Britain detained David Miranda at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours under Section7 of their Terrorism Act. Miranda is a partner of Glenn Greenwald who has been posting a series of The Guardian articles regarding the Edward Snowden affair.
Unlike Britain, the United States Constitution supposedly protects freedom of the press, but our government has abused these rights repeatedly. Freedom of the press is an illusion. Under the material witness statute of the Patriot Act, U.S. law enforcement has the authority to detain anyone they believe has information concerning a terrorist investigation. And it’s probable that in some way the U.S. was complicit with Miranda’s detention.
Because of Greenwald-Snowden, we have an expanded view of NSA’s surveillance activities. By now, everyone knows that NSA contractor Snowden provided National Security Agency (NSA) classified documents to Greenwald; Snowden believed that he had no alternative. The legal charges against Snowden are espionage, theft, and conversion of government property. But so far, Snowden has temporary asylum in Russia.
The crux of the predicament is that Britain and the U.S. have significant problems with how much concealment to enforce and their lack of whistleblower oversight, but the essential problem lies in its legality.
Some National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance activities need to be secret. To maintain America’s security covert surveillance is unquestionably valuable. However, NSA needs to be aboveboard. We do not need to know the nitty-gritty stuff but there does need to be an honest and open overview of the extent and what they are doing to protect us. Moreover, the surveillance must preserve an innocent individual’s constitutional right to privacy. And there needs to be adequate oversight or there will be abuse.
Is it legal? Technically, yes, Congress put the Patriot Act law into place. They and the courts have upheld and emboldened the provisions of the law. The Real NSA Scandal Is What’s Legal.
Just because it’s legal does not make it right when the law itself is flawed; it’s unconstitutional. Although “The right to privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution … the Supreme Court has said that several of the amendments create this right. One of the amendments is the Fourth Amendment, which stops the police and other government agents from searching us or our property without ‘probable cause’ to believe that we have committed a crime,” according to the ACLU.
We need regulatory supervision of not only the law’s application, but also in the way the law addresses concerns from those within the agency regarding how it is applied.
The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 supposedly serves this purpose. However, there is a problem in the law when whistleblowers have no choice but to bring their allegations up the chain of command to the very people against whom they have a grievance, or to Congress, who do not have the power to protect them against retribution.
One solution could be a non-political independent group of citizens with congressionally authorized judiciary authority to hear the merits of a whistleblower’s concerns and make a decision on further action. However, such a group, similarly formed under the Independent Counsel Statute, would need to be completely independent from political influence.
One last thought: There is no question that NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Has Made a Difference. However, it’s disappointing that it takes the drama and excitement of news’ stories to rile Americans and Congress into taking action.