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Poll: Majority Now Views Snowden As Whistleblower, Not Traitor

Edward-Snowden

If a new Quinnipiac poll is to be believed, Americans have shifted their opinions about NSA leaker Edward Snowden and about NSA surveillance programs as a whole:

A majority of Americans say that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower not a traitor, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.
The Quinnipiac University poll found 55 percent identifying Snowden, who disclosed classified information detailing the NSA’s secret surveillance of phone and Internet traffic, a whistle-blower. Thirty-four percent said he was a traitor.

By 45 to 40 percent, respondents also said the government’s counterterrorism efforts went too far on limiting civil liberties. That marks a turnaround from a January 2010 Quinnipiac poll which found the public saying the government’s national security policies didn’t do enough by a 63 to 25 percent split.

(…)

The massive swing in public opinion about civil liberties and governmental anti- terrorism efforts, and the public view that Edward Snowden is more whistle-blower than traitor are the public reaction and apparent shock at the extent to which the government has gone in trying to prevent future terrorist incidents,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Institute director Peter Brown in a statement.

A majority support the gathering of phone metadata by the NSA, with 54 percent saying it is necessary to keep Americans safe to 40 percent opposed.

Earlier polls have found the public divided on Snowden’s actions. A Time poll in early June found 54 percent said he did a “good thing” leaking information on NSA spying, but a majority, 53 percent, also said he should be prosecuted for doing so.

Snowden is facing federal espionage and theft of government property charges. He is currently in the transit area of Moscow airport as he seeks asylum from a third country to evade a U.S. extradition request.

While Americans continue to support these programs in the broad sense, numbers like this suggest that all of these revelations that have come out about the NSA’s programs have gotten to the American public and started to hit home for them. The change in opinion about Snowden, though, is particularly interesting given the fact that the media coverage about him has been fairly negative for more than a month now and that he has admittedly not done much to help his own cause with his odd international travels.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Caj says:

    Giving away secrets about your own countries method of gaining information is just whistle-blowing! Are those people serious? If he was SO PROUD of his actions and felt so strongly about his love of country, why did the gutless wonder flee the country in the first place?
    He should have stayed here and faced the music. Speak to those he has betrayed and tell them why! He’s no whistle-blower, he’s a traitor as far as I’m concerned.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 14

  2. Ben says:

    @Caj:

    That’s funny, Daniel Ellsberg, one of the greatest whistleblowers of them all, thinks Snowden did the right thing by fleeing.

    I will say that I am happy to see the public starting to come around on this, although the fact that a majority still think the phone metadata is acceptable disturbs me. I wonder if they asked them about the internet and email tracking program as well.

    Oh by the way, Snowden says he didn’t give any info to the Chinese or the Russians, and that they never looked into his laptops at all. The idea that the Chinese and Russians rummaged through his laptops and sucked out all his docs was completely made up by the NYT, out of their butts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  3. Tillman says:

    I’m not certain why people started calling him a traitor to begin with, though running to China and Russia probably didn’t help. My argument all along was that he was no hero. “Whistle-blower” suits me fine.

    And the media’s negative reaction is because he went to a British newspaper.

    Oh by the way, Snowden says he didn’t give any info to the Chinese or the Russians, and that they never looked into his laptops at all. The idea that the Chinese and Russians rummaged through his laptops and sucked out all his docs was completely made up by the NYT, out of their butts.

    That’s based on his word, and let’s be frank, I don’t expect your basic private intelligence analyst/contractor to actually know anything about spycraft, especially in foreign countries he’s never been to. I might be giving China and Russia too much credit, but if they wanted to get information off his systems without his knowing, there are many, many ways they could have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  4. Tillman says:

    @Caj:

    If he was SO PROUD of his actions and felt so strongly about his love of country, why did the gutless wonder flee the country in the first place?

    Personal safety. Like I said, dude’s not a hero. He also didn’t [personally] want to accomplish anything besides releasing the information, no matter what he said to the contrary. That doesn’t make him a traitor, however.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  5. Ben says:

    @Tillman:

    That’s based on his word, and let’s be frank, I don’t expect your basic private intelligence analyst/contractor to actually know anything about spycraft, especially in foreign countries he’s never been to. I might be giving China and Russia too much credit, but if they wanted to get information off his systems without his knowing, there are many, many ways they could have.

    But that’s quite different from the story that NYT threw out there, which was that Snowden GAVE them secrets, and handed over his laptops for scanning.

    If he hasn’t ever connected any of these laptops to any networks since he’s been abroad, it’s gonna be hard to pull data off them, unless you have someone break into his hotel room.

    But even if they did manage to scan them, that’s quite different from the attack job that the media was trying to sell everyone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  6. al-Ameda says:

    USA Today, back in 2006, reported NSA data mining of Americans’ domestic and foreign telecommunications. Were they “whistleblowers”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  7. Laurence Bachmann says:

    @Tillman: I don’t disagree at all with your assertions but I would add he went to a British newspaper for very good reasons: few if any US papers have shown any appetite for challenging GWB and now Obama’s strong-arm assertions of “national security.” Both administrations have used the assertion of NS as a cudgel and our media is cowed. I never thought I would live to see the day when Meet The Press towed the administration story-line, but live and learn.

