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The Contender
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The oath Snowden took to the consitution was more important than one to secrecy

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/16/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,021 times Debate No: 44126
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




I am stating that Snowden had a greater obligation to uphold the constitution and that regardless of whatever laws he broke he did the right thing by revealing the crimes of the NSA.


I look forward to our debate! Edward Snowden is a traitor to the country because he revealed important secret intelligence compromising national security. The Ethic of Responsibility, a theory of law, requires people who hold a government office (an intelligence agency in this case) has the obligation to do what is in the best interest of the country often contrary to that of individual morals. I do not believe the NSA has violated the 4th or the 5th amendments of the Constitution like Snowden claims.

The 4th Amendment states "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." This, in my interpretation, only relates to cases of a physical entry or seizure of physical property without a warrant. This would not apply to the NSA in my understanding of the amendment. I do not believe the Constitution can apply to cyber-intelligence or cyber-crime.

The 5th Amendment states "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." I believe he is using this in defense of himself. This does not apply because he has been found guilty by the government through due process. The only thing remaining is him to appear in court and be found guilty or not guilty of the various allegations.

The Federal Supreme Court found the NSA telephone surveillance as legal and may not even take on the metadata case. The United States government has charged Snowden with theft of government property and that he is in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. Snowden has obviously stolen government property so he himself cannot even deny that. He is in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act by his "willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person".
Debate Round No. 1


First off I would like to thank you for accepting the debate.

Edward Snowden is by no means a traitor as he has been called by some. He has sacrificed his freedoms in the US and his entire life here in order to reveal the activities of the NSA, he did not harm the US in any way shape or form. There has yet to be any official claiming this with any sort of proof his actions had a negative side affect on the US.
Snowden had access to documents that could seriously cripple our national security and yet he did not take these documents and sell them to an enemy nation which would have brought him a small fortune.
Snowden has done exactly what is in the best interest of the nation by revealing activities that would otherwise go unknown. There has yet to be an explanation on how the American people knowing what the NSA does to gather information en masse has hindered the NSA. People knowing of their tactics has not stopped them and there is literally nothing we could do to stop it. The American government has become more and more infamous of late by granting itself more power and there is no one to hold them accountable.
The NSA has failed to provide any evidence suggesting that their tactics are worth giving up our privacy.

Amendment IV
(Privacy of the Person and Possessions)
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.

There is a reason the average person cannot log onto your email account and its because of a password. It is a virtual vault of personal information. In other words the NSA would have to break into the account to gather information on people and yet they have provided no warrant or cause for such seizure of personal data to be stored indefinitely.
I understand your interpretation of these amendments but the fact is the virtual world can be patented which means we have rights to it.

For example:

Worlds Inc. filed a lawsuit against Activision for a virtual world infringement proving that you do have rights to virtual information.

Being a highly technological society we tend to store more and more of our personal information online due to its efficiency over paper. Essentially what has happened is the papers have become virtual. If someone were to do exactly as the NSA has and hack into their databases they would be called a criminal, but isn't that the definition of hypocrisy?

From Amendment 5:
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

I have proven that people do have rights to the virtual world and being that we protect our emails with passwords they are indeed private. The NSA had to hack our emails to gather information without probable cause.

Whether or not he was found guilty by the government has no relevance as they are the ones guilty of illegal acts. Its safe to say that they are not going to confess to committing wrongs and turn themselves in.
The American Civil Liberties Union has already filed suit against the NSA for their tactics and now Snowden has revealed their crimes to be far broader than previously thought. This is the union that was created to protect our rights so the fact that they see the NSA as committing crimes says quite a bit.
By the definition of the Espionage Act he has violated it but this should not negate what they have been doing. The government has a bad habit of putting itself above the law rendering them untouchable.


I give credit to Snowden that he doesn't appear to be releasing information that would be severely crippling to the United States that he obviously has access to. However, that does not make him any less guilty of his crimes and should still be held accountable for his betrayal to national security. I do question the idea that he didn't harm the United States in "any way shape or form" as you say. The NSA was keeping their activities a secret for reasons and not just for giggles. The international phone taps that Snowden exposed did cripple America's intelligence gathering capabilities in the future as well as our foreign relations with those countries. It is a known fact that nations spy on each other for national security reasons but they don't release it into public knowledge for political and intelligence reasons. Snowden just destroyed that benefit for us. Because of his actions it is going to be harder for American intelligence to operate in the future.

