If Edward Snowden continues to flee the United States, hop-scotching across the world to be used as a propaganda tool by nations with far less respect for democratic ideals than the U.S., then support -- as well as respect -- for the NSA and FBI whistle-blower will evaporate.
On Sunday, Hong Kong defied a U.S. request for Snowden's detainment and allowed him to travel to Russia, a nation plagued by phony elections and a constant denial of free speech. Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador, a nation sympathetic to Cuba and Venezuela, which routinely repress non-violent dissent.
We wonder what other nations hostile to freedom will exploit the 29-year-old Snowden? Perhaps Iran next, with plans for a North Korea tour in the future?
What's disappointing is that Snowden's decision to leak surveillance secrets by U.S. intelligence services has sparked a much-needed reappraisal of how our nation wages the war on terror. In our opinion, snooping on phone calls and Internet usage by innocent Americans is in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The sight of too many pols and supposed media heavyweights defending these actions is disheartening. We must not allow our freedoms to be restricted in the name of "security."
But whistle-blowing requires that the leaker take responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Edward Snowden broke the law. He needs to face a trial. This carries risks, of course, but it also provides the opportunity for Snowden to be found not guilty, or at least to increase public opposition to the snooping.
Alas, Snowden has chosen to flee, and the possibility exists that he will become a stereotypical anti-U.S. voice, exploited by despots.
As a result, disgust for his example will take precedence over his arguments on national security.