Aug 28, 2013

Why do we care about Snowden?

I wrote this a few weeks back when Snowden was all over the internet. I forgot about it and now it is behind the times. I'm posting it anyway. If you've forgotten who Snowden is already go Google him for a minute and then come back.

Am I the only liberal who doesn't think that Edward Snowden is a hero? Am I the only democrat who heard about the NSA scandal and thought that it was simply no big deal? I’m not even sure it is that partisan. There has been so much support for Snowden across the internet and the only people I hear condemning him are politicians, FBI, NSA, etc. which is expected. But does Snowden really deserve folk-hero status?

I admittedly am not very well informed but what I do know is this: if you have even glanced over what the Patriot Act does and have watched Enemy of the State then I have no idea why anyone is incensed. We all really should have known that the Patriot Act virtually guaranteed this kind of spying. It is my understanding that Title II of the Patriot Act gives federal agencies the right to search just about anything they want, whenever they want, using just about any means they could want. That may be slightly exaggerated. But probably not by much. Who wants to bet that congress will find the NSA's actions legal under the Patriot Act?

If you've watched Enemy of the State you know that everything anyone ever does is being recorded and will eventually be used to ruin their lives. I’m just kidding. I’m not paranoid. But seriously, if you've watched that movie and then are surprised that the NSA is tapping phones I don’t really understand.

The NSA phone scandal shouldn't be a scandal. We really should have assumed they were doing this and so much more a long time ago, and if we are obviously not really worried about it. If we were, we would try to do something about the Patriot Act.

Snowden isn't a hero. He is a guy who actually did risk compromising US security to “reveal” something to the public that they should have already known. This scandal is almost certainly going to result in a couple of people getting fired and very little else. I expect no change in policy, no change in law, no prison sentences (apart from Snowden of course), and little to no change in public opinion.

And that is the only interesting thing about this scandal to me. Public opinion seems to be that the NSA should not spy on people. Well maybe policy and law should be changed to reflect the opinions of the people.

You may have noticed that I haven't actually taken a stand against the NSA spying on people. Mostly because I don’t think it is nearly as big a deal as so many people are making it out to be. Personally, I don’t care if the NSA spies on everyone. It isn't something that worries me about our government. What I do think however is that we should be thinking more about the will of the people than anything else.

The people obviously don’t want to be spied on. We have an Act that allows the government to spy on the people. Maybe the people should affect the government in such a way as to cause the changes they desire. Frankly that doesn't seem very likely. Maybe the government we have already voted in should spend some time listening to the desires of its people.

Either way, this shouldn't have been a scandal, because it isn't a surprise and is barely stretching a document that significantly affects the freedoms of US citizens. If we insist on making this into a scandal, let’s not praise the idiot who may have actually harmed national security and has effectively made the rest of his own life hell. And if we really must have something to have a scandal over, how about weighing the public’s reactions against that of elected officials. If we elect them to do what we want and their reaction is so very different from what we want, maybe WE the PEOPLE should do something about that. No NRA gun nuts I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to everyone. STOP VOTING FOR POLITICIANS WHO DON’T DO WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT.

According to a recent Gallup poll Congress’s approval is now down to its lowest ever at 10%. A lot of these people have been elected for term, after term, after term. At some point we have to realize that we are responsible for Congress’s approval rating. We have to vote different people into office. If we do, then perhaps we can change the Patriot Act or stop the NSA spying on us. I may very well be wrong about all of this, but I think the burden of this scandal falls on the voters. That is, if the voters still have the power to elect representative persons who, to the best of their ability, obey the will of the people. (The cynical side of me says that if our government ever worked that way, that time has come and gone).

Don’t blame the NSA or the administration or the Republicans or Democrats or even the Tea Party. We the people elected congress. Congress passed the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act allows the NSA to spy on who they will. BUT, we the people can vote to change who is in congress. This NSA scandal is our fault. If people want it to change they are going to have to do some work. I’m not talking about complaining on the internet with clever memes about how bad the NSA is or how good Snowden is.

What if we actually start considering who we vote for? I’m talking about demanding that our congress persons listen to the people for fear they won’t be reelected and then following through. We have a system that should provide us with representation. If we aren't being represented we should do something about that.

This scandal shouldn't have anything to do with Snowden. This scandal should be about the fact that U.S. citizens don't trust their government and that our government doesn't seem to care. This scandal should be about the fact that we don't approve of our representatives. But the real scandal in all of this is that we'd rather sit back, point weak and harmless fingers at the government, watch one guy get the fame and take the fall, and do nothing rather than engage in our own political process.

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