I still do not believe the Constitution applies to cybercrime laws due to the fact it wasn't its intention when it was created. You cannot make a law made for one concept be automatically related to a whole new spectrum of other concepts that did not exist when the law was created unless you amend it (essentially updating). There is a list of federal laws that has been made since then that do cover cybercrime where the Department of Homeland Security is responsible and there are state laws as well. Those laws tend not to apply to the NSA because it is the NSA's job to perform cyber-intelligence and cyber-security so they need the freedom to do their job. The fact is that the government does not have any malicious intent with their intelligence gathering, but those who would be stopped by their activities do. It is the government's foremost responsibility to protect its citizens because it is, in effect, protecting its own existence while doing that. The two core responsibilities of a government as it applies to law is 1) to protect its own existence 2) To protect the lives, health, and well-being of its own citizens. That is according to a 2013 McGraw Hill Business Law textbook.

The ACLU says a lot of things. I often do not agree with their interpretation of laws and their reasoning, but I can see their side of the cases and intent and I can respect that. I tend to be more strict on the idea on treason because national security is not something to be taken lightly. As far as we know Snowden has not released any information on anything vitally important for national security, but for all we know he could have secretly or may be planning to. Additionally, the fact that he was a high level American intelligence official and is out in the open is also dangerous not only for him, but for the security of the United States. For those reasons alone we should be more intent on having him returned and answer for his crimes. I stand by the fact that he must answer for his crimes against the Espionage Act as well.
Debate Round No. 2


They had made the claim that it would be more difficult but failed to provide any proof that it would. That is the one of the main problems with the claims made by the NSA, they are just claims with no proof. Anyone can make a statement and claim it to be true but in order for it to be deemed a fact you must provide some hard evidence to support the claim.
In a court of law a claim is not going to be considered hard evidence.
The NSA has violated the "Wiretap Act"

"The Wiretap Act broadly prohibits the intentional interception, use, or disclosure of wire and electronic communications unless a statutory exception applies. In general, these prohibitions bars third parties (including the government) from wiretapping telephones and installing electronic "sniffers" that read Internet traffic"

They have name zero statutes that would exempt them from the Wiretap Act. They have also violated

"The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986)
Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA") to expand the scope of existing federal wiretap laws, such as the Wiretap Act, to include protection for electronic communications. ECPA expanded the privacy protections of the Wiretap Act in five significant ways:

1.ECPA broadened the scope of privileged communications to include all forms of electronic transmissions, including video, text, audio, and data.
2.ECPA eliminated the requirement that communications be transmitted via common carrier to receive legal protection.
3.ECPA maintained restrictions on the interception of messages in transmission and adds a prohibition on access to stored electronic communications.
4.ECPA responded to the Supreme Court's ruling in Smith v. Maryland (June 1979) that telephone toll records are not private and restricts law enforcement access to transactional information pertaining to users of electronic communication services.
5.ECPA broadened the reach of the Wiretap Act by restricting both government and private access to communications.
[full text]

Computer Security Act (1987)
The Computer Security Act reaffirmed that the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) is responsible for the security of unclassified, non-military government computer systems. The main purpose of the Act is to protect unclassified information from military intelligence agencies. However, the Act has since been weakened, primarily as a result of the efforts of the National Security Agency. "

"The fact is that the government does not have any malicious intent with their intelligence gathering"
What evidence do you present to support this claim? Unless you are a member of the NSA that's a rather presumptuous claim but nor can I prove that they do have malicious intent. That is the problem, the American people are having their rights stripped slowly but surely and we are presented with no evidence that the NSA's ends justify the means we are simply being told "Just trust us, its for your own good"

JFK made a speech warning of the danger secret societies pose to our freedoms and that we should never trade our freedom for security. There's a long list of other important figures who made the same type of statements throughout American history. (describes the NSA to the T)

Thomas Jefferson:
"When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty"

"A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference."

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government"

As American's we've become far too willing to sacrifice our freedoms whenever the government seeks to "suspend" them.
When Obama first came into office he claimed that whistleblowers were "patriots" and that they should be protected as the video below shows.

You have made the comment that the governments core responsibilities are " 1) to protect its own existence 2) To protect the lives, health, and well-being of its own citizens" Surely you do not mean that protecting its own existence is top priority, after all the federal government was created by the states to protect our constitutional rights first and foremost.
People all too often confuse patriotism with being loyal to the government but this is a fallacy. True patriotism is being loyal to the people. It is the best interest of the people that we should be more concerned with, not the other way around. We would be wise to heed the warnings of those that came before us.


