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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Edward Snowden: traitor or hero?

Save Edward Snowden

So: dude reveals secret stuff our governments are up to. He violated an employment contract to do so, and he exposed things that are technically legal, so some call him a traitor and a criminal. On the other hand, he brought to light things that shouldn’t be legal and that contravene the spirit of an open democracy, so some call him a hero and a patriot.

Edward Snowden: traitor or hero?

Or maybe he’s just a pawn, or a CIA puppet, or playing some other role that makes him complicit in an enormous bit of propaganda or security theater, as I just discovered yet another bunch of people believe.

I’m definitely on the “hero” side. Even if mass surveillance and mass collection of data from the citizenry is “legal” under some interpretation of a law hastily rushed into existence, overseen by secret courts and secret judges, to call the defiance of such a law treason is nonsense. Americans who, say, worked on the Underground Railroad in the 1850s were breaking the law, too, and I can’t imagine anyone with any scrap of decency to their name suggesting that what they did wasn’t justified and entirely moral.

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

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  • Damian Barajas

    I find myself thinking that if he would have leaked these documents a year ago, nobody would have taken as much notice as they are taking today.

    He would have been labeled a kook and a traitor and whatever else Assange has been called as of today.

    Sure, Assange isn’t from M’urica but if that seems relevant (And by ‘you’ I mean anybody reading this) then you are not paying atention.

    Wikileaks was the dead canary people should have been paying attention to, the fact that so much information was gathered from supposedly sovereign nation states and their delegates should have warned us of the new powers the U.S. of A. had acquired. The fact that these powers are new and therefore unchecked, should have set off alarms everywhere. But it wasnt you they were spying on so you dind’t care.

    This aspect reminds me quite a bit about climate change denialism.

    The sad truth is that history is going to be Snowden’s judge, and I don’t know of many people we would call heroes today that dind’t effect some change on the world.

    Depends on what is actually done with the information he leaked.

    I believe he’s right to do what he did though. I don’t know if I could have done it.

  • Paul

    I’m reading a book on the American Revolution at the moment. If what Snowden did makes him a traitor and a criminal, then you can say that again for all of the founding fathers. Which makes the US a traitorous, illegal nation…

  • If the Revolution had failed, the Founding Fathers would have been hung as traitors.

    “Freedom fighter” is a matter of persective. So is “terrorist.” History is written by the winners…

  • iakobos

    This is your right-wing libertarian checking in: Snowden’s a hero.

  • dwa4

    Daily reading of the news sites give Snowden’s own response:

    “Snowden told The Guardian he does not, by the way, consider himself a hero, saying “what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”)”, and

    “neither a traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”

    Personally, I think there is merit in this case to exposing what is arguably a gross overreach of the government’s authority. While I am not in his shoes and probably would have difficulty really fathoming what it would be like to do what he is doing and facing the extreme potential consequences, I think his actions and methods leave a lot open to speculation when trying to determine hero/traitor.

    The Founding Fathers and “patriots” did not fire a shot, verbal or physical, and then run. They laid out their complaints, stood their ground, were willing to be persecuted, jailed and killed and then fight for their home when necessary for those complaints. There are whistleblower attorneys that specialize in such cases. It seems that being able to confront our country’s shortcomings in something resembling a legal process, being willing to face those responsible for overreaches and even being willing to take the consequences of speaking out against those in power would give him a tremendous amount of credibility. While not universal, I would speculate that a majority of Americans are sympathetic and concerned about the issues he has exposed. That, an experienced attorney, and a willingness to stand up to those in power and face the consequences would go a long way in showing you truly have the best interests of freedom as your motive. It certainly is not pleasant or easy but it would be invaluable currency in furthering your supposed cause. Instead, we see him running to those paragons of freedom, China, Russia and Ecuador, reportedly carrying who knows what information on thumb drives. This does not garner any confidence for me.

    If he’s a hero he’s a foolish one who has lost his platform and credibility. His actions would suggest the possibility that he is seriously damaging what free countries must realistically engage in at some level of the surveillance/security spectrum in order to be vigilant and his actions wouldn’t seem to rule out traitor.

    Is it possible, in trying to be a hero or trying to do what’s right, you do it foolishly and end up doing your cause more harm then good? Does that then qualify as being a traitor? If all we’re given is traitor or hero, on the bias meter, I’d have to lean a bit to the traitor side of the midline at this point. Perhaps, to be accurate, we need a second axis with foolish on one end and wise or ?cunning? on the other end.

  • dwa4

    In today’s interconnected world, do we not have the ability to stand from the perspective of freedom and see beyond the moment of the “winner” to distinguish between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? We are resigned to see the Tianenmen tank man or the Iranian democracy protestors as terrorists as they did not “win”?

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