Last Wednesday, Norwegian lawmakers Baard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen nominated former CIA and National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize for his disclosures about the government spy program, according to the Guardian.
Given the caliber of previous recipients, it is surprising to see Snowden equated with honorable figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and President Barack Obama. Though supporters of the nomination argue that Snowden’s actions led to a vital dialogue about trust and security, Snowden’s actions were anything but peaceful.
The Nobel Peace Prize has honored 126 Laureates since its initiation in 1901, according to its official website. In his will, Alfred Nobel dictated the broad criteria by which nominations would henceforth be made, highlighting that the Peace Prize should be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Let’s consider more closely the reasons for which Snowden’s nomination stands. Undoubtedly, Snowden’s NSA revelations resulted in a much-needed inspection of the nation’s mass surveillance program. The manner in which this discussion was accomplished, however, was neither efficient nor in the public’s best interest. It stems back to the central controversy of the issue — the fundamental balance between privacy and protection, and to what extent the government is able to work in the name of the greater good.
Still, the root of the concern might be the insecurity we feel as a generation. In an age when everything is electronic, social media users are constantly putting information, often of a very sensitive nature, onto the World Wide Web. With boundaries more blurred than ever, it’s understandable that the nation would panic at the thought of any personal data being compromised, when in reality, we are the cause of the issue.
According to the Washington Post’s foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher, the root of the controversy can divide Americans into multiple distinct camps. One camp views Snowden as a traitor who revealed sensitive information regarding the United States’ programs — revelations that have since resulted in serious negative political issues with foreign countries, allies and adversaries alike.
On the other hand, revealing the nature of these programs permits a second group of Americans to view him as a hero, resulting in a greater need to question the actions that the government is allowed to take. Though both viewpoints are understandable, the fact remains that there’s merit to both. As a journalist, or self-proclaimed advocate for the truth, he had the responsibility to consider the effect of his actions before revealing such vital information. Charged as he is with a violation of the Espionage Act, he should be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was acting in the best interest of the public. Given the stark differences in opinions, that is very unlikely. He should have known better.
Bringing important ethical issues into an international spotlight is no small feat, but the manner in which Snowden did so, if not purely wrong and reckless, is surely not worthy of recognition by such a high honor. Perhaps, in time, his actions will be viewed as justifiable. But regardless of the ends, if the means are questionable, they certainly aren’t worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Arshya Gurbani is a senior majoring in biological sciences.