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|Whistleblower or Traitor?|
That is a question entirely between Ed Snowden and the government of The United States of America.
He has not been charged with anything as yet, so we do not know what the justice department is thinking. In the case of Bradley Manning, the officer who was charged with releasing classified information to Wikileaks, he was charged with, among other things, Aiding the Enemy, i.e. an act of a traitor, but he was not convicted of that offence. (He was convicted of other charges and sentenced to serve 35 years in a military brig.) American opinion seems to be divided over what Snowden did, so for the time being I will go with the label of whistleblower.
He signed an agreement that he would never reveal any information that had to do with his work. When we sign such agreements we know that to do otherwise is to expect sanctions, and in the case of the government, those sanctions will be severe. Therefore, to break our agreement is not something we would do lightly. Snowden was apparently so moved by what he was engaged in, and thought that in modern day America the program was such a repugnent thing that his government was engaged in as a secret activity, that he felt the American public should know it was happening. He seems to have been especially concerned about how the program could be manipulated to frame anyone at will.
The main question in my mind is whether whistleblowing should be a protected activity, or not? I think it all comes down to this: if a person steps out into the public spotlight to divulge information that is clearly in the public interest, and particularly if there is an absence of a personal vendetta, then that person should be protected, and indeed, he or she should perhaps be encouraged.
My reasoning is that without the person who is responding to his conscience , all manner of harmful activity against the public interest could go on behind closed doors with impunity. "If good men do nothing, evil is free to flourish!" With that in mind perhaps the public should press our governments to protect the genuine whistleblower, because the other thing we must bear in mind is that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," and that is not in our interest.
Personally, I have my reservations about the sense of responsibility in the activities of Wikileaks. The exposure of classified information has been so widespread in scope that the effect and the importance of the said exposure has not been reasonably considered. The net effect is that Julian Assange has locked himself up in a small building in England.
The ultimate irony is that Edward Snowden, champion of the people's right to know has gone to live in Russia, the country that wrote the book on the people's right not to know.
Next time, Mr. Snowden, make your announcement from within a country more palatable to you who will give you sanctuary.
Copyright (c) 2013 Eugene Carmichael