Three years after his rev­e­la­tions, Snow­den in spot­light again

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chen Wei­hua Con­tact the writer at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

When Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama were about to meet in the Cal­i­for­nia desert re­sort of Sun­ny­lands in June 2013, the US govern­ment had worked hard to paint China as a vil­lain in cy­berspace.

The rev­e­la­tion made by former Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor Ed­ward Snow­den just days be­fore the shirt­sleeves meet­ing, how­ever, shocked the world. It showed that what­ever other coun­tries had done in cy­ber-sur­veil­lance and spy­ing was re­ally noth­ing com­pared to the mas­sive scale of op­er­a­tions by the NSA, of­ten la­beled as No Such Agency.

To the rest of the world, Snow­den is un­doubt­edly a whistle­blower and a great hero be­cause he re­vealed the US govern­ment se­cret scheme to spy on peo­ple all over the world, in­clud­ing for­eign lead­ers who are US al­lies.

Such spy­ing, which vi­o­lates peo­ple’s pri­vacy and civil rights, of­ten in­volves will­ing and un­will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with sev­eral ma­jor US tech com­pa­nies.

In the US, de­bate about whether Snow­den is a hero, pa­triot or traitor is still a di­vi­sive is­sue, de­spite that his rev­e­la­tion has re­sulted in the US govern­ment and Congress cor­rect­ing many mis­takes.

For ex­am­ple, the panel ap­pointed by Obama to re­view NSA sur­veil­lance pro­grams made dozens of re­form rec­om­men­da­tions. A fed­eral ap­peals court has found NSA’s call-track­ing pro­gram re­vealed by Snow­den il­le­gal. The USA Free­dom Act passed by the US Congress ended the bulk col­lec­tion of phone data by the govern­ment.

In the past week, Snow­den has again been in the spot­light. The German-Amer­i­can movie, Snow­den, di­rected and writ­ten by Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzger­ald, hit US the­aters on Sept 16.

Mean­while, Snow­den has pleaded for a par­don from Obama, ar­gu­ing that his mas­sive leak of NSA sur­veil­lance pro­grams was “not only morally right” but also “left ci­ti­zens bet­ter off ”.

On Sept 14, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU) Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor An­thony Romero called Obama to par­don Snow­den by launch­ing the Par­don Snow­den cam­paign that will last untll the end of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Thanks to Ed­ward Snow den’ s act of con­science, we’ve made his­toric strides in our fight for sur­veil­lance re­form and im­proved cy­ber­se­cu­rity,” he said.

The ACLU cam­paign was joined by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, Hu­man Rights Watch and a list of more than 100 le­gal schol­ars, former na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers, hu­man rights ac­tivists and artists.

Romero be­lieves the Es­pi­onage Act, which the US govern­ment used to charge Snow­den, is a World War I era law that doesn’t dis­tin­guish be­tween sell­ing secrets to for­eign govern­ments and giv­ing them to jour­nal­ists in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

Most of the peo­ple who be­lieve that Snow­den is a traitor and should spend the rest of his life in prison ar­gue, as I heard in the lat­est C-SPAN Jour­nal on Sept 16, that he broke an oath and put the US na­tional se­cu­rity in dan­ger.

It is true that Snow­den broke trust, but it oc­curred in a sit­u­a­tion where he found se­ri­ous wrong­do­ing by the US govern­ment, which is a much more se­ri­ous crime that peo­ple should care about.

Even former US at­tor­ney gen­eral Eric Holder said that “we can cer­tainly ar­gue about the way in which Snow­den did what he did, but I think that he ac­tu­ally per­formed a pub­lic ser­vice by rais­ing the de­bate that we en­gaged in and by the changes that we made”.

How­ever, the US House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously signed a let­ter to Obama on Sept 15 not to par­don Snow­den, de­scrib­ing his ac­tion as caus­ing huge dam­age to the US in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

While Obama has com­mented that the de­bate trig­gered by Snow­den “will make us stronger”, it does not look likely that he will have the guts to par­don Snow­den.

Both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton are clearly against a par­don. Trump has re­peat­edly called for ex­e­cu­tion of Snow­den although he said back in 2013 that he might be­come a ma­jor fan if he could re­veal Obama’s records.

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