Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Bigger threat: Edward Snowden or NSA?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Sat June 15, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Cuomo, co-host of new CNN show, "New Day" chimes in on this week's podcast
  • Dean Obeidallah and Cuomo disagree on whether Edward Snowden is a traitor or hero
  • Obeidallah, John Avlon and Margaret Hoover are outraged by the worst charities in the U.S.
  • Last, the three discuss erotic books and the scandal involving CIA staffer Avril Haines

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- What do you think of Edward Snowden? By leaking classified documents to the media and revealing that the National Security Agency has been monitoring our phone and Internet usage, is he a traitor or a hero? Could he simply be a narcissist looking to get famous? Or do you not care about either him or the NSA surveillance programs?

Chris Cuomo, co-host of the new CNN morning show, "New Day," joined us to discuss the top issues in this week's episode of "The Big Three" podcast. (Be sure to tune in to "New Day," which premieres on Monday June 17 at 6 a.m. ET.)

I must note that while I disagreed with Cuomo's view on Snowden, as a fellow graduate of Fordham Law School, his logic and comedy chops were impeccable. It's something we share and that distinguishes me from my co-hosts Margaret Hoover and John Avlon. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.)

Back to Edward Snowden. A poll this week found that 31% of Americans consider him a patriot while 23% view him as a traitor. But a whopping 46% say they don't know. Is it because these 46% simply aren't following the story or because they have accepted government surveillance as the price for security?

The Snowden Index: A glance at opinions about the NSA leaker

As Cuomo pointed out, Americans have "matured" since 9/11 over the issue of government surveillance. Consequently, he believes that many do accept increased monitoring if it means that we can prevent another 9/11 or Boston Marathon bombing.

But to me, "we the people" have a right to know when our government is spying on us, especially when officials like James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, denied such a program existed when asked about it under oath by Congress just a few months ago. How else can we hold our government accountable if we aren't informed of its actions?

To listen to this week's podcast, click on the Soundcloud audio player on this page or find us on iTunes.

The second issue we discuss this week will hopefully outrage and disgust you as much as it did us. There are few things that unite the left and right in America (or Margaret, John and I for that matter) but charities taking advantage of the sympathy and good will of Americans did just that.

CNN teamed up with The Tampa Bay Times to reveal the 50 worst charities in America. Anyone considering donating money to a charity needs to first check out this list.

These charities have raised millions of dollars pulling on the heartstrings of Americans by claiming to help children dying of cancer, disabled veterans, the less fortunate and others in need. What are they really doing? Only giving pennies on the dollar to those they purport to assist while keeping 80% to 90% of the money raised for administrative costs -- such as paying their officers.

John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, Dean Obeidallah
John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, Dean Obeidallah

We also highlighted some of the best charities in America, including the YMCA, Goodwill and the new "Dean Obeidallah charity," where I pledge to use 100% of the money raised to help me, Dean Obeidallah.

Finally, we turned to erotic books and the CIA. No, the CIA hasn't started secretly spying on people who read erotica or investigating whether the "Letters to Penthouse" are real. As the Daily Beast reported, the CIA's new No. 2 person, Avril Danica Haines, once co-owned a bookstore where she featured "Erotica nights" during which she and her guests would read aloud racy portions of books.

John and Margaret applauded this as showing a human side to Haines as well as making the point that women in power can also be sexual beings. However, my view is that this type of story typifies why it's so difficult for women to navigate up the government and corporate ladder.

Those are our views. More importantly, we would love to hear your views on the three issues featured in this week's episode of "The Big Three." Plus, follow us on Twitter, we are all needy -- me especially.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT