Right by accident

Former Vice President Al Gore stressed the significance of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks in remarks Tuesday at McGill university. Gore… went as far as to suggest that Snowden “has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States.”

The only crime that appears in the Constitution is treason. I agree Snowden did that. In life as in hockey, it’s possible for a penalty to be committed and for the person who got hit to be diving. What Snowden did was a crime, and what he exposed wasn’t illegal. If you don’t like it, then you need to vote for different people who make different laws, not try and pretend the current laws are different than they are.

Most of us agree that marijuana shouldn’t be illegal, but tell that to the people sitting in prison for selling it. They’re there because breaking laws in a democracy can’t be an individual’s decision, no matter how Galtian of a superhero you are. We are then all at the mercy of a person who wants to break the law. If everyone feels they can violate laws they don’t like—and this is certainly part of the current right-wing zeitgeist: right-wing employers who hate Obama want to not have to provide insurance that provides birth control because it’s against their religious views (as of when Obama became president). There’s a term for this: nullification. At least the old nullification was a state doing it. Now we are starting to think that individuals can and should nullify.

Make no mistake: this is an attack on the direct foundations of our state, ones even more fundamental than the Constitution. And Snowden’s acts are largely defended on these nihilistic grounds.

None of that whitewashes what he revealed. The fact that someone like him even had access to that kind of information is deeply troubling. I don’t think spying on US citizens in America is good policy even if legal. But my imagination of whether it’s legal or not doesn’t make it so.

The NSA might be weakening our Constitution, but Snowden is weakening the very basis of our state.