In his attack last week on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin (8/20/13) started off by comparing the release of classified information about government spying to the assassination of Martin Luther King:
The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy led directly to the passage of a historic law, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Does that change your view of the assassinations? Should we be grateful for the deaths of these two men? Of course not. That’s lunatic logic. But the same reasoning is now being applied to the actions of Edward Snowden. Yes, the thinking goes, Snowden may have violated the law, but the outcome has been so worthwhile.
I guess that establishes Toobin as some kind of an expert on bizarre analogies, which is perhaps why he feels qualified to make this observation:
In this debate, Snowden himself says, those who followed the law were nothing better than Nazis: “I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg, in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.'”… It is simply grotesque that Snowden compares these thousands of government workers–all doing their jobs to protect the United States–to the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
Well, it just so happens that I have the chief counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Justice Robert Jackson, right here. Justice Jackson, is Jeffrey Toobin right that the Nuremberg principles are only meant to apply to Nazi-like regimes, or are they applicable to the United States as well?
If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.
Thank, Justice Jackson. Glad you were here to set the record straight.