Yes, Edward Snowden Is a Traitor
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, Edward Snowden Is a Traitor


When the Edward Snowden story first burst on the scene early this year, one of the central debates that ensued was whether Snowden should be considered a whistleblower or a traitor. In the months since, this debate has largely faded from the conversation.

The events of this week are starting to revive that debate. Proof enough of this was a conversation this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, a sort of bellwether of Inside the Beltway thinking. In response to a federal judge ruling that the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone metadata was unconstitutional, Joe Scarborough, the former Florida Congressman who hosts Morning Joe, asked whether this made Snowden a whistleblower.

While claiming that he “didn’t know the definition of  whistleblower,” Scarborough suggested that he believed Snowden might be one in light of the fact that the federal judge said the NSA’s actions would be deeply offensive to James Madison, the father of the U.S. constitution. John Heileman, one half of the unofficial biographers of recent U.S. presidential elections, agreed, saying the court’s ruling “vindicated” Snowden’s action.

I disagree and in fact would argue that at this point it is beyond dispute that Snowden is a traitor. Full disclosure: I always felt that Snowden was a traitor. This is not because I disagreed with his view that the NSA is out of control. Given the level of threat presented by terrorism today, I too am deeply worried by the extent the NSA goes to prevent these hypothetical attacks. One cannot help but be concerned about what America’s fate should a serious security threat materialize.

The reason why I believed from the beginning that Snowden was a traitor was not because of the information he had been leaking but the manner in which he had done it. In my view, a true whistleblower would have first pursued legal avenues for reining in the NSA, such as seeking out sympathetic members of Congress. The American people, after all, elect people to serve in Congress specifically for the purpose of representing their interests on important matters of state.

Additionally, in my view, a true patriotic whistleblower believes in his or her cause enough to be willing to accept the punishment their disclosures bring. If they truly believe in the righteousness of their cause, they’ll be confident enough that the American people will ultimately come to appreciate their actions and they’ll be pardoned. Snowden’s flight to Hong Kong and then Moscow showed he wasn’t willing to suffer the consequences for his actions, calling into question how much he believed in his cause.

This being said, while I personally felt this all made him a traitor, in the early days of the Snowden story I felt that there could a legitimate debate over whether he was a whistleblower or not. After all, while fleeing abroad certainly made Snowden a coward, it didn’t necessarily preclude him from being a whistleblower. The information he disclosed wasn’t necessarily any less important to restoring Americans’ liberty because of his personal shortcomings.

It has long since become apparent that Snowden should be viewed as a traitor, however. The main reason that Snowden cannot be seen as a whistleblower is the careless ways in which he collected and leaked information, which have only become fully apparent after the first month or so of the Snowden story breaking. Had Snowden been a whistleblower interested in protecting the American constitution, he would have carefully collected information documenting NSA overreach in spying on Americans. Only that would have been given to the journalists and newspapers Snowden contacted.

Instead, he collected an apparently unknowable amount of information (unknowable to both him and the NSA) and dumped it on the doorsteps of largely foreign newspapers. As he no doubt fully understood, most of these documents contained information pertaining to how the NSA collected intelligence on legitimate foreign targets, not Americans whatsoever.

Snowden of course would defend himself by pointing out that he hasn’t chosen what was published from his stolen documents. Indeed, he has quite self-righteously said that he believed he was too biased to determine what information it was in the public interest to publish. That is why, Snowden has claimed, he gave it to responsible journalists and editors to decide on which documents needed to be kept secret, and which the public should know about.

While all this sounds very noble it conveniently ignores the fact that society has not appointed journalists or newspaper editors to decide these matters, nor are they qualified to do so. In fact, journalists and editors ultimately have a different immediate interest than the American public; namely, the former are interested first and foremost in selling newspapers, not protecting U.S. national security. They may sometimes withhold information at the government’s request, but in general their preference is heavily weighted towards publishing information that sells papers.

