Place Your Bets: Team Snowden vs. Team America

On Wednesday, civil rights organizer John Lewis became the latest public figure to throw his weight behind NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, adding one more player to Team Snowden in the public opinion sideshow to the series of stories emerging from Snowden's leak.

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On Wednesday, Congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis became the latest public figure to throw his weight behind NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, adding one more player to Team Snowden in the public opinion sideshow surrounding his story. As the list of opinions on the man behind the leaks grows — the supporters, detractors, and the neutral waiters — The Atlantic Wire began to wonder what the teams look like now.

Turns out, there's enough for a soccer match. Meet your competitors:

Rep. John Lewis, civil rights hero

In an interview with the Guardian, Lewis said,  "In keeping with the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, in keeping with the teaching of Henry David Thoreau and people like Gandhi and others, if you believe something that is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience. You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price. That is what we did."

Anna Chapman, sexy Russian spy

Anna Chapman prompted a bit of international fan fiction after Snowden's flight to Moscow with the following tweet:

Of course, Snowden himself has apparently said that he still misses his girlfriend.

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers leaker

The leaker of the Pentagon papers has, unsurprisingly, praised Snowden's decision to release information into the world about the government's classified data collection programs. Ellsberg also thinks Snowden's decision to flee was correct: "I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here," he wrote.


Americans consistently call Snowden a "whistleblower," as opposed to a traitor, in polling since the former contractor outed himself in the wake of the NSA leaks. According to Politico, the most recent whistleblower-traitor split is 55 percent to 34 percent.

Rep. Justin Amash

Amash made himself famous with a (failed) amendment that would have defunded that NSA's phone metadata program. Of the leaker himself, the Republican cautioned his colleagues on denouncing Snowden: "He may be doing things overseas that we would find problematic, that we would find dangerous. We will find those facts out over time, but as far as Congress is concerned, he’s a whistleblower."

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder


Evo Morales, re-routed head of state 

Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of a handful of leaders who indicated openness to offering Snowden asylum, was caught up in the Snowden sideshow after he claimed that his presidential plane was re-routed on its way home from Moscow due to fears that the whistleblower might be on board.

Vladimir Putin, Russian President 

Russia's decision to grant Snowden a year of asylum speaks for itself. That decision, among other things, resulted in President Obama canceling a planned one-on-one meeting with Putin during the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg (which Obama will still attend.)

Other NSA Whistleblowers 

As we've explained before, Snowden is far from the first whistleblower to call shenanigans on the NSA. Two of his predecessors, Thomas Drake and Mark Klein, have supported Snowden, hoping that this time the leaked information on what the U.S. is up to will stick.

Ron Paul, libertarian brand-name 

Raul told Piers Morgan that Obama should send a "thank you letter” to Snowden for his leakage, adding, “When you have a dictatorship or an authoritarian government, truth becomes treasonous and this is what they do if you are a whistleblower or you're trying to tell the American people our country is destroying our rule of law or destroying our constitution, they turn it on and they say oh, you're committing treason. For somebody to tell the American people the truth is a heroic effort.”

Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder

Wozniak told The Daily Beast that Snowden is a "hero," explaining, "He's a hero to my beliefs about how the Constitution should work. I don't think the NSA has done one thing valuable for us, in this whole ‘Prism’ regard, that couldn’t have been done by following the Constitution and doing it the old way."

Dick Cheney, secret aficionado

Cheney called Snowden a "traitor" for his whistleblowing, which the former NSA contractor is wearing like a badge of honor.

Someone in the Senate 

The IP address of a Wikipedia user who changed the word "dissident" to "traitor" in Snowden's entry on the site was traced back to the United States Senate. A Wikipedia editor noticed the change and restored it to its original form, explaining "Your recent edit to Edward Snowden seemed less than neutral to me, so I removed it for now."

Rep. Michele Bachmann 

Bachmann is not a fan of the NSA whistleblower for a number of reasons. While she's come out heavily in defense of the NSA spying programs themselves, the Representative isn't short on strong words for Snowden, either:  “It seems to me that the problem here is of an individual who worked within the system, who broke laws, and who chose to declassify highly sensitive, classified information,” Bachmann said. “It seems to me, that’s where our focus should be on how there could be a betrayal of trust and how a traitor could do something like this to the American people.”

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger

Another congressional Snowden hater, Ruppersberger called Snowden a "traitor," adding, "Snowden turned his back on his country. In my opinion, based on what I do, he’s going to cost lives short-term and long-term. I believe he’s a traitor, and it really upsets me when I hear people say he’s a hero."

Rep. Mike Rogers 

Another member of the House of Representatives' anti-Snowden huddle on Team America, Rogers also called Snowden a traitor. "He should be punished to the fullest extent," Rogers said.

Rep. Peter King

Peter King does not like Edward Snowden. He does not like the journalists who publish his leaks. He does not like his colleagues who praise his whistleblowing. "I think it is important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero,” King said of Snowden. Peter King may be Team America's biggest red card risk in this hypothetical matchup.

John Bolton, 2016 presidential hopeful 

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton called Snowden a "traitor," adding that he believes the whistleblower has "committed an act of war against the United States."

Jeffrey Toobin, eloquent Snowden opponent 

The New Yorker's legal eagle called Snowden "a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison." Toobin thinks that the NSA leaks were indiscriminate and therefore dangerous. He concluded, "in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air —and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right."

Meet The Press, on behalf of Sunday talk shows

NBC's David Gregory joins Team America for the following question/accusation thrown at Glenn Greenwald: "To the extent that you have aided and abetted [Edward] Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?"  As we noted earlier, however, Gregory was just one of a handful of reporters picking up an anti-Snowden thread of questioning.

John Boehner, Speaker of the House 

Boehner joined up with his Team America colleagues in the House with the following comment on Snowden to ABC: “He’s a traitor. The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk.  It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it’s a giant violation of the law.”

Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Senator

Over in the Senate, no one's earned a spot on Team America more than Feinstein (except for the anonymous Wikipedia editor, unless that's also Feinstein.) “I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower," she has said, "I think it’s an act of treason.”

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

The man under whose direction the NSA spying programs just keep on keepin' on declined to speculate on Snowden's character last night on Leno: "We don't know exactly what he did, except what he said on the Internet and it's important for me not to judge."

Rush Limbaugh

Of all the things to stay neutral on, Limbaugh, not known for taking his time before voicing an opinion, reflects some of the internal tension among Republicans on the Snowden question with his answer here: "I'm sitting here sort of undecided. Snerdley's been asking me, 'Do you think this guy ought to be tried for treason?' I don't know yet. I'm not gonna be hurried into judgment on this, because to me it matters who has this kind of information. It matters to me who's collecting it. It matters ideologically who they are."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.