The Value of Edward Snowden

On the one-year anniversary of the first information reported based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Paul Szoldra offers a handy roundup of all the things that we know about only because of his leaks to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. A few highlights:

With a top-secret court order, the NSA collected the telephone records from millions of Verizon customers. — June 5, 2013

The NSA accessed and collected data through backdoors into U.S. internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, with a program called Prism. — June 6, 2013

Britain’s GCHQ taps fiber-optic cables to collect and store global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and then shares the data with the NSA. — June 21, 2013

The NSA has a program codenamed EvilOlive that collects and stores large quantities of Americans’ internet metadata, which contains only certain information about online content. Email metadata, for example, reveals sender and recipient address and time but not content or subject. — June 27, 2013

Until 2011, the Obama administration permitted the NSA’s continued collection of vast amounts of Americans’ email and internet metadata under a Bush-era program called Stellar Wind. — June 27, 2013

The NSA spies on millions of phone calls, emails, and text messages of ordinary German citizens. — June 30, 2013

Using a program called Fairview, the NSA intercepts internet and phone call data of Brazilian citizens. — July 6, 2013

The Washington Post publishes a new slide detailing NSA’s “Upstream” program of collecting communications from tech companies through fiber-optic cables to then feed into its Prism database. — July 10, 2013

Seven of the world’s leading telecommunications companies provide GCHQ with secret, unlimited access to their network of undersea cables. — Aug. 2, 2013

The NSA sifts through vast amounts of Americans’ email and text communications going in and out of the country. — Aug. 8, 2013

Internal NSA document reveals an agency “loophole” that allows a secret backdoor for the agency to search its databases for U.S. citizens’ email and phone calls without a warrant. — Aug. 9, 2013

The NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, according to an internal audit. — Aug. 15, 2013

And that was just in the first couple months. It goes on and on like that. You can criticize the way Snowden handled those documents, perhaps, or some of his behavior since then. But the information he leaked has revealed serious violations of the 4th Amendment that needed to be exposed. That is the essence of what a whistleblower is. It is exactly what Obama pledged to protect repeatedly during his first campaign and then conveniently forgot about once he took power.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • maddog1129

    Go to court — regular court, not secret court — and get a warrant. It is what the Constitution requires, and it should be done EVERY time. NO search, NO seizure, except upon a showing to a magistrate of probable cause to believe actual criminal activity is going on.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Well, sure, it sounds bad when you say it like that.

  • Olav

    Ed:

    And that was just in the first couple months. It goes on and on like that. You can criticize the way Snowden handled those documents, perhaps,

    I am not sure how to criticise him for it. He took the documents that needed to be taken and arranged for them to get the maximum possible exposure. Good job, well done, I’d say.

    or some of his behavior since then.

    What behaviour would that be? Not volunteering to be thrown into the dungeons of the extremely vindictive American system is not something you can hold against him, can you?

  • Chiroptera

    Olav, #3: He took the documents that needed to be taken and arranged for them to get the maximum possible exposure.

    And he did without just dumping the whole thing in public, avoiding as much as possible unnecessary legitimate national security problems.

    Not volunteering to be thrown into the dungeons of the extremely vindictive American system is not something you can hold against him, can you?

    And I’m sure he would have preferred to have ended up in one of the enlightened European liberal democracies, but, strangely enough, none of them offered to protect him.

  • Olav

    Chiroptera #4:

    And I’m sure he would have preferred to have ended up in one of the enlightened European liberal democracies, but, strangely enough, none of them offered to protect him.

    No such thing exists as an “enlightened European liberal democracy”. Pseudodemocratic vassal states led by cowering cowards, the lot of them.

  • Who Cares

    @Olav(#5):

    I’m sure that that was sarcasm.

    Especially when combined with the fact that they (Spain, France& Italy, not exactly the smallest members of the EU) denied the Bolivian president from entering their airspace just on the suspicion that Snowden was a passenger on his plane. Oh and lets not forget the claim by Austria that they searched the plane, which due to it carrying Morales, should be exempt from that.

  • Olav

    “Who Cares” #6:

    I’m sure that that was sarcasm.

    Well, obviously.

    Especially when combined with the fact that they (Spain, France& Italy, not exactly the smallest members of the EU) denied the Bolivian president from entering their airspace just on the suspicion that Snowden was a passenger on his plane. Oh and lets not forget the claim by Austria that they searched the plane, which due to it carrying Morales, should be exempt from that.

    What I said: vassal states led by cowards. None of them would dare risk their “special relationship” with the USA. It’s sickening.

  • Olav

    Before we get distracted too much, I am still curious for what behaviour Mr. Snowden could legitimately be criticised. Because I don’t see it.

  • eric

    I am not sure how to criticise him for it. He took the documents that needed to be taken and arranged for them to get the maximum possible exposure. Good job, well done, I’d say.

    I disagree. A number of those acts were not unconstitutional, and probably hurt US foreign policy. In particular, revealing what the NSA is collecting in other countries or what other allied espionage agencies are collecting in foreign countries; none of that is unconstitutional.

    Now, you can say that it wasn’t a big deal because everyone knows (or should know) that the NSA spies on foreigner’s communications. That’s the agency’s acknowledged purpose, after all. However, it certainly impacts the sort of intelligence we may receive from our allies, because now they have no reason to think we can keep their secrets. IOW, Snowden’s outing of legitimate collection methods along with illegitimate collection methods has probably reduced the effectiveness of our legitimate collections in a way that revealing just the illegitimate, targeting-US-citizens collections would no have.

    Having said all that, yes he revealed a lot of 4th amendment violations by the government and those revelations should be protected by our whistleblower statutes.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Olav “Before we get distracted too much, I am still curious for what behaviour Mr. Snowden could legitimately be criticised. Because I don’t see it.”

    1. He should’ve done things he couldn’t do (used the Whistleblower Statutes that don’t apply to private contractors like him, going to the Intelligence Committee that wouldn’t see him and couldn’t, and wouldn’t, protect him).

    2a. He shouldn’t have fled the country that would’ve treated him like Manning (solitary confinement, 24/365 “suicide watch”, etc).

    2b. He shouldn’t have attempted to get out of the country he fled to,

    2c. He shouldn’t have stayed in the country he fled to that he couldn’t get out of. And, most importantly..

    3. He should’ve been more polite about releasing the information, by passing it deferentially to the Socially Approved News Media that avoided him like the plague, and that smears him now with (in short)…

    “While it’s good that, thanks to him and others like him that we also ignored and belittled, we can now have the conversation we aren’t having, he shouldn’t have done that thing he did the way he and he should’ve done it the Proper Way and his personality is unpleasant and Greenwald is abrasive and the Guardian is a barely-newspaper read by dour lesbians and dirty hippies and how much danger does what he did put us in and what are his real motives, anyway?”