NSA PRISM Program: Edward Snowden a Hero? Hardly

Of all political issues, from jobs to the economy to immigration to health care, it took a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor to unite the vehemently opposed factions of the Democratic and Republican Party. Before going any further, if it takes a whistleblower to unite our congressional representatives, by all means, unleash all whistleblowers. But if everyone from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is calling him a “traitor” and denouncing his “act of treason,” what exactly did he do? And more importantly, is Edward Snowden actually a traitor endangering American lives, or is he a hero, an emancipator, giving voice to a story hidden from the world?

Snowden’s act of leaking classified U.S. surveillance programs to the public was a premature defiant move that endangers the lives of millions of Americans. Snowden, 29, was a former defense contractor based out of Hawaii who leaked classified NSA files to various news outlets. Snowden also claims that the National Security Agency has initiated roughly 60,000 hacking programs on various countries including attempts in Hong Kong and China. Snowden, last heard of in Hong Kong where he gave an interview to the South China Morning Post, claims, "We hack network backbones — like huge internet routers, basically — that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one." Snowden also took the chance to clarify that he is not in hiding in Hong Kong, and wishes to avoid the media to refocus attention to what the “U.S. government is doing” rather than him.

Even though Snowden’s intention may have been right, intention alone does not translate to good judgment for an action so sweeping. What Snowden did was not a small-scale leak about the new iPhone that is coming out because the public demands transparency, nor was it a leak about mishandling of funds by a political party. What he exposed to the public is a matter that concerns the safety and security of an entire nation of 300 million people. Yes I support transparency. However, I also believe that certain things are too fragile to expose and should be left alone. If that were not the case, then there would be no purpose for agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We should just get rid of this concept of “classified information” and invite the entire world to a round-table debate about our national security and how we should go about our investigations. But that’s just not the case and some things just need to be left unsaid, especially if they are at a level so fragile that they could start unforeseen tensions or consequences in the international community.

If a whistleblower had obtained information of the D-Day invasion of Normandy a few days before it happened and had leaked it to the public because they believed people deserved the truth, would we have been successful on that pivotal mission in effectively ending World War II? Or would we have given the Germans enough time to buffer up their defense and change how the world is today? Certain things are too important to be exposed, and that’s why Edward Snowden is a traitor.

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Teklehaymanot Yilma

Political Science student at San Jose State University, California. Studied European Integration and Middle East conflict resolution while studying abroad at Science Po Lille, France. Have worked for the district office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Organizing for America and the Department of Veterans Affairs

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