On Tuesday, former Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul interviewed the infamous NSA leaker, Edward Snowden on the Ron Paul Liberty Report. After preliminary questions eluding to Snowden’s living situation, political leanings and party affiliation, in which he professes his dislike for “labels”, Dr. Paul began ask pressing questions inquiring minds would like to know.
Surveillance, not security…
Shortly after an investigation into the NSA surveillance program, a White House panel was “surprised” to find that there was no evidence to support the claim that this program has thwarted ANY terrorist attacks since its inception.
Snowden is quick to point out that the question is not liberty versus security at all, but liberty versus surveillance. His main reasoning was that, “Surveillance exists in a vacuum of security. [It] is enabled by a lack of security. It’s where you’re exposed, […] available to be observed […] you can be tracked recorded and monitored.”
The question then became, well what is Liberty?
Undoubtedly liberty has come to mean different things to many people, however, Snowden decided to cut through all contemporary description and opted for a view filtered through the lens of a Founding Father’s perspective. “Privacy is what we used to call liberty but in the same breath, we say that privacy is dead.” Snowden said. “[Liberty] is the right to self […] the freedom from permission, it is the [fountainhead] from which all other rights derive.”
“People use arguments, I don’t care about privacy because I have nothing to hide and you shouldn’t either; if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. That’s like saying I don’t care about my freedom of speech because I have nothing to say.” Stating this argument “literally has its origins in Nazi propaganda.” Stating this is akin to saying “I don’t care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say.”
The Deep State
The idea of a secret government pulling strings in direct opposition to the interests of the American People has become a central theme in modern conspiracy theories and subject of great controversy when promoted by the likes of individuals such as Alex Jones, who have made a good living exploiting such divisive rhetoric to a nation already divided amongst themselves.
Dr. Paul has pushed the notion of what is called a “Deep State” and asked Snowden on his opinion on the topic. Snowden says, “This is really [complicated] question, because there’s no clear agreement on what the definition of [Deep State] is.”
The definition we are subsequently given is that the Deep State is “a mass of government that survives beyond administrations, that is not responding to the politics of the people.” Explaining that “this belongs to, not a particular party mechanism but it’s survives across parties, across administrations.”
Snowden goes on to describe the Intelligence community, specifically, embodies these very instrumentalities and cites NSA policy, such as the default classification of any and all intra-agency communications, as a tool, while not necessarily designed to hide embarrassing information or inconvenient details, that can be used for nefarious purposes as a result of these policies.
The assertion is then made that wartime policies used in the interest of National Security do not go away at time of peace but are, instead, used by Bureaucrats to benefit their own personal agendas (Influence, budgets, clout, etc.). Ultimately, according to Snowden, the real bureaucrats are not sitting in the White House or Congress, but within these quasi-governmental agencies for 30 years or more “with their hands on the lever the whole time.
What can be done?
Snowden compares the conundrum to that of Solutionism versus Incrementalism and to expect any one citizen to right the ship is to expect too much of one person. This has to be a concerted effort and used the analogy of individuals “laying a brick” toward the ultimate goal.
When asked about American’s right to privacy, Snowden made the following statement:
“Privacy isn’t about something to hide, privacy is about something to protect. It’s about the ability to be you, to have a thought for yourself, to think for yourself, to have something different, to have some ideas that’s new and untested and untried that you can sort of sharpen amongst those that you trust and then introduced into the world into that contest of ideas and allowing to sort of walk out on its own. If we don’t have that, we don’t have anything because the value of freedom of speech derives from that space top decide what it is that you actually believe, what it is that you want to say. Freedom of belief, freedom of religion doesn’t mean anything if you simply inherit something from the State or from the family and haven’t arrived at that belief on your own.”
You can call Edward Snowden what you like, traitor or hero, but we now are burdened with an overabundance of information that has since been verified and it will be up to us to decide the kind of nation we will be moving forward.