Snowden: Hero or Criminal?

Edward Snowden had been working for the government, both NSA (National Security Agency) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), for just a short amount of time before he decided to make a decision that would change his life forever. Starting off as a security guard at the NSA, he somehow graduated to working an information-technology job at the CIA. While working at an NSA office in Oahu, Snowden then began to notice programs within the government that involved spying on citizens’ phone calls and emails. This seemed to have rubbed him the wrong way.

It wasn’t long after that that he began copying and storing confidential government documents to gather the data for the case he was building. He was preparing to reveal all the secrets of the government that took him in and offered him a way to support himself. It wasn’t until a month later, after he had collected as many confidential files as possible, that Snowden had begun leaking that information to the many reporters surrounding the NSA. He began to discuss his opinions publicly with these same reporters and this is what may have lead to his asylum in Russia. “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”. While Snowden shares his reasoning openly, stating that he did it for the sake of the American citizens, it is hard to tell just how heroic his actions really were. While some will say that Snowden was a hero that informed American citizens that the government had been spying on them, personally, some would have to argue that because of the way he had informed citizens and the harsh outcomes that have happened before can categorize him as a criminal.


Even though he believed that was he was doing was for the well being of the people of America, he caused more damage than he could have imagined. By revealing the fact that the NSA was invading the privacy of the citizens, he ended up ruining most of the security that was already in place. “First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the ‘”what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the ‘”how” of American collection.” By bringing this heightened awareness to the situation at hand, Snowden made it easier for the real criminals out there to commit their crimes of choice. He ultimately presented them with a warning, as well as the exact way they are being watched. This gave the real terrorists a way around the NSA so they could easily adapt and find new ways to hack into our governments system. In doing this, Snowden announced to other countries how  the security systems in the United States are running, which put us at a disadvantage. In the same way the criminals were made aware of how we are securing our citizens privacy, these other countries could find a way to evade the tactics we were practicing and find another way to invade our government.


Snowden was affected in a way most other NSA employees were not. Due to his own personal morals, he believed that he was righting a wrong in our government and security system. Although a lot of the citizens benefited from this announcement, Snowden was aiming to please himself and satisfy his own moral code. By saying this, it is not stating that what he did was not moral, but that Snowden could have thought of ways to get this information out and handling this information besides the way he had. Some could say that Snowden releasing this information benefitted them greatly to be more aware with what our government is doing involving us personally, but it was immoral in the fact that perhaps the nation did not need to know every detail of this situation. Snowden could have found a way to share this information without making it so public as to be also sharing this information with outsiders to our country. While it seems as though it is for the better good of the nation, it did more harm than good.

“The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it.”

Edward Snowden made what appeared to be an easy solution to a very complicated problem. By deciding to break the law and out the government, he made a rash decision. There were other ways he could have gone about this as mentioned in the quote earlier. He signed a contract with the NSA, stating that he would not share what he saw or did to the public, and he broke that contract. Snowden knew what he was signing up for. He knew what the NSA did and the fact that the first thing that bothered him, he decided to breach his contract and break the law, sharing the information he gathered with the first people to give him a chance.

“We’re not prepared to endorse that campaign, and we’re not even sure that Snowden qualifies as a whistle-blower in the strict sense of someone who discloses government information in order to expose illegal activity. The two surveillance programs he was apparently responsible for revealing — an electronic dragnet of Americans’ phone records and the monitoring of the contents of foreigners’ electronic communications — are legal, authorized by Congress and overseen (however indulgently) by federal judges.”

By releasing all of the information he had obtained to do what he thought of as the right thing to do, Snowden ended up causing more harm than he may have intended. Even though he came off as having the right intentions, he isn’t the hero he is made out to be. In the end he broke the law and caused the nation trouble, even if the citizens don’t realize it. There’s a fine line between security and spying. Our government is here to keep us safe and although it might have seemed like the right thing for Snowden to do, there is much more to it than invading the privacy of the citizens of the United States.

16 thoughts on “Snowden: Hero or Criminal?

  1. This was a really interesting blog post! I agree that he did more harm than he intended too and that he didn’t end up as the hero that he thought that he would have.

  2. I think you have some very good points as to why what Snowden did was wrong. I personally think he was both a hero AND a criminal. He was a criminal in the sense that he broke that contract he had with the NSA, but I believe what he did to reveal those secrets was somewhat heroic. He knew what would happen if he revealed that information and he risked all of that for us to know what was going on. If he didn’t stand up for our privacy rights like he did, we may have not found out that the government was invading our privacy in those ways. Very interesting article, good job!

  3. I really agree that Snowden should have expected to be seeing that kind of stuff in his company. He did, after all, have to sign a contract. But what surprises me a little bit is how much information he was able to give out. Maybe our government should be a little more careful, either in the people they hire or their means of keeping their secrets secrets.

  4. I think that Snowden definitely had good intentions in the beginning. He did not, however, expect the result from his actions. I think that Snowden can be compared, in many ways, to Christopher Columbus. They both had positive intentions that would have been beneficial to society and their outcomes did benefit society. But with Columbus he unintentionally killed thousands of Native Americans, and Snowden is viewed as a criminal because he exposed some government documents.

