Democracy requires government to be held accountable for its actions.
What defines a hero or traitor? Edward Snowden has now been revealed to us as the source of the NSA PRISM program leak. For many in the establishment of Washington, Snowden is a traitor. However, for many Americans he should be widely seen as a hero, democracy can only work when the people hold its government accountable at all levels.
Snowden’s case is not a new one, we’ve been having this debate on whistle blowers and leakers in this country for a while now. Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks are notable examples, not to mention the member of the hacktivist group Anonymous who was raided and arrested by the FBI, Deric Lostutter. Groups like WikiLeaks and Anonymous are loathed by the Washington establishment.
Many probably remember when certain (Republican) members of Congress called for the death penalty against Julian Assange, and still call for the death penalty against Bradley Manning. You shouldn’t be surprised to know then that those same members of Congress are now calling for the death penalty against Edward Snowden.
Washington politicians have never had problems with leaks, specifically when they are the ones leaking them. Both past and present administrations have often leaked materials to the press in order to boast its position or to attack a perceived foe. George Bush leaked and outed CIA operative Valerie Plame for political reasons.
The Obama Administration leaked details of Osama Bin Laden’s death in order to trump up the toughness of Obama’s presidency, they leaked so much on that a movie was made out of it (Zero Dark Thirty).
It seems that Washington doesn’t have a problem when leaking something they want. Yet when someone leaks something that makes the government look bad, then it appears Washington goes into a fiery rage over treason.
What has become so disturbing about these recent conflagrations in D.C. is the fact that our supposed democratic way of politics are becoming increasingly dominated by a very narrow sense of loyalty and patriotism. Being a patriot these days means either being totally loyal to the government and never questioning their actions, or I have to be some assault weapon wielding militia man.
Edward Snowden gave up his career and $200,000 annual salary to leak the truth to the American people. This very moment, every official within the government is denouncing Snowden for his leaks. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper has gone out of his way to denounce Snowden for his actions and claimed media reports on what he leaked were “inaccurate.”
Members of Congress are also unifying against Snowden. Senators Mark Udhal (D) of Colorado and John McCain (R) of Arizona have roundly shredded Snowden for his leaking the PRISM program. House Speaker John Boehner has come out against Snowden. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) of California has also come out to defend the NSA PRISM programs, citing the tragedy of 9/11 of course. Even Senator Al Franken (D) has come out against Snowden. It seems bipartisanship has at last reemerged, yet only when it seems to defend the establishment from looking bad
So what exactly do we take away from all of the fervor? For one, we must understand the nature of living in a supposed democracy. If we truly believe we can live in a democratic society, we must all hold our government and powers that be accountable for what they do or don’t do. Edward Snowden may have broken laws in order to reveal the truth, but what is more just in your opinion?
Is it better that we obey the orders of Washington while they continue to defy our civil liberties? Or is it better that someone reveal to us what our government is doing, and hence allow the citizens to hold them to account? Is Snowden truly a heinous traitor? Or is he a constitutional hero?