As I See It by Mary Cantell: Patriot or Traitor?

Say what you will about Edward Snowden. Whether he’s your hero or just a rat, the former NSA contract employee is a prime product of the American educational system. Now a wanted man after revealing classified documents on the government’s spying surveillance secrets, Edward Snowden is also a study in contrasts.

With no formal education, he worked for the NSA while pulling down a nice six-figure salary that even college graduates may find elusive. Another interesting thing is that while globetrotting to Hong Kong and Moscow with rumors of Ecuador on the itinerary, he doesn’t wish to remain in the shadows and has agreed to publically voice his story through televised interviews. He technically sold out his country and now is being hunted down. Yet short of seeking foreign asylum, Snowden is without qualms and seemingly unafraid to conceal his efforts to expose the government’s wrong doing. But is he a traitor or a patriot for bringing the overreach of his government’s spying on its own citizens to light? Did he do harm to the government or to its citizens? In any event by the course of his actions, Snowden has done his homework, and the American educational system should applaud his efforts.

What are they teaching in school today? Even before the turn of the century, the culture of educating on the founding history of this country has been on the wane. The reverence for the country is gone. Kids are being taught that America is an evil place and founded on illegitimate ideas by racists. Our educators have done a good job in tainting America and its capitalistic ideals, and those in favor of today’s institutional curriculums should be very proud of themselves as Snowden is obviously taking what he’s learned to heart. He was taught that America is bad, and so took it upon himself to upset the evil empire.

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When he saw that the NSA was acting egregiously by spying on people’s personal information, he turned his back on the Obama administration and ratted them out. Their protocols in securing private information was more than questionable in light of the Constitution, and the original framers had our privacy secured by precluding the right to illegal searches and seizures and equally opposed the massive ability to gather personal data. (Now it’s up 1,000 percent in Obama’s administration.) But was this the m.o. of Snowden? Did it go that far?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that the information gathered by our government is legally mandated through court orders. But does the legality preclude its propriety? While Snowden’s actions are the biggest intelligence leak in US history and, according to Clapper, was a violation of a sacred trust of this country while incurring huge ramifications, he said the NSA is focused on getting intelligence wherever it can. He said its mass collection would serve the national interest and believes US citizens should trust the government. But is a broad sweep of our personal information a protective measure for the people or an irresponsible infringement? Is the government looking out for you…or just looking at you? Just what are they doing with all that data?

As far as Snowden is concerned, he may very well be a conservative who is sickened by the egregiousness of a powerful arm of the government. Or he could be a mere product of his educational upbringing that America is bad. Or oddly, another enigmatic contrast.

Mary Cantelllives in Plymouth Twp. in Montgomery County.