In May 2013, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents to journalists about government spying operations.

Today he lives in Russia under temporary asylum, a “whistleblower” and fugitive. His case is considered to be the most significant release of classified information since the 1970s’ release of the Pentagon papers outlining the United States’ political-military involvement in the Vietnam War.

Snowden’s actions and the legal ethics of it will be explored at the 16th Annual Applied Ethics Day, hosted by the West Virginia University Department of Philosophy.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held 8 p.m. March 20 in room 209 of Armstrong Hall on the downtown campus.

Columbia University law professor David Pozen will present “Civil Disobedience and Uncivil Obedience in the Snowden Era.”

“Really, the question is ‘where do you draw the line between somebody who’s divulging information as an act of patriotism, versus an act of treason?’” said Mark Wicclair, philosophy professor and organizer of the event.

“Should people be allowed to leak information if they’re disclosing important information?”

If civil disobedience is often thought to involve an open violation of law and an acceptance of the legal consequences of the violation, Pozen said, uncivil obedience inverts these terms.

“Instead of explicit violation, uncivil obedience involves subversive adherence to the law—situations where legal actors seek to challenge or reform an existing legal regime through unexpected forms of compliance with its written rules.”

Uncivil obedience, he said, is widespread and deserves greater attention from those who study legal reform, legal ethics, and the rule of law.

Pozen joined the law school faculty at Columbia University in 2012. His research interests include constitutional law, information law and policy, international and foreign affairs law, national security law and nonprofit organizations.

Applied Ethics Day, originally “Ethics Research Day,” began in 1998 as part of an effort to identify areas of research focus at WVU. The event, which is cosponsored by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, provides a forum for a discussion of ethical issues related to a wide range of disciplines.

In earlier years, programs have addressed ethical issues related to human genetics, the environment, national security, health care, public administration, engineering, business, journalism and pharmacy.

For more information, contact Mark Wicclair, at 304-293-7709 or



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Communication and Marketing, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

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