Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Should we spy on friends?

Edward Snowden says his actions have sparked political discussion.

A bit of an understatement I'd say.

He writes this, or words to that effect anyway, in what he calls "A Manifesto of Truth" appearing in the German language publication, Der Spiegel.  As he says:

"The world has learned a lot in a short amount of time about irresponsibly operated security agencies and, at times, criminal surveillance programs. Sometimes the agencies try to avoid controls."

Among the more damning bits to be leaked from documents in Snowden's possession are that the NSA has conducted electronic surveillance of the political leaders of Germany, France, and Spain.  Ostensibly, these nations are allies of the United States and no espionage should be warranted.  As one might imagine, this has caused a bit of a brouhaha with the leadership of those European countries.  Delegations of these nations met with U.S. politicians in Washington D.C. recently in efforts to get to the bottom of the situation and attempt to rebuild trust that is "shaken."  One clear mandate from the EU nations mentioned is that the old adage of "spying has always happened, will always happen" is no longer a viable approach.

So why do we spy on friends?  Wait, wait, let me guess..."national security."  While we're at it, why does the NSA spy on its own people?  I'm guessing the same reason.

Yeah yeah, shut up.  I know it's not as simple as that.  Nothing about this situation that Edward Snowden has brought to the surface is cut and dry.  It's not all about being steadfast and patriotic in the defense of our shores.  However, it's not what Snowden called it in his "manifesto," either.  He judged the NSA's digital surveillance program as a "humanitarian" issue.  It's not a purely philosophical or "touchy-feely" issue where your human rights were "violated" because someone read your emails or your text messages.  Valuable defense intelligence was gathered and lives were no doubt saved.

So what's the truth?  Are we safer with or without the NSA program that Edward Snowden has brought to light?  Is he a hero?  A misunderstood warrior in the fight to free information while somehow letting everyone keep their privacy?  Or is he a traitor?  Let's see what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, has to say about him:

"If he wants to come back and open up to the responsibility of the fact that he took and stole information, he violated his oath, he disclosed classified information -- that by the way has allowed three different terrorist organizations, affiliates of al Qaeda to change the way they communicate -- I'd be happy to have that discussion with him."

Ouch.  I'm guessing if Snowden ever gets to come back to the United States, Congress and the other pols won't be tailgating with him at a Redskins game.

There are no easy answers.  Therefore, my stance will, for the time being, be motivated by purely selfish interests.  I'm hoping that Snowden is keeping a "bullet in the chamber," so to speak.  I'd like to hope he's holding on to an especially explosive piece of documented evidence that could upend all of society and he's using it as his trump card to keep himself alive or at least free from prosecution or jail.

That's right.  Here's to hoping he has conclusive evidence of a governmental UFO cover up.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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