have dealt with the information he had? Sure. But if he had gone about it the “right” way, we likely wouldn’t be debating the spying policies of our government right now. He made a trade-off, and from what he’s already said, he decided to go about the problem this way knowing that there would be consequences.

Snowden had also said that he didn’t want all this to be about him being a “hero” or a “traitor.” It’s not about him. It should be about our government and all the things they do in the name of “national security.”

David Gregory invoked the Founding Fathers. He said they didn’t envision someone like Snowden doing what he did. Well, did they envision a government as massive as ours? Did they envision the very real surveillance state that is now laid bare? It’s not like Snowden blew the whistle on some programs that are mere inconveniences to Americans. It goes way beyond just keeping tabs on our enemies:

“Metadata is information about what communications you send and receive, who you talk to, where you are when you talk to them, the lengths of your conversations, what kind of device you were using and potentially other information, like the subject line of your emails,” said Peter Eckersley, the technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group. Powerful computer algorithms can analyze the metadata to expose patterns and to profile individuals and their associates, Eckersley said. ‘Metadata is the perfect place to start if you want to troll through millions of people’s communications to find patterns and to single out smaller groups for closer scrutiny,’ he said. ‘It will tell you which groups of people go to political meetings together, which groups of people go to church together, which groups of people go to nightclubs together or sleep with each other.’ Metadata records of search terms and webpage visits also can reveal a log of your thoughts by documenting what you’ve been reading and researching, Eckersley said. ‘That’s certainly enough to know if you’re pregnant or not, what diseases you have, whether you’re looking for a new job, whether you’re trying to figure out if the NSA is watching you or not,’ he said, referring to the National Security Agency. Such information provides ‘a deeply intimate window into a person’s psyche,’ he added. The more Americans rely on their smartphones and the Internet, the more metadata is generated.”

Did they envision all that? And speaking of the Founding Fathers, what was it that James Madison said?

  • “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
  • “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
  • “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

And we all know Ben Franklin’s quip:  “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Would the Founders be outraged with Snowden? Would they be outraged at our government? Perhaps they would be outraged at us for standing idly by and putting up with such nonsense for so many years. They envisioned a Constitutional Republic, if we could keep it.