Q12. Edward Snowden, a computer expert and former CIA administrator, released confidential government documents to the press about the existence of government surveillance programmes. According to many legal experts and the US government, his action violated the Espionage Act of 1971, which identified the leak of state secret as an act of treason. Yet, despite the fact that he broke the law, Snowden argued that he had a moral obligation to act. He gave a justification for his “whistle blowing” by stating that he had a duty “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
According to Snowden, the government’s violation of privacy had to be exposed regardless of legality since more substantive issues of social action and public morality were involved here. Many agreed with Snowden. Few argued that he broke the law and compromised national security, for which he should be held accountable.
Do you agree that Snowden’s actions were ethically justified even if legally prohibited? Why or why not? Make an argument by weighing the competing values in this case. (250 words) 20
It is evident that this act of Snowden is illegal according to the Espionage Act of 1971 which makes the leakage of the state secret an act of treason. However, his actions can’t be said ethical as well since he had stolen the data which was in his custody and all types of thefts are unethical. He had also broken the trust of his colleagues to keep the information confidential according to the policy of the organisation.
Snowden defended his act on the ground of public interest claiming the violation of the privacy of the citizens. He claimed to be acting as a whistle blower by releasing the information to the press about the surveillance of the citizens. He shared all information about surveillance with the public. Many people kept under surveillance would have been noted criminals, terrorists, corrupt bureaucrats and drug smugglers. These people must have become alert, which would greatly harm the national interest.
Surveillance by government is a well-known phenomenon and citizens know that governments keep surveillance on some people and access their personal information. Surveillance helps the law enforcement agencies keeping an eye on the criminals and anti-national people to ascertain their activities and take suitable measures to prevent crimes and terrorist activities.
Therefore, the act of Snowden can’t be justified either on the legal ground or on the moral ground. Even if leakage of information had brought some public awareness among the people, it had brought down the image of CIA and America, who had trusted Snowden to perform his job in a professional manner. (267 words)