Snowden Was Justified

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snowden

Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Has Edward Snowden done the U.S. a great service? There is no doubt that his release of highly classified stolen documents has sparked an important public debate, even forcing what could be a major presidential overhaul of the NSA’s surveillance programs. But have his actions—which include the downloading of an estimated 1.7 million files—tipped off our enemies and endangered national security? Is Snowden a whistleblower, or is he a criminal?

  • Ellsberg90

    For

    Daniel Ellsberg

    Fmr. U.S. Military Analyst & Pentagon Papers Whistleblower

  • Wizner90px

    For

    Ben Wizner

    Legal Adviser to Edward Snowden & Attorney, ACLU

  • McCarthy90

    Against

    Andrew C. McCarthy

    Fmr. Federal Prosecutor & Contributing Editor, National Review

  • Woolsey90

    Against

    Ambassador R. James Woolsey

    Fmr. Director, CIA & Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies


    • Moderator Image

      MODERATOR

      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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Ellsberg90

For The Motion

Daniel Ellsberg

Fmr. U.S. Military Analyst & Pentagon Papers Whistleblower

Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. military analyst who, in 1971, leaked the Pentagon Papers, which revealed how the U.S. public had been misled about the Vietnam war. In 1959, after serving in the Marine Corps, he became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the White House and Defense Department, which he joined before transferring to the State Department to serve in Saigon. On return to RAND in 1967, Ellsberg worked on the top secret McNamara study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which, after his release, would become known as the Pentagon Papers. His trial, on twelve felony counts, was dismissed on grounds of governmental misconduct against him. Ellsberg is the author of several books, including Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002). He was awarded the 2006 Right Livelihood Award and is a senior fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

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Wizner90px

For The Motion

Ben Wizner

Legal Adviser to Edward Snowden & Attorney, ACLU

Ben Wizner, legal adviser to Edward Snowden, is the director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, which is dedicated to protecting and expanding the First Amendment freedoms of expression, association, and inquiry; expanding the right to privacy and increasing the control that individuals have over their personal information; and ensuring that civil liberties are enhanced rather than compromised by new advances in science and technology. He has litigated numerous cases involving post-9/11 civil liberties abuses, including challenges to airport security policies, government watchlists, extraordinary rendition, and torture. He has appeared regularly in the media, testified before Congress, and traveled several times to Guantánamo Bay to monitor military commission proceedings. Ben is a graduate of Harvard College and New York University School of Law and was a law clerk to the Hon. Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

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McCarthy90

Against The Motion

Andrew C. McCarthy

Fmr. Federal Prosecutor & Contributing Editor, National Review

Andrew C. McCarthy, a contributing editor at National Review and a senior fellow at National Review Institute, was a top federal prosecutor involved in some of the most significant cases in recent history. A former chief assistant U.S. attorney, he is best known for leading the prosecution against the Blind Sheik (Omar Abdel Rahman) and eleven other jihadists for waging a terrorist war against the U.S., including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a plot to bomb New York City landmarks. After the 9/11 attacks, he supervised the U.S. attorney’s command-post near Ground Zero and later served as an advisor to the deputy secretary of defense. Decorated with the Justice Department’s highest honors, he retired from government in 2003. McCarthy is a frequent media commentator on legal affairs and national security and is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, Willful Blindness (2008) and The Grand Jihad (2010).

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Woolsey90

Against The Motion

Ambassador R. James Woolsey

Fmr. Director, CIA & Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Ambassador R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, chairs the board of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and is a venture partner with Lux Capital Management. Previously, he served in the U.S. Government on five different occasions, where he held presidential appointments in two Republican and two Democratic administrations. In addition to heading the CIA, Woolsey served as ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, Vienna; under secretary of the Navy; and general counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Woolsey was also a vice president and officer of Booz Allen Hamilton and a partner at the D.C. law firm of Shea & Gardner, now Goodwin Procter, where he is currently Of Counsel. Presently specializing in both security and alternative energy issues, he serves on a range of government, corporate, and non-profit advisory boards and chairs several.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:
 

53% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (24% voted FOR twice, 21% voted AGAINST twice, 8% voted UNDECIDED twice). 47% changed their minds (4% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 2% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 6% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 2% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 25% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 9% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    28 comments

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    • Comment Link Triangle98 Monday, 10 February 2014 22:00 posted by Triangle98

      Had Snowden stopped at revealing domestic surveillance practices, he would have been a hero. When he revealed US surveillance and intelligence collection activities directed against other countries, not only what he had collected but how, he became a traitor. The information collected against other countries was designed to protect American lives and give the US prior warning of attacks directed against Americans. While the US does share information with its allies, not all of our allies reciprocate, or do so in a timely manner. Our allies also spy against us, just as we spy against them. With Snowden's actions, both our friends and enemies are taking a closer look at their information security measures, which makes it hard for the US to collect against them, which in turn makes it more difficult for the US to obtain actionable intelligence that might prevent a terrorist attack. Any lives lost because of this missed intelligence is on Snowden's hands.

