Suppose the government of the United States gets its hands on Edward Snowden and brings him to trial. Have you wondered what happens then?

I've predicted that no jury of Snowden's peers will convict him, regardless of how clear it is that he broke laws. I would be highly disappointed in my fellow citizens if they sided with the perpetrator (the government) over the victims (themselves) and decided to screw the whistleblower (Snowden) who is on their side. But let's consider the alternative.

If Snowden gets convicted, many of the citizens of the United States will go all Egyptian and take to the streets. It was bad enough that the government was collecting all of our private communications. But convicting the guy who blew the whistle? That's throwing a match on the gasoline. So I believe the government doesn't want to see him convicted, or at least the top people don't. It's too risky to the system.

On the other hand, the government has an absolute legal obligation to pursue criminal charges against Snowden. Society doesn't work if people think they can break laws whenever they have good reasons.

We also know there is big money involved in domestic surveillance. And while I'm late to the party on this, all evidence suggests that the government is controlled by corporate interests. So one presumes the government needs to punish the whistleblower to satisfy its corporate overlords and to keep the domestic surveillance cash cow mooing.

This puts the government in the awkward position of trying to avoid some sort of accidental competence that ends up convicting a martyr and sparking a popular uprising. They need to put Snowden on trial to satisfy their corporate sponsors. But they need to fail in getting a conviction to satisfy the public.

I think there is a 100% chance that some dark department of the government, along with its foreign proxies, is planning an "accident" for Snowden before he reaches the United States. Putin would probably do it in return for secret concessions. He might need some of his own spies freed, for example. In the end, I don't think the U.S. government will authorize a hit on Snowden because it would be too obvious. But you know they discussed it. That much seems certain.

If I were President Obama, I would start seeding the media with the idea of a trial and conviction followed by a presidential pardon. You'd want to float that idea and see what the public thought of it. A conviction and a pardon are as close as you can get to a "tie" in this situation, and that would be the best case scenario for the public. We want to know that lawbreakers are dealt with, but we also appreciate justice.

If Snowden gets a lot of attention during a trial, and somehow gains his freedom at the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see him run for President in a few years. This is the sort of situation that gives a person instant legitimacy. If Snowden ran on a platform of exposing corporate control over the government and preserving individual privacy he'd be a credible player on day one.

Things will get interesting when Snowden reaches our shores, and I'm fairly sure that will happen.

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Jul 10, 2013
"Not going to happen. The gub'mint already had a plan to assassinate Occupy leaders "if necessary". They've droned a handful of citizens already. No outcry over that. The US is too old, fat and comfy to take to the streets or even act like an ethical citizen. We'll do what our masters dupe into doing. 'Merica! "
you got most of that right, except for age. the brainwashed masses are young. they followed the master zombie trainer obama and put him in office, as their peer presured culture told them to do.

older ppl have more life experience. if you identify age with 'merica you are dumb. blind obedience is the trait of youth, such as hitler youth and obama's voting bloc.
Jul 8, 2013
For those defending "the law" here I would remind them that many of the most horrible events in human history have happened under the umbrella of the law. Morality and legality are often not the same thing. Laws can be immoral. They can be unjust. They can be stupid. When a law is immoral it is a moral obligation to fight and oppose the law. Snowden may be one of the rare individuals with the moral courage to stand up to immoral laws. I am inclined to think so - but until I hear more directly from him and have a better sense of his true motivations I am withholding judgment. For now the evidence I have seen does point me to the conclusion that he was acting out of moral conscience.

One problem with America and the people who work for the government is there are too many people following orders and not enough people using their brains.

It's not even an out of the box conclusion that Snowden as a whistleblower may be on the right side. But there is apparently a strong impetus towards blind obedience to authority and that's dangerous. Given the lies we have been told - blind obedience seems like the least intelligent option here. When I am given a reason to be more trusting perhaps I will do so, but for now the lies I've heard don't calm or appease me. It's outright, baldfaced lying - from two directors of the IRS, now the NSA. They deserve my trust why, exactly?

Maybe we need more whistleblowers and more investigative journalism because obviously the truth is hard to find if you ask the people who run things. There is no truth to find there. The only way the public gets the truth is when there is digging - so perhaps what America needs is more people with shovels and fewer people with microphones.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 7, 2013
... and they are all dead (nearly).
Jul 7, 2013
One point of view I didn't see in all the previous back and forth about government surveilance, civil liberties, privacy, etc.: today's paper says that Canadian authorities uncovered a plot to replicate the Boston atrocity in Canada. Well guess what? I don't care how they identified the bastards that planned to do that (and no, I'm not Canadian, I'm a Hoosier born and bred). I would be willing to bet that it involved secret government survellance and I'm all for it. There were no idiot exttremists like this in 1776 and I'm willing to cede certain "rights" to Congress to decide how the government might proceed to prevent atrocities like Boston.

