A Citizen’s Letter on Snowden

The Obama administration’s aggressive campaign against whistleblowers, including the court martial of Bradley Manning and the pursuit of Edward Snowden, has stirred strong passions among many Americans who are tired of endless war and the resulting sacrifice of freedom, as this letter from David Finkelstein reflects.

By David Finkelstein

An “open letter” to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chair of the House Intelligence Committee:

As New York-based senior citizens — I was born in this country; my wife is an immigrant — we have watched with sorrow and dismay as America has moved from the nation where people once came for asylum to one from which its own loyal citizens must now flee in search of asylum.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. (Official Photo)

And we are outraged at your knee-jerk “security first” response to Edward Snowden’s revelation of the NSA’s ugly and unconstitutional surveillance program.

Our own representative, Senator Chuck Schumer, who in the past has with considerable justification been described as the “Senator from Wall Street” (i.e., not one who is genuinely concerned with the best interests of the greater New York public), evidently shares the same shameful stance you have taken, which prompts us to regard him now as the even more reprehensible “Senator from 1984.”

As a result, he’ll never have our vote again, and we earnestly hope that your constituencies express their displeasure with your position on the Snowden affair in a similar fashion. Why do we feel so strongly about this issue? Briefly, let me try to explain:

Inspired by a few enlightened leaders, an earlier generation of Americans proved themselves so courageous as to be willing to sacrifice their own lives, and those too of their children and grandchildren, by going into battle against the totalitarian and virulent behemoth of Nazi Germany and Tojo’s Japan, to preserve from destruction the values of freedom they held so dear.

Now, with leaders like you instead doing their utmost to instill in the public an overwhelming fear of contemporary jihadist “terrorism,” a phenomenon which however ugly and vicious is paltry by comparison to the staggeringly monumental threat posed by the Nazis and their ilk in the 1930s and ’40s, America is fast becoming a nation of cowards, people so concerned for their immediate safety and well-being that in pursuit thereof they themselves are the ones prepared to destroy those values, to abandon the rights which have defined us as a nation and which we once so cherished.

The 29-year-old Snowden could have been content just to take his $200,000 a year salary and play the ostrich (or the Eichmann — “I was just obeying orders, folks,”) as his country descended further and further into an Orwellian police state. But he decided instead to forsake everything, risking even his freedom to inform the American people that, like the Soviet KGB and the East German Stasi, whom we presumably fought the Cold War (and some hot ones as well) to suppress, the U.S. is spying on their every conversation.

The most recent edition of the Harvard Law School Bulletin (Summer 2013) contains my assessment of the two Harvard Law graduates, schoolmates of mine, who competed for the U.S. Presidency in the last election, taking issue with the celebrity-smitten but terribly misguided dean of that school, Martha Minow, who looks upon them both as “a source of pride.”

Snowden may have no more than a high school diploma but in my view he has a far better understanding of what it means to be a genuinely loyal citizen of this country than do those two Ivy League law school graduates. In short, Snowden is the real hero, one whom our country should applaud, not persecute.

Sadly, though, persecution of high-minded whistleblowers seems to be in our genes. Socrates was poisoned for his efforts, Martin Luther ex-communicated, Giordano Bruno burned at the stake. In today’s sad world the names are Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Drake, Bradley Manning, ad infinitum.

On subways and buses here in New York, we are constantly confronted by signs advising the public, “If you see something, say something.” People who once took those signs seriously now see them as a joke, albeit a very sick joke indeed, for they know what hypocrisy lies therein.

If the Obama years prove anything at all — and with your fear-mongering you two are equally complicit — it’s that those Americans who do say something about the crimes they’ve seen will soon see one more crime for sure — the U.S. government’s retributive, vindictive guillotine coming down on their innocent necks.

To paraphrase the legendary Pete Seeger’s timeless song, “When will we ever learn?”

David Finkelstein is a New York-based expert on Asia who has authored several scholarly works on China. He has translated into English one major work of Chinese fiction, The Two Mas,  by  Lao She, who was murdered during the Cultural Revolution. Finkelstein is author of the non-fiction adventure travel book, Greater Nowheres,A Journey through the Australian Bush.

15 comments for “A Citizen’s Letter on Snowden

  1. G. Magerl
    July 25, 2013 at 16:47

    Great article, David.

  2. Ben
    July 17, 2013 at 01:24

    Astonishing. This nation is populated by the most delusional inhabitants on Planet Stupid.

