The Snowden Letter To Dear Leader Obama

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President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution

Dear Mr. President:

You are acutely aware that the history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices. As Edmund Burke sermonized, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremburg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defense. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.

A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.

Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.

We submit that Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance of Americans under § 215 of the Patriot Act, § 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments, or otherwise were sanctioned by Thoreau’s time-honored moral philosophy and justifications for civil disobedience. Since 2005, Mr. Snowden had been employed by the intelligence community. He found himself complicit in secret, indiscriminate spying on millions of innocent citizens contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First and Fourth Amendments and the transparency indispensable to self-government. Members of Congress entrusted with oversight remained silent or Delphic. Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Espionage Act.

From the commencement of your administration, your secrecy of the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surveillance programs had frustrated a national conversation over their legality, necessity, or morality. That secrecy (combined with congressional nonfeasance) provoked Edward’s disclosures, which sparked a national conversation which you have belatedly and cynically embraced. Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to curtail or terminate the NSA’s programs, and the American people are being educated to the public policy choices at hand. A commanding majority now voice concerns over the dragnet surveillance of Americans that Edward exposed and you concealed. It seems mystifying to us that you are prosecuting Edward for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done!

The right to be left alone from government snooping–the most cherished right among civilized people—is the cornerstone of liberty. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg. He came to learn of the dynamics of the Third Reich that crushed a free society, and which have lessons for the United States today.

Writing in Brinegar v. United States, Justice Jackson elaborated:

The Fourth Amendment states: “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.”

These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance
disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.

We thus find your administration’s zeal to punish Mr. Snowden’s discharge of civic duty to protect democratic processes and to safeguard liberty to be unconscionable and indefensible.

We are also appalled at your administration’s scorn for due process, the rule of law, fairness, and the presumption of innocence as regards Edward.

On June 27, 2013, Mr. Fein wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that Edward’s father was substantially convinced that he would return to the United States to confront the charges that have been lodged against him if three cornerstones of due process were guaranteed. The letter was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to discuss fair trial imperatives. The Attorney General has sneered at the overture with studied silence.

We thus suspect your administration wishes to avoid a trial because of constitutional doubts about application of the Espionage Act in these circumstances, and obligations to disclose to the public potentially embarrassing classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act.

Your decision to force down a civilian airliner carrying Bolivian President Eva Morales in hopes of kidnapping Edward also does not inspire confidence that you are committed to providing him a fair trial. Neither does your refusal to remind the American people and prominent Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate like House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann,and Senator Dianne Feinstein that Edward enjoys a presumption of innocence. He should not be convicted before trial. Yet Speaker Boehner has denounced Edward as a “traitor.”

Ms. Pelosi has pontificated that Edward “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” Ms. Bachmann has pronounced that, “This was not the act of a patriot; this was an act of a traitor.” And Ms. Feinstein has decreed that Edward was guilty of “treason,” which is defined in Article III of the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States, “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

You have let those quadruple affronts to due process pass unrebuked, while you have disparaged Edward as a “hacker” to cast aspersion on his motivations and talents. Have you forgotten the Supreme Court’s gospel in Berger v. United States that the interests of the government “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done?”

We also find reprehensible your administration’s Espionage Act prosecution of Edward for disclosures indistinguishable from those which routinely find their way into the public domain via your high level appointees for partisan political advantage. Classified details of your predator drone protocols, for instance, were shared with the New York Times with impunity to bolster your national security credentials. Justice Jackson observed in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York: “The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally.”

In light of the circumstances amplified above, we urge you to order the Attorney General to move to dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed. Such presidential directives would mark your finest constitutional and moral hour.

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  1. Too true Downshift. Everybody is being very quiet little mice. They know Big Brother is listening and hacking their ID’s
    Pass the hot potato. “Somebody better do something before it is too late, I would, but I’m real busy right now.” lol

    • I guess that answers this question: “What Americans must decide is what they’re going to do about this occupation of our cities and towns by standing armies operating under the guise of keeping the peace.” – John W. Whitehead

  2. I’m glad you sent that letter Eric!
    What amazes me is how little outcry there has been of the disgusting treatment of men like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon. Even the freedom and democracy loving, Hard Right Wing seems curiously mute, as if their bold speeches about freedom and justice were nothing more than lipservice to a quaint ideal. This reminds me of how Hugh Thompson was treated after he tried to stop the Mia Lia Massacre. Real men don’t murder unarmed civilians!

