Snowden: Traitor or hero?

Ruth Haag
Aug 13, 2013


We are all exposed to unethical behavior all of the time. We constantly have to make decisions as to what we are going to do. Should we go along, refuse to take part, expose the behavior, or maybe sue someone? Edward Snowden decided that what he found as a contractor’s employee working for the National Security Agency was so bad that he felt he needed to leak it to the press and leave the country to avoid being arrested. This was a pretty big self-sacrifice.

First ethical dilemmas

Most of us face our first ethical challenge as children. Often it is a case such as the one I experienced: My mother offered me an out when she asked me who had drawn on the wall. I could admit that I did it, or I could blame the other being in the room. I chose to blame the other being. This solution didn’t work for me because the dog clearly could not draw! Hopefully, we learn from these decisions and mistakes, to tell the truth. Copying school work often provides the next ethical decision we have to make. Should we tell the teacher when we see someone copying?

Work-world dilemmas

In our 22 years as hazardous waste remediation contractors, my partner and I often had to make decisions between what our client wanted us to do and keeping on the ethical straight and narrow. We were asked to move lines on contaminated plume maps so that the plume would end where the property did. We had lawyers ask us to assert that their client was in compliance: “Can’t you say that at this one minute in time he was in compliance, write that in your report and not mention that at the next minute he was not in compliance?” We have been asked to destroy draft reports that reflected where clients had eliminated words, like “contamination,” “dangerous,” and “waste.” We have been asked to give the client’s representative expensive gifts.

Sometimes the request was more subtle, as when my husband, Bob, worked in the Office of Nuclear Waste Isolation and was instructed to answer all questions of a certain kind with a phrase like, “This is what the Department of Energy has decided to do.” This created more of an obfuscation than a lie, but it still rankled.

The solution

Since people behaving unethically is pretty much all-pervasive, the solution for work-world ethical dilemmas is determined by whether we want to keep our job or not. If you don’t mind losing your job, or your citizenship, you can simply and righteously tell everyone who will listen about the unethical behavior of your client or supervisor. I always feel that this approach makes a momentary effect, but as soon as you are gone, everyone forgets about you. Snowden is getting a bit more mileage out of this than is the norm.

Often, you can tell if an accusation is on the mark or not by the response. Pretty much if an entity or person is accurately accused, they respond with one of these phrases: “You are behaving unprofessionally,” “You are a traitor,” or “How could you hurt this organization like that?”

For those of us who want to keep our jobs, the solution is to politely guide the client to a proper resolution. In our business we have had to explain why we can’t change the scientific data, but propose how the client can deal with the outfall. We have agreed to purchase winter coats for a client, but we explained how the costs of the coat would show up in their detailed invoice. We decided to tell clients upfront in our initial contract negotiations that we would not destroy draft reports.

Did Edward Snowden make the right choice? Did he have any other options? Is he a traitor, or a hero?




Pres. Obama said that he wanted to have a debate about U.S. citizen surveillance.

Mr. Snowden pushed up the timetable on this so-called debate.

How can Mr. Snowden be a traitor, when he merely did what Mr. Obama had said that he wanted?

"If Obama wanted an 'open debate' on NSA spying, why thwart one for so long?":


The answer should be obvious. You do not give out classified information concerning your country. He hacked into computers and downloaded information he was not supposed to have, then made it public. He is a very unethical person. I would like to see him prosecuted. Otherwise, Russia is welcome to him.

The Big Dog's back

Ohhhh pooh, still supporting a traitor.

Mr. D

No, he is not a traitor. A whistleblower who exposed wrong doings and abuse of power by government agencies.

The Big Dog's back

It was within the law, so therefore he is not a whistle blower.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

To pose a counterpoint: abolitionists were illegal human traffickers then.

Carlos Danger

Let's see, the guy betrayed the country that entrusted him with classified information because he believed the government was abusing its power by infringing on the privacy and other basic rights of its citizens. Then he seeks and obtains asylum from Russia, which we all know is model country when it comes to never abusing its powers and protecting privacy and human rights (sarcasm for those that don't get it). Call him what you want, but an Einstein he's not.


Re: "he believed the government was abusing its power by infringing on the privacy and other basic rights of its citizens."

