Edward Snowden made off with one of the largest troves of national security data in history. In fact, he has secured so much confidential information that the American government officials are actually considering offering him asylum in exchange for a return of the information and a promise to stop more leaks.
This stunning about-face comes as Snowden continues to leak embarrassing information regarding many of the United States’ most classified spying operations. Still, people shouldn’t overreact to the news. While Richard Legett, the man in charge of assessing the damage caused by the leaks, has gone on record stating that he is open to the idea, NSA director Keith Alexander has already dismissed it. Apparently General Alexander feels that too much information has already been leaked.
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Amnesty might be the best way to minimize damage
While the thought of offering amnesty might seem unthinkable, it’s possible that such a deal could actually reduce damage, at least in the short term. Snowden has access to an incredible wealth of confidential information and is currently under the “protection” of Russia. Despite the massive amount of information already released, many believe that Snowden still possesses much more.
Amnesty might prevent such information from coming to light. It is impossible to be certain, however, that the Russian government or other parties have not already gained access to and/or copied the information. At the same time, letting Snowden go might embolden people to taking similar steps in the future.
Opinions regarding Snowden are divided
From the very beginning, Snowden has been a highly controversial figure. Immediately, some Americans praised him as a hero, while others believed he was either seeking attention, or was simply a traitor. Abroad, however, Snowden has enjoyed considerably more support.
Americans themselves are split on Snowden. A recent survey conducted this past fall asked respondents whether they considered Snowden more of a hero or a traitor. 51% declared him a hero, while 49% condemned him a traitor. With such a divided opinion, the American government will lose no matter how it handles the situations.
Abroad, Snowden is widely considered a hero. Even among America’s strongest allies, his popularity remains high. 60% of people in the United Kingdom and 67%in Canada view Snowden as hero. Foreign governments have been more mixed, but the United States has been in damage control mode since Snowden began to leak information, much of it detailing America’s vast efforts to spy on allies.
Snowden keeps leaking more information
Initially, Snowden was granted asylum by Russia on the condition that he not leak any further information. Yet Snowden has continued to reveal new information and so far the Russian government has not publicly denounced the new leaks.
Back on September 11th, Snowden revealed how the NSA can tap directly into smartphones to access data, email accounts, and other information. Only a few days later Snowden revealed that the USA shares information with Israel. Snowden also revealed that the NSA actually tracks and spies on love interests.
In recent weeks, Snowden also revealed that Singapore and South Korea have been helping the USA. And the NSA also has a habit of spying on terrorists and their porn habits. Not even online games are offline, as it turns out that the NSA also likes to go into World of Warcraft, Halo, and other online games to mine for information.
American government’s hands are tied
Now the American government is struggling to repair its tattered reputation and to stop the flow of national security secrets. As people around the world grow more suspicious of American security techniques, continued leaks from Snowden could cause even further damage. Yet when it comes to silencing Snowden, the government appears to have few options.
Letting Snowden off the hook might be signal to other people considering leaking information that they could too could get away with revealing confidential information. On the other hand, the American government can’t reach Snowden in Russia, and even if American officials do get their hands on him, the public backlash could be tremendous.