While professional politicians and the mainstream media have united in denouncing National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden as a criminal, the American population is reserving judgment on the former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor.
According to a Reuters-Ipsos poll, 31 percent of Americans believe Snowden is a patriot, while 23 percent say he is a traitor. Some 46 percent of respondents say they have not decided.
The new poll result is an apparent rebuke to previous surveys that — using false-dichotomy questions such as asking whether Americans prefer catching terrorists to preserving constitutional privacy rights — have indicated Americans are eager to sacrifice liberty for security.
Snowden, a 29-year-old tech contractor who leaked information on the extent to which the American security apparatus has been spying on law-abiding Americans under the guise of counterterrorism, fled to Hong Kong recently and is now the center of an international manhunt. Politicians of both parties, including Irish Republican Army defender Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, have denounced not only Snowden but Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who has published many of Snowden’s revelations about the American government’s unconstitutional surveillance of its own citizens.
According to Snowden, the NSA routinely collects information on millions of Americans’ phone and email records, with no evidence that those Americans are involved in criminal activity. Snowden’s claims severely embarrassed high-ranking members of the American security apparatus, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who testified under penalty of perjury earlier this year that no such collections were taking place.
According to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”