Is Edward Snowden a Hero?

In my previous post, I argued that Edward Snowden is the storybook character that the world has been waiting for. Most folks already assumed that the NSA was involved in nefarious snooping, but with a potential hero on our hands, the leaks and the Government actions they pertain to suddenly seem more interesting. But is Snowden a hero?

Luckily, the New Yorker’s John Cassidy  and  Jeffrey Toobin have provided us with articles arguing for and against Snowden’s hero status.  I’ve broken down their main points below to see how they stack up against one another.

Hero (Cassidy)

Criminal (Toobin)

  • Revealed important info the public deserved to know about
  • Put his career and life in jeopardy
  • Leaks contain nothing sensitive that threatens national security
  • PRISM tracks Americans and our allies more than terrorists
  • Revealed that senior intelligence officials misled Congress
  • Potentially seeking publicity
  • Potential messianic complex
  • Broke the law
  • He had other options

When you see it like that, the answer seems rather clear. At the very worst, Snowden is an opportunistic young charlatan who for personal gain, helped the country out. There’s no denying he broke laws, but by doing so, he exposed a problem much larger than his crime – we’re talking violation of the Constitution level of problems. As Cassidy points out:

Just a couple of months ago, at a Senate hearing, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden…asked Clapper (Director of National Intelligence), “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” To which Clapper replied: “No, sir.” (He added, “Not wittingly.”) At another hearing, General Keith Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., denied fourteen times that the agency had the technical capability to intercept e-mails and other online communications in the United States.

Toobin claims that Snowden had legal options to pursue his grievances, but if the heads of our national intelligence apparatus are willing to lie to Congress when confronted with questions on domestic surveillance, what chance does a 29-year-old techie stand? From what we currently know, this guy looks pretty heroic to me.

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