Last week I posed the question whether Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked top secret information about U.S. surveillance programs, including the monitoring of phone records of you and I without our knowledge, was a traitor or a hero in your mind?
As expected, readers' opinions varied.
Walter Wynbelt of Black River wrote: "Had Mr. Snowden attempted to convince his superiors at Booz Allen and Hamilton that the project he was working on for NSA was illegal, and failing that, gone public, it could have been argued that he was morally correct, despite having signed a nondisclosure agreement. However, failing to have done that and, instead stealing highly classified documents and taking them out of the country to a more or less hostile nation, he lost all moral ground as a whistleblower and should be extradited and prosecuted.
"In addition, Booz Allen and Hamilton should be investigated for their failure to properly protect top-secret documents."
Jacqui Smith was not surprised by the government intrusion into our private lives, and addressed the "fine line" we tread with our rationalization.
"I do believe we are being monitored randomly to some degree on our telephones and the Internet, but hopefully that is 'classified.' We must find out information about terrorists even if the cost leaves us uneasy. We would feel more more uneasy if thousands more of our citizens were killed because we weren't vigilant."
Of the responses received, however, perhaps none had as much personal insight into the topic as Jim DesRocher, who from 1966 through 1968 carried Top Secret security clearance with the federal government.
"I knew of things our government was doing that I felt was totally wrong and led to people being harmed. It was a personal dilemma for me to know what I knew. I never considered exposing what I knew because I was told in advance I would come across these types things of when I agreed to my clearance. I can understand, to a point, what Snowden's dilemma was and I understand he did what he thought was right, regardless of the consequences."
DesRocher expects most Americans already believed our government was spying on them and as I wrote last week, he agreed the discussion across the United States today should be which is more important - constitutional rights and civil liberties, or security. And, can we enjoy both any longer?
While he doesn't think what Snowden released was exceptionally earth shattering or a revelation to terrorist networks worldwide, he said he still wrestles with this question: "to what extent does having a Top Secret security clearance obligate a person to cover-up a government crime. (Then again) was what our government doing really a crime?"
This week the Rasmussen Report polled 1,500 voters on the same question I asked last week. In their poll, 12 percent saw Snowden as a hero, 21 percent as a traitor. The majority of those polled said he fell somewhere in between (34 percent) and 29 percent said it was too early to determine yet.
We've only just begun this national debate that surely will increase in volume and interest in the weeks and months ahead.
Today, let me close with this quote from Snowden.
"I can't, in good conscience, allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building ... the NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything."
Is it Big Brother gone haywire or just a super security blanket?
You be the judge.