“You have no idea what it’s like living in a post 9/11 world”, someone told me recently, her tone mournful. She is correct. I have no idea, no visualizations for a world before the spike in Muslim racism, before the meticulous and painstaking hours we now have to spend going through security checks before boarding a plane, before the lingering fear that the mention of terrorism brings up. Before the increased security- increased security that goes hand in hand with the fact that the National Security Administration is keeping tabs on communications all across not only the country, but also the world.
It is unknown whether NSA was doing this before 9/11, but that and the Boston bombings have done nothing to discourage it. If anything, it has cemented the belief of many that this is all worthwhile, that it is worth giving up a little privacy if it may lead to the prevention of future attacks and crimes. Others hotly respond that this is an outrage! That we should be able to email someone without having to think about the fact that people out there can effortless tap into the communication stream. There is much debate surrounding that area of conversation, debate that was sparked in large by Edward Snowden.
At first glance, Snowden is just an ordinary, brown haired, bespectacled man. Yet he is now famous, or rather, infamous for being the man who leaked to one of England’s leading newspapers just how far the extent of the surveillance stretches. The fair amount of outrage that then blossomed was not only directed at the government but also at the man who delivered this news. How dare he breach government security in such a way that renders it vulnerable to hostile accusations, such as the one hurled from the president of Brazil at a recent United Nations conference? He had a job to do, which was to work with secrecy, and he went and arguable betrayed the government. However, through interviews he proclaimed to be acting on behalf of the people; we have a right to know the amount of surveying being imposed upon us.
This brings up an interesting point. On one side, the statement that Snowden betrayed the government. On the other, the argument that he was just helping the people by doing so. Is the government representing its people? If so, how could he be betraying them and helping citizens at the same time?
Well, governments have always been shrouded in secrecy. If they shared everything they would be left very vulnerable to other countries attacks. The government no doubt decided that by keeping citizens in the dark it was therefore representing their best interests and protecting them. As the popular saying states, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.”
Regardless of whether or not the government is correct on that matter, according to the dictionary definitions Snowden is by all means a criminal. He (going by the words of U.S Officials) jeopardized national security and breached government secrecy. Even though freedom of speech is definitely important, he was bound by confidentiality. So saying that the 1st Amendment protects him is slightly invalid, because he must have understood that confidentiality before taking the job. He became uncomfortable over time, being on the inside and wrestling with the fact that so many people lived in ignorance of what their government was doing. His moral code finally cracked and he fled, contacting a journalist to spill the length of the precautions that the USA government was taking. Was he protecting the people by his standards of the action, as opposed to the governments? Maybe his thoughts were somewhere along those lines, but protection is hardly the right word to use, due to the fact that it refers to having the ability to prevent the harm that was or was going to be done to you. We cannot stop the NSA from surveilling us, we can only know that it is happening and either protest or accept it.
Unsettling as it may feel once one begins to think about all your exchanges being recorded and kept, there is not much harm in keeping all around tabs if it helps prevent attacks and crimes. It does not directly affect anyone’s lives except those who are acting suspiciously. So why put energy into complaining and creating an uproar? Lots of money and time is going into this, enough so that the government considers it worthwhile enough that they will not shut it down after citizens express outrage.
The cause of all of this anger, Edward Snowden, acted out of a deeply driven sense of moral justice, a right that the people have to know. Regardless of his opinions, it is respectable to stand up for what you believe in, and many hail him as a hero for defying the government in the name of the people.
Yes, Edward Snowden may be a hero. But that doesn’t stop him from being a criminal.