  5. Super Secret Spy Guy

    I think that his belief that nations that do things of this nature should be revealed is a little hypocritical. His choice to seek asylum in Russia, RUSSIA, where the SORM project is every bit as invasive as anything we have here, does sort of show how much of a corner we worked himself into. He left the U.S. because of what our government did, and went a country with programs and systems in place that would have made the old school KGB jealous. I do, however, think that what Edward Snowden did was necessary. That being said the way in which he did it is far less desirable. Very interesting post!

  6. I agree that Snowden probably had good intentions at the beginning, and really didn’t know, or maybe realize, the consequences of the actions he took. I also think Snowden was both a hero and a criminal in different ways, but definitely shouldn’t be known as a “hero” for the trouble he caused. And it is very surprising how much information he was actually able to release. Super interesting article, great job!

  7. If Edward Snowden had legal alternatives to protest the surveillance programs managed by the NSA, why did he not utilize them? Although there may be federal employee whistle-blower programs in place, are we to expect that Snowden was the first federal employee or contractor to have a conscience about what he saw at the NSA?

    Prior accounts of NSA abuse show a very light punishment for violating internal policies ( Are we to believe that this NSA would make major changes to their program based on the voice of one employee? It seems that the NSA is quick to forgive and forget, keeping employees staffed who have violated the privacy and rights of U.S. citizens. They “protect their own”, so to speak.

    Edward Snowden very well may have put American lives and security at risk by exposing the NSA’s surveillance program. However, he may have prevented an expansion of government overreach into the private lives of Americans. If we must sacrifice privacy to maintain a sense of security, is there any freedom left to protect?

  8. Snowden may have had good intentions by releasing this information but he should have anticipated the consequences that came from his decision. Although, he signed a contract and he decided to break that instead of handling his disagreements in an alternative way. I also agree that it is kind of scary that he was able to release so much information, the government may need to reconsider who they employ. Snowden may be hero to some, but in my opinion he is more of a criminal because of the negative affects of his decision.

  9. I agree that he had good intentions in the beginning and wanted the people to know what was going on. In the process I think he just got too much into the whole heroism thing and it certainly got to his head. How much he knew and shared was unnecessary and brings an uneasiness to the overload of information that this man held. In this process of trying to be a hero it brought more negative affects than positive. Also good job!!

  10. I think he had the right idea when he first started and tell the people the government was spying on them. What I thought he did wrong was that he told other countries of was to get around our security. That basically means that he gave hackers a way around our security so they can take are personal information. I don’t think I would call him a hero from the negative affects that came with it.

  11. I believe Snowden was doing a good thing by exposing the NSA and how they were spying on citizens. It’s unfortunate that he broke the law by doing this but it was illegal and he needed to face the consequences. The information he received was classified and he had not authorization to be able to share it with anybody. This is a form a theft, because he didn’t own this information that he discovered.

  12. This article was interesting, the topic of Snowden himself is intriguing, I mean after all they made a movie about him and of this “crime” he committed “The Fifth Estate.” You made some very valid points, but I would have to agree with Alexis, except however I would not call Snowden a hero…just that his actions in letting the people of the nation know they were being watched, that the people we trusted to protect us, just didn’t seem to trust us was brave of him. I understand that the government is finding a way to track down criminals, terrorists, etc but invade teenagers who are texting the girlfriends/boyfriends doesn’t sound like a crime to me. A mother calling her daughter to see if she got home okay is probably not a terrorist attack phone call. I wouldn’t call Snowden a criminal, but i wouldn’t call him a hero either, just a blunt person who “tells it like it is.”

  13. Look up the Collateral Murder video. Wikileaks is still suffering from the fallout the US government is trying to impose on that. If we didn’t have people like Snowden or Wikileaks, there wouldn’t be anybody out there to show hard evidence that governments aren’t the protectors we think they are. Governments are faceless entities that have thousands of people working for them. And sometimes those people do nasty things. Why should we pardon some individuals because they’re protected by government secrecy? How can we send these people on trial if we keep convicting people of conspiracy? Sad fact is that there’s probably hundreds of other Collateral Murders out there, and we know nothing of them because the US labels leaks of them as conspiracies and traitorous acts!.

  14. What Snowden did was very controversial. It all goes back to what we as individuals and as a country decide on what surveillance is and how much of it we are okay with. I personally think that what Snowden did was foolish and rash. He may have been trying to show how the government was powerful and how deeply they were surveilling us. However, I have to agree with what you said, that there is a “fine line between security and spying.” I believe that our government is using the information that it collects for our benefit.

  15. I agree in full with Jordan that The United States federal government is working for the security of the people. Threatening a nations security by releasing classified documents is amoral as well as against the law. Wikileaks isn’t confined to the United States, it is a webpage with mirrors that is accessible via the world wide web. Edward Snowden fled to Russia seeking asylum; in a country that hasn’t had the best relations over the years with the United States.

  16. I think that Edward Snowden is a strange person. I think that he was a criminal, not a hero, though. I think that what he did let everyone know what the NSA was doing, but it didn’t do a lot of good. It just let everyone else around the world know our security system and left us at a disadvantage. He threatened our security and left us vulnerable. I think that what he thought he was doing was right, but it ended up hurting a lot more than it helped.

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