And if Snowden thinks his judgement is better than the Congress as to what should be secret, then it's off to jail for him as far as I'm concerned.
Jul 7, 2013
"You don't get to pick and choose which laws you'll follow, Scott, as much as you'd like to."

Actually history is full of examples of brave individuals who have deliberately chosen not to follow laws that they believed were unjust. Those who took part in the Boston tea party, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela to name but a few.
Jul 5, 2013
Once again, Scott... c.irc.um.stan.ce is a curse word? Who the he.ll wrote your bad-word filter? It totally sucks.
Jul 5, 2013
@Phantom II,
Of course we get to pick which laws we follow. There will be consequences when we choose not to follow some of them. But the reality is that NOBODY EVEN KNOWS how many laws we have at the federal level. Several efforts to count just federal criminal laws have failed. And that's a drop in the bucket compared with city, county, and state laws. I've heard estimates that range into the half-million numbers.

Which is why a jury has the right and the obligation to vote on a crime based on their sense of what's right and wrong in a particular !$%*!$%*!$%*! Jury members are ABSOLUTELY NOT REQUIRED to enforce any law they don't wish to, or in a particular !$%*!$%*!$%* if it seems an exception is appropriate. That's the entire point of a jury in the first place. It's a check & balance against our legal system.
-22 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 5, 2013
Fry Snowden. Or better yet, allow his 15 minutes of fame to expire leaving him condemned to living the balance of his non-life living stuck in some dismal 3rd world airport surrounded by people with names from an interminable Russian novel with no discernable plot.

I think pardoning Snowden would create more unrest than Snowden could handle. Unless he got a ticket into the witless protection program as well. (No, that wasn't a typo.)
Jul 5, 2013
@Phantom II

"You don't get to pick and choose which laws you'll follow".

Men of good conscience break laws. Without such men, America would still be a colony. Whether they succeed in fomenting change or end up incarcerated can depend on the response of the people. Judging by this blog, there is not much sympathy for Snowden. Even without much public support, the President can pardon him, (Remember Oliver North?), although I don't think that will happen because what the government wants primarily is for Snowden to shut up. Pardoning him won't accomplish this.
Jul 4, 2013
This is the second time you've posted on this. Can't you think of a new topic?

Here's the sad truth: Snowden is a traitor, if he did what he's alleged to have done. Proving it is what trials are for. I would gladly sit on his jury and, if the government presented enough evidence to convict, I would convict him. You don't get to pick and choose which laws you'll follow, Scott, as much as you'd like to.

What the NSA is doing under the Obama administration is illegal. It is a clear violation of the fourth amendment, in that it provides blanket warrants without naming anyone or specifying what particular things it is trying to sieze. If the president does not stop it, he should be impeached.

But of course he won't be, because the mainstream media is on his side. Have you noticed how nothing that happens in his administration ever is attached to him? It appears that the American people feel that as long as he wishes things were better, it doesn't matter what effect his policies and actions have on the nation.

Run guns into Mexico and kill hundreds as a result? No big deal.

First American ambassador killed in 40 years after having requests for increased security turned down by future president Hillary Clinton? Yawn.

IRS targeting groups based on their political affiliation for audits and intrusive questions? Hey, Joe, what's on TV?

IRS spending $50 million on junkets and then losing the receipts so Congress can't find out what the money was spent on? Ho, hum.

Former IRS official Lois Lerner takes the fifth amendment before Congress and then continues to sit at home and collect her $177,000 annual taxpayer-funded salary? No biggie.

President Obama taking a $100 million trip to Africa at taxpayer expense while shutting down White House tours because there's not enough money? Snore.

The American people, sadly, have replaced the ability to think rationally with blind parisanship, aided by a media who no longer cares to hold power accountable. Most people here seem to think that either you have to treat Snowden as a hero or you're condoning the NSA spying scandal. That is not the case.

We need to start thinking, rather than let the government and the media do our thinking for us. We're living in a post-constitutional soft tyranny, for which we only have ourselves to blame.

All I wish is that I could get more of you to think rather than just accept what you're being fed. Scott included.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 4, 2013
I think there is a 100% chance that some dark department of the government periodically pressures Scott to float some ideas in order to see how we react. In this sense, we have become the DNRC.
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 4, 2013
When Obama was first elected, the impression one got was that he was a man with integrity.

Unfortunately, today Snowden seems to have more integrity, courage and character than anybody in the Obama administration, including the President himself.

