Snowden and the Unmasking of the American Government

“I’d rather a world with Edward Snowden than one without.”

            -Brian Dunphy

            Edward Snowden; that name will be forever engraved in American history. Snowden in the year of 2013, released classified documents from the NSA (National Security Agency). These documents forever changed America and how the American people view their government. They caused debates and controversy over the ideas of the right to privacy, government security and surveillance.

            In the video Ted Talks with Edward Snowden, Snowden explains the documents that he has released, his motivations for leaking those documents and what he believes should be the next course of action to take. If I am to be one-hundred percent honest, I am not sure what to think of Snowden. In the video, the audience is asked whether or not they consider Snowden to be a traitor or a hero. If I had to choose one or the other, I would say that Snowden is a hero. If I have anything to say about him, it is that I have to admire and respect him for his bravery. He challenged not only the American government, but the American public himself. He chose to take on threats by the government, criticisms of the American people, and risks to his own safety to defend the right to privacy. If there’s one thing everyone has to agree on, its that this man is courageous.

            During his interview with Chris Anderson, Snowden brought up a very interesting point during his discussion on Ted Talks. When asked, “What words would you describe yourself with?” he stated that in the end, it doesn’t matter what kind of person he is. Snowden explains that it doesn’t matter whether people love him or hate him, in the end what matters are the issues that he has brought out into the spotlight. To a certain extent, I agree with Snowden. Although it is important to determine who and where you are getting your information from, sometimes people focus too much on the messenger on not on the message. Regardless of who Snowden is, the information has been leaked and the public has been made aware of the NSA’s secret programs and surveillance over the American people. The real question now is, what do we do with this information?

            Later on towards the end of the episode, the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, came on stage and Snowden was asked whether he believed in a “Magna Carta” for the internet. Snowden stated that he agreed very much with this concept in order to maintain a free and secure internet. In a way I do agree with this idea. We need to set rules for the internet so that people are protected and ensured that their rights are not being violated. However, setting rules for the internet will take time. What rules should be set? To what extent do we balance national security and right to privacy? Who will determine these rules in the end? We can lay down a set of principles for the internet, but if they are flawed, they have the potential to backfire. 

            Watching this video made me realize just how powerful the internet is and how much its changed society. It is a known fact that the internet has changed many things. This is more than evident in Chapter 10 of George Rodman’s, Mass Media in a Changing World. Seeing Snowden talk about how the government abused this form of mass media, however, puts its power on a whole new level. The internet is so powerful, so vast that the government was actually able to use it to collect countless data on individuals not only in America but worldwide. Perhaps this is more shocking to me because I grew up on an almost internet-dependent society. I don’t remember a time before a computer or before the internet. I remember being in elementary school and using websites to look up information for my projects. The internet seemed to always be there. So to see it being manipulated like this, to know that my internet searches can essentially be monitored by the government without anyone, not even Congress knowing, actually gives me a little dose of shock.

            In the end I agree that, “I’d rather a world with Edward Snowden than one without”. He opened our eyes to what our government was doing and how they were violating our rights without us even knowing. Part of me can’t help, but wonder why this man would risk so much to release this information. I can only hope that he really cares for the general public and protecting the rights of citizens. Although I am kind of suspicious for his reason why, I cannot deny the evidence he has brought to the spotlight and the effects that it will have on the public. The only questions I have now are, what other documents does Snowden have in his possession and why is he waiting to release them? When will he reveal this information? What more has the government done that we have yet to learn about? I only hope we will have the opportunity to one day find out.

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