In light of news Thursday that Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, a new poll has shown that Snowden is still viewed by a majority of Americans as a whistleblower rather than a traitor.
The poll, issued by Quinnipiac, reports that 55% of those surveyed believe Snowden to be a whistleblower compared to 34% who view him as a traitor to his country. Released on Thursday, the survey does not reflect public opinion since the former National Security Agency employee has been granted what the Russian government has described as "temporary refugee status."
For civil libertarians, the poll is an encouraging sign that after years of campaigning against what they viewed as an ever-encroaching "police state," their issues are being pushed to the forefront and that a majority of Americans are joining their side. Another poll released earlier this week by Pew Research also shows that the majority of Americans believe that the NSA has gone too far in its methods of fighting terrorism. As more leaks come out like the most recent one on the "XKeyscore" program, those numbers are likely to increase in favor of Snowden.
While Snowden should be encouraged that the majority of Americans do not consider him a traitor, he is certainly well aware of the fact that the United States government feels otherwise. White House spokesman Jay Carney came out today and expressed that the administration is "extremely disappointed" by the decision and that it does not view him as a whistleblower, in spite of public opinion. The question that remains is what will Washington do now that Snowden has been granted asylum.
The combination of the Quinnipiac poll, Snowden's leaks, and the narrow defeat of the Amash-Conyers amendment puts more pressure on Congress, especially with elections coming up next autumn. If more people start pressing their representatives over civil liberties, those same representatives may vote in favor of any reforms of the NSA based solely on the hopes of being reelected next November. While some will never change their stripes, others will probably relent, particularly those facing elections.
Despite whatever disingenuous motives these representatives might have , it's the type of political pressure needed in order to reform the NSA's mass surveillance program of American citizens, or, like the Amash bill would have done, defund the program altogether. As more people rally around Snowden as a whistleblower and demand changes to the NSA's program, Amash-Conyers may actually become a reality.