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No to Transparency

As part of Obama’s effort to increase transparency and participation in government, the website allows people to submit petitions, and guarantees that if any petition receives more than 100,000 signatures, it will receive a response.

It is somewhat ironic then that the response to a relatively popular petition was used to strike a blow against transparency. The White House, after a notable two-year delay, has finally responded to a petition that Edward Snowden be pardoned. That petition received 167,954 signatures, more than enough to require a response.

The response accuses Snowden of things he technically did not do:

Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it.

While Snowden did steal classified information, it was news organizations (including the Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, and others) who did the disclosing. And the government has not actually specified any “severe consequences” that can be independently confirmed.

More secrecy, less transparency.

The response says that Snowden “should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers.” But due to some of the secret laws that Snowden exposed, a fair trial for Snowden would be all but impossible. The Espionage Act would specifically bar Snowden from arguing that his leaks were justified, even though it is clear that they were. Snowden’s actions helped to expose illegal actions on the part of the government and led to Congress passing reforms.



  1. John wrote:

    Technically, Snowden DID disclose classified information to news organizations who IN TURN made the information more public. One of the severe consequences to the security of the country is that, security agencies act with less impunity than before in violating Constitutional protections which, it is true, should not have been violated in the first place. And the people whose job it is to protect it must be having second thoughts about whether or not it is necessary to violate the Constitution in order to defend it.

    One MIGHT even argue that, it is incumbent on the United States Government, including our military, to employ Constitutional protections in any and all areas under U.S. governmental control… including embassies, military bases, detention centers, etc. Some people, clearly, do not agree with that assessment.

    Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  2. ralph wrote:

    “We had to destroy [the village] in order to save it.” Maj. Booris, Vietnam

    John – I’m not sure how your two paragraphs comport, but in hindsight one could argue Snowden did a patriotic act by exposing the deliberate, continuing and widespread violations of the Constitution by a major government security agency. And then lying and obfuscating about it (obligatory, granted, it’s their profession). But the notion of a private government contractor unilaterally deciding for all of us to expose classified information was also disturbing in its own right.

    What’s a superpower to do? Carpet bomb the Constitution in order to save it? Arguably, that ship has already sailed. The Constitution has been fluidly interpreted and twisted any number of ways to support the interests of the interested power at hand, at home or abroad. Ironically, we simultaneously enshrine the document while virtually ignoring or abusing it whenever politically or tactically convenient. Welcome to the Brave New Digital World.

    Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink
  3. John wrote:

    Ralph, I’m one of the people who agrees 100% with the second paragraph and, correct the two do not exactly agree with each other.

    Contracting civilians to carry out governmental functions is, in my opinion, not only an abdication of responsibility but also an abdication of oversight. Our security agencies or military or anyone else being able to plausibly deny knowing about violations clearly says we have lost control.

    Our own government is the LAST place we should be finding people bending or breaking the law. That a single government official would justify such a thing brings shame to the office. That an official would actually be proud of such things and be re-elected to office rather than indicted for crimes committed brings shame to us all.

    A stain on a blue dress is stupid. Torturing detainees under our direct control is a crime.

    Friday, July 31, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink