News / USA

    Is NSA Leaker Edward Snowden a Traitor?

    Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin met last June in Northern Ireland, but a planned summit next month is cancelled.
    Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin met last June in Northern Ireland, but a planned summit next month is cancelled.
    The White House has cancelled a planned summit meeting next month between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of the reasons given was Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to an American who leaked top secret information.
     
    The American, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, is wanted in the United States on espionage charges after he leaked information about how the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) monitors U.S. and international telephone and Internet traffic.  
     
    Snowden is now living in Russia after spending more than a month in the transit area of a Moscow airport. But his plight has triggered a discussion on the issue of treason.
     
    In other words, is Snowden a traitor?
     
    For John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the issue is clear.
     
    “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,” Bolton told VOA.
     
    “Some people say well that’s not really espionage, because espionage only takes place when you give it to one government,” Bolton continued. “I’d have to say making it public is worse than espionage, because then you have 190 governments that learn America’s secrets.”
     
    David Barrett, a national security expert teaching at Villanova University, sees Snowden in a different light.
     
    “I would regard him as a defector. There are a lot of different names that are used to describe him: whistleblower, leaker,” Barrett said. “Sure, I’d call him a defector. This is a very serious event for a person who works for an intelligence agency, who signs documents agreeing to keep things secret. I think it is a very serious thing to reveal those secrets – to leave this country and reveal these secrets.”
     
    NSA leaker Edward Snowden received this temporary asylum visa to Russia on Thursday, August 1.NSA leaker Edward Snowden received this temporary asylum visa to Russia on Thursday, August 1.
    x
    NSA leaker Edward Snowden received this temporary asylum visa to Russia on Thursday, August 1.
    NSA leaker Edward Snowden received this temporary asylum visa to Russia on Thursday, August 1.
    Defector, traitor or whistleblower?

    The U.S. Justice Department has filed criminal charges against Snowden — theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person.
     
    Snowden tries to justify his actions by saying one of the reasons he leaked the documents was to start a discussion about the U.S. government’s secret spying programs.
     
    Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security law at American University College of Law, says those discussions would not be happening now if it weren’t for Snowden’s action.
     
    “I think it’s a good thing that they are happening,” he 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,” said Vladeck.

    Precise definition
     
    Aziz Huq, an expert on national security issues and constitutional law at the University of Chicago, says one thing is for sure: Edward Snowden is not a traitor.
     
    “We have a very precise definition of treason in American law,” Huq said. “And it’s a definition that is embedded, not just in a federal statute; it is actually embedded in the Constitution. And it refers to a very narrow class of ‘intentional forms of aiding an enemy in times of war.’”
     
    For example, says Huq, those Americans who fought with the Nazi army were traitors — and there were treason prosecutions and executions in World War II.
     
    “The last person who was indicted for treason, a chap named Adam Gadahn, who is an American, who went to join al-Qaida and serve as one of their English language spokesperson — there is a very strong argument for indicting him under the treason statute because he has gone and aided, in an affirmative and intentional way, an enemy of the United States. Those conditions and those cases are nothing like Snowden’s case.”
     
    Huq says there is something “extraordinarily inappropriate about using the word 'traitor' with respect to somebody who has disclosed information that is unquestionably relevant to the public debate.”
     
    A majority of Americans seem to agree with Huq. A recent Quinnipiac University poll says 55 percent of those questioned believe Snowden is a whistleblower, but not a traitor.

    Andre de Nesnera

    Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: russian
    September 02, 2013 9:10 AM
    I'm from Russia and I surprised of reaction of the american people on Snowden's betrayal.
    If Snowden is hero, somebody can explain why he ask asylum in the Russia?
    Russia has its own surveillance programm ror its own citizens, but russian programm does not require any approval from court.
    Things which in USA is illigal, in Russia permitted by law. And after all Snowden gave all the secrets about american national security to russian government. Is he hero?

    by: mark from: Pittsburgh
    August 29, 2013 5:26 PM
    Yes. He is a traitor of the first degree, and those who disagree are also traitors who are eligible for the death penalty. Please try to protect our countrie's woman and children even you are a malcontent.

    by: Plenum from: France
    August 12, 2013 3:34 AM
    Why is it illegal to report when your government is doing something illegal?
    ---
    Read the Constitution! Snowden and millions of others know that the government and corporations have colluded illegally - and some do what they can to fight against the dangerous trends occurring at many levels. Snowden should be thanked and honored for opening up an issue severely neglected by the public, the media, and within the USG itself. The problem is not the messenger, it's the much broader issue of government surveillance within the US borders and what could be done with that information in the future.

    by: daniel hopsicker from: venice florida
    August 11, 2013 5:52 PM
    Love your provocative headline:
    Is NSA Leaker Edward Snowden a Traitor? But while you're asking questions, why stop there? Should the Entire Leadership of the NSA be Charged with Violating the US Constitution? Or, at the very least, lying to Congress?

    by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
    August 11, 2013 2:14 PM
    All this discussion on whether Snowden is a traitor or a whistle blower is completely missing the point. Should the US govt. be spying on its own people as well on the rest of the world? Bush and Cheney set the stage for anything goes in the name of so called war on terror. Obama choose to continue this and ignore the ramifications as long as no one knew. What Snowden has done is to show the world how we have destroyed all what our Country has worked hard to accomplish. This is all in the name of keeping us safe. Snowden had the courage to do something to open the eyes of the world to the ugly part of govts. Let us not be too haste in pre judging him. History will judge him as someone who perhaps tried to bring accountability to interference with privacy. To me he js a hero. I blame the Obama administration and the NSA etc. for trying get away with our privacy.

    by: Mai from: Torrance
    August 11, 2013 4:37 AM
    I totally agree with you. You're so right. Edward Snowden is a TRAITOR.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 10, 2013 12:59 PM
    Snowden is surely a traitor. Reason is that he knows that USA is facing more war fronts than it had in the World Wars 1 and 2. Even if it is not mentioned, the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Middle East and USSR are more numerous than any one time war in US history. The war on terror is one war that America finds very difficult to predict or even find proper solution and definition for. And to win the war, America needs as much secret as it can get. But Edward Snowden blew up the chances of ever having an edge against Iran, Hezbollah, Al Qaida or any other groups presently engaged in war with the USA, whether secretly or openly. All Edward Snowden has done is aid haters of USA - the terrorists - to know what the country is doing to track them down and so device other means of defeating and ridiculing the American Security System.

    by: S. summers from: Netherlands
    August 09, 2013 1:08 PM
    The real traitor is the government that has sold out our constitution down the river of tyranny. Who are these select few that have decided among themselves that they have the power to spy on its own citizens. Their reasons are the same as every oppressive government throughout history. America has killed democracy and will sit across the table with other tyrants like the Chinese for 30 pieces of sliver. That silver is our freedom and the spirit of our constitution and the memory of our founding fathers. Do those in government never feel shame?

    by: moose4u2
    August 09, 2013 12:51 PM
    the trators are in washington. FBI ,CIA ALL PENTAGON CONGRESS, SENATE, NEED AN OVERHAUL including the president . they are out of touch with reality. What we need is a revolution to kick all these traitors out. I would rather trust Snowden than our so called government. This president went on vacation to Africa which cost the American tax payer 100 million &nothing is said, the media just swept it under the rug & not a peep out of congress or senate .whats up with that????




    by: James from: USA
    August 09, 2013 11:51 AM
    Snowden is a hero. The government as a whole is a traitor to the citizens. Taxes in the USA are higher than Britain. There is no freedom, there are only more and more rules to protect one's self everyday. They want to take our guns, they want to end protesting and they want us to slave away and pay taxes. The IRS is theft. The FDA is the reason America is the world's fattest country. They allow capitalist communism to control energy innovation. All in all, the USA is no longer United States, but rather United Stasi.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 10, 2013 1:13 PM
    Hey ames from: USA, seems you think it's time to rise and become like one of those crowds at Tahrir Squire? Have you initiated the social media call for a massive "Day Of Rage" protest for it? Or do you think massive protests are for the third world countries and the Arab Spring along?

    But I think you people out there do know the truth but hate to admit it, because you can hold the government accountable for every bird that falls by the river bank, or an insect that falls into your compound, but you don't want to care how the government gets about securing your lives in the midst of overwhelming and outrageous number of terrorists that seek nothing but tears and blood on the streets of USA. Good luck you have a government that cares; when you live in any African country for a week, you will be forced to appreciate your government and God for little mercies.
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora