Did Ed Snowden do the right thing?

Ryan Moore paniclater at gmail.com
Mon Jun 10 10:27:28 MDT 2013

On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 9:53 AM, Steve Meyers <steve-plug at spwiz.com> wrote:
> On 6/10/13 8:29 AM, Barry Roberts wrote:

>Did Mr. Snowden do the right thing by disclosing PRISM and similar programs to
>the world, or did he violate the trust of his employer, government, and fellow
>countrymen by reveling secrets that aught not to have been reveled?
>It takes bravery to buck the most powerful government on the planet, but that alone does not constitute heroism. Heroism, to me at least, requires more than just bravery. Here is how it breaks down for me:

1. I don't feel "less safe" from foreign threats -- i.e. I don't think
that Snowden's actions made it more or less likely that an act of
terror will be successfully carried out. I can't see how this
information being publicly available to the world is a negative
collectively for the citizens of our nation.
2. This, to me, is a clear case of not just government overreach, but
of government abuse of power. Prominent public and private sector
officials have concealed and outright lied to us repeatedly about the
existence, extent and depth of surveillance programs affecting U.S.
citizens. I understand that I must surrender some of my rights some of
the time for the safety and good of society as a whole. When
government starts deciding which rights I need to surrender and when
they should be surrendered without telling me, that is where I draw
the line. Snowden's actions revealed rights that were being taken from
me without my knowledge, which to me is a clear net positive for me
and the citizenry of the U.S.
3. Snowden has made great sacrifices for the course of action he has
pursued. He will probably never see his family again, he will probably
be pursued by the U.S. government through international law. He has
given up his home. He may be pursued by the CIA. He will probably end
up serving hard time in solitary confinement.

This equation seems pretty clear to me: Snowden made a great sacrifice
to take an action that has a clear net benefit for us, but that will
undoubtedly have terrible consequences for himself.

In his words: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my
actions, but I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law,
unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world
that I love are revealed even for an instant."

> Which brings up another relevant point.  Do we really want government
> contractors to be the arbiters of what government secrets should or
> shouldn't be disclosed?  If we make a hero of Snowden, will other wannabes
> disclose government secrets so they can become heroes, too?

I want people to do the right thing regardless of their job title.
"Wannabes" should be judged on the positive effects of any information
leaked, balanced with the negative effects of the information leaked.
The act of leaking shouldn't be heroic in and of itself, the act of
breaking any law shouldn't be heroic in and of itself. But breaking
laws for the greater good -- that is a special and dangerous breed of
heroism that should be respected, feared, and at times, celebrated. I
think that this is one of those times.


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