The Edward Snowden case has been fascinating from the start. It has spy stuff, a man on the run, embarrassing government secrets, international gamesmanship, a model girlfriend, legal maneuvering. Wow.

But you haven't seen anything yet. Snowden isn't running and he isn't hiding; he's waiting. And he's reportedly negotiating the terms of his return through his dad. When he's ready, and it's safe, he'll come after the U.S. government in a public trial. He's the real deal. And he's on your side, even if it doesn't feel that way.

Is he a traitor? Yes, absolutely. But so were Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Franklin, and Jefferson, to name a few. If you think being a traitor is always bad, no matter the circumstances or motives, you're officially too dumb to vote.

I'm wondering how you find a jury that would convict Snowden. On the first day of the trial his lawyer will explain to all twelve jurors how the government spied on them personally. Every potential juror is also a victim. Good luck getting the victims to side with the perpetrator, which in this case is the government.

I think there's some sort of law that says I can't make a public statement in favor of jury nullification. Jury nullification is when jurors agree that the accused broke the law, but they feel the law itself is wrong, or that a conviction would be overkill, so they find the accused innocent. I predict that will happen. I don't recommend jury nullification because I'm not sure I have freedom of speech in this regard. I simply predict that nullification will happen.

My personal view is that if the government had asked citizens for permission to collect all communications in the country, or had stated its intentions without asking for permission, I'd be okay with it. It seems like a great tool for combatting domestic terrorism, and I don't think the government cares about my browser history.

But the government didn't ask my opinion before it collected my personal communications data. I can't give a free pass for that. And I am available for jury duty.


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Jul 8, 2013
I was in touch with you about the misspelled website castoroilforbadmanagment.com,
I am concerned with my readers submitting material for which they could be identified.
Have you dealt with this issue? For instance, if your readers submit material or ideas how do are they protected from being identified by their employer?
I am concerned with all this news about internet surveillance that readers may not want to contribute funny happenings that might subject them to identification and potential retaliation from an Employer who doesn't find the account funny.
Jul 2, 2013
Freedom of speech would trump any ban on advocating jury nullification. If you directly told the jury they should use jury nullification, that might be considered jury tampering, but right now there is no jury. The court may also direct the defense attorney to NOT mention jury nullification as a possibility. The court is there in service to the law, and I can see why asking the jury to ignore the law would not be allowed.
Jul 1, 2013
The best thing about jury nullification is that showing that you know about it will get you out of jury duty. Last time I was called in, I promised I would find according to the facts...as long as it didn't conflict with my conscience. I said I didn't think it would (based on the bare information about the case they give you at first,) but I can't tell the future. After discussing this with both lawyers and the judge, they dismissed me and actually thanked me for bringing up such interesting and important points. SUCKERS!!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 1, 2013
Jun 29, 2013
My favorite part of the Snowden episode has been watching people do total 180s on the issue of privacy vs. security. It seems that roughly half of the politicians and pundits on the Left have now adopted a "surveillance ain't so bad" attitude while roughly half of the Right is suddenly offended by the idea of surveillance.

To me, this demonstrates that a good portion of the electorate is swayed more by a team sports dynamic (it's OK when our guy does it, but not when their guy does it), rather than by a principled stand on the issues.
Jun 29, 2013
Would PRISM be so controversial if the FISA court system wasn't secret?

If the government (under Bush) had simply announced (through a press release) each time it had been given a FISA warrant, and if (under Obama) they had continued the process, there would have been some initial protest and noise. But the legal arguments would have been made, and the Courts (unfortunately for our privacy) have already rules that collecting 'metadata' does not violate the 4th ammendment. (Sorry, Phantom II).

After a while, the press would have stopped covering the regular announcements of FISA warrants. And we'd be joking about how everything we post on Facebook (and here) is being collected by the government.

I'm not saying this would be a good thing. But keeping it all secret is unnecessary -- did they think that terrorists thought they were not being monitored?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2013
How about misuse of let's say browser history? If your neighbour works in NSA and he don't like your talk about getting a new dog after your last one mysteriously dissapeared. (Or if you're a nosy reporter or a troublesome politician)
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2013
I couldn't possibly comment...

The Government is listening!
+26 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2013
An interesting point about the "State secrets," judicial precedent.
It is based on the case of a bomber that crashed, killing a number of folks on board. Their families found out that the government didn't do proper maintenance on the plane, and sued the government for wrongful death.
The government claimed that they couldn't provide crucial information because of "state secrets," and therefore moved to have the case dropped. This succeeded because apparently getting a TS clearance for a judge would have been too hard (you know, the level of clearance the judges approving wiretaps have).
Years later, the information from the case was declassified. Turns out, there were no military secrets, but the "secret," was the lack of maintenance on the plane. Basically the government invented a requirement, got out of a court case they should have lost, and then relied on the precedent for future cases.
Fascinating story really.
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2013
"But the government didn't ask my opinion before it collected my personal communications data. I can't give a free pass for that."

