Snowden: Traitor or patriot?

Maddie Boone, Contributing Writer

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In many American households, the name Edward Snowden has a negative connotation. Snowden was the man who leaked over a million classified U.S. government files, was granted a three-year residency permit in Russia in 2014, and now seeks asylum to escape prosecution. The way he went about leaking the documents is questionable; however, many are now joining the American Civil Liberties Union in their campaign to pardon Snowden.

Joined by many big names like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the campaign is an effort to push President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden on the basis that he revealed many injustices and crimes committed by the government against its populace. This campaign is calling for more support and calling out hypocrites. Most notably, the Washington Post, whose editorial board argued for Snowden to face some criminal charges, even though they won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on his leak.

If brought to court in the U.S., Snowden would essentially be unable to have his side heard, which is that people deserve to know if their individual rights are being violated. This is largely because the charges he faces are under the Espionage Act, which does not differentiate sharing government secrets for public interest from selling them to foreign governments.

Much of what Snowden brought to light has been acknowledged by the government and has initiated some change, which we as a country should applaud him for. In ACLU vs. Clapper, a federal appeals court unanimously agreed that the phone records exposed by Snowden were illegally obtained and even bypassed the intention of the PATRIOT Act. This encouraged the government to create the USA Freedom Act, the first bill since the 1970s reining in government to end mass collection of calling data.

While many still worry that government data was leaked, the fact that our own government lied to us outweighs that concern. How are we, as citizens, supposed to trust the government to keep us safe if they are lying to us and violating our liberties? As John Rawls in his “A Theory of Justice” would say, it is the duty of social institutions (i.e. government) to maintain the principles of justice, the first of those being our individual rights and protections from the government.

Following the recent release of the Snowden movie, I urge you to think long and hard about who you support. While national security may have been compromised following the leak, civilian security was already compromised by our own government before the release. The United States is founded upon protecting our citizens’ individual rights, so what is our country if those rights are not respected? How can we function as a society when there is no trust?

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