Former CIA and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden finally obtained his long-desired Russian citizenship last month. Originally, Snowden fled to Hong Kong upon leaking crucial information exposing the United States government of domestic and international espionage. Shortly after, he was granted asylum by the Russian government under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. Upon being granted residency, Snowden stated that he “intended to apply for citizenship without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.” His wife is also applying for a Russian passport.
When Edward Snowden exposed the U.S. government in 2013, he was found charged with violating the Espionage Act, which states that American citizens are prohibited from obtaining any information in any form that may jeopardize the country’s national defense or interests. In other words, conspiracy against the United States is highly illegal, and any acts of espionage would be punished severely.
Although the U.S. Constitution guarantees Snowden a fair and just trial, there are still critical concerns regarding the safety of Snowden if he were to return to Washington. Various government employees have even made statements threatening the safety of Edward Snowden. In contrast, former President Donald Trump has signaled that he would consider pardoning Snowden and allow him access to a fair and just trial. Even if Snowden were to receive a pardon, there would remain vital concerns regarding the whistleblower’s overall well-being, considering that the information he leaked makes him a potential target for assassination.
When Edward Snowden leaked this information in 2013, he held a firm stance that the United States government had violated the constitutional rights of domestic citizens, and the integrity of allies abroad. More specifically, he believed that the United States had violated the privacy and security of millions of people by secretly collecting their internet information without their consent. What is worse, various homeland security branches had the ability to eavesdrop on private conversations made through cell phones and even tap into built-in webcams and phone cameras, while the public remained completely ignorant of this information.
Currently, Edward Snowden’s exact location in Russia is unknown. However, he stated that he is willing to return to the United States if he is guaranteed a fair trial.
In the meantime, he has observed American public and private policies from overseas. Just last year, Apple unveiled a new form of software that scans and reports child sexual abuse material (CSAM) to authorities. Although this software is used to track and prosecute criminals, Snowden quickly described the project as “a disaster in the making.”
During this time, Snowden tweeted that if “[Apple] can scan for [CSAM] today, they can scan for anything tomorrow.” If major corporations can track and report explicit and or illegal content, these same corporations will be able to track anything in the future, regardless of whether or not this tracking would be used for the common good. In fact, this software could simultaneously be developed to stalk users at a much more advanced level.
Regarding Snowden himself, he is assumed to be living safely in Russia with his wife, Lindsey Mills, whom he married in 2017. Moreover, his first son, whose identity remains a secret, was born in 2020 and was granted Russian citizenship.
Overall, the controversy around the former NSA consultant remains prevalent, especially with technology becoming more advanced every year. With the growth of technology comes an increasing concern regarding the privacy rights of millions of people. Millions of Americans fear that, with the passing years, they are becoming more susceptible to government espionage, especially since more people are utilizing webcam applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the federal government wants to gain the trust of American citizens, Edward Snowden must receive a fair and just trial. Additionally, the conversation surrounding Snowden’s leak will remain popular as the federal government and law enforcement continue to use emerging surveillance technology making citizens feel that their right to privacy is being violated.