Edward Snowden and the Difference Between Pirates and Privateers

Pirates and privateers engage in the exact same kinds of actions. In fact, the only difference between a pirate and a privateer is which side you’re on and which side is defining the law. Wikipedia points out the nice difference between the two: “The actual work of a pirate and a privateer is generally the same (raiding and plundering ships); it is, therefore, the authorization and perceived legality of the actions that form the distinction.” So, by analogy, is Edward Snowden a pirate or a privateer?

As a contractor working for a private firm, there is a sense in which Snowden was working under a U.S. government “letter of marque” that allowed him to aid in the surveillance of American citizens. Had he been working outside the auspices of the U.S. Government, his actions as a defense contractor would have been very illegal. This much is obvious. In that sense, he was, at first, a privateer or State-endorsed mercenary. He didn’t have to take an oath like other federal workers and his only obligation to the American civil government was a business obligation.

What happened when Snowden leaked information about the NSA was that he changed allegiances. Whereas before he was a privateer for the U.S. government, in the end he proved to be a privateer for the people—or a pirate in the eyes of the State, depending on which side you’re on. Did he do what was illegal? He was already doing what, under normal conditions, would have been illegal. If you view it from the side of the people, he is a criminal turned ally. If you view it from the side of the civil government, he is an ally turned criminal.

And make no mistake, there are sides. As much as Obama would like you to believe that the government is you and you are the government, the Snowden controversy makes it clear: those who work for the people work against the civil government and those who work for the civil government work against the people. It may not have always been this way. It is certainly this way now.

The civil government itself created this circumstance when it jettisoned the general rule of law. If the civil government is allowed to operate under a different set of rules than the people, then two laws are created—one for the people and one for the State. As long as the civil government and the people abide by the same rules, we are on the same side. But when two laws are created, two sovereignties are created as well. And when two self-interested sovereignties have a conflict over the same territory, war is inevitable. All war is the result of competing law systems trying to operate in the same jurisdiction.

The civil government has been operating for years as if they are at war with you. You are a “target,” remember? And, being at war with you, they have thrown aside the rules for themselves. It is hypocritical for them to demand that you play by the rules they have long since exempted themselves from upholding. In other words, it is ridiculous for them to wage war on you, and then criticize you for waging war on them.

In some ways, Snowden acted as if the rule of law still applied as equally to the civil government as it did to the people. He believed that leaking information to the press was the only way to hold the civil government accountable for its illegal actions. But he also had to know that the rules couldn’t and never had applied. As a privateer, he knew he was raiding and plundering. He knew that the civil government had already thrown aside the rule of law. But when he looked up at the enemy flag one day and saw “We the people…” waving from the mast, perhaps his conscience stung him. And on that day he ceased being a privateer for the civil government and started being a pirate for the American people.

More and more, it seems that pirates and hackers, conspiracy theorists and extremists are the only people on the side of the people. The numbers of people included in those groups is swelling, but it is the civil government (the apparent “right” side of the law) making the designations.  We know that our Founding Fathers were King George’s “pirates” and “rebels.” If history is repeating itself here, whose side will you be on?

32 responses

  1. I don’t see the validity of your argument. Snowden was neither a pirate nor a privateer, any more than I was a murderer when I was in the Army (and, yes, I have been accused of that). Our government having secrets did not start with Obama, altho’ he has greatly increased it, I believe (I don’t think anyone has stats on it) — we had secrets under Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. What makes Obama’s espionage worse IMHO is that he runs around with this false “man of the people” thing — he’s not and never has been a “regular joe”.

  2. Many people like me are paying attention and knew about Prizm and ASSumed that they were going much further as we rarely know a fraction of what is actually happening.

    We did not NEED a TRAITOR to release HUGE amounts of Top Secret Information, that will aid our enemies, to find out the NSA was acting in an illegal manner. Y’all are allowing your partisan need to attack our corrupt gubmint to overshadow the fact that what Snowden did was FAR in excess of any reasonable whistle blowing just like the little nut job Army Sergeant and Assange!!!

