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The Conscience of Edward Snowden, Courage Is Contagious

By       Message Nozomi Hayase       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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It's not OK that we have a secret court that has secret interpretations of secret laws; what kind of democracy is that? I felt like, this is a fight worth having. If there's fallout, if there's blow back, I would absolutely do it again, because I think this information should be public. Whatever part I had in helping to do that I think is a service. People take risks. And I'm not the one who's taking the most in this case.

One man's brave action leads to another. Before Snowden, there were four former National Security Agency analysts who were alarmed by widespread government surveillance: Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Edward Loomis. Thomas Drake criticized the court that authorized the surveillance. In speaking of Snowden, he observed:

We are seeing an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and truth-tellers: it's now criminal to expose the crimes of the state. Under this relentless assault by the Obama administration, I am the only person who has held them off and preserved his freedom. All the other whistleblowers I know have served time in jail, are facing jail or are already incarcerated or in prison. That has been my burden. I've dedicated the rest of my life to defending life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I didn't want surveillance to take away my soul, and I don't want anyone else to have to live it. For that, I paid a very high price. And Edward Snowden will, too. But I have my freedom, and what is the price for freedom? What future do we want to keep?

John Kiriakou became the first CIA officer to confirm the use of torture and to face jail time for any reason relating to the U.S. torture program. Before going to jail, he spoke of his decision:

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I took my oath seriously. My oath was to the Constitution. On my first day in the CIA, I put my right hand up, and I swore to uphold the Constitution. And to me, torture is unconstitutional, and it's something that we should not be in the business of doing.  If you see waste, fraud, abuse or illegality, shout it from the rooftops, whether it's internally or to Congress.

Jeremy Hammond is another young man sitting behind bars for more than a year for revealing that this insidious network of corporate and government surveillance has been used on activists. When he recently pled guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for his role in Stratfor hack, he made a statement: "I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right."

On Monday, Edward Snowden appeared online to participate in a Q and A hosted by the Guardian. Snowden spoke of how the Obama administration's aggressive response to whistle-blowers will only encourage better whistle-blowers and how one's conscience is something that cannot be stopped:

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Binney, Drake, Kiriakou, and Manning are all examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they'll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers.

These brave individuals were all driven by a common belief that the public always has a right to know about the wrongdoings of governments and corporations. These people stepped forward and sacrificed their safety to bring vital information into the light of day. This allegiance to ordinary people and their right to determine their future has motivated many whistleblowers to overcome fear and act out of conscience.

The only fear Snowden expressed in the aftermath of his disclosures was that he might fail to overcome public apathy and miss the chance to trigger a worldwide debate: "The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change."

Snowden is not alone. This was also the primary wish expressed by another brave young whistleblower. Private Bradley Manning, who is now being court marshaled, wrote in his chat log: "I want people to see the truth, because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public ... hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms ... if not, than we're doomed ... as a species."

In his speech to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks, Manning made clear that he wanted to show the American public the true costs of war and spark a debate on the role of the military and foreign policies.

Glenn Greenwald's follow-up article on June 14 on NSA story shared promising signs of how Snowden's worst fears have so far not unfolded. It reports how Snowden's revelations "are met with anything but the apathy he feared" as it sparked lively debate among the public, Congress,  and journalists.

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Using documents evidencing the surveillance, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit over the NSA massive spying program. The revelations of the Obama administration transgression also sent an alarm internationally regarding this immediate global threat to freedom of speech and privacy. Concerns about possible US extradition of Snowden have caused countries to step forward to help the whistleblower. National Journal reports a variety of responses around the world to possible US retribution on Snowden. A Kremlin spokesman said Russia will consider asylum if he seeks it. The head of France's far-right party, Marine Le Pen, demanded France let Snowden immigrate into the country. The Iceland Pirate Party is also working to let him in. In regards to a possible asylum request for Snowden, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo PatiƱo spoke of the possibility for a similar arrangement as they made with Assange and that the Ecuadorian government would certainly consider the request.

Protesters in Hong Kong handed over a letter criticizing the National Security Agency's internet-surveillance program and urged the Chinese government not to extradite the NSA whistleblower. The poll results that came after the protest in the Sunday Morning Post revealed half of people in Hong Kong don't want Snowden to be extradited to the US and that public sentiment in Hong Kong is growing against the US government.

Julian Assange warned in his book Cypherpunks of this ever-increasing surveillance state. Hailing Snowden as a hero,   from the London Ecuadorian embassy  Assange noted that these waves of courage are changing the tide: "I think we are winning, and we are a part of a new international body politic that is developing, thanks to the internet".

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Nozomi Hayase is a contributing writer to Culture Unplugged. She brings out deeper dimensions of socio-cultural events at the intersection between politics and psychology to share insight on future social (more...)

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