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home : blogs_old : off the cuff August 28, 2015

Off the Cuff
By Chris A. Porter
WNI Web Developer and PVtrib.com webmaster shares his perspective on technology, local and national politics, and life in the Quad-city area.
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blog: America Under Surveillance - is Snowden a patriot or terrorist?

 Chris A. Porter
WNI Digital Media

Edward Snowden
Photo courtesy CBSnews.com

Edward Snowden's former job was as a technical contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) through the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm. Before that, he worked for both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the NSA directly as well as with other private contractors since 2007.

Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA this month by leaking top secret documentation about ongoing US government mass surveillance programs. He gave this information to The UK's Guardian newspaper as well as The Washington Post.

The Guardian began disclosing Snowden's documents to the masses on June 5th. The Post followed suit later.

The Guardian revealed Snowden's identity on June 9th per his request and he currently maintains the opinion that he's done nothing wrong.

A few of Snowden's bombshells include details about the US government intercepting telephone metadata from Verizon Communications on an daily basis as well as an established NSA internet surveillance and real-time data collection program running since 2007 called PRISM.

Since the initial June 5th disclosure, more information from Snowden's documents seem to be revealed daily through various media outlets. Some of this new information is as follows:

  • Boundless Informant: an NSA program that details and maps data collection by country through computer and telephone networks.
  • Documents alleging the NSA has been hacking into computers in China for several years.
  • Documents alleging British intelligence intercepted the communications of foreign politicians during the 2009 G-20 Summit in London.
  • Top secret documents signed by Attorney General Eric Holder detailing the rules for investigating foreign and domestic targets.
  • Tempora: An 18-month operation to make a mass interception of traffic through fiber-optic networks.
  • Documents alleging episodes of US hacking Chinese mobile-phone companies to collect text messages as well as a University and an Asian fiber-optic network over a four-year period.

Some of these developments will certainly be seen as eye-opening, to be sure. Especially to individuals already possessing concerns that the government has become too intrusive upon the civil liberties of its citizens. Some of these individuals even hail Snowden a hero: an individual whistleblower uncovering 'big brother' tactics from a government sometimes seen as oppressive. They see him doing a patriotic duty allowing the public a rare glimpse into 'watching the watchers.'

Others believe Snowden's actions to be dangerous, on par with treason and wantonly in breach of our national security, putting the country at serious risk. Some attribute it to domestic terrorism because they believe he has exposed secrets that foreign enemies to the US can exploit. On June 14, federal prosecutors filed a host of charges including espionage against Snowden, who fled the US for Hong Kong in May. He flew to Moscow on June 23rd and his US passport was revoked the same day.

Watch video: 'The hunt for Edward Snowden' (Courtesy: CBSnews.com)

Currently, Snowden is looking for asylum in Ecuador. The reasons for this vary, but it's likely for two big reasons: One is because Ecuador is a current home to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is attempting to help Snowden gain asylum. Assange is currently wanted in Sweden for sexual assault allegations. The second is that Ecuador does have an extradition treaty with the US, but espionage and treason are not covered within the treaty.

Off the Cuff - My Take:

I'm torn about this particular 'leaker,' Edward Snowden. I think the public should have a right to know when their private data is being distibuted willy-nilly to unknown sources, especially those of us using Verizon Communications as our personal mobile service provider. I don't believe our private communications should be anyone's business but our own.

Then again, I do see a need for some priority within our government to keep intel on individuals who would use our tech to carry out harm to our great nation. Thus, any way to avoid another 9/11 should be a mark in the 'win' category regarding stemming any domestic and worldwide terrorist threats.

So what do you think? Do you consider Snowden actions to be patriotic or do you believe he engaged in treason? Do our government surveillance tactics encroach upon our civil liberties too much or do you believe it's the cost of doing business in 21st century warfare?

Thanks for reading, and as always, your thoughts are very much appreciated.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

I'm not gonna get into the patriot/traitor tiff. But there's no question that true dangerous dudes already know the government is tapping their phones. The only people that didn't know was us. The NSA toots their horns like they caught all these bad boys by doing this, but that was years ago. This isn't news to any of them, just to us. Big whoop. The government loves stuff like this because it takes attention away from stuff like the IRS crimes, and arming Somalian terrorists. They love this stuff.

Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Article comment by: Government On Drugs$$$$

With the Patroit Act in full force, the Militarization of the police force and now everything being monitored and recorded if your sleeping well how long since you been neutered ?

Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013
Article comment by: Jack Rollins

I see no difference between a soldier on the ground and the NSA on the frontlines of electronic monitoring. I have not heard of any Americans, other than those caught conspiring against the U.S., being harrassed. This young man betrayed his oath. He is a traitor. Any employee of the government has the option to relieve themselves of the responsibility handed to them. His option was to lay down his weapon and walk to the other side. That is treason. Furthermore he has provided information to our enemies. Now, the monitoring is ''scanning'' which any law abiding citizen doesn't have to worry about. What we do have to worry about is those people that pull off attacks such as 9/11 and Boston Marathon Bombing...is more coming?
Ask the NSA !

Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013
Article comment by: NRA is Freedom

As many posters noted, there has been no "new" news reported by Mr. Snowden and no damage to national security. If you had no idea the gov't was doing this you're a bit naive sadly to say. The gov't is fabricating charges to frame the issue and take the spotlight off their absolute unconstitutional/illegal acts. It's called misdirection, attack the messenger...same old, same old. The Patriot Act is largely unconstitutional...they defer to a FISA courts to make things all better. Trust us they say. Ha! Wake up folks, just another step down the road of a tyrannical gov't and serfdom for all.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -Ben Franklin

Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013
Article comment by: Other side of the Story

What has not been discussed is the perpetual storage of this meta-data. It will work like fingerprints. Once one is arrested they will obtain the email of the subject then run that through the meta-data storage banks and pull out all the emails, phone calls, tweets, etc. ever made by the subject. When they can troll for that much data they can almost always find a throw away line that may be portrayed as having a double meaning and "bang" you are now accused of (fill in the blank).

Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Article comment by: russ ahrens

Mr. Snowden, by his actions, started a global dialogue about the invasion of privacy and liberties in democratic nations. Coincidentally, his actions occurred when the IRS and the DOJ were doing the same. Then, there's Benghazi. Connect the dots, fellow citizens. Is this country truly "free" under the actions of our President?

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013
Article comment by: A True Patriot

This man is a true patriot. The problem is, there are way too many sheeple in this country and it is time for this sleeping GIANT to wake up and LOOK UP!! There are things going on in our skies, above, that is not good for any of us. The true criminals are the ones that are running this country, for now. Obama and his regime have all commited treason and should all be arrested and put away in prison for life!

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013
Article comment by: SO S

PATRIOT. If not for Snowden, how would we know what are government is doing?

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2013
Article comment by: resham mann

The signers of the Declaration of independance all had bounties on their heads and they were all branded as traitors also.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Common Senzi


Sorry, did I miss something, what did he blow up?

Treason? Anyone who did the least little amount of research already knew the NSA tapped the backbone and had everyones phone records.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Jasmine Tea

Following logic… why would Snowden, Manning or Assange give up their relative freedoms, security and basically their whole existence?

I maintain that they are heroes/Patriot’s following a strong conscience to stop this corrupt evil empire.

The government is in full spin mode, trying to assassinate their character, when in reality, the real traitors are in elected positions.

We shall see how this ultimately shakes out… very interesting times indeed!

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Spy v Spy v Spy

I'm beginning to see it your way, Sidney.

The Carlyle connections to the Bush family and all. I wondered about the ability to know all that your political opponent knows and anticipate. In a thousand battles...

I still think he's a BS artist, by profession. If the crimes of domestic spying for political and corporate purpose, is his secret, then he needs to say safe.

We learned something about cooperation with China and Russia. Yet, nothing is as it seems. I think there's a pony in there and Obama is clean, as the job allows. But, going up against global corporatist who may not want corruption exposed, I'd stay with shopping the story story.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Lynn Cee

This is a dangerous country now. Any of us can end up arrested for seemingly legal free speech activity. Such as picketing too close to an animal testing facility, or the homes of people who work there. THAT will get you on a terrorist watch list.
But picketing bankers homes has gone un -prosecuted because they are universally hated .
Anyway, since there are so many layers of laws, regulations, fees, ad nauseum such that no human can be 100 % " in compliance", then we are all automatically members of the criminal class.
My country has become a soviet style beaurocracy. The redundancy of government
at all levels has destroyed us. The frog has been poached, it just doesn't know it yet.
As for "safety theater" in our post 911 world, none of it worked to stop the Boston bombing. So who is the gov monitoring, what trigger words do YOU use in your e-mails?
You and I could already be on a terror watch list and not even know it.
Bless Mr. Snowden.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Anne Hunt

Mr. Porter, I don't think the question should be "is Snowden a patriot or terrorist?" but rather "America Under Surveillance - is this a travesty?"
In this week's news we read that citizens demonstrated in Turkey for the unfettered use of their public plaza. Citizens in Brazil demonstrated against the raise in public transportation fares. Here in the land of the free we've been informed of the extreme measures taken by the NSA to collect data regarding all communications of ordinary citizens -- where's the outrage? The enormous cost alone is shameful.
The Snowden question falls way down in order of importance.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Spy v Spy

@sandra obrien "do you have any guns in the house?"

No, sold those at park n' swap.

You do realize that having *all* data is just one step above having none. Just the sheer enormity and man power to look at even fraction of a fraction. The power is in the logarithms of the search.

Now that power in the hands of State or local authorities or worse spying that could lead to blackmail and extortion, that would scare me. Not that I would be of any interest, but should I run for office, the words of a joke could be put in my mouth to come out with a different meaning. I use Google for a spell checker, so my searches would only confuse any determination of product advertizement targeted to this consumer. Weird, some of it.

When it comes to intelligence gathering, nothing is as it seems. I think there is more to Snowden than advertized.

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