Earlier today, the identity of last week’s much-talked-about National Security Agency whistleblower was made public. His name is Edward Snowden, and he’s a former technical assistant for the CIA, who, most recently, worked for the NSA through the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d highly recommend that you watch this video of Snowden, which was just shot in Hong Kong, where the 29-year-old recently fled in hopes of avoiding prosecution. It’s really quite extraordinary.
[The article which accompanies the video can be found at the website of The Guardian.]
As I know that some of you won’t follow the link, or watch the video, in spite of my urging, here’s a brief clip from the transcript. This is how Snowden responds to the, “Why should people care about surveillance?”, question.
“Because, even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. The storage capability of the systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude… It’s getting to the point, you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they could use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”
And that, in a nutshell, sums up why Snowden turned over these classified documents to the press. That is, if you believe him.
Many, from what I can tell, seem to think, given that he’s in Hong Kong, that’s he’s done this on behalf of the Chinese, who are looking to further destabilize our government. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, given that China is our biggest trading partner, and they need for us to remain solvent, but some, it would seem, are having trouble accepting that a young man would choose to give up a high-level intelligence position in Hawaii that paid nearly $200,000 a year, and go into exile, leaving behind his girlfriend and family, just because he thought that the American people should know that they’re being lied to and spied on. Apparently the concept that an individual would sacrifice his or her life for what they believe to be right is foreign to many Americans. (And, as Snowden points out, if his objective had really been to bring down the United States, he could have just released the identities of every undercover asset we currently have deployed across the globe – information, according to Snowden, that he possessed.)
No, according to Snowden, he chose to release this information, which demonstrates the enormity of the NSA’s domestic surveillance operation, because he saw “abuses,” and the framework for what he calls an, “architecture of oppression.”
I’m not sure that it will ultimately go down in history alongside the likes of Nathan Hale’s “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country” speech, but it’s hard to imagine a more timely and important sentiment than the following.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” -Edward Snowden
I could go on and on about Snowden, his politics (he’s a Ron Paul supporter), his motivations, and the way that this will all likely play out for him, but, as I keep nodding off to sleep, I’ll just leave you with this final thought from him, offered in response to a question about the possibility that he could very well be killed for treason, or locked up in seclusion for the rest of his life.
“The greatest fear I have… is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They will know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.”
I know that some of you will disagree, thinking that patriots are people who vote a certain way, and put magnetic ribbons on the backs of their SUVs, but this, to me, is the very definition of patriotism.
Best of luck, Mr. Snowden. And thank you for having the courage to do what thousands of others in positions to do so did not.