Everyone knows the name Edward Snowden. The former NSA and CIA operative was accused of terrorism and being a traitor to the United States when he fled to Hong Kong with a hard drive full of government secrets in the summer of 2013.
Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA and other U.S. government agencies and accused them of spying on their own citizens. What the government is accused of is true, but what Snowden didn't reveal last year has been uncovered this year in an in-depth interview with Snowden in Russia by James Bamford.
For instance, Snowden says he didn't actually steal millions upon millions of files. He claims that he left digital breadcrumbs for the NSA to follow to see which files he actually took and which ones he merely "touched."
But he believes the NSA's audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched—1.7 million. (Snowden says he actually took far fewer.) “I figured they would have a hard time,” he says. “I didn't figure they would be completely incapable.”
Snowden speculates that the government fears that the documents contain material that's deeply damaging—secrets the custodians have yet to find. “I think they think there's a smoking gun in there that would be the death of them all politically,” Snowden says. “The fact that the government's investigation failed—that they don't know what was taken and that they keep throwing out these ridiculous huge numbers—implies to me that somewhere in their damage assessment they must have seen something that was like, ‘H--- s---.’ And they think it's still out there.”
What in world could the government be worried about?
Could it be the fact that there is a massive repository in Hawaii that continuously analyzes -- and sometimes keeps -- unencrypted information about the American public?
Or, perhaps they're worried about that one time back in 2012 when they attempted to put a sophisticated wiretap into a Syrian router, accidentally bricked it, and caused the entire country of Syria to lose Internet connectivity?
Or, maybe they're worried that far more incriminating evidence about their "war on terror" -- like torture and violations of the Fourth Amendment against American citizens -- will come to light.
In the end, Snowden thinks we should put our faith in technology—not politicians. “We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes.” The answer, he says, is robust encryption. “By basically adopting changes like making encryption a universal standard—where all communications are encrypted by default—we can end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world.”
Until then, Snowden says, the revelations will keep coming. “We haven't seen the end,” he says. [...] There are still hundreds of thousands of pages of secret documents out there—to say nothing of the other whistle-blowers he may have already inspired. But Snowden says that information contained in any future leaks is almost beside the point. “The question for us is not what new story will come out next. The question is, what are we going to do about it?”
What do you think? Is Edward Snowden a traitor? Or has he stood up for a cause that too many people have brushed aside? Let me know in the comments below.