Edward Snowden, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and computer specialist for the National Security Agency (NSA), may have been the biggest story of 2013. Known as the NSA whistleblower, Snowden leaked crucial information informing the American people about the secret global surveillance. This story made an amazing impact on how people perceive the government and their agendas.
Born June 21, 1983 in North Carolina, family and friends described Snowden as a “nice” and “quiet guy.” They saw him as a “caring man” and a “deep thinker.” His interests consisted of anime and martial arts. In 2008 he had faith in President Obama. Then in 2012 his political views changed drastically. The donation records indicated he contributed to Republican Candidate Ron Paul.
He had landed a job working for the NSA as a security guard. Snowden then got a position in IT security working for the CIA. He was stationed in Switzerland and maintained computer network security. Later, Snowden got a job as a private contractor for Dell in an NSA facility on a military base in Japan. After his work was completed there, he was recognized for his skills in the IT field and offered a job on the NSA élite staff of hackers known as the Tailored Access Operations (TAO). He declined working with the TAO in order to acquire a system administrator job with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton inside an NSA operations center in Hawaii. He described his job as being an Infrastructure Analyst. His job was to break into the web and telephone data around the world. Snowden stated “I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”
At this point in 2013, Edward Snowden leaked the NSA surveillance secrets, making it the biggest story anyone has heard concerning unconstitutional government procedures. He contacted a journalist and leaked very detailed information about what the NSA was up to. Snowden explained how the United States NSA is running global surveillance. PRISM, an electronic mining program, allows a court approved break into someones web information. It gives front door access to Google and Yahoo personal customer account information. Tempora incorporates detailed NSA information within a call database. The NSA acquired secret court orders forcing Verizon to turn in millions of phone records every day. XKeyscore permits the mass collection of basically anything on the internet.
The NSA reaped millions of emails, instant messaging contact lists, and information from tracking and mapping cell phones. They even went as far as spying on their “love interests” tracking sexual activity of people online that they called “radicalizers.” Second Life and World of Warcraft had been utilized as a spying tool as well by creating characters and eavesdropping on conversations. Charities such as Unicef and Medicins du monde had been under surveillance as well.
When Snowden mentioned that the United States allies were also being tracked, the government responded negatively. It is said that 35 world leaders such as the EU Chief and the Israeli Prime Minister, and governments from Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France, Britain, Germany, and China have been under global surveillance.
The Sigint Strategy 2012-2016 NSA mission statement said “dramatically increase master of global network – acquire the capabilities to gather intelligence on anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Snowden had a few good reasons for leaking the information. He said he did not want to live in a society that records citizens where everything done or said is recorded. Snowden wanted to give society a chance to decide if it should change and wants the public to have a say in how they are governed.
The charges against Snowden consisted of theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act through unauthorized communication of national defense information to an unauthorized person.
After the leaks had been published, Snowden left Hawaii and ended up in Hong Kong seeking asylum in Iceland. He then ended up in Moscow accepting temporary asylum in Russia for one year. Former CIA analyst said that Russia and China received no files, but the fact that asylum was given to Snowden was not what the U.S. Government wanted. The relationship between President Obama and Vladamir Putin had then gone sour and Obama stated that he was not willing to take measures to find “a 29-year-old hacker.”
Obama’s January 2014 speech referring to the limits on the NSA to be set in place, he mentioned Snowden and explained the NSA leaks only interfered with keeping Americans safe. Many Americans look back at the year 2013 and will remember Edward Snowden as the biggest story globally. The incident sparked much debate about surveillance since the very beginning until now concerning the United States Constitutions first and fourth amendments.
By Brittany Varner-Miller