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by Amber Noël
Sunday, June 9th the Guardian posted yet another article on the ongoing exposure of the overwhelming National Security Administration’s (NSA) PRISM program. This time it was not just a piece about the NSA, but about the whistleblower behind the leak, Edward Snowden.
Snowden is a 29-year-old infrastructure analyst who, until recently, worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a contracting company providing the NSA with intelligence. He was exposed to a multitude of information that allowed him to piece together what the NSA was doing in regards to the surveillance of the American people, claiming he could wiretap even the President with access to a personal email address, and with his accumulating knowledge began to feel uncomfortable with what he concluded to be the NSA’s abuse of power.
Contrary to his personal safety and unlike most whistleblowers, Snowden came out and took credit for the leak. This is a great way to get famous fast, but it’s also a great way to get the government looking for you. When questioned as to why he was coming forward with his identity, he explained, “I’m willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of [the documents] and say, ‘I didn’t change these, I didn’t modify the story. This is the truth; this is what’s happening.’”
Snowden explained that he worked “a privileged life, [lived] in Hawai’i, in paradise, and [was] making a ton of money,” and had his goal been to hurt the USA, he has access to much more damaging information he could have circulated in the public realm. Instead, he carefully chose the information he exposed and did not give out any information that could be used to harm Americans.
Watch Edward Snowden in a Q&A with Glenn Greenwald giving his explanation of why he leaked classified documents.
Already, Snowden has received both praise and accusations. House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Dianne Feinstein have accused him of of being a traitor and defend the NSA’s program with Speaker Boehner claiming the leak, “puts Americans at risk.” Meanwhile, Daniel Ellsberg the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, claims Snowden is a hero and has made the most significant leak in American history.
With the current case against Private Bradley Manning, the potential accusations against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and now the exposure of the PRISM program, it is easy to get swept away with the amount of overreach the federal government seems to have their hands in.
What Edward Snowden has done is courageous to say the least. He not only risked his freedoms and perhaps life in order to expose a huge government overreach, he has also admitted to his act, which puts him at personal risk. I would assume he, more than most, understands the extent of what he has done and therefore has found that exposing the PRISM program was important enough to be forced into hiding.
He may never see his home again, and with current government trends, I find that all too easy to believe.
This is an extremely important issue for today’s society. With the boom of technology and natural expansion of knowledge and connectivity, we need to think hard on the type of world we wish to live in.
From the initial look at the exposure, it seems rather clear that the government is disregarding our Fourth, and possibly First, Amendment rights. If the government cannot enter your home and search through your private documents and possessions, how can it be justified to go through your personal documents on the internet without a warrant? And don’t be fooled, they are. Not only are they going through your documents, they may be storing them for future use.
But how can they do this? Luckily, for the NSA, the Protect America Act of 2007 allowed for warrantless surveillance if the person in question is “reasonably believed” to be linked to a terrorist group. With the follow up of the FISA Amendment Act in 2008, PRISM became fully legal.
Today, it has become increasingly easy to be distracted by our smartphones and television that it feels like the government can get away with just about anything without any recourse. But perhaps the most interesting part is that we don’t seem to care.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed has yet to lead to any kind of comprehensive legislation against gun violence. The murder of Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman, by American drones is slowly fading into the past without any signs of government accountability. And with the announcement of PRISM, the Obama administration doesn’t seem too quick to apologize with President Obama stating, “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.”
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
People like Edward Snowden risk their lives to inform the American people about government overreach so we can ensure our elected officials stay in line with the Constitution and what it stands for.
What hasn’t even come into account yet is the international reaction. Seeing how the government’s explanation about PRISM is that it is not meant to spy on Americans, but pretty much everyone outside of the USA, is a dangerous topic as well. With general U.S. disapproval of China’s alleged cyber spying, it seems hypocritical to say in the aftermath of Snowden’s leak that it’s okay for the NSA to monitor foreigners’ emails, documents, etc. with disregard to their personal rights.
As of this article’s publication, the “Pardon Edward Snowden” petition has over 58,000 signatures on the White House petition board. However, no matter what you personally think of Edward Snowden, we need to remember that he is not the main issue at hand, but the definition of our rights as Americans and what kind of America we want to live in. Snowden gave us the question, now we need to decide the answer.