NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says he's a hero; do you agree? [POLL]

Filed Under: Data loss, Featured, Law & order

Edward Snowden"To tell the truth is not a crime", Edward Snowden asserted in a piece titled "A Manifesto for the Truth" published by Der Spiegel on Sunday - the same day that the White House and elected officials scoffed at the NSA whistleblower's request for clemency.

The US government strenuously believes that telling the truth is a crime, at least in this case, wherein former National Security Agency contractor Snowden has repeatedly disclosed classified government documents about surveillance practices.

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and her House counterpart, Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, have both flatly rejected the notion that Snowden has made a case for clemency.

Feinstein said on the TV program 'Face the Nation' that instead of releasing documents to the Guardian and other newspapers, Snowden could have followed more orthodox methods of whistleblowing:

He was trusted; he stripped our system; he had an opportunity - if what he was, was a whistle-blower - to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say I have some information. … [But] that didn’t happen.

Snowden's official request for clemency was released Friday when he gave a one-page typed letter to a German politician that was also reportedly sent to Der Spiegel over an encrypted channel.

In his appeal, Snowden says that his actions have been justified by the useful debate they've sparked over surveillance programs that are "not only a threat to privacy" but a threat to "freedom of speech and open societies."

He said:

Society can only understand and control these problems through an open, respectful and informed debate.

In fact, he said, the debate that governments wanted to prevent "will now take place in countries around the world."

Rather than doing harm, the benefits from a newly aware public is already bearing fruit, he said, in the form of proposed reforms that entail increased oversight and new legislation.

Indeed, Feinstein herself is among those who've questioned whether the NSA has overreached its mandate and whether reform might be in order, particularly in light of reports that the agency had long monitored the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Feinstein said on Sunday that she's all for a White House review of intelligence operations and would like her committee to be the one to conduct it.

Tapping the private phones of close allies, she said, can be more of a political liability than a source of good intelligence, so "We ought to look at it carefully. I believe the president is doing that."

Federal prosecutors have charged Snowden - who's still in temporary asylum in Russia - with theft and with two violations of the Espionage Act of 1917.

In his manifesto, Snowden said he didn't believe that telling the truth should be considered a criminal offense:

Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance. To tell the truth is not a crime.

What do you think? Is Snowden a whiner? Should he leave Russia and face the music?

Or do you think he should be lauded for shining a light into the dark corners of a spy agency that's been blinded by the power of its technology toys?

Let us know your thoughts:

, , , ,

You might like

58 Responses to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says he's a hero; do you agree? [POLL]

  1. robbie · 702 days ago

    the USA has proven again and again that it gives a s**t about pretty much everybody else while at the same time telling other countries what they can do or not. this is pure hypocrisy and definitely deserves disclosure. it's very cynical to view this from a bureaucratic standpoint only, as this would make ANY revolutionary act illegal per se.

  2. Mak · 702 days ago

    "He was trusted; he stripped our system; he had an opportunity - if what he was, was a whistle-blower - to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say I have some information."

    And no one would ever have known about the NSA Spying.

    • brianc6234 · 702 days ago

      They would have locked him up. This problem goes through the whole government.

  3. Dave · 702 days ago

    He should be put up against a wall.......

    • Wolf_Star · 702 days ago

      So I take it you're not an American...

      Americans used to stand for truth, justice and freedom, but I guess that's no longer as important as money, ratings, arrogance and hubris.

      • Douglas · 702 days ago

        Americans still stand for truth, justice, and freedom. The only difference is now when we are called on to defend another nation who cannot defend itself we go in blind, and that gives the grunts on the ground that warm, fuzzy feeling.

        Americans are not allowed to defend just our own borders, we're forced by the inaction of others to defend the world.

        • Stuart Lombard IV · 685 days ago

          Doug...they are NOT forced to "defend" the world. America knows you spell the word WAR like this: BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY. Do you REALLY still believe the wars in the Middle East were about truth and justice?. They were about OIL.

  4. Nikki · 702 days ago

    I have to believe there were better ways to handle this revelation rather than the route he took.

    • Zach · 702 days ago

      Other ways were tried in the past, and they failed. Edward, knowing this, chose to flee to a country that would not extradite him before he could bring these crimes to the public's attention.

      • John Q. Smith · 702 days ago

        Edward knowing this, took the cowards way out..

        • goat · 489 days ago

          So going to jail with no one knowing about the NSA would be the heroic thing to do? I'd hate to live in your world.

          ... are you sending this from a prison? :)

  5. Farid · 702 days ago

    "He's a whiny crybaby traitor"

    I would go with a cool, calculating traitor. It's a joke to complain about spying on your citizens and then find haven in China and Russia, unless ...

    • Wolf_Star · 702 days ago

      It doesn't say much for the trustworthiness of OUR government if he felt he had to flee the country to avoid being "disappeared." Having worked inside the system, he was probably more aware of its capabilities than most people.

