It looks as if Edward Snowden will not be leaving the headlines, or Russia for that matter, anytime soon. Since blowing the proverbial whistle on NSA spying, the question has been asked; Is Edward Snowden an American hero or a villainous traitor to his country? The answer to that really depends on who you ask. According to certain factions in the U.S government administration, he is indeed a villain. However in the opinion of most everyday Americans and a few important players on the political field, he is a hero.
Snowden, who was just elected as the incumbent rector for the University of Glasgow, U.K., has faced tremendous pressure from the U.S. government in their efforts to extradite him back to the United States to stand trial for treason. Luckily for him, he was supported by many who believed that his efforts to expose our governments spying tactics were justified and well overdue. Since his historic escape, Mr. Snowden has been given sanctuary in Russia where he is attempting to live a normal life without the close proximity and support of his family and friends. That in and of itself is very brave and self sacrificing. Some would even go so far as to say that Snowden gave up his anonymity and basic freedom for the people of America. He did this so that all could be made aware of the lengths our government will go to, in order to maintain their iron fisted control and paranoid monitoring of regular everyday people.
In recent developments, it has come to light that the NSA was not only spying on regular Americans by listening in on phone calls and infiltrating personal information on its citizens, it was also spying on the activities of other countries, both allies and enemies alike. Tellingly, there has been no evidence whatsoever that Snowden’s actions have weakened the U.S, government’s ability to protect this great nation, or that the NSA’s mass and widespread surveillance of Americans private communications has made the country any safer. Contrarily, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the President, mounted an exhaustive investigation in the wake of the Snowden revelations and concluded that the NSA surveillance program was categorically ineffectual and should be ended, as it was and still is a grave danger to our freedoms and civil liberties.
The programs defenders have tried to argue that had the surveillance been in place during the 911 attacks, they would probably not have happened. The board begged to differ in its majority report stating that the failure of the NSA to identify the threat, stemmed more from a lack of information sharing among agencies rather than a lack of surveillance capabilities. What seems to be more of a threat to the government is not the exposure of the secret tactics they employed to combat terrorism, but more the bumbling and cartoonish style of leadership they displayed for all the world to see. In light of this, can we bravely portray Edward Snowden as an American hero, or as the villainous traitor our government would have us believe he is? If one were to believe the drivel coming from James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, truth-telling should be treated as a crime. Yet he persisted in telling blatant lies to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the true scale of surveillance on the American people who occurred under his leadership!
Scattered throughout the massive trove of leaked information, it has been discovered that the U.S. government has not only been spying on its citizens in their so-called efforts to “protect” the nation, but they have even listened in on explicit phone calls between husbands and wives and viewed private and intimate photos and videos shared among average citizens. What could they possibly want with this type of information? At present, this and many other questions are yet to be answered and Americans are left to wonder just how far this surveillance program will ultimately go. Edward Snowden seemingly had the best of intentions when he set out on his courageous mission to alert Americans of the threat to our freedoms, so let us, in good conscience, hail him as the American hero he is as opposed to the villainous traitor some would wish us to believe him to be.
Op-Ed By Mai Nowlin