This has been fully on display in the case of Snowden’s leaks. Although I haven’t been keeping a precise scorecard, it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of the stories that have been published from the Snowden documents are about U.S. spying on foreign nations, not its domestic operations. Americans’ rights are not at risk when the NSA taps the phones of foreign leaders. As such, leaking these documents were not the actions of a patriotic whistleblower.

In fact, as others have pointed out, information from the Snowden documents has been published in a manner that seemingly seeks to do as much harm to U.S. alliances across the world as possible. Meanwhile, Snowden seeking refuge in first China and then Russia nearly guarantees that the governments in these countries have gained a treasure trove of valuable information on NSA operations against their countries.

Stealing classified information to systematically undermine U.S. alliances across the world, while aiding U.S. adversaries, is practically the definition of treason. Snowden couldn’t help but know that his actions would lead to these outcomes. And for that reason it is beyond dispute that Snowden, regardless of whether or not some of his disclosures had any merit, has betrayed the United States and his fellow citizens. Nothing from this week or in the future will change this fact.

April 18, 2014 at 02:57

“society has not appointed journalists or newspaper editors to decide these matters, nor are they qualified to do so.”
This sentence is ambiguous, though the placement of “not…nor” suggests that you are saying “society is not qualified to appoint journalists or newspaper editors,” which I don’t think was your intention. I would probably take your arguments a bit more seriously if this was written a bit better, or perhaps well-edited. *shrug.

April 15, 2014 at 10:17

I don’t believe this article, and here’s why:

a. Snowden DID go to his superiors, and they shut him down. So what was he supposed to do, appeal to Congress, the same people that probably approved the intrusive programs that he was trying to end?

b. He didn’t leak the documents to “foreign newspapers, he leaked them to two American newspapers and they spread it from that point on.

c. “In fact, journalists and editors ultimately have a different immediate interest than the American public; namely, the former are interested first and foremost in selling newspapers, not protecting U.S. national security.”
Hmm, sounds a lot like someone I know…

d. Most importantly, does this author present ANY evidence for his points? He says things, but he doesn’t support them in any way, shape, or form.
The whole paper is him saying that he believes something, and that you should believe it too because he says so.

April 1, 2014 at 18:48

It is bizarre how much conservatives use doublespeak nowadays. When they call snowden a traitor, you know they’re one of two things; as thick as pig dung with zero clue about how dangerous programs like BULLRUN and TURBINE with the clowns that create them are, or as thick as pig dung to think you’re oblivious to the doublespeak.

March 11, 2014 at 05:40

This article makes exactly the points that have always had me convinced that Snowden should be looked ujpon as a traitor, a turncoat and self-serving. Could never understand what he thought he did for the American people when he leaked info that did not pertain to them personally and were of a foreign nature.

IMO…He’s an idiot and the people that treat him as some type of hero are the even bigger idiots.

March 8, 2014 at 14:06

Anyone who feels that Snowden is a hero shouldn’t be working for our government, neither federal nor local. I am afraid that all of these non patriotic comments should be investigated by the NSA as possible domestic terrorists. There is no other reasonable explanation for this type of behavior.

You can have all the freedom of speech you desire but while you are working for our tax dollar you need to be working for us and not against us. (US) pun intended.

March 14, 2014 at 05:01

the fact that you and most others on here believe in the “terrorist threats” proves that you all are IGNORANT GOVERNMENT SHEEP, domestic terrorists? so people like myself that want this government to stop stripping us of our rights, damn, hitler, stalin,pol pot, and mao ze dong would have LOVED you you socialist.

March 20, 2014 at 21:40

Lol, what a cute response.

Wake up America!
January 21, 2014 at 04:21

So let me get this straight…this TRAITOR stole private information from not only the US government but from it’s citizens and used it to protect Americans from the NSA? Is that not the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black? How is what he did ANY different that what he’s claiming the NSA did?

