by Jamison Maeda
Edward Snowden exposed the existence of a US government data mining program called PRISM, and is being hailed by some as a hero. To them, he sacrificed his career and possibly his freedom to blow the whistle on the secret surveillance of innocent American citizens. According to a recent Reuters survey, 31% of Americans polled think Snowden exposing the PRISM program makes him a patriot. However, 23% think he is a traitor and a defector and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Snowden himself told South China’s Morning Post that he is “neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”
Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, leaked details of the large scale monitoring of private phone records and emails to The Guardian and the Washington Post. He felt that it was government overreach and Americans needed to know about it. Snowden says he carefully selected which documents he would make public. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over,” he said, “because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”
He says that because of his disclosure, the US government which had been operating in the shadows will now have to answer to the governed. “Every level of society is demanding accountability and oversight.”
Some of his critics’ question why he chose to present his information to the media instead of already existing whistle-blower programs or Congress. But as we learned from the gardai in Ireland who brought to light serious deficiencies in the penalty points system, protection is not guaranteed. The Penalty Points Report did not contain any testimony from the two gardai whistle-blowers and wasted no time in attempting to discredit them.
What will happen to Edward Snowden?
Snowden chose to reveal the information he had gathered from Hong Kong he says because of its “strong tradition of free speech.” Recent reports state that he is still in Hong Kong and trusts that their legal system will be fair to him and not surrender him to the US. Russia announced that it would consider offering him asylum. And he previously showed interest in seeking asylum in Iceland. Clare Daly TD has proposed to the Taoiseach that Snowden be granted asylum in Ireland as it is a neutral country. For the time being, Snowden says he is planning to stay in Hong Kong until he is asked to leave.