@Larry, Thanks, I see your point. I still think his actions were based on the best of intentions and the death penalty or extended imprisonment is not what I would advocate. Certainly no career move on his part. I do think tax payers have a right to know the morals of their elected officials and agencies.
@Etmax, the key piece of information is that Snowden signed a security agreement. Violation of that agreement is an act of treason. What he did was an obvious and gross violation, so the government really has no choice but to charge him as such. If he discovered that the government was involved in things that he found unconscionable, he had every right to quit his job and spend the rest of his life campaigning against that type of actions. This is very different from a reporter who has signed no such agreement. In that case they have typically been either self-censored by ethics understandings or screened by editors. The advent of blogs and wikileaks have largely bypassed those controls. Governments have been doing nasty things as long as there have been governments, but often it is a grey area. I have actually been heartened by most of what I have read of the Snowden leaks. Much of it is actually remarkably mundane or commonsense. It's nice to know that the government recognizes situations for what they are, even if admitting that is problematic in some foreign relations situations.
>>>he fled and hid behind much more corrupt regimes before doing anything ... That is the difference between a jerk and a hero. <<<
Well said. I, being a less kind person than you, might have said "that's the difference between being a whistleblower and a traitor".
If he was even half as much the "extraordinary man"/hero that he wants us to believe, he would have released the relevant intelligence that he had (about illegal NSA/government actions) and destroyed the other 90% of the classified material that he stole.
Instead, he chose to hide behind the skirts of first, China (HK) and then Russia, with the explicit threat that he would release the rest of the info that he stole if threatened. Since the number of documents he stole numbers in the 100s of thousands if not millions of documents, it is inconceivable that he even knows what is included in his treasure trove. So his threat to release these documents (which could not only damage the US but get a number of US agents and friendly actors killed) is the most crass and base action of a cowardly -- pick your adjective: (Clueless amateur/putz/weasel-richard/child/coward.)
Ironic that he's holed up in Russia. I wonder if anyone has loaned him a copy of "Crime and Punishment"?
@Max, I agree with you, I don't care too much if people stick their nose in my private emails etc. They'll be hard pressed to find anything that is amoral let alone illegal, but the real worry is that scenarios like Chile's secret police and the KGB, the Nazi informers etc. etc. can at the wrong election result remove all opposition. They won't get value out of yours or mine, but anyone involved in the political process may just "disappear" That's why information on the extent of state intrusion into private information needs to be governed by strict oversite and (illegal) trangressions made public (sometimes by illegal means). Pre WWII Germany was being turned into a parliamentary democracy and the means by which it was brought down was amongst other things by manipulation of the press by the Nazis. History needs to be a lesson to us and those that martyr themselves in this cause even if they get a few things wrong deserve some understanding if not respect. As I've meantioned elsewhere in this blog I don't agree with all of Snowden's actions, but I do believe he had his heart in the right place and the public debate that is coming out of it all may well prove invaluable in improving things. (love the bit about the shoes, I'll remember that :-) )
@Junko, thanks for your kind words. I agree Snowden isn't a journalist and I have a great deal of respect for those journalists that do navigate the tightrope that divides essential information from moral dilemma.
Snowden is maybe a disgruntled employee (I don't believe this) or a man on a miission to right the wrongs he sees, or he could be some other type of idealist.
There is probably no doubt that he's broken several laws, for which some may entail fines and maybe jail time (I don't know the law that well) but I don't see treason as being on the list. A reporter somewhere (can't remember) made the point that he hadn't done much more than an investigative reporter might have (given access of course) but either way I read somewhere that The US was structually one of the weakest democracies on the globe and if it weren't for strong freedom of the press laws would have long disappeared.
I wish I could remember where I read it so that kudos may go to the deserving, but it's stuck in my mind and prevents me from supporting any laws that might curtail the next "watergate" story. I put Snowden's over zealous release of the information he had available into the same "unfortunate collateral damage" basket that so many other unfortunate bad reporting.
At the end of the day yes the media (and whistle blowers) need ethical controls but power and authority need it much more dearly if we are to remain free.
Sorry for rambling on a bit. I do respect other's desires to disagree with what I've stated.
Unlike in the 3rd worlds, we can completely be confident that no big company big share holder or owner or board member will pay big donations (or official bribe) to govt. to extract the information NSA has. whew!! rest assured that will not happen.
Example No competitor of Huiwei will pay up the ogovt. officials. We are a law abiding, truthful nation
Hi Junko, I personally think that to tell everybody what is going on is a national service, not unlike what newspapers and television do, but the one thing I wouldn't have revealed is what leader 'A' thinks about leader 'B' behind close doors. That's something they as individuals are entitled to as a personal opinion and broadcasting it belittles the other "good" he has done while jeapodising relationships between world leaders. Is sharing the cloak and dagger exposays of the NSA the same thing? I don't think so because it's not opinion, but rather illegal activity. Anyway, a long and difficult subject, let him lose his job over it ok, but treason etc?? I think not.
I understand what you are saying, but my point was that Snowden (or Washington, etc) being a criminal is a matter of perspective. In Snowden's case from the NSA, etc perspective is that he is a Criminal, but to others he is not. I say this, as Whistle blowers in general have a very difficult decision to make... do they keep quiet about nefarious activity and abide by the Law, Oath, employment contract, etc ... which is probably the easiest and less risky thing to do... or do they blow the whistle and potentially face serious and potentially life threathening consequences? It is a very difficult decision and it has far reaching consequences. I have never been given the authority to judge anyone nor have I walked in the Snowden's or anyone else shoes in simialr situations, so I canot simply say they are criminals because of this. One of the Societal rights is to be judged fairly and I believe that Snowden will never been given this opportunity given the magnitude and material of what was disclosed. Fleeing to the countries he has is indeed strnge, but at the same time I cannot judge this either, as I have no clue what stress, anguish, fear, etc one would feel under a similar situation. Many a "perfect" person has cracked under severe situations and so this may be the case here. Without all the facts being presented and the lack of a fair trial I am inclined to see things less binary.
In both of these examples (George Washington and anti-Nazi fighters - it's not too often that that is a combination) they were in fact criminals based on the prevailing law of the land at the time. That is the point that I am asserting is binary and indisputable in the Snowden case. The argument as to whether or not the U.S. government is a corrupt regime that does not have the right to do what it has apparently done is a very different and much murkier one. If you go back to my original post you will see that I am not very happy about that myself, and as even Snowden says it should be argued on its own merits rather than as represented by him.
The difference between Snowden and both of your examples is that he fled and hid behind much more corrupt regimes before doing anything, while in both of your examples the people stayed in place and fought for their principles at great risk to themselves. That is the difference between a jerk and a hero.