Leakers like Edward Snowden—Heroes or Villains?

Pro Snowden Hg Kg rally  Wiki Cmns

                                       Pro-Snowden Hg Kg rally. Wiki Cmns

Presumably still hiding in Hong Kong and a tad sketchy in the resume honesty department, American Edward Snowden leaked documents in early June regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities.

In a June 6 interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden said “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

He declared later–sounding like presidential aspirant Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul– that “At this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing but policy documents.”

According to, New York Times writers Sam Tanenhaus and Vijai Singh, “Daniel Ellsberg and Edward J. Snowden maintain that they performed a public service even as others label them traitors. Villains or saints, leakers often cast their actions as a kind of moral crusade.” In their 2+ minute video about leakers and their consequences from Alger Hiss to Edward Snowden, the authors suggest that Hiss’ leaks to “defeat fascism” (which Nixon glommed on to for political reasons) ushered in an era of anti-communist fervor (McCarthyism) in the country. Daniel Ellsberg’s leaks may’ve planted the seeds for Watergate. And Snowden’s may cause even more anti-government feeling in a country already doubting government’s effectiveness.

Interestingly, Hiss, Ellsberg and Snowden—as well as Bradley Manning– were all relatively young and had grown disillusioned with their country.  See the NYTimes video

Do you think Snowden’s a villain or a hero?

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  1. Bill Soliday says:

    The difference between heroes and heroic acts are separate issues to my way of thinking. I have known villains to have committed heroic acts and heroes to have been intrinsically villainous. With Snowden, it remains to be seen if he is hero, villain or neither. But in my opinion the act was heroic … and necessary.

    • You make a good point, Bill. If you mean that heroic acts require bravery and boldness, I agree that villains (probably all) are brave. Most of
      us are too chicken and jumpy to be criminals, let alone villains. I bet as a sportswriter, you have known your share of mixed types. Does the name
      “Barry Bonds” come to mind?

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