Edward Snowden: American hero or supervillain?

The question is no less important than it is controversial. Photo: AP/Snowden, Zimmerman

FLORIDA, June 11, 2013 — Who is Edward Snowden?

While anyone who does not live under a rock knows that Snowden is a government contractor who leaked a plethora of National Security Agency documents — thereby revealing a top-secret and allegedly unconstitutional data mining program known as PRISM — everybody seems to have their own views about the man himself.

Two recent articles published in the Communities illustrate this point. On one side is Peter Bella, a retired Chicago police officer who wants to see Snowden hauled into a courtroom. On the other is Thomas Mullen, a libertarian activist who seems to think the world of Snowden.

Let’s hear a bit of what each had to say.

“Snowden is a common criminal,” Bella proclaims. “He should be arrested and prosecuted to fullest extent the law allows. It should be done as soon as possible. Arresting him would not create a public relations nightmare. It is the right thing to do. It is the only thing to do.”

Mullen says that sympathetic politicos shouldn’t try to get Snowden pardoned. Instead, they ought to opt for jury nullification in the event that the man stands trial.

“Yes, there are plenty of laws that Edward Snowden probably broke,” he writes, “but as Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The law is often but the tyrant’s will.” Never was that more true than now.

“You could also argue that Snowden broke a contract he entered into when accepting this employment and the security clearances that go with it. That’s probably true, but so did the federal government. It broke the contract known as the U.S. Constitution.”

Strong words indeed. The following from Bella are, too: “If Snowden did not like what he witnessed he could have always quit his $200,000 a year job….Instead, he stole government documents and released them. Snowden knowingly and willingly committed crimes. Snowden is a criminal, nothing more, nothing less.”

Mullen sums up his views with the following plea: “I am calling on every eligible juror in America to take a stand right now. If you are called to serve on a jury for the trial of Edward Snowden, do not convict. I don’t care if he’s broken a thousand laws….Let this government know that those who defend the U.S. Constitution against a government that violates it are safe in this country.”

Last night, I was visiting with an older relative. His political views are not sequenced with my own, but we are both open-minded people and get along very well. A former Marine, he has strong ideas about Snowden, and they seemed to fall well in line with Bella’s. 

I, on the other hand, can neither condemn nor extol Snowden in any comprehensive sense. The man has made his motivations clear; he fears that America could essentially be entering the age of Big Brother beyond our wildest dreams. Considering how much the security state has grown over the last decade or so, few should fail to see the merit in this concern.

However, if Snowden’s whistle-blowing puts any NSA personnel at risk, then that is a whole different ball game. Such a thing is inexcusable, to put it mildly.

Unfortunately, it seems likely that Snowden is about to become Zimmermaned. What’s this, you ask? Simply stated, it is when media figures and others take an individual and warp his or her story into a narrative that best suits their respective ideological agendas.

This phenomenon is named after George Zimmerman. The reasons why ought to be self-explanatory. 

It will be some time until a definitive conclusion can be reached about Snowden. Who knows; that might never happen. Facts change and personal opinions should change along with them. The following can be said, though: if Snowden’s legacy is anywhere near as complicated as the person behind it seems to be, then the mental jury will be out for a long while.

This is the way it should be on general principle.


Far-left? Far-right? Get realRead more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


 


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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