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American People and Edward Snowden

Free «American People and Edward Snowden» Essay Sample


The purpose of this study is to analyze the figure of Edward Snowden and find out whether he is a true patriot or a traitor to the American nation. In order to address this question, it is essential to investigate the case of Snowden and his relation to the NSA and the security system of the country. The paper analyzes the case in the context of public administration. It also examines the way in which the U.S. government views the Edward Snowden’s figure and provides a discussion on the legality of the contemporary democratic community.


CIA: Central Intelligence Agency

NSA: National Security Agency

Statement of the Problem

Key Player

Edward Snowden is an ingenious and skillful IT specialist in his early 30’s. Previously, he worked for Booz Allen Hamilton that provided technical support to NSA and also had the experience of working for the CIA. In general, Snowden operated as a computer specialist in numerous positions that involved dealing with security authorization (French, 1979). It is necessary to note that he did not finish high school and dropped out of college later; thus, his pay at Boaz Allen Hamilton remained overstated by 40 percent (Hamilton, & Sanders, 1992). Snowden had other offers of jobs, but he decided to stay at NSA. However, he left the U.S. after the scandalous case when he revealed the extensive telephone and Internet data of American surveillance agencies to the media.

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The outrage broke in June 2013, after The Guardian Daily received the data from Snowden, which confirmed that the NSA has been collecting telephone records of millions of American citizens. NSA also was proven to have tapped on the Internet servers of the companies such as Yahoo through a reconnaissance program referred to as PRISM in order to track the Internet activities of users (Hamilton, & Sanders, 1992). Eventually, Snowden sought for asylum and was provided one by Russia, where he could legally stay for 3 years. However, he still faces spying charges over his engagements, as the U.S. government is of the view that Snowden is a traitor and a thief. This paper seeks to examine the actions of Erick Snowden and their influence on the American population, analyzing whether he was a thief or a whistleblower, a traitor or a patriot.

Moral Agency

A moral agent is an individual with the capacity of taking actions with a reference to what is right or wrong. Moral agents are held responsible for their decisions and behavior. This paper analyzes the actions of Snowden in order to determine whether they were right or wrong from the moral and ethical point of view (Landau, 2013). The moral agency model states that a person who acts irresponsibly should be held responsible. The person must be a living creature with memory, self-consciousness, values, and other cognitive faculties that give them the capacity to weigh options when facing a dilemma. Naturally, the options in decision-making should be attached to a positive value.


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For a person to be ethical, he or she must live in a culture where others uphold moral values. Aristotle ideal of righteousness is when the acts are executed in agreement with the correspondent ethical values (Hamilton, & Sanders, 1992). In other words, the standards must not necessarily be followed, but the agent needs to be in the right state of mind when performing an action (Lin, 2014). The righteous actions demand that the individual has knowledge and the power to choose the right actions.

Furthermore, a moral mediator must have the power to take actions. If a company has supremacy, it must also have an obligation of making moral choices. In this case, Snowden had the power to act right. The actions of a moral agent always impact the business or country in which he is serving; in this case, the actions of Snowden exposed the government of U.S. to its enemies (Haworth, 1959). The people who support moral decisions can affect the business’ feasibility in the industry. Obviously, Snowden’s decision to expose the secret security activities of the national agencies was not appreciated by the government. Ideally, the government is expected to control the conduct of commerce and protect the public from unscrupulous practices (Ranken, 1985). Thus, the actions of Snowden to disclose this sort of information about the American government to the world can result in illegal or unlawful actions.

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Moral Argument

Indisputably, Snowden could have expressed his dissatisfaction with NSA activities in a number of other ways. However, he did not want to become a participant of this deceptive system and instead revealed the data to the journalist Glenn Greenwald. The American government accused Snowden of stealing the secret data and infringing the 1917 Espionage Act twice. The charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison, with each count carrying not more than 10 years. The U.S. has been attempting to imprison and extradite Snowden and other “whistleblowers” (Lin, 2014). Snowden sought for asylum, roving to Hong Kong and Moscow, when the U.S. government rescinded his passport and thus barring his escape (Landau, 2013). At the same time, the government of Russia granted Snowden an asylum for a period of one year and later extended it to three years. At the moment, Snowden has a residency permit there, which allows him to study, work or travel anywhere within the Federation of Russia; he can also travel overseas for a period of up to three months. (Goodpaster, & Matthews, 1982).

The moral argument section analyses the existing views in literature on the figure of Edward Snowden being a traitor or a patriot. The section also looks at the moral agency in the context (Klein, 1988). The study seeks to answer the questions such as the legality of collection of telephonic metadata by NSA, the negative consequences for the community since the data was published, positive reforms since the leakage, and the constitutional clarification of the Fourth Amendment because of this case.