      The only people he betrayed were those betraying the trust of their nation.

    • brianc6234 · 702 days ago

      Are you an idiot? He didn't want to go to prison but he couldn't sit back and let the criminals in the US government keep breaking laws. I'm disgusted by what the government has been doing. They're the real traitors. We're supposed to have rights in the US. And you shouldn't spy like this on your friends.

      • John Q. Smith · 702 days ago

        You must live under a rock.. In today's world all the other countries spy on us, we spy back to keep it in balance . As for criminals in government , Snowden became one when he broke the law . 2 wrongs don't make it right. And running off to Russia , maybe since you are so disgusted, you should join him there.

        • Stuart Lombard IV · 685 days ago

          Think about your own analogy.'two wrongs don't make a right'. They do it so we do it....nah-nah-na-nah-nah...schoolyard thoughts. Do you seriously believe we in the USA ONLY spy on others AFTER they spy on us?. Waddya asking Santa for Christmas John-BOY??

      • Farid · 701 days ago

        ... and I guess these "timely" revelations coming out of Russia these dasys are made possible only by Putin's love for American democracy!

  6. James · 702 days ago

    He's a hero....our government is out of control...

  7. Tony · 702 days ago

    Hard to say if he is a hero. But he certainly put his life and future on the line for privacy. As for the platitudes coming out of the US Government about how he should have followed the whistle blowing procedures - in the light of what he has revealed, does anyone think that he would been anything other than silenced.

    If the US Government weren't so determined to make an example and punish him, maybe even the death penalty, do you think that Russia would have given him safe haven?

    We are all between a rock and a hard place. We want our governments to keep us safe, especially from terrorism. However, this does not mean they can do what they like to spy on us, because this then becomes an abuse of power and a police state, and no longer a democracy.

    • Stuart Lombard IV · 685 days ago

      Good on you Tony- THE best response to date. The STASI abused power and we in the US learned from the East Germans....but we perfected it!!.

  8. wolsonjr · 702 days ago

    Just look at how little effect his actions have had to date; then ask yourself if following normal channels would have had ANY result other than him disappearing.
    No one would know, and everything would continue to go into the black hole.

  9. Paul · 702 days ago

    Edward Snowden's name should be spoken with the same hushed reverence as George Washington because he was every bit as much a hero as Washington and our other founders. He stood up and risked his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor to let the American people know our government was spying on us and is stepping further and further beyond the Constitutional limits of its powers.

    Voltaire said a couple of things that apply to this situation.

    "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."


    "Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do."

    Edward Snowden knew the government was dangerous and his conscience and patriotism wouldn't allow him to continue being a part of it or allowing them to get away with it. Unlike the others in the NSA, he had the courage and valor to stand up and do something about it. He is not guilty of doing nothing.

    • Tired · 702 days ago

      George Washington lead a rag tag army against the best army of the day where one wrong decision meant death to thousands of men who depend on you. He lead them through very harsh winters, trained them, fed them, kept them as a fighting unit until the end. He did not run, he stayed and fought.

      Ed abused his powers as a sysadmin (like the NSA) by downloading classified document. He could have gone to other countries that could be trusted (Europe) to do right with the information but instead he gave other countries a Spying 101 handbook (India). He calls himself a hero. When has any true hero ever put that title on themselves?

      Once Ed is standing right in the middle of a battlefield commanding men, having bullets flying by his head, and explosions rocking the ground he is standing on all the while watching his comrades kill and be killed, then I'll consider him on the same level as George Washington.

      I understand why he ran, federal prison is not a fun place to be, but he is turning more and more into an attention seeking Assange than someone who has the worlds best interests at heart.

    • John Q. Smith · 702 days ago

      Not Sorry to Disappoint you , Paul , but he did Nothing that deserves any kind of reverence .Period . He is a Traitor, the only founding father he has anything in common with is Arron Burr another Traitior.

  10. Mike · 702 days ago

    I say hero....No one would have taken his calls if he had called those committees...

    Nothing would have changed if he had run this up the normal chain of command. Anyone who has worked as a Government contractor (at least a US Government contractor) knows this would be the case...

    • Stuart Lombard IV · 685 days ago

      Agree with almost everything..........Guantanamo Bay WOULD have taken his call, offered him free board and lodgings, several ears to listen to him and even a job in the woodwork department making water boards for himself and others. They would even have allowed him to reverse charges for that call!!.

  11. Jim Watabury · 702 days ago

    Most poll taking once the pollee votes the results are shown for the current vote percentage. I thought Naked Security would be more open if you ask your readers opinions but don't want to allow them to see the results it is a waste of our time and readers should not answer polls of this type any further for Naked Security or any other if they don’t tell their results.

