The crocus have croaked. The tulips have formed six lips, and the pre-teens have invaded the Loews Hotel swimming pool. The hordes of children have attacked the rides at the Santa Monica Pier and there are lines everywhere with families on vacation enjoying spring break.
I was made quite aware of this as I waited in line to see “Captain America.” The blockbuster has landed in theaters and no I don‚Äôt mean former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and the documentary about him that is playing at the Laemmle on Second Street titled “The Unknown Known.” This action movie has Chris Evans in the title role saving us from the world that was written about by George Orwell and most recently discussed by Edward Snowden at the TED conference where he appeared by video robot.
Snowden spoke to the large TED audience, and now to a larger global audience about why he did what he did and the dangers we face as a “free society” that is grappling with the reach and breadth of technology, which encroaches ever further into our lives. Snowden by some measures is a patriot. He is standing up and saying that our government is wrong, acting badly and that the bright light of awareness is necessary to stop it. By another measure he is a traitor, an evildoer who should be excoriated for his breach of national security.
In some ways he‚Äôs saying to the government, what they say to us; “If you‚Äôre not doing anything wrong, you‚Äôve got nothing to worry about.” What is the government so concerned about if they are not violating our constitutional rights? If all they are doing is looking for terrorists in a legal way, they shouldn‚Äôt be upset. It‚Äôs not like the terrorists are all that concerned about their rights.
And if the government is violating our rights, shouldn‚Äôt we know about it? Don‚Äôt we as a “free and open” society deserve to know if our government is overstepping? Or at least branches or departments of it?
The Declaration of Independence was written because the British government became unresponsive, and oppressive. If we want to maintain our constitutional democracy we need the light of truth shone into the corners where the dirt of oppression begins to collect.
The Tea Party and Fox News made much ado about the Internal Revenue Service overly scrutinizing 501c applications, frankly as repulsive as they are to my tastes, the fact that they were at least taking the government to task, however they did it, is at least some effort at accountability.
As a columnist who thoroughly enjoys the benefits of the First Amendment to our Constitution I lean toward Edward Snowden as a patriot. Maybe I‚Äôm being taken in by his impassioned presentation at TED. Maybe I‚Äôm not. In any case, the fact that someone is pointing out that our privacy is being invaded, that our government is snooping into areas that it may not need to, that agencies of the government have access to information without oversight, is crucial to the healthy growth and maintenance of our freedoms.
Does it come at a price? Yes it does. We may be tipping off the terrorists that we know where they are. We may be letting them know how we collect data and track their actions. It is possible that as a result of this openness a tragedy could occur. Honestly I‚Äôm not that concerned that they know, that we know, that they know how to get around the Internet. They‚Äôre outlaws, and they will always be outlaws. We can‚Äôt let the fact that we want to stop them, make us prisoners in our own society.
I liken it to the argument about criminal law. It‚Äôs better for a guilty man to go free, than for an innocent man to be wrongfully convicted.
I know that in our current societal bent of “nothing bad should ever happen to anyone” mode of protection, what I am saying is contraindicated. But ask yourself, how much personal privacy and which freedoms are you willing to give up for a totally safe world? I‚Äôd rather live in a world with risks and have my freedoms than live in a velvet lined cage.
I know the other movie, that one about Donald Rumsfeld, makes an argument for a “safe society,” as if I should be willing to give up all my rights to protect my freedoms. If you stop and think about that statement, you‚Äôll see the logical fallacy within it. If you can‚Äôt see the fallacy, take me to lunch and I‚Äôll explain it to you.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father‚Äôs and Men‚Äôs Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.¬† He welcomes your questions and comments.¬† He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.