Our Ethical Dilemma Around Edward Snowden's Ethical Dilemma

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Our Ethical Dilemma Around Edward Snowden's Ethical Dilemma

I recently posted a quote by Edward Snowden on my Facebook page which has appeared on such disparate sources from Fox News to  Beforeitsnews.com. I thought it to be a powerful and succinct statement that I agree with:

“In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.”

First, the reactions to what Snowden have done are, indeed, so disparate, so fundamentally different, that some hail him as a hero, and others say he’s a criminal and a traitor, while others simply don’t know what to think.

I’m writing about this because I got a comment on that FB post from someone who simply replied, “hero,” to which another person commented that Snowden lacked integrity, thought that Snowden’s act endangered lives and that “stealing is stealing.”

There are, in my opinion, so many things wrong with my commenter’s statement, that I just had to respond and thought that you might enjoy diving into this with me. Maybe you have an uncle that you argue politics with, or maybe you are that uncle.

Myth #1: Snowden’s action endangers lives

The first problem I have with my commenter’s statement revolves around whether Snowden endangered any lives. What, exactly, did he do to endanger someone’s life?

Did he “out” or betray any agents as former CIA agent Valerie Plame was outed by Robert Novak of the Washington Post with information “leaked” to Novak by Lewis "Scooter" Libby? Although Libby, an aide to then Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted of a felony for his role in the leak, Plame admitted she wished the punishment was wider-reaching. Despite the abatement of her anger toward the officials in the George W. Bush administration who outed her, Plame did say she felt betrayed -- and even more so after the CIA denied her request to protect her and her family in the aftermath. In April of this year, at the Conference on World Affairs discussion, Plame urged people "continually hold our government to account."

Do you think that the legitimate enemies of the United States had no idea that our security branches were trying to gather information on them? The idea that Snowden’s actions gave some sort of secret information to them is laughable, naïve, or simply disingenuous for their own purposes. The security agencies, the administration, elected officials, and their corporate partners who are calling for Snowden’s prosecution fall into the latter category, but not one gives a specific example of how lives were endangered.

The “legitimate” leaks – and they far outweigh the others - that come out of Washington are fine as long as they serve the administration’s purposes, but it’s still leaking classified information, and when it comes to leaks, the Obama administration plays both sides.

It is clear that the reason Snowden is being hunted is because he has embarrassed the administration and the accompanying oligarchy.

Myth #2: Snowden released information we didn't already know

Anyone who has been paying attention to what’s going on in this country already knew that we are, and have been, under surveillance by our government. In spite of this slippery slope, most of us acted shocked when the Guardian released the information on the NSA and Verizon collecting “meta-data.” But many of us were not shocked. The information merely confirmed what we already knew. Some people, including Congressmen Ron Wyden and Senator Mark Udhall, knew and objected, but couldn’t talk about it for fear of also being prosecuted.

Snowden brought the whole mess to light and has done a huge favor to all of us. He leaked information that a lot of people have been bitching and/or warning about for more than a decade now, and he leaked specifics, whereas we've been bitching in generalities. Technology will keep growing.  NSA's data centers are being built now. Computers are capable of tracking millions of subjects at the same time. A data center with a few thousand computers is more than sufficient to track every man, woman, and child in this country.

We simply must wake up and smell the roses. Snowden's warnings may be the last we’ll get. And the spooks will do whatever is necessary to ensure that another Snowden doesn't pull the same trick!

Myth #3: Stealing is stealing

The idea that “stealing is stealing” is found in the earliest stage of moral development and is especially common in young children, but adults are also capable of expressing this type of reasoning. At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it is a means to avoid punishment. This is the first stage – obedience and punishment - of six stages in psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg 's theory of moral development outlined within three different levels.

Kohlberg’s six stages unfold in increasing complexity until, finally, stage 6 – universal principles - is based upon universal ethical principles and abstract reasoning. At this stage, people follow these internalized principles of justice, even if they conflict with laws and rules.

By saying “stealing is stealing,” people are holding the belief that there can be no excuse for stealing, even in the service of a higher principle, saying a lesser crime cannot be committed to mitigate a more horrendous crime. The phrase “Two wrongs don’t make a right” comes to mind, and in our case, stealing documents from the NSA and Booz Allen to reveal constitutional violations, The problem with this thinking is it places the lesser crime as a bigger problem than the more heinous crime. In addition, it is the very people who are committing the more heinous crime that are using this thing. How convenient for them.

However, using this argument, we might say that stealing the documents in order to protect the constitution might warrant but a few months in jail or even possibly a reward, but stealing everyone’s private data in violation of the constitution might constitute the true treason.

What is Snowden’s real “crime?”

Snowden is "a young American whose crime is that he dared challenge the excess of state power. Read the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and tell me that Edward Snowden is not a hero in the mold of those who founded this republic. Check out the Nuremberg war crime trials and ponder our current contempt for the importance of individual conscience as a civic obligation," and then tell me Snowden was "out of integrity."

In an op-ed in the National Journal, Ron Fournier said the issue is not about Snowden, but about the questions his actions have raised.

“Love him or hate him, we all owe Snowden our thanks for forcing upon the nation an important debate. But the debate shouldn't be about him. It should be about the gnawing questions his actions raised from the shadows,” Fournier wrote. “In the end, fear and politics likely will prevail, as it has in America's past. Washington elites will close ranks to protect the Surveillance State, to trample out transparency and to mislead the public.”

And that….is the true treason.

To read more from Gary Stamper visit http://www.collapsingintoconsciouisness.com

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