In a single weekend, Edward Snowden became one of the most famous -- and wanted -- men in the world. This is because last week Snowden, a former contractor technician for the National Security Agency, blew the lid off of a domestic spying program straight from George Orwell’s worst nightmare.
America may never be the same again.
As explained by Glenn Greenwald, the reporter with The Guardianwho worked with Snowden to expose the massive NSA eavesdropping programs, “There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal, and that is to destroy privacy and anonymity, not just in the United States but around the world.”
For a decade, the political establishment -- Big Government advocates from the Left and the Right -- mocked privacy activists over their warnings about the dangerous rise of a Surveillance State. During this time, I cautioned repeatedly that one day we would wake to find ourselves in the grip of a digital dystopia in which virtually our every electronic communication is subject to surreptitious eavesdropping by government agents. Snowden's revelations confirms this nightmare scenario.
U.S. officials are now scouring the earth looking for this 29-year old geek who many call a hero, and others a traitor. U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, immediately labeled Snowden a "defector," and said he should be extradited at once to the United States to be prosecuted to the "full extent of the law." Meanwhile, privacy activists and other whistleblowers have rallied behind him.
For me, it matters far less whether we demonize or deify this one man, than it does to bring true transparency to what the NSA and other federal agencies are doing to abuse, circumvent, and downright break federal laws designed to limit and control surreptitious snooping by Uncle Sam.
Snowden's revelations far transcend in importance the particulars of the process he employed. The concerns he has raised -- which involve damning evidence of an unchecked, massive program of surreptitious electronic eavesdropping ("SEE") by the NSA, the FBI and other government agencies -- are forcing us to confront the most serious public policy and legal issues we, as a nation of free people, have faced in decades, if ever.
The questions, prompted by leaks from Snowden and others in the last few days, present an existential crisis about what it is to be both free and safe as citizens in the United States.