The newstream is currently awash with news of Edward Snowden and his effort at evading the long arm of American Law Enforcement Agencies.
He had leaked information about a covert American government backed Surveillance program called the ‘Prism’ through which the National Security Agency taps phone calls and e-mails of individuals of interest, within the United States, as well as exposing America’s cyber espionage activities against nations like China (coming on the heels of accusation leveled against the Chinese by the American government of doing same).
Edward Snowden, a former technical contractor with the NSA says the leaks were an effort to ”inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”, something most people around the world became familiar with following Julian Assange’s wikileaks saga, which is still rocking most nations, chief of which is the United States Of America.
Interestingly, Edward Snowden hasn’t always been a champion of transparency as he was known to have said in 2009 that leakers ‘should be shot in the balls’. It is however known also that his views had since changed after he praised leakers like Bradley Manning who provided most of the documents released by Wikileaks’ Assange.
The whereabouts of Edward Snowden has since become a mystery after he made the NSA leak while in the United Kingdom. He has since gone on to Hong Kong and then onward to Russia, where he is thought to be seeking assylum to Ecuador.
Now, Ecuador is currently playing host to Julian Assange at her embassy in London, he is also sought by the American Government for his involvement in facilitating US diplomatic leaks. The Ecuadorians have stated that they have recieved a request for assylum from Edward Snowden but that it will take a few weeks before such will be granted, they have not however foreclosed the possibility of providing him temporary papers to enable him travel after the American government invalidated his passport.
The Russian government have also hinted on the possiblity of granting him assylum, and even though Edward Snowden was initially thought to be somewhere around the airport in Moscow, no one can truly say where he is presently. Julian Assange (holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy) claims he has spoken with Edward and he is hale and hearty, though he gives no information as to his whereabouts.
This isn’t the first time sensitive information about American governments activity will be leaked to the rest of the world, and as at other times, the people (Americans in particular and others in general) are split between support for a whistleblower (with disgust at what they now know the government has been doing in their name or against them) or for the State (the United States in this context).
Even those we consider heroes today (like Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the ‘Pentagon Papers during the Nixon presidency) were initially demonized and seen as not patriotic (and at some point were fugitives), but the passage of time is wont to turn the tables and the ‘leaker’ becomes hero, while the state (persecutors) are often demonized and in the case of Richard Nixon disgraced out of office (Nixon actually resigned from office).
There’s no denying the fact that the actions of these men constitute security threats, but what is the morality or legality behind what the US government hopes to achieve and have achieved with the Prism program?
Is the fact that many terrorist plots have been thwarted by reason of this program enough justification for it’s deployment?
Where does freedom, liberty and the right to privacy guaranteed by the American constitution stand in all this?
Wouldn’t the society be more secure if we sacrificed a bit of our liberties and rights to procure it?
These and many more questions continue to concuss our minds since leaks into government activities began to make the headlines. We wonder whether governments have taken too far the sovereignty the people willingly surrendered to it, to delve far beyond the scope we can freely, without hesitation allow, even if we are to be the beneficiaries of the government’s so called magnanimity.