Edward Snowden Is Still a Hero, Regardless of ISIS, San Bernardino and Paris

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is in Moscow, is seen on a giant screen during a live vid
Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is in Moscow, is seen on a giant screen during a live video conference for an interview as part of Amnesty International's annual Write for Rights campaign at the Gaite Lyrique in Paris, France, Dec. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Platiau, Pool)

It's official. The terrorists are winning. They have achieved the one and only goal of terrorism itself: to achieve a political outcome based on the "terror" caused by highly publicized attacks on civilians.

Just days after Dagen McDowell of Fox Business blamed the San Bernardino shooting on Edward Snowden and the USA Freedom Act, Joe Scarborough called for "post-Edward Snowden legislation that stops this person-to-person encrypted messaging" on Morning Joe. He also said, "We're going to have to give the CIA powers to interrogate these terrorists to see where the next attack's going to come from."

As the CIA has always had the power to interrogate anyone it wishes to, this can only be code for "torture." Lest this be written off as the ravings of MSNBC's token Republican, his Democratic guest agreed wholeheartedly. Scarborough had either the audacity or the cluelessness (it's always hard to tell) to end the segment by riffing on a Bush/Cheney mantra, saying: "The world changed after Paris."

Anything both Fox and MSNBC are trumpeting in unison can reasonably be assumed to be completely wrong.

McDowell's unhinged statement proceeds from the assumption that Snowden's exposure of indiscriminate NSA spying and the subsequent USA Freedom Act crippled the intelligence community's ability to identify potential threats like Syed Farook and his wife.

As New Hampshire liberty activist Chris Lawless quipped, "So, ending the data collection means that 30 hours later there is a shooting. Ok."

Lawless was referring to the timeline built into the Act. It's prohibition on bulk collection didn't go into effect until midnight on Dec. 1. That means the government was free to do what it had always done under the Patriot Act until the day before the shooting.

The intelligence community's failure to identify Farook, even before its powers were curtailed, wasn't an isolated incident. The government has never prevented a terrorist attack outside of those it invented itself and entrapped hapless would-be jihadists into going along with. Like mass shootings, private citizens have stopped the only terrorist attacks that have been foiled, before, during and after the Patriot Act gave the government vast new powers.

The government failed to prevent 9/11, despite an FBI agent's emphatic warning about flight school students learning to fly, but not how to land. They even caught a former terrorist who was trained to carry out the same kind of attack a year before 9/11 and failed to "connect the dots."

After the Patriot Act was passed, the government failed to prevent the shoe bomber's attempt to detonate C4. Private citizens overpowered him and thwarted the attack. The intelligence community even failed to keep the underwear bomber off the plane he tried to blow up, despite the terrorist's own father warning the CIA he was missing and likely seeking to perpetrate an attack.

As for Paris, the story is substantively the same. France's intelligence community has even more surveillance power than their pre-USA Freedom Act American counterparts. They failed to prevent the recent attacks.

In each case, it wasn't that the government couldn't obtain the information it needed to prevent a terrorist attack. They had it. But the information was a needle lost in the haystack of far too much information collected on mostly innocent people.

Had the resources of state and federal governments been focused solely on people for whom there was probable cause for suspicion of a crime, every one of these attacks may have been prevented, including 9/11. It turns out obeying the Fourth Amendment would actually make us safer.

Edward Snowden hasn't been indicted by the latest terrorist attacks. He's been vindicated. He's every bit the hero Americans thought he was before ISIS and these latest atrocities. If Rand Paul is wrong about something, it's about prosecuting Snowden for breaking the law in exposing the NSA, not standing firm against the bulk data collection Snowden exposed.

Reason always leads to the same conclusion: freedom works. The terrorists' goal is to inspire enough fear in the public that they voluntarily surrender their freedom. They will always have an ally in the government, which accumulates more power whenever its constituents are afraid.

The government's proposition about "finding a balance between liberty and security" is a false dichotomy. Less freedom makes us less safe, both from the terrorists and the government.