I've been following the news about Edward Snowdon, the individual who gave interviews to British newspaper The Guardian regarding his leaking information about surveillance activities conducted by the National Security Agency. The news coverage - and the opinions - has been, for a lack of better description, all over the place. Depending on who you follow, and what you believe, he is either a hero or a traitor. And, in my opinion, there is no middle ground on this issue.
Personally, I don't think there can be, either; it's pretty clear that this was not a lukewarm act. If nothing else, his actions were decisive. Some would say courageous. Others would say treacherous. That could go either way, depending on where you weigh in. I have to wonder whether there is more to this act than what has been brought out so far, and as time goes on, it wouldn't surprise me if more is made public.
There has been history of the existence of surveillance that likely dates back farther than most people realize. Consider the information gathering that J. Edgar Hoover conducted when he was the director of the FBI, or the infamy Richard Nixon earned when he was President and the Watergate incident occurred; the fallout stuck with him until his death, and some of it went with him to the grave. If one considers the circumstances that led us to this point in our history - the events of September 11, 2001 - it is not a stretch to think that the policies that were implemented as part of the Patriot Act would be expanded. And it shouldn't really be a surprise, either; I suspect it was only a matter of time before the sort of information gathering that was described by Snowdon would actually take place.
At the same time, the questions has been asked that if one has nothing to hide, is this really a big deal? As far as I'm concerned, it isn't. I have nothing to hide. I am not a political activist with an agenda, nor am I someone who believes that radical changes need to occur for our way of life to be preserved. And I believe this is the way with most of us; normal people doing what is necessary in our own lives to survive and, in some cases, make them better.
That said, there are people who believe that two amendments to the U.S. Constitution - the first and the fourth - are being violated. It is a fair argument, especially regarding the fourth amendment. Unreasonable search and seizure is one of the reasons that criminal cases sometimes are thrown out of court, and it stands to reason that it can be considered in this situation as well. If enough people were to make noise about it, a class action lawsuit is not out of the question.
On one of the Sunday news shows (I think it was ABC's This Week), I saw Rep. Mike Rogers and Senator Dianne Feinstein being interviewed. Both of these members of Congress stated that they believed that Snowdon should be pursued and prosecuted. Rogers, in fact, went as far as to say that the amount of information that was leaked was "enough to be dangerous", and that Snowdon "didn't have a clue" about what he was talking about. If this is true, then what Snowdon has described is only part of the picture, and there truly is more out there. If this is not the case, then I'm inclined to think that Snowdon struck a chord within both Congress and within the U.S. Intelligence Community, and he opened a type of Pandora's Box that will be difficult to close.
As for me, I have not formed an opinion yet as to the rightness of wrongness of Snowdon's actions. I do believe there is more to this, and I am waiting to see what else is made public as a result. As evidenced by his responses to the questions of journalists who interviewed him, he certainly believes he had a moral imperative to leak this, and I have to admit that this display of the courage of his convictions is admirable. But was it a foolish act? And could his actions cause him to go the way of Bradley Manning? Obviously that's not my call, but it is an interesting question. All we can do at this point is wait and see what happens.