The below is a guest editorial by William Whiteside who desired it published. Tastywhale loves free speech and is publishing it on their behalf.
If someone is to betray a government, in the sense that it helps the enemy, they are considered a traitor. However, if you are to agree with the actions of the “traitor” are you yourself now seen as an enemy of the state? Or, does it show that the government has become the betrayer, and as such needs reevaluation? A fine line is drawn between a traitor and a whistle blower, whereas a traitor is usually cut and dry with yes or no as to if the enemy is aided, or the principles of the country is crossed. As a whistle blower, you are pushing the limits of what is seen as a backstabber or as a freedom writer.
Edward Snowden walked the ever thin line between the two. His actions however show that there was no intent to cause harm to the country. To quote Snowden directly “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” He later goes on to say that he was greatly within capability to cause direct harm to the government, yet as his intentions were to not harm, but to inform the people. The information released was to inform the public of information he deemed more important than his own safety and the safety of the government and that the public needs to decide these things. I strongly believe that Snowden is not a terrorist.
The media has had a field day with the information pertaining to this issue. First, there are people on both sides of the fence who are outwardly spoken in their beliefs that he is a traitor or a whistle blower. This can be seen in itself through Facebook, Twitter, and various message boards. When looking at larger more established sources of news, such as Al Jazeera, a side was not taken as whether he was a traitor or whistleblower, instead it reported on the current information such as the timelines of information he exposed, or awards Snowden was given for his actions, or the messages to him from the government. I found it similar with all major mass media players, that the best action to take during this event was to remain unbiased and just pump out as much information as possible to cover the event.
On the other hand, one could find information more in tune to what they are looking for. Instead of searching for “Edward Snowden” via a search engine, one could imply and search for “Edward Snowden Traitor” and would be shown a plethora of news articles and arguments supporting this view, and vice versa with “Edward Snowden Patriot”.
A famous saying, “You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide” once said by Joseph Goebbels, the minister of public enlightenment and propaganda of the Nazi campaign entrusted by Hitler, is also posted on the NSA website as a slogan.
This mindset of having nothing to fear is very dangerous. This argument is often the first debate used by Pro big brother activists and are many of those who oppose Snowden and his actions.
There are at least four good reasons to reject this argument solidly and uncompromisingly: the rules may change, it’s not you who determine if you’re guilty, laws must be broken for society to progress, and privacy is a basic human need.
The first rule: Once the invasive surveillance is in place to enforce rules that you agree with, the rule set that is being enforced could change in ways that you don’t agree with anymore. It becomes too late to protest the surveillance. For example, you may agree to cameras in every home to prevent domestic violence (“and domestic violence only”) but the next day, a new political force in power could decide that homosexuality will again be illegal, and they will use the existing home cameras to enforce their new rules. Any surveillance must be regarded in terms of how it can be abused by a worse power than today’s.
Secondly, It’s not you who determine if you have something to fear: You may consider yourself a law-abiding citizen, it won’t matter a bit. What does matter is whether you set off the red flags in the automated surveillance, where bureaucrats look at your life in microscopic detail to search for patterns. When you stop your car at the main prostitution street for two hours every Friday night, the Social Services Authority will draw certain conclusions from that data point, and won’t care about the fact that you help your elderly grandmother who lives there with her weekly groceries. When you frequently stop at a certain bar on your way driving home from work, the DoL will draw conclusions as to your eligibility for future driving licenses – regardless of the fact that you think they serve the best burgers in that bar, and have never had a single drink there. People will stop thinking in terms of what is legal, and start acting in self-censorship to avoid being red-flagged, out of pure self-preservation. (It doesn’t matter that somebody in the right might possibly and eventually be cleared – after having been investigated for six months, you will have lost both custody of your children, your job, and possibly your home.)
The third: Laws must be broken for society to progress. A society which can enforce all of its laws will stop dead in its tracks. the mindset of “rounding up criminals is good for society” is a dangerous one, for in hindsight, it may turn out that the criminals were the ones in the moral right. Less than a human lifetime ago, if you were born a homosexual, you were a criminal from birth. If today’s surveillance level had existed in the 1950’s and 60’s the lobby groups for sexual equality could never have formed; it would have been just a matter of rounding up the organized criminals. If today’s surveillance level had existed then, homosexuality would still be illegal and homosexual people would be criminals by birth. It is an absolute necessity to be able to break unjust laws for society to progress and question its own values, in order to learn from mistakes and move on as a society.
Lastly, Privacy is a basic human need: Implying that only the dishonest people have need of any privacy ignores a basic property of the human psyche, and sends a creepy message of strong discomfort. We have a fundamental need for privacy. I lock the door when I use the men’s room, despite the fact that nothing secret is happening in there: I just want to keep the activity to myself, I have a fundamental need to do so, and any society must respect that fundamental need for privacy. In every society that doesn’t, citizens have responded with subterfuge and created their own private areas out of reach of the governmental surveillance, not because they are criminal, but because doing so is a fundamental human need.
Snowden did a great service to our society by uncovering the truth regarding the NSA and surveillance that has been implemented already.
Al Jazeera search query for Edward Snowden
NSA website regarding quote
Edward Snowden information
Edward Snowden Quote http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-why