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Whistle Blower and Patriot

A patriot is an individual who loves, defends, and supports the state and its welfares with devoutness. However, a patriot should not be a sycophant to the government who forgets about his duties as a citizen (Goodpaster, & Matthews, 1982). A patriot should ensure that he defends his nation, its constitution and countrymen from the defilements and infringements of the challengers. According to French (1979), Snowden’s choice has made him hide and seek for asylum, while the massive information that he had revealed to the Americans and the world should have brought him recognition rather than fear, exile, and fight.


Snowden had the audacity to shed the light on the NSA efforts to snoop on the American citizens. He knew the looming danger of his actions, but that did not stop his ambitions and love for the country (Harmon, 1995). The documents he leaked have hurled global discussions about surveillance and privacy. The disclosures that were made by journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Barton Gellman showed the activities of the NSA (Werhane, 1989). The results also showed the conspiracy of regimes and giant tech companies. Such a risky venture could only be organized by someone who is courageous and ready for the consequences (Haworth, 1959). Today, Snowden remains one of the most wanted people by the U.S. government.

Offensive NSA Actions

The action to tap on the phone calls and Internet conversations by NSA is an obvious infringement of the right to privacy of the Americans. There was no need of snooping and mass surveillance of the populace. According to Werhane (1989), the act by NSA has violated privacy, Internet freedom, and basic liberties. The government should have obtained a warrant as required by the criminal law before tracing the electronic communications of Americans (Haworth, 1959). Thus, the distress of terrorism has been misused by U.S. leaders to validate a wide array of radical policies. This act has led to aggression, torture and detention of American people. The argument is supported by the cultural relativism argument (Wu, Ma, & Chan,2014). The culture and customs of the U.S. support the freedom of its people; however, it also seems to support the changes of conscience that are inculcated to us through pressures and childhood training.

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Civil Disobedience

The acts of loyalist nation’s founders such as Dr. Martin Luther King were the milestones on the way to national freedom that is enjoyed by the people of America. Such people stood against the unfairness, discrimination and ill-treatment of populace by the ruling class (Ladd, 1984). Usually, the results had dire consequences, leading to the massacre and detention of citizens. Civil disobedience is demonstrated by the people who believe in liberalism and logical positivism in order to attain change. Snowden ensured that the Americans knew the truth about the privacy of information. This shows a great spirit of altruism, which involved a sacrifice for the sake of truth.


Snowden saved the citizens from the secret government schemes. In order to achieve equity and justice, transparency has to be accepted as the basic rule in the country. The citizens need to understand how the mechanism of government works so that they could make a well-versed choice when exercising their right to vote. Thus, the president of the U.S. should provide transparency of the security affairs of the nation (Klein, 1988). Consequently, all the Americans have a right to know the measures that the government is taking to ensure that the national security is guaranteed. From this perspective, Snowden’s actions were guided by utilitarianism, which means that the result of his actions was meant to benefit the highest number of Americans.

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Freedom of Speech

The U.S. government believes in autonomy of discourse as a fundamental principle of the population. However, in Snowden’s case, the fear of arrest and his choice of seeking sanctuary in Russia are a sign that the nation does not uphold the freedom of speech (Harmon, 1995). Snowden believes that a patriot is someone who works to endorse the fundamental principles of a nation; thus, U.S. should cease from oppression of individuals who safeguard the international privacy. The debate is also based on the utilitarian concept, where the actions bring contentment and happiness to the majority of people.

Bad Policies

Snowden fought the unjust policies and systems of government; he was a whistle blower of the mistakes committed by the government. The kind of reasoning displayed by Snowden is typical of civil libertarians and patriots who support the constitution and the rule of law. A patriot should use proper channels to display his disapproval of the system (Werhane, 1989). Snowden started with communicating to the inspector general in the NSA and thus used the correct channels for effective whistle blowing. The ethical theory is based on the principle of naturalism (Klein, 1988). In this ethical system, a naturalist believes that whatever laws and rules are present in a system, the citizens must obey the rules.

Deliberative Democracy

Democracy involves the control of affairs by the people in a society. Deliberated democracy is a form of democracy in which negotiation is a central component in policymaking (Velasquez, 1983). In a democratic country, there is an intrinsic parity between citizens. It demands for everyone to be treated equally and without any form of discernment. Wu, Ma, and Chan (2014) note that democracy also embodies the individual’s right to autonomy. Lastly, the concept encourages equal opportunities that ensure that all citizens are furnished with enough data and resources.

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Any democratic debate is required to be free of coercion and everyone should be offered an opportunity to criticize, make contributions, and suggest proposals on issues of public interest. In Snowden’s case, he was acting democratically by expressing his freedom of speech (Klein, 1988). Thus, Snowden is referred to as a patriot and a whistleblower. The doctrine of deliberative democracy falls under natural rights, which encourage one’s rights to life, property, and liberty.

