There is a fine line between right and wrong. Whether it be in your personal life or in politics, its been seen over and over again. It might be something as trivial as skipping a day class or something greater such as deciding your major in college. Making a decision, especially ones that could not only affect you but millions of others are challenging to decide upon. Choices that could affect millions, shapes and defines what those affected view you as, some are cut dry as to which side of the spectrum they are on. For example, Nixion’s involvement in the Watergate scandal caused millions of Americans to view him as a crook. Lincoln success in ending slavery made people for the rest of history to see him as an American hero, unless you are racist of course. While those are clear as to which side they are on, others are harder to define as their situation can be extremely complex and controversial. Edward Snowden, arguably the most important whistleblower of this century is one of those people. While many view him as a traitor, many more see the positive impact his leak has had on the American people.Edward Snowden’s revolutionary impact on digital privacy makes him a true American hero for us all.
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Edward Snowden a computer engineer, worked for many government agencies. He was self taught without any type of certification or degree.. All of these jobs he occupied and a clean history gave him top-secret clearance. This gave him access to information that he viewed as great compromise in citizens’ privacy and would later leak. After a fair amount of contemplation he decided to leak information pertaining to domestic spying. After becoming certain of his decisions he started to communicate with journalists familiar with controversial government articles to release this vital information to the public.
An American hero can be someone different depending on the person. Many look at figures like Abraham Lincon, George Washington or even someone like Elvis Presley. To be considered an American hero varies from person to person as it is all about perspective. An American Hero should not be afraid to stand for what is right and just. They protect and enforce our freedoms and rights as American citizens. Not only do they do this but they also go as far as expanding our digital rights, changing laws to benefit the American people. Their actions have long lasting and major impact on our country. They do all of this without fearing the consequences as long as there is justice.
Snowden put the American people’s rights and freedoms before the government and even his own. Putting others rights and freedoms before their own interest is a major characteristic of being an American hero. He saw that citizens’ digital privacy was greatly compromised, almost non-existent. He stated “But there’s a limit to the amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual can tolerate. I crossed that line.” The NSA programs targeted many Americans innocent of any illegal actions David Cole even stated “We were sleepwalking into abandoning our privacy and Snowden has woken us up” (8). Snowden knew this was a great injustice to the American people. Since he was one of many to see these injustices that he personally did not tolerate and no one did anything about it, he became determined to make this information public. This coincides with “The Milgram Experiment” as one of the theories was that when people were made aware of their responsibility, almost no one was prepared to obey or keep obeying (388). He leaked files and worked with journalists who were affected by this system so we would be aware of what is going on inside the government’s surveillance programs.
However, Snowden was not always confident with letting citizens know about the injustices going on as in 2008 he contemplated leaking information. Later he was inspired by Bradley Manning, an army private that leaked thousands of State Department cables,army reports and videos of U.S airstrikes in the middle east that killed citizens and journalist. Manning sentenced to thirty-five years in prison, and although Snowden saw it as a possible consequence of his future actions or perhaps a worse punishment, he decided to go through with his plan. He stopped being afraid of what could happen and leaked the files to inform the American citizens of their government’s actions against them. Although he is now in Russia for asylum due to the criminal charges against him from the American government, he does not regret what he did for the American people. He knew the possible consequences of his actions and still choose to go forward with the leak, similar to what an American hero
After the articles were posted, a domino effect happened. Not only did citizens lose trust in their devices, they lost it in their government as well. Investigations on the NSA were started. Congressional meeting had to happen as a response to what to do now that the public has this information. The leaks also affected diplomatic relations with Germany when they discovered that information on their chancellor was collected. Laws were also changed and continue to change because of Snowden’s files. The U.S.A Freedom act was introduced,it stopped the NSA collection of phone records and to have the FISA court revise. A legislative proposal was made to stop the NSA’s collection of information and have the require a specific court order to gather any type of information.
Along with having an impact on the laws after the fact, we can still see his impact on our country to this day and many more to come. A true American hero will have a long lasting impact on the country, not just in legally but in society as well and Snowden did that. The NSA still is not sure of what documents he downloaded and which he did not. The laws on digital privacy have become more prominent in conversation in law making. People still do fully trust their devices, some might say they are even paranoid that the government is listening and/or watching them.Citizens will cover their camera on laptops with tape and limit their use of cellphones, being careful of what they say around and on them. Many of the journalists who worked with him promised to keep writing articles from the documents Snowden gave them to keep the citizens aware of NSA’s actions. They did this for the following years to further inform the public.
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Considering all of Edward Snowden’s actions, it shows that he is truly an American hero. He has had an undeniable effect on our laws and society. Snowden put the American people before himself to give others their right to privacy back. He knew what would happen after and disregarded it, still chose to go through with it to make a change. He had a major impact on our country. He sparked up debates and actions lead to changed laws on digital privacy. Without Snowden’s actions, we would lack the knowledge of what the government is capable of doing with our devices.
- Burrough,Bryan et al. “ The Snowden Saga: A Shadowland of Secrets and Lights.” Vanity Fair, May 2014, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/politics/2014/05/edward-snowden