The case of Edward J. Snowden raises a number of difficult issues for the United States. The case impacts on Washington’s foreign policy and on US domestic politics. The decline of American representative democracy is now sharply in focus.
Americans naturally want appropriate and necessary capabilities to defend our country but we do not want such capabilities turned on ourselves in violation of the US Constitution.
The impact on domestic US politics is squarely on issues of constitutional law. Already the watchdog American Civil Liberties Union filed a court case against the government as a result of Snowden’s revelations.
Critics are outraged by what they see as White House lying about possibly illegal domestic surveillance activity. There is further outrage over the recent congressional testimony of the head of the National Security Agency and the head of the US intelligence community. Critics say these two men committed perjury by lying to Congress and that is a high crime.
In the US system governed by our unique constitution, the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers is a fundamental core value. It is based on ancient principles found in Greco-Roman tradition as well as in European parliamentary tradition.
The construction of the “imperial presidency” and distortion of the separation of powers increased during the Cold War. Today, it is evident that US constitutional democracy is in deep decline reflecting not only the disintegration of the rule of law but also reflecting the disintegration of American civic culture.