Thief and Traitor

From a certain perspective, Snowden can be viewed as a traitor and a thief and he should be punished for betraying the nation. He claimed that he complained several times to the NSA leaders, but does not offer sufficient evidence for his effort (Velasquez, 1983). In addition, Snowden could have approached congressional libertarian such as Sen. Rand Paul. He should have approached the Senate Intelligence Committee and the issues should have been articulated well.

Oath of Office Betrayal

Snowden stole voluminous data that revealed NSA systems and competences, and handed them to the foreign media. Thus, he violated his secret agreements, as no single individual should have the option of placing his own conscience about what is right above what is lawful. The handing of documents to the Russian and Chinese press, who are American enemies, is an indication that he is a traitor and lacked integrity in performing his job (Ladd, 1984). Some of the data contained nothing related to the Fourth Amendment. By providing information to the adversaries, Snowden displayed that he did not care about the country as a whole. His acts showed that he was either immature or delusional, or he suffered from both (Werhane, 1989). In fact, he betrayed his oath of office by colluding with the enemies of the U.S. Deontology theory does not allow an officer to go against his duty, right actions and moral obligations. By betraying his oath of duty, Snowden is seen as contravening the deontological model.


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Snowden’s actions did not result in civil disobedience, as most of his supporters want to believe. Civil disobedience occurs when a person does what is right but not legal (Chadwick&Collister, 2014). A civil disobedience act entails doing what is morally right, regardless of the existing rules. However, there are reasons that conclude that Snowden’s actions constituted to treason. Snowden did not combat for liberty, but instead surrendered his life to the rivals. Further, he gave all the information he had stolen to the enemies of the U.S. A true patriot or whistle blower should trust in his cause enough to be willing to admit the punishment that may result from their disclosure. In this case, Russia showed gratitude to him by offering him a refuge so that he can escape punishment (Velasquez, 1983). Therefore, it can be stated that Snowden’s act was not genuine or caused by his decency: he collaborated with the enemy of U.S. to sabotage the security system of the nation.

Compromising the International Reputation of the U.S.

The leaked data from Snowden’s documents has been printed in a way that harms the U.S. in an international forum. Edward did not practice stewardship, as it is required for any state officer, and especially those working in sensitive dockets such as security and defense (Velasquez, 1983). He lacked wisdom in his disclosure, as it is clear that he had violated the interests of his country for his own ambitions and aspirations. Most of the information published was about the American government eavesdropping on other nations and not its domestic procedures. The right of the American people is not at risk when NSA taps the foreign leader’s calls; thus, the leakage of such data is an act of a traitor. Snowden has betrayed the situational philosophy by acting against the country. Indeed, he did not perform his actions on the basis of love for the American masses.

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Legitimacy of NSA Assemblage of Telephonic Metadata

The surveillance by NSA has assisted the stoppage of potential terrorist activities. An example of such terrorism acts was the case when men in San Diego sentenced for transferring money to an extremist assemblage in Somali. However, the government has been accused of gathering billions of phone calls. The displeasure and irritation about the illegal activities has taken the battle to the courts to challenge the third party doctrine. The court in 2013 ruled that the government could not depend on the contentious actions to block the challenge to the legality of the program. Therefore, the court found that the state did not infringe the Fourth Amendment rights.

The court ruled that the third-party doctrine was legal. The U.S. law holds that people who willingly and voluntarily offer data to third parties such as Internet service providers, banks, phone companies, and e-mail servers, have no judicious anticipation to privacy. As a result, the lack of protection of privacy allows the U.S. government to acquire information from the third parties without a legal permit (Velasquez, 1983). They also do not need to comply with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against seizure without the jurisdictive search warrant. Therefore, the American government did not violate any right.


The government should open the democratic space, so that the citizens could advocate for the enriched privacy and oversight of the NSA. The government should urgently implement the two-person rule to avoid forthcoming leaks. Moreover, there should be a way of obstructing people from taking information from the system. The two-person system will ensure that anyone downloading information or replication data from a protected network does so with a second person, who ensures that there is no collection of unlicensed data. There also should be a proper legislation that governs the privacy laws to avoid activities that attract public outrage. The citizens, in turn, need to be more diligent in protecting their democratic rights, but they should not forget that the surveillance is structured in a manner so as to secure the country. It can be disastrous when personal values collude with the values of the state, as in the case of Snowden. The country is exposed to insecurity issues, while Snowden’s individual freedom is curtailed as he runs to exile.

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The purpose of the paper was to examine if Edward Snowden is a whistle blower or a thief. The paper has argued for the both positions. The study finds Snowden as a patriot and a whistleblower, who was brave enough to disclose the uncouth actions of the government to the nation. However, the mistake he did was to expose the information to the enemies, such as Russia.

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