Americans react to NSA leak

By Anisha Datta, JCamp reporter

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden escape from his refuge in Hong Kong to Moscow, Russia – touching off a flash of breaking news.

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This latest development fueled the United States’ efforts to arrest Snowden, who has been charged with espionage for leaking information on a surveillance program that has stopped more than 50 terrorist plots, according to Intelligence Committee Chair senator Dianne Feinstein, a (D-Calif.).

“What this is all about is our nation’s security,” Feinstein said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

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Snowden denied all culpability in an interview with The Guardian, claiming that he leaked the documents solely to “inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he told The Guardian.

Some politicians view Snowden as a guilty man on the lam, not a martyr.

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“I view him as a criminal […] he has no characteristics of a hero in our nation,” Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on “Face the Nation.” “I don’t know how anybody can view this person as anything but a criminal.”

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It remains to be seen if American citizens feel endangered or liberated by Snowden’s actions. And while many voice their concerns over growing lack of governmental transparency, many people echo the government’s sentiment.

“I think the government has to have some degree of secrecy to operate,” said Scott Armstrong, who was touring the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

Tina Aouskoutis, who was also at the museum, agreed. “We can’t be too transparent if we want to be a world leader,” she said.

That doesn’t mean that Americans aren’t fazed by the idea of government surveillance. In fact, the recent disclosures have burgeoned sales for Silent Circle, a Washington, D.C. based start-up that encrypts communications such as phone calls and texts. Founder Mike Janke approximated a 400-percent rise in customers, proving that many people are still wary of surveillance, no matter how well intentioned, according to the Washington Post.

Like their representatives, many Americans want a balance between transparency and security, and believe that withholding some information from the public can be beneficial to national security.

If secrets are revealed, “it puts people at risk,” said Katie Barta, another tourist. “There have to be guidelines on what to and not to share. We need to find that balance, because we have a right to know about a lot of things. If we can prevent some threats, I’m okay with not knowing some things.”

Both Barta and Aouskoutis said that while they approve of government transparency, they would prefer transparency on issues other than national security – issues they said could benefit from their inputs.

“I’d love to have more transparency on budget matters, on the House and Senate and how they get along, but on national security, transparency is a risk,” Barta said. “It’s a slippery slope. None of us have enough information to make a good decision.”