4:51 PM CDT, August 2, 2013
Barack Obama was far preferable to John McCain and Mitt Romney, but there are times when I wish he hadn't been elected. The Edward Snowden case is one of those. If Obama were still in the U.S. Senate and Cain were in the White House, I'm guessing Obama would not be too sympathetic to the idea that the NSA whistleblower did grave damage to our security and deserves severe punishment.
Why should we be angry at Snowden? Yes, he disclosed programs that Obama and his predecessor value. But they involve such radical, secret application of our laws that they represent a betrayal of democratic principles. Whatever the value of keeping them secret, the value of informing the public was far greater. We are now having a debate about the proper scope of government surveillance that would never have occurred without Snowden.
The people in charge of these programs claim their exposure endangered us all by tipping off the enemy about how we monitor them. But the claim strains belief -- everyone in al-Qaida already knew the dangers of phone and email communication. And no one in the government has provided any specific evidence to substantiate the claim.
Snowden is no Bradley Manning, who indiscriminately dumped a vast multitude of secrets on the world, heedless of the harm he might do to innocents and allies. Snowden was careful and selective, and he did no evident damage to our security. He merely gave the American people priceless information about what was being done to them.
President Obama doesn't see that. Sen. Obama might.
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