Is Edward Snowden a Whistleblower?

The Federation of German Scientists (VDW), the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and Transparency International bestowed the German Whistleblower Prize upon Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked information about the NSA's surveillance of internet and phone activity.  

A Quinnipiac University national poll, conducted shortly after Snowden obtained asylum in Russia, reveals that 55 percent of Americans view Snowden as a whistleblower and 34 percent view him as a traitor. The question of whether Snowden is a true whistleblower concerned for the public remains a hot issue.

The arguments against Snowden

While the title of whistleblower may have been fitting when Snowden released data of the National Security Agency's storing of Americans' internet and telephone activity, when he continued to leak information about America's international spying activity, opponents argue that he assumed the status of a traitor. These controversial leaks include revealing NSA foreign surveillance targets to governments of Brazil, Germany and China. Snowden also allegedly crossed the boundary of impropriety when he revealed England's secret internet surveillance base in the Middle East. Opponents to Snowden being labeled a whistleblower conclude that revealing information about America’s spying activity poses national security risks and exposes his impure motives.

The arguments for Snowden

The Whistleblower Protection Act guards any disclosure that an employee reasonably thinks reveals any violation of any rule, regulation, law or gross mismanagement, a significant waste of funds, and abuse of authority or a major danger to public safety. Under this definition, proponents argue, Snowden is a whistleblower because he revealed data that the U.S. was abusing its authority by monitoring citizens’ phone calls and internet activity without any justification. 

Since Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, at least five lawsuits have been filed challenging the legality of the exposed surveillance programs. In addition, more than a dozen pieces of legislation have been filed in Congress to restrict these public surveillance authorities and enhance the programs' transparency.  This legal and legislative activity evidence the appropriateness of Snowden’s whistleblower title. 

To blow or not to blow the whistle on government improprieties is a difficult decision that requires consultation with a seasoned Texas whistleblower lawyer.  We are committed to helping you protect your interests.