Volume 4, Number 1 - August 26, 2013

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Jonel Juste
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Snowden: Hero or Traitor

By Jonel Juste

Usually, when someone betrays the US, both the American people and the government call it treason. However, for some individuals, the government and the people are divided on the notion of betrayal. Snowden seems to fall under the second category.

The former NSA systems analyst, Edward Snowden, is now on top of the list of the most wanted in the world. He is presently hiding in Russia, where he was granted asylum.  Previously he sought asylum in countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

Snowden is officially a felon. Numerous American officials and citizens denounce him as a traitor and the government wants him sentenced for leaking classified information that can put U.S. national security in jeopardy. One of the strongest arguments for condemning him is his violation of the agreement he made to not disclose any classified information.

In contrast, others believe he’s a hero for starting a national conversation on the abuses of government surveillance.

People who choose to freely express themselves on the Internet feel threatened by the government. They believe the leaker is defending their right to privacy and support him. They view what the government calls treason as an advocacy for “freedom of speech”. For Internet-users, Edward Snowden became a Robin Hood 2.0. A petition urging the Obama administration to pardon Snowden was even posted on the White House website.

The American press is also divided on the Snowden affair. Depending on their ideological positioning, press outlets call the former NSA contractor a traitor or hail him as a hero. Even within the same outlet there is contradiction. “Edward Snowden is no hero” wrote the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin, calling Snowden a “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison”. Of the same publication, John Cassidy wrote, "he is a hero” for “revealing the colossal scale of the U.S. government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world”.

Evidently, betrayal or heroism can be subjective concepts. Should we defend a man who defended our individual rights or should we punish him for putting our nation at risk? Should we have to make this choice? For some there is no dilemma at all; Snowden betrayed his employment agreement and should be punished, but others wonder whether the ends justified the means.

Is Snowden a hero or a traitor? We don't know, but is that really the question?

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