The Discussion that Edward Snowden Wanted

July 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Privacy, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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USA technical contractor Edward Snowden, grafitti by Thierry Ehrmann in the "Abode of Chaos" museum of contemporary art, in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône-Alpes region, France.

USA technical contractor Edward Snowden, grafitti by Thierry Ehrmann in the “Abode of Chaos” museum of contemporary art, in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or, Rhône-Alpes region, France.

As everyone knows by now, Edward Snowden revealed classified information about a system that was designed to warn the government about impending terrorist attacks.

He claims that he released the information to provoke a public discussion about the trade off between privacy and the prevention of terrorist attacks.

As many have noted, in a partially analogous case, Daniel Ellsberg turned himself in so that his trial would throw a spotlight on the content of the Pentagon Papers, and also as proof of the purity of his motives.  Unlike Ellsberg, Edward Snowden fled, and is now seeking asylum in countries that are antithetical to the principles that Snowden claims to be defending.  This caused Julian Assange to voice his support of Snowden – Julian Assange, another coward who claims to be driven by principles, in Assange’s case the principle that no government has the right to secrets, a principle that Assange invented, an idiotic impractical principle that is not enshrined in law anywhere.

Despite Snowden’s loss of honor, the discussion he wanted has occurred, and its outcome is now known.

But the discussion not been explicit.  It has been implicit.  The public’s verdict has been declared by ‘the dog that didn’t bark’, to borrow a phrase of Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes.

The outcome is that the great majority of Americans are not outraged by practices that seem to have prevented a goodly number of terrorist attacks.  They think that these practices represent a balanced trade-off.  A limited loss of privacy has been traded for the prevention of the murder and wounding of innocent people.  Anything less would have constituted a failure to perform the duties of government with due diligence.

No matter what they say publicly, other countries recognize this.  Britain, which is careful about privacy and civil liberties, nevertheless places cameras in most public places, to help it deal with the same threat.

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