FLORIDA, June 19, 2013 — Edward Snowden, the renegade government contractor who recently leaked a plethora of National Security Agency documents addressing a top-secret and allegedly unconstitutional data mining program known as PRISM, has some explaining to do.
In what has become his signature style, Snowden seems to have no qualms about obliging.
During a Monday question-and-answer session published in The Guardian, the British newspaper which originally broke the PRISM story, veteran journalist Glenn Greenwald inquired about why Snowden left for Hong Kong.
“(T)he US Government,” Snowden replied, “just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.”
Greenwald later asked “(h)ow many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?
Snowden’s answer was short, but strong-worded: “All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
Many pundits and politicians have been calling for harsh penalties to be levied against Snowden. Others have questioned, if not outright doubted, his loyalty to the United States.
In a Fox News Sunday appearance, former Vice President Dick Cheney referred to Snowden as a “traitor”. Cheney suspects that the now-world famous whistleblower has less than noble intentions because “he went to China. That’s not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty and so forth. It raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this.”
Snowden spared little time in issuing a rebuttal.
During The Guardian’s question-and-answer session, he wrote that “it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead.”
Snowden’s most quoted line followed immediately after: “Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”
Despite the very public nature of Snowden’s actions and his widely-reported reasons for them, everybody seems to have their own views about the man himself.
It seems difficut to either condemn or 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.
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.
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