By JENNA JOHNSON
One man’s criminal is another man’s … Nobel Peace Prize nominee?
Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency contractor, is now taking refuge in Russia after leaking classified NSA surveillance information. Snowden faces felony charges including espionage and theft of government property in the United States.
While he faces severe punishments in his homeland, some foreign governments have a more positive outlook on the situation. Norwegian lawmakers Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen announced Jan. 29 on their website that they nominated Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.
According to Solhjell and Valen, Snowden contributed to peace by “revealing the nature and technological prowess of modern surveillance.” They also said that they recognized the damage to security he may have caused, and noted that they “do not necessarily condone all disclosures.”
Snowden isn’t only up for awards in Norway. His leakage of 1.7 million classified NSA records also won him the title of International Newsmaker of the Year by editors at Postmedia (fun fact: a close second was the royal baby.)
So, what is Edward Snowden? A whistle-blowing champion of free information or an unpatriotic traitor to the United States?
This is where the line between the freedom of the press and protecting national security becomes inherently fuzzy.
On one hand, Snowden did shed light on shocking information previously unknown by most Americans. According to his information, the government had monitored the phone calls of nearly every American and used surveillance for foreign leaders and terrorist organizations.
Most Americans will likely forgive terrorist surveillance, but recoil at the notion that their own phone calls were tapped. This information made public by Snowden allowed Americans to express their opinions regarding invasion of privacy by the government. Perhaps Snowden should not be punished so harshly for reporting questionable government actions.
Then again, maybe ignorance is bliss.
When it comes to the topic of national security, civil liberties have oft gone unprotected (Does the phrase “clear and present danger” ring a bell?). Many NSA officials now claim that the security of the United States has been threatened due to the leaked information from Snowden.
Thus, the age-old argument of how free freedom is continues. Does the freedom of the press protect revealing information that could potentially threaten a nation? Is it a journalist’s ethical duty to disclose the truth?
The answer is not, nor will it ever be, concrete. However, Snowden has created quite a stir with his NSA file leakage. No matter how noble the intentions, in my opinion, the commotion he caused should win nearly any award but the one for “peace.”