United States of America is the most powerful country in the world with ethnically diverse, democratic government where freedom of speech is protected by the Bill of Rights of the United States constitution. Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right, which can be regarded as the act of pursuing, receiving and conveying information or opinions from one source to another. While whistleblowing has been perceived as a form of providing vital information to the public, one can argue that the First Amendment protects our right to freedom of speech which focuses on the moral aspect of doing what is right.
United States have had its share of government whistleblowers in which highly classified information and its clandestine operations have been accessed and leaked by individuals to the public. In 2010, whistleblowing took a turn for the worst when WikiLeaks exposed scandalous details about powerful individuals and government operations in overseas wars with its main goal of bringing important and highly classified documents to the public. According to A.J. Brown, ''the functional value of whistleblower is accountability, integrity and democracy lies in the value of the information that is often disclosed by institutional insiders about wrong doing that otherwise would not come to light too late.' (qtd. Suruchi 199).
Edward Snowden not only provided vital information but enlightened American citizens for the wrong doing of their government, which violates the constitution. If whistleblowers leak information about government entities, they wouldn't have the same protection as those who leak information about big corporations. The former is automatically regarded as traitors of their countries. One can argue that Snowden is a traitor or a patriot but is it right for government to break their own laws? Can the citizens trust their government for it says and does? Snowden was exercising his First Amendment rights, principle of free association, free speech, privacy and risked his life to bring to light government's corrupted operations in the form of classified information which was inaccessible to the public.
Kara mentioned, in her journal titled 'Edward Snowden: The new brand of whistle-blower'?, that Snowden revealed so much information about the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance system which violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States constitution (Kara 27,28).
Freedom of speech is a human right. The First Amendment of the United States constitution protects the right of freedom of expression from the clutches of the government. Freedom of expression consists of the 'right to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for redress of grievances and the implied right of association and belief ('Legal Information Institute' par 1). For Edward Snowden, it was only a matter of time for him to exercise his First Amendment right in the form of leaking classified government information.
Edward Snowden speaks: US blackout of interview, Charlton S. Stanley mentioned in his interview with Snowden:
He says his 'breaking point' was 'seeing Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress.' That was when Clapper denied the existence of domestic spying programs when he testified before Congress in March of last year. Snowden added, 'The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public (1).
The consequences of freedom of speech can vary based on the information that the whistleblower provides to the public. Espionage charges, theft, aiding and abetting the enemy can be leveled against them, some go into exile in countries that are not in good terms with the United States government, and others are prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms while others might get killed secretly.
Furthermore, Bradley Manning a former Army Intelligent Analyst, was convicted in 2013 for violating the Espionage Act after leaking the largest set of classified documents via WikiLeaks was sentenced to thirty five years in prison by the United States government. Manning acknowledged he gave hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, saying he wanted to show the American public the "true costs of war" and "spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan (Goodman and Gonz??lez 1).
In conclusion, both Snowden and Manning felt a moral obligation to access and leak confidential information which if not for their bravery would never have seen the light of day. Their audacity to expose their government of wrongdoing epitomizes bravery and standing for the truth. Their First Amendment right was protected by the federal status which protects privacy rights. One can argue that whistleblowing cannot be secluded from the environment of free speech rights and democratic liberties. The implications and consequences of exercising free speech can be severe and detrimental to both government and the whistleblower. The United States government should allow its citizens to exercise their First Amendment Right without dire consequences because America is the land of the free which stands for freedom and justice to all and that makes it the greatest country in the world.
MAZUMDAR, SURUCHI. "Whistleblowers: More Threatened Than Threatening?." Media Asia 40.3 (2013): 198-203. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
HACKETT, KARA. "Edward Snowden: The New Brand Of Whistle-Blower?." Quill 101.5 (2013): 26-31. Literary Reference Center. Web. 28 Feb. 2014
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