It’s hardly a surprise that former NSA intelligence contractor Edward Snowden would eventually be labeled a Russian spy. In 2013, he stole close to two million classified documents, outlining NSA global surveillance programs, including those against U.S. citizens. He has since been at the center of a huge controversy concerning his actions. To some, he’s touted as a hero, bringing to light government abuse of privacy. To others, he’s a traitor for systematically leaking portions of those documents over several media outlets.
The documents detailed just how extensive and far-reaching NSA surveillance is, a global network that includes other agencies as well. The programs included Internet and phone metadata information used to keep tabs on people at home and abroad, to the point of invading online role playing games. Agents actually created characters in these games in an effort to uncover terrorist plots. Snowden had a plan to gradually release the information contained in the documents over time, with the reasoning that people should be aware of what their government is doing concerning their privacy. It took a certain amount of internal fortitude to accomplish what Snowden has in securing those documents and then getting them out of the country, no matter what opinions people have about whether he’s a traitor.
While in Moscow, a leg of the journey from his home in Hawaii through Hong Kong, the United States revoked Snowden’s passport, forcing him into an extended layover. It was then the Russian government extended a one-year temporary immunity to the whistle blower. Snowden’s exile in Russia has given rise to accusations that he had been a Russian spy all along, and had help getting out of the United States. Both he and the Russians deny this had been the case. But now that the accusation is public, many wonder just how true this is.
Fallout from Snowden’s actions include President Obama’s mandate for NSA reforms, which would include requiring court approval for specific surveillance operations, as well as the removal of phone metadata from NSA control. It also includes Snowden fearing for his life as anonymous threats from the NSA begin rolling in, with one such being:
I’d love to put a bullet in his [Snowden’s] head.
Snowden’s Russian lawyer has stated that these threats present a clear danger to Snowden and that he needs increased security. According to some, given the NSA’s track record of dealing roughly with those it perceives as being enemies, this may well be the case. Other fallout from Snowden’s actions include Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, being totally unaware that he had been snooped on, though he, as well as other executives, retain the clearance to be informed of such activities by the NSA.
So what happens next in the saga of Edward Snowden, the government whistle blower? He has support from the oddest corners, such as the editorial board of The New York Times, which calls for clemency, and predictable opposition, such as from Dianne Feinstein, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee. Those who condemn Snowden’s actions believe he may have leaked the NSA’s entire playbook to terrorist organizations, endangering U.S. troops abroad. That being the case, why even bother accusing him of being a Russian spy? It would seem that would be the least of the NSA’s worries.
Editorial by Lee Birdine