Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Kevin J. Mahoney on the NSA’s Surveillance of Phone Records
A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
– John Adams
It is a Pyrrhic victory indeed if we relinquish our liberty in order to protect it. By now every small hamlet in the country seems to be musing about National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of information that the government is spying on innocent Americans. The story has filled front pages of newspapers and become a hot topic on television news. The Obama administration claims that the disclosure threatens national security. Many in Congress—even Democrats—claim that the NSA overreached. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against top U.S. government officials. And millions of Americans are either dismayed or not surprised.
The Administration’s Position
The administration claims that gathering phone records of nearly all Americans is necessary in the battle against terrorism. White House spokesman Josh Earnest spoke of it as a “critical tool.” We are told that Snowden compromised our ability to fight terrorists.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that the government is not stopping at Verizon phone records—the central servers of Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and other programs are now being monitored. Any photo a person places on Facebook, any search made on Google, and any email sent now potentially can be scrutinized by a government that has become smug in its disregard for the Constitution.
Is Snowden a Hero or Villain?
Is Edward Snowden a hero? Did he commit treason? The focus of debate has largely been on the matter of whether the contractor’s actions were appropriate. Not surprisingly, the Justice Department has formally charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of intelligence to an unauthorized person. He faces as many as ten years in federal prison if caught and convicted.
But whether Snowden was ethically right in opening this Pandora’s Box is somewhat off the point—what is clear from his revelation is that many in the federal government have lost perspective. They are far too willing to chip away at our individual freedoms in the name of national security.
The True Danger Is from Within
Jefferson wrote, “The greatest [calamity] which could befall us is submission to a government of unlimited powers.” America was built upon principles of limited government, and we have a proud history of cherishing our liberty. In the Information Age, however, we have become increasingly accustomed to technology that does not always protect our privacy. The danger is complacency—a willingness to concede those very freedoms that distinguish our nation from others—that have made us the envy of the world.
But there may be a positive side to all of this. Edward Snowden’s revelation has brought many congressional leaders together from both parties to denounce this latest example of a government gone wild with thirst for power. Massachusetts Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Democrat, has responded by saying, “Do we or don’t we want an open society? And my answer is, without that we don’t have an America.”
We can take heart, therefore, in the fact that so many Americans are outraged. Millions around the county are, to borrow a phrase from the ‘70s film “Network,” “Mad as hell, and won’t take it anymore.”
Contact Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Kevin J. Mahoney
If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced and relentless Boston criminal defense attorney on your side to guard your rights and protect your best interests. Call me at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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