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President Nixon and Edward Snowden were both involved in Government scandals and though both scandals have their key differences, they share some similarities that make them great situations to compare. Nixon is said to have taken part in a cover up while Snowden declassified some classified information. Both betrayed trust but in my opinion, only Edward did something that benefits the public.
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I’ll start with the Watergate Affair, and how some intruders of a government building sparked a gigantic controversy with a lot of criticism of not only the President, but all the high-up officials of the US government. Nixon had a lot of motivation for the cover up; after all he and his party had done, he couldn’t stand to lose any more face. During and after the Vietnam War, Nixon was hated by almost half the country. A lot of people felt that he was making bad decisions, and his support by both US citizens and other politicians was wavering. The actions of the President’s men were and are put under a lot of of scrutiny, which may be another reason why they felt the need to dig up dirt on their opposition.
One of the biggest blows to Nixon’s support was the leaking of the Pentagon Papers. These were a series of documents that contained details of the Vietnam war proving that the White House had blatantly lied to the public. The leaker was Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who was convinced that the papers would provide the public, already skeptical of the war, with the justification to push relentlessly that we cease all efforts in Vietnam. Daniel released the documents to several major newspapers and was later charged with espionage, theft, and conspiracy. The charges were eventually dropped, though Daniel stated that what he did for the US was worth a life in jail. Of course, Ellsberg’s action didn’t sit right with Nixon. Several of his aides formed a group called “The White House Plumbers”, which proceeded to break into the Old Executive Office Building to try and find Daniel Ellsberg’s medical files. Their use would be to put in question Ellsberg’s mental health and discredit him.
Many other times, the people who Nixon had appointed to serve him had taken private information and used it to crush potential threats. Though this may have let them keep their positions, their actions did not go unnoticed. A second time, the White House Plumbers broke into a government building, thought again they didn’t find what they were looking for. Anyone could have guessed their goal, as it was no different from what they had sought all along. This time they were in a rush to spy on the Democrats in order to gain an edge on the other presidential candidates and get Nixon reelected.
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Nixon initially denied any knowledge of the event but as he was already under suspicion, investigations were promptly made. For a period of two years, Nixon’s private tapes are requested to determine whether or not he’s guilty. Over this time period, Nixon hands over edited transcripts, then edited tapes, and finally the relevant documents were released. Proof was found that he was involved with the break-in and he was almost impeached. In fact, he resigned as Congress was debating his impeachment. This whole event came to be known as the Watergate Affair and there would not be another situation under so much controversy until many years later, when Edward Snowden illegally leaked confidential information held by the US Government.
Edward Snowden is a high school dropout who managed to work his way up the ranks as a defense contractor for our government. On May 20th, he arrived at Hong Kong after departing from Hawaii by plane. With him were four laptop computers that enabled him to access some of the government’s most secure archives. He then hacked the databases and after meeting with several journalists from The Guardian, disclosed the contents. Snowden’s goal in leaking the papers was to show our country what the government was doing behind our backs. The documents contained information ranging from proof that Britain tapped conversations at the G20 Summit of 2009 to details concerning the US Government’s monitoring of citizen’s phone calls, emails, file transfers, and online social lives.
The Watergate Affair, Snowden Leak, and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers all have several thematic parallels. The two most similar events are the Snowden Leak and the Pentagon Paper leak because they were both done to increase the public’s awareness and bring about positive change in the US. Both Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden worked for the government and put themselves at great risk by sharing the private information.
The Watergate Affair involves an attempted leaking of documents but unlike the other two events, it was done for the benefit of a small group of people. This benefit would be created through taking advantage of others and deceiving the public. The Watergate Affair and Snowden leak invokes similar reactions from the public. They both caused US citizens to grow doubtful of the government’s intentions, and lose trust in politicians. These were major effects of the events, but just as important as the impact itself on the people was the way that people picked sides concerning them. In all three occasions, people were split between supporting the leaker’s actions, fighting the government’s actions and simply not caring.
In my opinion, Snowden and Ellsberg made the right decision in leaking the documents. I think that the public deserves to know what the government is doing behind our backs as long as sharing the information would not threaten the security of the country. Knowing what the NSA does with our emails and phone calls certainly doesn’t substantially increase the threat of terrorism, so I have no problem with it. I believe that the Watergate Affair, on the other hand, was completely messed up and that the politicians involved were obviously in the wrong. They were only looking after themselves and in the end, benefited no one. In summary, I don’t really care if and when the government spies on me, as long as it is for information gathering purposes. I don’t think the government has the right to use illegally acquired information against a person, and so if the government chooses to spy I’d like it to be discreet and I never want the spying to affect how I live. I also don’t believe that the spying has actually benefitted our country and I think that though terrorism may be a threat, it’s not as much of one as many fear.
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