A few days after the Edward Snowden files were released, I got a call from my friend who works with the military. He told me, “As much as I love you and my family, if I were him, I’d do it too. I’d have to do it, for the good of this country, our people, and our freedom.”
It may sound unpatriotic, even blasphemous.
Imagine you were Edward Snowden. Imagine you had discovered that the government was collecting data from its citizens without their knowledge. And then imagine you had a family. What would you do, if you were Edward Snowden?
Many people believe that they’d be willing to sacrifice their life as it is for the good of the public, but most people also underestimate how much they would do for their family. I’m the type of person that will choose my loved ones over almost everything else. Yet, if I were Edward Snowden, I would have felt a duty to leak those files. This was just too big. And I agree with my friend: it was for the public good and liberties of Americans. Why is that?
One of the unseen bedrocks of Americans’ freedom is precisely that we are raised in a culture where the right to liberty is inculcated in us from birth.
Which means that, in large part, our freedom is protected by people such as whistleblowers. We have people like Edward Snowden, and we have people like the journalists who feel the need to expose scandals, despite the risks. One of the greatest insurances to our liberty is that we will always have political martyrs.
Our government focuses on protecting the citizenry from what they perceive to be threats to national security. Someone needs to protect the citizenry from threats to its freedom from government intervention.
Transparency is one effective way to assure that that happens, and where there is no inherent transparency, whistleblowers can create transparency. The harm in actions like this comes, of course, when leaks compromise the safety of the American public and defense forces. Yet, despite the government’s claims that the impact was “grave”, there is no evidence of actual harm to American citizens.