Starting in June of 2013, Edward Snowden, a former NSA contracter, began releasing documents that were previously classified from the American public about the NSA, their capabilities and their actions. He was spark that ignited the controversy that still continues on today. Because of him, other whistleblowers have emerged with information of their own but due to the shear volume of information Snowden has released, he remains the driving force for reform of the NSA.
The reasons Snowden released the information was generally for the benefit of all. More specifically, for the privacy of all, and to protect us from living in a state of surveillance and fear. In an article on Forbes by Kashmir Hill, she quotes Snowden on these reasons. He believes “the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers” and that his “sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” His actions match his words and intent for the betterment of the system. He gave up a well paying job and his own safety to release this information so it is only fair that we trust this man and accept that his intentions are good.
The information Snowden first released was the FISA court aquisitions of call records from Verizon. It was important that this was the first information released because this was American information. Had it been information on NSA activity in Germany–which was revealed later–the uproar would not have been as loud. Many people would have rationalized it as protection for our country. But telling America that its own government was listening to its phone calls hit a soft spot. In addition, we were told about PRISM: a secret program that has collected information from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple. Not only were our phone calls being listened to but everything we did online was being monitered. This was the first time that most Americans had been made aware of this.
Edward Snowden’s unveiling of information has led others like him to also come out with information on the NSA. He stated that he wanted to “to embolden others to step forward.” William Binney has also released a great amount of information about the NSA. As a former employee of a fairly high position, he interacted with imporant information every day. He states, “I think the place needs a total lobotomy. I think they need to scrap it and start again.” He had been with the NSA for a long time and understand now that what they are doing is wrong. He is an experienced opinion and believes that the NSA needs a fresh start.
Since the original revelation, Snowden has released a vast amount of information about the NSA that ranges from surveillance of many of the worlds countries including England, China, Brazil, and just about any other major country. More documents and information is being released regularly. There has been some reform because of the release of this information. Investigations of mass surveillance are being conducted in the US, Europe, and Brazil. Bill proposals for greater transparency a making their way through the government processes and some FISA court opinions have even been ruled unconstitutional. In September of 2015, Congress passed a reform measure that takes away the NSA’s ability to collect the phone records of Americans. In June of 2015, Congress also passed amendments to the USA Freedom Act which limits the access to records that are relevant to a national security investigation. We are making progress against the tyranical NSA.
“Why NSA IT Guy Edward Snowden Leaked Top Secret Documents” Forbes, Kashmir Hill, 10 June 2013. 4 December 2015.
“Revelations” edwardsnowden.com. 4 December 2015.
“William Binney” PBS. 4 December 2015.