To the author of this article’s point, a true Patriot stands and faces his actions and defends them. This coward ran and not only did he run and he ran with classified, private information to foreign governments and journalist thus further putting the US and it’s citizens in harms way. He was so outraged that the NSA was using this information to protect people yet that is EXACTLY what he did! He’s an ego maniac who deserves to be tried and convicted of treason.

American’s need to wake up. A perceived loss of privacy is a small price to pay in the world we live in. These same delusional supporters of Snowden who are so outraged will be the first ones demanding answers as to why the US Government did not do more to stop another terrorist attack. We live in a world that is littered with cowardly morons who will hurt anyone to get some stupid message across.

The media also need to stop putting these cowards on TV. That is what they want. Instead of calling them terrorists we should only ever refer to them as cowards. “A group of cowards bombed a civilian building today in Russia” is how news reporters should read it.

Those who cry that their constitutional rights are being violated are the same people who will be running to the government to protect them when these cowards strike again. And they will. This is a real threat. Loss of civil liberties is a perceived threat to an ideology we cannot afford to hold onto. While you hold onto that ideology, some coward is standing in a crowd holding onto a bomb waiting to blow you up. So I hope you feel good that no one was able t hear your call to Gradma.

Lastly, if people had any idea the ways in which their private information is collected, shared and used for purposes other than to keep them safe. Google knows your entire life, what you like, where you go, how long you stay, and for those of you who argue, that we have a choice? Introduce me to the person who can get through life without a cell phone, the internet or a computer….

January 22, 2014 at 03:20

Well said.

February 14, 2014 at 10:56

If it was up to me, Edward Snowden would be swinging from the nearest lamp post. HE signed non-disclosure agreements, HE signed the Official Secrets Act… HE had made Middle Eastern Terrorists change the way they communicate with each other. Edward Snowden has blood on his hands, and one day I hope to God he will be returned to face justice.

April 9, 2014 at 11:10

very well said , and now with Russia invasion . And Snowden over in Russia do you think he is not giving them even more of our security away to save his own hide . wow he is a traitor.. And should be thrown in jail 75 years to life . He got paid for doing what he did
and when I say to life this is with out parole . He should serve every bit of it..

A. Bose
January 21, 2014 at 04:18

Snowden is a traitor to the States and its’ fellow citizens, plain and simple. He did it for his personal gain. It’s better States should formally charge him with treason and spying and done with it. He already shared a treasure trove of sensitive information with foreign govts. which risks the security and safety of our beloved troops at home and abroad. Folks wake up…he is not a whistleblower rather a spy agent

January 17, 2014 at 10:54

I think people are forgetting the real reason why the surveillance was bad. Spying on people to prevent terrorism is one thing, but this level of data was a treasure trove for any market speculator.
They way that it was being done was an open invitation to corruption. It was a huge step on the path to evil and something needed to be done.
Snowden had no confidence in existing channels so he went public.

January 10, 2014 at 14:22

I really can’t figure out how people can support him and I really don’t agree with the whole spying. I feel we have always known but just never had proof. We have all seen how dangerous the internet is and have too assume the government is up to serious stuff. I feel we all feel it’s necessary but don’t like to no for sure and this is for a lot of things like for example do we really think nasty things don’t have to get done that are in our best interest that if we knew we would be outraged. Are problem is we are good people and arnt like the enemies and that is what makes us awsome. After Sept11 we wer united and it was amazing we wer strong and united until negative news brought us down, my Point is we will have to do things we don’t want to hear about and the people letting us hear it are working against are good nature. Edward Snowden betrayed the Nsa which is bad and it took us down. Made the Nsa look bad and turned us on ourselves. How come we arnt angry at are phone providers and email providers the people we pay who betrayed us. A little loyalty would have fixed that and the fact that he is in Russia who is justoving this is awful and to think he could come back is a slap in our face. They are protecting him to bring us down which is betrayal.. I would have had more respect if he squeeled and stayed and took it like a man. If the people wer all for him they would have to listen. Instead he goes to Russia and gets people to want him back like adding insult to betrayal. If this was a Russian betraying Russia the last place he’d want to go is back there.

ronald cruthers
January 6, 2014 at 06:29

The writer of this article is suggesting to go the the same machine for help that snowden is exposing, your suggestion implies that congress and the media carries more weight than the NSA? They dont have a problem silencing others, pull the wool off your eyes.

