Is Eric Snowden a whistleblower whom we should laud for disclosing that the NSA is, in effect, spying on its own law-abiding citizens, or should we condemn him as a traitor who is providing proprietary information to our enemies? That is the $64,000 question. Currently, the public seems to be rather evenly divided. Forty-seven percent of the respondents to an online poll think he is a traitor; 53% view him as a whistleblower. Furthermore, according to a recent Pew Research poll 56% believe it is acceptable for the NSA to track citizens’ telephone calls to investigate terrorism, while 41% say no. In a related poll, 52% believe they should not be permitted to monitor emails versus 45% who disagree. Politicians and commentators are also divided in their opinions. Some conservatives, such as Eric Bolling, co-host of “the Five” on Fox, have called Snowden a “hero” for disclosing the NSA’s actions. Rand Paul praised him for being “truthful.” On the other hand, politicians, as diverse as Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein on the left and John Behner and Peter King on the right have labeled him a “traitor.”
Who is Eric Snowden? To all outward appearances, Edward Snowden was a normal, soft-spoken 29 year old young man with a girl friend and a loving family. He lived in Hawaii. He qualified for a top secret clearance and landed a job with Booz Allen, a well-known defense contractor, which gave him access to the NSA’s communication monitoring activities. He claims that his “sole motive” for blowing the whistle on the NSA was to “inform the public as to [what] is [being] done in their name and that which is done against them.” He has fled the US, and, after a stopover in Hong Kong, is currently believed to be in Moscow.
The US is not sure where he is now. It wants him extradited, but has not been able to convince Russia or China to do so. Many people are interpreting this failure as an indication of the US’s waning influence in the world. I would agree. No one knows for sure what additional sensitive national security information he may have, what he has disclosed to authorities in China or Russia, and what he may disclose prospectively, voluntarily or otherwise. It is imperative that we get him back asap.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Eric Snowden is certainly a controversial figure. He has supporters and detractors on both sides of the political spectrum. Personally, I applaud him for blowing the whistle on the NSA. In view of all the government deceptive practices that have come to light in the last few years, I do not believe the NSA’s assertion that it is collecting telephone numbers but not listening to the calls without a probable cause warrant. Likewise, I do not believe them when they tell us they are collecting emails but not reading them without a probable cause warrant. Even so, we all know how easy it would be for the NSA to find a sympathetic judge to sign a warrant when it wants one.
On the other hand, I am troubled by the fact that Snowden fled the country and hid in China and Russia. These countries are not friends of ours, and one can only guess what sensitive, proprietary information he has told or will tell their governments. This is where I maintain Snowden has crossed the line from heroic whistleblower to traitor. His actions since he fled meet the very definition of treason, which is “a citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against or seriously injure [his] country.” Incidentally, Snowden said he went to China because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” What? Is he delusional? Who is he kidding?
I think Snowden should return home asap and face the music, before he causes any further damage.