    • Anna Brading · 702 days ago

      Thanks Jim, it wasn't deliberate, just an accidental omission on our part here. You should be able to see the results now.

  12. Spryte · 702 days ago

    I do not feel that Snowden is a criminal, nor is he a hero (in my book anyway).

    Somewhere in the middle perhaps.

    Only history will tell, and even in the history, that will be totally dependent on **whose history** you will have access to in the future.

    • Hearth · 702 days ago

      I tend to agree with this point of view. Many positive outcomes have occured as a direct result of Snowden's actions, but does that in itself justify them? Whatever history says of Mr Snowden himself, I believe the changes occuring now will be a good thing.

      While I definitely concede the argument that he was in a position of trust, which he broke, etc... I also find it difficult to imagine a way that this could have gone down differently - "legally" - and achieve the same ends.

      Ultimately, the public needs to keep their governments accountable - all democratic governments, not just the US. Governments need to be able to provide for citizens privacy and other rights. It seems to me that we have all gotten slack in much of these responsibilities.

  13. Wolf_Star · 702 days ago

    In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    Edward Snowden might have just kept his head down and done his job and we would none-the-wiser regarding the level of surveillance our own government performs on us and the rest of the world.

    Of course the government is going to scoff at Mr Snowden's statement; they were found with their proverbial pants down and wish to deflect attention away from themselves and back toward Mr Snowden.

    Congress has shown itself time an again to be the best legislative body money can buy. Perhaps the NSA would be better tasked surveilling members of Congress and the shady dealings in which they involve themselves on a daily basis.

    • Lance (there goes *my* clearance) Reichert · 701 days ago

      Oh, I have no doubt but what the NSA has the dirt on all of our Congresscritters. Since it is a practical impossibility to pass the day without committing at least one federal felony and all of our Congresscritters are human, there is dirt aplenty to be had. The surveillance system of which we are now aware is more than adequate to find, catalog, and apply that dirt.

      James Clapper holds Congress in the greatest contempt, having boldly lied under oath; why should he hesitate to use the leverage in his files?

      Lance ==)-----------------
      -=[ I love my country; it's my government I fear. ]=-

  14. Urban Ecology · 702 days ago

    Snowden is none of the above. He thinks he is a change agent but won't take responsibility for what he set off. He hides out in Russia instead of actually doing what civil disobedience requires, coming back to the US and using his imprisonment as part of his effort to create change. Whiny yes, cowardly probably, traitor -- to dim for that, effective? Time will tell.

  15. NoSpin · 702 days ago

    Snowden is a criminal. He signed documents when he received his security clearance outlining that it is a crime to release classified information to unauthorized people. There are proper channels for whistle-blowers, he choose not to use them. If he had a problem with what was happening than take it to proper authorities. You do not have to release detailed information on how particular things were being done if you truly say your purpose was to just make it know that it was being done. Snowden is not a hero or a whistle-blower, he is a criminal.

    • SpinBias · 698 days ago

      The real criminals are the ones violating the constitution and basic human rights and privacy of the people.

  16. Andrew · 702 days ago

    well this discussion will probably go on for years to come, from a personal point of view what Snowden did was the right thing to do. Looking at it from British point of view the USA is breaking our laws of privacy and should be held accountable. So well done Snowden for telling the rest of the world of the dirty tricks the USA is up to.

  17. Felling Less Safe · 702 days ago

    Snowden is a traitor. At some point in his vetting process he swore to keep his mouth shut. Instead in some twisted thinking he convinced himself that he held the key in judging right from wrong.

    Since we are a relatively open society, we need intelligence gathering to let us know when others want to do us harm. Harming that effort makes us less safe. The system in question was/is under control of the courts and regularly reviewed by the appropriate legislative bodies.

    • NoSpin1600 · 702 days ago

      In his twisted mind yes, he thought he was doing the right thing. He though he needed to let people know what was happening. I can't see how he justifies what he did. If he only wanted to let people know what was going on he did not have to release detailed explanations of how those things are done or documents containing budget information. This guy is far from a hero or whistle-blower.

    • Deramin · 702 days ago

      "Since we are a relatively open society, we need intelligence gathering to let us know when others want to do us harm."
      And what about when we want to do us harm? Or when the recklessness of our actions does us harm? I agree that we need intelligence gathering to keep us safe, but I'd also argue we need intelligence to be able to watch ourselves, too. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?) Clearly a problem humans have had in government for a couple millennia.

    • erin · 702 days ago

      Keeping his mouth shut? What about the part where he swore to uphold the constitution?

      • John Q. Smith · 702 days ago

        He didn't . He did however , violate several laws , that he Agreed to obey, concerning the disemination of Classified material.

