Wanted For All The Wrong Reasons

pardonsnowdenSeveral advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have started an online petition drive to urge President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden before he leaves office.

Edward Snowden leaked crucial and confidential information from the National Security Agency back in 2013. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.

On June 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property. On June 23, he flew to Moscow, Russia, after making an escape via Hong Kong, where he remained for over a month. Russian authorities granted him one-year asylum, which was later extended to three years. As of 2016, he is still living in an undisclosed location in Russia while seeking asylum elsewhere.

Despite all the hideouts and the challenges to attain a ‘safe house’, his virtual presence never deterred. He was like a ghost, present everywhere; if not in the files but at least in the minds of many. He created a global ruckus, changed the world and became the most-sought face of the community of whistleblowers all around the world.

A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot and a traitor. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy and the balance between national security and information privacy. He questioned the authorities while wanting to protect the civilians. However, how thin is the line between leaking confidential information and doing the country a great service?

Understanding the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of United States changed. The U.S. Congress, the courts, and the President all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.

He exposed the extent of government surveillance questioning the limits set forth by the government when it comes to protecting the privacy of an individual. Isn’t it ironical how the government cried foul over getting their data interjected by Snowden, while continuing to uproot the privacy of millions?

How justified is this war on the whistleblower, when the only people impacted are those who took part in corrupt activities and are a part of the government and the functioning of a nation? How fair is it to target an individual for unleashing the crimes of many?

This petition is an amazing example of perfect timely-captured marketing stance. Oliver Stone’s directed Snowden hits the theatres this weekend which will unravel the journey and the personal risks he took while leaking such confidential stuff. The movie can be definitely used to gain public sympathy, which is actually the only drive for this campaign titled Pardon Snowden, also ensuring the box-office success of the movie which stars Joseph Gordon-Lewitt as Snowden.  

The baby did blow the whistle, much to the displeasure of many and alerting many more. What remains to be seen is whether Obama pardons him for his acts and changes the attitude towards whistleblowers as we know it, or Snowden has to remain content with his virtual omnipresence and the physical lack of it?

Is he a traitor for sneaking up on the authorities, or a patriot for making everyone aware on how compromised their privacy is? Does our patriotism lie in protecting the not-so-innocent officials or the always-vague citizens?

Yugansha Malhotra

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