Demystifier : An ED Original where we take a complex topic but the content is written in such a way that it is knowledgeable and easy to comprehend at the same time.
Summer 2013, the world woke up to the ugly digital world reality that nobody, and virtually no-absolutely-one, was safe. Their information, their lives, everything was under surveillance. At a time when the world felt that they were heading towards more secure private spaces, we were informed that we all were as good as living in a Big Brother-style global glasshouse.
Nothing on the internet was completely private. The man behind this pivotal revelation was Edward Snowden.
What has Snowden done for the world?
Snowden’s conscience red flagged much of what he saw and was involved with since his involvement with government. Post 9/11, the American government had beefed up their security without compromise but what was being developed and executed in the name of counter-intelligence, was in violation of basic civil rights of her citizens.
Over the course of his employment, he tried to alert several officials about the illegal nature of their programs, but none listened. All avenues exhausted, Edward Snowden sought to make it known through media for the world to transparently see and understand the illegitimacy of it all in the open.
Considering the NSA’s agenda to ‘Know It All’, here’s a brief glance of what came to be revealed:
– The agency’s partnership with telecom giants allows them to keep tabs on and intercept everyone’s phone records in the USA. Further, the agency intercepts almost all calls in certain foreign states, like Afghanistan.
– The NSA has access to company servers through a program called PRISM, though not directly and can request user data from the tech giants, who are compelled by law to comply. The agency is allotted a huge black budget, over $52 billion for their upkeep in 2013, which is used even to pay the companies for the said access.
– XKeyscore is an NSA program that has been described as capable of searching everything a user does on the internet. Snowden infamously described it as, “I, sitting at my desk [could] wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”
– Leaked reports from NSA revealed that it actively keeps under surveillance foreign countries and their leaders. As many as 122 world leaders have been targeted through it. Angela Merkel’s, an ally’s, mobile was being tapped.
To mention a few…
Imagine the repercussions of this leakage to the government security programs, and parallelly, the uproar among the people.
What Were The Implications For The USA government?
If you have watched any crime drama, you’d know how access to information that NSA has been tapping can be pivotal to nab criminals. With the cat out of the bag, many terrorist organizations, cartels, and criminals know what has been shadowing them; with ready information on the counterterrorism and surveillance measures, they will evade it.
There have been no verified accounts of anyone ever being hurt by the actions of Snowden, but the US and her allies have strongly discredited his actions.
But there have been speculative reports like that of the British ground intelligence agents were being withdrawn because their safety was compromised in China, or allegations that his leaks have compromised the military safety and strategies of the US in the middle-east.
Edward Snowden claims to have screened every document he handed over to the journalists and kept no copies on himself, to avoid anyone gaining any leverage on him. Yet the improper redaction of one document, thereafter, detailing counter-terrorism strategies against the Al-Qaeda by NY Times was particularly faulty.
Hilary Clinton has openly mused about his involvement with China and Russia, and many have likewise tainted his reputation by calling him a double agent. Yet, the new NSA director Michael S Rogers acknowledged how the extent of Snowden’s leaks did nothing to conclude that the ‘sky is falling’ was falling for the US security agencies.
What Is Going To Be His Punishment?
Snowden’s revealing of the all the underground surveillance America, and the world was therefore so significant because he did so with full knowledge of the direst consequences he was going to face.
Edward Snowden is being charged with theft of government property of over a million classified documents, and on two counts of violating the Espionage Act for unauthorized communications of classified information. The Espionage Act prevents him from defending himself in an open court.
If a lifetime in prison and denial to make a plea bargain, or permanent exile, is not bad enough, some of his critics also demand that he be executed, even though this has been ruled out by the US Attorney General.
But Snowden is nothing less than a hero.
Why? Stay tuned for Part 2!