Snowden did what he did for the love of his country. Snowden did what he did because he was brought up on American values - values that emphasised the rights of the individual over that of the state and the importance of standing up for the small guy. If he was a Russian, he would have found nothing wrong in the government eves-dropping on every phone call; if he was an Indian, he would have found nothing wrong in grovelling before the strong. He did what innumerable men of character would have done, or at least considered doing, only if they were not s-h-i-t scared of the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in chains.

After James Clapper gave false testimony before the Senate, it became Snowden's duty to set the record straight.

Obama should give Snowden blanket immunity today, without a trial or conviction - and bring him back to the US with honour. The entire world will stand up and applaud.

But I guess that is asking for too much in these days when even Presidents are made of straw - one way out of this impasse would be for Obama to help him find asylum in some small country and simply disappear from public view.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 4, 2013
There seems to be a concensus among the commenters that the american people don't care enough about this. I don't know if that's true, but repeating it like that certainly doesn't improve the situation. Instead I applaud Scotts take on the subject.
I live in Germany, where "people know all about fascist and totalitarian regimes to get all pissed off about this". I am pissed off. I am not sure my government is equally pissed off, more likely they seek to profit from the situation, because they don't have the power to stand up against big brother USA.
Don't get me wrong, I am very pleased when my government does everything in its power to avoid terrorist attacks. What I don't like is the abuse of fear for their own benefit.
Jul 4, 2013
U.S. citizens will not "go Egyptian" - I've found that highly intelligent people do care about privacy and government surveillance but the average person does not - and highly intelligent people aren't the type to "go Egyptian". If changes were made to food stamp laws that might do it - but the Snowden affair won't. At most this affair will have a slight impact on voting preferences but not much. Both political parties have their hands in this - Bush started it and Obama escalated it - so where do you put the blame? Most people will fall back on partisan fanboism and the number of minds changed by this affair is likely to be quite small.

As for Snowden himself, we're living in an age where whistleblowing and "leaks" are being investigated with greater fervor than ever. The AP scandal? Lol. The people in power at the moment intend to set an example and they'll throw the book at this man.

With what I know now I certainly would not convict this man of anything. But coming back to the U.S. has to be the last option for him because what the government has in mind for him has much in common with Roman justice and crosses and nails. And even if he wins in court that doesn't mean they can't make his life miserable in other ways and do that for years or decades.

Apparently a Russian femme fatale spy has proposed to him on Twitter - and it might be worthwhile, cynically, to take her up on it because being married to a Russian national would at least confer some sort of diplomatic status. That would be a funny outcome if it occurred and is perhaps a topic for another day - but for now it's fodder for fake news outlets like the Onion.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 4, 2013
You may not like the government collecting the data, but I've seen no evidence that any laws were broken (of course it helps that the people collecting the data are in charge of writing the laws). In contrast, what Snowden has done is clearly against the law. It will be easy to convict him.

I'm a little surprised that you of all people are so bent out of shape by this. You write post after post about how you think technology is going to change our lives for the better but then seemed shocked that the very same technology would be used for surveillance.

Jul 4, 2013
So you're saying the government is caught in a Catch-22?
Jul 4, 2013
My last comment was supposed to say: "It is often necessary to deliberately make laws unjust in order for them to be deterrents." I typoed "unjust in" by leaving out the " i". Your website censors non-dictionary words? How does it handle names like Abernathy or Humperdinck?
Jul 4, 2013
>If Snowden gets convicted, many of the citizens of the United States will go all Egyptian and take to the streets.

Oh, Scott, you incurable optimist.

It's more important to note this is a general pattern: It is often necessary to deliberately make laws !$%*!$%* order for them to be deterrents. People have forgotten this now that we have a somewhat-competent police force. But in the bad old days, the penalty for stealing bread might be to lose a hand. That wasn't just--the Old Testament doesn't say "a hand for a loaf of bread"--but it was so easy for thieves to get away that they had to make penalties severe for the expected value of a crime to be negative.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2013
"If Snowden gets convicted, many of the citizens of the United States will go all Egyptian and take to the streets."
Nice idea Scott, but I cannot even imagine such a response. Rather, they'll do what Bush told them to do after 9/11: "go shopping." Shopping is the ultimate American pacifier, lulling the heard into passivity and conformity, while the corporate powers-that-be go laughing all the way to the bank.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 3, 2013
Scott, what are you smoking? The government would get a conviction easily. Jury selection would have eliminated anyone unwilling to assign guilt strictly on the law. And there would not be a single street demonstration, anywhere. I think the powers-that-be would love to have that show trial, then stick him away for life in a SuperMax somewhere. Teach people a lesson. Not that most people even care. To the extent they do care, most side with the authorities.
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