Edward Snowden’s critics don’t try to conceal their satisfaction these days. They call him a “dweeb” who is “holed up” at the Moscow airport. They say he is a traitor and a spy who should be returned to the United States to face “due process.” You don’t have to wonder what that means any more.
You have to ask at this point: What would it take for the federal government’s defenders to recognize that our democratic republic has slipped away from us? So far, torture and dreadful forms of secret, illegal imprisonment have not done it. Wholesale abrogation of the search and seizure prohibitions in the Fourth Amendment has not done it. Neither has prosecution of illegal wars, operation of secret courts, or execution of American citizens without due process sufficed. What would it take?
Would they need to see militarized police squads breaking into people’s homes, carrying grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, mace, tasers, batons, and automatic weapons wherever they go, clubbing peaceful protesters in the streets? Would they need to see black SUVs, armored personnel carriers, and even tanks rolling down the streets of our cities? We have seen that, too. What would it take to recognize that tyranny is at the door, announcing its arrival?
So far, defenders of the federal government’s activities have not conceded any limits to the federal government’s power. President Obama pushed back: “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.” Yes, we do have a problem here. We citizens have a problem. If we don’t recognize our situation, if we give up our freedom now, we will never, ever get it back.