Snowden and the Perseverance of Privacy


If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

In early June a 29 year-old NSA security contractor, Ed Snowden, decided to go public with information that should permanently alter the discourse and decisions that balance intelligence gathering and citizen privacy in this country for the next 50 years.

In brief he detonated 2 intelligence bombs, that the NSA had,

  1. Required Verizon, via the FISA court, to disclose “the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls” on all of its customers. This was not a one time requirement but an order to produce this data on an ongoing basis. via The Guardian: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
  2. Created a data mining program that had direct and complicit Access to Web Companies like Facebook, Google, and Skype. via The Washington Post: U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

Ied_snown response to these revelations Ed Snowden has been charged with espionage and has slipped out of Hong Kong to seek political asylum in Ecuador. He appears to be employing the advisers of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who is currently in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

These revelations represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights to freedom and privacy and the whistleblower that brought them to light is on the run.

This is not my America.

We are all at fault

In the post 9/11 era George W. Bush’s administration pushed for and a narrowly Republican congress passed the Patriot Act which broadly expanded law enforcement’s surveillance powers without sufficient judicial oversight. Then remarkably his administration went even further by embarking upon an illegal warrantless wiretapping program that when it became public required congress to enact the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 so the covert program would no longer be criminal. Lest we forget, FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, keyword: foreign.

Every iota of privacy we are clamoring to regain from the intelligence community is a direct result of this sweeping “patriotic” legislation and its re-authorization amendments.

Amendments that have been consistently supported by Republicans. (The NSA phone surveillance program that Snowden revealed was authorized under Patriotic Act Section 215.)

However, if Bush initiated this dreadful state of affairs then President Obama has made it into an art form. Obama made such a seismic shift from his campaign trail opposition rhetoric to supporting the FAA expansions as President that the outcry from the left at the time was deafening. When you couple the AP leak investigation with these NSA disclosures you must wonder at what point do we convene congressional hearings on domestic spying and haul this administration in and demand answers under oath?

So regardless of your political persuasion it is time to take responsibility for the cess pool that our willful ignorance has hydrated. We are all at fault.

Let us now resolve to become part of the solution.

The Time is Now

If we, the citizens and voters in this Republic, do not take a vocal and visceral stand against this abuse of power and in opposition to an intelligence community operating with impunity we may very well find that we have permanently punted our ability to preserve liberty or have oversight of these “public servants” who have sworn to uphold the tenets of this country they so readily shred.

It is imperative that we ask our elected officials and candidates for Congressional office the tough questions about protecting our privacy.

It’s time to ask why 53 senators thought so little of an NSA briefing on phone surveillance that they could not be bothered to attend. Senator Pryor why weren’t you there?

Let us ignore the party affiliations affixed to the names of candidates and instead ask them to explain how they will uphold our Bill of Rights including the Right to Privacy. If their answer doesn’t demand specific warrants for domestic surveillance then it is the wrong answer and they should be voted out.

May I suggest 2 specific actions:

  1. Support the Bipartisan HR2399 LIBERT-E Act – It seeks to limit government surveillance without due process of law.
  2. Sign the Open Letter to Congress – It calls for reform to section 215 and asks for a special committee to investigate the extent of domestic spying. <– 2 great questions to ask the next politician asking for your vote. Also I’d recommend following @stopwatchingus

On Snowden

There is little doubt that Snowden broke the law and at least some of the charges against him are legitimate. However, as Schneier eloquently states, “before the Justice Department prosecutes Snowden, there are some other investigations that ought to happen.”

I’m no legal scholar but perhaps we can find a way to simply indict him and release him on bail pending further review. I’d much prefer Snowden be sitting in the Capitol giving testimony than in an Ecuadorian embassy on the run from intelligence community I no longer trust.

For more enlightenment on this issue may I suggest: