Saturday, July 6, 2013

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free": As a Catholic, I support humanitarian asylum for Edward Snowden

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  Who said that?
This man deserves humanitarian asylum

Wait wait. . . don't tell me.  It's on the tip of my tongue.  It will come to me in a minute.

Well--it's probably not important who said it. In any event, our national government has strayed so far from the truth that we are nowhere close to being set free.

Here are just a few recent examples of our government's deceptions:
  • Lois Lerner, an IRS administrator, testified before Congress that her agency did nothing wrong when it targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny. She then took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions!
  • James Clapper, Director of the National Intelligence Agency, lied in a Senate Hearing, admitting later that he tried to answer a Senator's question in the "least untruthful manner."
  • An FBI agent shot and killed  Ibragim Todashev, who had been linked to the Boston Marathon bombing, while Todashev was being questioned in his home.  The FBI claimed Todashev unexpectedly attacked the FBI agent and at least two other officers with what one official described as "a knife, a pipe or something"  A month after the killing, the FBI still won't identify just exactly what kind of weapon the poor guy was wielding.
Not only do our government officials lie to us, they don't try hard to hide their deceptions. As Colonel

"You can't handle the truth!"
Nathan Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) put it so famously in the movie A Few Good Men, the governments seems to think "You can't handle the truth!"

That's why I support humanitarian asylum for Edward Snowden, the Department of Defense contractor who revealed to the press that our government has been secretly snooping on its citizens and our nation's European allies.  And I was pleased to learn today that the nation of Bolivia has offered Snowden asylum.

 I agree with The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman that Snowden is a whistleblower who "made classified information about widespread surveillance available to the American public.

Why do I think so? First, as Ackerman pointed out, there is no evidence to suggest that Snowden is a spy, that he gave sensitive information to our nation's enemies, or that he was motivated to act by malicious motives. 

Second, Snowden is a brilliant young man who obtained security postings in Switzerland and Japan and had a cushy job with a prestigious consulting firm.  Snowden had everything to lose and nothing to gain by releasing sensitive information to two American newspapers.  I am convinced he blew the whistle on government spying as a self-sacrificing act of patriotism. 

Third, as a Catholic, I am aware that our government has persecuted civic-minded and decent people from time to time throughout our national history--including Catholics. 

For example, J. Edgar Hoover considered Dorothy Day a threat to national security beginning in the early 1940s.  That's right--our saintly Dorothy Day.  Hoover considered Dorothy to be an "erratic and
Hoover considered putting Dorothy
Day in an internment camp.

irresponsible person" who had an unacceptably hostile attitude toward the FBI. 

The FBI opened a file on Dorothy Day in 1940, which eventually grew to 575 pages (not including expurgated pages the FBI never released).  In 1941, before the United States entered World War II, Hoover filed a memorandum in which he recommended putting Dorothy in "custodial detention" in the event of a national emergency (Forest, 2011, p. 269). Can you imagine that--Dorothy Day in an American concentration camp!

As I have written before, I believe the day will come when Catholics will be persecuted in this country for their religious beliefs. Not me, of course. I confess I am too much like Rick in the movie Casa Blanca to do anything that will get me persecuted.  Remember what Rick said? "I stick my neck out for nobody."

But, like Edward Snowden, some Catholics will stick their necks out; and like Snowden they are likely to face government persecution. Let's hope Edward Snowden makes it safely to a friendly country like Bolivia.  The day may come when some American Catholics will be forced to join him. 


Christopher Drew & Scott Shane. Resume Shows Snowden Honed Hacking Skills. New York Times, July 4, 2013. 

Jim Forest. All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press, 2011.

Spencer Ackerman. Edward Snowdon is a whistleblower, not a spy--but do our leaders care? The Guardian, July 5, 2013.

Glen Kessler, James Clapper's 'least untruthful' statement to the Senate. Washington Post, June 12, 2013.

Maria Saccetti. FBI tight-lipped on Todashev killing. Boston Globe. June 6, 2013. Accessible at:

Michael S. Schmidt, William K. Rashbaum, & Richard A. Oppel, Jr. Deadly End to F.B.I. Queries on Tsarnaev and a Triple Killing. New York Times, May 22, 2013. Accessible at:

Note: My account of Dorothy's brush with the FBI comes from Jim Forest's excellent biography of Dorothy Day, entitled All Is Grace.

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