There has been a lot of debate surrounding former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. There are those who say that what Snowden did when leaking information about the NSA makes him a patriot and there are those who say he is a traitor. Snowden, of course, claims to be the former rather than the latter. In an upcoming interview with Wired, Snowden claims “I care more about the country than what happens to me.” Given his refusal to return to the United States, that statement could be viewed as rather dubious.
Snowden is responsible for leaking well over 100,000 intelligence documents, including classified documents from U.S. allies Australia and Great Britain. So it is not as if Snowden only committed this crime against the United States. If Snowden does ever return to the U.S. he faces a 30 year prison sentence for leaking the information, yet he reportedly “told the government I’d volunteer for prison, as long as it served the right purpose“. Hollow words considering prison, not a death sentence, is exactly what he would get. The question is, what is “the right purpose” in the mind of this man?
Snowden claims that he never meant for this to happen…but the explanations he comes up with sound more like the excuses of a college kid who has been caught with the answers to an upcoming test rather than a man who supposedly sought to do good.
The NSA’s actions within the United States are not to be excused either. While numerous measures have been taken to make the nation safer after 9/11, collecting telephone and internet records of the populace should not be one of them. Michigan’s Justin Amash narrowly lost a vote in the House on his amendment to strip all funding for these programs from the NSA budget. President Obama has promised to that the NSA will scale back these operations though.
What Snowden did though – no matter how innocent he thought his actions were – could endanger the lives of various U.S. assets stationed around the world. He committed a crime, plain and simple. The author of the Wired article even details how to correctly go about being a whistle-blower – you go to those who oversee the NSA, not the media. And it’s not as if there wouldn’t have been members of Congress who would have been sympathetic to his cause. Had Snowden gone to Congress rather than the media, perhaps the NSA’s activities would have been defunded. Unfortunately, this did not take place and it caused those who supported the NSA’s tactics to dig in their heels even further. So, while Snowden had some convoluted idea that what he was doing was “good”, he may have instead severely damaged U.S. intelligence operations while not stopping the NSA from continuing its surveillance on ordinary Americans.
What do you think? Would a true patriot run away to Russia? Shouldn’t more people in the United States stop acting as if he is a hero and instead accept that his misguided actions are those of a criminal and perhaps an enemy of the United States?