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Snowden Was Justified

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  • Could Edward Snowden Have Gone Up the Chain of Command

    Clip: Andrew C. McCarthy, Ben Wizner, Ambassador R. James Woolsey, and Daniel Ellsberg debate whether or not NSA leaker Edward Snowden should have brought his concerns up the chain of command internally instead of giving information to the press.

  • Did Snowden Divulge Too Much?

    Clip: Ben Wizner, Ambassador R. James Woolsey, and Daniel Ellsberg discuss the number of documents released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden and if he could have accomplished the same result with fewer leaks.

Debate Details

Has Edward Snowden done the U.S. a great service? There is no doubt that his release of highly classified stolen documents has sparked an important public debate, even forcing what could be a major presidential overhaul of the NSA’s surveillance programs. But have his actions—which include the downloading of an estimated 1.7 million files—tipped off our enemies and endangered national security? Is Snowden a whistleblower, or is he a criminal?

The Debaters

For the motion

Daniel Ellsberg

Fmr. U.S. Military Analyst & Pentagon Papers Whistleblower

Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. military analyst who, in 1971, leaked the Pentagon Papers, which revealed how the U.S. public had been misled about... Read More

Ben Wizner

Legal Adviser to Edward Snowden & Attorney, ACLU

Ben Wizner, legal adviser to Edward Snowden, is the director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, which is dedicated to protecting... Read More

Against the motion

Andrew C. McCarthy

Fmr. Federal Prosecutor & Contributing Editor, National Review

Andrew C. McCarthy, a contributing editor at National Review and a senior fellow at National Review Institute, was a top federal prosecutor involved... Read More

Ambassador R. James Woolsey

Fmr. Director, CIA & Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Ambassador R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, chairs the board of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Edward Snowden's leaking of top-secret government surveillance programs have sparked much-needed debate, and have raised what even the president concedes are "legitimate policy questions."
  • Snowden has done this country a great service by exposing the NSA's abuse of authority and illegal programs. Proposed intelligence reforms from the president, Congress, and the White House's own task force only underline the fact that his actions were justified.
  • Snowden has stated that he reported his concerns to superiors. No action was taken, and he was forced to take his information public.
Against The Motion
  • Snowden's leaks have been damaging to the U.S. Beyond the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, he has also released information related to international spying; information that has compromised our security and tipped off our enemies.
  • The programs and operations Snowden revealed are legal, and it is unlikely that any significant changes will be made at the NSA.
  • Snowden should have taken his concerns through proper channels or to a member of Congress before leaking to the press.

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The Research

The Research

Everything We Learned From Edward Snowden in 2013

Dustin Volz
December 31, 2013

An abridged recount of the major 2013 revelations.

Why Snowden Won't (and Shouldn't) Get Clemency

Fred Kaplan
January 3, 2014

He went too far to be considered just a whistleblower.

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower

Editorial Board
January 1, 2014

Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.

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