When Edward Snowden made the decision to leak classified information about the NSA’s global surveillance system, he took a step that few others would. He gave up a comfortable lifestyle making good money in order to do what he saw as the right thing to do. A debate has been raging about what the proper balance should be between security and privacy. Another question comes to mind after Snowden admitted to being the leaker: should we choose comfort or freedom?
In the Guardian interview with Snowden he said, “If living unfreely, but comfortably, is something you’re willing to accept, and I think many of us are-it’s the human nature- you can get up every day, you can go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.” He later asks, “What would it take to make you leave everything behind?”
For Edward Snowden, it took a system which indiscriminately collects information about every person in the world. The amount of data the NSA has been collecting on the citizens of the U.S. is indeed staggering. “We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians,” Snowden said, and the leaked information about the NSA data mining tool, Boundless Informant, confirms.
Perhaps what is most troubling is the absence of any probable cause. “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded,” Snowden said. The NSA collects this data so that if a person ever comes under suspicion, every event in said person’s life can be analyzed. Patterns of behavior are analyzed, and future behavior can be predicted.
What’s more, Snowden described a system that, contrary to the statements made by President Obama, lacks credible oversight. “Any analyst, at any time, can target anyone,” he said. He explained that a new administration, or a new crisis, could easily turn this massive surveillance system against the law abiding citizens of the U.S. “The only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy,” he said. “It’ll be turnkey tyranny.”
The Guardian, Edward Snowden: the Whistleblower behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying: https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/timeline
The Wall Street Journal, Technology Emboldened the NSA: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323495604578535290627442964.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
The Huffington Post, Rand Paul: NSA Surveillance Programs Warrant Supreme Court Challenge: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/09/rand-paul-nsa_n_3411587.html
The Guardian, Boundless Informant: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-boundless-informant-global-datamining