Snowden isn’t the real issue

It should surprise no one that Edward Snowden took refuge first in China and then in Russia on his way to whatever place will grant him asylum.

When one takes on the government of the United States, the people who are most likely to help are the nations with axes to grind against the United States.

But is Snowden worth a return to the days of the Cold War, and is that even possible in an era of instantaneous communications?

The answer to the former should be “no,” and the answer to the latter would appear to be “yes.”

Snowden is one man. His revelations about U.S. government spying systems being used against the nation’s own people are the real story and item for debate here. Snowden himself was merely a vehicle. He delivered information information the federal government didn’t want its citizens to know. Instead of debating that, the federal government, from President Barack Obama through most of the Congress, has turned the matter into a “shoot the messenger” kind of discussion – making the criminal pursuit and prosecution of Snowden the topic. The nation would be better served debating just what Snowden’s revelations mean in terms of civil liberties and personal freedom in relation to the Constitution and the freedom therein guaranteed against unreasonable search and seizure.

Snowden’s ability to impact international relations is now the topic, with the United States issuing veiled commands to nations in the Western Hemisphere and to Russia.

Each step of the story must remain focused on the spying program, its constitutionality and the lack of transparency regarding its usage, along with the constant drumbeat of a question the federal government has not answered at all: Even if the program is benign now, what prevents it from being used indiscriminately against political opposition and dissenters in the future, either by the current administration or a future leader who turns out to be a complete despot?

Snowden is small compared with that issue.