Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and the Rise of the Heroic Villain


The old certainties of heroes and villains are being swept away in a global world of whistle blowers and spies

This week [June 2013], Edward Snowden, an articulate 29 year old American revealed a story of a vast and secret operation conducted by the National Security Agency [the NSA]. At the same time, Bradley Manning the US soldier in the wikileaks affair stands trial as a traitor.

Snowden and Manning have both been portrayed as dangerous and misguided, while at the same time they have found admirers for their courageous stance against the dangers inherent in State security activities.

The Guardian Newspaper broke the story, which had been volunteered by Snowden

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing [Snowden's] identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

The Prism program

Reality mirrors fiction in the revelations by Snowden of The Prism spying program.

Apple, Facebook and Google issued strongly-worded denials that they had knowingly participated in Prism, a top-secret system at the National Security Agency that collects emails, documents, photos and other material for agents to review.

The Traitor Hero

In the 1970s, Daniel Ellsberg [mentioned above] leaked The Pentagon Papers which revealed Government decision-making in the Vietnam war. His status as traitor was revised as he received international recognition of his actions. Manning stands trial as a traitor in America. Snowden, currently in Hong Kong [June 2013] believes he will face a similar fate. President Obama struggles to contain the story

Heroes or Traitors? Or both?

Ellsberg has come out in support of Snowden as a hero. Initial press comments are polarized but there is a strong case for accepting a ‘both and’ rather than an ‘either or’ perspective.

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