I view Edward Snowden as an American hero because he exposed crucial information that belonged in the public realm without permanently compromising his nation’s national security. He is a hero because he revealed the massive scope of the American government’s spying on citizens and other individuals worldwide. He has rendered a priceless public service that outweighs any trust violation he could have done.
Snowden’s disclosures regarding the N.S.A. documents revealed that the agency was collecting data from the electronic communications of United States citizens. That is, the U.S. government, without obtaining any court warrants, routinely collects the phone logs of tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Americans and non-Americans who have no links to terrorism whatsoever.
The American government’s statement is not true that the Snowden leaks significantly harmed American intelligence capabilities.
Before accepting such claims, let’s remind ourselves that the leaks did not reveal anything about the algorithms the N.S.A. uses, the groups or individuals the agency targets, or the identities of U.S. agents. However, the Snowden leaks revealed that the N.S.A., while targeting foreign suspects, can access vast amounts of user data from U.S.-based Internet companies such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Skype. They also revealed that the N.S.A. created a tracking tool to inform Snowden’s previous bosses about the types of data the agency was gathering worldwide. Iran and Pakistan were the primary targets for the N.S.A.’s data collection. Still, other nations like Jordan, India, and Egypt—all close friends of the United States—might have been astonished to see themselves on the list.
So, what do you think is Snowden’s actual crime? Is it a crime because he exposed dubious acts that the powerful would have preferred to remain hidden? In a democratic society, whistle-blowers have a crucial role to play, one that should be evaluated against the trust they break and any possible impact their revelations may have. Of course, in some situations, the state’s interests should take precedence. However, in this case, Snowden is the winner.
Georgios Ardavanis – 09/02/2023