Support the Café
Search our site

Edward Snowden and Civil Disobedience

Edward Snowden and Civil Disobedience

Do you believe that Edward Snowden’s acts of civil disobedience, in revealing details about the National Security Agency’s electronic spying program, are ethical?

At Santa Clara University, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics recently looked at this question in a conference called, “Conscience, Edward Snowden, and the Internet: Has Civili Disobedience Gone Too Far?” David DeCosse, director of campus ethics programs at the Markkula Center, writes:

Snowden’s actions are best explained by situating him within the libertarian tradition of “information freedom” represented by figures like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. For these figures, information freedom largely means the “freeing of information” from its secret hold by massive institutions.

It is important here to note that the ethical issue isn’t so much what the information is about; the issue is that the information is being kept secret at all (as if secrecy is inherently evil) and ought to be freed, especially so people can make decisions. This is a new, Internet version of old-time libertarianism. The assumption is that the privacy of the isolated individual is pitted against the information-amassing, secrecy-obsessed, power-mad state or corporation.

But this makes things too simple, especially for what we expect in acts of civil disobedience. Two key differences between Snowden and Martin Luther King Jr’s example make this clear. The first pertains to what King called “negotiation,” the second of four key steps leading toward direct, nonviolent civil disobedience (the others are study, self-purification, and the direct action itself).

For King, the duty to negotiate revealed, among other things, a good-faith belief that even the segregationists running the government in cities like Birmingham, Alabama, were fellow human beings with a capacity to learn and be just. If Martin Luther King Jr could seek to negotiate with Bull Connor, Birmingham’s police chief, why couldn’t Edward Snowden transcend the libertarian cynicism toward government officials and try to speak with known NSA critics like Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul?

The full article by DeCosse is here.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Facebooktwitterrss
Support the Café
Past Posts
2020_012
2020_013_B
2020_013_A

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café