If you asked someone to describe Edward Snowden in one word, you might get an answer ranging from “patriot” to “traitor”. These words are antonyms of one another, yet both descriptions work depending on how you look at Edward Snowden. He is a man subjected to intense controversy, a man whose actions sparked worldwide debate over whether a government should prioritise their citizen’s safety over their right to privacy.
Edward Snowden is a 30 year old whistleblower who leaked classified documents to the public. The documents – ranging in the tens of thousands – were slowly given to various journalists ever since 2013. The contents of these papers revealed that the governments of the U.S. and its partners are involved in mass surveillance of its citizens through the means of collecting millions of telephone records, accessing data from major internet companies, and more.
The governments involved in these leaks have tried to justified their surveillance, emphasising that they initiated these programs to protect their citizens from potential terrorists. These revelations shattered the public’s trust in the government and has divided the nation over the question of whether or not they had gone too far.
Snowden released these documents with good intentions, as he just wanted to inform the public about how deeply the government was involved in their lives. However, in my opinion, “getting involved in” does not necessarily equal “ruining.” Documents have shown that these programs has been in operation for years, but no harm has been done to anyone innocent.
Yes, the leaks reveal an overreach of power on paper, but is that the same case in real-life? The government does not tap calls to hear someone breaking up with someone else over the phone. They do so in the event of catching a potential threat to the American public, whether it be plans to plant a bomb or plans to smuggle drugs across the country.
It really boils down to whether or not you want privacy or safety. I truly believe that, if you are a law-abiding citizen, nothing harmful will come about your life just because the government knows about your embarrassing google searches. I would rather give away my privacy than be killed in a stoppable terrorist attack, however small the chances of me being in the midst of one may be.
I do, however, disagree with all the charges Edward Snowden has had pressed against him by the U.S. government. Their relentless “whatever it takes” attitude to incriminate Snowden now seems more like a personal vendetta against someone who embarrassingly leaked their deepest secrets than a real judicial case.
In truth, like all things people love to argue and scream over, there is no real answer whether or not Snowden should be praised as a hero or a dissident. Many argue over if Snowden overreached more than the government he was condemning. Although he has not persuaded everyone yet, there is no question that what he revealed will continue to be debated over for generations to come.