By exposing the American government's extensive snooping operations, Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee, has caused Congress and the President to reconsider our vast spying network. Snowden blew his whistle, moreover, with no expectation of personal gain and without exposing a single CIA or NSA (National Security Agency) agent.
Snowden also exposed the operations of the secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, or "FISA"). This court operates in secret, publishing opinions that the public and Congress cannot read. Further, the judges on this court are appointed by one man, Chief Justice Roberts, without Senate confirmation. The Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves about these revelations, because the FISC violates every principle of checks and balances that the Constitution established. Eleven of the twelve judges are from one political party (Republican) and, worse, they are of one mindset: the government can do no wrong. This court granted 99.9% of the requests from the Justice Department for wiretapping.According to a Time magazine survey, Snowden currently enjoys a 54% approval rating in the United States, eight points higher than President Obama's, and 35% higher than that of Congress.
President Obama should pardon Snowden immediately, and welcome him home. The President should then hire Mr. Snowden as a national security consultant, making him a public ombudsman tasked with reviewing, criticizing and improving our gathering of information about terrorists.
And, apparently, the NSA is in fact reading the emails of American citizens. Recently, Michele Catalano, a Long Island woman and a writer for Death and Taxes magazine, did some Google searches on a family computer to compare pressure cookers. A few days later, six men in plainclothes came to her house in an SUV. The men turned out to be Nassau County police officers working on an anti-terrorism detail. According to Catalano, they asked about the couple's Google search history. They were concerned about queries for "backpacks" and "pressure cookers" coming from the same home at the same time. It turns out that Catalano's husband had been researching backpacks for an upcoming camping trip.
The police grilled the husband with questions: "Where was he from? Where were his parents from?" They asked him about Mrs. Catalano: Where was she? Where did she work? Where did her parents live? "Do you have any bombs?" they asked. "Do you own a pressure cooker?" Catalano's husband replied that the couple had no pressure cooker, but did have a rice cooker. The police then asked, "Can you make a bomb with that?" Catalano's husband answered, "No, my wife uses it to make quinoa." The response to this was, "What the hell is quinoa?"
Catalano's husband then asked the police whether they knew anything about making a pressure cooker bomb. Were they curious about how such a bomb works? Had they ever looked it up? Two of the policemen admitted that they had.
George Orwell predicted in his novel 1984 that governments would snoop into our private lives. Orwell wrote: "It was the police patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered." Sounds a lot like the NSA and the Nassau County "Thought Police" interrogating the Catalanos!
The nation needs to take a step back and revisit the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Edward Snowden could help the President, Congress and the American people have faith in their government once again. We have a history in this country of turning criminals into government agents. For example, the convicted counterfeiter Frank Abagnale (from the movie and book Catch Me If You Can) was given an early release to work for the FBI and help the agency thwart counterfeiters.
If, as the polls seem to show, the people trust a whistleblower (or a traitor, depending on your point of view) more than the President, and certainly more than Congress, something is amiss in the Republic. Edward Snowden has exposed overreaching by the executive branch that violates the Constitution. President Obama should pardon him and invite him to the White House to work as his aide on national security reform.