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The Snowden Paradox

A Commentary By Mark Meckler

Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, is either a hero or a traitor.  We’ve heard him described both ways in no uncertain terms.  So which is it?  I’ve been withholding judgment, I thought, based on needing more facts.  Yet no matter how many facts come out about the case, I remain ambivalent.   In the Snowden situation, I believe we have encountered a paradox.

Dictionary.com has as one of its definitions for “paradox,” the following: “Any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.” Could there be a more apt description of Snowden or this situation? 

On one hand, Snowden appears to be a traitor, apparently allowing our enemies to know some pretty significant things about the technological aspects of our national security apparatus.  Suspiciously, he first went to China and is now in Russia.  Neither country is on our list of friendly nations, and they clearly are taking great joy in Snowden’s revelations.  How much damage has been done to national security is difficult to know, as such things are necessarily shrouded in secrecy.  But his revelations cannot have helped the United States in the global game of espionage.

As a security contractor with a high-level clearance, Snowden was sworn to secrecy.  It was a secrecy rightly intended to protect our country against those who might do it harm.  He clearly violated his secrecy obligations by going public with allegations of our surveillance programs aimed at other nations.  In my book, this makes him a villain and a traitor.

On the other hand, Snowden appears to be a hero.  This is a man behind the security curtain who realized through his work and his access to the national security apparatus that his country is spying on its own citizens on a large and unprecedented scale.  From all the facts that have come out so far, it appears this may be a constitutional violation on an unprecedented scale, affecting literally hundreds of millions of citizens.  Snowden had the courage to risk it all, indeed to throw away an otherwise productive life, and to go on the run to preserve the Constitution and the country for his fellow citizens.  

Why did he go to China and Russia?  Where else could he go where the governments won’t readily arrest him and turn him over to U.S. authorities for prosecution?  The current administration has developed a very strong reputation for dealing harshly with whistleblowers. He apparently needed to go somewhere where the government was unlikely to extradite him.  So maybe it’s not so suspicious that he ended up in China and Russia.

You see, it’s a real world paradox. Is Edward Snowden a whistleblower and hero, or a treacherous traitor?  I’m afraid that for right now, the only suitable answer is “yes.”

Mark Meckler is the president of Citizens for Self-Governance.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.

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