Edward Snowden: Hero? Traitor? Both?

Posted on June 11, 2013 by


Edward Snowden, the man behind the PRISM leak that has turned elite America upside down, discussed his reasons for the leak here. How do we deal with Snowden if we examine him from a biblical perspective?

Let’s be clear that my sympathies lie with Snowden. I agree with his basic position regarding the impropriety of PRISM and its incompatibility with democracy. Even if it is compatible, we should arrive at this conclusion collectively. While we, the people, can never know everything about our national security apparatus, and nor should we, we ought to know that our government is collecting mountains of evidence against us, whether we are criminals or not. We should, as a people, make an explicit decision about whether or not we are comfortable with this kind of tradeoff between governmental oversight and our desire for national security. Essentially, during the past two presidential administrations, both Republican and Democrat, the executive branch has made that decision for us. We have never had an open debate about the balance between liberty and security. The Bush and Obama Administrations have both assured us that there has been no tradeoff, that our liberties are essentially protected while we are still yet secure. Today, in light of Snowden’s revelation, that belief is destroyed beyond argument. We cannot have both no matter how much our presidents pretend.

Given my beliefs, Edward Snowden is a hero, but let’s not get trapped in a superficial understanding of the word.

Snowden broke the law. He disclosed highly classified material and violated the trust of his government and his employer. He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Looking at his actions from a Christian perspective, we are only obviously granted the latitude to break the law when we are being forced to sin. The cases of Daniel, Shadrach et al., and the disciples display this principle. Snowden does not seem to have been under this sort of burden when he decided to leak the material. Those biblical models also show us that though it is at times permissible to violate man’s law, we cannot disavow government’s authority to enforce that law. There are consequences for our actions, even when we are in the moral position. Given this, Snowden ought to turn himself in to the authorities and suffer whatever punishment his government decides to mete out in this case, at least if he were attempting to act based upon a Christian ethic.

Of course, it is easy for me to say these things, snug at home, enjoying the summer.