While the political field’s libertarian faction in Washington and abroad remains one of the most ideologically consistent, which doesn’t say much considering the field is largely embodied with snakes and demagogues, it seems lately that libertarianism and the groups involved politically with libertarianism are doing just what the rest of politics has been doing: selling out ideological principle for the gain of political capital.
Libertarianism is facing new hurdles in government, specifically the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance leaks, as well as Edward Snowden’s legal conditions. Although unwarranted NSA spying and mass data collection is, for the most part, ironed out by libertarians as something they oppose, Edward Snowden’s legal conditions are apparently not. Senator Rand Paul has awkwardly made it clear that Snowden deserves time in a cell, alongside National Intelligence (NI) director James Clapper.
During an interview with Eric Bolling on Fox News last week, Sen. Paul was asked to respond to the video of director Clapper lying about the collection of data in March 2013 – before Snowden’s leaks. Paul told Bolling it’s ironic that the same legislators and pundits calling for Snowden’s imprisonment are turning a blind eye to Clapper’s committed felony in Congress. Disagreeing with the illustration Paul created, the Senator said he wants the law applied equally: both to Snowden for leaking and to Clapper for lying.
Sen. Paul explained, “[He] frankly [thinks] it would be somewhat enlightening for James Clapper and Edward Snowden to share a prison cell, and then maybe we’d all learn a little bit from that.” Reconfirming his statement, Paul then appeared on “This Week” hosted by George Stephanopoulos who asked the Kentucky Senator if clemency was off the table for Snowden, to which Senator Paul simply replied, “No”.
Along with Stephanopoulos’s question of clemency, the ABC pundit wanted Senator Paul to touch on his comments to Fox News’s Bolling, regarding a prison cell for Snowden. Paul told ABC’s “This Week” that the reasoning behind his statement was to convey a point of equality under the law, pointing out that Snowden and Clapper broke laws and that neither the pro-NSA or anti-NSA sides should throw a blind eye to broken laws.
The Kentuckian did add that the options of life in prison and a death penalty are inappropriate, and went on to say that if Snowden came home and took a penalty, a few years’ serving time would be a lot less time than Clapper’s hypothetical prison sentence. Paul seemingly veered off, not giving any real indication as to what sentence he supported for Snowden until Stephanopoulos went back down the same trail.
Stephanopoulos asked Paul in clarification, “So you’re saying no clemency for Edward Snowden, but perhaps leniency?” Once again, without really addressing the question up front, Sen. Paul told ABC that with a fair trial and a softer, or as Paul called it, “reasonable” sentence, the administration would have a greater chance at bringing Snowden to the US. Paul however did acknowledge that Snowden’s storm of NSA leaks has produced evidence showing the government’s abuse of power.
Ironically, while Paul is beating questions on Snowden’s legal future around the bush, answering in a way that throws softballs to both civil libertarians and conservative moderates, the Senator is using Snowden’s infamous leaks to file lawsuit against the NSA. Based on suing the Obama administration and the NSA, Paul wants to take his lawsuit to the Supreme Court. He wants the Supreme Court to rule on whether, constitutionally, the government can have a single warrant used on millions of people.
On one side of the coin, Senator Paul wouldn’t mind a reasonable prison sentence for Snowden, seeing that the whistleblower violated government laws. As stated by the Justice Department, “On June 14, 2013, the fugitive, Edward J. Snowden, was charged by complaint in the ED VA with violations of unauthorized disclosure of National Defense Information, unauthorized disclosure of Classified Communication Intelligence and theft of Government Property.”
But then, seeing that Snowden indeed took information for the purpose of revealing an even greater debt to the US justice system, the abuse of the constitution and particularly the fourth amendment on a mass scale, Senator Paul has decided to take Snowden’s leaks and file lawsuit against the NSA and administration for violating the law in the first place. In all, the individual that Senator Paul wouldn’t mind viewing behind bars is the entire reason Paul is even able to file lawsuit against the government.
If one claims to be a civil libertarian, as Paul did in 2010 to CNN, and to be a libertarian means to believe that “people should be allowed to do and say what they want without any interference from the government” so long as they don’t interfere with another’s life, one might go as far to say that Snowden has done nothing to interfere with another’s life, and in fact only unmasked the evasive interference government is performing in the lives of everyday Americans.
And to sprinkle and/or dump salt on the wound, reports came out just days after the Snowden leaks began that Snowden himself was a campaign donor to Rand Paul’s dad, Ron, who ran in the 2012 election cycle.
Nonetheless, Paul is remaining in the middle of conservative and libertarian factions on the Snowden issue, ostensibly looking to please both factions, while dropping the strict libertarian principle to human freedom from government interference. Moves like Senator Paul’s have only thrown the libertarian movement, politically, in disarray, in some cases. Leaving the libertarian with either the choice of compromise or principle.