NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a hero to some, traitor to others

Booz Allen employee revealed himself to be source of government data surveillance leaks

Depending on whom you ask, National Security Agency (NSA) contract employee Edward Snowden is either a hero or a traitor for leaking details about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs to the media.

Snowden on Sunday identified himself as the person who had provided The Guardian and other newspapers with details of a top-secret phone records data collection program by the NSA and another covert program called PRISM involving both the NSA and the FBI.

The revelations sparked widespread concern over dragnet-style domestic surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies. While President Barack Obama and members of his administration have justified the programs as necessary to combat terrorism, privacy and civil rights advocates have blasted them as being far too broad and overreaching.

In a video interview with the Guardian, Snowden said he had blown the whistle on the two programs because of concerns over the extensive nature of the surveillance being carried out by the government in the name of terrorism.

Snowden, who reportedly earns $200,000 working at the NSA as an employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said he was willing to risk everything to inform the American people about the surveillance activities.

"I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," Snowden said in his interview. He is currently in hiding in Hong Kong and has said he would seek political asylum in Iceland or any country that is willing to have him.

Snowden's actions drew praise from the likes of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame and filmmaker Michael Moore as well as conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. He described Snowden in a Twitter message as a "real hero."

Daniel Ellsberg, the source of the famous Pentagon Papers leak to the New York Times more than 40 years ago described Snowden's release of the NSA papers as the most important leak in American history.

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Ellsberg called Snowden a patriot whose actions give the U.S, an opportunity to "roll back a key part of what has amounted to an 'executive coup' against the U.S. constitution."

In a statement on the Campaign for Liberty blog, former GOP presidential contender Ron Paul said Snowden had done a "great service" by exposing the surveillance programs.

Meanwhile, a petition by Snowden's supporters to the White House seeking pardon for his actions appears to be gathering steam. By 5 p.m. ET Monday, the petition had already garnered more than 26,000 votes and looked well on its way to getting the 100,000 signatures needed for a formal White House response.

Many others, however, were critical of Snowden. In comments to CNN and other media outlets, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) blasted Snowden and called him a "defector" who should be punished to the "fullest extent of the law.

"If Edward Snowden did, in fact, leak the data, as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date," King said. "The United States must make it clear that no country should be granting this individual asylum. This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence.

Other lawmakers, including Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), too, called for Snowden's immediate prosecution.

Obama and the director of the national intelligence agency, James Clapper, both previously criticized the leaker for exposing what they have claimed is information that could jeopardize national security interests.

This article, NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a hero to some, traitor to others, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

Read more about privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government ITNational Security Agencysecurityfbiprivacy

More about CNNFBINational Security AgencyNSAPrismStrategy&Topic

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jaikumar Vijayan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place