Edward Snowden, arguably the most infamous IT guy in history, teases the crowd at a live TED conference that more revelations are yet to come on the NSA spying scandal. Snowden, who made his appearance by satellite robot, stated that there is much reporting left to be done concerning allegations that the NSA has been using trickery to force companies to create back doors into their computer systems, enabling the organization to mine for data. Snowden claims that these actions make the company’s security weak and vulnerable to hackers.
During his talk, Snowden asked the audience, who hail him as a hero, a thought-provoking question that all Americans, especially those who call themselves conservatives, should be thinking about. The question he asked was if the government was really trying to crack down on terrorism. He suggested that the government has been using terrorism as a cover for unconstitutional actions, and that this strategy works because it evokes a strong emotional response. The U.S. government is notorious for violating the rights of the people under the guise of “national security.” Individuals have a strong, natural desire to want to be safe from harm, and the government plays on this desire in order to reserve more power for itself, while draining freedom from citizens. Benjamin Franklin once said that if a country preferred safety over freedom, then it deserved to have neither. It appears that Snowden might agree.
After Snowden leaked nearly 1.7 million documents he obtained from the NSA to the media, he left the country and has been residing in an unknown location in Russia. Snowden would like to return to the U.S., but that would not be possible without immunity. Petitions have sprung up, the most notable being one that was started by former congressman Ron Paul, demanding that Snowden be given clemency and permission to return home. The general consensus seems to be that most young people deem what Snowden did an act of heroism, and the former NSA contractor says he has no regrets about his actions.
While Edward Snowden teases more revelations are yet to come on the NSA spying scandal, he says his intentions for releasing the information was not to cause harm to the government, but that he wanted to fight against the government doing harm to society. The NSA is working in the shadows, ignoring the Fourth Amendment and its requirement for a personal warrant, and gathering information of a personal nature without consent. This is a clear violation of the natural right to privacy. The NSA has the capability of storing this information long-term and using it for whatever purpose it chooses. Who is to say that the data gathered will not be used in a court of law to prosecute someone, despite the fact that it was obtained in an illegal fashion?
Some Americans, who seem to be more concerned with being safe from the “terrorist threat” facing the nation, ask why they should be worried about being under surveillance if they have no skeletons in the closet. Snowden answered this question eloquently and simply by saying that rights matter because one never knows when they will need to use them. People have the right to connect with each other and share private, secure conversations without worrying about whether or not an invisible third-party, Big Brother, is recording and storing these intimate moments. When looking at all of the things that have come to light, it is hard to imagine how the revelations that Edward Snowden teases the TED crowd with could possibly be any more mind-blowing, but it seems this is still just the tip of the iceberg.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell