The United States is the global forerunner in championing for democratic freedom and individual rights. The whole world knows that the US is among the few places in the world where people can exercise their rights with minimal restrictions from the government. However, that may not be the case in all situations, especially for civil servants who have the responsibility to shoulder the secrets of the government. In the article titled Civil Disobedience, Thoreau argues that an individual or a citizen ought not to resign his conscience to the law. He asserts that it is the responsibility of a person to rise against the evil wave of the government machine. The arguments of Thoreau resonate well with the deeds of Edward Snowden, who leaked state secrets in a bid to protests the actions of the federal government. Some have labeled him a hero while others consider Snowden a traitor. This paper analyzes the actions of Edward Snowden and concludes that he is a traitor who went ahead to put the intelligence of the country at risk and embarrass state agencies.
It is no secret that the United States has a direct rivalry with the China in matters of economy, technology, and even politics. With this knowledge, Snowden went ahead and told the Chinese that the National Security Agency (NSA) targeted the Tsinghua University in Beijing with cyber-attacks (Lam). Apparently, the institution is home to China’s critical research institutes including the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) and the Hong Kong Internet Exchange. Lam claims that Snowden provided the Chinese with information that the US government through the NSA were actively hacking the systems at the institution. Snowden informed the Chinese that the NSA was interested in the “network backbones” of the country that was believed to have a connection with the Tsinghua University. The revelation by Snowden forced the foreign ministries of the two countries to discuss the matter and other issues related to cyber-attacks (Lam).
secrets to foreign governments did not help the United States citizens but put
them at risk. Moore categorically states that the actions of Snowden were not
to benefit any civil liberties but the enemies of the US, such as the Chinese and
Russians. Therefore, it is ironic for him to be referred to as the
“whistleblower” while he was supposed to serve the interest of the United
States and not the enemies. Fleitz points to the fact that Snowden broke his
oaths of secrecy and that amounts to being a traitor. As an agent working for
the NSA, Snowden was an “an online soldier” required to protect the
information entrusted on his desk. However, he went ahead and presented the
same to the countries enemies.
Ingersoll wonders why Snowden went out of his way to leak state secrets to the foreign government while his focus was on domestic spying by the government. According to Queally, Snowden’s defense when questioned about his motives is that of protecting the public against illegal surveillance by the government. In fact, the reason many Americans still consider him a hero was that he uncovered the secret surveillance activities of the security agencies against the citizens. However, Snowden is yet to defend his actions for giving out state secrets to foreign governments. Ingersoll believes he traded the secrets because he wanted protection by the foreign governments. He was afraid to be repatriated to the US where he was facing imminent prosecution for stealing classified documents from the NSA.
The actions of Snowden to leak state secrets to China endangered the lives of undercover security agents and embarrassed the NSA. According to Ingersoll, it was risky for Snowden to reveal the exact location where the NSA was conducting the foreign surveillance. Most likely, there were undercover spies working for the US government at the Tsinghua University in China. The leak could have triggered a thorough search by the Chinese security agencies that could have uncovered the secret agents. Besides, the fact that the United States have frequently been complaining about cyber-attacks by the Chinese leaves them with mud on their faces. With the information from Snowden, the United States lost the moral authority to accuse the Chinese of hacking. In fact, the Chinese gained the upper hand because they could go ahead and defend future hacking attacks as revenge missions.
Snowden also jeopardized the efforts of the US security agencies and its allies in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. He did this by revealing the location of a secret data-gathering center operated by the British in the Gulf region. According to reports by Campbell et al., the British intelligence have a secret monitoring station located in the middle east that collects information from web and telephone communication networks in the region. The modern world requires states to have information about what is going on around the critical areas of security such as the Middle East. Therefore, when Snowden leaked the location of the station to a journalist, he was putting at risk the work of western allies. Campbell et al. indicate that the intelligence collected from the British GCHQ surveillance station was shared by the security of the west agencies. They explain that the station had the capacity to tap communication from submarine cables and intercept vital data around the Middle Eastern region. The strategy was imperative if the security agencies were to prevent terrorists from planning attacks in different parts of the world. It was also an effective way of keeping up to date with what was happening in some countries such as Iran (Moore).
As for Snowden, he was concerned with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). He said that the American government was violating it. On his conversation with the observer, Snowden said that the NSA and the US government were overstepping their responsibility in protecting the American citizens (Arzinos). The intelligence agencies of the government were deteriorating in their checks and balances and this increased secrecy and abuse of power as well as extended Patriotic Act interpretation. Snowden was against the FISA court which is not efficient and enforcing people’s claims regarding its inability to oversee surveillance warrant requests against the foreign intelligence agents. In this action of arguing against the FISA, the moral obligation of Snowden’s claims does not hold in the act of civil disobedience. According to Ingersoll, Snowden’s intention was to leak information to nations that were spying the US government. His actions relate to international spying of the American government for which Snowden did not have legal or moral justification to expose.
