Edward Snowden: Hero or Villain? It Doesn’t Matter

In a very shocking move, the person who supposedly leaked the NSA/Verizon story to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald stepped forward to reveal himself to the world.

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.


The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

There was immediate reaction on Twitter, with people from different factions of the political spectrum weighing in on all sides. There were conservatives joining liberals and libertarians in labeling Snowden a hero. There were other conservatives joining Obama supporters and declaring him to be a villain.

The rush to take sides and the media spectacle this will create over the next week (at least) unfortunately will eclipse very important issues.

The NSA/Verizon spying story is real.

The IRS targeting of conservative groups is real.

The DOJ targeting journalists is real. 

The initial attention paid to these stories will devolve into a sideshow if the very people who have been leading the charge to expose the Obama administration’s abuses instead turn their attention on Snowden.

Inevitably the White House is going to react. They will undoubtedly tear this young man’s life apart in order to discredit him.

In the meantime, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings has already proclaimed that the IRS investigation is “settled.” This is in spite of the fact that we learn more and more as days go by. Now we know the IRS was tipped off about the targeting of conservative groups a full year earlier than they originally claimed. It’s becoming clear that there is much more to the IRS story — and it will require a full-blown investigation to know how far it went and how high up the chain it went as well.

It’s a situation where the right people must keep their attention focused on what really matters. And right now it’s far too early to predict the ramifications Snowden’s story.

Libertarians should not rush to declare this guy to be a hero. We don’t know the depth of what he released. I happen to believe the NSA/Verizon information was important for the public to know, but it is possible Snowden leaked information vital to national security too.

On the other hand, I find it somewhat disappointing that some conservatives have already declared Snowden a criminal or a traitor. Far too many conservatives have spent the last 4.5 years using the word “tyranny” to describe the Obama administration. This guy shines a light on activities that support that accusation and yet they’re ready to turn on him?

I don’t understand that. 

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if one considers Snowden to be a hero or a traitor or a criminal. What matters is he exposed the fact that a spying agency has been collecting the phone records of US citizens from at least one cellular carrier — and who knows how many more.

The Obama administration’s abuses of civil liberties and constitutional rights should not escape the strictest of scrutiny. Despite everything we have learned so far with regard to the IRS/DOJ/NSA, the only person to lose his job so far is acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller who was leaving his position anyway.

There is the very real danger that this could all be swept away.

Hopefully, the people doing the investigating won’t allow themselves to be sidetracked.