Just a few years ago, the name ‘Snowden’ would have been just as insignificant as the name Jones, Smith or Brown, but now, the name Snowden is a household name that conjures up either feelings of contempt or is a name revered for bravery.
For those living in the MC Bubble who have not been keeping up with the national and international news, former CIA and NSA employee Edward J. Snowden leaked thousands of classified government documents to the public in May 2013.
Snowden released top secret American and British government documents to the public in an effort to make the people aware that their country’s agencies have been quietly spying on them. He released the detailed information of many U.S. surveillance programs like the NSA (National Security Agency) call database and PRISM.
PRISM is not only the title of Katy Perry’s new album, but it is also a government program that collects and stores online data. PRISM keeps tabs on frequently searched internet subjects and tracks encrypted information sent across the internet.
Snowden also released information about the British government as well, giving out information on Tempora. Tempora is similar to the American version of PRISM and is a surveillance program that the British government was using to spy on their own people’s internet and phone usage.
Since the release of information, Snowden has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and lastly, willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.
For such serious charges, one must think that he may have had a colorful upbringing.
Snowden grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina and later moved to Maryland after his parents divorced. He failed to graduate high school but passed the GED exam and went on to take online classes for a master’s degree at the University of Liverpool.
Snowden reportedly became very passionate about the Asian culture as well. He claims to know Mandarin Chinese, spent time working for a Japanese anime company, and even became a Buddhist.
As a computer whiz, Snowden’s skills were very valuable, and he began working for the NSA as a security guard and then later as an IT security person for the CIA. It was here that Snowden had the access to thousands of top secret files that were never meant for the public eye. Feeling a burden to make this information known to the world, Snowden began to search for the right hands to put his information in.
Reaching out to journalists as early as 2012, Snowden made it known that he wanted to release information to the public as long as his identity was kept a secret. He communicated with journalists and documentary makers through encrypted emails and in-person meetings. Once he decided to make his identity known on June 9, 2013, he said, “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.”
As my fellow peer Melissa Faith Payne mentioned in the previous article about the Patriot Act, the results of the act have foiled at least 15 terrorist plots. Now that the information Snowden released is accessible to the public, it is much harder for security agencies to find terrorists and thwart their destructive efforts since these enemies of America, both foreign and domestic can use what Snowden leaked from the government.
Currently, Snowden is residing in Russia after being granted temporary asylum. His long-term fate is still undecided, but it is certain that through the course of his actions, he has made both friends and enemies.
Some hail him as hero. Snowden released to the world secrets that the American government was keeping from its very people. He informed the public that their beloved American rights to privacy were being infringed upon by the same government that was originally established to protect those rights.
Some, on the other hand, call him a modern-day Benedict Arnold. Snowden, an American, and bound by legal contract to never divulge classified information, only increased the potential risk of danger to America by her enemies. Hero or traitor? That is up for the individual to decide.
– Shanster Balko, Contributing Writer