That's funny, because the government didn't ask my opinion before it passed any of the laws during the 50 years I've been alive, yet I've still been bound by them. That's why we have a representative democracy.

The limits of government surveillance is certainly a fair issue to raise. So far Snowden hasn't revealed anything that I didn't assume was going on already. However, if we encourage people to unilaterally decide which secrets are worth keeping then eventually someone is going to expose something that really does matter.

From what I've seen the evil PRISM program is a stream lined request process for the government to gather information when they have probable cause to suspect someone of criminal activity. Where are all the innocent victims of this program?

When the Boston bombing occurred we certainly here any outrage when law enforcement poured through computer records and surveillance video footage to quickly identify the perpetrators and likely prevent another bombing in New York.

So long as this data is only accessed by law enforcement with sufficient supervision, and I have no reason to believe it hasn't been so far, then I'm okay with it.

Jun 29, 2013

As usual you're totally missing the point with "the government doesn't care about my browser history". Primarily because you forget that the government is composed of petty idiots, just like the general populace. Suppose just 1 of them decides that 1 of your columns offends him/her, and suppose that this faceless, nameless bureaucrat who doesn't have to justify any of his/her actions (due to the veil of secrecy), decides that he/she has a little power, so let's make Scott Adams "pay". Suddenly you find yourself on the no-fly list, you're getting audited every year by the IRS, and the other government agencies are going out of their way to target you. All of this because the information the NSA has on you, can be quoted to his/her superiors "out of context" and that information presented in that manner makes you out to be a child molesting/cannibal/serial killer/anarchist/terrorist, nor would you ever have the right to confront your accusers or dispute the "facts".

Also, in the past few years, the U.S. government has admitted to killing/imprisoning American citizens without the benefit of a trial. What makes you think that Snowden would ever see the inside of a public courtroom (or a jury for that matter)? The government would simply cite the "state secrets" involved, and whisk him away to a firing squad (or Guantanamo). Publicly they'd claim he was tried in a "secret court" (much like the ones that supposedly approve these intrusions into our privacy), convicted, and sentenced to life without parole.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2013
Very well said, Scott. I have been saying that Snowden *isn't* a traitor... but, in this case--when you put him in the company of Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Franklin, and Jefferson--then yes, I would agree with you: in the literal sense of the word, he would be a traitor... but he is also a patriot and a hero who clearly cares a great deal about this country. He's given up and sacrificed a great deal--not to mention risking his life--in order to expose this information that he saw as being ethically, legally, and fundamentally wrong. He felt Americans not only deserve to but have the right to know that this is going on because the ultimate governmental check and balance is transparency. In a democracy, the people keep the government in check... but they cannot do that when it operates in total secrecy.

There's also a good article at Salon on the issue, how the powers can (and have) been abused for political and non-terrorism purposes that draws many references back to the Church Committee investigation and hearings back in 1975, if you're interested: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/21/e_2/

Lastly, I'd like to point you in the direction of StopWatching.Us and encourage you to add your name to the letter (https://optin.stopwatching.us/) asking Congress to form a committee to investigate and report on the full extent of which information on Americans is being collected and to ensure that the officials responsible for any unconstitutional surveillance in this secret program are held accountable. If, as President Obama assures us, the program is only a "modest encroachment of privacy" and that there are indeed checks and balances in place, then such requests should not be unreasonable. It would also be extremely helpful to the cause--if you support it and so choose--if you would ask to be listed, publicly, along with the many other organizations/individuals/companies who support the initiative and/or made a blog post on the topic that includes the site.

(I also understand that asking for something like this in the comments is probably frowned upon for obvious reasons and just want to add that I'm not affiliated with the group in any way--other than supporting it myself--and you can feel free to edit/remove that part from the comment after you've read it. I'm not attempting to gain any publicity for the cause by posting it here or solicit your endorsement, really... just wanted to make you aware of it, in the event it's something you agree with.)
-40 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2013
If he was truly "acting from conscience with great moral courage", why is he hiding in Russia like a little punk instead of standing up to the American judicial system to further show his "great moral courage"?
Jun 28, 2013
Hey! What about fixing the RSS feed for the strip?
Jun 28, 2013
This appears to be a man who is acting from conscience with great moral courage. The Guardian ran a story recently which describes the precautions he took to make sure no one was hurt by the documents he released. This is in contrast with wikileaks dumps. I respect all of that - and if it is what it seems I applaud it. Probably what he did was illegal - but if I'm on that jury I'm not going to vote to convict.

