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Former CIA computer tech Edward Snowden was living a dream life — a $200,000 a year job, sharing a home in Hawaii with his girlfriend — until he decided to leak top secret documents to expose the National Security Agency's sweeping telephone and internet spying programs. Snowden says the NSA surveillance threatens "our freedom and way of life," so he felt it was his duty to sound the alarm. Now, he's holed up in Hong Kong, and never expects to return home a free man.
Social media lit up Monday with posts hailing Snowden as a hero for sacrificing his cushy life to expose the snooping. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, says Americans owe Snowden a debt of gratitude for putting the cause of privacy ahead of his own self-interest. The Guardian, a British newspaper to which Snowden leaked top secret documents, says he "will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers." But is Snowden really a hero?
For many commentators, there's no doubt that he is. Douglas Rushkoff notes at CNN that the easy thing for Snowden to do would have been acting like a robot and simply doing his job, and getting paid. But, Rushkoff says, Snowden chose to think about the implications of what he was doing — collecting data for a machine capable of gross violations of privacy — and "pressed pause" for the good of society.
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Praise for Snowden isn't exactly universal, though. Rick Moran at American Thinker, for example, suggests it is malarkey for Snowden to maintain that he did nothing wrong if he broke an oath of secrecy that he took willingly, and, in the process, broke the law by disclosing government secrets. Maybe Snowden was right to call attention to what the government was doing, Moran says, but it will be on his shoulders if the U.S. is hit with a terrorist attack that could have been thwarted.
The case seems to amount to a political Rorschach test, says Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly:
All that said, it might be a bit early to be condemning or beatifying Snowden. Michael Moynihan says at The Daily Beast that both sides — from "Julian Assange fans and Ron Paul devotees" engaging in hero worship to the defenders of the Obama and Bush administrations — would benefit from a few deep breaths and "a small dollop of skepticism":
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