For many civil libertarians, the American political system appears caught in a vicious loop. While Americans are demanding change and hold both parties at record lows, the party elite have changed nothing. (Indeed, a new poll shows the Democrats at a new low and now in danger of losing not just the White House but Congress). The leading candidate for the Democrats is Hillary Clinton (who has also been shown to have low numbers in recent polls). The Republicans are pushing another Bush. For many libertarians and civil libertarians, Clinton is a non-starter. She supported the wars under Bush as well as the Libyan intervention under Obama. She is the very face of the Democratic establishment for many. That image was reinforced last week at the University of Connecticut, when Clinton discussed Edward Snowden and expressed utter confusion why he would ever do what he did.
Clinton responded to questions about NSA surveillance with the same mantra heard in both the Bush and Obama Administrations: there are people out there who want to hurt us and we were just trying to protect you. She made it sound like she was talking about events 100 years ago:
“People were desperate to avoid another attack, and I saw enough intelligence as a senator from New York, and then certainly as secretary [of State], that this is a constant—there are people right this minute trying to figure out how to do harm to Americans and to other innocent people. So it was a debate that needs to happen, so that we make sure that we’re not infringing on Americans’ privacy, which is a valued, cherished personal belief that we have. But we also had to figure out how to get the right amount of security.”
The campaign has begun. We did nothing wrong because we were fighting terrorists but we will look for the right balance . . . and by the way, I am delighted that we are having this debate (even after the Administration fought to prevent any disclosure of the programs that led to the debate).
It was Clinton’s comments on Snowden that are likely to outrage many civil libertarians. While not calling him a traitor like others (which would not go over well given the polls showing Snowden as viewed as a whistleblower), Clinton came off as passive aggressive — openly expressing bewilderment that he did what he did when he could have just come to the government with his concerns.
“When he emerged and when he absconded with all that material, I was puzzled because we have all these protections for whistle-blowers. If he were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate, he could have been. But it struck me as—I just have to be honest with you—as sort of odd that he would flee to China, because Hong Kong is controlled by China, and that he would then go to Russia—two countries with which we have very difficult cyberrelationships, to put it mildly.”
I can understand why our ruling political elite would find Snowden odd. He broke the rules and went outside of a carefully controlled duopoly system of control. He embarrassed many, including Clinton, who sat by quietly as the national security system invaded the privacy of every American citizen. Indeed, for people in the establishment who have spent their lives reinforcing that system, someone like Snowden is more than an anomaly. He is someone who not only broke the rules but threw away his career to make these disclosures. For people like Clinton, he could just as well be a man from Mars.
Just for the record, as many of you know, I represented the prior whistleblower who first revealed this program years before Snowden. He tried to use the system. Happily he was not charged and is doing well. However, as I have testified in Congress, the whistleblower system referred to by Clinton is a colossal joke. First, as Clinton must know (but did not mention), there are exceptions under the whistleblower laws for national security information. Second, the House and Senate oversight committees are viewed as the place that whistleblowers go to get arrested. There is a revolving door of staff back and forth to the intelligence agencies and people like Dianne Feinstein have denounced Snowden as a traitor. For those of us who have practiced in this area, many of us find it “odd” that Clinton would think that Snowden could use that system. While one can still criticize Snowden for breaking classification laws, the suggestion that he could have used the whistleblower system is demonstrably untrue if you are familiar with the laws or the history of such cases.
Clinton added that “I think turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like. So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority.”
Of course, many would “have a hard time thinking that somebody” who blindly supported the rise of the national security state and multiple wars would hold forth n privacy and liberty. Yet, none of this matters. Lobbyists have been reportedly giving millions to Clinton in speeches while Democratic leaders are already preparing the ground for her to be the next nominee. There is nothing “odd” about that in America’s duopoly.
Source: National Journal