Lindsey Graham's Ridiculous Plan to Boycott the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Won't Bring Snowden Back

The Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote that, "nothing is more common than for great thieves to ride in triumph while small ones are punished." This remains true in the 21st century. Although our government has broken multiple laws and shoved the Fourth Amendment into a blender, it is still trying to punish Edward Snowden, while claiming almost no responsibility for its own actions. The more time goes by, the more desperate the United States gets, and the more self-righteous our politicians sound about it all. 

In the most recent example of small-minded self-righteousness, in an interview with the Hill on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for a boycott of the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics in Sochi unless the Russians hand Snowden over to U.S. prosecutors, saying,"I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them." 

Graham went on to say, “We certainly haven’t reset our relationship with Russia in a positive way. At the end of the day, if they grant this guy asylum it’s a breach of the rule of law as we know it and is a slap in the face to the United States,” ignoring the fact that Russia is breaking no laws by keeping Snowden in the country, because it does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

"A breach of the rule of law as we know it" and "a slap in the face to" Americans? You know what that sounds like, Senator Graham? It sounds like what the NSA accomplished, by spying on millions of Americans and breaking the law with nearly absolute impunity, and by justifying their breaches of U.S. law and encroachment on our liberties by citing terrorism, a relatively minor threat that has been utterly exaggerated and made into a ridiculous bogeyman.

Of course, there is still some sense in Washington. When he was asked about Graham's comments, White House Communications Director Jay Carney sidestepped the question, saying he would not “engage in speculation” and that ”the Olympics are a long way off.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was less blunt: "I love Senator Graham. We’ve been close friends for 20 years. But I think he’s dead wrong. Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who’ve been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?”

Even though Boehner rejected Graham's ridiculous suggestion, his comment is still wrong. Why? Because Snowden is not a traitor. He is a whistle-blower. The real traitors are those who are undermining the Fourth Amendment through warrantless wiretaps, undermining the Fifth Amendment by suspending habeas corpus for enemy militants, and justifying all of this by maintaining an atmosphere of paranoia and fear.

Enough is enough. 

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Michael Shammas

Second-year Harvard Law student, politico, Breaking Bad fan, cynical idealist, coffee addict, & Duke sports fanatic. Contact me at mshammas@jd16.law.harvard.edu.

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