This week, 29-year-old intelligence operative Edward Snowden released files to the Guardian, revealing the secret and vast data collection program by the US National Security Agency. The program uses dragnet surveillance techniques to collect cell-phone metadata, as well as e-mail content and other online material of US citizens. This mass collection occurs with apparently minimal political and legal oversight.
He states that his reason for releasing the files is that something of this nature should not be kept secret but should be open to public discussion: it should be up to the people to choose whether or not they forego their privacy. Personally, he is not okay with such a system and said in an interview with the Guardian, “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.”
He gave up his life in Hawaii, where he worked for Booz Allen and made $200,000 in order to release the top secret files.
Some feel the leak was inappropriate and that Snowden is a traitor, while others call him brave and a hero – someone who gave up his comfortable life in paradise in order to benefit the American people.
As he awaits his fate in Hong Kong, ready to fight any attempt of extradition, we in America are left with some questions. Is this spy program effective at making us safer? Are we willing to give up our Constitutionally-protected privacy?
Two Senators, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, are asking for evidence that the NSA’s collection of records has actually helped to thwart any terrorist attacks. NSA director, General Keith Alexander testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill that maintaining a database of millions of Americans’ phone records was essential to preventing “dozens” of terrorist plots. Wyden and Udall, though, stated that every plot that Alexander mentioned seem to have been discovered using collection methods other than NSA’s dragnet surveillance.
Essentially, we need more information. But in the meantime, the revelation of the program should make Americans self-reflect and think for a bit as to where we should draw the line. Are we willing to give up Constitutional rights in the name of security if we are not certain that such security is resulting from our sacrifice? And if not – what actions do we take?