He’s a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, an employee of a defense contractor, and he’s in hiding in Hong Kong.
Edward Snowden is the whistleblower responsible for telling the world that the U.S. has been collecting phone records and online communications of potentially every person in the world.
Snowden has been working as a contract employee at the National Security Agency for the last four years. He told The Guardian newspaper details about the data the NSA has been collecting because he believes we have a right to know.
He also wanted the news agency to use his name.
“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” Snowden told them.
Why is he doing this?
Snowden said he doesn’t need to because he has a comfortable life, a six-figure salary, a good family, a girlfriend and a home in Hawaii.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” he says.
He admits to being frustrated with government privacy intrusions that seemed routine to those involved with surveillance.
“Over time, that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up and you feel compelled to talk about. And the more you talk about, the more you’re ignored,” he says. “The more you’re told its not a problem until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public and not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.”
There seem to be two mindsets regarding government surveillance. The first is, do whatever you need to do to prevent terrorism since I don’t have anything to hide. The second is that this is an invasion of privacy.
Snowden addresses those who think the government collecting data isn’t a big deal because they haven’t done anything wrong.
“Even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call,” he says.
“Then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”
The whistleblower says he’s no different from any of us. He’s just “another guy” sitting in an office, watching what the government is doing and thinking this is not right.
What do these revelations make you think of the U.S. government and the NSA’s practices as he outlines them? Still think, there’s nothing interesting or incriminating in my emails or online communications, so this doesn’t bother me?
While Snowden is not afraid for his safety, he says, “The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change.”
By LINDA THOMAS