Geof Stone on Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden: "Hero or Traitor"?
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Huffington Post
June 10, 2013

I was amused this evening to catch a glimpse of a CNN show asking this question, as if either characterization is correct. In my judgment, based on what I know from the media thus far, Snowden is neither a hero nor a traitor, but he is most certainly a criminal who deserves serious punishment.

I say this as someone who believes strongly in government transparency, but even more strongly in the orderly rule of law. Snowden knowingly accepted a position of trust in his relation to the government. He did not have to accept his job, but he did. A clear condition of that job was his voluntary agreement not to disclose any classified information - that is, information the disclosure of which could reasonably endanger the security of the nation.

The government cannot always attach conditions to employment. For example, it cannot constitutionally require its employees to agree never to criticize the president or never to get an abortion or never to invoke their rights under the Fourth Amendment. But it is well-settled that the government can require its employees to agree to some conditions, and one of them is not to disclose classified information.

Geoffrey R. Stone



In a perfect world there would be monitors on the actions of government in the intelligence area and disclosure of malfeasance.  But there not.  The only check is a secret court which seems to think that national security overrides any harm to individual liberties.  The very people who are commiting the wrongs are those who classify the information in order to prevent the detection of their wrongdoings.  In such cases, a whistleblower offers valuable public service.  There has to be some check on government.  We are in a period where government attempts to justify every encroachment on individual liberties by citing the need for national security (and most people apparently accept this).  But it is simply a question of the fox guarding the henhouse.  In my opinion, the disclosure of governmental wrongdoing in this case outweighs any security risk.  They should not have been doing it in the first place.