    • What Snowden did was reasonably necessary. Without his actions, Rand Paul would not be able to sue Obama and the NSA.

      • Good for Rand Paul! It is great to see a Senator with the guts to stand up to an administration that makes its own rules. We have a few others that also have a backbone, and are being ostracized by some of the “do nothing old guard” who go along to get along. Come November 2014 and 2016, lets make sure the backbones win!

      • Dissenter,

        Snowden could have provided our spineless politicians plenty of ammunition by stealing 1, 5, 10… documents. Instead he stole enormous amounts of information on methods and encryption technology that has been handed to countries who will use it the same as Bammy and other criminals here.

        Snowden is either stupider than a rock or a traitor. It is apparent he is not stupid as a rock. He IS a TRAITOR!!!

        • Being able to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the problem was an essential element of his case. I am outraged at the government installing back doors in my computers so that they can rummage through my papers whenever they feel like it, with no meaningful oversight.

          • Dissenter, tell me again why Snowden needed to give decryption technology to our enemies to tell us about them spying on us and our unencrypted data and voice?!?!?!

            You young people are extremely propagandized and just plain DUMB!!! Take a wild guess about how many previous spies and traitors have run to Russia and China with defense and security data that harmed us while claiming to be patriots…

          • I was in the anti-‘Nam protests. Whereas I don’t know what Snowden has given to anyone, I grew up in the Watergate and Nixon era as a Republican, learning that government is not to be trusted.

            If we can do it, they can do it. That we ARE doing it to our own citizenry is cause for mortal alarm.

    • You say Our Enemies I see the enemies of the people and the people in this world. I do not see the Chinese or Russians as enemies . Only Governments that think they are above the people do I see as enemies .
      I think you need to really figure out whos a threat to your peace and safety. The only Group i see on the Horizon is our own Government.
      If you cannot see this i feel your still very much Brain washed .

      • Bill you moron, what is it like to live in a mythological world where governents that have killed millions of their own people and still control them through surveillance, incarceration, torture, and execution are not above the people and just wondie world inhabitants???


  3. Leaking details of the NSA’s activities to the American press is one thing; if his motive was really just helping the American people then there might be some justification. But Snowden crossed the line when he leaked information to the Chinese and the Russian governments. We don’t know what they have seen that, for their own reasons, they are keeping secret from us.

        • Are you kidding- if he confided in the wrong person, he wouldn’t have lived to repeat it. He exposed the NSA and this administration for spying on it’s own citizens. If they had listened to the warning from Russia instead of ignoring it along with a few other clues,,the Boston bomber brothers would never completed their attack. Why didn’t the NSA or one of the other groups heed warnings instead of spying on others? the Government tells citizens to “speak up if you see or hear something.” Maybe they should heed their own advice!

          • No, I’m not kidding.

            If he was a true patriot, he would have exposed what needed to be exposed and faced the consequences, by a jury of his peers.

            “if he confided in the wrong person, he wouldn’t have lived to repeat it”

            Going a little “hollywood” are we chicken little?
            Once he went public, nothing would have happened to him, just like everyone else who exposes corruption in the Government.

            Unless there is a wave of suspicious murders I’m unaware of.

            But that is all irrelevant – A true patriot doesn’t run and hide from the truth he exposes.

            A good example are the founding fathers during the revolution.

          • I hate to sound like one of those “conspiracy theory” people, but I agree that he probably would have seen an end to his life at some point in the not-too-distant future. This Administration, including the DOJ, would not have allowed him to have a fair trial. From what I’ve read, he did try other paths before taking this one. I myself could not have stood by knowing what was going on while everyone was oblivious to the extent of spying our government was doing on its own citizens. I believe he did the people of this country a great service by providing the wake-up call some needed in order to accept the fact that everything here is not just peachy.

          • “You were there”? … Really?
            I wasn’t on the moon either, but I know the US landed people there.
            I don’t need to be there, I’ve been following the story from the beginning. He didn’t try other paths. He stole information that he was sworn to protect. Fled the country. Blabbed to the world. And is currently giving info to the Soviet Union and China – both enemies of the US.

