The Curious Case Concerning Edward Snowden

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In June, the United States filed criminal charges against Edward J. Snowden. The charges were expected in light of the disclosure by Mr. Snowden of top secret information about United States and British domestic spying programs. 

The complaint against Mr. Snowden lists three charges: 

  • Theft of government property
  • Unauthorized communication of national defense information
  • Willful communication of classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person 

In short, Mr. Snowden is charged with espionage and is currently hiding in Russia by the grace of that government. 

Labeled a traitor or a hero depending on who you talk to, Edward Snowden is nothing if not controversial. The information he culled and leaked from his work as a contractor with the National Security Administration (NSA) has proved a national embarrassment and provoked a firestorm of debate around the world about domestic spying. 

In the United States, three bills concerning surveillance are before the legislature. The disclosures revealed data mining programs by the names of Prism and Mainway that allow our government to secretly harvest information from citizens. Recent information from Mr. Snowden details a targeted killing project whereby the American government uses drones to kill suspected terrorists. 

In October, Mr. Snowden spoke with journalists about his motives and actions since leaving the United States. Providing assurances he has not turned materials over to China or Russia, Mr. Snowden made his case for the actions he took: 

So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision. However, programs that are implemented in secret, out of public oversight, lack that legitimacy, and that’s a problem. It also represents a dangerous normalization of ‘governing in the dark,’ where decisions with enormous public impact occur without any public input.

The story is far from over, and we await the next development in this curious case.