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The NSA Scandal: About Liberty Versus Safety or Edward Snowden?

The NSA scandal and Edward Snowden’s role in it have faded away almost entirely in the nearly seven months since his interview with Brian Williams of NBC.

One of the main things this writer noticed about the scandal was that there seemed to be two different arguments going on:

liberty versus safety and whether Snowden was a hero or a traitor for doing what he did.

So let’s examine both.

This writer has always prided himself on attempting to see both sides of an issue or argument, and with the traitor versus hero argument involving Snowden, this writer can see both sides.

There’s an old quote that could provide the answer to this specific argument: “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

Calling Snowden a traitor might be going a bit far, but it is a reasonable opinion to have.

Calling him a hero also could be going a bit far considering what he did was illegal and that he has not answered for what he did in an American courtroom.

Nothing about what Snowden did is black and white. Not much of anything involving government is black and white, it is almost always gray.

But it is easy for people on both sides of the argument to see things in black and white because it makes it easier to rationalize something and form an opinion on it if you are looking at it as if it were black and white.

For this writer, it wasn’t hard to see both sides of the argument regarding what Snowden did:

if Snowden hadn’t done what he did, the American public very likely wouldn’t have ever known the full extent of the NSA’s data collection, but what he did also could entice or influence someone who may not be as nice about how he or she unloads stolen classified government documents.

What Snowden did was wrong legally and in a way, morally.

However, what he did was also morally heroic because what he was exposing was a great wrong being perpetrated by a government agency on American citizens.

In the end, Snowden doesn’t appear to be a hero or a traitor to this writer, what he is lies somewhere in between.

When it comes to the liberty versus safety argument, one quote from Snowden during his interview with Brian Williams stands out:

“The definition of a security state, is any nation that prioritizes security over all other considerations. I don’t believe the United States is, or ever should be, a security state. If we want to be free we can’t become subject to surveillance, we can’t give away our privacy, we can’t give away our rights. We have to be an active party, we have to be an active part of our government. And we have to say there are some things worth dying for, and I think the country is one of them.”

The liberty side of this argument could almost be entirely summed up by this quote.

This writer believes that liberty is essential, safety is necessary, and that there is also a delicate balance between the two. This means that one decreases when the other increases, so watchful eyes are needed to keep the balance from becoming too one-sided.

However, the overall ratio does seem to favor safety in the decades since the end of World War II.

This is due to the massive increase in available information, technological advances involving electronics, and the ease that people can create weapons of destruction like bombs.

In today’s world, the enemy comes in more forms than at any other point in American history.

The Internet in particular has helped to create a paranoid need for safety against “them” because of how easy it has become for people find and release classified documents, hack into the computers of celebrities, politicians, government officials, etc. as well as the ease for people to get information on making explosive devices.

In short, the Internet has become the new Wild West and a lot of recent stories and incidents have shown that America’s government is falling behind in containing the madness in cyberspace.

There is a great need to preserve safety, but there should be limits on what procedures are acceptable to preserve the safety of all Americans.

Is a government collecting sensitive information on its citizens right, no matter where it occurs? Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, if there’s one thing that the American people have learned the hard way throughout the history of their country, it’s that right usually has nothing to do with most situations in life.

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