Why Hillary Clinton Is Not Like Edward Snowden
Last night’s presidential debate was the latest episode in what appears to be a prolonged infomercial for Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed. One of the rare libertarian highlights of the 2016 campaign, however, came when Donald Trump called for a special prosecutor in the case of Hillary Clinton’s unprecedented recklessness with her private e-mail server. While this issue obviously is minor in the face of America’s insane monetary policy, or horrific foreign policy, a key tenant of any libertarian society is the idea of a rule of law, rather than the law of rulers.
As such, it’s astonishing to see Will Wilkinson of the nominally libertarian Niskanen Center describe Trump’s suggestion as “dictator talk.” Explains Wilkinson:
[I]t’s not Mr. Trump’s open contempt for the norms of liberal democracy that made my blood run cold. It was the applause that came after. It is the fact that it’s no longer assured that you automatically lose a presidential debate in which you promise to jail your political rival.
If it will help warm Mr. Wilkinson up, I would suggest that the reason Mr. Trump’s statement was met with great applause — not only in the debate room but on social media worldwide — is not simply that Secretary Clinton is Trump’s “political rival,” but that she is a perfect example of obscene political privilege.
As Judge Andrew Napolitano has explained numerous times, it is clear that there exists enough publicly available information to indict Hillary Clinton. As he wrote in the immediate aftermath of the FBI announcing its decision to not prosecute:
How hairsplitting can the FBI be in acknowledging “extreme carelessness” while denying “gross negligence” about the same events, at the same time, and in the same respect?
…The espionage statute that criminalizes the knowing or grossly negligent failure to keep state secrets in a secure venue is the rare federal statute that can be violated and upon which a conviction may be based without the need of the government to prove intent.
The Judge went on to give examples of the DOJ going after less politically important citizens for intelligence violations of arguably far less severity:
Thus, in the past two years, the DOJ has prosecuted a young sailor for sending a single selfie to his girlfriend that inadvertently showed a submarine sonar screen in its background. It also prosecuted a Marine lieutenant who sent his military superiors a single email about the presence of al-Qaida operatives dressed as local police in a U.S. encampment in Afghanistan — but who inadvertently used his Gmail account rather than his secure government account.
And it famously prosecuted Gen. David Petraeus for sharing paper copies of his daily calendar in his guarded home with a military colleague also in the home — someone who had a secret security clearance herself — because the calendar inadvertently included secret matters in the pages underneath the calendar.
Given the overwhelming evidence that the FBI treated Hillary Clinton differently than those less politically privileged, is it not fair for a future presidential administration to re-open the case? After all, given the revelation that President Obama himself emailed Clinton’s private server opening himself up to his own scrutiny, is it outrageous to suggest that an investigation by Obama’s FBI and Obama’s Department of Justice of a former Obama Cabinet Official may be worth an additional review? Especially given the obvious breaches of protocol. Just as libertarians are right to question past criminal convictions in the face of conflicting evidence, are libertarians not justified in asking for a fresh look at Clinton’s behavior?
While I think the answer to this question is obvious, a more interesting one is the issue of whether libertarians object to Clinton’s behavior at all. Can one argue in defense of someone like Ed Snowden, who revealed government classified information, while simultaneously condemning Clinton?
The answer is, of course, yes.
After all, a key part of any libertarian judicial theory is the enforcement of contracts. While many government “contracts” require some form of coercion and can be dismissed as illegitimate, Hillary Clinton voluntarily accepted the position of Secretary of State. She then voluntarily signed a document acknowledging the responsibilities she had with classified information, as well as the penalties that went along with it. And then she violated that contract. Be it a world of state or private governance, such action carries with it consequences.
Of course, Snowden violated his own agreements with the government. But there is obvious legal precedent for whistleblower protection, and in his case he broke his contract with the government in order to highlight the institution’s own violation of the law. Regardless of whether one believes Secretary Clinton’s admission that her actions were for the sake of “convenience,” or whether she had a greater agenda, one thing is clear: Hillary Clinton was not playing the role of whistleblower.
In an election year where libertarians have reason to fear every candidate on the ballot, public calls for Hillary Clinton to be held accountable for her obvious violations of the law are a rare bright spot. As more Americans come to realize that the real interest of DC is to serve itself, and not the public, the easier it is to have public discussion about serious solutions such as secession.
May more politicians in Washington face the sound of cheers at the suggestion they be held legally culpable for their actions.