(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 27, 2013)
After months of planning and preparing, Snowden abandoned his girlfriend, family, comfortable lifestyle, salary and job to flee the US and release from hiding in Hong Kong a collection of shocking documents revealing massive federal wiretapping programs operative in the US.
The documents revealed the existence of a project called PRISM, which has been utilized by the NSA for years to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. According to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just $20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor “email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details” and a mysterious category called “special requests.”
Other disturbing details revealed by the leak include the court order that compels Verizon to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis, all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” and forbids Verizon from disclosing the existence of the order to anyone.
Snowden also divulged information that he claimed showed hacking by the NSA into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.
After capturing public notice by releasing the sensitive documents, Snowden has eluded captivity and set out on a dubious globe-hopping venture that continues to attract worldwide attention.
And not all of that attention is positive. The 29-year-old fugitive’s actions were illegal, after all. Some are calling the leak that disclosed NSA bullying of private companies like Verizon, “treasonous.” Kentucky Republican Representative King said Sunday that he thinks it is, “important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”
But when asked for his own thoughts on the criminality of his actions, Snowden told The Guardian, “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me.”
One Senator seems ready to agree with Snowden’s charge of hypocrisy. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said Sunday that it remained to be determined how Snowden’s memory would go down into history, but gave an insightful warning regarding the opinions of generations to come.
"They're going to contrast the behavior of James Clapper, our national intelligence director, with Edward Snowden," he said. "Mr. Clapper lied in Congress in defiance of the law in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy."
Paul was referring to an incident that took place in March, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."
"No sir," Clapper responded. "It does not. Not wittingly.”
“He [Clapper] said they were not collecting any data on American citizens,” Paul said, “and it turns out they're collecting millions of data on phone calls every day. So it was a lie. What I'm saying is that by lying to Congress, which is against the law, he severely damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence community."
"I would say that Mr. Snowden hasn't lied to anyone,” Paul continued.
"He did break his oath of office, but part of his oath of office is to the Constitution, and he believes that, when James Clapper came in March, our national director of intelligence came and lied, that he [Snowden] was simply coming forward and telling the truth that your government was lying. This is a big concern of mine, because it makes me doubt the administration and their word to us when they talk to us, because they have now admitted they will lie to us if they think it is in the name of national security."
Snowden and Clapper both broke the law, thus undermining our nation’s system of government. The difference is that one of them did so in the name of truth-telling and honesty and the other through lies and for the sake of keeping hidden what the American people have the right to know. One did so in the name of correcting the ills of the system of government he breached, and the other for the sake of protecting those ills by burying them deeper yet into the gaping well of classified information.