By Douglas J. Hagmann
Some call Edward Snowden a traitor, while others call him a hero. One thing that is certain is that he cannot be both to the citizens of the United States. Interested by this stark difference of perception, I decided to investigate exactly what it was that he allegedly did that caused this drama that has captivated so many.
In the process, I found that there is a lot of misinformation and outright disinformation that exists about his actions. Most troubling is that much of it seems to be coming directly from officials within the U.S. government and members of the corporate media. In this investigative process, I also learned why every American, and every “free” person reading this regardless of what country in which you live, should be very concerned about the case of Edward Snowden.
One overriding theme that was reinforced during my investigation is that our elected officials have a rabid contempt for any constitutional limitations placed upon them. While this is not exactly a news flash, the case of Edward Snowden must be viewed against this backdrop of contempt, which is not specific to any one political office or party and knows no restraint.
A second but closely related theme that should be well beyond debate is that any federal law that violates the United States Constitution is not a valid law. There is a rich history for the principle that an unconstitutional law is void, and no legislative act that is contrary to the constitution can be considered valid. Again, the Edward Snowden affair must be properly viewed in this context.
Although there are many side issues and offshoots of the case “against” Edward Snowden, the core issue of the matter is fairly straightforward. At the heart of all the drama and legal machinations being discussed is one very simple issue: his security clearance and the executive order under which it was created and Edward Snowden was working.
Proper understanding of the issue required me to contact a very highly placed, known and trusted source familiar with how the various processes of security clearances work. While this statement might seem oversimplified to those in the intelligence business, it makes little difference to us as American citizens or freedom loving people of our own countries. It does not change the facts of the Snowden affair.
At the time Edward Snowden received his security clearance, he signed away certain constitutional rights in exchange for his loyalty to the government, and to operate at the mercy and direction of the office of the President or his designate. Nonetheless, he is still an American citizen.
Based on the information obtained during the course of my investigation, it appears that Mr. Snowden, while working in the capacity described, learned that he was involved in activities that he reasonably believed to be in direct opposition to the laws of the United States Constitution. He found that contrary to what was being said by the government to the American people and the world, he was not only aware of, but involved in spying activities that were inconsistent with the protections, rights and freedoms afforded to us by the U.S. Constitution.
At some point, as an American, he had to make a decision. It would be an unenviable position that would forever change his life. Does he violate the executive order under which he was operating to expose a system of spying on the American people, a system that was so vast and out of control that he felt so compelled to let us know what is actually taking place and face the consequences, or does he keep his mouth shut and continue to operate under an order he believed to be unconstitutional?
Included within that decision was something else. Would his revelations harm, in any way, the security of the United States and his fellow citizens? Again, based on my investigation of the information released, nothing was revealed by Snowden that any potential enemy of the U.S. did not already know. Additionally, he did not appear to release any “fruit” of the data mining and spying operations, but merely disclosed the scope and extent of its existence.
What, then, is Edward Snowden allegedly guilty of? He can only be guilty of one of two things, but he cannot be guilty of both. Either he criminally disclosed our national secrets to our external enemies, consequently putting all Americans at risk in violation of his oath, or he decided that as a citizen, he had an obligation of overriding importance to his fellow citizens that trumped the oaths he signed and was working under, to expose government programs that are operating outside of the laws of the U.S. Constitution. It’s really that simple.
Amid all of the drama that exists pertaining to where Edward Snowden will likely end up, there is a simple, viable solution that would benefit all involved that no one seems to be talking about – perhaps for good reason. As it stands today, should Snowden return to the United States, he would not be permitted the same rights as any other citizen under the U.S. Constitution to have an open and fair trial or answer the charges against him based on the “contract” he signed for his clearance. In reality, he could, and likely would, be tossed in prison indefinitely, denied access to legal counsel, and denied all of the normal and customary rights granted to American citizens accused of a crime. He would have less rights than murderers and most terrorists, and the proceedings against him could, and likely would, take place well outside of the purview of American citizens.
All of this could be avoided while still forcing him to answer the charges against him. With the stroke of a pen, the President could simply sign an order that would allow Mr. Snowden to return to the United States and be subjected to be tried in the American criminal justice system, in open court, in a manner consistent with the Constitution of the United States that would afford him the normal judicial and constitutional protections as an American citizen.
Knowing this, perhaps the appropriate question that no one is asking, is what is this administration afraid of by allowing this case to proceed in this manner? Are the risks of multiple international incidents more palatable or easily manageable than a system of transparent judicial process? If so, something is terribly wrong.
Edward Snowden made a conscious decision to expose a massive, draconian system of spying on American citizens that he believed is violating the rights of every American. He could not reconcile his responsibilities under the executive order in which he was working with his knowledge as an American citizen himself. He made a conscience decision to fall on the side of the fence for the American citizen. Is anyone coming to his aid? Who will be valiant for justice sake?