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Opinion: The Snowden issue refuses to melt

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“What would you do about Edward Snowden?”

This question has been asked of the four major presidential candidates, and the answers vary greatly. Much can be learned about each party from their candidate’s answer to that question.

Edward Snowden is an NSA whistleblower who leaked thousands of government documents revealing the bulk collection of data from millions of Americans, regardless of the presence of a suspected terrorist tie. He was charged with three felonies: conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information, and theft of government property. Some claim he is a national hero for bringing to light the fact that we’re all being spied on, but others claim he’s treasonous.

Admittedly, Russia has granted him asylum, and he fled to China first. Neither of those countries are our No. 1 best friends. One could make some assumptions from that, but Snowden himself has said he did not take any documents to Russia and he made sure that Chinese intelligence would be unable to get them. He also did some really cool spy-type stuff by encrypting the documents and sending parts of the encryption to three different people so no one individual now has access to the documents.  

There’s definitely no easy conclusions to be drawn about Snowden and his actions. However, it is something that the four main political candidates are getting asked about. What are their views?

Jill Stein

The Green Party candidate, in a town hall-style Facebook live video, referred to Snowden as a “hero,” saying he blew the whistle at great cost to himself and praising his willingness to “…live away from his family, his friends, his job, his network, to basically live as an expatriate.” She even went so far as to say she would put him in her cabinet if she were to become president.

As part of its platform, the Green Party has listed “End the persecution of government, corporate, and media whistleblowers” and also talks about enforcement of the Bill of Rights. The Green Party’s agenda also includes the repealment of the Patriot Act, a law signed by former President George W. Bush after 9/11 that allows the government to collect surveillance, among other anti-terrorism measures.

In addition to repealing the Patriot Act, the Green Party seeks to repeal a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of Americans with suspected ties to terrorist organizations.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton, in a Democratic primary debate back in October of 2015, saidHe broke the laws of the United States…  I think he should not be brought home without facing the music.” Classified documents are probably a touchy subject for her, however.

The Democratic Party takes a firm stance on the NSA’s action. Its platform states:

“We will protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people—standing firm against the type of warrantless surveillance of American citizens that flourished during the Bush Administration. We support recent reforms to government bulk data collection programs so the government is not collecting and holding millions of files on innocent Americans.”

Donald Trump

In typical Donald fashion, he suggests that Snowden should be killed. He suggests that Snowden has really done the country wrong, and should be punished. To the extreme, I guess.

The Republican Party platform doesn’t speak strongly against the government collection of data. It states:

“No matter the medium, citizens must retain the right to communicate with one another free from unlawful government intrusion. It will not be easy to balance privacy rights with the government’s legitimate need to access encrypted information.”

There is no reform mentioned of the Patriot Act, and the National Defense Authorization Act is praised. It shouldn’t be surprising considering that former President Bush signed the Patriot Act in 2001.

Gary Johnson

In an interview on NewsMax’s The Hard Line, he said he would consider pardoning Snowden, defending him on his decision to release the documents to major media outlets instead of releasing them himself. Johnson said he agreed with Eric Holder’s comments on Snowden, highlighting the importance of the conversation that has happened in the past few years.

The Libertarian Party platform speaks boldly about personal freedom and privacy. Admitting that intelligence is necessary to maintain national security, it says “This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens,” and “We oppose the government’s use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have, especially that which shows that the government has violated the law.” The latter quote is most certainly in reference to the NSA’s secret spying.

If you care about your personal privacy and government surveillance, it’s really important to look at the platform of the party of your choice, and also its candidate’s views. Edward Snowden raised an issue that in a few years hasn’t gone away, and is in fact still extremely significant.


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