What is the U.S. supposed to do about Edward Snowden? The whistleblower who exposed the widespread NSA surveillance program is now a fugitive from the U.S. government and has been granted asylum by the Russian government. Meanwhile, the documents that he leaked, which are now in the hands of journalist Glenn Greenwald, continue to cause embarrassment for the NSA in this difficult situation. While Snowden broke the law, his actions exposed abuse of governmental power. Some consider him a traitor; others admire him for his bravery.
My opinion of Edward Snowden has changed over time. When the story first broke, my initial thought was that he had stolen these documents for personal gain. As the story has developed, my opinion has shifted.
I think that Snowden is a hero. He leaked these classified documents at tremendous personal risk. He must have known that he would spend the rest of his life either in jail or as a fugitive. This is a shame, because Snowden is a real patriot. He saw the government abusing its power, and he did what he could to change that. America needs more people like Edward Snowden. He saw that the government was doing something unjust, and he did what he could to change that.
Snowden’s actions, while controversial, have already sparked change. The allegations that the NSA was spying on the cell phone of German chancellor Angela Merkel prompted intense backlash against America’s intelligence operations. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have both stated that the NSA was out of line. While the government has admitted that it has made mistakes, its view of Snowden has not changed.
The government has made it clear that even though Snowden’s actions exposed a problem, he is still considered a criminal. Several government officials have gone on record to say that there will be no clemency for Snowden. If the government so desired, it could probably find a way to get Snowden back to the country to face charges. In my opinion, these actions would just be a waste of time and energy.
Snowden should be left alone. He does not have any classified documents with him, and he has the Russian government’s promise of asylum. According to a recent New York Times article, Snowden may even have a job with a Russian technology company.
So I say just let him be and focus on the real problem: the abuse of surveillance technology by the NSA. Snowden exposed the problem, and now it’s time for change in the NSA.
One thing is certain: This is not the last we will hear from Edward Snowden. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the Snowden story, will continue to publish stories based on Snowden’s documents.
“The majority of what is extremely newsworthy has yet to be published,” Greenwald said in a New York Magazine article. “There’s thousands and thousands of unbelievably revealing and fascinating documents. It’s going to take a long time for everything to be reported that should be reported.”
Hopefully, this public exposure of NSA abuse will spark real change. Without Snowden, the NSA’s surveillance programs would have continued unchecked. He did what was right, despite the risk of severe consequences, and that makes him a hero rather than a criminal.
Nicholas Bowlin ’16 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Princeton, N.J. He majors in history and political science.