Edward Snowden, the man responsible for last week's historic leaks revealing the NSA's global data mining and call monitoring programs, has stepped forward. In an incredible interview with The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, Snowden explains what he did and why.
"I am not afraid," he says, "because this is the choice I have made."
But maybe he should be. Though no charges have yet been officially filed against him, Washington officials have been clamoring for the leaker's arrest and prosecution all weekend — including President Obama, whose administration has led a historically unprecedented crackdown on government leakers and the reporters who write about them. Snowden, a contract employee for one of the most pervasive global intelligence networks in the world, seemed well aware that he wouldn't be able to hide for long. He fled to Hong Kong three weeks before leaking the documents, one of the only countries in the world that he suspects could, and might, try to protect him from extradition. Before coming out publicly, government officials had already been to his house twice.
Twitter, meanwhile, has lit up with an active debate. "Edward Snowden Hero" and "Edward Snowden Traitor" are both trending topics, as are "pardon" and "extradition."
The image above, courtesy of BuzzFeed, gives us a quick early look at a rapidly-unfolding national controversy. Whether or not Snowden is a friend or foe will depend largely on a wider question about the role of government and intelligence in our lives — what sort of world do we want to live in, and how many of our liberties and privacies are we willing to sacrifice for freedom and security? Is our prvacy just the price we pay to live terrorist-free, and are we okay with that?
An early and unscientific poll from Business Insider shows that 64% of responders believe Snowden to be a hero. 17% say traitor, and 19% aren't yet sure. For those in support, a petition has been started at WhiteHouse.gov, calling for an executive pardon. It has 11,000 signatures currently, and needs 100,000 by July 9 to be considered.
Where do you stand? Hero, traitor, or somewhere in between? Below is a snippet of the debate (and perhaps evidence of the only time Michael Moore and Glenn Beck have agreed on anything, ever):
— Christian Gifts (@Joylandgiftstor) June 10, 2013
Since we can't decide if Edward Snowden is a traitor or a patriot, I recommend a new word: traitriot. You're welcome.
— Erin Faulk (@erinscafe) June 10, 2013
People who refer to Edward Snowden as a traitor must confuse patriotism with subservience.
— Justin Kownacki (@JustinKownacki) June 9, 2013
— The Republican Dalek (@RepublicanDalek) June 9, 2013
Edward Snowden is a patriot, believing that the US should live up to the high ideals expressed in its constitution guardian.co.uk/world/video/20…
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) June 9, 2013
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) June 9, 2013
The NSA patriot leaker is just yet another chance for America to regain her moral compass and set things right. No red or blue JUST TRUTH
— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) June 9, 2013
— Rob Burton (@ooobenblief) June 10, 2013
— Frank Zentura (@frankzentura) June 10, 2013
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 10, 2013