This is what $.01 fines were invented for.
Jun 28, 2013
Scott, there is no law that says you can't make a public statement advocating jury nullification. That would be a violation of the First Amendment. There are limits on free speech, but that isn't one of them. So go ahead and advocate it if you feel inclined to do so.

Now, on to Snowden. Snowden is a traitor, in my opinion; he should be tried, and if convicted, should be imprisoned as the law states. I would sit on his jury, and if the government proved their case, I would vote to convict. Trying to equate him with the founding fathers is fallacious in the extreme.

Another thing of which you may be unaware, Scott. What Snowden has put out publicly is not all the information he has. He had four computers with him as well as loads of documents. It is likely he has given information far beyond what he as released to the press, including names and locations (it has been alleged) of covert CIA operatives. And he fled to Russia. That's not acceptable in any way.

Having said that, I will also say that what the Obama administration has done is to me a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. Here's what the Fourth Amendment says:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Simple. Straightforward. Elegant. So where did it come from? Why was it put into our Constitution?

When the US was still a British colony, the British authorities used something called a "Writ of Assistance." A British judge would issue one of these things, which was actually a blanket warrant. The Writ would say something like, 'you can search all the houses in this area to see if they have any contraband.' So British soldiers, or customs agents along with the police, would go from house to house whenever they wanted to, looking for anything at all that violated the law.

This really angered the colonists. They felt such actions were illegal under British law, and took the government to court a number of times to try to stop the practice. They were turned down every time. This became one of the prime movers in convincing the colonists that they needed to become independent of Great Britain.

Under the Bush administration, FISA warrants were issued that allowed the government to intercept phone calls between someone in the US to someone in other countries, or calls going the other way, or calls between foreigners in certain countries. Because they included non-US citizens on one or the other end of the line (or both), the courts considered that to not be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Under the Obama administration, that has been expanded to capture metadata about every phone call made in the US. According to some, another program called 'Prism' is routinely capturing emails, texts and postings on social networking sites.

This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. FISA judges are now doing just what the British judges did: issuing blanket warrants saying the government can capture all the information it wants from anyone and everyone. This is illegal, and all citizens should demand that it stop.

Just because what the government is doing is illegal doesn't make what Snowden did excusable. I'd like to see the evidence against him, and see him get a fair trial, but if he did what is alleged, he should spend the rest of his life in jail.
+23 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 28, 2013
More info from FIJA:

The Jury’s Secret Power

JUDGES MAY NOT TELL YOU THIS, but when you sit on a jury, you have the right to vote according to your conscience and to judge the law being applied to the case. As a juror, you are the final safeguard for justice. It's the judge's obligation to give the jury the wording of the law being applied to the case. If the judge fails to provide the wording of the law or you think the law he gives you is a bad or unconstitutional law or a good law being improperly applied, or there are other factors that would make you regret a vote to convict someone, then
it is your right and duty as a juror to vote “Not Guilty” even if you are the only juror who does and you therefore “hang” the jury. You cannot be punished for the way you vote.

Our lawmakers sometimes pass bad laws, and, at times, good laws have been misused. Throughout history reasoning jurors have refused to convict fellow citizens who were accused of breaking the law: They freed tax protesters during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, refused to convict those who aided runaway slaves in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, freed bootleggers charged during Prohibition 1920-30, and released Vietnam War objectors 1960-70.
When our country was young, all jurors were told of their right to judge the law, as well as the facts of the case. Then judges decided that juries should no longer be told of their power to act as a safeguard against bad laws or unethical lawmakers. Now, all jurors are instructed to accept the law as it is given to them by the judge, even in cases where the law is clearly unjust.

But now you know the secret: If you are selected as a juror, you have the right and duty to do the right thing: to follow your conscience and to judge the law as well as the facts of the case. It is the only way to keep government in the hands of the people.
Jun 28, 2013
[I don't think I ever said "should be allowed." I've simply predicted that a complete end to privacy is coming (eventually) and it will create more freedom than it destroys. -- Scott]

...Okay...must be missing something here because I dont see how 'create more freedom than it destroys' doesnt mean they should be allowed to do it. Not that I agree with you on that point, mind, just trying to understand what your thinking is considering your past blog posts.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 28, 2013
If these guys can say it I don't see why you can't: http://fija.org/
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 28, 2013
Power always leads to abuse of power, eventually.

If you assume that the NSA had noble intentions and are good people today, fine.
Maybe they are, maybe they aren't.

But according to history, it won't always be that way.
And then it's to late.

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