Exposing the location of the British surveillance system affected the efforts of the security agencies, risked the lives of those who worked at the station and severed the relationship with the US and its allies. After the leakage, the US government admitted that the British position was instrumental in the war against terror because it offered the vital early warning signals (Campbell et al.). Therefore, if the enemies are aware of the location of the surveillance station, they will find ways to override it or even look for the means to destroy it. Consequently, the action of Snowden posed a direct threat to those who work at the station. He should have looked for another way to expressive his concerns and not by risking the lives of security forces. Furthermore, such installations cost massive amounts of money and could go to waste if they are rendered ineffective.
The act of Snowden also affected the relationship between the United States and its allies. It is evident that the British were disappointed that their operations are compromised because of the inability of the US to maintain top security secrets. Moore also believes that many of US allies were concerned that Snowden had to access to vital information that could also threaten their security systems. It takes a lot of effort to build security networks across the world with the aim of protecting the innocent people of the world. Moore compares the act of Snowden to that of the cold war era traitors, such as George Blake and Michael Bettaney. Such people act selfishly by working with rival governments with the hope of getting personal favors.
As a result of his actions based on self and political interests, Snowden faces the consequences of remaining in Russia and does not want to go back to the US to face charges and defend his claims against the government. He now fears for his life of which it should be different as a patriotic citizen who was expressing himself for the interest of the public. In his interview with the NBC News in 2014, Snowden confirmed that he would not give himself a parade or go to jail and serve like other whistleblowers in government (Queally). If he was civilly disobeying, Snowden should accept going back to his home country, US and give argument before the court and explain his reasons for invading the privacy of the NSA.
The publicity feature in Snowden’s intention to provide the information to the public is not evident in his action. An act of civil disobedient must be made public, where the citizens, as well as government officials, must be aware of what the person is saying openly and what he or she intends to do (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1). Snowden did not follow this process as he stole the confidential documents and moved to another country where he revealed that information to the media (Goldsmith). He never provided a fair notice or warning to legal authorities before taking the information to the public as required in civil disobedience. It shows that Snowden was not ready to reasonably deal with the authorities which are a requirement for an act of civil disobedience. In an interview with NBC news, it was confirmed that Snowden did email the government’s counsel’s office about the NSA concerns (Queally). Even though there was communication, the government and the public were not aware that he would steal the documents and flee from the country to expose the government surveillance programs.
Edward Snowden is a traitor, and his actions are dangerous because those who benefited from the information he provided and his betrayal were those people who wanted to embarrass the U.S and not the civil liberties (Moore). Just as George Blake, Edward Snowden betrayed his state by revealing the secrets of the US National Security Agency. By acting in the name of morality, Snowden was not justified of his betrayal of the state. His actions were not aimed at defending the free people as expected in civil disobedience. Now, he will only live under the mercies of other states and travel passport terminated by the US Government.
The public is not supporting Snowden for what he did as they do not have an issue with the secret services spying on them in the cyberspace. In civil disobedience, the public should be highly supportive of what the person is alleging against the government. As a traitor, Snowden broke his oath of serving the state with diligence and meeting its interests (Moore). As a consequence, Snowden betrayed his colleagues in the public service as they are now seen as suspects. His actions are dangerous and irresponsible because other avenues are legitimate and Snowden could have used them to air his allegations without putting the American national security in danger. His comments in the media have a possibility of encouraging other employees in the government to take a similar action and endangering the national security more (Fleitz).
Snowden’s actions also have the consequence of undermining an essential part of intelligence in the digital age (Fleitz). He is a traitor and an ignorant man of what it means to maintain peace by curbing the greatest threats to the states which are now being concerted electronically. It has to be done by monitoring the electronic devices that people are using including telephones, computers, and communication on the Internet. In fact, he is compromising the intelligence work of the government agencies. These intelligence programs are not violating the basic human rights as stated by Snowden. The courts monitor these programs highly, the Congress and the Justice Department of the government. Snowden’s actions started a controversy against the most valuable methods of protecting the US nation from terrorist attacks in a satisfactory manner (Fleitz).
In conclusion, Edward Snowden is a traitor, and his actions are dangerous. He is not a courageous as others would argue because of the step he took to reveal NSA’s surveillance information. His actions are dangerous because of the hypocrisy of acting morally while in the real sense Snowden was helping enemy nations to the US obtains secrets about the government. His actions cannot be regarded as acts of civil disobedience because he did not have the interest of the general public in the account. Snowden’s moral obligation was also not justifiable under the circumstances and intentions he had for revealing the confidential information. Snowden also did not accept going back to face the US government for breaking the law and defending his allegations in court. Because of revealing that information, Snowden will remain in a foreign country as the government terminated his passport. He will live under the mercies of other governments of he does not present himself for facing charges in a US court. On civil disobedience, his actions did not meet the principles of publicity, moral obligation, communication, and conscientiousness. The actions are dangerous to the security of the US government. Snowden was a traitor to other public servants who will be regarded as suspects. Enemy and spying nations obtained information that they can counter attack the US intelligence. Allies were also affected by the actions of Snowden. The US intelligence agencies were not shaken by the actions of Snowden and still used the camera surveillance techniques to ensure security for the nation.