As a journalism educator, I know that asking hard questions of government authorities is the right thing to do.
This is the case even for Edward Snowden, accused spy turned honorary journalist. He has no journalism training to speak of.
This week he won the backing of both the New York Times and the Guardian, so key voices are mounting in his favor.
Little wonder. With every revelation he made last year, Snowden proved himself a person fighting for our democratic way of life at enormous personal risk, not a spy but a patriot. The U.S. Constitution should protect citizens who say the government has gone too far in trampling people's constitutional rights.
What else but firm conviction would prompt Snowden at age 30 to give up the good life in Hawaii in favor of supposed safety in Russia? The Cold War is over, so all of us should lobby to help him as he only has a few months of asylum remaining.
We should not sacrifice all of the Bill of Rights in favor of greater security. That is not what this country is about.
Lest you think there is no need to protect Snowden from zealots in our own government, this quote from former head of the CIA James Woolsey should quickly clear that idea up:
In a New Yorker story recently, Woolsey told Fox News, "I think giving him amnesty is idiotic ... He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead."
In contrast, the words of Snowden, who delivered a Christmas message in the U.K., appeal to a global sense of fairness and reason. The digital age has solidified America's part in Internet and world telecommunications. Other countries still look to us as a standard bearer for the way individuals should be treated by their own government and whether personal privacy is to be valued.
"Together, we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying," Snowden said in a video.
It makes sense that the American populace is wary of the world after 9/11, as numerous comments in the USA Today showed this week.
But we must not be afraid of each other. This has to be why Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame last summer entitled his blog about Snowden's quest for amnesty. "Edward Snowden: Saving Us from the United Stasi of America."
If Snowden saw that the NSA was monitoring its own people without concern about their constitutional rights, such actions seem not only wasteful but also an infringement of personal liberties much more important than the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War era, as Ellsberg wrote last summer on his blog.
Spying on our allies has made for some interesting headlines around the world, but it also does not seem like the best use of our tax dollars. Not when so many are lining up to identify themselves as America's enemies. There is little sense in arguing that the authorities know better than the American people. That is like sticking our heads in the sand.
As a citizenry, the best defense against reproducing George Orwell's novel 1984 is to think, read, learn and know. Snowden's crimes are hardly clear even to those calling him a criminal with the most vigor.
If it helps him, I join those who suggest calling him a journalist as he has bravely broadcast the fact that the emperor has no clothes or in other words, we can't secure our freedom by making him a scapegoat to hide practices that are not clearly supported by the Constitution in the first place.