It has been nearly four years since Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents that detailed just how extensively we were monitored by the U.S. government.
Since then, a question has been burning in my mind: “Does this make him America’s greatest patriot or traitor?”
He was, to my surprise, not championed by either major political party.
I assumed that the Republicans, being champions of small government, would have a parade in his honor because he revealed how under a Democratic administration the government was so massive it was even violating our Fourth Amendment right to privacy, even though the USA PATRIOT Act was enacted by the Bush administration.
I was equally amazed that the Democratic Party, the party of social progress, did not praise him for revealing a severe overreach of a warmongering government.
Regardless, Snowden was equally persecuted from both sides of the aisle, to the point where he was granted political asylum in Russia.
The question remains: Was what he did right?
An argument I hear all the time when government surveillance is brought into a discussion is “I don’t care; I don’t have anything to hide.”
But the argument was never do you or do you not have something to hide. The argument is about why you should not have to say that in the first place.
We as the American public have a certain expectation of rights. So much so that we have the Bill of Rights that clearly states our rights, one of which is our Fourth Amendment right to unwarranted search or seizure.
Yet in the documents that Snowden leaked, we see that the USA PATRIOT Act broadens the cases that give the government the right to have access to your private life.
If you send an email or text, before it can get to its location, the message must be cached on a server. Tech companies such as Apple and Google rent these servers, and they often rent them in other countries just because of all the server space they need.
As soon as your text or email crosses the border of the U.S., the National Security Agency now has warranted access to it.
Snowden, in revealing these truths, challenged our idea of governmental transparency. The idea that the government had such access to every single aspect of our lives unnerved him.
This had to be made known to the American people; we deserved to know this.
Admittedly, the way Snowden released this information was not well-thought-out. Covert operations and secrets that were unnecessary for the people to know were compromised.
While he could have given this information to the people in a better way, I think he ultimately did something that was necessary and good for the American people.
When we look back at all the people we consider great American patriots, none were perfect. Neither is Snowden. But, in my eyes, he is just as much, if not more, of a patriot than those before him we have called patriots.
Andrew Wildman is an integrated marketing communications major from Laurel.