Espionage – Who Is Considered the Enemy?
By Rachel Nishikawa, Senior Staff Writer
On Feb. 14, The Davis Levin First Amendment Conference in Honolulu addressed the subject of the future of the First Amendment in a surveillance society. The ACLU of Hawai’i Foundation screened the documentary “Citizenfour” followed by a live video conference with Edward Snowden and his attorney, Ben Wizner. The speakers touched on issues such as the possible future of free speech in America, and balancing government secrecy in wartime against the public’s right to know.
Once an anonymous name among the other intelligence agents at Booz Allen Hamilton, a subcontractor of the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden lived a low-key life in Waipahu, O’ahu until May 2013 when he deliberately leaked confidential files about NSA surveillance programs and fled the country. According to UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, neighbors of Snowden and his girlfriend commented on the number of boxes that had piled up from top to bottom in the garage over the past few months and reported them leaving the apartment on May 1.
Snowden requested a leave of absence at the firm due to being recently diagnosed with epilepsy. May 20 he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, China where he then remained to wait out the aftermath. The New York Times named three people that he had disclosed the information to leading up to his departure; Glenn Greenwald, journalist for a UK newspaper, The Guardian. Laura Poitras, documentary filmmaker, and Ewen MacAskill, another Guardian reporter.
In his series of interviews from Hong Kong, that have gotten over 3 million views on YouTube, Snowden makes it clear that anonymity was not his intention but rather to personally put the information in the hands of American people in hopes that with awareness they will start to take a stand for their freedom.
“I’m willing to sacrifice [my former life] because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” stated Snowden.
Immediately after The Guardian released the information, The Washington Post headlined their following article, “U.S. charges Snowden with espionage.” Snowden comments in an interview that he was surprised the NSA couldn’t identify which files he copied, and if he is charged with espionage what does that say about America.
Legal Dictionary defines espionage as “betraying U.S. Government secrets to a foreign nation.” Though he didn’t give files to a nation outside of the U.S., he just made them known to the American public, does that make us the enemy?
Ron Paul, two-time Republican presidential candidate, famously quotes on the topic, “My understanding is that espionage means giving secret or classified information to the enemy.
Since Snowden shared information with the American people, his indictment for espionage could reveal (or confirm) that the U.S. Government views you and me as the enemy.”
Facing espionage charges in the U.S. can lead to jail time for up to 30 years. Following the U.S. Government’s desire for China to send him back, Snowden moved to Moscow, where they would grant him temporary asylum for a year. CBS News confirmed that since 2014 he has been granted residency in Moscow and his current whereabouts are not revealed publicly.
Patsy Iwasaki, who teaches the journalism classes here at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, says Edward Snowden is a very interesting figure in the media. She has an assignment for her Advanced Media Writing class where students need to write an editorial, opinion article on one of three topics. One of the topics is on Edward Snowden and part of the prompt asks, “Is he a whistleblower in a true journalistic sense for revealing the mass surveillance to the public and should be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act? Or did he cross the line, jeopardize U.S. intelligence, place the United States’ security at risk and should be returned back to the United States to face the consequences?
According to the ACLU news release, footage from the conference in Honolulu was broadcast simultaneously on Olelo Community Television, Akaku Maui Community Media and participating community media stations statewide.