Snowden: The hero

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Alex Stogin, Business Manager

 

On Thursday, Oct. 29 the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on all European Union (EU) member states to drop all charges against Edward Snowden, grant him asylum as a human rights activist and deny his extradition to any third parties.

While this is solely symbolic, it is the first time an international body has supported Snowden as a human rights activist. Snowden was a contractor working for the National Security Agency until he released thousands of classified documents in 2013 revealing the mass surveillance that the US government has been engaging in against its own citizens.

He fled to Hong Kong and then Russia before having his passport revoked on his way to South America; he currently lives in Russia under a four-year residency permit.

As a supporter of Snowden’s actions, I welcome the resolution passed by the European Parliament. Were it not for Snowden, the nationwide debate about a citizen’s right to privacy and the government’s breach of that right potentially would have never taken place.

Through this resolution though, Europe has shown that it believes in the right to privacy. Although the vote was close, 285 to 281, it is believed that those opposed to this resolution were not in opposition due to Snowden’s actions but rather they did not want to risk alienating the U.S.

Only time will tell now how seriously the individual member states will take this resolution given that they are not legally bound to obey it. Regardless, Europe has shown as a whole that they stand for an individual’s right to privacy.

But, in the U.S., people are still deeply divided over whether Snowden is a ‘hero’ or a ‘traitor’ as some have put it. I believe that the U.S. government’s calls to charge and try Snowden for stealing government property and violating the Espionage Act of 1917 are legitimate. The law is law and no one is exempt from following it.

Still, I sympathize with Snowden for, in an essence, sacrificing his life as a free U.S. citizen to bring this issue to this nation’s attention. By remaining in the U.S. he would have quickly been locked up for his actions and his message potentially lost. Now though he can continue to advocate against the mass surveillance of a nation’s own population and fight for privacy rights.

By sacrificing the life he enjoyed as an American, he has enabled this country to have an open debate on how to strike a better balance between national security and individual privacy. We as a country are now able to decide for ourselves where our priorities lie.

Now that Europe has given this issue a new wave of international legitimacy, I hope we as a nation take advantage of this to continue the conversation about what we want to see from the government in regards to its surveillance programs.

Through various court decisions and the amending of the Patriot Act progress has already been made, let’s continue that progress and see our civil liberties continue to return to us.