President Trump is saying that he might issue a pardon to Edward Snowden. For some reason, he hasn’t said the same thing about Julian Assange.
But a pardon suggests that the person being pardoned has done something wrong. Neither Snowden and Assange has done anything wrong — at least not in a moral sense. It is the US government — and specifically the national-security state branch of the federal government — that has engaged in terrible wrongdoing — wrongdoing that Snowden and Assange revealed to the American people and the people of the world.
Therefore, the real question is: Should Snowden and Assange pardon the US for having destroyed a large part of their lives and liberty?
Oh, sure, the two of them technically violated the federal government’s national-security laws, rules, and regulations against revealing the dark-side, sordid policies and practices of the national-security establishment. Big deal. Those laws, rules, and regulations are illegitimate, at least in a moral sense. Why should the dark-side, sordid policies and practices of a government be immune from disclosure?
The American people have now become so accustomed to living under a national-security state form of governmental structure that many of them tend toward deferring to the laws, rules, and regulations that come with a national-security state. Thus, when the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA refer to Snowden and Assange as “enemies of the state” or “traitors,” the tendency of many Americans is to blindly accept their assessment.
Of course, it works that way under every national-security state. Look at China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, They too are all national-security states. Like the US national-security state, they all engage in dark-side, sordid policies and practices. And like the US national-security state, they go after anyone who discloses such policies and practices with a vengeance. And most of their citizens blindly and loyally go along with it all.
The real question, however, is not whether Snowden and Assange should pardon the US government. In fact, the real question isn’t even whether it should be a crime for people to disclose the dark-side, sordid policies and practices of a national-security state.
The real question — one that unfortunately will not be discussed in the presidential race — is whether it’s time to end America’s 75-year experiment as a national-security state.
A national-security state is a totalitarian form of governmental structure, one that empowers a government to engage, either secretly or openly, in dark-side, sordid policies and practices, such as torture, assassination, coups, murder, regime-change operations, invasions, bribery, kidnappings, indefinite detention, denial of due process, denial of trial by jury, and denial of speedy trial.
Keep in mind that the United States was founded as a limited-government republic, not a national-security state. In fact, if the Constitution had proposed a national-security state, there is no possibility that the American people would have approved the Constitution. That would have meant that the nation would have continued operating under the Articles of Confederation, a third type of governmental system under which the federal government’s powers were so weak and limited that it didn’t even have the power to tax people.
It wasn’t until the end of World War II that the federal government was converted into a national-security state. The rationale was that in order to prevent the communists, especially those that governed the Soviet Union (which, ironically, had been America’s wartime ally and Nazi Germany’s enemy) from from taking over the United States, it would be necessary to become a national-security state, just like the communist regimes were. A limited-government republic, it was said, would be insufficient to defeat a foreign regime that wielded omnipotent dark-side, sordid powers.
I challenge that notion. The best way to have opposed communism would have been to remain a free society and a limited-government republic, not by adopting the governmental structure and dark-side, sordid policies and practices of the communists.
Nonetheless, one thing is crystal clear: The Cold War ended in 1989 and so did the justification for converting the federal government into a national-security state in the first place.
By disclosing the dark-side, sordid policies and practices of the US national-security state, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have performed an invaluable service to the American people. They have helped remind us that this is not what America is supposed to be all about.
Assange and Snowden deserve the praise and thanks of every American. The best way we can honor them is by dismantling America’s Cold War legacy of a national-security state and restoring America’s founding system of a limited-government republic.
Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.