Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor?

by Megan R.

Staff Writer

On June 9th, 2013, an interview went viral on news stations all over the world.  After months of collaboration and sleepless nights, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras were ready to reveal their masterpiece to the world. Twenty-nine year old Snowden worked as a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor until he learned of secret surveillance programs. Poitras is a journalist for the Guardian, a Great Britain-based newspaper. In the past Poitras has directed several documentaries addressing U.S reactions to 9/11. In 2006 she released the film My Country, My Country; Poitras claims she has been on Homeland Security’s watch list ever since. Glenn Greenwald, also a journalist for the Guardian, focuses mainly on U.S politics.

In January 2013 Snowden contacted Poitras via encrypted email. Poitras, who was working on a documentary about unethical surveillance, was chosen because Snowden needed a journalist who was not afraid to oppose the government. Snowden proceeded to inform her of several top secret surveillance programs that the NSA was running, taking great care to keep the leaks as private as possible. Poitras and her reporting partner, Greenwald, met up with Snowden in Hong Kong to discuss the contents of the email. Why Hong Kong? Snowden states, “[Hong Kong has] a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”  That is exactly what these three people are – political dissenters. Greenwald worked tirelessly putting together the articles that would make all three of them enemies of the U.S. Meanwhile, Poitras and Snowden created the video that would capture the attention of everyone else.

In a collection of videos and articles, Snowden exposed several surveillance programs that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been running. The leaks revealed that the US government not only has access to internet history, but emails, text messages, phone calls, etc. as well. Though the NSA started surveillance to track terrorists, according to Snowden, American citizens’ private conversations are included often and can be stored for up to five years. Through the Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management (PRISM) program, the NSA can obtain surveillance directly from the servers Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook. The government claims that this information is only obtained to protect America. Snowden suggests, however, that this information can be used to accuse U.S citizens of being terrorists. PRISM searches broad keywords to surf through all the data collected from the servers, and if one email contains one of those keywords, then the NSA automatically has access to all of that person’s emails.

Out of fear of U.S retaliation for leaking confidential information, Snowden and his accomplices fled to Russia and parts of Asia. This action resulted in many declaring Snowden a traitor and a coward.  “He committed an act of espionage, regardless of its supposed benefits to the public. I don’t care, because I know the whole system is rotten, and we need a new one, but even if he did good, and I like him for that, I would still see him prosecuted for his crime,” asserts Joseph Koplowitz, junior. To clarify the purpose of his actions, Snowden declared, “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded; that is not something I am willing to support or live under.” Snowden has taken action against what he believes to be injustice, rendering him a hero by many. Still, Snowden’s sneaky tactics and rushed escape are suspicious. Mrs. Louise Graner, English teacher states, “It was self-serving. He did not do this to help the American public.”

People all over the world were shocked by the information that these three people shared and began to ask: Is Snowden a hero or a criminal? For the next few weeks the world was forced to choose whether or not political dissent should be punishable by law. “I think that he broke the law. I do understand the need for whistle-blowers, but his position on the leaks crossed the line for whistleblowing. There is a line between whistleblowers and national security, and that is for the courts to decide,” responded Mr. Josh Sailers, social studies teacher, when asked about his stance on Snowden and the NSA leaks. One of the companies that was mentioned in the leaks commented, “News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm.” However, the question must be begged: Why is breaking contract a grave violation, but depriving the American public of the fourth amendment acceptable?

When the articles and videos were released in early summer, Snowden fled to Russia in search of political asylum. Mr. Sailers commented, “I think Russia is definitely playing politics.” Though there is no evidence of any immediate family left behind, Snowden lost the support of much of his country. “Had he stayed in the country and accepted those consequences, then I would be more supportive. Was the government in the wrong for doing that stuff? Yes. Should we have found out about it? Yes. But not the way he did it; the way in which he went about it was wrong,” claims junior Cole Davila.  While Snowden remains in hiding, the two journalists are not in hiding; however, both are being perpetually harassed in other ways. Poitras admits that she has been questioned in every U.S airport since 2006, and recently it has only gotten worse. Greenwald’s partner was also stopped in an airport recently, detained and investigated for over nine hours.

The U.S government responded gravely to the “Snowden Leaks,” as the situation has come to be called. Obama declared that Snowden was no patriot and was in fact being charged with three felonies. However, President Obama also stated, “Given the history of abuedward snowdense by governments, it’s right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives,” Though the government admitted a need for review in procedures, several months after the scandal very little reform has occurred. Petitions and protests have broken out all over the world. From organizations such as the European Union to whole countries such as Sweden, the world is questioning U.S tactics and foreign policy.





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