Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the secret spying on Americans by the NSA, is on the run from the federal government. Government officials don’t like whistleblowers when it exposes lies, corruption, and crimes being committed by the government. Therefore, the government is trying to extradite Snowden, while Snowden is seeking asylum in another country.
Some people are faced with one or two life-changing decisions during the course of their life. There are a few people who are faced with this several times. There are others who never face a real life-changing decision. I am not talking about a decision about whether to get married or change jobs. I am talking about something that is really life altering. Snowden’s case is extreme, but it is worth examining.
It is difficult to know how you would act in such a situation. It is easy to say you would or wouldn’t do something in a particular situation when you aren’t in it and you aren’t the one facing the consequences. If Snowden is caught by the U.S. government, he is likely to face a lifetime in prison. He can’t even be certain that he won’t be tortured. And it is unlikely he will get any kind of a fair jury trial.
Even if he does get asylum in a place like Ecuador, he will probably always live with a feeling of paranoia. He will always be looking over his shoulder, not knowing who he can really trust.
There is no question that Snowden has given up his normal life. He left a well-paying job and he left his girlfriend. I suppose if he gets protection somewhere, his girlfriend could decide to join him.
Snowden could have just quit his job contracting with the government in its spying operations. He could have left on principle and given up a nice income, yet kept his mouth shut. At the very least, he could have made the decision not to release sensitive documents (sensitive to the criminals in the government).
If I had been in his position, I don’t think I could have done what he did. I have a family who relies on me. But even if I were single with no children, it would be a difficult thing to do.
If you were in Snowden’s position, do you think you would have a moral obligation to do what he did? I don’t. If a majority of Americans strongly opposed the U.S. government’s attempt to extradite Snowden, then he would have little to worry about. The only reason the government can get away with such criminality (which includes going after Snowden) is because the American people consent to it. They don’t have to explicitly give their consent, but just enough that they won’t kick up a fuss.
Therefore, I wouldn’t blame someone in Snowden’s position who doesn’t blow the whistle. If a majority of Americans don’t care enough to speak out strongly in favor of a whistleblower who is exposing government wrongdoing, then why should anyone give up his life for the cause? We have already seen what happened to Bradley Manning. It is no surprise that the government is going after Snowden. Snowden’s case is much more well known than Bradley Manning’s at this point, but we still don’t have anything close to a majority of Americans who strongly support the whistleblower who exposes government crime.
It would be a much tougher situation if by blowing the whistle you could potentially save lives. But if you aren’t going to get strong support from a majority of the people, then in most cases you should not feel obligated to become something of a martyr.
We don’t really need more brave people like Snowden to blow the whistle. Anyone with their eyes open can see the massive corruption and crime that is the U.S. government. We really need for more Americans to support people like Snowden and for more Americans to withdraw their consent. The government in DC cannot survive without the consent of most Americans.