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home : blogs_old : off the cuff February 5, 2016

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: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: sandra obrien

I am glad he came forward. To chance going to prison for life, does not sound like someone that is wanting to sell story to highest bidder. Big brother is also tracking all of our finances. To me this has gone way to far in the name of safety. Why do you think your Doctor wants to take your picture? They cant take DNA legally so they will do face recognition. They couldn't enact the gun registry so now Doctors offices have on their forms for new patients a question "do you have any guns in the house?" We need to stand up and let them know they are going to far. Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: JM S

How could a 29 year old get access to so much top secret information. Why would our government be so lax. I believe our citizens need an honest answer to all of this. I just wish he would come out and "tell all" so our present administration can be impeached, if necessary. Patriot

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Edward A


Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: Sidney Moglewer

Edward Snowden has done a great service to the American public by clearly exposing the severe attacks on our Constitutional liberties by the Government. But the problem is deeper than that. Today we have a dysfunctional government with a hollowed-out civil service incapable of efficiently administering the laws - including enforcement of effective security laws. Most of my working career I had secret and top secret clearances. A secret clearance required a 4 page application form. A top secret application required no more than 10 pages. The application was reviewed by competent Federal employees. Today the top secret application requires 127 pages and is reviewed by a private contractor who gets paid by the volume of applications processed and may not have the best interests of the government at heart. Furthermore much of the secret work for the government is performed by commercial contractors including Booz Allen Hamilton. The major owner of Booz Allen Hamilton is the Carlyle Group, a hedge fund that makes most of its money by buying and selling companies. Now wouldn't inside information from Booz Allen be very helpful to the Carlyle Group. By attacking and denigrating Edward Snowden one is ignoring the significant information he has exposed and helping to perpetuate a corrupt system not to the benefit of our people.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: edna moglewer

Our government should be more transparent. Breaking "BAD" laws is in the tradition of the founding of our Nation.
Snowden, Manning & Assange do the public a great service at great cost to their own lives.

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

Treason is specified in the Constitution.

So far, nothing released was a secret to those paying attention. Details yes, but not to Big Brother's capabilities and the FISA courts warrants specified by the extension of the Patriot Act. We were listening in on bin Laden, before that was leaked.

Here's the other thing about the man, he actually was a field operative CIA agent. At least, his friend who he worked with, seemed to verify that in an interview.

There is mention of crimes in interviews with the reporter that are alluded too. So, what are the crimes, if any? I think he's BS artist looking to make his fortune.

It's also no strange coincidence the story broke during the visit by the Chinese president with President Obama who was to make the point about state sponsored hacking.

He's likely shopping the story to the highest bidder, rather than his hacked secrets.

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