Is Whistleblowing Always Wrong?


Most of us learned in elementary school that tattling is unacceptable. But then as we get older, we are confronted with exposing the grievous wrongs of others. Socially it is very uncomfortable and can be damaging to your reputation. However, the moral side taps you on your shoulder and says, “What are you going to do about THAT?”

NSA whistle blower Eric Snowden’s story has intrigued me since he splashed on the news. Why would a 29 year old systems analyst, living with his girlfriend in Hawaii while making over $120,000 a year, choose to discard his life by transporting over 200,000 classified government documents to Hong Kong resulting in a multi-national man hunt? What could motivate somebody to turn their life upside down permanently?

Eric says that his moral compass was so disturbed by the extent of government spying that the exposure to the public was worth the damage to his life. That is a martyr-like decision.

The documents have been screened by journalists and sparingly released to the public. The extent of the government overreach has included:

  • Exposure of James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, lying to Congress
  • The House has stopped bulk collection of all phone metadata.
  • A federal judge has said that the NSA phone surveillance program is unconstitutional
  • Tech Companies could lose billions due to privacy breaches (foreign businesses not trusting US cloud services)
  • Britain will have its FIRST-EVER open intelligence hearing.
  • Germany opened an investigation into the NSA’s tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone
  • Brazil chose to award a $4B jet contract to Saab instead of Boeing. The reason is unknown since contract decisions are private.
  • President Obama admits there would be no surveillance debate without Snowden leaks.
  • The Patriot Act, a law signed by President Bush in 2001, was not renewed in 2015

Our government is intended to have checks and balances to prevent any branch from overstepping their constitutional authority. Snowden revealed that in the name of terrorism the President, NSA, and FISA courts (3 judge courts instituted under Patriot Act to issue warrants without and record keeping or defense opportunity) were all given unrestrained LEGAL authority to violate our constitutional rights.

Could Snowden have accomplished his goal with fewer documents? I think part of his leverage is that he possesses damaging information that he does not want to release but will for self-preservation. I also don’t think that he had time to filter the docs for his desired info. His journey has been risky, dangerous, and highly complicated.

Will Snowden be remembered as a traitor or a freedom fighter? I think that his legacy will depend on if his documents are leaked to the wrong journalist or government. Unfortunately, sometimes whistleblowers are needed to provide the missing checks and balances due to immoral leaders in authority.


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