Edward Snowden is the 29 year old computer geek with the hot girlfriend that just informed the world that Obama was spying on every phone call and every email and much, much more of every citizen in the United States.
And the accusers and defenders crawling out of the woodwork seem to defy logic. On the one hand, we have John Boehner the Republican Speaker of the House and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein lining up arm in arm to brand Snowden a traitor and we have Rand Paul, the TEA Party’s favorite Republican on the same side as Democrat Dennis Kucinich.
Talk about your odd couples!
So which side do you fall on? Is Snowden a hero or a traitor?
Well, he is no traitor in the legal or classic sense. He was aware of and (apparently) worked on the program known as Prism, or a piece of it, that is even now still collecting every bit of data on every American citizen that it can find.
Most Americans assume that the 4th Amendment to the US constitution protects us from the prying eyes of the government unless we are in the process or under investigation for some illegal act. But the Prism monster does not care if we are saints or sinners, it simply gathers our data, analyzes what is there and notifies someone if it finds anything one would have to assume.
It also gives the government a stockpile of data that would often be purged or deleted after a time that they can hold on to and mine forever. After the fact.
My opinion of Snowden is that he did not divulge anything of substance, just the fact that the government is gathering information without a warrant and in secret. The claim is that there is more that will be revealed, so until that is known, the final assessment of Snowden cannot be made.
But more Americans were shocked to find out they were being watched even though they are under no suspicion and there is no specific permission from the courts to target them.
But from what Snowden has said, I have to scratch my head and wonder of the talking heads on the TV are actually listening to the man. Most seem to think he wants to justify leaking the information because it was a criminal act by the government in some attempt to escape punishment. Bur from what I heard him say, he already considered the consequences. In his mind it was more important to get this information out there than worry about his freedom or safety.
Snowden understood his options. He did betray the trust of his employer and as someone who has held high security clearance in the past (when my employer was the Navy) releasing that information under any circumstances is a betrayal. But when the secret reaches a point that you calculate that keeping it is more of a burden on your conscience than breaking your word, spilling the beans may actually be an option. I know in my case that it would take a lot for me to betray that oath. And I have no idea if the revelations Snowden exposed would rise to that level for me. Ithink not, but he has said there is more. Much more.
I am fairly certain that if I were in Snowden’s shoes, what he has released so far would still be my secret.
Snowden has made the calculation. That seems pretty clear. He simple cannot live with the secrets he holds and pretend nothing has changed. So once he reached the decision that he had to release his secrets, the only question was the consequences.
Perhaps it would have been more honorable to have let the secrets out and then turn himself in rather than run. More people would have respected that choice. But when you reach the point that you have seen what is in the belly of the government beast and found it intolerable as Snowden has, running and finding asylum is a logical step. He knows he can never come back home. And if he does, he will be locked up, probably for life.
Th secrets he knows has caused him to lose faith in America, and many of us get that. In most of the circles I run in these days, trust in government is in short supply and dwindling. The rash of scandals only serve to solidify the mistrust. When a government of the people, by the people and for the people starts spying on the people that empower it, the government does not trust the people. So how can the people trust such a government?
Snowden could have just left and gone elsewhere but he chose, in leaving, to try to expose and ultimately stop this behavior by the government against it’s people – it’s owners.
I will reserve my final judgement on Mr. Snowden until all the data is released. If the worst he did was let the world know that Barack Obama, the man who criticized George Bush for invasions of privacy, is far worse than his predecessor, then I see no real damage to America, and hopefully, his sacrifice will lead to tighter control on the government and the right to privacy that we are supposed to enjoy.
But at this point, Edward Snowden is a hero.