The latest world tour by Edward Snowden has many people denouncing him. What’s more interesting is that many of the people denouncing him were praising him not too long ago for revealing the existence of the Obama Administration’s domestic spying program. There are a few things that I think are important here.
1) Edward Snowden should return to the US to stand trial. Snowden was indicted on Friday by the Justice Department for stealing and revealing classified documents and other related charges. Instead of fleeing to Hong Kong and now to Russia, Cuba, and to asylum in Ecuador; he should explain and defend his actions in front a judge and jury of his peers. This leads me to my next point.
2) Civil disobedience is fine and good, but you must be willing to pay the consequences. Martin Luther King Jr. had to spend the night in the Birmingham Jail. The point of civil disobedience is to break the law to force a change in policy. If Snowden had the courage of his convictions, he would go back to the US and stand trial. He can use the platform of his trial to explain his actions and why he did it. All he has to do is persuade one juror that he was right and he escapes. Even if he is convicted, he can possibly persuade the American people to pressure the president to issue a pardon. Instead of debating the merits of domestic spying, the focus and scrutiny is now on him and whether or not he is selling or giving away national security secrets to nations that don’t wish the US well.
3) No one is above the law in a free society. The laws apply to everyone equally, or at least should be. Edward Snowden and Barack Obama should be subject to the same laws. The Constitution prohibits warrantless spying on American citizens while the law prohibits the release of classified information. There is a procedure in place to change the law if you do not agree with it.
4) Ultimately, Edward Snowden is irrelevant. We shouldn’t really care about Edward Snowden or what his motives were. The law will take care of that. Instead, we should be more concerned about debating whether or not we want the government reading e-mails, monitoring Internet activity, listening to phone calls; without a warrant or probable cause in the name of national security. Snowden should not be a distraction from the debate over whether or not we want our government spying on us.