Hero Or Traitor? Or A “Bullshit Choice”?

A wider debate is brewing. Ed Kilgore kicks it off with an examination of the widening gulf between those labeling Snowden a traitor and others calling him a hero:

While the wind’s blowing pretty hard against Snowden in Washington, he continues to receive widespread tribute as a hero—which is, as you might know, a bit different from being a traitor—among civil libertarians at both ends of the political spectrum. Ron Paul publicly thanked both Snowden and his top journalistic conduit, Glenn Greenwald, for “exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”

This is the polarized terrain on which the president will eventually have to take some sort of stand, recognizing that his past direct and indirect statements defending the kind of activities Snowden exposed, and harshly criticizing leakers, limit his freedom of action, even if he’s inclined to separate himself from the treason-shouters.

Dan Amira notes that the question is gaining steam online and calls it “a bullshit choice”:

[T]here’s also plenty of room for nuance between those two poles. You could say, for example, that Snowden did the wrong thing but with the best of intentions. If Snowden’s goal was to hurt America, there were better ways to do it. He could have sold his secrets to the Chinese. Snowden gave them to reporters. And, if you take his words at face value, his motivation is protecting America’s core values, not opening the country up to terrorism.

Or: Snowden kick-started an important debate, one that we couldn’t have had without him, but some of the information he leaked will make the country less safe. Hero? Eh, not quite. Traitor? Hardly.

Or: Snowden is a true patriot, but it was so mean what he did to his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Scott McConnell thinks prosecuting Snowden will be hard:

I think the Obama administration will have a very difficult time prosecuting Edward Snowden. They can go after Bradley Manning because they have him, in uniform and in prison, and thus shut off from normal communication. Americans are unable to perceive how normal, probably likeable, and how similar to most of us he probably is. But Snowden comes across like everyone’s ideal of a really smart, techie, individualist kid. No high school degree, yet speaks as eloquently as an assistant Harvard professor. Smart enough to rise rapidly in the world without credentials, reminding us vividly computers really are a new frontier, the one field outside of sports and music where classic American Horatio Alger tropes have any continued relevance.