    • Comment Link Cash Snowden Monday, 10 February 2014 19:49 posted by Cash Snowden

      I do SOLEMNLY SWEAR that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (SO HELP ME GOD) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion----The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


      "What? You were SERIOUS about dat?"

    • Comment Link Kamal F. Sunday, 09 February 2014 17:46 posted by Kamal F.

      Snowden is hero and a traitor. I want all my heros to be traitors. Being whistleblower, a hero for democracy, isn't something you do only on sundays or before you go to bed at night like some prayer. It's not a pill you can just pop to make things right. A hero must be willing sacrifice the things which are most dear to him: life and freedom. Sacrifce, such as whistleblowing, isnt easy and it should never be, which to me is the most important message if you want to maintain an aggressive and potent democracy. heroism without sacrifice is a precedent I do wish to set and make customary. I do not trust any political heroism without sacrifice.

      Some say that prosecuting whistleblowers will discourage others from coming forward. Well, thank god it wasn't them. Leave heroism to those who are willing to lose it all. That's a precedent I can trust. The same way you can't call yourself a martyr until you die. it's the same reason why terrorist are best captured than killed. Because martyrs becomes gods and people worship gods. Better to keep him alive, because his death will spark a fire in the people which will overthrow the empire. From MLK to Mandela to Bhutto, history shows that the most power is derived from selfless courage that awakens the hearts and minds of people, and it only intensifies after death or imprisonment. Political movements and revolutions derives it power from the zeal of it's face. it's figurehead.

      Snowden life as a fugitive has the same affect. His status as a fugitive, an exile has become the news itself. It sparked another debate separate from spying, which I believe is the true story, not government spying. The government is not supposed to be perfect, that why it's called a democracy. Dissent is the lifeblood of democracy, so only dissent can take away government power. A perfect government creates a passive society.

      so yes, I want my heros to be criminals. Criminals in exile who will one day return after government abuses have been eradicated. Criminals until the people are angry enough to start a revolution. passive people join revolutions and movements, but fearless and angry people start them. That's how it's supposed to be. Who would you rather revolt for: someone who risks nothing or someone who risks it all? Exactly. Courage without sacrifice isn't courage. It's just a passive action without substance, like a flick of light switch without thought.

    • Comment Link W. W. Ferrall Saturday, 08 February 2014 12:18 posted by W. W. Ferrall

      Consider human nature as demonstrated throughout recorded history.
      Consider the immense power now existing in the US(for that matter, most) Government today, contrasted to individual citizens.
      Consider the technology supporting that power.
      CONSIDER THE NATURAL TENDENCY OF OF ANY POWER STRUCTURE TO EXPAND THAT POWER.
      Any questions?

    • Comment Link Rob Mackay Tuesday, 04 February 2014 09:19 posted by Rob Mackay

      Andrew (commentor) missed the point about the illegality of spying on American citizens, apparently he is so focused on foreign relations that he fails to realize that the NSA actions were crimes against the citizens of the United States. Are we a nation of laws or do we live in a feudal system where some are above the law ?

      Add to this that history demonstrates that state spying is inevitable used to repress dissent and control political outcomes. It is more than suspicion that the NSA eavesdropping has occurred against our own government, our own politicians and many believe that it has been used to blackmail politicians into voting the way the NSA wants. Even if this is hearsay and rumor the very fact that the NSA can do this today raises doubt about the validity of our entire political system.

    • Comment Link Lucas Phlipsak Tuesday, 04 February 2014 00:04 posted by Lucas Phlipsak

      Whether or not threats exist in the world is a straw man argument, as is contending that these intelligence practices are globally normative. If Ambassador Woolsey concurs that this surveillance is on it's face a general warrant then I feel like he must by implication defend the use of secret general warrants on law abiding US citizens.

    • Comment Link Andrew Caudell Thursday, 30 January 2014 21:49 posted by Andrew Caudell

      Snowden (indeed, anyone in Snowden's position) might have been justified if (as was the case with the Pentagon Papers) there was a clear and present risk of harm or death to unconsenting people. The Vietnam Conflict, as we know, resulted in large numbers of American citizens getting drafted without consent and sent to die in a combat operation engaged in for dubious reasons. Snowden revealed that a superpower government is (gasp!) spying on other governments! That they were (gasp!) perusing cellphone records. No lives were being endangered by the activities Snowden revealed, nor were any saved by his revelations. The Germans aren't going to start yet ANOTHER world war because we tapped their chancellor's phone (by the way, doesn't she have IT security of her own? How DID we tap her phone without them finding out on their own?). Brazil isn't going to start rounding up American citizens traveling abroad in disproportionate retribution to being spied on.

      In short, Snowden (a security *contractor*) violated the terms of his contract and saved no lives by doing so. He wasn't justified.

    • Comment Link barbara balaban Friday, 24 January 2014 12:21 posted by barbara balaban

      Sometimes it's important to break rules - either for the common good or in support of the Nuremberg principles.

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