Too Many Secrets: Edward Snowden
TOO MANY SECRETS: EDWARD SNOWDEN – Born June 21 1983, Edward Joseph Snowden, a former technical contractor for the U.S NSA and former employee of the CIA, leaked top secret U.S and British Government mass surveillance gathered by programs such as PRISM.
On June 14 2013 U.S Federal prosecutors charged Edward Snowden with espionage and theft of Government property.
In order to escape prosecution Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong where upon he finally granted reporters an interview. During the interview Edward Snowden gave detailed information regarding the existence and functions of classified U.S surveillance programs; most notably PRISM.
During the interview he also gave information regarding British intelligence surveillance operations codename Tempora; which was run as a joint intelligence operation between the U.S National Security Agency and British GCHQ.
The interview and details sent shockwaves around the world leaving Governments,on both sides of the Atlantic exposed to deep public scrutiny and the public feeling betrayed by their own Governments.
A U.S NSA clandestine operation that enables the U.S intelligence services to collect data on anyone; from a citizen on the street to other Government official, both foreign and domestic, even its own President.
It was George W. Bush who in 2011 signed the Protect America Act 2007, that ultimately gave the NSA the power to start a massive domestic intelligence program that was to see every facet of the public’s lives left open to scrutiny.
Despite widespread denials by corporations such as Google and Facebook, PRISM is operated in alliance with approximately one hundred U.S companies according to Edward Snowden.
According to some newspapers, most notably The Guardian, Tempora is a clandestine electronic surveillance program that was first trialled in 2008 and became fully operational in 2011 as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks; this was in correlation with the U.S PRISM program.
Tempora is operated by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and according to Edward Snowden works in tandem with providing intelligence to the NSA – both collate as much intelligence as possible on users’ online activities, emails, telephone usage and more.
Edward Snowden revealed that there are approximately 850,000 people who have security access, at differing levels to this intelligence at any one time.
Edward Snowden also revealed that Tempora was only made possible with the assistance of commercial companies, GCHQ describe these as “intercept partners”, other documentation alleges that these companies were paid for their involvement in helping Tempora to collect vast amounts of data.
The documents reveal some disturbing evidence in that GCHQ actively tried to disguise agreements to avoid any possible political fallout, especially in regards to protecting Government officials at the very top of the food chain.
It is widely accepted that all Nations engage in some form of intelligence gathering and these are all supposed to be operated within the boundaries of ‘acceptable practices’; in reality each nation will have its own agenda and view about what are ‘acceptable practices’.
Security Vs Freedom
Many, including President Barack Obama, feel this is a false choice; that is he believes that we do not have to sacrifice our freedom in order to have security. However, President Obama believes that this doesn’t mean there are no trade-offs to actions taken.
During an interview, seen in the video above, President Obama likened this issue to that of setting up ‘drunk driver road blocks’ in that they are intrusive but in no way does such an action prevent freedom or indeed fail security.
President Obama went on to defend the NSA by stating that the NSA cannot and have not targeted private citizens emails, online activity or telephone conversations; by law such an act requires a court order through the FISA court.
So where does all this leave us? Are we any closer to the truth? A large percentage of the public certainly don’t appear to believe a word of what the U.S officials say referring to Edward Snowden being a traitor and their own version of events appear shrouded in mystery – that is the truth appears to be hidden in only what the U.S and British Government are prepared to reveal – it’s a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma .
This can only lead to the conclusion that the public have very little trust in what our Governments get up to.
So what does drive a person like Edward Snowden to blow the whistle and reveal to the world the dirty secrets of the intelligence services? Is it a desire for some form of notoriety or infamy? Could it be that Edward Snowden simply felt that there were too many secrets and what the NSA and indeed GCHQ were doing was both ethically and legally wrong?
Many U.S officials consider what Edward Snowden did has not only put countless innocent lives at risk but is also a treasonous act. On the other side of the coin organisations such as WikiLeaks and hacktivists groups like Anonymous believe that what the security services were doing was highly illegal and that the revelation of their acts hasn’t in fact put anyone at risk but rather simply caused an awful lot of embarrassment and humiliation for the U.S and British Government.
We can at least acknowledge that Edward Snowden had a very promising career working in the intelligence services and no doubt his remuneration for such was comfortable; as yet no reports have been revealed that Edward Snowden received any financial reward for the information he revealed.
How much damage Edward Snowden has caused, if any, is yet to be revealed for the intelligence services continue to state that releasing such information would only further add to the damage already done.