Law School professor Eben Moglen called on Americans to defend their freedoms in light of the recent National Security Agency surveillance scandal that broke earlier this year.
“The nature of freedom is that we lose it if we do not exercise it,” Moglen said.
In the first talk of a four-part lecture series titled “Snowden and the Future,” Moglen discussed how the role of government surveillance has evolved in America. He also talked about the significance of Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who leaked confidential documents that detailed the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
“He did what you have to have great courage to do,” Moglen said. “He wasn’t first, he won’t be last. But he sacrificed his life to tell us things we needed to know.”
Moglen’s central theory focused on the idea that more universally informed governments mean less freedom, and consequently, less privacy for the individual.
He discussed in detail U.S. technological advancements since World War II, which have allowed the government to delve even deeper into surveillance. He also cautioned his audience against the dangers posed to a society in which the government knows everything about everyone.
Moglen argued that the government abused its power of surveillance and that it is problematic that spying on citizens has become normal.
“All of this is deeply inconsistent with the American ideal,” he said.
In addition to Moglen’s lecture series, journalism professors talked about the effects of surveillance with regards to journalism and academia on Tuesday night.
Jeff Roberts, a law student who is not affiliated with Columbia, said he felt skeptical about Moglen’s portrayal of Snowden as a martyr.
“It’s such a fevered atmosphere that it’s easy to get swept in,” Roberts said.
Attendees were split on Moglen’s stance but agreed that he had specific insights that should be included in the conversation.
“He’s a really smart man and an amazing congressional scholar,” Josh Horowitz, Business ’13, said.