Imagine a nation where we’re handed information and expected to believe it as fact. Now imagine that this information was incorrect, but altered for the people’s “protection.” Imagine that the truth behind this information is in order to control and monitor the very people of the nation that the governing party is lying to. This propaganda machine may sound like something out of Nazi Germany or Cold-War Russia, but what if this was present-day United States? These are the kinds of questions Edward Snowden struggled with in his decision to release information he found about the kind of illegal NSA monitoring he witnessed while in government employ.
The English Civil War was a great example of people realizing just how corrupt their government was. In the age of Enlightenment, it became apparent that the Divine Right of Kings was dissipated, the elected parliament should be vested with true power instead of the monarchy, and that the rulers should be answerable to the people they represent. King Charles outwardly supported his people, and represented himself as a staunch ally of the Church of England. The first whiffs the people got of doubting this was his marriage to his French Catholic queen. Due to the publication of the King’s Cabinet letters, the people suddenly had a handle on just how deep the corruption of their ruler ran. Letter VIII specifically caught my attention, as it very succinctly states Charles’s attitudes in private. In order to prevent English rebels from warring with Irish Catholics, Charles promises to announce that there will be no penalty for Catholics in England anymore.
“We…have discovered, and shall make it evidently appear to the world, that the English Rebels…have as much in them lies have transmitted the command of Ireland from the Crown of England to the Scots…which will clearly show that reformation of the Church is not the chief, much less the only, end of the Scotch Rebellion; but it being presumption and no piety” (King’s Cabinet, 16).
This letter is addressed to his wife, a Roman-Catholic. While it may sound at first like Charles has suddenly embraced religious tolerance, this is actually an act of his own selfish agendas, caring not at all for the good of his own people, while instead protecting his wife’s interests(as well as those of parties that are enemies to his country). The realization of the attitudes in this letter alone could have been cause for the English rebellion ending with the death of the King. He uses the rebellion’s struggle for religious freedom as a power grab to assert his authority and dismiss their cause. The prefaced annotation of these letters asserts this very attitude in the King’s dealings with the Irish Catholics showing favoritism over his own people and Scottish allies. “If thou art well affected to that cause of Liberty and Religion, which the two parliaments of England and Scotland now maintain against a combination of all the Papist in Europe almost, especially the bloody Tygers of Ireland,” (King’s Cabinet, pg. 4).
Snowden was employed by several government information agencies as a computer technician. While he was employed thus, he discovered a wealth of information about the government illegally spying on Americans. To what end were they using this information, it remains uncertain(“protecting from terrorism” seems a go-to excuse) but having evidence about the illegal obtainment of the information was enough for Snowden.
Should he have stepped out of protocol and made public the information that he found? If you ask the British Rebellion if the King’s Cabinet letters should have been made public, you’d get a resounding yes. We trust our security agencies to monitor information for our security, but to do it within certain protocols so that our freedom or privacy is still free. An information agency that fears transparency has something to hide, it would seem. If they want all of our information to be public, the information they go through should be public as well. Or as Snowden himself puts it, “The more you’re told it’s not a problem until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public and not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.”
Ludlow, “The Banality of Systemic Evil”: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/the-banality-of-systemic-evil/?_r=2