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Put the National Security Crucifixion on Hold, We Need to Learn More

“You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds… What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can,” St. Thomas More (Utopia, 1516)

During an interview on CNN’s Directo USA yesterday we talked about the leak of National Security Agency (NSA) documents of what seems to be various U.S. surveillance programs. Before the taping, the other guest, Mr. Roberto Izurieta from the GW University Graduate School of Political Management, and I were  discussing what may have motivated Edward Snowden to do such a thing? Why now and, of all places, Hong Kong?

We reached no conclusions on the show. Rarely can you do so in a seven or ten minute segment. However, it made me think quite a bit about what Snowden did, this city, as well as the political processes that surround matters such as these.

Snowden is not the story, he is part of it. A very small portion of it, at least when you consider what he has revealed. I’m not condoning it, nor calling him a hero. He has broken many laws and must be held accountable. If, for example, Snowden acted in concert with a foreign nation or other foreign entity, he should be tried for treason.

If his motivations were purely focused on raising awareness, and there were no other persons involved,  Snowden appears to fully understood what he was doing was wrong and decided to take the risk.  Rather than approach his or her Member of Congress or, heck, even the ACLU or other non-profit group such as EPIC, he went to a foreign newspaper and country to make his statement.   Something is very wrong in our political system when someone does something like this.

Anytime there is a political crisis in our fair city, no matter the federal agency or Congressional office, most people go into crisis and political management mode. They fear a political backlash, as they should. Will I lose my job? Will I be hauled before a Congressional Committee? Will the media poke around and report other things, those known and unknown? In some cases, will I go to jail?

For folks like you and me on the outside, know well that we are only hearing slices of the story from all persons involved in this matter. Snowden is only giving us part of the story (likely with the advice of counsel) and U.S. officials are also doing the same. It is now up to the Congress to step up and do some much-needed oversight.

Of all that has been said by Members of Congress and Administration officials who should be in the know, the one statement that has stuck with me is the following one from the former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and author of the PATRIOT act, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.):

Technically, the administration’s actions were lawful insofar as they were done pursuant to an order from the FISA court. But based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the FISA court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.

Republicans need to rally behind Rep. Sensenbrenner and do two things: 1.  Figure out how and why Snowden did what he did, and 2. Figure out if certain officials — political, career, and judicial — exceeded the legal mandates provided under various laws. After that is done, we will know who will be crucified on the national security cross. My political and legal gut tells me it will involve more people than we imagine at this point.

P.S., we already give the government quite a bit of information. Even a national security hawk should care about the privacy and freedom implications raised by this case. If I am doing nothing wrong, the government has no business poking around in my life unless I let them by, well, doing things like posting on this blog. Anything else, off meta-limits.

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