    • Yes, doesn’t it sicken you how the Hard Right Wing seems curiously mute, as if their bold speeches about freedom and justice were nothing more than lipservice to a quaint ideal?

      Quite. And, quite sickening, even dishonorable to an extreme.

      About the same could be said of the Hard Left Wing and their anti-war, pro-civil rights outrages prior to now which are non-existent. Which is a surprise seeing as how they were so abundant for most of my life.

      How silent they both are.
      Puppets gone quiet?
      As if they were narrowed wings on the same bird of prey zeroing in on some target of innocents.

      I wonder if the guys working my local Fusion Center are taking note of this and maybe it’s registering just a little bit in their minds?
      Oh, hey, what am I saying, no one mentions Fusion Centers anymore, it’s like they never existed, or something. What’s up with that?

      • I read an article once about the lefties of the ’60s and the anti-war movement.

        The gist was that once the threat of being drafted to fight in Vietnam was gone, the anti-government/pro civil liberties pretense went along with it.

        In other words, the leftist protestors (the Boomers) were to a great extent selfish poltroons.

        Recent history appears to have confirmed this.

        • eric, somebody is really spouting their own brand there. We had years of hard work to stop that war after the lottery draft numbers came out in early ’69. Kent State, May 1970. Many more small and large organized protests. I’ve read some bs like that by people who weren’t alive then. So where do they get their info? Obviously from the pro-war crowd.

          • Hi Eight,

            I was just calling attention to the interesting (to me) lack of interest in the principle of civil liberties – as opposed to one particular abuse thereof.

            For instance, being opposed to the draft – but supporting the abrogation of freedom of association and the evisceration of the concept of private property.

            As an aside: In no way do I support the draft. But, it had one salutary effect. It caused more people to be personally affected by these god-damned wars ginned up by “our” leaders. Now that the Imperial Legions are all-volunteer, few give a shit. Most wave they flags and cheer.

          • eric, I agree with everything you say. Back during Vietnam there were many protests against big banks but it’s just shoved under the rug. I said when these wars of aggression were being fulminated it wouldn’t fly with a draft but due to extremely ignorant, uneducated young people the lie lives on. The sheeple? Baaahh baaahhh

        • Just to set the record straight… I was born in 1946. I was never a “hippy,” a leftist, or any other kind of “protester.” The “draft” was purely evil and slavery, and that never changed, but I had other things to do in the 60s (raise my children), and my activism took several other, non-aggressive forms.

          I never knew anybody who joined those “protests” myself, actually, and can only conclude they were the same marginal portion of the whole population as the “occupy” movement more recently.

          The “boomers” are no more responsible for what society has become today than any other segment of the population. We all got here in the same boat, just maybe with different sized oars. And I’m tired of seeing otherwise smart people blindly blame the “boomers” for everything. sigh

          • Mama, I get tired of supposed journalists who know nothing but what some older person told them spouting their nonsense. I suppose I was a hippie but I was dead against the war as a shit-kicker. I was for peace, world-wide. I’m not sure I was a leftist but I had no use for war or any sort of conflict since the people of the countries involved pay the price. I was a pacifist as far as wars of aggression but wasn’t up for getting beaten and would give it all back. Don’t count on this longhair not being armed to the teeth. I bought my first handgun when I was 14 and carried it till it wore out. There were countless people like me. I’d guess west Texas “hippies” and Ca. hippies might not have seen eye to eye.

          • Dear ML,

            Ditto. I am also a first year Baby Boomer.

            My classmates in college were mostly free market oriented. We sneered when a tiny minority of New Left types replicated the antics of the high profile New Left rabble-rousers on campus.

            I really think the equating of the Baby Boomer generation with the New Left reflects a New Left PR coup, rather than social reality. I think they sold the general public on this notion to inflate their own numbers and importance.

          • Hi Mama. “The “boomers” are no more responsible for what society has become today than any other segment of the population” is a good point. The US government was thoroughly fascist by the end of the 1930s and had determined on world empire by the end of the 1940s. The government went de facto bankrupt in 1971, when the oldest boomers were 25 years old and had approximately zero political power. The boomers had nothing to do with any of that. By the time they achieved any degree of real political influence, the trajectory was irrevocably set.

          • I tend to blame “the greatest generation” and their parents. That’s where things really went wrong. Where people really took the bait and traded away the key freedoms.

            The predominate boomers however make a case for being sellouts. What started out as as rebelling against the state became one of becoming fully invested in it and expanding it to ghastly size.