Did you watch Pres. Obama's Aug. 9th press conference and hear what he proposed?


The FACT that Pres. Obama is willing to make changes to citizen surveillance, VALIDATES Mr. Snowden's concerns.

Peninsula Pundit

Contango is right on the money here.
It's strange that if you work for a company and rat it out to the govt, you're a whistleblower.
But rat the Government out to the American People, like Snowden did, and all of a sudden, you're a traitor.
To whom?
Not to the American People.
Those who insist otherwise is a poor citizen.
They back a government they readily admit they don't trust and condemn a man who showed us just how bad it is.
They condone government secrecy instead of the people's right to know.
If you cannot comprehend the difference, I have to ask just what you think being a good American is?


A "good American" is not one who gives classified information to our enemies. And since you don't know me you have no idea what kind of citizen I am.


Re: "classified information"

Who are our "enemies"? Can't tell you, it's a govt. secret.

Who are the members of the FISA Court? Can't tell you, it's a secret.

What's the annual budget of the CIA? Can't tell you, it's a secret.

The "classified info" list goes on and on.

When did the concept of a govt. of, by and for the people get lost?

"Our government's secret war, secret Senate vote, etc.":

The Big Dog's back

You're just mad because you aren't in the loop.

Carlos Danger

Here's the biggest government secret: Soilent Green . . . IS PEOPLE!!!


"The answer should be obvious. You do not give out classified information concerning your country."

And who decides what is classified? Oh yeah, the mandarins. What's the criteria? Sorry, that's classified.

Because OMG TERRORISM!!!!!
"And since you don't know me you have no idea what kind of citizen I am."

We know EXACTLY what kind of citizen you are from your words here. You're not really a citizen, you're an imperial subject who uncritically toadies up for whatever the dear leaders say. You love Big Brother.

Carlos Danger

I didn't realize that Mr. Assange was a reader of the Register's website


or..."not all commissioners need to know"
or..."just bill us $9,900.00"
or..."we drilled enough holes"
or..."your gonna bankrupt the city"
or..."your not professional"
or..."yes, the housing work was inspected"




Correction: A thought criminal.

Remember Sister: "Ignorance is strength."


I think that Mr. Snowden is a whistleblower in intent, but a traitor in reality. Here's the reason: Whistleblowers report wrongdoing, and there's definitely some of that here! The release of classified information is, however, treason, and there's some of that here, too.

It seems to me that Snowden was right, but that he went about it the wrong way. He could have found himself a Senator (or other high-ranking pol) with security clearance, and reported it to him/her. We all know there are plenty of them in Washington who AREN'T in Obama's pocket and so would have listened with a sympathetic ear!

Do I agree that the information Snowden released SHOULD have been classified? So far, I haven't really heard anything that makes me think so. But that's immaterial to the fact that it WAS classified and that it was also broadly disseminated!


Re: "He could have found himself a Senator,"

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

- Sen. Barry Goldwater

"Truth is treason in an empire of lies" - Ron Paul


I didn't say Snowden was WRONG. I said that, at least by strict definition, what he did IS considered treason.

As someone suggested, the accusation of treason is an excuse for government to go after him, and that's true whether he was right or wrong (in my opinion, he was right), and whether the government itself was actively engaged in wrongdoing or not (it clearly was).

It's unfortunate that the government's definition of treason aren't helping the authorities to go after those whose crimes are, in my opinion, far more dangerous to freedom. Eric Holder is, however, disinclined to hold himself accountable for much. Barack Obama is so busy telling us all how he's the smartest man in the room that I suspect he's never even CONSIDERED he's been wrong (sometimes egregiously, and dare I say criminally, so).

Yes, as currently defined, Snowden is a traitor. I'm frankly also inclined to call him brave (very much so, considering the tack he DID take) and one of the few patriots alive today.


Winston Smith was a traitor, too, I guess.
Once again, Sam, your emotions make you turn statist. The ENTIRE SENATE now knows what Snowden discovered - WHAT HAVE THEY DONE ABOUT IT? Clearly, they cannot be trusted to do anything - so Snowden went over their heads, to their rightful superiors - THE PEOPLE (does the phrase "consent of the governed" ring a bell?) The Constitution doesn't begin with "We the Senators." Recent additional releases from Snowden in conjunction with interviews with former NSA personnel indicate that the president, cabinet, and members of both legislative houses are STILL lying to us about the extent of the surveillance.


