There has been this unending debate, are Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning traitors or Heroes? This certainly is not at all an easy question to answer.
At the outset, both of these two men leaked classified information to foreign entities which could potentially harm U.S. national security interest. Manning leaked classified information to the infamous “Wikileaks” while Snowden leaked classified information to the Guardian – a British newspaper.
Their respective actions did in fact breached the trust entrusted to them, for Manning was a member of the U.S. military and Snowden a U.S. federal contractor with Top Secret clearance. In the perspective of safeguarding national security, Manning and Snowden can be considered as traitors.
However, we must acknowledge that they both leaked classified information pertain to abuses by the U.S. government and the military. For those who support these two men, these supporters herald Manning and Snowden as heroes precisely because they exposed the government’s abuses of power. In fact, even the Libertarian U.S. senator Rand Paul heralded Snowden as a hero.
What exactly were their motives when they leaked these classified information? Manning does not consider himself a traitor, he calls himself a whistle blower. Snowden does not consider himself a traitor either. Whatever their true motives were, we as outsiders probably would never know for sure. But what if they in fact were doing something morally right even though it may have contradicted their legal and occupational duties and ethical standards? Are they heroes then?
In my humble opinion, you can be a whistle blower without the act of leaking information of national security importance to foreign entities. But this is what Snowden and Manning had done. Our government does need to be kept accountable, for any power too great without checks and balances corrupts. The Obama administration is no different. But if Manning and Snowden were “heroes” with the right motivations, they certainly could choose to leak these classified information to reputable national media outlets, instead of leaking them to foreign entities which could potentially harm the interests of the American people. Any reputable national media outlets could serve as effective whistle blowers. This was the case for the Nixon-era Watergate scandal, in which the Washington Post, New York Times and the Time magazine played a significant role. Are Manning and Snowden still Heroes then?
Heroes or traitors? What is your take?