Is Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs potentially involving you and I, a traitor or a hero in your mind?
For what it's worth Snowden, when asked that same question this week, said he was "neither a traitor nor hero. I'm an American."
This morning, I want to know how you feel about what he did. More specifically, I am asking you to share your thoughts on that question with me in the days ahead, so I could share some of them with readers via this column next Saturday.
The fine balance between national security and civil liberties has concerned me ever since Sept. 11, 2001. Regular readers will know I've written about my concerns in various columns over the years since then, and anyone who has heard me address First Amendment issues in presentations knows that it is always a focal point of mine. Indeed, I always caution an audience to think long and hard about the freedoms they enjoy, and what, if any of their civil liberties would they be willing to exchange for more national security.
Ever since the U.S. Patriot Act was adopted by Congress in October 2001, I have worried whether U.S. citizens, in their haste to address the chaos, confusion and fear of Sept. 11, handed over to the government too much authority, and thus began a slippery slope of the erosion of their personal freedoms.
Mind you, I'm not saying the Patriot Act was wrong. Indeed, as I personally have wrestled with this issue for years myself, it's hard to argue against its intent and purpose.
But, and it is a HUGE BUT, I always stress with my audience that we need to be vigilant, need to monitor closely and need to have checks in place that don't allow government to abuse the power we just entrusted them with.
Unfortunately, that is incredibly difficult for the average Joe and Jane to accomplish. Ultimately it involves trust in others, and in this instance, those we need to trust don't have a stellar track record.
It can be argued, and is argued regularly, that if you and I have nothing to hide, why should it concern us that our cell phone records have been made available to federal authorities. It matters because nowhere have Americans like you and I given that right to those authorities.
Democracy can't survive if those in power are allowed to eavesdrop and spy on its citizens. History has clearly demonstrated that time and time again.
Years ago we laughed off and considered paranoid some of those who feared "Big Brother" was watching their every move and action. While not a bunch I want to hang out with, I no longer consider those folks so wacky. As the years have passed, much of what they were talking about has proven shockingly accurate.
How do you feel on this subject?
Some of you want to feel safe more than anything, even if it means giving others access into your personal records, files and conversations.
Others have a different viewpoint, and value their privacy. They are not as quick to forfeit civil liberties.
Some will see Snowden as a crusader, others just a despicable villain.
I want to know your thoughts. Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send them through the mail - the address is 130 Park Place, 49707. Either way, I need to receive them by Wednesday afternoon June 19.
Then look for some of them next Saturday in this space. I'm anxious to read what you have to share.