  3. Robert Kaiser
    July 16, 2013 at 22:40

    Dave, Thank you for writing and sharing what so many of us are thinking and feeling. If anyone i know should write with such clarity and understanding of the losses we have already incurred to our freedom and those on the fear-mongers’ list yet to take from us, it would be you. Please keep writing.

  4. tedbohne
    July 13, 2013 at 22:02

    “those who will sacrifice liberty for safety, deserve neither”
    america, the home of slavery and cowards

  5. Alfred Cross
    July 13, 2013 at 00:50

    Thank you Mr. Finkelstein for your wisdom. Alfred Cross

  6. Alfred Cross
    July 13, 2013 at 00:48

    Thank you David Finklestein for your clear, valuable insight! Alfred Cross.

  7. Mats Larsson
    July 12, 2013 at 12:11

    It must be such jolly fun up there in the u.s. government and wall street; so much money and power and total immunity. You poor dumb suckers down there in the lower classes, in squaresville, busy concerning yourself about homosexuals, and abortion, and entertainment, and immigrants… Meanwhile they have stolen all the wealth. You are still free to devolve though.

    • Hillary
      July 13, 2013 at 16:22

      Thank you Mats Larsson for your clear, valuable insight.

  8. AnneC
    July 12, 2013 at 04:16

    I have started to use duckduckgo.com instead of Google. As a patriotic citizen I am helping balance the budget by saving our government the money needed to evaluate the threat posed by my searches for recipes for banana bread.

    I just found a website with information on how to boycott corporate government stalking. Perhaps some of you have more information you could share about some of the search engines and other forms of alternate communication. The website is :


  9. rosemerry
    July 12, 2013 at 03:02

    Why does the USA have to make and fight “enemies” and terrify the citizens with fear of attack? All the Cold War lies of “international communist conspiracy” and takeover by the USSR, now “islamic exremism” and who knows the next nightmare?
    If the USA would consider peace, negotiations, some understanding of other points of view, some input into laws by normal humans not millionaires using their power for business interests and corporaions being “pesons” with more rights than humans, perhaps real problems can be faced and even solved.

    • AnneC
      July 12, 2013 at 04:03

      There are so many of us who have a dream. Unfortunately we cannot be the sort of people who pursue the money/power to enforce the dream on others. Those who try to impose totalitarian control on others destroy the dream and themselves with the money/power. Sometimes we can show our dream to enough other people for them to see the advantages of peace and caring. This has become difficult now that the business interests and corporations control so many forms of mass communication. Too many people have stopped realizing that it is does not give real happiness for anyone one to believe that “greed is good.”

  10. Bill Mack
    July 11, 2013 at 21:28

    Sorry. Snowden is a triple agent. No new information surprise for any person or governmental organization paying attention. No Anglo-American or Israeli covert action will be disrupted. Nor will any politician or organization not on the CIA’s enemy list, suffer. Wait and watch.

    • F. G. Sanford
      July 11, 2013 at 23:25

      Yes, and just to dispel any suspicion that he might be a triple agent, the Ambassador to Austria, a food service CEO who was appointed because of his $1.8M campaign contribution was employed in the disinformation scam to ground Evo Morales’ jet. The Ambassador, who wouldn’t know the difference between Wiener Schnitzel and Chop Suey, had no suspicion that this was a complete violation of the diplomatic treaty regarding diplomatic immunity that was signed in…VIENNA! So, despite the international egg on America’s face and the hypocritical laughing stock we made of ourselves, it was worth it just to prove that Snowden couldn’t POSSIBLY be a triple agent, because otherwise, why would our diplomatic corps have exposed itself to such ridicule to get a guy that was…a triple agent? I enjoy Tarpley as a source of entertainment too, but this analysis is a little far-fetched.

  11. F. G. Sanford
    July 11, 2013 at 20:05

    Well said. In the 1930’s, Hermann Goering’s Gestapo kept Germany “safe” with wiretapping technology and accumulated data tabulated on Hollerith machines using IBM punchcards. Today, the technology is a bit more sophisticated, but the fear and intimidation it is likely to inspire is not much different. Can any such system be made immune to abuse? I think not. Sadly, we lack the courageous leadership that in those days thundered an American ideal: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.

  12. Al Schechter
    July 11, 2013 at 18:27

    Right on.

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