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Editorials

July 6, 2013

Seeking asylum is less than heroic

There is much disagreement about Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and National Security Agency technical contractor who leaked secret information about United States surveillance programs and other sensitive materials to various media outlets.

The disagreement is about whether Snowden is a hero for revealing what many consider an unwelcome government intrusion on their private lives or whether he’s a traitor who betrayed his country and weakening national security.

Those opposing positions might be are legitimate fodder for debate, but we believe there should be no dispute about this:

• Edward Snowden is not the George Washington of the fable in which he admitted to his father, “I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree.”

• Edward Snowden is not Jack Lemmon’s Ensign Pulver character in the 1955 film “Mr. Roberts,” who burst into the cabin of James Cagney’s Captain Morton to tell him that he just threw the captain’s cherished palm tree overboard.

• And most assuredly, Edward Snowden is not Daniel Ellsberg, who 42 years ago leaked the Pentagon Papers first to The New York Times and then 17 other newspapers, and faced 12 felony counts for exposing how the Nixon administration misled the country about the Vietnam War.

Although Ellsberg has praised Snowden for leaking the information to various outlets, what happened after the revelations reveals much about the two men.

Ellsberg, unlike Snowden, stood his ground and didn’t run away. When he surrendered to authorities in Boston, he made a public statement:

“I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public,” he said. “I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.”

The case against Ellsberg was thrown out in 1973. 

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