Discussion Or Distraction: Snowden And The Surveillance Disclosures
Well, fine. There was a feeling of personal vindication in reading the Bloomberg editorial during this morning’s perusal of editorial opinions. You see, I have taken the position that the dissing of Edward Snowden, as well as the speculation of his whereabouts, has become a distraction to the central issues that we should be focused on.
When the President of the United States invites us to have a national discussion on issues of security, surveillance, privacy and civil liberties, it seems odd that we begin the discussion by attempting to apprehend and prosecute the person who started the discussion. And, it seems an odd debating tactic, in what should be an open discussion, that we devote seemingly endless energy to maligning the person who set the facts on the table that undergird that discussion.
So here’s a sample of what the editors of Bloomberg had to say in an attempt to bring the discussion back to the substance that President Obama called us to consider:
Snowden’s location and motives are interesting to speculate about, but they shouldn’t distract attention from what really matters in all this:
— Twelve years after the Sept. 11 attacks (and two years after the killing of Osama bin Laden) the security apparatus created in response is growing, not shrinking.
— The U.S. government is monitoring its citizens’ communications on a scale that was previously unknown and is without precedent.
— The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has declined just 11 of the government’s more than 33,900 surveillance requests.
— The legal interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is used by that court to rule on government requests for information, is classified. So the laws that enable this surveillance are themselves, in effect, secret.
— The group meant to guarantee appropriate privacy safeguards, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, was authorized by Congress in 2007, but didn’t get a full-time chairman until last month, and has met with President Barack Obama exactly once.
You can read the whole Bloomberg piece here. There are also two other TMV pieces this morning that show the growing reaction to making Snowden the issue. One from Joe Gandelman , and one from Dorian Dewind .
This doesn’t mean the media should stop reporting on Snowden’s whereabouts. There is a legitimate interest in that. There will also be a continuing and legitimate interest in the pursuit of any criminal charges, with a wide variety of opinions on the subject. But, let’s not let the personal character traits of the whistleblower prevent us from hearing the whistle and engaging in the discussion our president invited us to attend.