Surveillance

Is Rand Paul right about Edward Snowden's "civil disobedience"?

By Joel Brenner
Friday, June 14, 2013, 12:47 PM

Senator Rand Paul has said he is "reserving judgment" about Edward Snowden, but nevertheless characterized Snowden's conduct as "civil disobedience."  Is that right?

From Socrates through Thoreau, Gandhi, and King, the great theorists and practitioners of this form of resistance to law have told us in words and actions that civil disobedience requires the disobedient citizen to suffer the legal consequences of his or her unlawful act. In Socrates’s case, the consequence was death at the hands of the Athenian authorities. For Thoreau, Ghandi, and King, the consequence was jail. Through their suffering and example, they sought to undermine the moral position of law they found objectionable. Because unless the disobedient citizen takes the legal consequences of his unlawful action – he’s nothing but a criminal or a rebel.

Snowden has fled the country. And where has he gone? To Hong Kong, a Chinese dependency that is far from being a bastion of free expression he foolishly says it is, and as people who know it better than he does will tell you, a place whose security apparatus is controlled by the People’s Republic of China. They will find him before we will. And what is he threatening? To release thousands more top-secret documents.

You tell me, dear reader, how young Mr. Snowden measures up to Socrates, Thoreau, Ghandi, and King.