Edward Snowden, the hero responsible for the biggest intelligence leak in NSA history, is the latest whistleblower to reveal what a threat the U.S. government is to individual liberty and the rule of law. His stand against an empire with unprecedented powers of surveillance and secrecy also highlights the invaluable role whistleblowers have played and will continue to play in exposing government abuse and how to encourage this and other acts of civil disobedience.
In several days of interviews with The Guardian, Snowden explained why he decided to quit his comfortable job and life in Hawaii to knowingly make himself the number one target of the U.S. government. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," Snowden confessed. Even if he is made to suffer, it is worth it if the "federation of secret law" is revealed and exposed.
That sounds like a lot like Bradley Manning and the pantheon of whistleblowers being targeted by the national security state. They risked their careers, reputations, family, relationships, and their life to inform Americans of the crime being committed by their government in their name in hopes that we would do something about it. Thanks to Snowden's wealth and vast knowledge of how the NSA and the surveillance tools at the hands of the national security state, he is for now hiding somewhere in Hong Kong watching his every step.
Is there a better tale of David and Goliath? A Ron Paul supporting whistleblower fleeing to a free, capitalist city-state, seeking further possible sanctuary in a country like Iceland known for protecting secrecy, internet freedom and rejecting bankster bailouts and corporate socialism? While Goliath lectures others while erecting a police state, David is risking his life for peace and civil liberties.
Without whistleblowers like Snowden, turning over the dark rock of empire and spreading the message of liberty would be nearly impossible given the consequences one faces when seriously threatens power and the complex of special interests behind it.
The price they pay is a steep one and may discourage others from speaking out if they know escaping to a foreign country or solitary confinement is their future.
In other words, whistleblowers need sanctuary and as much support from freedom-loving people as possible.
Thankfully, the market is already meeting this demand. In a recent column, libertarian activist George Donnelly came up with a brilliant agorist business idea: a Whistleblower Protection Program.
Using the technologies that exist and continue to expand that allow us to circumvent the police state, we can create an "underground railroad" for those who legitimately risk their lives proving that the emperor has no clothes. The underground railroad writes Donnelly, "had a minor economic impact, [but] the psychological impact on slaveholders was significant. We can replicate that impact today. Just as Defense Distributed and others have shown with their 3D-printed guns that firearm prohibition laws are pointless, you can likewise show the earnest hand-wringers of the 'intelligence community' that their attempts to keep state secrets are equally futile."
There are apps that allow you to boycott corporate monsters, film police, and communicate more privately. Surely these same tools could be used to not only protect whistleblowers but also help us become whistleblowers ourselves until there's too many of us to go after.
Decentralization is also a possibly way to encourage whistleblowers and show solidarity. For example, Vermont liberals understand that in the words of NSA chief Michael Hayden, "nation-states need to be secret in order to be successful," and want a divorce from this centralized, corporatist surveillance state. Free Staters in New Hampshire are using everything from jury nullification to Robin Hooding to undermine state power.
If you ask me, the Republic of Vermont would make a great whistleblower sanctuary: two blows to the U.S. empire at once! Other states could follow suit too. Who knows? In the last few years alone, states have gone against federal law and decriminalized marijuana, nullified indefinite military detention in their jurisdictions, opposed gun control and legalized gay marriage. Decentralization is our strength!
The Obama administration is waging a war on whistleblowers and has institutionalized the power to indefinitely detain and assassinate American citizens. His successor will undoubtedly expand on this authoritarianism. Whistleblowers and authentic journalists will be in the cross hairs, with legitimate possibilities of arrest (or worse). But decentralization and an agorist market can help us vote with our dollars, feet, and principles in order to create the necessary safe havens for future Snowdens and Mannings to leak, expose and reveal the truth about the U.S. empire.