White House refers Snowden's case to Justice Department while Republicans in Congress call for whistleblower's extradition
This week's headlines read like a page out of Orwell's 1984 with talk of mass surveillance leading many to question the legality of the U.S. government's monitoring the phone and Internet communications of Americans everywhere. The debate over whether the man behind the leaks, 29-year-old Edward Snowden, is a patriot or a traitor has ignited across the globe. Currently, Snowden is hiding out in Hong Kong and actively seeking asylum from "any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy." Experts say Snowden is unlikely to secure asylum, as he would need to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in the United States due to his race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. (Hard to say if he could argue whistleblowers are "a protected social group") A grant of asylum from Hong Kong would work to prevent his extradition back to the United States. With legislators and government officials calling for Snowden's prosecution, I am interested in what criminal penalties he could face if he is returned to the United States. Those potential penalties could include multiple counts of treason under the Espionage Act, virtually guaranteeing him life in prison. Others are arguing that Snowden's releasing classified information has aided the enemy against his own country. While we all might be able to agree it is difficult to balance the need for governmental transparency with the importance of national security-- is a massive release of classified information a la Wikileaks the answer to protecting our freedom? Some media outlets portray Snowden as an low-on-the-totem-pole "college dropout" that irresponsibly released the names of clandestine CIA agents along with extensive details of active national security operations, others are hailing him as "The Last Patriot." To me, it seems in just days the tides of public opinion have turned in against Snowden-- has the damage control PR team of the government already succeeded with attempts to deflect from the significance of what Snowden has done? I'm curious to know what your thoughts are...?