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?