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Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor?
Snowden, 29, is the former employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who recently revealed to newspaper reporters details about two previously secret government surveillance programs operated by the National Security Agency.
One gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records while searching for possible links to suspected terrorists abroad; the second allows the government to tap into U.S. internet companies' data worldwide to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.
The USA Todaynewspaper called Snowden's story "one of the most sensational leaks of classified material in U.S. history - expanding an already blistering debate over the clash between national security and online privacy.''
Certainly, Americans' views on government whistle-blowers depends on their own personal politics.
Critics say it is wrong to divulge secret activities of the government, while supporters say it is wrong for the government to keep secrets from the American people.
Ultimately, in this case, the court system will likely be asked to determine whether Snowden's leaks of sensitive, classified information causes harm to our national security interests or merely causes harm to government leaders' egos. Either outcome could be bad for Snowden, at least in the short term, which makes him a sympathetic figure. After all, he has nothing to gain personally from making the leaks, other than clearing his own conscious about what is right and what is wrong about the government's secret spying.
Snowden alleges specific, serious violations of law, claiming the government created a system "that allows it to intercept almost everything'' and in the process violate Americans' privacy rights on whatever whim it has and whenever it wants to - without any retribution or penalty.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.''
President Barack Obama said recently that America is "going to have to make some choices'' balancing privacy and security. He is correct, but let's take one issue a time.
Wouldn't it have been better if Americans had been given a chance to make the choices before the government got caught making the choices for us? If continued indefinitely, a secret government database permanently tracking the actions of every citizen would, indeed, pose a threat to the democracy of any nation.