    The New York Times wouldn’t have the guts to publish the Pentagon Papers in today’s environment. And that’s a shame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. Tillman says:

    @Ben: You ever read Neal Stephenson’s book Cryptonomicon? There are ways. Probably not that way, but technology has come a long way. Not saying the NYT story was any more justified because of it.

    @Laurence Bachmann: I disagree. Snowden’s revelations came about right after the AP surveillance story did. The editors at NYT probably would have jumped on the NSA leaks if offered them, if only out of some sense of revenge.

    Snowden didn’t go to them because they wouldn’t publish, he went to the Guardian because he thought similarly to Glenn Greenwald. Snowden probably thought the big American papers would water down or somehow distort the message he wanted to send.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. stonetools says:

    Maybe he can be both, like Philip Agee?
    Anyhow, it doesn’t matter what the polls say. Heck, that could change with the next disclosure.
    What matters in the end is whether Snowden is RIGHT.

    Does the NSA listen to all our phone calls and read all our emails?
    Can a low level analyst in the NSA listen to anyone’s phone calls, even that of the POTUS?
    Does the NSA have direct, warrant-less access to all the info we have stored on Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al. servers?
    Are the various legal and oversight safeguards on the NSA a total waste of time, such that the surveillance system cannot be reformed, only dismantled?
    Is the NSA an existential threat to our democracy, greater than any other threat?

    If he is wrong about all this, maybe whistle-blower isn’t the right term, either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Hinterlandg says:

    China and Russia could have siphoned off information off his computers without him actually knowing they did. I view him as a coward for fleeing instead of staying here and facing the music. I don’t put much faith in polls and I won’t get hung up on whistleblower vs. leaker. The fact remains he stole information and fled.

    I wondered why Wikileaks made a point of tweeting that the U.S. sent extradition papers to Iceland when he was offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and possibly Nicaragua. Why does Iceland matter at this juncture? It seems like he didn’t really think this through before he decided to flee to Hong Kong and then to a Moscow airport.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  11. rudderpedals says:

    Bet he’s not in the Moscow airport. I’d put my money on either somewhere Lubyanka-ish or on a ship steaming towards South America.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Caj says:

    @Ben:

    Well Daniel Ellsberg is as stupid as Snowden. Birds of a feather and all that!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  13. Nostradamus says:

    @Caj:
    NSA behavior is against human rights to privacy, against the supreme law of the land, against the people of America. In addition, it is extremely dangerous for democracy, which the supreme commander did not ignore. It is a neo-Nazi drift that makes the Obama administration a liar.

    As for the polls from mainstream that still credit the NSA with any amount of credibility, it is wise and necessary to ask ourselves deep within if we can trust them. We have been conned and fooled on a massive scale. And, trust will not be back until the decision makers are prosecuted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  14. Ben says:

    @Caj:

    Well Daniel Ellsberg is as stupid as Snowden. Birds of a feather and all that!!

    Wow, what a brilliant argument. Did it take you all day to come up with that one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Rick DeMent says:

    All of you people who are having a hissy fit over the information that is being collected makes me wonder if there is anyway you can be more naive. We are talking about metadata that has already been collected by a private company, which is being analyzed with the results being distributed in just about any way they see fit (read your agreement), and with only the threadbare safeguards that will make them absent of any liability to protect it. The only thing I’m shocked at is that these companies aren’t collecting, and analyzing for the government as a new revenue stream (and who knows, maybe they are).

    Are you all like 4 years old? Seriously, as far as dangers to the constitution go this hardly even rates when compared to what has been already passed and implemented. If people yawn at things like the wholesale auctioning of our political process where “Money = speech” then this hardly should even rate on any scale of “danger to our freedom”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  16. wr says:

    @Laurence Bachmann: “I never thought I would live to see the day when Meet The Press towed the administration story-line, but live and learn.”

    I never thought I’d live to see a day when they didn’t… and I still haven’t. At least since the days of ol’ Workin’ Class Tim, the show has done nothing but kissed the asses of those in power. Why would they stop now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Ben:

    He’s not a dummy at this stuff. He probably has everything stashed in a server or servers and scrubbed the disks before he traveled with them. His information is his only bargaining chip.

    What I’m wondering about is if somebody set him up. Traveling through Moscow was stupid, and it appears he bought a seat on a plane for Cuba but the Russians held him up. Study and observe? Offered to let him stay, but the price will be “All your secrets are belong to us, and us alone, da?” He turned it down.

    I think they had a carrot on the table for a bit but now believe they would be as silly as we were to let him into their cyber labs. Ego-centric, with martyr “issues”. Yikes! Can’t be trusted. Was worth a look though, so they rolled the dice and held him up to scope him out and give him a sales pitch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0