By Eric Thomas 

Edward Snowden is running out of places to hide. The US government has been strong-arming countries into denying him asylum and it’s worked. He’s been charged with espionage on an issue that the President claimed he, “Welcomes debate.” If our government welcomes debate, why shoot the messenger? If the onerously named PRISM program is vital to the protection of our country, why must it operate in secret?

Argument on the necessity of a domestic surveillance program aside—why can’t we pause for a moment and ask why Snowden, a singular person who released information he felt the public needed to know, is the target of the full power of the federal government? He was fired from the private security firm where he worked. Isn’t that enough? Why is he facing espionage charges?

Let’s ask it this way: For whom was he spying? He apparently signed a nondisclosure agreement, and violated an oath to protect classified information. If an agreement is between two parties, whom did he enter the agreement with? His stated intention was to inform the American public. Why are we more angry at Snowden and less angry at the government for keeping this information away from us? By the people, for the people and of the people?

As we stare at colorful explosions in the sky, honoring the country that we all love, every American might want to ask themselves what happened to it. Is this how we operate? Since when are government whistleblowers charged and chased around the world? We had no problem with Deep Throat, Mark Felt was hailed as a hero before he died—what changed? Who changed it? When was it changed?

The president of Bolivia’s plane was diverted to Austria and detained, amid rumors that Snowden was aboard. France and Portugal reportedly refused to allow his plane passage through their airspace because of the same concerns. Vladamir Putin said he would not allow Snowden asylum if he continued to impugn his American partners, before pausing to acknowledge how strange that sounded coming from his lips. Isn’t it a little worrisome that Putin agrees with this new American policy? Does it freak anyone else out that he’s seeking asylum in China, Venezuela, Cuba and Russia?

Is this America? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who champion freedom and expression? When did we stop supporting free and open debate? When did an informed public become a bad thing? How can the public, who is supposed to be in charge, make informed decisions when large parts of information have been denied to them? Isn’t that the entire reason we have freedom of speech and press?

Somehow, in this country, debate turned into a bad thing. Bills are rammed through without debate, acts of war are committed without debate and now a 30 year old computer guy—who is also a former enlisted man—is the target of the full power of the US government for revealing information that the President said he “Welcomes debate” on? Since we have a government that is largely set up on debate, that doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

If we are truly the land of the free, why wouldn’t we offer Snowden asylum? More to the point: If Snowden signed a nondisclosure agreement, what two parties was that contract with? Is the government now a private entity that operates outside the will of the people? If it is, we need to know that. If it is, we’ve become something else other than the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We can have an argument that domestic spying is important, and there are plenty of reasons to continue the program. Someone should at least ask us first. If the government hides information from its people, then that’s not democracy. That’s something else.

Maybe that’s why Mr Putin has taken such a shine to us recently.


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