He is hiding in a hotel room in Hong Kong. He left his girlfriend, he left his job, and moved halfway across the world to escape the confines of the U.S. territory. He cannot go back home, but he is not regretful. He has accepted his fate.
Ready to face the world as the whistleblower who uncovered PRISM, the tool the National Security Agency used to collect data on international intelligence, Edward Snowden has spoken out proudly against the doings and lack of transparency pertaining to government surveillance of digital communications. Along with Bradley Manning, Snowden stands as one of the most successful leakers ever of confidential government informationin the U.S.. Although the price Snowden will pay for his actions will forever affect the course of his life, we must commend individuals like him for taking a stand for the American public.
As Snowden explained in his interview with the Guardian, he lived well with his girlfriend in Hawaii making around $200,000 and working at the National Security Agency. There was, however, one problem: he could not continue his job knowing that behind the curtains, the government was wronging the American public and breaching their civil liberties.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper may have claimed that American citizens could not be targeted in these data searches. Nonetheless, the truth is that in order to get information on the international internet traffic that is being saved to U.S. servers, the NSA in turn has access to U.S. citizens' private information. This was a reality that Snowden could not stay silent on.
"I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," Snowden said.
Edward Snowden has not simply given up his job and his life in the U.S., but he has in turn ultimately given up his freedom and life as a whole. Just like Bradley, he has violated the Espionage Act, a crime that, if convicted, comes with a hefty prison sentence. Despite the dismal and hard future that lies ahead for Edward Snowden, he remains steadfast in his decision. "I am not afraid," Snowden said, "because this is the choice I've made."
Should the outcome have been less deleterious for Edward Snowden, perhaps we would not feel as reticent to celebrate Snowden’s courageous act to provide government transparency. For now, though, the situation is bittersweet. It is bitter as a part of us all may have lost confidence in the government and a man has in many ways just lost his life and freedom. However, it is sweet in that we know there are still individuals who will act selflessly to uncover political wrongdoings to take a stand for our liberty and privacy.