Edward Snowden chose the 'higher good'
By Andrew P. Napolitano
Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the federal government is spying on most Americans, most Americans were surprised and unhappy. But half of official Washington yawned before it roared. Somehow the people in the government had a pretty good idea of what government spies are doing and they more or less approve of it — but not all of them.
Politicians as diverse as Republican Speaker John Boehner and Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Snowden a traitor. On the other hand, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, my Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly and I have all referred to Snowden as a hero.
What did Snowden do that has those in power screaming for his scalp and those — generally — who fear the loss of liberty, including millions of young people, grateful for his courage?
The NSA is America's domestic spying apparatus. Its budget is secret. It will soon occupy the largest federal building on the planet. It often hires outside contractors to do much of its work. One of those contractors is Booz Allen Hamilton. Booz Allen's co-chair is Adm. John M. McConnell, who once headed the NSA.
When Snowden began his work for Booz Allen, he took two oaths. The first oath was to keep secret the classified materials to which he would be exposed in his work; the second oath was to uphold the Constitution.
Shortly after Snowden began his work with the NSA, he came to the realization that he could not comply with both oaths. He realized that by keeping secret what he learned, he was keeping the American public in the dark about what its government is doing outside the Constitution in order to control the public.
When confronted with the conflicting oaths, Snowden opted for the higher good: fidelity to the supreme law of the land. Hence, in order to protect the privacy of us all, Snowden violated the lesser oath and upheld the greater one. He could not serve two masters when the lesser of the two (fidelity to the government's laws) facilitated a corruption of the greater of the two (the primacy of the Constitution).
He's a traitor, the establishment roared. He's a high school dropout. He left the Army. He admits to having lots of sex with his girlfriend. He fled to Hong Kong.
He understands, as Ronald Reagan did, that if we don't control the government, the government will control us. That's why the Washington establishment yawned when we learned what it knew and now roars because Snowden challenged it. Those in power want to stay there and will misuse the Constitution to do so for as long as they can get away with it, no matter to which political party they belong.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.
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