I’m disappointed to read that the father of James Snowden (who leaked the Verizon info plan) thinks his son has commited treason. I get people who value loyalty to their nationality, but I think a lot of people confuse that with loyalty to one’s ruling entity. This country was a product of enlightened thought and idealism, specifically the idea that the people have value equal to (if not greater than) a government or a king. I don’t know what motivated Snowden, or Bradley Manning, or Julian Assange to do what they did; whether it was for the good of everyone, or in the service of truth, or something more self-serving; in the end it doesn’t really matter. All three of those individuals were well aware of the consequences of what they were doing. They still decided that whatever their reason, it was important enough to outweigh those consequences.
Treason, by the way, is punishable by death.
To readdress and clarify this post:
The danger of the PRISM program and what was revealed in the Verizon leak is not that our personal communication aren’t private. They have never been. The earliest days of the widespread internet and telephone operators in the 20th century can attest to that.
The danger lies in the threat of having archived, uncontextualized information available to the government at any time. That someone down the road can retrieve something you wrote 10 years ago and use it as evidence against your person creates a solid fear that inhibits the first amendment rights to speech and assembly.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The FBI uses such information to discredit protest leaders and activists, and has since the McCarthy era. Only now there’s massive amount of information that can be used in such a way, culled from things that would otherwise be coincidental connections between people, or conversational exchanges between people that would have been lost to time and memory in years past.
The FBI and CIA have acknowledged tactics of using that information as a means to discredit and destroy individuals they determined were “dangerous”, whether that meant armed militias or just counterculture groups such as civil rights leaders in the ’60s. People who questioned the way things were, who inspired change and unnerved those in power. And when a lot of people start becoming upset and looking to change things, those people who use the status quo to maintain their power feel threatened. That’s when the cops get called and the judges get the support favors called in and we see just how long that arm extends.
The shame of it is that for all the people who don’t care about this problem, most of them don’t need to worry about their own personal safety. The people effected by this will be the people who speak up, who have a voice and some vision. People who can catalyze an idea among others. People in the center of social hubs. More importantly, in the absence of those kinds of people- leaders, if you will- the phones and internet we use for communication are compromised. All that’s needed to shut down dissent toward the government or one of it’s favorable entities is the means to locate and silence those voices, and that’s exactly what they have.
I see there a lot of folks who either support (for whatever reasons) the government’s reach and authority, or don’t give a shit as long as they get their paychecks and the cable is still on. And I see there are a lot of other folks who actually understand what that means and why that kind of power needs to be lessened and kept in check. I’m curious to see how it plays out, but I think eventually most people will see how urgent the problem is, and hopefully sooner rather than later.