A New York audience devoted nearly two hours to a riveting Intelligence Squared debate about Edward Snowden and the surveillance regime that his disclosures revealed.
The motion up for debate was “Snowden Was Justified.” Arguing for the motion were Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, and Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden’s legal advisor and the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. They debated Ambassador R. James Woolsey, a former CIA director, and Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor. A pre-debate vote revealed the audience’s feelings on the whistleblower to be evenly split, with 29 percent for the motion, 29 percent against, and 42 percent undecided.
Unsurprisingly, Ben and Daniel won, decisively. In a fascinating back-and-forth, they demonstrated why we’re all better off after Snowden, in a world with a window into a once-secret regime that everyone – including all three branches of government – is now debating out in the open. And they managed to convince 25 percent of the audience: At the end, 54 percent voted for the motion, 35 percent against, while 11 percent remained undecided. You can see a more detailed vote breakdown here.
As Ben noted during the debate, “What a difference an informed public can make.” How true that is.