Several months ago a young man named Edward Snowden revealed to the world that he had secreted a boat load of classified data and information away from the US Government.
Back in June I wrote:
The 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.
So six months later has public opinion changed? And have I changed my opinion?
Back in June 2013 Time released a survey that found the nation divided on Showden:
According to the poll, 54% say Snowden did a “good thing” and 30% disagreed. But 53% say Snowden should be prosecuted for the leak, with 28% saying he should not face legal action. The survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday.
The survey indicates younger and older Americans don’t see eye-to-eye over the leak. Seventy percent of those ages 18-34 say Snowden did a “good thing.” That number drops to 50% for those ages 35-54 and to 47% for those age 55 and older. Forty-one percent of those ages 18-34 say the leaker should be prosecuted. That number rises to 56% for those ages 35-54 and to 62% for those 55 and older.
When it comes to Snowden’s actions, the new poll differs from a Gallup survey released Wednesday. That poll indicated Americans divided over Snowden’s actions, with 44% saying it was right for Snowden to share information about the surveillance programs and 42% saying it was wrong.
The new poll from Time indicates Americans are split over the government’s use of surveillance programs to prevent terrorist attacks, with 48% approving and 44% disapproving. While there was little generational divide on the question, there was a wide partisan gap, with just 39% of Republicans approving of the programs. That number rises to 50% among independents and 58% among Democrats.
But now, a new Rasmussen poll finds:
But indicative of the ambivalence that voters continue to feel about this case is the latest finding that, despite national security concerns, 59% think it’s good for the nation that the American people now know more about the NSA surveillance programs. That’s up seven points from 52% in early July. Only 17% disagree. Twenty-four percent (24%) are undecided.
Twelve percent (12%) view Snowden as a heroic whistleblower, while 29% consider him a traitor who endangered lives and national security. For 38%, he’s somewhere in between the two. Sixteen percent (16%) still think it’s too early to tell. These findings, too, have changed little over the past six months.
And what harm has the information Snowden has released done? Realistically we cannot answer that question. Those that favor massive collection of data without warrants believe that the intrusion is necessary in order to keep us safe. But that same logic would justify locking up every citizen and placing them in isolation in massive jails to “keep us safe”.
There is a balance. And like driving a car, we are never going to be completely safe. Every time we get in a car we take a chance. The only way to completely eliminate the risk is by giving up cars. And for most of us that is neither practical in this day and age nor is it acceptable.
Complete and total surveillance of every phone call and bit of data we type and see is akin to giving up our cars.
And then there is the proven attitude by the Obama Administration to use branches of government against anyone that opposes their ideals. Just ask any local TEA Party organization. We are living under a government that will use anything and everything to suppress dissent. Most know they can’t trust this government to be completely benign with the data they gather. And under the guise of keeping us safe does anyone truly believe that this administration would ignore tidbits uncovered that would give them a political advantage? For instance, many believe that Chief Justice Roberts was blackmailed due to circumstances surrounding the adoption of his children into his controversial Obamacare decision. Could this type of information have been obtained by monitoring his computer or phone calls? And would information gained by taps on a political opponent’s phone and data be used to advantage during a campaign?
Is either party above such behavior?
And now, thanks to information released by Snowden we have enough information on the record – proof – of the scope of what the NSA is doing and it has been ruled by a judge to be in violation of the Constitution. And there are more cases in the pipeline.
And while there has been some classified information released, most of what Snowden has released has done nothing more than expose the unconstitutional activity by this government. And the only real harm so far has been more embarrassing than anything else. America was not only spying on potential enemies and terrorists but on our friends and allies as well. Does it make us stronger looking at the opponents cards? Well, of course it does. But we are still cheats. And the America I fought for was above that.
But not any more.
So at this point, Snowden is growing on America and his actions are growing on me. He has exposed what he believed was unconstitutional behavior and he has been exonerated by the courts in so far as exposing such behavior.
But he still illegally revealed classified information and no matter the positive, no matter the importance of his whistle-blowing, he violated the law and if it is possible to put him on trial, we must. Hopefully a fair trial with a jury that will balance the intent and what I believe has been extraordinary restraint in releasing the minimum necessary to prove his point with his lawlessness.
This is not treason. He did not release this information to help other nations. Neither did he release it to harm America. And while he will no doubt make millions on a book and movie deal (that is how we roll these days) that was not even on his radar when this all went down. He didn’t do what he did for personal enrichment.
So I don’t believe it was espionage. And it was not treason. He was privy to what has been judged a crime and he exposed it.
So six months later, Snowden is still a hero in my book. And he is still rightly overdue for his day in court. When you commit a criminal act to expose another crime, they are not necessarily a wash. Although I know how I would decide if I were a juror.