Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is quoted as saying that Edward Snowden’s leak of some details of the government’s monitoring of communications was “an act of treason.”

ImageI wonder whether the disclosure has actually given “aid and comfort to the enemy.”  It seems to me that Snowden neither aided nor attempted to aid the enemy.

Discussion and speculation of widespread eavesdropping on our electronic communications has been widespread, going back more than a decade. USA Today reported in 2006 that “people with direct knowledge” confirmed that the “National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth.”  It seems clear that all Snowden did is confirm what USA Today reported in 2006.

Heck, a NSA program that is “capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communication bearers including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks (which once carried most Internet traffic) and microwave links” is widely known and a staple feature in movies and books (ECHELON).

To me, the confirmation that the government is actually doing this (or maybe slightly less than what ECHELON can/could do) is no aid nor comfort to an enemy (except perhaps an extraordinarily inept and stupid one) — and therefore no treason.  (Note that it’s kind of hard to argue that Snowden’s disclosure wasn’t a crime at all, and I’m not making that argument).

However, now that we have such confirmation, we can and should undertake an informed debate as to whether we should do so (and if so, to what extent, and with what controls, checks and balances).

We certainly were incapable of having an effective conversation on this topic shortly after 9/11.  Frankly, I wonder if we can now, nearly 12 years after.  Link, link, and link.


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