(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
During an hour “fireside” chat at this week’s Southland Conference on technology, entrepreneurship and southern culture, former Vice President Al Gore was asked about Eric Snowden by Sarah Lacey. His answer, when asked if Snowden was a hero or traitor, was quite clear:
I hear this question all the time…I’m like most people, I don’t put (Snowden) in either one of those categories. But I will be candid – if you set up a spectrum, I would push it more away from the traitor side. He clearly violated the law (so) you can’t say OK what he did is alright. It is not.
But what he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed. In the course of violating important laws he also provided an important service because we did need to know how far this has gone.
He then added his concerns about the mass surveillance by the NSA:
This is a threat to the heart of democracy. Democracy is among other things a state of mind. If any of us are put in a position where we have to self censor, and think twice about what we write in an email, or what we click on for fear that somebody reading a record of this may misunderstand why we looked up some disease or something, some young people who might otherwise get help with a medical condition, might think oh my gosh if I put down a search for bipolar illness I will be stigmatized if my online file is hacked or accessed by my employer. That kills democracy.
Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks ‘an important service’, says Al Gore
By Ewan MacAskill, The Guardian
Former vice-president argues whistleblower exposed ‘violations of US constitution far more serious than crimes he committed’
Asked if he regarded Snowden as a traitor or whistleblower, Gore veered away from the “traitor” label. He refused to go as far as labelling him a whistleblower but signalled he viewed him as being closer to that category than a traitor, saying: “What he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the US constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed.” [..]
Gore called on the internet companies to work with the public to help draw up a “digital Magna Carta” that provides protection of freedoms. “They need to pay attention to correcting some of these gross abuses of individual privacy that are ongoing in the business sphere,” he said.
Snowden’s hope of a return to the US is dependent on a change in a major shift in opinion that would allow him to escape a lengthy prison sentence. His supporters will seize on Gore’s comments to help make the case that he is a whistleblower and should be allowed to return to the US as a free man. Ben Wizner, Snowden’s US-based lawyer, said: “Al Gore is quite obviously right. Regrettably, the laws under which Snowden is being charged make no allowance for the value of the information he disclosed. Whether the NSA’s activities violated the law or the constitution would be irrelevant in a trial under the Espionage Act.”
This conversation about our privacy and the government disregard of the Constitution in the name of security is not over by a long shot.