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Kadner: A choice of security or freedom

Updated: July 4, 2014 6:13AM

Edward Snowden: Patriot or Traitor? Text us your answer.

NBC, which obtained an exclusive interview with Snowden, the fugitive leaker of government secrets, apparently decided to mitigate negative fallout by letting the public express its opinion as if it were voting on Kim Kardashian’s wedding dress.

On a Sunday morning TV news show, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich made his position clear.

Snowden, who is now living in Russia, is guilty of treason, Gingrich said. Who is he to reveal information that the president and intelligence agencies have deemed secret?

How dare any American put himself above the government?

Ben Franklin, accused of treason in his day, once wrote: “They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

He obviously lacked a crystal ball to see the future, when the country he founded would deem it essential to spy on millions of its citizens for their own security.

Snowden’s claim is that he is a patriot.

The U.S. government was spying on Americans without their knowledge or legal authority to do so, he said. It put in place programs to eavesdrop on their cellphone calls, monitor their emails and text messages all in the name of preventing another terrorist attack.

Intelligence agencies in Russia, China and the U.S. all do this sort of thing, said Snowden, who worked for a private contractor employed by the NSA.

The difference is that the United States is a democracy and in this country individual liberty is protected by the Constitution.

But much of that changed after 9/11, Snowden said, and as a “patriot” he felt compelled to sound the alarm.

Since Snowden’s release of government documents, some of those NSA programs have been condemned as excessive by a U.S. federal court judge, Congress and the president himself.

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty,” wrote John Adams, another former leader of the Revolution.

If during an opening sequence of a movie you were to see a young man discovering that his government was randomly eavesdropping on the electronic communications of its citizens and monitoring their phone calls, you would likely initially sympathize with his decision to reveal that information publicly at great personal cost.

His attempts to flee the country and elude capture by the CIA would be exciting stuff, even if he ended up in Russia.

But in reality, we don’t know enough about this character Snowden to decide if he’s a hero or a villain, a patriot or a traitor.

What we do know is that he lifted a veil on a secret government intelligence program that violates the very principles on which this nation was founded.

It is essential that this be done for our own protection, our leaders say.

Freedom or security? Text your answer. But remember, the government may be watching.


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