Edward Snowden, the patriot whose revelations about the massive extent of the privacy abuses of America's growing national security state continue to shock and dismay lovers of liberty, is on the shortlist of nominees to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is "not just eavesdropping on all Americans and building the architecture for a police state in the U.S., it has created the largest set of mass surveillance programs in the history of the world," testified Thomas A. Drake, a former senior executive at the NSA during a hearing of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee.
The Government Accountability Project's National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack read a statement from Snowden to the E.U. parliamentary committee:
The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time. (emphasis added) The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue, we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.
A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people, but only by the people after full, informed, and fearless debate. Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge, and in my country, the cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile. If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government, but independent representatives of the public outside of government.
Previous Sakharov Prize laureates include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Reporters Without Borders. For more background, see my post of why Snowden is right to stay in Russia.
Disclosure: Last month I made a small contribution to the Government Accountability Project.
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