NSA Surveillance: On Edward Snowden’s Oath and Motives
By Allan Weisbecker
“If Edward Snowden is who he says he is, he is a true hero and patriot. If, as some evidence might suggest, he is part of a psy-op meant to further subvert our Constitution, then he is not. But either way, the information he has helped make public can be turned against those whose life’s work is to deceive us.”–Allan Weisbecker
As I write, it’s been more than two months since Edward Snowden hit the media front page and I’m still waiting for someone to mention that Snowden, as a federal employee (of both the CIA and the NSA, plus the Army), took the following oath:
I, Edward Snowden, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
Keep in mind that the oath uses two words – ‘support and defend’ — where one would easily do. The framers not being disposed to redundancy, this, I assume, is to accentuate, to make absolutely clear, the seriousness of the matter of the oath. And the framers are not done on the subject. The very next phrase states that Snowden must ‘bear true faith and allegiance’ to the Constitution, the obvious subtext being that not only must Snowden act in supporting and defending, but he must actually feel a certain way — having ‘true faith’ is not even voluntary!
Presumably, this clause is meant to weed out (from federal employment) people who do not in their gut believe in the Constitution — if you do not or cannot ‘bear true faith and allegiance’ to the Constitution, look elsewhere for employment. (This inability describes virtually all of our elected officials – who take a similar oath – although this is a slightly separate subject.)
Also keep in mind that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, whereas whatever law it is alleged that Snowden broke, be it the Espionage Act, or Theft of Government Property, or whatever they want to come up with, are not. This is a lawful obligation. In other words, if Edward Snowden witnessed a crime against the Constitution he was legally obliged to expose it.
We also need to keep in mind that the abuses to which the information being obtained are vast and various, ranging from knowing how members of Congress are planning to vote to whether the Director of the CIA might be having an affair. They include violations of doctor/patient, lawyer/client and teacher/student confidentiality. They afford opportunities to make enormous sums on the stock market on the basis of insider information. The potential for blackmail or for identifying “enemies of the national security state” are endless. And remember that virtually all US intel is process in Tel Aviv. Israel’s access knows no bounds!
If in fact we are going to assume (or pretend) that the United States is a country wherein rule of law is taken seriously, and if the Constitution is indeed the Supreme Law of the Land, any legitimate threat to its tenets as perceived by an oath-taker must take precedence over any other law, be it state or federal. This is not only a clear interpretation of the Constitution itself, but has been upheld by case law, including the Supreme Court (Marbury vs Madison, among others).
The Fourth Amendment
So, in accessing Snowden’s guilt or innocence — it being a legal matter — let’s see what we’re dealing with; let’s define our terms. Let’s first take a look at the Supreme Law of the Land, the one most clearly applicable passage, i.e., the 4th Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
Clearly, this clause defines what ‘an authority’ (be it local, state, or federal) can ‘seize’ from ‘the people.’ (The Constitution differentiates between ‘person’ and ‘citizen,’ ‘person’ referring to any human being, citizen or not. The 4th Amendment applies to anyone under the jurisdiction of the United States.)
Since the programs Snowden has exposed involve illegal wiretaps, let’s look up the legal definition of ‘wiretap’ (I hope you’re already wondering why you haven’t heard/read this before, but more on the media to come.):
A form of electronic eavesdropping accomplished by seizing or overhearing communications by means of a concealed recording or listening device connected to the transmission line.
Notice that the legal definition of ‘wiretap’ uses the same word as does the 4th Amendment, where the latter refers to what authorities cannot do without a warrant: ‘Seize.’ (‘Seize’ being defined as ‘take possession by force’; ‘capture’; ‘confiscate’.) Times have changed since the framing of the Bill of Rights, i.e., what is referred to by ‘papers and effects.’ As defined by lower and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, ‘papers and effects’ includes telephonic and electronic communications. Any private communication between individuals is sacrosanct under the Supreme Law of the Land.
For our purposes, simply put: a court adjudicated warrant must be issued to ‘seize’ your phone calls and emails. (In U.S. vs Warshak,,the Sixth Circuit Court recognized that email is equivalent to a letter or phone call for the purposes of the 4th Amendment.) The Patriot Act broadened wiretapping rules, giving authorities the right to seize phone records as long as they exclude message content. This is the greatest point of media-generated obfuscation in the issue of Edward Snowden’s guilt or innocence; ditto re the issue of possible felonies perpetrated by other federal officials. Right or wrong, as of now, it is not illegal to seize ‘meta-data,’ i.e., phone records (again, excluding content).
Do you get it? No? I’ll spell it out:
Even after the Constitution-busting Patriot Act, you still need a warrant to ‘seize’ content of phone calls and emails. As soon as you record and archive communications, you are ‘seizing’ it.
Does anyone have an argument with that? One more time:
AS SOON AS CONTENT HAS BEEN RECORDED WITHOUT A WARRANT, THE 4TH AMENDMENT HAS BEEN BREACHED. NO ONE HAS TO LISTEN TO (OR READ) THE CONTENT FOR THE CRIME OF WIRETAPPING WITHOUT A WARRANT TO HAVE BEEN COMMITTED.
To argue that ‘wiretapping’ has not occurred if no one has listened to (or read) the content is like saying it’s okay to rob a bank, as long as you don’t spend the money. It’s a legally, morally, and logically indefensible position. Yet this is the position taken by the media and the government in the matter of Edward Snowden.
It is my view – and it’s the purpose of this essay to demonstrate – that the ‘Snowden issue’ may be — and I believe it is — a carefully crafted psy-op meant to subvert the Constitution — principally the 4th Amendment — by redefining ‘wiretap’ and other associated terms, including ‘surveillance,’ ‘eavesdrop,’ ‘target,’ and the like.
Now let’s decide whether the NSA is in fact ‘seizing’ the content of phone and email communications (for simplicity’s sake we’ll leave out other types of data, google searches and the like). Remember the David Petraeus/John Allen affair last year? No? A reminder:
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