            Just watch the boomers vote for stealing everything once they figure out they
            a) don’t have anything saved or enough for retirement.
            b) social security ain’t gonna cut it.
            c) the corporate/government beast destroyed their pensions and/or 401Ks.

            • Indeed.

              I’m a Gen Xer and will take the following pledge:

              Even though I have “contributed” – that is, been forced at gunpoint to pay Social Security taxes – for the past 25 years and thus have hypothetically “earned” a certain amount per month upon my retirement, I am prepared (no, eager) to forswear any future “benefits” in return for being left the fuck alone from this moment forward. Not one more cent in “contributions” from me.

              But, no.

              It’s not sufficient they’ve already taken from me an amount that would have been sufficient to provide for my own retirement. No. They intend to keep me – and you – enslaved – for the rest of our lives.

          • I liked what BrentP wrote. They, the Boomer Generation, had a chance to change things, they had the votes (they had the numbers on their side and wasted it, imho) and the numbers and they did nothing. …Or not enough.
            At least, that’s what the old me would have said.

            Nowadays, I wonder, if even every Boomer would have raged against the machine, would it have made a difference?
            Then again,…Like it matters, we are, where we are.

            It seems to me they could have changed things, but I wasn’t there so I don’t know. … Still.

            Which brings us back to that one guy’s question I forget the name of, what are we gonna do about it? Now.

            Maybe this is the Boomers chance at redemption?

          • And I don’t mean The Boomers just had the advantage in the voting arena, no. (But they did, they totally out numbered The Greatest Generation) It’s just that they could have achieved greatness in just the living and doing. They far out numbered The Greatest Generation and those after them, so if they wanted to get something done or go in a certain direction, they could have. But they didn’t.
            I don’t blame any individual in the Boomer Generation, but at the same time, I do. Same as I blame myself for not doing enough,… Or something. Just not being creative enough or vocal enough or persuasive enough.
            Imho, if I can’t say they failed, then there’s no such thing as as an American culture.
            That’s just my perspective.

    • The GOP right – “conservatives” – despise liberty. They are authoritarians – and collectivists – to the core.

      The difference between them and the “liberals” they despise is that they believe their authoritarian-collectivism is moral. “Fambly values.” Patriotism. Nationalism. Supporting The Troops. And “helping” kids.

      I learned this after attending a few Tea Party meetings. They are hopeless. Too blind to appreciate that they have no basis – intellectual or philosophical – for criticizing the “liberals” for their redistributionism, control freak meddling and collectivism.

      They are birds of a feather – only worse than the “liberals” because of their hypocrisy. Their literally insane babbling about”our freedoms” … eructating from the maws of people who are happy to take away your freedoms for any of several reasons.

      It’s easy to finger these people. Just ask whether they support criminal prosecution/punishment of personal actions that involve no harm to other people (e.g., the “drug war”). Or whether they’re willing to foreswear “their” Social Security benefits.

      God, it gets tiresome.

      • Dear Eric,

        Amen to that!

        Joe Sobran, former conservative, current market anarchist, described his eventual disillusionment with the conservative National Review:

        … it was only toward the end of more than two happy decades there that I began to realize that we didn’t all want the same things after all. When it happened, it was like learning, after a long and placid marriage, that your spouse is in love with someone else, and has been all along… We all assumed we were on the same side, when we weren’t.

        The Reluctant Anarchist

        Great article.

        • Good stuff, Bevin!

          Joe Sobran quotes:

          In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college.

          The measure of the state’s success is that the word anarchy frightens people, while the word state does not. By a very conservative estimate, a hundred million people have died at the hands of their own governments in this century. Given that record, how bad could anarchy be?

          If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you’re a moderate. If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an extremist.

          “An anti-Semite used to mean a man who hated Jews. Now it means a man who is hated by Jews.

          “Need’ now means wanting someone else’s money. ‘Greed’ means wanting to keep your own. ‘Compassion’ is when a politician arranges the transfer.

          By today’s standards King George III was a very mild tyrant indeed. He taxed his American colonists at a rate of only pennies per annum. His actual impact on their personal lives was trivial. He had arbitrary power over them in law and in principle but in fact it was seldom exercised. If you compare his rule with that of today’s U.S. Government you have to wonder why we celebrate our independence

          Most Americans aren’t the sort of citizens the Founding Fathers expected; they are contented serfs. Far from being active critics of government, they assume that its might makes it right

          • AWESOME quotes, thank you! Saved those off for use on others. My parents should learn a few things before they shuffle off the mortal coil…

          • Dear Tor, Jean,

            Real gems! Some are as good as HL Mencken’s, or Ambrose Bierce’s.


