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OPINION - Hero or traitor?

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker:  is he a hero or a traitor?

Where you end up on the question depends on where you start. If you start with the Constitution, you’ll probably come up with my answer.

In my mind, without question, he’s a hero.

I’ve listened to some of the ‘traitor’ arguments. I find them unconvincing.

Columnist Matt Miller  http://tinyurl.com/lw2e86d  says we voluntarily give up the same information to Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Facebook every time we use their software. They scan our data. They track our page-views. They have a file on us, which they use to target advertising and to sell to marketing firms. What’s the difference? Those companies, as big and powerful as they are, don’t have to power of the U.S. Government. And those companies tell us, through their terms of service, exactly what the data they collect is being used for. The federal government wishes to use and collect data in secret. Were it not for leaks, the feds were prefer we know nothing.

Opinion-writer Dana Milbank  http://tinyurl.com/md9r6vk  reminds us that the government’s domestic-spying program was court approved and was monitored by Congress. Unfortunately, it’s overseen by a court that meets in secret, whose rulings are classified. Our less-than-esteemed members of Congress are silent lapdogs until the winds of public opinion start blowing. Lest we never forget, the courts and Congress are supposed to be constrained by the Constitution. When they tacitly approve something that’s unconstitutional, that doesn’t magically make it okay.

Op-ed’er Mark Thiessen  http://tinyurl.com/pdupkb4  writes that there’s a difference between listening into our phone conversations compared to gathering data about them. To connect the dots, you need a universe of possible dots to connect. But, no, if the ‘dots’ are my private data they are still supposed to be off-limits without probable cause and a search warrant.

I’m also amused about comparisons of James Snowden to Bradley Manning of WikiLeaks fame. Snowden is a conscientious leaker; outraged at government action that’s out of bounds. He told us about an unconstitutional program. Manning leaked more than 600,000 pages of documents, and was unaware of the contents. Snowden is a moralist. Manning is a graffiti-artist.

I understand how people’s thinking has become jumbled. This level of snooping does indeed allow us to catch terrorists and prevent attacks. The difference is that until now our survailance (foreign calls, emails into and out-of the country, access to overseas web sites) had been international. But we gave the government an inch and they took a mile – a secret massive database of information generated by the actions of you and me.

Tracking the phone numbers I call, how long I call them, and where I place the call from is private information about my communications with others. So are the emails I type, the web sites I visit, and the people I chat with on-line. Someone who warns that the government has gone too far isn’t a traitor, that person is a patriot.

Chris Conley