Beyond the News
Edward Snowden, a former technical contractor of National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) came forward last month to leak a bunch of secret information that he gathered while working for NSA at Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology consulting firm. While spitting out allegations that America was spying on its own citizens, he mentioned details of high confidential projects run by NSA, including Prism and Boundless Informant, as well as Tempora Internet, potentially led by UK government. All that was published by the journalist Glenn Greenwald on the Britain newspaper: The Guardian.
On an article published by Greenwald on June, 10th 2013 and titled NSA spying scandal: what we have learned he explains that the NSA had access to phone calls data of Verizon’s customers (which is around 98.9 million people) on April, 25th 2013, a few days after the Boston bombing attack. The data would have been collected randomly without not necessarily aiming any suspect. Same procedure would have been done with AT&T and Sprint companies.
The article also extends a quick analysis over Prism program by saying: “Internal NSA documents claim the top secret data-mining programme gives the US government access to a vast quantity of emails, chat logs and other data directly from the servers of nine internet companies. These include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and Apple”.
Furthermore, Greenwald text goes into the Boundless Informant program that “organizes and indexes metadata”. This high classified IT tool would be able to gather almost 3 billion elements of data worldwide in a 30 days period during March 2013.
According to The Guardian, the Prism program has been used by the Britains GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) since 2010. On this matter, Snowden also revealed that the GCHQ was taking use of a clandestine security electronic surveillance called Tempora, which in thesis is the combination of telecommunication and Internet surveillance described above. The UK Government denies the allegations!
Just like in Bradley Manning’s case, Snowden caused a huge embarrassment to American leaders. The difference now is that in this case it is not much about the contents leaked, but instead, the way how the US agencies had access to contents that perhaps not even Snowden has access to. In other words, the American government was potentially spying on its own people for what could be called as “national security procedure”, which means doing the right thing in the wrong way.
Spying is perhaps one of oldest and traditional occupations in governments worldwide. During the Cold War between Russia and USA this position was even mystified with movies like 007. Real American spies that could not be identified due to their duties were represented by James Bond and became sexy national heroes on the skin of Sean Cornery; while KGB spies were alcoholic, smokers, fat losers. But in 2013, spies do not have faces; they are numbers that are handled by young nerd hackers sitting in a dark, air-conditioned room drinking RedBull in front of their lap tops.
Actually, it is quite difficult to define Snowden as a spy in this case; and I am not talking about to the fact that he lived in the sunny Hawaii and perhaps does not fit to the above stereotype, but more than that, he so far has not yet leaked the most important information of all this scandal: what exactly did US have access to and what did the government do with it? Without having access to it he cannot be considered a spy.
Nevertheless, the Barack Obama administration is already freaking out! American government has informally “judged” Snowden as an enemy and started the hunting by using diplomacy pressure worldwide. The American leaker became a “hot potato” that no one wants to hold. Vladimir Putin told him to leave Russia ASAP. In Europe, several countries already denied refuge to him (most of them, including Italy and Germany, justified the denial by saying that he needs to apply for that within the countries’ borders to be granted) and, most recently, Portugal, Spain, France and Italy closed their airspace to the Bolivian president’s airplane flying from Russia because there were rumors that Snowden was in it. The airplane ended up landing in Austria where a search by the local Federal Police was done to confirm that Snowden was not there.
The US government is dirtying its hands with own blood and losing not only the reputation, but also charisma in Europe. The question is: why do they want Snowden so badly?
Well, here are three possibilities: 1) Snowden has very confidential information that he has not yet mentioned, making him an enemy; 2) He broke terms of his contract with Booz Allen Hamilton where could be stated that if he would do so, he had to go to prison; 3) US are embarrassed for doing the wrong thing and do not want it to go any further. I stick with the third option, although the second is a good reason to justify his hunting to the public and the first is a real threat to America.
The former US vice-president Dick Cheney has a point when classifies Snowden as an enemy. He said to The Guardian that “I’m suspicious because he went to China. That’s not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty and so forth” . However, China is not really an enemy of US, so if he was interested to cause a real damage here, the right destination would be Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea or some country in the Middle East, for instance Afghanistan. Or, he could even fly into Russia before hitting the fan! Once there, could negotiate classified information with the local government in exchange to his stay. However, he took a different approach.
The thing is that Snowden is on the road, or most probably inside a cave that he cannot leave even for a quick cigarette. And US officials are closing the gates wherever they can. For Snowden, the questions are: What does he really want to reach with it? How is he going to reach his objectives? Where to go now when the world is shutting doors on his face?
For US, well believe or not the questions are a bit more complex. Some of them include: why did America collect all these data? What is behind the information collected by the NSA? Did American government invade its citizens’ privacy? And if the answer is yes: would it be correct? Would not it degrade US to China’s level where the control of Internet, telecommunications and people’s lives is severely criticized by the US and their allies? Plus, if Americans really proud themselves to have a society based on freedom, how can they accept that their own government is spying on their private life? National security? Oh yes, but why do not make it public? Why not to ask whether Americans agree to have their lives scrutinized daily?
Obama administration may come up with several other reasons why they want to take Snowden back onto his home soil, but my feeling at this stage is that US is not only concerned about future leakage of information itself, but mainly to the embarrassment that the country is going through right now! And it needs to be stopped before it will get even worse!