Patrick Lembo, Chair of Downstate Libertarians, wrote the following article regarding Russia recently granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden:
"Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden sets up a beautiful libertarian opportunity; a criticism of foreign policy and civil rights violations should be pushed to highlight the maladministration and oppressive nature of the federal government; the Snowden situation should be used as a rallying cry for liberty seeking Americans to join together and take back individual freedoms and root out overbearing globalist politicians and activists from decision making. Human rights advocates, U.S. foreign policy experts and members of Congress are clearly upset by Russia's decision to give temporary asylum to Snowden. It is perceived as a sign of disrespect and lack of understanding to these experts who, with their superfluous arrogance, want complete control over the world's decision making and are deflated that the incredibly weak President Obama has again failed to show assertiveness in a trying situation. Russia should be applauded for granting Snowden asylum and thumbing its nose at the feds.
The saddest thing about the Edward Snowden situation is that his actions are what it took to reinvigorate the issue that constitutional rights are being shattered by the federal government with the coerced help of the major telecommunication companies. Mark Klein, the former AT&T employee, divulged details about the NSA installing equipment to capture telecommunications data in 2006 and this revelation caused considerable stir; it eventually faded away from the American consciousness like most news stories do. These constitutional violations have never been forgotten by Libertarians, but even after congressional admissions and countless reports seem to only affect the average American when a "whistle blower" comes forward. For this reason, whether the person is a government employee, a contractor or neither, anyone with privy information speaking out about massive constitutional violations is a hero. Some Americans, but not enough, have been constantly tracking the egregious civil liberty infractions imposed by the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, FISA and its continued extensions. There is nothing shocking about the Snowden revelations aside from the ignorance of the majority of Americans as to what has been happening and what is surely to come.
The Libertarian Party has always been at the forefront of defending Americans' 4th Amendment rights in regards to blanket, pre-emptive data collection; however the Democrat and Republican parties have massively failed and are both to blame for the lack of constitutional probity. Recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attacked libertarian thinking, saying there is a dangerous libertarian strain in the Republican Party right now, and esoteric, intellectual debates don't hold up when talking to family members of 9/11 victims. Christie's fear based rhetoric sends the clear message that many Republican leaders aren't interested in fighting for constitutional privacy rights and are intent on broadening the powers of the NSA and FISA. Leading Democrat thinkers like John Podesta, the chairman of Center for American Progress, have not directly criticized the spying, but that there are too many government contractors involved, like Snowden, and that everyone involved in the data collection on Americans should be a government employee. Ultimately, neither of the two parties can be trusted on the issue. There are isolated examples of Senators and Representatives on both sides showing concern about privacy and constitutional rights of citizens, but the majorities continue to support the Executive Branch. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have misled and fobbed off the nation while violating the premise of the 4th Amendment.
All the evidence points towards every single phone call, text message, and e-mail being recorded and eventually stored in the NSA facility being built in Utah; a massive data collection center with the capability to store mind boggling amounts of data. We cannot trust the explanation that although the data is being preemptively collected it has to be approved by a judge before being examined. The process is completely secret and, as we saw the Bush Administration already do, a secret court can and will be set up outside of FISA, effectively blocking all checks and balances of the judicial process. The Bush Administration granted retroactive immunity to telecom companies for violating the Constitution on the grounds that they were aiding the fight against terror. It is now basically fruitless to sue the telecom companies as the suit will be tossed out. Again, all of this information was already known but brought to the American consciousness and expanded by the Snowden situation.
As bad as the situation is with the NSA, apparently and predictably it doesn't stop there. Other federal agencies feel snubbed that they aren't privy to the endless data collection and have been clamoring for access. The D.E.A., Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and the Pentagon have been frequent complainers that the mass data pool isn't easily available to everyone in the federal government. In the name of foreign policy and national security, every major fed wants their slice of the illegally recorded data. It won't stop there either; all of the other expanding departments are eventually going to have access to this metadata. For now the pretext is safety and security; constitutional rights are nothing more than a pesky hurdle.
Hopefully Snowden's asylum continues to garner media attention to highlight the current pathetic bully tactics behind American foreign policy and keeps constitutional violations in the minds of citizens who will hopefully take action against it. Threatening other countries for harboring a national hero shows the flimsy certitude that the federal government exhibits and believes in by trying to control its citizens and other nations."
Downstate Libertarians is a chartered chapter of Empire State Libertarians covering Richmond, New York, the Bronx, Westchester & Rockland counties. Empire State Libertarians was founded on July 4, 2010.