Published On: Mon, Jun 24th, 2013

Edward Joseph Snowden: Our Very Own Hero?

intelligence whistleblowerEdward Joseph Snowden, a former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) in the USA, leaked classified information demonstrating the US government’s mass surveillance projects that were performed illegally. At the time that his video interview aired, Snowden was comfortably sitting in front of a television screen in Hong Kong watching his face plastered on all the main media outlets. On Sunday June 23, 2013, Snowden flew to Moscow, where he would be in transit to his final destination: Quito, Ecuador. Leaking US government classified information is considered a crime under US law and as such, Snowden faces charges of espionage, and theft of property of the US government. These charges could amount to a life sentence in a US federal prison. The charges for leaking classified government information are similar (if not worse) in most countries throughout the world. As a US government employee who signed a contract, Snowden knew what he was getting himself into when he leaked the information. Snowden knew the consequences of his crime, but held a high regard for his cause, thus holding the interview in Hong Kong, But if his actions were so valiant and he was so true to his cause, then why run? My theory: he just wanted to cause a ruckus.

Snowden featured in a 12-minute interview… 12 minutes that he thought could change the world. While there is no denying that Snowden released information that is valuable for the public to know, his methods escape me. The fact of the matter is Snowden wished to not remain anonymous, because he stated that the American government would then have the ability to paint him as a villain. Although Snowden did come out as a whistleblower, the government need not paint him as a villain, as he’s already done that part for them, by running from an honest cause, afraid of the consequences.

Snowden is a citizen of one of the largest liberal democracies in the world, with a court system that is fair and just, and where under most states the death penalty is prohibited. Granted, with the charges he is up against, he’d probably live out the rest of his life in an isolated maximum-security prison cell, but his trial hearings would be public. There’s a fine line between ruckus and change, and change most definitely doesn’t happen in 12 minutes. If Snowden wanted to make a real difference then why hold a 12-minute interview and bolt? Instead, Snowden should have come forward in America, and gone through the judicial process with public hearings. This would give him the chance to reiterate his opinions and motivations to the American public directly, rather than hide behind the veil of the media and loopholes in international law.

I’m not sure what Snowden’s end game is, but there is one thing I do know for sure: our definition of a hero has been shamed. Our idea of democracy is more threatened by people who are afraid to stand up for what they believe in and face the consequences of their actions than by the government’s surveillance programs. The fact of the matter is: whether or not there is solid proof of Snowden’s allegations against the government, we all knew it was happening. There has been speculation on government surveillance for years. Snowden provided us with proof, in an interview nearly 12,000 Kilometers away from the crime scene. Regardless of how true Snowden’s allegations are, it simply seems as if he’d carefully thought out a plan to start a war against the government, and then wipe his hands clean.

The fact is that real change-makers will look upon the actions of Snowden as a disgrace to the passion for change. What if Nelson Mandela held a 12-minute interview in the USA to encourage change in South Africa? What if Martin Luther King Jr. recorded his speech and played it from a screen in front of millions? One has to wonder if they would have ever achieved their goals, and whether their passion would have outlived them all. Where’s Julian Assange today? Ask most people, and they’ve probably already forgotten about him. He’s a prisoner on his own account, regardless of how courageous his initial actions might have been. We need heroes like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Heroes who act regardless of the consequences they might face. Heroes that do not flee in the face of fear. Any hero with valor would face the consequences of their actions. Snowden should be no exception to that, especially since his situation would be arguably better when in comparison to heroes from not so long ago. Snowden’s motives might be true, but he has yet to prove himself to me. He should continue to fight for the cause he apparently believes in instead of fleeing to a life in paradise… constantly looking over his shoulder.

By: Neelam J. Melwani for Curacao Chronicle (all rights reserved)

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