Edward Snowden, a computer expert and former CIA administrator, released confidential Government documents to the press about the existence of Government surveillance programmes. According to many legal experts and the US Government, his action violated the Espionage act of 1971, which identified the leak of State secret as an act of treason. Yet, despite the fact that he broke the law, Snowden argued that he had a moral obligation to act. He gave a justification for his “whistle blowing” by stating that he had a duty “to inform the public as to that which is done in there name and that which is done against them.”
According to Snowden, the Government’s violation of privacy had to be exposed regardless of legality since more substantive issues of social action and public morality were involved here. Many agreed with Snowden. Few argued that he broke the law and compromised national security, for which he should be held accountable.
Do you agree that Snowden’s actions were ethically justified even if legally prohibited? Why or why not? Make an argument by weighing the competing values in this case (250 words )
Edward Snowden’s decision to release confidential Government documents about the existence of Government surveillance programmes is a complex ethical dilemma that involves competing values such as privacy, national security, and the public interest. While Snowden violated the Espionage Act of 1971, his actions can be ethically justified on the grounds of public interest and social responsibility.
Snowden’s argument that he had a moral obligation to inform the public about the government’s violation of privacy is compelling, especially in a democracy where transparency and accountability are essential values. His disclosure exposed the extent of government surveillance, which led to a public debate on the balance between national security and civil liberties. This debate has led to reforms in government surveillance programmes that better protect individual privacy rights.
However, Snowden’s action also compromised national security and exposed government secrets to foreign adversaries, potentially causing harm to US intelligence activities. This raises questions about whether the disclosure of classified information can ever be ethically justified, even in cases where it reveals government misconduct.
Overall, Snowden’s actions are ethically justified in the context of a democratic society that values transparency and accountability, but his actions should also be subject to legal scrutiny and accountability. Therefore, it is important to have a balance between individual privacy rights and national security concerns, and to establish ethical standards for whistleblowers that weigh the public interest against the potential harm caused by disclosure of classified information.