Unfortunately, there is no way to actually show evidence to prove that exposing the NSA's activities would make it more difficult to perform their operations. It is really just common sense. If you are doing something secret like spying (spying is essential for intelligence gathering for national security) and it is exposed openly it is kind of hard to continue doing it effectively. You shouldn't need proof to enforce a claim that is backed by common sense. Courts are based on evidence, of course, but common sense has to be taken seriously as well. I will not argue that the NSA did not break any laws because they obviously did and I didn't deny that they didn't. The NSA should answer for the crimes, but I think leniency should be practiced because they were doing it for a valid cause within the government. I said that those laws tend not to apply to them (evidence in that they were doing it for years) at all times as shown in the past and they shouldn't if it is for the sake of national security, but that is my own opinion. Due process and procedures should still be followed to avoid issues, of course. I am not bothered by the NSA collecting data on me or anybody else because I personally have nothing to worry about or to hide from the government.

I believe people's privacy should be protected, of course, but it has to be within reason. If we continue to create laws that protect people's privacy to an extreme we will no longer be able to investigate crimes efficiently and perform preventative operations to keep horrible crimes from being executed to begin with. The NSA's operations primarily in question is intelligence gathering of data and communications that could prove instrumental in a future investigation or preventative operation to protect us. I would rather have the NSA have all of my data than have somebody, or myself, be a victim of terrorism.

Like I said before, the government does not have any malicious intent with their intelligence gathering. That is an easy and safe claim. When was the last time you experienced the U.S. government intentionally doing something to harm innocent American citizens? I don't think you will come up with a single credible case because the government would gain nothing from doing that. My earlier statement about the government core responsibilities as according to a law textbook was not put down in order of more to least important; both are equally important as I stated just before that comment. "It is the government's foremost responsibility to protect its citizens because it is, in effect, protecting its own existence while doing that." On top of that the NSA does not have the manpower or resources to personally scan every piece of data that they collect. The majority of it would be stored in databases for later analysis if needed as a resource. There is no real reason to feel "violated" because a government agency is collecting your information for your protection and is safely stored on a secure database server. I am much more fearful of when private corporations have my data on their unsecure private servers that are constantly subject to business marketing and outside hacking.

Thomas Jefferson's quote "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty" does not apply in my opinion because I am not fearful of the government and I think it is safe to say that there is no reason to be fearful of the U.S. government. Our government has no power forcefully make us do anything. The United States military is owned by the people and filled with American volunteers. They will not obey an order that oppresses the American people. The American government will always fear the people and I think that is a safe assumption. The NSA cannot do anything harmful with the data they have that we need to fear, especially now with them in the spotlight.

Finally, I would like to say that I agree with your ideas on patriotism with loyalty to the people. The best interests of the people should always be foremost in the government's priorities because that is also, ultimately, in the government's best interest. I believe we should heed the warnings of the past because history is important to learn from, but we also have to consider current, modern era of situations and way of thinking. Thank you for the debate.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Comrade_Silly_Otter 5 years ago
If something exists, then it is physical. Even if digital it is still data bits made out of electrons.
A flaw.
Posted by Letsdebate24 5 years ago
Further more the Standard Form 312 is a CIVIL agreement. To sum t up he violated a business agreement but upheld the constitution. There has yet to be anyone with proof that he broke an oath of secrecy.
Posted by Letsdebate24 5 years ago
He took the oath of office or appointment affidavit and it reads

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Posted by SocialismBeatsGreed 5 years ago
Someone already pointed out that he didn't take an oath to secrecy, and I don't think he took an oath to the Constitution either, other than being born as a U.S. citizen.

Moreover, I would like to know what part of the Constitution you believe he was enforcing, anyway. The general tone of the Constitution is that the government should be 1) democratic and 2) transparent, but I don't believe it ever actually outlined any duty to blow the whistle on something like this.

There were obviously multiple MORAL duties involved in this, like the duty to your employer to keep something a secret and the duty to the public to make something known, but I don't really see how you think that the Constitution had any part of this. I guess you could be saying that the NSA was doing something unconstitutional, but even then he would only have a moral duty to make that known, NOT a Constitutional duty. The Constitution says nothing about people blowing whistles on the government when they may be doing something unconstitutional.

Extremely bad topic wording. Just scrap the thing and rename it "Ed Snowden was morally right to expose NSA-Gate."
Posted by Letsdebate24 5 years ago
He signed a Standard Form 312 which is a work related agreement. Not actually a valid oath but to spare a pointless argument I chose to phrase it that way. Whether it was an oath is not important, its where the loyalty should be.
Posted by TheNorseman007 5 years ago
This is an interesting idea, but Snowden never took an OATH of secrecy. Keeping everything a secret was merely a contingency of working with the NSA. I think the resolution as it currently stands is unbalanced in the favor of Pro.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by chengste 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Nice debate for a change on this site, both did well I feel that PRO did more to prove their case