            Conservative, n. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.
            ― Ambrose Bierce

            Re: Sobran.

            It was great that such a prominent, high profile conservative, a religious conservative at that, made such a dramatic break.

            Such personal experiences are highly influential. They can easily inspire others, for whom he had street cred, to follow his lead.

            • In re Sobran:

              They destroyed him. Professionally – then personally.

              I was within The System, as a young editor/writer. I saw it happen. Knew some of the people who did it to him.

              It opened my eyes.

          • Dear Eric,

            Thanks for sharing that. Very interesting indeed. I was never privy to any of those intrigues.

            Maybe I’m too Quixotic. Too much of an outsider, with too little invested in “The System,” hence too predisposed to tilt at windmills. But in my book Sobran came out on top.

            For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

  3. I am sure Knobama will immediately stop the madness and stop all wrong doing. Then again you might be a winner in the Irish Sweepstakes.

    • Woo!! I just won the Nigerian sweepstakes!!

      Kidding. A well written letter, but I doubt Knobama will back down and be held to account for his and his cronies’ unlawful and blatant “convictions” of Snowden’s guilt before trial. The entire country should read that letter and march on the Shithouse, declaring the current gubberment unlawful, invalid and impeachable.

        • He still has legions of apologists. It is exactly like 1984. The party – and whomever represents it – must be supported. Even when it’s become plain the party just did a 180 (Oceania is at war with Eastasia; Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia).

          Obama’s actions – and policies – have been a continuation of The Chimp’s. In many ways, worse than The Chimp’s. Yet the same “liberals” who took to the streets (and editorial pages) over The Chimp’s actions and policies are silent now that it’s their guy leading the Dark Carnival.

          • Eric,

            That is a sad commentary.

            As long as it is “our” guy (or team, etc.) then everything done buy our “guy” is fine.

            If the same action is done by the other “guy” then everything is wrong and we must stop him.

          • eric, how can there be any doubt of its illegality and un-Constitutionality when one man can murder anyone he wants. That’s the most egregious, evil thing I have ever heard. If another country had that policy the pols would go bonkers about it. It’s nothing if not totally immoral. Anwar al Awlaki was never charged with a crime and to defend his killing of his son BO said the child should have had a better parent. So by that standard the Obama’s children should also be murdered. I just can’t get on the “murder who you want” train or any type of murder. NAP….and that means everyone. Here is an example of bloated bureaucracy and a right to kill gives on a local level. Nothing is too innocent nor small to murder any longer. If anyone doesn’t think this is sick they need help.

          • Nice.
            Jack throw another, Jake catch on more.
            They’ll try to catch all thats in store for you, for you.
            How many souls will fall from the sky?
            How many souls burn wandering why?

            There are a billion ways of saying what’s going on.
            Somehow, NO ONE IS LISTENING…

            Emerging from the Dark Carnival like phantom smoke drifting into the minds of men, they are the Amazing Jeckel Brothers. A chaotic duo of juggling masters, Jack “the sinister” and Jake “the just” juggle the sins of mortal men… There is no escape from their juggling act because there is no way to escape ourselves. Only in death will we recognize this as we twist and spin to the other side.

            Liner notes

    • Dear Mith,

      Stop the madness?

      He’s not known as “Obomber” for nothing.

      It’s truly mind-boggling. We libertarians made predictions about where the system was headed based on a priori logic. We did this for decades. We said that based on the way the system was structured, no other result was possible. The result was predictable. The result was inevitable.

      Now, since 9/11, the most dire predictions have come true.

      Sometimes even I can’t believe how right we were.

      But you know what? Sometimes I say to myself, “I know I predicted this. But I wish I had been wrong.”

      • and the correction of predictions by using logic and knowledge will never be recognized by the masses I am afraid. They laugh at it right up until the moment it is undeniable and then they change gears and say it’s a good thing. The way they switch gears from “you’re paranoid, it can’t happen here” to “it’s a good thing, it keeps us safe, you’re paranoid, no problem if you’ve got nothing to hide” is amazing. It’s like shifting into reverse at 100mph and not breaking anything.

        I suppose in their minds they never change direction at all. They just repeat what TV tells them. TV tells them what to believe and that is the constant. They never thought about it or held a belief of their own in the first place.

        Meanwhile if one of their dear leaders actually got a climate change prediction correct they’d worship at his feet.


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