Article 12 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his hono(u)r and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” In fact, Amendment 4 of the US Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s recent revelations provide irrefutable evidence that many governments merely pay lip service when it comes to protecting their citizen’s privacy as described in both, the universal declaration of human rights and the US constitution, violating not only their own citizen’s rights but also rights of citizen’s of other nations. It has been an open secret that government’s are spying on each other, making the official outrage appear hypocritical at best; however, the real news is the sophisticated and indiscriminate data gathering on citizen’s not suspected of having committed any crime and without Warrant or any type of effective oversight.
The question we, the people of the world, have to answer is if we want to live in a world where secret government and private bodies record and store our lives every step of the way? Mr. Snowden, who is clearly an insider when it comes to government surveillance, risked his freedom, possibly his life, to warn us about the risks of our government’s wrong doing. It is now up to us to have a public debate and to take steps not only to stop big brother’s activities but to limit big brother’s activities to something we ultimately feel comfortable with.
Edward Snowden is one of the most courageous men on the planet. Yes, Mr. Snowden broke the law, I don’t think anyone would dispute this, not even Snowden himself. But isn’t whistle blowing exactly that, you make public what others are trying to hide for their own gain? In the interview with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald he appears casual, composed, well-spoken, calm and describes himself as ordinary without special skills. The timing of the interview was brilliant, giving the world a first look at the most important whistleblower in history, making it difficult for mainstream media to easily demonize him. He is neither a hero nor does he hate the United States, he simply describes himself as an American who believes that such an extensive surveillance program should not be solely decided upon by the government, but should be instead discussed in public.
A democracy depends on an informed and educated citizenry. Government is a public service by citizens. By definition government in a self-governed society is by the people and for the people, not a select group of people for a select group of people. Government is public, therefore must be transparent and citizens are private. Citizens should know everything about their government and government should have limited knowledge about its citizens. Apparently this is not the case.
Mr. Snowden’s stated that his greatest fear is that nothing will change, certainly an understandable concern considering recent history. However, it appears that his fears were unfounded looking at the world-wide backlash against the US and its spying network. If nothing else, he has started a much needed discussion about blatant government abuses of its citizens. His actions have changed the world, by how much remains to be seen. What policy changes may come as the result of his revelations are unclear but they will take time. However, we can take steps to protect our privacy right now without having to wait for government to change its ways. Considering government secrecy and a healthy distrust of government in general, it may be prudent to personally implement safeguards no matter what the outcome of the public discussion and subsequent policy changes.
Feature Image Credit: thierry ehrmann