The Guardian has published an open letter from Lon Snowden to his son. Its mediated through a lawyer who has obviously been very careful to sanitize the document. But whether you love or loathe liberal democracy, a more powerful expression of what liberal democracy means to its supporters has never been penned.
July 2, 2013
Edward Joseph Snowden
I, Bruce Fein, am writing this letter in collaboration with your father in response to the statement you issued yesterday in Moscow.
Thomas Paine, the voice of the American Revolution, trumpeted that a patriot saves his country from his government.
What you have done and are doing has awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber; and, has already provoked the introduction of remedial legislation in Congress to curtail spying abuses under section 215 of the Patriot Act and section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. You have forced onto the national agenda the question of whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause to believe crime is afoot to vassalage in hopes of a risk-free existence. You are a modern day Paul Revere summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government.
In contrast to your actions, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded last March as follows to an unambiguous question raised by Senator Ron Wyden:
“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper testified, “No sir, it does not.” Wyden asked for clarification, and Clapper hedged: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
Director Clapper later defended his stupendous mendacity to the Senator as the least untruthful answer possible. President Obama has not publicly rebuked the Director for frustrating the right of the people to know what their government is doing and to force changes if necessary through peaceful democratic processes. That is the meaning of government by the consent of the governed. “We the people” are sovereign under the U.S. Constitution, and government officials are entrusted with stewardship (not destruction) of our liberties.
We leave it to the American people to decide whether you or Director Clapper is the superior patriot.
The history of civilization is a history of brave men and women refusing to bow to government wrongdoing or injustice, and exalting knowledge, virtue, wisdom, and selflessness over creature comforts as the North Star of life. We believe your actions fall within that honorable tradition, a conviction we believe is shared by many.
As regards your reduction to de facto statelessness occasioned by the Executive Branch to penalize your alleged violations of the Espionage Act, the United States Supreme Court lectured in Trop v. Dulles (1958): “The civilized nations of the world are in virtual unanimity that statelessness is not to be imposed as punishment for crime.”
We think you would agree that the final end of the state is to make men and women free to develop their faculties, not to seek planetary domination through force, violence or spying. All Americans should have a fair opportunity to pursue their ambitions. Politics should not be a football game with winners and losers featuring juvenile taunts over fumbles or missteps.
Irrespective of life’s vicissitudes, we will be unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference. Your actions are making our challenge easier.
We encourage you to engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts about approaches to curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States. Nothing less is required to pay homage to Valley Forge, Cemetery Ridge, Omaha Beach, and other places of great sacrifice.
Very truly yours,
Counsel for Lon Snowden