  18. Deramin · 702 days ago

    I agree with the other commentators that what he did was heroic because the normal channels of disclosure were clearly not working. How many other times have other NSA employees or contractors used the channels recommended by Senator Feinstein and been silenced? I'd bet at least one.

    History has shown us you cannot have a healthy democracy that is afraid to speak out. We are clinging so tightly to the idea of protecting our freedoms that we are smothering them to death. And if they die it will not matter that if was terrorists or our own fear that killed them, it will matter that they are gone. So to me Edward Snowden is the best kind of patriot: one who defends the spirit and ideals of his nation, even against it's own laws. All codes are imperfect, all have people exploiting them for their own gain; we need the white and grey hats of the world to shout out those abuses or they will never get fixed, and our unchecked apathy will doom us.

  19. Jack Wilborn · 702 days ago

    Maybe in some ways he is a hero, but a delusional one at best. As others have pointed out, any other route would have caused his nonappearance. But to think he could flood us with docs about how bad they are and stay out of jail, is rather immature. I would hope he would have faced the music, so to speak instead of running to mother Russia. Maybe he fits all of the labels. He is delusional, whatever he thinks.. No more delusional than Feinstein, but we all know she's a loser and pretty anti-American...


  20. jbuck · 702 days ago

    The "NSA" is the only part of government that really listens.

  21. Ama Guest · 702 days ago

    As far as your survey goes: Who wants to know? Where are our poll answers going? And who is watching us enter our names and email addresses as we comment?
    That should answer your question right there.

  22. historian · 702 days ago

    Governments have to have secrets but that does not give them the right to spy in an indiscriminate and blanket style. Snowden was right to whistle blow but perhaps he blew too much. A smaller less damaging leak might still have brought an arrogant government to heel, without endangering security. A traitor? No, just misguided and naive.

  23. Patrick · 702 days ago

    Snowden is a world wide hero. We should make a day to honor him world wide for what he has done. Anyone who thinks he is a whiny traitor is exactly that themselves. The NSA should be brought up on treason charges and should all be made to serve the same sentences they are trying to impose on Snowden. Obama and his administration should all be locked up as well. I for one will not at all be surprised when another country retaliates against the US for the crap our government is pulling. It is ridiculous that the government can break the laws THEY put in place with no type of punishment what so ever. Obama and his goons have consistently lied to the american public and to the world yet he still sits on his throne without so much as a warning to stop the bulls**t. If your one of the people saying he is a traitor your probably one of the people standing in line for your "free government money/phone". Wake up and see the world for what it is - wearing blinders to filter out the bad makes you part of the problem. I would hide Snowden myself given the opportunity.

    • John Q. Smith · 702 days ago

      If you think he is a world wide hero , then go live in Russia, China, or better yet North Korea. Your comments show your extensive lack of knowledge and your complete stupidity.

      • Anonymous · 700 days ago

        How so? Have you opened your eyes to what is going on? I think you are the uninformed one here. Take off your blinders and take a real look around. I should not be told I should move to a different country for trying to stand up for my own. If this is the type of utter garbage you want to deal with then you are the one who should move to a communist country and let real americans clean up the mess our government has made. Stupid is putting up with this garbage not speaking out about it. I truly feel sorry for people like you.

  24. Freida Gray · 701 days ago

    Basically it appears to me that what Edward Snowden ultimately revealed is that the entire NSA is a bunch of idiots,appointed by other idiots,& approved by still more idiots.

  25. Riff · 701 days ago

    I'd give him the Nobel peace prize

  26. Shannon · 701 days ago

    Where did he say he was a hero?

  27. As if other countries are not doing the same. Anyone that believes otherwise is ignorant of the reality.

    Snowden is not a hero.

  28. confused · 701 days ago

    where do you blow the whislte if the person you are blowing against is the one you would report said whistle too?

  29. Lance (there goes *my* clearance) Reichert · 701 days ago

    It's only espionage if you reveal secrets to the enemy.

    I believe that what he's accused of doing is a crime, so he should be tried by a jury of his peers in open, Open, OPEN court, where the judge does not tie the hands of the defense and the jury is fully aware of its responsibility to judge the law as well as the facts (jury nullification).

    I would much rather see Mr. Snowden acquitted than pardoned. What he did took guts; trusting the legal system (I hesitate to call it the justice system) would take a heap more.

    Edward, you are ever in my prayers.

    Lance ==)----------------

  30. roy jones jr · 698 days ago

    "Our friends". That's an interesting way to put it.

    And yes, Mr. Snowden is right and wrong. "Everyone gets all information and all privacy" is impossible. And also if anyone out there believes that some other corrupt dictator in the world wouldn't take advantage of major US secrets they suddenly got, you're very gullible.

  31. Andrew · 688 days ago

    If a man has a criminal record then that man can be spied on but if that man has no criminal record then that mans privacy must be protected. This is where the USA has gone wrong as they are spying on everyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.