We reported a few days ago on Edward Snowden’s exclusive five hour interview with NBC-TV’s Brian Williams. In the wide-ranging and revealing interview Snowden made a case for viewers that he was a patriot, not a traitor, and should be lauded for his actions in leaking sensitive documents to the press. His remarks caused a firestorm of opinion with pundits lining up on both sides of the argument. A flash poll conducted shortly after the interview showed that the vast majority of opinion-givers, by a margin of two to one, considered Snowden’s as a patriot.
Former three-term mayor of New York City, a Republican, sees it differently. Bloomberg, a billionaire communications magnate, comes down hard on Snowden and is firmly in the traitor camp. In an exclusive interview of his own he voiced the opinion that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted for releasing classified documents. He characterized the revealing of secrets as a dangerous move in a dangerous world.
In his interview, Snowden dismissed government assertions that he was a low-level “hacker”. Instead he told of giving lectures at the counterintelligence academy for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and was a technical expert working at top levels. He also disclosed that he, on numerous occasions had alerted superiors and oversight departments of his concerns that the NSA and DIA were overstepping their authority in gathering metadata on unsuspecting citizens.
Among the revelations in the documents taken by Snowden, in addition to the bulk gathering of phone and internet data from US users, was the acts of snooping on personal communication of foreign leaders and the NSA’s tapping of undersea fiber-optic cables to siphon data. The US charged him with espionage and revoked his passport, stranding Snowden in Moscow where he flew en route to Latin America. Further travel was, of course, inhibited by the passport revocation.
“The guy should be prosecuted,” Bloomberg said when asked if Snowden was a patriot or a traitor. “You cannot have individual people deciding what information should be released. We have a democratic process and my recollection is things like the NSA surveillance, that, well the process worked. You cannot have a public debate about it because intelligence just doesn’t work that way. You can’t compromise your ability to get information and the world’s a very dangerous place.”
Coming from a media mogul, and news media pre-eminently, Bloomberg’s remarks may resonate in some circles. Certainly he has an ear in the Republican camp. But his comment about no “public debate” may not be correct.
In fact, there is a debate and it is raging at the moment. NBC News asked its audience to post their opinions on Twitter- hashtag #Patriot or #Traitor. Up until Friday at 5p.m. a little more than 60% tweeted that Snowden is a #Patriot. But the debate goes further than online polls. What is your opinion?