To overcome a problem, you must first be aware of its existence. With this rule in mind, the mass surveillance disclosures can be regarded as something positive in the sense that we could not protest let alone initiate reform without having been informed that the government is spying on us. In other words: American citizens would not be able to take steps against ubiquitous surveillance if it wasn’t for the courageous whistleblowing of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.
Snowden and Manning deserve the highest credit not only for leaking information the world absolutely needs to know, but also for putting their lives and careers on the line to stand up for what they believe in. Thanks to them, everybody can see why mass surveillance concerns us all. Snowden said: “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity, or love, or friendship is recorded.” Do you?
Therefore, those people who care about which kind of world they live in (and I hope belong to this group), would want this kind of information to be made public. They would want to know everything that is going on. They would want political dissidents and investigative journalists to dig up scandals, for they can have a positive, cleansing function and also help review and refine our societal values and norms. What’s more, they enable our democracy to advance and assure ourselves of our moral principles.
That being said, the media plays a crucial role in this process all well, as I have stated in a previous post.
This is not to say that everything that whistleblowers want to make public is ethically or morally defensible. There is certainly a fine line between disclosing something that the public has a right to know about and information that is not essential and/or could put someone’s life in danger.
However, I firmly believe that both Manning and Snowden are highly idealistic and brave people, for they did not only their country but the world a great service. I sincerely hope that their audacious actions will encourage other people to take similar steps, because the recent disclosures are likely only the tip of the iceberg.