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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Yahoo CEO's ethical dilemma - and the NSA's ethical confusion

Sometimes I think that I'm gonna get myself into big trouble with the blog. Luckily, very few people read it. (Did a blogger just say that? Wow. And in a nation that values Freedom of Speech.)

So, the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, gave an interview in which she said she was pressured by the NSA and its branches into complying with their demands for data -- by threatening her with prosecution for treason.


So she can either be a traitor and protect the privacy of personal emails and other stuff and go to jail, or give in and help - help - the government spy on its citizens and go on drawing a huge salary and living the high life.

She chose the latter.

Ethically speaking, being a traitor, when one is actually a traitor, is unethical. Betraying your country is not good.

But we need to make some distinctions.

The government is not the country. Resisting the government is not in itself treason. We are in trouble if "our nation" and "the government" are one and the same. If they are, there will come a time when petitioning the government for redress of grievances will be seen as treason. Any proposal to change the government will be treason. Everyone will be an enemy of the state just for disagreeing with the government's policies on any matter whatsoever. No, the nation is not the government. The rule of law in this nation is the Constitution, and the Constitution protects both freedom of speech and privacy.

But for now, breaking the country's laws is not in itself treason. I fail to see how Mayer could be considered a traitor in any respect. Contempt of court (for refusing to abide by an order of the all-powerful Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) maybe. Obstruction of justice, perhaps. Withholding of evidence.


Now look, if Yahoo KNEW who of its users - and I mean real people, not MrDucky2013@rocketmail.com, were using its services for evil against our country, and it went out of its way to protect or assist them, then maybe that would be treason.

But was the Post Office guilty of treason for delivering anthrax-laced packages? Does the NSA have the right to open people's physical mail? If not, why not? Is it because the USPS is a branch of the government, or because of the sender's and recipient's privacy rights? If the latter, then why is not email accorded the same treatment?

Notice I asked if the NSA has the right to open people's mail. I did not ask whether or not they do open people's mail. There's a difference between a government's agent opening mail and having the right to do so.

But if it's treason to say that the government and the nation are not the same thing, then call me a traitor. I am a proud and patriotic American, and AS SUCH, I find tyranny objectionable. It is possible for the government of the United States of America to become a tyranny, and it would be FOR THE SAKE of the nation, out of LOVE for the nation, to resist the government.

Melissa mayer made her choice. I wonder if I'd have made the same.


  1. Check out this link. The constitutional definition of treason is tied to the concept of war. So ... if the war on terror is real, then anyone NOT assisting in helping fight the war on terror ... could be arguably treasonous.


    1. I disagree. It is clear from the Consitution and the link you provided that "treason" is a positive act of war against the United States or of actively aiding enemies of the United States. Refusing to help is not the same as aiding the enemy - it could be, but there would have to be more - one would have to prove that refusing to help was because of an intent to aid terrorists in your example - a connection the terrorists and the intent to aid them would need to be proven. And it is the "United States" - not the US Government - that is the target of the treasonous acts. It is increasingly dangerous to conflate "the government" with "the nation." They are not the same.