The Story Behind Snowden

Have you ever wondered if the government is spying on us? This idea has been tossed about for many years though no one has ever gotten a definitive answer. It has been the driving force behind many popular books and movies including the classic George Orwell “1984” and the hit new movie and book series “The Hunger Games.” Some call it conspiracy, while others claim to have believed that the government has been intentionally encroaching on our privacy for years.

This summer many suspicions were confirmed with Edward Snowden’s release of documents that proved the existence of programs specifically designed by the United States government to provide surveillance of telephone and internet use. Many asked why he released this information? How did he get a hold of it? What will be done about it now? These are questions we are attempting to answer as more and more research and investigation is taking place.

Edward Joseph Snowden was born on June 21, 1983 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Up until a few months ago he worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a contractor for the NSA. His position gave him basically unlimited access to the complex computer system that could connect him to the NSA system itself. He had many advantages that allowed him to gain the information he did. From his location in Hawaii, his work was not closely monitored, and the physical computers would not have evidence of the work he was doing. Another factor was his position as system administrator, which granted him access to many classified files.

Snowden admits to trying to release information regarding to government surveillance programs before but was unsuccessful. On May 20 Snowden flew to Hong Kong where he released information about government programs that had the ability to monitor email and phone calls . After a few weeks in Hong Kong, Snowden was scheduled to take a flight to Cuba, but never got on the plane. Many believe that Cuban officials were pressured by the United States into denying him asylum. Now Snowden has been granted a year’s asylum in Russia, though his exact location is unknown.

Following the release of the information, the US government went into a frenzy deciding what should be done regarding Snowden and the leaked files. Snowden’s official charge includes theft of government property, unauthorized communication of information regarding national defense, and intentional communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized source. The aftermath of his actions also strained the already tense relations between the United States and Russia. Because Russia gave Snowden asylum, a meeting between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin was postponed until later in the summer.

The information he released also has a significant impact on American citizens. Many are still debating if Snowden was acting as a traitor or a patriot. According to Snowden, he released the information for the good of the public. He says he attempted, “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against.” His actions were very controversial and cause us to question what we now know about our government.
In a world so dominated by technology and communication, these documents should be a cause of major concern, even for us as teenagers. There are mixed opinions about what he released, and some are more concerned than others about the intrusion of privacy. Another point of concern is if his charge is fair. Christ Church senior Jim Pennel remarks, “Although many commend Edward Snowden as a champion for liberty, he nonetheless violated his oath, and should therefore not be held above the rule of law. Furthermore, he did not expose anything that the American people did not already know; he simply made public specific reports about the NSA program, which can easily be used by adversaries of the United States, including Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say– what the NSA was doing is unacceptable, but Snowden broke the law and threatened American interests in doing so”

For the time being Snowden has at least a year of safety in Russia, though there will be many steps taken from now until then. After that time has expired, Snowden will face the consequences of his actions. During this year the American people also have much to contemplate because of this government scandal including the existence of their privacy and the ever growing power of the American government.