Snowden’s run from U.S. law

Like it or not, we are a nation of laws. There are various kinds of laws, or rules as many might prefer, but they exist nonetheless. And they exist for good reason.

When Moses brought down the Ten Commandments, it wasn’t for his health or need to be in control of the masses. The Ten Commandments were then, and continue to be today, laws by which the people were to live by. For instance, “thou shall not kill.” Who can argue with that? But killing went on back then and it continues today but not without punishment or some form of retribution. When a law is broken, there is a price to pay by the one who committed the crime.

I wonder what price Edward Snowden will pay. And even more concerning is what price the rest of us will pay for his decisions. I suspect that as a result of his actions there may be “true” patriotic Americans who will suffer and maybe even die.

Privacy and freedoms are important. But if we are to remain safe as a people and a nation, there must be some involvement with surveillance systems and programs. These types of programs are usually devised and carried out by the federal government. Do we like having our personal and private lives available to the world for scrutiny or judgment? No. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “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.”

That all seems reasonable; however, most of us remember the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Call it a knee-jerk reaction if you will, but measures needed to be taken in order to keep us safe. When President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law he was concerned about the threat of terrorism and was quoted as saying, “the Patriot Act upholds and respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.”

The Act was not signed without controversy. Privacy and government surveillance were the key concerns. But we must put the need for surveillance into perspective.

Every country participates in some sort of espionage. This has to happen in order to maintain the integrity of borders, national security and the safety of the people. Do the individuals involved in gathering the information push the envelope from time to time? Sure they do. However, the Patriot Act has parameters in place to prevent abuse. Surveillance such as wiretaps and physical searches requires officers to prove “probable cause” of criminality. In order to get telephone numbers dialed to and from a particular telephone, officers must get a pen-trap order from a judge. While probable cause isn’t always required, they must certify that the information is needed for an ongoing criminal investigation.

Does the United States have intelligence officers working in other countries, tapping telephone lines, checking on Internet uses, or other electronic data gathering devices? Sure they do. Are other countries doing the same in America? Yes! But how others and we capture this data is known as “secret” for a reason.

When Edward Snowden went to China he told the South China Morning Post that, “the NSA had led more than 61,000 hacking operations worldwide, including many in Hong Kong and Mainland China.” He said targets in Hong Kong included the Chinese University, public officials and businesses. “We hack network backbones – like huge Internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” Mr. Snowden was quoted as saying.

Snowden, a former contractor for the CIA, left the US in late May 2013, after leaking to the media details of extensive Internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia through August of this year and faces espionage charges over his actions here at home.

MSNBC reported that Snowden claims to have applied for asylum in Brazil. “I would love to live in Brazil,” Snowden told Brazil’s Globo TV on Sunday. Brazil’s foreign ministry however has said that it has received no formal asylum request from Snowden.

It is odd that on the one hand, Snowden says he believes asylum should be granted for humanitarian reasons, and yet he just happened to mention that there were more documents in his possession relating to US spying on countries that include Britain and Brazil.

Edward Snowden is a traitor! He is neither a hero nor the victim that he tried to make himself out as being in his recent interview with Brian Williams of NBC News. He claimed that he tried to advise his superiors that he believed what the NSA was doing was wrong but they wouldn’t listen, so he decided to handle it himself.

We are a nation of laws! If we don’t like a law or believe an injustice has been done we work to get the law changed legally. We don’t decide on our own to just break them and let the chips fall where they may as Edward Snowden has done.

The Obama administration says Snowden is welcome to return, but only to face trial. I hope this is one red line that the President doesn’t back down on.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to