Mr. Edward Snowden was a regular guy. He has a beautiful girlfriend and they loved a wonderful life in Hawaii. He was making good money for his age and had a promising career working as a government contractor.
Now everyone is asking—is Edward Snowden a hero, or is he a traitor? Can he simply be called a “patriotic whistleblower”?
It’s amusing how the media, politicians and everyone else is corralling Snowden left and right, calling him all kinds of names, making fun of him. No matter what they say, Edward Snowden felt a need to oblige his moral subconscious by exposing what was going on with the NSA at the expense of his own personal life. We must respect that point.
Of course, the White House has not been too happy with how this came about, with the knowledge that the Patriot Act was further abused.
The act, as a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, significantly weakened restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ gathering of intelligence within the United States; expanded the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadened the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers can be applied.
On their website, the highlight of the USA Patriot Act says:
The Department of Justice’s first priority is to prevent future terrorist attacks. Since its passage following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act has played a key part – and often the leading role – in a number of successful operations to protect innocent Americans from the deadly plans of terrorists dedicated to destroying America and our way of life. While the results have been important, in passing the Patriot Act, Congress provided for only modest, incremental changes in the law. Congress simply took existing legal principles and retrofitted them to preserve the lives and liberty of the American people from the challenges posed by a global terrorist network.
So again, who is this Edward Snowden? Is he a hero, a traitor, a patriot, a spy?
He is a 30-year-old former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton and other contractors who worked on defense contract assignments at the CIA and the NSA and other various agencies. He led a pretty normal life leading into a career in IT, lucratively obtaining his clearances and working for a government agency. He said his life was very comfortable earning about 200K a year living in Hawaii.
Initially Mr. Snowden said he felt a need to release the information in 2008 but believed in Obama’s promises of transparency and the need to curtail the Patriot Act. Unfortunately, not seeing any changes but observing the administration further abuse the Act, pushed him forward.
“You see things that may be disturbing. When you see everything you realize that some of these things are abusive. The awareness of wrong-doing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up [and decided this is it]. It was a natural process.”
So is he a traitor? “Traitor” was the favorite in the immediate, fiery aftermath of his revelations – brandished by everyone from Secretary of State John Kerry to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Appearing on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA director, while defending the NSA programs as being “effective” and “legally sound”, argued: “Traitor is narrowly defined in the Constitution. …We used to have a word for somebody who stole our secrets, who got the job to steal our secrets, and then he moved with those secrets to a foreign country, and made those secrets public. It wasn’t a whistleblower; it was defector. And I actually think that’s a very good word for him.”
But did he steal secrets or use them to malign our government–or did he expose an institution of abuse in a dead 2007 program that was brought back to life in 2008?
From the Washington Post:
Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.
In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to certify periodically that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant.
And so Big Brother came online and it’s as if Orwell’s 1984 is playing out in real life.
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document…
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
And yes, the information mines from: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple and the cooperation of Verizon.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Thus Mr. Snowden may be a patriot. A “patriot” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.”
By his own words, he loves America.
Frankly, I don’t really care so much about titling Snowden as a hero, traitor, whistleblower, patriot, or defector… What I am appalled at is the lengths the government has gone to forfeit a democratic structure into a secret culture against it’s citizens’ privacy.
What was brought forth in Snowden’s findings is an affront to our personal privacy and our constitutional rights. Mr. Snowden was just a bit player, a pawn in this chess game running on the premise of Obama’s abuse of power and blatant disregard for the Constitution of the United States, which he vowed to uphold as the President of the United States.
During a news conference on August 9, 2013, Mr. Obama said, “There’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board,” he said, though he also argued that absent Snowden, “we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked for a “ballpark figure” of the number of Americans whose information was being collected by the NSA last year, the agency refused to give the senator any information, arguing that doing so would violate the privacy of those whose information was collected.
In March, at a Congressional hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper answered “no sir” when Wyden asked whether the NSA had collected “any type of data at all on millions of Americans.”
We now know his statement was incorrect.
Wyden and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) had also been pressing for almost four years for access to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s legal opinions interpreting Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Until Snowden’s disclosures, the senators made no headway. Now, the Obama administration has announced it intends to release its legal interpretation of Section 215.
Mr. Snowden has been federally charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person”. Why, if in fact they would have ended up in the same place? Why all the shuffling around? Why use Snowden for the animosity and sometimes frank hostility towards Russia, the country that decided to temporarily give asylum and solace to this man? I feel like I’m watching a spy mystery, aside from the fact that now I wonder what information the government has on me?
The reality is, Mr. Edward Snowden is afraid for his life and safety but apparently it was a risk he was willing to take, even at the heartache of his family and for his country. Snowden said, “You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will.”
“The debate itself is legitimate and should be engaged.” – Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary.
Thus then the words below may haunt the climate of domestic politics in the next several months: If this conversation, and these reforms, are as positive for the country as Obama says they are, then it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Snowden did the country a real service —even if the White House can’t abide crediting him with it. —Ezra Klein
I question myself and wonder–would I be able to do what Mr. Snowden did? At the risk of so many lives that have fought and died for our great United States, for us to live in a free society with liberty and justice? Without having to worry about our next step and will it be documented?
It seems the real “spy” is our own government, spying on all of us. My personal consensus? Mr. Snowden is a patriot.