On May 24, 2013, now former National Security Agency subcontractor Edward Snowden made a choice.
In an email to the Washington Post, Snowden requested that the prestigious news outlet publish information about the NSA program PRISM within 72 hours, according to CNN.
PRISM is a NSA-regulated program that had a private court deal with the telephone company Verizon, allowing them to examine customer activities from numerous companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and more. Video chats, text messages and emails from millions of Americans were privy for the government agency to see.
Thirteen days later, The Guardian and the Washington Post disclosed this confidential information to the public, and revealed their source after 24 hours.
Snowden then fled to Russia where he was granted political asylum. He has spent the last three years there, according to a Washington Post article. If he ever decided to come back, he would be put to trial.
However, this month a movie dubbed “Snowden” directed by Oliver Stone was released. It paints Snowden as a hero and the human rights group Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch began campaigning for him to be pardoned. This opinion has received mixed responses thus far.
On Sept. 8, lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee signed a collective letter to President Obama trying to convince him not to pardon Snowden.
“We urge you not to pardon Edward Snowden, who perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation’s history,” the letter wrote according to a New York Times article.
When Snowden copied and kept 1.5 million classified documents and broke numerous oaths and obligations to his job, he broke the law. Nevertheless, his supporters argue that what he did was for justifiable purposes, prompting inevitable whistle blowing, according to a Washington Post article.
I believe he hurt the nation’s pride by what he did. He was a trusted government employee with access to top-secret information, and instead of keeping those secrets, he exposed it for the world to see. America didn’t take that betrayal of trust lightly, and to this day, holding steadfast to wanting Snowden to be put to justice for what he did, hasn’t changed.
Snowden told the truth.
In doing so, he became a national criminal. Whether his actions were noble or driven by his own selfish reasons, he gave Americans a sneak peek of what the government is doing behind the scenes of our ordinary lives. Our private conversations, emails, documents and video chats don’t feel so private anymore.
On the other hand, our government probably just wants to protect us from any sort of threat from inside the nation. They are not spying. They are just observing from the sidelines, ready to step in at the first sign of trouble.
Snowden betrayed our country, but he also informed the American public that we weren’t alone on our cellular devices. Maybe Snowden should never be allowed home. Maybe he should come back and face the ramifications of a choice he made three years ago.
Snowden’s controversial decision can be seen as either heroic or villainous, depending on the point of view. He is a hero because he told the truth. He is a villain because he told that truth and went against our country for it.
Is it possible to be both?
Email Shania Savastio at email@example.com