Kathleen Cole
December 31, 2013 at 02:34

I find political commentary objectionable, when it deals in semantics and conjecture. Edward Snowden, whether he displayed courage or cowardice, rapidly found himself in uncharted territory. The backlash following his initial revelation was immediately and unequivocally vicious. It is hypocritical to brand him a traitor, while failing to hold the government accountable for violating the constitutional rights of every American, not to mention, the human rights of people in other sovereign nations.

March 14, 2014 at 05:03

kathleen, the people on this site support a government that is slowly turning into the third reich.

March 20, 2014 at 22:50

You are both incorrect. The assumption you hold is that no one should be held accountable for violating their sworn oath. There is a high level of expectation when working for big think tanks like NSA, CIA or the FBI, and that expectation is not unreasonable.

Certain rights that a private citizen might have no longer apply to those who work for the government. This includes free speech and free press. Which means, if you see something going on in the masses that is unconstitutional, puts the country at risk, or puts the people of this country at risk, you follow the proper chain of command all the way up the ladder. You do not run and dump government files (regardless of your opinion) at the doorstep of just anyone who is obviously not privy to that information. Those who feel he is in the right (regardless of his reasons for doing this) are obviously do not work in big think tank government, and truthfully, do not have what it takes to work in such environment, because they are incapable of following and remaining strong in their sworn oath to this country.

Snowden was 100 percent in the wrong. You can sit there and argue that all day long, but the truth still remains: he is 100 percent in the wrong, and should be viewed as a traitor. He is untrustworthy, and an enemy to the state. If he is able to causally dump government information at the doorstep of a newspaper, then who is to say that his nonchalant attitude wouldn’t be the root of how the terrorists got their hands on vital government files and information, either. People like him are dangerous to this country and to the security of this nation. And like a coward, he ran away to Russia to hide behind their government for protection, because he knows he is wrong.

So, I agree with this article. Snowden is nothing more than a child, and frankly deserves everything that comes dumping on his head when this whole mess finally catches up with him.

Bill Stewart
December 30, 2013 at 04:34

If you’re calling Snowden a traitor, who do you think he betrayed? He’s told the American people what their government was illegally doing to them and doing to other people in our name, and that’s good for us, not bad. He’d previously tried to tell his management that the NSA was doing things they shouldn’t, and was told to shut up, and considering what Senator Ron Wyden has said about the NSA’s obfuscataory reporting to their “oversight” committee and about the classified things he did know that he couldn’t tell the public, just going to Congress wasn’t going to be effective whistleblowing.
Snowden’s an example of an American taking the values of democracy seriously and acting on them.

January 10, 2014 at 14:38

Do you really feel that he did a good thing. Everyone knew that this was probably happening they have always done things that wer wrong but you have to agree that the internet is dangerous and they had to be spying. If are cellphone carriers would have warned us like they should have it would be different instead Snowden made the Nsa look bad which reflected bad on our country then went to Russia and continued and you know Russia loves us looking bad. I hate our privacy being invaded and I am not the most pro government but we know they have to do things we don’t want to no about to stay with smart enemies who can’t win in a war but know how to get us against each other. I’m sure things go on so bad we would be sick but you got to think we have to stay ahead of them. And I cant stress how much I feel it’swrong for them to watch us . It’s just he caused so much damage to our faith in the country when it may be somewhat necessary

February 28, 2014 at 07:08

Honestly snowden is a traitor how can you not see that

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