Snowden: A Traitor or a Whistleblower?

Edward Snowden, a former intelligence worker who leaked secret information about the monitoring procedures of the National Security Agency (NSA), has recently been granted asylum by Moscow. He is a wanted man in the U.S. for charges of espionage and a highly controversial figure the world over. Some consider him a courageous and just individual while others consider him a threat to national security.

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is firmly in the latter party. He told Voice of America, “I do consider him a traitor. He has taken vital secrets of the United States, undoubtedly given some to China, given some to Russia — Russia and China may have them all now for what we know.”

The criminal charges filed against Snowden include theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person. Snowden does not believe himself to be a criminal, but rather, he considers his actions to be justified and necessary to protect the interests of the people.

Stephen Vladeck of American University College of Law said, “At the end of the day, if someone asks me ‘is Edward Snowden a criminal or a whistleblower,’ I would say ‘yes’ — he’s both. And that’s okay. And that goes to the larger point that we have to keep in mind that sometimes doing what’s legal and doing what’s right are not necessarily the same thing.”

The majority of Americans, like Vladeck, appear to be on Snowden’s side. A Quinnipiac University poll shows 55 percent of Americans believe that Snowden is not a traitor but a whistleblower.

Whistleblowers usually do not need to break the law to do the right thing for their fellow Americans. In fact, any law-breaking activity can get them in serious trouble, like Snowden, and destroy their ability to obtain a portion of the recovery from any fraud they uncover or in any potential wrongful discharge claim. Be sure to talk to a lawyer early if you are considering any type of public or private sector whistleblowing.

Whistleblowers may often face backlash from their co-workers or employers for simply doing the right thing. It is important that they receive protection, or else others may be discouraged from revealing any wrongdoing on the part of companies and other institutions. As an experienced Seattle whistleblower lawyer, I can help employees preserve their rights and prevent their lives from being ruined. For more information on Teller Law and my case history, call my office at (206) 324-8969

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