Snowden Calls for Disobedience Against the U.S. Government

In a question and answer session on Reddit earlier today, Edward Snowden wrote:

The progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.

But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?

Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determining our futures.

How does this relate to politics? Well, I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens’ discontent.

How do we make that work for us? We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights.

You can see the beginnings of this dynamic today in the statements of government officials complaining about the adoption of encryption by major technology providers. The idea here isn’t to fling ourselves into anarchy and do away with government, but to remind the government that there must always be a balance of power between the governing and the governed, and that as the progress of science increasingly empowers communities and individuals, there will be more and more areas of our lives where — if government insists on behaving poorly and with a callous disregard for the citizen — we can find ways to reduce or remove their powers on a new — and permanent — basis.

Our rights are not granted by governments. They are inherent to our nature. But it’s entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy.

We haven’t had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we’ll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they “can” do rather than what they “should” do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral.

In such times, we’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.

Background here, here and here.

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  • jadan

    Does Snowden know that he’s recapitulating the precise sentiments Jefferson embodied in the Declaration of Independence? But he doesn’t mention the Declaration. Is it because Jefferson has been taken over by the right wing nut cases and he wants to avoid a label? What can any latter day patriot say but, Hell Yes! Of course, that’s where it all started, with the Declaration! Today, even the term “patriot” is identified with Tea Partiers and other corporate lackeys. But real patriots do exist, such as the proprietor of this blog, Mr. George Washington his own bad self. And the defense of our unalienable rights is job #1.

  • Ezra Pound

    Fuck Snowden up his CIA-controlled ass.

    • jadan

      I feel so much better now that I know the CIA is championing the Declaration of Independence though its proxy, Snowden.

      • Ezra Pound

        The Snowden psyop is a turf war b/w CIA and NSA. CIA infiltrated Snowden into NSA and so Feinstein leaked the CIAs torture documents. It is all a big show and the joke is on us. Snowden and Greenwald’s “Intercept” is already publishing pro-war propaganda against Russia, and soon they will be mouthing Washington’s imperial neo-con line. Snowden is a fake and you should understand that now before you get your hopes up. “championing the Declaration of Independence” You should learn to differentiate between what people say and the objective consequences of their actions. How many FBI agents infiltrated the black panthers talked about “justice” and “black power”? Words are meaningless, objective consequences of actions are everything. Good luck.

        • jadan

          The objective consequence of the Snowden revelations is a new public awareness of what the NSA is doing and what it’s capabilities are. Very important. And the objective consequence of what you’re trying to do, Ezra, you old fascist, is to disparage the messenger and his message and render as meaningless as possible the whole issue. But given your attitude, smug, cynical, and solipsistic, I’d say you’re just another conspiracy case and not a pro-level disinformationist. Nothing personal, but you strike me as some one who should not have a permit to own a gun.

          • Ezra Pound

            Since when does anyone need a permit to own a gun? The only permit an American needs to own a gun is the Second Amendment. So who is the “fascist” between us again? (hint: no one is talking about curtailing your rights, sweetheart). Look, you can believe whatever you want to and grovel before all the gurus your heart desires, but the fact of the matter is that there were whistle blowers long before Snowden who got no media attention at all – they ended up dead or in jail. All I am saying is that if you put your faith in Snowden, you are going to end up disappointed and demoralized. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

        • lorkoos

          I really like the way you support your theories with actual evidence.

        • Cousin Eddy

          It must be a slow day over at the National Stalking Association, “EP” you’re one idiotic troll. Though gotta cut this buffoon some slack, trolling is part of his job description.

    • lew

      You people are either idiots or some of the many disinfo specialists who populate these conversations.

      • Ezra Pound

        Oh yes, I am indeed a specialist. My paycheck comes directly from Cass Sunstein too.

    • Sylvester

      Some people are so paranoid they can’t imagine anyone having a moral conscience anymore.

  • Right on! Feb 23, 2015 CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Wake Up, You’re Next

    Abby interviews CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou in his home.

  • desertspeaks

    You don’t have to disobey something that doesn’t apply to you..

    IF you ask government employees if their CONstitution and laws automatically apply to everyone, their collective opinion is that YES, their CONstitution and laws apply to everyone, automatically. BUT if you ask them what facts they rely on that PROVE their BELIEF that it is applicable to you, they have no plausible answer, they’ll hang up on you, feign as though they don’t understand the question, tell you that they aren’t going to debate with you “EVEN THOUGH ALL YOU DID WAS ASK FOR FACTUAL PROOF OF THEIR ASSERTION OF JURISDICTION”

    Everyone has been told that the CONstitution and law automatically apply to everyone. it’s everyones opinion that it applies, everyone feels it applies, everyone believes it applies, everyone assumes and presumes it applies. HOWEVER; hearsay, opinions, feelings, beliefs, assumptions and presumptions aren’t proof of a damn thing.

    What factual, first hand, irrefutable evidence can anyone offer that proves that their CONstitution and laws apply to the private person simply because they are physically in what we commonly refer to as a state.

    Keeping in mind that slavery and involuntary servitude is illegal. Further, no private person is a party to their CONstitution nor is any private person a signatory to their CONstitution, nor has any private person sworn an oath to be bound by or to obey the CONstitution and laws.

    Do you grasp the gravity of NOT being a party to some agreement, contract, compact or constitution??
    When one is NOT a party to some agreement, contract, compact or CONstitution, then one is NOT BOUND TO OBEY IT OR ANY PROMULGATIONS ARISING FROM SAID INSTRUMENT! “those promulgations would be codes, policies, statutes and laws etc”

    Who precisely is a party to their CONstitution?? The States are parties to the CONstitution. NOT YOU, THE LIVING BREATHING FLESH AND BLOOD MAN/WOMAN!!

    Should you choose to accept the challenge to show your proof/evidence. Adhere to the following;

    Your proof/evidence MUST be factual and personal first hand information, your proof/evidence shall not be comprised of hearsay, your opinions, beliefs, feelings, assumptions, presumptions, hypotheticals, conjecture, sophistry, fraud, lies, scenarios or what if’s.

    Good luck!

    • Ed

      I think you meant to write: You don’t have to obey something that doesn’t apply to you..
      Otherwise, a great comment. I hope it sinks in to somebody. I’m hoping to see copies in other forums.

      • desertspeaks

        No, I meant what I typed.. but either way works.. because it doesn’t apply to you.