A hero to some, a dangerous whistleblower to others, Edward Snowden calls into question the role of government in our personal lives and how much Americans are willing to give up in order to feel safe.
Snowden, a former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), leaked top-secret information about mass surveillance of the public's telephone and internet use by the American and British governments. He has been quoted as saying that he owed it to public to bring to light the intrusive tactics of the NSA. His leak proved to be one of the biggest security breaches in NSA history.
U.S. federal prosecutors have filed a complaint against Snowden, and next up is an extensive character attack by the mainstream media.
Snowden's qualities that will most likely come under fire will be that he is not a college graduate, that he was a paid contractor, and that he sought refuge in China. Fox News has already gone so far as to report that Snowden could be a double agent secretly working for the Chinese.
This attack will aim to discredit him, but will this change the fact that a government agency has been unlawfully snooping in on American lives? More importantly, will it change what Americans think about said snooping?
Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for the Guardian who had been working with Snowden since February, wrote in a column that information about his own personal life has come to light. Worse, that he thinks it's "inevitable" for people who challenge the U.S. government to face character assassinations in the mainstream media.
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, reportedly told Greenwald that these investigations into the personal lives of whistleblowers is utilized "simply to distract from the revelations and personally smear the person with whatever they can find to make people uncomfortable with the disclosures."
And now the media is gearing up to discredit Snowden. In this case however, Snowden is a 30-year-old without a college degree who breached national security because he thought he owed it to the public. That, in the eyes of the Beltway media, already casts a shadow of doubt about his true intentions for the leak. Snowden could have orchestrated an elaborate publicity stunt, and there may be more to the story than a former agency contractor fighting injustices against the American people.
If the mainstream media convinces us that Snowden is an unsavory individual the information he revealed about NSA surveillance will take on an unsavory quality as well.
However, the storage and use of our personal information for advertising purposes by Facebook and other social media platforms has become an accepted practice in our lives. Moreover, a Pew poll finds that 56% of Americans think that the NSA tracking their phones is an acceptable way to investigate terrorism. This feeling only amplified after the NSA told Congress that their surveillance tactics helped to foil over 50 terrorist plots.
After Snowden's character attack by the media, we may not trust him. But it may be irrelevant. Americans may have already come to accept a breach in our own liberty in exchange for more security.