A half century ago the state of Israel placed Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi who helped organize and carry out the Holocaust on trial for genocide. At that time Hannah Arendt, a famous historian, wrote a book in which she argued that Eichmann was a bureaucrat who carried out orders because they were orders and it was his task as a bureaucrat to carry out orders given by superiors. Arendt was harshly criticized because she employed words such as “banality of evil” as to transform the Holocaust into a process carried out by bureaucrats rather than a systematic murder of millions. Alas, we continue to live in a world in which whoever is in charge employs the bureaucracy that exists to enforce laws because it is the duty of bureaucrats to enforce laws. Barack Obama twice ran for the presidency arguing that he would end the disabuse of rights by the Bush administration and restore basic Constitutional laws that guarantee the rights of individual American citizens. Instead, Obama has become the defender to spying and surveillance because since he is the president then he must do what presidents do-catch the spy and enforce whatever technology has been used in the past to catch the spy.
If tomorrow, someone else became president- Chris Christie or Ted Cruz or even Rand Paul, we could expect that president would continue a campaign of surveillance and disregard of human rights. The power of bureaucracy is even more powerful than the power of common sense and respect for the Constitution. Military leaders, bureaucrats, technicians always argue that in the name of “our national security” certain actions must occur. Edward Snowden, in one sense, was the anti-bureaucrat because he chose to pose questions concerning which comes first, Constitutional rights or “national security.” In so doing, Snowden made clear the choice was NEVER between “national security” and the Constitution.
The evidence is overwhelming. For over a decade we have allowed bureaucrats in the armed forces or the NSA or the CIA to decide what constitutes “national security” and in so doing, have allowed nameless bureaucrats who simply are “doing their job” to continue doing a job that has failed for over a decade to protect “national security.” What is unusual about Edward Snowden is that a nameless bureaucrat who was just doing his job, began to question the nature of his job, and set in motion the concept that those who run the machine of death can always stop and question why this program of death?