Edward Snowden was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two Norwegian lawmakers. Bård Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen submitted the nomination to the Nobel Committee. Although the lawmakers do not condone Snowden’s methods, they said his exposure of the National Security Agency promoted world peace.
A former contractor with the NSA, Snowden is accused of collecting and distributing confidential information about the agency’s classified operations.
In June 2013, several news agencies reported that the NSA gained access to millions of personal telephone and internet records. The information reportedly includes recorded telephone conversations, chat logs, private e-mail conversations, and search histories. Although the news agencies did not disclose their source, it was obvious someone had inside access to the NSA’s classified records.
On June 9, Edward Snowden, age 29, admitted leaking the information to the press. Speaking from Hong Kong, the former contractor said he exposed the surveillance program because it was simply wrong. As reported by BBC, Snowden said the public has a right to know their personal business is being monitored by a government agency.
Following his admission, the former contractor remained in hiding for several weeks. From an undisclosed location in Hong Kong, Snowden revealed that the NSA’s surveillance program extended beyond the borders of the United states.
On June 22, federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft. The US government ordered authorities in Hong Kong to extradite the whistleblower back to the United States. However, fearing for his freedom and life, the former contractor fled to Moscow.
Edward Snowden remained in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport for more than a month. Although he applied for asylum in numerous countries, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia on August 1. According to Russian law, Snowden has the option of extending his temporary asylum in one-year increments.
Considered a fugitive by the US government, Snowden continues to reside in Russia. Although his actions are heavily criticized by the US government, his supporters call him a hero. Time reports the whistleblower is now being praised for promoting world peace.
In their nomination, Solhjell and Valen said, “There is no doubt that the actions of Edward Snowden may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short term.” However, they praised his actions for raising awareness and sparking positive change:
“… the public debate and change in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistle blowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.”
Edward Snowden’s decision to expose the NSA will remain controversial for many years. However, if any positive can be found in the resulting debate, citizens around the world are acutely aware that personal privacy is never guaranteed.