Leaks and the rule of law

Conor Friedersdorf has a new piece critiquing the liberal moderate critics of Greenwald and Snowden, most recently George Packer in the Prospect. Below is an excerpt, but I recommend you read the whole thing, it is excellent:

Stepping back, notice that in the same passage, Packer contrasts the wrongs of Greenwald with the Obama Administration – the people who’ve persecuted whistleblowers, presided over domestic spying on Muslims and launched drone strikes that kill Americans without due process – yet it is Greenwald who, according to Packer, doesn’t understand that “the rule of law has to protect people regardless of politics.”

I think Friedersdorf doesn’t go far enough in his critique of how writers equivocate regarding Greenwald versus the NSA’s respect for the the rule of law. A simple interpretation of the rule of law is that the laws that apply to people also apply to government officials. The important part of the equation is government officials. No one doubts laws apply to the average citizen, it is how they constrain government officials that matters. Arguing that the actions of private individuals violates the rule of law fundamentally misconstrues the rule of law itself, as a constraint on government action.

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