When Being a patriot means knowing when

When one thinks of a true crime novel, what comes to mind is a story about a gruesome murder or a horrendous act that make your insides turn. “The Snowden Files”, however, does not contain any of these attributes of a conventional true crime novel. This doesn’t mean the “Snowden Files” was boring by any means in-fact, it was quite the opposite.

The most interesting aspect of the “Snowden Files” is the fact that the government can be seen as the offender as well as Ed Snowden. The answer to who the criminal is depends on who you ask, and that is what makes Snowden’s story something worth writing about. “The Snowden Files” is filled with idea’s and themes but it ask’s one subtle yet very intriguing question throughout the novel. This question has to do with the idea of patriotism and the influence of fear on it. Often times patriotic beliefs are associated with a leader and that leader’s movement or beliefs, but is that really how it should be? After 9/11 fear was a factor that was easily exploited by people in power, such as the likes of George W. Bush with his “Patriot Act”. In a time of crisis, one feels the need to conform to the system and be the ideal citizen, but what if that system is disproving what that country stands for? Snowden’s views represent this idea with great accuracy.

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During an interview, mentioned in the book, Snowden states “Being a patriot doesn’t mean prioritizing service to government above all else. Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, and knowing when to protect your Constitution.” (page 125). Furthermore, this idea is best embodied in “The Snowden Files” with Luke Harding’s clever way of storytelling. The first chapter takes us to Snowden’s younger days when he went by the name “TheTrueHOOHA” in an online hacking and technology forum.

Snowden’s chat transcripts reveal his disgust towards Wiki Leaks and News outlets leaking secretive information. Later in the book, however, he himself uses Wikileaks and News Outlets as a means to convey his message. This ironic depiction of Snowden’s beliefs at a younger age and the actions of Snowden later personify this idea.  Another idea that was widespread throughout the book was the importance of the distribution of power and oversight.

Snowden never truly wanted to leak sensitive information. His goal was to hold those infringing upon the fourth amendment, even if it was the government, accountable for their actions (as portrayed in the book). However, he had no other option. Thomas Drake ( another whistleblower) was an executive at the NSA and wasn’t happy with the direction the NSA was going in with the rise of mass surveillance following 9/11. He tried to raise his concerns through all the right channels. He raised his concerns to his NSA bosses repeatedly and did everything in his power in order to himself heard but nothing was working. Frustrated, he eventually went to the  Baltimore Sun’s.

This led to his home was raided by the FBI and he faced 35 years in prison for leaking top secret information. This example of Thomas Drake’s situation really resonated with me and I’m sure it did with Snowden as well.anHow can someone possibly expect to see the system bettered when everyone above you is the root of the problem. It’s like reporting racism by a police officer to a racist police officer, the report will fall on deaf ears. I can see where Snowden’s need to find means outside the system emerged from as there was no real oversight for the NSA.

This idea of keeping the people in power in check is extremely important to any democratic society.


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