By Jingwei Zhang
Ever since Edward Snowden leaked evidence of U.S. spying programs, the world has been divided on the issue of whether he is a hero or a traitor. The U.S. government wants to prosecute Snowden as a traitor. Meanwhile, American and international public opinion is divided, but the world public tends to favor Snowden’s side.
I believe that Snowden is a traitor for exposing the fact that the United States hacked into the agencies and institutions of other countries. In essence, U.S. spying on foreign countries only complicates international relations in an era when the world is so interconnected that foreign relations are critical to a country’s standing.
Snowden revealed that the NSA hacked into the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Tsinghua University. The NSA was also spying on foreign phone companies. A few months prior, the U.S. had accused China of hacking into the U.S. government. Now, thanks to Snowden, it was clear that the U.S. was guilty of hypocrisy. And the Chinese public knows it—worsening Chinese-American relations.
After Snowden arrived in Russia, the United States demanded that Moscow extradite Snowden. Instead, Russia granted Snowden asylum. The United States expressed “fury” at Russia, and Obama subsequently canceled a meeting with Putin. In
response, the Kremlin replied that it was “disappointed.” Prior to the Snowden incident, the United States and Russia had already disagreed recently on two critical international issues: Iran’s nuclear weapons program and Syria’s civil war. The United States and Russia do not have a strong relationship, and problem after problem only serves to worsen the relationship.
Snowden supporters claim that he is a hero for exposing spying programs so the government will not abuse its authority so severely. However, the spy programs were created in order to protect citizens from terrorists and other dangers. For example, NSA programs had contributed, in one way or another, to exposing the recent Al Qaeda plans for massive attacks on Yemen. As Obama himself has said, there cannot be both 100 percent privacy and security.
But Snowden didn’t just harm our security by exposing a valuable anti-terrorism program. He also harmed our security by damaging our standing with other countries, including long-standing allies. Anything that needlessly increases tensions between the U.S. and other countries has the potential to undermine world stability—and our safety.
History shows that in the years preceding a global conflict such as World War I and World War II, diplomatic relations were at a low. Think about the state of diplomatic relations after what Snowden did before simply calling Snowden a hero.