Former NSA contractor and leaker Edward Snowden was praised by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web this week, while Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz criticized Snowden for leaking the contents of NSA surveillance programs.
While Dershowitz pointedly criticized both the media and Snowden, Berners-Lee said he believed Snowden behaved responsibly in leaking the material on NSA surveillance.
Snowden also voiced his own thoughts on government surveillance on Britain’s Channel 4 Alternative Christmas Message broadcast on Wednesday.
“Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today,” Snowden said, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
“We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go,” Snowden said. “Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.”
Berners-Lee said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program that he believed Snowden had done us all a favor.
“Was there anything else he could have done? Was there any other channel he could have gone through? I think it has been established that there was not,” Berners-Lee said.
Dershowitz strongly disagreed with such a sentiment, saying that Snowden should not have revealed the contents of the NSA surveillance programs.
“He could have easily gone on 60 Minutes, and disclosed the existence of the program without disclosing the contents, some of which is extremely damaging to our national security,” Dershowitz said to Michael Smerconish, the guest host of Hardball.
Dershowitz, who is a law professor at Harvard University, said that Snowden could have released the information in a classified debriefing, instead of revealing it to The Washington Post, The Guardian and eventually the public, according to Raw Story.
Dershowitz focused on revealing NSA surveillance of other countries and world leaders. While he recognized that they “raise some questions,” he maintained they were “not unconstitutional.”
“That is not a constitutional issue, and yet he disclosed — or people working on his behalf — the fact that we are using surveillance abroad, outside the country, where the Constitution does not apply,” he added.
Berners-Lee, however, said that Snowden should be regarded as a “really important part of the system.”
Navi Pillay, human rights chief for the UN, also said that it is “very important that governments now want to discuss the matters of mass surveillance and right to privacy in a serious way.”
These positions on Snowden are just a microcosm of the much larger debate on the man, his leaks and the NSA surveillance programs that sprung up shortly after his leaks began to be published.
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