Reading and listening to the recent coverage of Edward Snowden I have come across a variety different opinions about the man and his actions. He has been called a hero, a traitor, a naive idealist, arrogant, a criminal and a Constitutionalist. What do you think of Edward Snowden and his actions?
First I think it is important to listen to the man himself about the reasons for leaking information about secret NSA programs.
Second it is important to consider the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution when discussing an issue like Snowden’s leak of classified material.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
– US Bill of Rights, 4th Amendment
Edward Snowden: Traitor or Hero?
Many are calling Snowden a hero and many other are calling him a traitor. It is true that he has violated the trust vested in him by the government and his employer. He has sworn an oath to protect the secrets he was trusted with and he has violated that oath. For many this makes him a traitor of the US.
On the other hand Snowden revealed disturbing information about government surveillance in the US. Many people think he is a hero for informing the public about what they perceive as government invasion of privacy. To many Snowden is defending our freedom by demonstrating how the government has intruded into our privacy and this makes him a hero.
Regardless of which side you are on it is obvious that if Snowden had desired to betray the US to another country he could have done so just as easily as leaking the information. Snowden chose not sell the information to foreign countries or terrorist organization. In that sense he is not a traitor because he did not seek to directly harm the country.
Edward Snowden: Criminal or Constitutionalist?
Edward Snowden’s action were criminal actions according to US law. He disclosed information he was legally bound to keep secret. Plain and simple Snowden broke the law, there are no ifs ands or buts about it.
Though to many he broke the law in defense of the Constitution. The 4th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Search warrants are very specific as to the person, place and items to be searched and/or seized. The court order for Verizon phone records was not specific at all, it required ALL records to be handed over. The court order did not require probable cause to believe any given individual was involved in illicit activity. Rather it cover everybody at all time without any direct evidence of wrong doing. Many see this as a violation of the Constitution and thus do not see Snowden’s actions are criminal. Rather they see him as defending the Constitution.
At this point it is important to note that in the US if you want to challenge a law you frequently must become a criminal. In order to challenge a law one needs to have legal standing which means that the law has directly impacted your life in a demonstrable manner. Most of the time this means an individual must breaking the law in order to challenging the law. You must become a criminal in order to defend the Constitution.
Edward Snowden: Arrogant or Wise?
Many say that Snowden is arrogant in releasing this information. All three branches of the government were involved in the programs he revealed. There was oversight from both the judicial branch and the legislative branch. Snowden did not have the knowledge to determine if the public should have the information he leaked. But Snowden took it upon himself to make that decision for everybody. He was extraordinarily arrogant since he believe from his limited knowledge he could determine what the public should and should not know.
On the other side many applaud him for shining the light of day on these programs. When you see immorality you must stand up to it and show people what is going on. The government never would have revealed the extent to which they are spying on citizens. So it takes leaks like Snowden to show the public what the government is doing. Snowden himself explained that he did this so the public could decide for themselves instead of the government deciding for everybody.
Edward Snowden: Friend or Foe of Democracy?
Some see his actions are downright dangerous. Snowden has revealed information about how US intelligence operates. That information can be utilized by terrorists in order to avoid detection. Snowden’s actions could literally lead to the loss of lives. Revealing government secrets puts everybody at risk.
Others see him as defending the Constitution and the founding principles of our nation. Even in the Declaration of Independence the founders make it clear that not all government action is legitimate and that in some cases the people must challenge the government. Snowden has certainly challenged the government on their spying programs. Keeping the government from becoming tyrannical is the greatest defense of democracy that one can engage in.
What do you think of Edward Snowden?
Our judgement of Snowden depends heavily on our beliefs, values and interpretation of the situation. Not only should we consider what we think about Edward Snowden but we should take a few minutes and ask ourselves why? Judging is easy, it comes natural to humans; figuring out exactly why we judge the way we do is far more difficult. Think about your own judgement, examine the values it reflects, consider how it would change if the situation were different then question those values and beliefs. Understanding yourself is the basis for understanding others and interpreting the world so utilize this opportunity to learn about yourself as well as the world around us.