I don’t know what Edward Snowden’s actual opinion ofnullification is, but the essence of his heroic whistle-blowing is consistent with the principle. While this episode continues to unfold, a number of apologists for the NSA’s domestic espionage have suggested that even if he meant well, Snowden’s methods were inappropriate. Rather than transfer reams of classified intelligence material to investigative journalists, they say, Snowden should first have gone through official channels.
Author and former CIA officer Michael Davidson recently said in an interview that a number of options exist for members of the government to lodge formal complaints. Among those channels are supervisors, inspectors general, and individual members of the congress. Any of these could have assisted Snowden in raising awareness of the problems he saw, while maintaining operational security of the programs. So says the government agent.
It should be patently obvious that such official channels are bound to fail for anyone serious about correcting unlawful behavior. If any of Snowden’s supervisors were likely to help put an end to the unconstitutional programs being carried out by the NSA, it’s reasonable to assume they wouldn’t have needed his prodding in the first place. Surely if he was aware of the offenses so too would have been those in the ranks above him. If they were inclined to be faithful to the 4th Amendment, they shouldn’t have required any urging from a subordinate.
A similar argument could be raised regarding the inspector general. It’s possible – and indeed likely – that the inspector general’s office was unaware of the extent of the spying. It’s also possible that such an officer would be inclined to investigate claims of secret data mining and storage of private communication between Americans, especially if there was suspicion of it being carried out in violation of the orders from the FISA courts.