Snowden Leaks Again
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Russian President Vladimir Putin say he would only grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden if he stopped releasing confidential information about American intelligence programs to the media?
I ask because earlier this morning, I heard that Snowden’s application for political asylum had been approved for one year and that he was now on Russian soil at some undisclosed location—as opposed to simply kicking it at the airport in Moscow.
Almost in the same breath, I heard Snowden had again leaked information to the British newspaper The Guardian, this time about an NSA data collection program known as XKeyscore.
Apparently, intelligence agents can use this program to search through the entire online history of an individual without a warrant, court clearance or even a signature on some authorization form. Things like browsing histories, emails, chats, searches and any other Internet-related data are only a few keystrokes away. And for a single query, agents can access information for as many as two million people.
It’s kind of like the analogy we all hear about sexually transmitted diseases and sexual partners. Health officials say that when you have sex with one person—especially unprotected sex—you are having sex with anyone they ever came into contact with, anyone those people ever came into contact with, and so on and so forth. This means that having sex with only one person could be equivalent to intimacy with hundreds or even thousands of others.
NSA data mining works essentially the same way since investigating one individual also connects intelligence agents to all of their contacts, all of their contacts’ contacts… you get the picture. So when the government claims that programs like XKeyscore rarely gather information on more than a handful of people each year, what they really mean is they perform only a handful of queries each year. The results for each, however, could be very extensive and much more detailed than the NSA likely cares to admit.
Last month, I published an article entitled “No Home for Snowden” and wrote the following line, which pissed some people off: “I also can’t help but wonder if Snowden has his own agenda, one that the public is not yet privy to.” This was intended to show how we all have secrets and hidden motivators we don’t necessarily share with others, but that may influence our actions and decisions nonetheless. Granted, I could have worded this differently, but misunderstanding is one of the unfortunate risks of blogging. And honestly, sometimes people accuse you of being unfair, too political or uninformed when clearly that is not the case.
Like many others, I initially gave into the media hype about Snowden and viewed him not as a traitor, necessarily, but as a rule-breaker who could potentially put innocent people at risk—not to mention a media hog on every news site, newspaper and newscast in the world. Then I started reading up on him, his situation and the secret government programs he revealed and realized something: this man isn’t a traitor; he’s a hero!
I don’t know Edward Snowden and I probably never will, but that didn’t prevent me from developing great respect for this courageous young man. He learned about secret government surveillance programs used to invade the privacy of innocent Americans and chose not to ignore them, but to expose them. Snowden knew the potential consequences of his actions—which are now playing out in the media almost daily—but decided the public’s right to know far outweighed any personal risk. And for that, I commend him.
Who knows what the next chapter in the Edward Snowden saga will bring. For now, he is safely in Russia and can remain there for the next year before moving to his next destination—wherever that might be. Is this fair for someone many—including myself—believe to be a government whistle-blower and patriot? Certainly not, but at least it’s a start.
I hope that someday Snowden can return to America not in handcuffs and in danger of being imprisoned as a traitor for the rest of his natural life, but as a patriotic American who noticed government wrongdoing and took action to expose and hopefully stop it.
After all, who can we trust to share this kind of information with us if our government isn’t willing to do it themselves?
Posted on August 1, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged commentary, Crime and Justice, current-events, espionage, government, Guardian, news, NSA, perspectives, Russia, Snowden, United States. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.