          • Maybe hes not what you call a true PAtriot maybe he just cared about exposing the crimes that are being committed.
            Very Brave of you to tell us that he should have suffered much more than he did. In order for you to accept his scrafice.

          • I didn’t say he should suffer at all.
            Any “suffering” he is going through is self induced.
            What I said was it is easy blabbing all over the world, come home and face the people you accuse,
            and if the courts and people decide to punish you accept it as the price of standing up.
            And if the courts and people agree with what you are doing you go free.
            Cassius Clay stood for what he believed in and went to jail for it.
            Gandhi stood for what he believed and paid the price.
            The founding fathers stood for what they believed in, most of them lost everything.
            History is full of people, both good and bad, who stood for what they believed in and faced the consequences.
            As long as Snowden hides in other countries, he is nothing but a coward, which cancels out any “righteous indignation” he is entitled to.

          • gray man – from Joan. Please do a little research on the three young men who died within six weeks of each other just before their friend Obama was set to announce his candidacy. All belonged to Man’s country spa in Chicago and all met suspicious deaths. I’m no chicken little, instead maybe a mother hen, but I do not believe in coincidences. Look up a man named Larry Sinclair who left the USA out of fear of reprisal. It is also strange that the person from the Hawaii records dept. who was about to be questioned about Obama’s birth certificate was the only one of nine passengers who died in a plane crash. The sky isn’t falling, but credibility is!

          • Like I said, If Snowden had gone public, it would have been too late. I’m not inclined to believe that just because someone died it is suspicious – sorry but 2.5 million people die every year in the US. A man leaves the US for fear of reprisal? Being paranoid does not make it true. I’ve been in a plane crash where two people out of 14 died, and another where 6 out of 40 died. It proves absolutely nothing about those 8 people. I guarantee every one of them had “secrets”.

          • Which TV stations do you watch and what rags do you read? I cancelled my local paper due to it’s obvious “In the bag for Obama” articles and cartoons. There are very few onest newscasters these days, and the few ethical ones are a small majority . If too many people, who are tied to one person, die under odd circumstances, it does raise any thinking persons suspicions, don’t you agree? The woman I mentioned did have information that might have shed a light on to something that someone did not want disclosed. That’s not being paranoid, it is being aware of deception, and God knows there is enough of it these days in our nations capitol.

          • I read everything but watch few TV shows except for entertainment.
            (no, not john stewart, etc most of them are f*****g idiots.)
            I agree about the newscasters.
            I’m not a liberal/demonrat.
            I can’t stand them.
            I do have a few in my family, I tolerate.
            I guess we all have our crosses to bear. 🙂
            I am a conservative with libertarian leanings.
            I’m not saying don’t have suspicions, but don’t let your suspicions consume you.
            The fact of the matter is Occam’s razor is right far more often then wrong.
            The simplest answer is almost universally the right answer.
            I’m not saying the woman who died did not have info, (although many who claim that, don’t)
            I’m simply saying that people die all the time, that is life. That does not make it nefarious, just life.

  4. Asking and getting information from the NSA is like the “fox guarding the chicken coop”. If this is such an issue, why isn’t an independent third-party appointed to look into and report on this. In my eyes, he is simply a “whistleblower”.

  5. When it’s all said and done, I hope Snowden gets death in a violent assassination. The government is no saint and to the point of ridiculous in many things. This administration with it’s total lack of leadership with an imbecile at the helm cannot handle controversy. Snowden clearly put many assets in harms way and that is inexcusable. If our government is going to leave the door open for infiltration, there is no one to blame but themselves. So now it’s damage control, making heads roll and politics as usual.

  6. Snowden is neither he is just a lowlife coward and TRAITOR. He did what he did for nothing but fame and to hurt America which is why Obammy would not go after him as should have been done. Snowden would not have ran away if he had thought what he did was right. Snowden has shown just how a big a coward when he went to China then to Russia instead of coming back to America and he has kept up the release of the stolen files that hurt the US.

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