Nobel Committee Right to Consider Snowden for Peace Prize
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 22:08
In mid-July, Swedish professor Stefan Svallfors nominated NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize. Svallfors said Snowden deserved to win because of his "heroic effort at great personal cost," adding that he showed that "individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms." Although the United States government criticized the nomination, Snowden deserves consideration for this prestigious award, just like many other activists who illegally exposed wrongdoings of their government.
Government officials are furious that Snowden could receive the award for actions that violated the law. However, several other Peace Prize laureates have faced criminal charges in their home countries for their actions. One such laureate, Liu Xiaobo, won the Prize in 2010. Liu is currently a political prisoner for his work fighting for civil rights and an end to one-party Communist rule in China. Like Snowden, Liu fought for the rights of his countrymen at great personal cost and the Nobel Prize Committee recognized this work. In addition to Liu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, among others were imprisoned for the very actions that won them the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, Esquivel was from Argentina and opposed the civil rights violations and “disappearances” during the Dirty War. Sakharov was from the Soviet Union. Neither of those countries were paragons for human rights.
The United States, on the other hand, is supposed to be a shining beacon for democracy around the world. Our founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves knowing Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia for his support of civil liberties. That is behavior we would expect from the Argentine government in Esquivel's time. We could expect it from the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, or Communist China; it is not what we should expect from the United States of America.
Although Snowden violated United States law by revealing classified information about the phone surveillance program, he exposed blatant violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, a probable violation of the Sixth Amendment, and arguably violations of the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Our Constitution is a symbol of our freedom, and those who violate it should be exposed to the public and punished. While there is almost no chance President Obama and others responsible for the PRISM Program will actually be disciplined over this scandal, Edward Snowden at least exposed their violations to the public.
Similarly, Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for exposing human rights violations in Iran. She was later forced into exile in the United Kingdom by the Iranian government, just as Snowden is being forced into exile by the American government. Of course, Iran is well-known for its violations of human rights and basic liberties, while America is supposed to be better than that.
The United States government has praised several of the aforementioned laureates for their actions while condemning their treatment from their own national authorities. In 2010, the United States, called for Liu Xiaobo to be unconditionally released from prison in China. It is a shame that the President will not apply the same standard to his own nation’s political dissidents.
Barack Obama himself is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, having won the prize in 2009. After his election in 2008, Obama promised to reward and protect whistleblowers who exposed government misconduct. “Such acts of courage and patriotism…should be encouraged rather than stifled,” said the official transition website, change.gov. (This quote was mysteriously removed shortly after the leaks were published, but is still available through internet archives).
Although many were skeptical that Obama deserved the prize, he can at least lend the award some credibility by keeping true to his promise. The government should reward Snowden, not force him into exile in Russia.
While America’s position appears certain, Edward Snowden still has a chance to receive something for his heroic actions. Svallfors' nomination came too late for the 2013 award cycle, but Snowden will be considered for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. The prize committee should grant the award to Edward Snowden for exposing the American government's civil rights violations. Then, he could represent a positive with Liu, Esquivel, Ebadi, and the other imprisoned or exiled laureates, instead of focusing on the negative consequences of his actions.