We Need More Edward Snowdens


Edward Snowden
The Guardian

Forget the screams of pundits and the snarling of officials. We need many more Edward Snowdens. And Bradley Mannings. And Daniel Ellsbergs. In fact, we need more people overall who question the state and hold it to account. I'm not arguing that any of these people, or their predecessors and successors, are without flaws. I'm saying that skepticism toward government power and a willingness to take risks to expose its abuses, even in defiance of the law, is an absolute necessity at a time when the state is metastasizing under the cheerful direction of elected officials and with the encouragement of much of the pro-establishment chattering class.

As Matt Welch and Jesse Walker pointed out earlier, Edward Snowden is being demonized by those who would shield the state from scrutiny and deprive the public of the knowledge of official conduct necessary to publicly challenge and debate its legality, morality and wisdom.

Snowden is "narcissistic" insists Richard Cohen, of the Washington Post, echoing the popular demonization through dime-store psychoanalysis of many of his colleagues. He should never have unveiled the NSA's surveillance schemes because "no one lied about the various programs disclosed last week. They were secret, yes, but members of Congress were informed — and they approved." So it's OK government for government to spy on us because officials gave themselves permission to do so.

Thanks, Richard, for your unthinking authority-worship.

David Brooks continues Cohen's "I may not be a shrink but I play one in a big newspaper" routine, and tears into Snowden for embracing "distinct strands of libertarianism" including "deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme." He assures us that "[f]or society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures."

Not enough deference. Got it, David.

This kind of bootlicking at two of the nation's leading newspapers can only act as cheerleading for the senators howling that Snowden committed "treason" by outing the government's creepy and despicable pawing through private communications. There's no doubt that government officials and their cheerleaders are very comfortable with the idea of enormous power restrained only by the whims of the people putting it to use, and subject to no wider challenge.

And that's why we need Edward Snowden, and Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg. Because they are willing to break rules and take risks to let the rest of us know what government officials are up to. And even if many of our neighbors are easily lulled back into complacency by hollow assurances that the experts in charge have their best interests in mind, some of us still care about our privacy and insist on keeping government officials on a short leash. Even if a majority of Americans are willing to surrender their autonomy and privacy to the likes of James Clapper, Rep. Mike Rogers and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, those of who still cherish our freedom insist on keeping a close watch on those creatures, and jerking their chains from time to time.

So keep the leaks, and the leakers, coming. A single Edward Snowden is worth all of the Cohens, Brookses, Clappers, Rogerses and Feinsteins put together.