Its a game of semantics.... he is a whistle blower, and in this country there are laws to protect that... this whole "traitor" talk is just a way to get him for treason when really the only way to let the american people know that their rights were being trampled was to commit an act of treason...

Don't you all find it strange that when anyone tells the secrets of the government, no matter how mundane, its considered treason? The government is like a giant company and should be held accountable as such. If they are doing something wrong, notifying the people that are governed by the laws of the government shouldn't be punishable by death... that would be like getting a life sentence for ratting out your boss for embezzlement...

The government created this circular treason laws to protect itself in the event it was misbehaving... that way, to prevent being caught or exposed, they could wave the death penalty on your face... so why is the government exempt from having to follow its own rules? The answer is in the word play... it was a government secret that they were spying on citizens, which would make it an act of treason by definition to bust them out on it... its not like the dude was selling nuke launch codes... he nilotified the american people of an infringement of their rights...

So for all of you saying he gave secrets to the "enemy" youre morons... he gave secrets to the public... so if you consider the general public an enemy shut your doors and lock your windows because you're about to ha e a bad time...

The Big Dog's back

Maybe you're the one who should shut their doors and lock your windows.


Re: "Maybe you're the one who should shut their doors and lock your windows."

Why, do you leave your windows and doors wide open putz?

Stop It

Well stated, vicariouslyAlive.


Outstanding comment!!! Standing Applause!!

"The federal trial of journalist-turned-hacktivist Barrett Brown is currently scheduled to begin in a downtown Dallas courtroom next month — a year after he was arrested in his Dallas apartment while in the midst of an online chat."

"Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has approved tens of millions of dollars to pay the salaries of police officers who joined the rebels. They said the officers were working to maintain order in rebel-controlled territory, mostly in northern Syria."
"The Government Wants the Media to Stop Covering Barrett Brown"

The Big Dog's back

People should be concerned with Mormans and their PAF (Personal Ancestry File). You'd be surprised at the info they have on you and your family. And how did they get it?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

The same legal channels the Church of Scientology gets the records of you and your family to use in threatening ways if you ever decide to leave them. I'm no private detective by trade but with the existence of even that profession it is clear there is A LOT on each of us that is "technically" public.


The information Scientology uses against those who leave is freely given by the subjects in their "auditing sessions" which are a weird cross between psychotherapy and a polygraph test.


Typical doggie ignorant paranoia

The LDS has NOTHING on you and your family. All they have is the world's largest geneological library, which is nothing but an assembled compilation of PUBLIC records of births, deaths, marriages and publicly available census records. It is a tool for individual members of their church to assemble their OWN family tree, because they believe they must "bless" (think of it as a baptism by proxy) their OWN ancestors.


Re: "People should be concerned with Mormans"

It's "Mormons" you putz. :)

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I thought that there was a law where a government employee was waived from legal action if they reported abuse, etc. in their workplace. I suppose it would be a battle of words and what the definition of "sex" is, to use one example. The intention of that was to actually encourage this kind of behavior so that there was more responsibility on the government's behalf.

Whether it was actually, technically, or quasi legal to do, I presume he has the moral support of a majority of citizens making him a figure that would be very unpopular to prosecute. I certainly don't think him to be a traitor, but I can't say at this time I call him a hero.


Its funny that a nation derived from treason would have the audacity to do anything to cause justifiable treason... because that's all this is... is it treason by definition? Yes. Is it justifiable... absolutely. What he did then is no more an act of treason as it is an act of civil disobedience... he broke the law to uphold a higher moral standard. End of story.

The Big Dog's back

End of story? Hardly.

Stop It

Well, I guess walkin' that Big Dog's six has gotten you rather tired of smellin' crap?


The ethics is right on. Tell a lie now or fudge on the ethics and sooner or later it catches up with you in the way of truth. The truth does eventually come out. Bottom line is that you have to live with yourself. With holding ethics damages the reputation.


The ethics is right on. Tell a lie now or fudge on the ethics and sooner or later it catches up with you in the way of truth. The truth does eventually come out. Bottom line is that you have to live with yourself. With holding ethics damages the reputation.