Who Do You Believe: Snowden or the President?

Should we take the word of the NSA leaker or Obama?

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In my blog last week, I shared my opinion on Edward Snowden.  Not a hero … but a traitor?

In the past 24 hours, the president has addressed most of Snowden's claims and the National Security Agency Director, Keith Alexander, along with the director of the FBI have testified before a House committee doing the same.

The result? The president in an interview with Charlie Rose says no when asked if a button could be pushed for an NSA employee to listen in on an American's phone conversation. And Alexander said more than 50 terror threats worldwide have been disrupted with the assistance of the two surveillance programs, ten of which had targets on U.S. soil, including the New York stock exchange and subway system.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the NSA.]

"I would much rather be here today debating this," Alexander told lawmakers, referring to the programs' value, "than explaining why we were unable to prevent another 9/11" attack.

The two programs Alexander is referring to include tracking phone records and internet messages. Those programs were secret until Snowden, the former defense contractor, disclosed them to the public.

So we have to ask ourselves America, did Snowden put us in danger? Or is this no biggie because it was common knowledge? And we have to ask, if these programs prevented 50 attacks worldwide, how come they couldn't prevent the underwear bomber or the Times Square bomber, both of whom failed because of their own ineptness as terrorists, thankfully. And of course, the attack that didn't fail, the Boston Marathon attacks this past Patriot's Day.

Now, other than having press conferences and doing interviews, Snowden has not provided proof of his accusations. And the directors of both the FBI and the NSA refute most of his claims and risk lying under oath for doing so, resulting in dismissal from their jobs and potential prosecution.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should Americans Be Worried About the National Security Agency's Data Collection?]

Call me naïve, but I believe our president and the directors of both the FBI and NSA over Snowden. But I'm not alone, at least if you break it down by age.

A USA Today/Pew Research Center poll shows young people overwhelmingly believe the leaks by Snowden. Sixty percent of 18 to 29 year olds polled support the leaks, compared with 36 percent of those 65 and older. (I'm not 18, but heck, I'm not a senior yet!!)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney called Snowden a criminal and a traitor. Keep in mind, Snowden not only disclosed information about top secret U.S. surveillance programs, but he told of the U.S. hacking into the systems of China and other countries, then fled to China.

Cheney even suspects Snowden could be a spy, perhaps for the Chinese: "I'm deeply suspicious, obviously, because he went to China. That's not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty and so forth." Snowden said he went to Hong Kong because of its history of free speech.

[Take the U.S. News poll: Is NSA Leaker Edward Snowden a True Whistleblower?]

Well, I don't know if Snowden's a spy or even a criminal. But I do know he signed papers agreeing to the sensitivity, secrecy and confidentiality of the material he was working with. He also knew that by leaking this information, he could be prosecuted and if found guilty, could face ten years in prison. So the big question now is, should Snowden be extradited and tried for his crimes? And I say yes. 

He knew the work he was doing. He agreed to the confidentiality. And as White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on CBS Face the Nation, that sort of disclosure "in effect gives the playbook to those who would like to get around our techniques and our practices, and obviously that's not in our interest in the long haul."

And so now we wait to see how much damage Snowden's done. He's had his fifteen minutes of fame. There will be no more press conferences or interviews soon. And he won't be on Face the Nation; but he must face the music, or in this case, a jury of his peers.

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